No need to feel guilty

FRENCH GRAMMAR 11 - 14. By Rosi McNab. GERMAN GRAMMAR 11 - 14. By Oliver Grey and Trevor Stevens. Heinemann Pounds 4.99 each

With the publication of these two volumes, grammar takes a few more tentative steps out of the closet where it has remained for a generation.

They contain clear and concise explanations in English of grammatical points and supplement these with drills, substitution exercises and so on. This is precisely the type of thing that teachers have had to produce for themselves over the years - those dusty worksheets which you only ever take out when the inspector is not around, those exercises which you have felt guilty about giving to pupils but which you know work.

The "11 - 14" of the title might seem a little over-ambitious and a quick look at the contents page will show that these books would serve pretty well as back-up for GCSE. The language is straightforward, however, and the authors have taken pains to use a light touch while not shying away from using proper grammatical terms.

These are not books to be worked through from beginning to end, but for dipping into alongside your regular course.

They describe themselves as "ideal for independent study". However, there is no index and no answer key, and since no progress indicators are provided along the way, it would be a rare pupil indeed who had the motivation to work through the exercises alone. As homework, however, they would be excellent.

Some might disapprove of such context-free exercises and drills, while others would argue that it is pointless to provide teachers with what they can produce for themselves.

In my view, however, this is their strength. They provide teachers and pupils with what they want and what they need.

Richard Marsden is former head of languages at Minster School, Nottingham

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