Writing skills 'decline'

Primary pupils are not grasping the fundamentals of punctuation, in spite of the recent drive to boost writing skills, says a review by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority of key stage 2 tests. There is even "some evidence of decline in the accurate use of sentence boundary markers", the report says.

Stories were too often organised chronologically and paragraphing was driven by time, using "then", "the next day" and "after" rather than "it" to link action, character, motive and setting. Children also do not effectively plan their endings.

The findings follow a classroom offensive last year, when teachers were sent guidance on how to teach grammar. This year, the QCA has produced a poster to accompany its review, outlining "Implications for teaching and learning from the 2001 tests". This summarises what children should achieve at different levels in writing, spelling and reading.

The review also found that children were starting secondary school unable to spell everyday words, such as individual, serious, technique and surprise.

KS1 spelling results improved slightly but overall there was an increase in errors at all levels. The most common were missing letters, incorrect endings and vowels.

Standards at key stage 2. English, maths and science: a report for headteachers, class teachers and assessment coordinators on the 2001 national curriculum assessments for 11-year-olds. The report can be read at www.qca.org.uk

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