Schools minister trips up on grammar question for 11-year-olds

3rd May 2016 at 17:10
nick gibb
Nick Gibb challenged over subordinating conjunctions on BBC radio programme

Schools minister Nick Gibb has come unstuck after he tried to answer a grammar question for 11-year-olds.

Mr Gibb was subjected to a ticking off after he apparently failed to differentiate between a preposition and a subordinating conjunction.

Appearing on BBC Radio 4's World At One, Mr Gibb was tackled by presenter Martha Kearney over concerns among parents that Sats tests for primary school children were too prescriptive and risked putting them off reading.

"Let me give you this sentence: 'I went to the cinema after I'd eaten my dinner'. Is the word 'after' there being used as a subordinating conjunction or as a preposition," Ms Kearney asked.

"It's a preposition," Mr Gibb replied confidently, only for Ms Kearney to shoot back: "I don't think it is. In this sentence, it is being used as a subordinating conjunction."

Mr Gibb protested: "'After' is a preposition. It can be used in some contexts as a word that co-ordinates a subclause."

He added: "This isn't about me. This is about ensuring that future generations of children – unlike me incidentally, who was not taught grammar at primary school – we need to make sure that future generations are taught grammar properly."

According to the government’s mark scheme, the correct answer was “subordinating conjunction” (see below). 

*TES asked volunteers, including shadow education secretary Lucy Powell, former education select committee chair Graham Stuart MP, former schools minister Lord Jim Knight and TES editor Ann Mroz, to take a key stage 2 Sats test last month. Find out how they scored… 

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