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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 in schools.
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 English language.
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 for 14-year-olds.
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, throughout life."
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 standards.

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 struggle.
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 propose?"

Kailash Chand

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

Man bitten by dog : Or 'Black' man bitten by dog?
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 2000]

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 language.
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 complaints.
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!





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