Government's writing tips are a big mistake

MATERIALS sent to schools as part of the Government's flagship national literacy strategy are riddled with grammatical errors, the British Educational Research Association conference was told last week.

Academics found a number of mistakes, including confusion over tenses, incorrect rules and poor-quality writing tips in 15 documents sent to schools in the past five years.

The Year 7 spelling bank, sent to schools by the Department for Education and Skills last year, lists "autopsy" alongside "autobiography" as an example of the use of the prefix "auto" to denote things done by oneself.

Other errors include saying that words which end in "-fe" lose the "f" and replace it with a "v" when they become verbs. As a result, "safe" becomes "save" or "saved", but "knife" becomes "knive" or "knived".

Both the Year 7 spelling bank and its key stage 2 equivalent are "intent on finding patterns and rules even where there are none", according to a draft report by grammar experts Wasyl Cajkler and Jane Hislam of the University of Leicester.

Although some of the worst mistakes contained in the original national literacy strategy framework for teaching were corrected in a revised version sent to schools last year, the Year 7 sentence level bank and spelling bank contain so many errors that they should be avoided by teachers and the former should be recalled immediately, the authors say.

" `The butler was dead' is not a passive form: how grammar has been misconceived in the national literacy strategy" by Wasyl Cajkler and Jane Hislam. For details contact wc4@le.ac.uk

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