I have been looking at the sample questions for Key Stage Two grammar, punctuation and spelling testing in 2016 as published by the Department of Education (and as criticised in the Guardian by Michael Rosen on 3 November).  “Key stage 2 English grammar, punctuation and spelling.  Sample questions, mark schemes and commentary for 2016 assessments” Standards and Testing Agency 2014


These are terms to be understood and used by eleven-year-olds in 2016, as indicated by these sample test questions:

past progressive 



relative clause  (I know what a ‘clause’ is, but not a ‘relative’ one) 

subordinating conjunction   (I know what a ‘conjunction’ is, but can only guess at a ‘subordinating’ one))

subjunctive mood  (I did once know what ‘subjunctive’ clauses were, but I’ve forgotten now)

fronted adverbial


Will knowledge of these terms help young people to write, or to read more effectively  ? 

Is there research evidence to support the merit of learning these terms?

I find it incredible that eleven-year-olds are expected to know and use terms that I am completely unaware of and ignorance of which has – as far as I am aware – never restricted my ability to write.

I say this as an emeritus professor of Education with ten published books, numerous chapters in edited books and articles in national journals and newspapers and, dare I mention it, over 50 letters published in the Guardian and Observer over the last five years.

The grammar that I learned at school was limited to:  noun, verb, adjective, adverb, conjunction, preposition, clause, sentence.  I have rarely needed to use this knowledge!


4 November 2015