Language test spells success
Drive to give pupils of 14 grammar skills.
by HOWARD SMITH Education Correspondent
TOUGH new tests for 14- year-olds in grammar, spelling and
punctuation are planned in a Government drive to raise literacy standards
Education Secretary Gillian Shephard has ordered an urgent review of English
exams to guarantee that basic skills are rigorously tested.
She is dismayed that trendy teaching theories have relegated
the importance of instructing children in the key building blocks of the
Her initiative follows disturbing evidence that grammar lessons are in decline
in many schools and staff are badly prepared to teach the subject properly.
Mrs Shephard has told advisers to report on better ways of
testing grammar, spelling and punctuation in the national curriculum exams
She is determined that all children should be able to express themselves
clearly and confidently by the time they leave school. "I want these tests
to reflect the emphasis which the curriculum puts on basic grammar, spelling
and punctuation," said Mrs. Shephard.
"Literacy is the key to pupils' success in education and indeed,
The move follows research by academics at
Southampton University which
found that pupils could identify grammatical mistakes in foreign languages
better than they could in English.
Youngsters struggled to define nouns, verbs and adjectives.
The researchers said teachers were concentrating more on developing pupils'
creativity and writing style.
Mrs Shephard was alarmed by the findings and immediately ordered the School
Curriculum and Assessment Authority to devise rigorous grammar tests. "If
children are to learn to express themselves clearly and effectively and to
make full use of our wonderful language, they need to be taught how the English
language works," she said.
"This may seem a remarkably obvious message but it is one
that, sadly, was lost sight of by the trendy teaching of the 1960s and 1970s.
"It has only received the attention it deserves since the Government introduced
the national curriculum, assessment and testing."
At present 14-year-olds have to sit English tests on
Shakespeare, comprehension and essay writing.
Government advisers have already instructed markers to be tougher on poor
spelling, grammar and punctuation, and are reviewing other ways of bolstering
Education experts are concerned by the continual complaints
from employers about the poor spelling of many school-leavers.
Teachers are being issued with walkie-talkie radios to combat
the menace of school intruders.
The alarm system is on trial at schools in Warwickshire as one of a number
of security measures being studied in the wake of the Dunblane massacre.
Language slur a kick in the teeth
|Severe doctor shortages - and not foreign GPs with poor
English skills - ensures Tameside's health fight is a long- standing
Shadow health secretary, Dr Liam Fox argues that doctors coming from abroad
have English skills which are 'not up to scratch and patients are suffering
as a result'.
But West Pennine Local Medical Committee (LMC) say problems exist despite
- and not because of the major input of foreign graduate doctors. Such doctors
make up over a third of the number of GPs in the area, yet complaints against
their English skills are non-existent.
The real problem Tameside faces is a crippling number of vacancies which
need filling. LMC secretary Dr Kailash Chand said: "We have around 35-40
per cent of doctors locally who were originally foreign graduates who didn't
qualify in England. "There is no problem as far as I am aware (the LMC deal
with such issues) with the ability of such doctors dealing with patients."
At present, doctors who qualify overseas have to pass a tough linguistic
exam. "His claim that the poor English of many of those doctors working in
NHS makes them a 'public danger' is a kick in the teeth and does smack
of racism," the Ashton-based doctor added "Recently a similar exam paper
was given to local graduates in one medical school and more than 90 per cent
of them failed that examination. How much tougher an examination does he
The LMC say they are more focused on dealing with a shortage of GPs locally.
"locally, and nationally, we are struggling with regard to medical staff,"
Dr Chand (left) added.
"At the LMC we have 13-14 vacancies and our first generation of doctors is
mainly made up of doctors in their mid-50s and early 60s."
Conservative Party spokesman Dr Fox originally said: "Their English language
skills are not up to scratch and patients are suffering as a result. Correcting
this is an issue of patient safety."
by Mark Travis [The Advertiser 7/9/2000]
Compensation promised after police dog attacked pensioner
|Protest: Scenes which followed the incident in Hyde town
centre in July
TAMESIDE'S police chief sympathised with a 65- year old pensioner
in a 'regrettable' incident in Hyde saw the man bitten by a dog. Chief Supt
David Sykes said the victim, the chairman of Hyde Bangladesh Welfare Association
Monhur Ullah, would be compensated as would other innocent people injured
during an incident on July 26. All charges resulting from the events would
also be dropped.
The response stems from when one of a group of five boys dropped a piece
of kebab on the pavement in Market Street, Hyde, around 10.30pm that day.
It is alleged they were approached by two men in a car - later identified
as plain clothes policemen - who told the boys to pick up the litter. It
is understood the group fled and officers chased them. When one youth reached
Henry Street, he was met by a second police vehicle, from which uniformed
officers released a dog.The youth continued running until he saw Mr Ullah
- who was on his way to evening prayer - and stood behind him. Witnesses
say the dog bit Mr Ullah on the hand and elbow breaking the skin. The youth
was caught and arrested.A second youth was arrested and both were detained
at Stalybridge Police Station for public order offences.
Protests ensued outside the station and two men were arrested,
again for public order offences. Representatives of Hyde Bangladesh Welfare
Association, the police and Tameside Racial Equality council met last Friday
to discuss the events. Decisions to drop charges and offer compensation were
announced last Tuesday at a public meeting at Hyde Town Hall.
Chief Supt Sykes said: "I feel it's an important issue and that's why I'm
here myself today "The incident is regrettable but I don't want one incident
to spoil relationships with us." Chief Supt Sykes added an investigation
by the police complaints authority into the action taken by the police had
already begun. Mr Ullah was pleased with the outcome. "The decision will
hopefully work to make a better relationship with the community"he said.
by Richard Herbert
[The Advertiser Sep14
Dog bit policeman
A 30-year-old has been given a control order after his dog attacked
a policeman. John Paul Nuttall was told to keep his small brown dog Jack
under proper control after an attack on PC Richard Harris of Ashton police
on June 14. PC Harris was responding to a report of a separate incident in
Margaret Street, Ashton, when the mongrel bit his knee and hung on for 'several
seconds' Tameside Magistrates Court was told. Mr Bill Dowdall, defending,
said the officer had stepped over Mr Nuttall who was sitting on his drive,
prompting the dog to 'defend' his owner. The dog ran away despite calls from
his owner and when he finally did return he was growling. Mr Nuttall, of
Margaret Street, admitted having a dangerous dog and accepted an order to
keep it under control.
My Comment:- It
never ceases to amaze me how quick the term "racism" is to fly from the lips
of people when a legitimate criticism is made of them.Perhaps if we weren't
publishing material in so many foreign languages to accommodate those who
don't speak English,there'd be more of an incentive to learn the language
of the country that a person lives in. If I lived in France,I would necessarily
think I should learn to speak French,not expect the French to speak my
Because of our over indulgence of PC silliness and being scared of being
called racist,legitimate criticisms such as that made by Mr Fox are never
heard.It maybe that language skills as well as number
skills are adrift in the general populace,and ALL doctors maybe subject
to that trend.(After all seemingly all doctors have illegible handwriting-but
is that comment a slur on all doctors or a legitimate complaint about
illegibility that may cost lives?)
But it is certainly possible that those to whom English is not their first
spoken language may have difficulty with communication or pronunciation,and
in the NHS that COULD cost lives.Mr Fox is exactly right.
Moreover I heard this week that the CRE (Commission for Racial Equality)
was found to be "The most racist place I've ever been" by Kamlesh Bahl
of the Law Society. The inverted racism of those who scream the term
almost as Ali G ["Is it becoz I
is black?"] does as a defence for ANY criticism that may apply to a racial
group in general is just an excuse for not dealing with legitimate
If someone suggested that the British in general were lazy at learning languages
and expect other nations to accommodate their inadequacy,I'd say it was a
legitimate criticism,I wouldn't say it "smacked of racism" even though it
was aimed only at Britons.As John Allen Paulos
points out,just because something statistically applies to a group does not
mean it's racist,and especially not if it isn't
discriminating and stopping them
doing anything they wish to do.
It seems to me that some people have become paranoid about their skin colour,and
it's not surprising when people still talk about "black" and "white" people
with alarming alacrity as if there was nothing wrong in referring to someone
in those terms. Such Programmes as "East" and "Black Britain" help maintain
the division,and the BBC runs programmes like "The Faster Race" asking if
"blacks" run faster. When an enquiry was made as to whether "whites" were
more intelligent,there was outrage,and yet the BBC runs racist programmes
and draws no comment because they are for "blacks". The presenters of "ethnic
TV" speak of black and white as if they existed as real categories,so firmly
is the division set in their mind.Presumably the same division continues
to exist in our institutions ,populated as they are by white male aristos
and middle class snot pots who have no idea of what real life is.[Am I being
classist or observing a fact?]
As long as these institutions continue to refer to "blacks" (ie the news
bulletins) then there will always be paranoia,and reactions such as that
of Mr Chand.
First and foremost the issue such be about whether doctors speak clearly
and can communicate well,a disability in this area crosses any "racial"
boundaries,and if certain doctors of whatever origin cannot speak clearly
or communicate well,then that poses a problem for their patients. If a group
of doctors happens to be in a category that is most lacking in this regard,this
may well include a large proportion of doctors of foreign descent,this does
not mean that they are being racially picked upon,but being singled out for
lack of verbal dexterity in the language that maybe that of their patients.
I suppose that Mr Nuttal should be accused of a racist attack on PC
Harris,because since no colour is mentioned we must assume that PC Harris
is "white" and of course any attack on a white person must be a racist attack
by default.That makes as much sense as saying that an attack on a pensioner
is racist,merely because he thinks he is a "black" person. The fact that
"The Bangladesh Community" exists is racist in the first instance,since I
am excluded from it.The fact that Tameside Racial Equality pays no attention
to my concerns,proves as Ms Bahl said about the CRE that it is minorities
who are racist,and not the community at large.I don't think in terms of skin
colour or race.It's clear that they do,and because "they" do I am forced
to think of them as "they" instead of "us",so they alienate themselves!