1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.
  2. Hi Guest, welcome to the TES Community!

    Connect with like-minded education professionals and have your say on the issues that matter to you.

    Don't forget to look at the how to guide.

    Dismiss Notice

One primary teacher's open letter to the government: 'The standards expected are now untenable'

Discussion in 'Education news' started by TES_Rosaline, Feb 24, 2016.

  1. CarrieV

    CarrieV Lead commenter

  2. Jesmond12

    Jesmond12 Star commenter

    I like your style!!!!
  3. chelsea2

    chelsea2 Star commenter


    That report has just GOT to be printed in full!!!!!
    And secondary colleagues wonder why primary teachers are in despair!!!!!!!!

    'Primary school pupils will only get credit for using exclamation marks in sentences beginning with 'what' or 'how', under strict new Government rules.

    Ministers have been accused of "taking writing back to the 19th century" after issuing the restrictive new guidance over what counts as an "exclamation".

    "For the purposes of the English grammar, punctuation and spelling test, an exclamation is required to start with What or How," the guidance for Key Stage 1 and 2 national curriculum tests states.

    Children are expected to be able to recognise and write examples of exclamation sentences, and will not get any credit for using exclamation marks in other ways, examiners have been told
    The guidance suggests "What a lovely day!" or "How exciting!" as acceptable examples.

    "A sentence that ends in an exclamation mark, but which does not have one of the grammatical patterns shown above, is not considered to be creditworthy as an exclamation (e.g. exclamatory statements, exclamatory imperatives, exclamatory interrogatives or interjections)," it says.

    A source at the Department for Education denied the move was intended to curb the proliferation of the exclamation mark in text messages and social media.

    The curriculum also acknowledges that an exclamation mark can be used in other ways such as to give emphasis to a statement or command. A source said: "We’re not telling pupils to not use exclamation marks. The guidance is on what marks can and can’t be awarded in these tests.”
    John Sutherland, emeritus Lord Northcliffe professor of modern English literature at University College London, told the Sunday Times that the guidance was "ridiculous".

    "It is nonsense of the highest degree. I am not surprised teachers wearily sigh when these instructions come down from Whitehall," he said.

    Writing on SchoolsWeek, Ben Fuller, a lead moderator, said the Standards and Testing Agency had told moderators they would "need to see evidence of seven-year-old children using a very specific definition of 'exclamation sentences' in their writing to be judged to be working at the expected standard" and said the changes "take writing back to the 19th century".

    A Department for Education spokesperson said: "A high-quality education in English – and the ability to communicate effectively – is an important part of the government’s commitment to extend opportunity to all.

    "The national curriculum programme of study for English writing at KS2 states that pupils should learn how to use sentences with different forms, for example, as a statement, question, exclamation and command. A sentence that takes the form of an exclamation starts with 'What' or 'How' and uses the syntax of an exclamation."'
    guinnesspuss and Jamietzu like this.
  4. lightningconductor

    lightningconductor New commenter

    Sorry for the late comment on this post: I've been busy.

    I deal with problems such as this constantly with my lower ability Year Five children - the failure to read the text carefully and therefore going off on an irrelevant tangent when responding to it.
    Hammie clearly referred to the low standard of work being completed by children in years 8 and 9 and not the standard of work required by children in those years.
    I understood exactly what Hammie meant. I sympathise with those who have difficulty understanding texts at the same level as I do.
    Maybe they are too busy looking up fancy words for the bubbles in their washing up bowls!
    (Whoops! I've used an inappropriate exclamation mark!)
    Jamietzu likes this.
  5. Vince_Ulam

    Vince_Ulam Star commenter

    To provide an exposition suitable for Year5: When the passage you quote from Hammie is safely taken in the context set by their preceding acidic sentence:

    Hammie clearly implies that Secondary teachers require lower standards of work from students in Years 7, 8 & 9 than their Primary teachers required of them in Years 4,5, & 6. It is an eccentric notion to say the least, and easily dismissed. Not even the lavishly generous levels of fudge dispensed by the minority of Primary teachers now in uproar over their rumbling would support it.

    What a coincidence, because I've mentioned bubbles today. I named them 'bubble'. I suppose 'bubble' might be a 'fancy word' to Year5 students, and to some others.
  6. MrMedia

    MrMedia Star commenter

    :( What a lovely day!
  7. Flere-Imsaho

    Flere-Imsaho Star commenter

    BBC News, Plain English and a Linguistics mannie from Manchester taking these grammar tests to bits on breakfast right now.
  8. Vince_Ulam

    Vince_Ulam Star commenter

    I think this would be expecting too much of most students. The questions would have to refer to the particular thing being tested, for example type of conjunction, rather than asking something general like 'correct the error in this sentence'. Asking a student to choose a correct word from a list is fairer than asking them to recall a correct word completely.

    If you've had no formal lessons in these features then you've become pretty good by immersion, having the advantage over children of years of reading and speaking to infer and adopt these rules but really, how difficult was it for you to learn the rules formally expressed and wrap them around your inferences? Not very, I would say. These are not difficult rules, there are few of them and explicit familiarity of and student's practice with them abbreviates significantly the years of immersion otherwise required.

    A bad teacher, I agree, and one who is expecting parents to employ tutors for the formal work required by the National Curriculum either because they themselves are too lazy, cannot teach or do not understand the material. This attitude, persuading parents and thereby children that the material is insanely difficult and beyond them as qualified teachers, is the reason why many children are reported to suffer from anxiety. Whenever I hear or read a Primary teacher talking about childhood anxiety and the importance of creative discovery learning I want to throw a brick at them because I know they when parents ask them just why their child hates a subject and is losing confidence then they will abrogate all responsibility and explain to them that the nasty government is putting their children under intense pressure with unreasonable levels of testing.

    I disagree. At this age all children need is instruction, not enquiry. If children have to be taught to these tests then that is fine. Direct instruction after model sentences and calculations should be the meat and drink of Primary education.

    Not so, the sample materials do not ask students to explain their answers. It will be possible for students to get good marks in these tests without understanding why something works.

    The pressure is applied by some teachers, those with the attitude I mentioned above. Even in cases where students score less than 50%, why would they and their parents think that is the end of the world, some kind of terminal assessment of their abilities unless that was what they had been taught by teachers to accept? If the work is constantly being marked wrong by the same teachers then either the teacher isn't teaching remedial sessions, or is repeatedly teaching in an ineffective way, or is marking the work incorrectly - because children improve with time and practise. That's how school works.

    Referred, as you say, by teachers who have accepted their own inadequacy and resigned any hope of being able to teach their students.

    I expect I need to qualify this post by saying my references here to Primary teachers are obviously not intended to apply universally but only to the feckless and irresponsible who would rather pour pressure onto children and parents than accept their responsibility and resolve their own inadequacy by modifying their own practice to become better teachers. Still I will be surprised if some do not reply to assert their offence and so own this identity; those who can't teach reading usually can't read.
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2016
  9. chelsea2

    chelsea2 Star commenter

    Do you know, I have been loathe to share this story, because I am reluctant to criticise fellow colleagues & professionals working in a different phase of which I have limited experience. But I have now read so much about what primary teachers are (apparently) failing to do and what they are doing wrong from a poster who has never (despite being asked to do so) given any proof of primary teaching experience or understanding that I feel I have to take issue with this assertion by sharing the following anecdote.

    As a Y6 teacher, I was invited to our feeder secondary school (one with good results) to see how our ex-Y6 pupils had settled in to their new school. I visited two lessons. in the first, a science lesson, pupils were being taught about food chains. At the time, these were taught in Y4 & extended to food webs in y6. There was nothing in the lesson I saw which extended or deepened the children's already secure knowledge.

    I then went to a second set maths lesson. All the pupils I knew in this set had achieved high level 4s. They were doing area - by counting squares. All these pupils were easily able to apply the length x width formula for the area of rectangles, and several would be able to convert units as required.

    I would maintain, from these observations, that my secondary colleagues required lower standards of work than expected in primary school. Shortly afterwards, there was a reciprocal visit. During this, secondary colleagues told us how amazed they were at the level & standard of work being produced by y6 pupils.
  10. Vince_Ulam

    Vince_Ulam Star commenter

    Remedial work is sometimes required across Year7 syllabi due to unconventional practices in Primary assessment: Refer to point 2.

    It wouldn't be politic for anyone to say any of this to your face.
  11. chelsea2

    chelsea2 Star commenter

    I can assure you that any such practices DID NOT take place in the school at which I taught. And I really resent these implications on behalf of the majority of my primary colleagues. We sent 80+ pupils to that secondary school whose test results were achieved according to the rules, and whose teacher assessments were fair. They DID NOT need any so-called 'remedial' work. They needed teaching which extended & built on their pre-existing secure knowledge.

    Once again I ask: what is your experience of teaching in primary schools?
  12. abacus1982

    abacus1982 Established commenter

    What is unconventional about an externally marked and levelled assessment?

    Absolutely remedial work is required for those children who require it, ie those not getting what was a level 4. A level 5/6 child does not need to go back from calculating the area of circles to counting squares inside a compound shape. This has been a probem in secondary schools and one that I have met teachers about to go through our coverage as they were finding children were bored for the whole of year 7 as the work was too easy for many of them.
  13. Maths_Shed

    Maths_Shed Occasional commenter

    You're falling into the trap. You have seen a couple of lessons at KS3 and seem to be forming an opinion on the whole of secondary education based on that. It's not a true snapshot.

    It is quite clear that primary teachers are being asked to do far too much but to suggest that it is being done better than in secondary is also wide of the mark.
    Vince_Ulam likes this.
  14. chelsea2

    chelsea2 Star commenter

    I was reluctant to post my experience partly because I recognise that this is how it could be interpreted. However, i am really fed up of certain posters forming an opinion on the whole of primary teaching & its testing regime based on even less than a snapshot - just an opinion which doesn't seem to have a basis in any primary experience.

    I did not suggest that.
  15. Vince_Ulam

    Vince_Ulam Star commenter

    I'm sorry to invade your grandstand but it should be clear to anyone from my explicit statements that I'm not saying anything about the 'majority' of our Primary colleagues. I have complete respect for all professionals working in Primary teaching and I have made this plain in this very thread.

    I did not say that they did and I am sure their Secondary teachers did not say so either.
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2016
  16. Vince_Ulam

    Vince_Ulam Star commenter

    The external markers and levellers don't get to see what is on the internal whiteboard.
    Scintillant likes this.
  17. Scintillant

    Scintillant Star commenter

    There is clearly an issue with the mismatch in levels/achievement/ability - call it what you will - between pupils ending primary and starting secondary. I don't know a secondary teacher who takes the levels pupils arrive in secondary with, seriously. Sorry, but that's what's happening. Having said that, when we get pupils from year 8 or 9 and we run diagnostic baseline tests (different tests too, not just one), they're overegged too.

    It's an issue that seems to occur in both sectors
  18. Jesmond12

    Jesmond12 Star commenter

    Are you implying that all primary schools are cheating by writing the answers on the board. That is a huge insult to the vast majority of all primary staff.
  19. Vince_Ulam

    Vince_Ulam Star commenter

    You underestimate your audience and overestimate your rhetoric if you think anyone will fall for that baloney.
  20. lizzsmith

    lizzsmith New commenter

    What a fantastic letter - sums up the whole situation perfectly!

Share This Page