On Tuesday, hundreds of thousands of 11-year-olds in England will be monitored as they sit a spelling and grammar test for the first time. This 15-minute spelling test will require students to spell words such as "separate," "preferred," and "necessary." Additionally, within the 45-minute grammar exam, the participants will be asked to provide information about colons, apostrophes, ellipses, and subordinate clauses.
The government believes that this test will help to dramatically enhance literacy standards, comparing it to similar examinations taken by students in the US, Canada, and Singapore. However, teaching unions have warned that it may have the opposite effect. The results of the national test for 11-year-olds – popularly known as SATs – will be used to judge schools in league tables which may prompt teachers to only teach to the test.
Moreover, this will cause children to become needlessly anxious about their grades. At the National Union of Teachers (NUT) conference in Liverpool, a motion was passed, demanding a boycott of these tests. The NUT noted that children’s grammar, punctuation, and spelling were already assessed by teachers on a daily basis.
The National Association of Headteachers (NAHT) agreed with the boycott, saying that a portfolio of a student’s work was a better indicator of their spelling and grammar than a new test. Russell Hobby, the general secretary of NAHT, stated that these exams focused on the knowledge of grammar in the abstract and told us nothing about how someone used that knowledge to communicate.
Furthermore, Elizabeth Truss, an education minister, acknowledged that many children struggled with the basics of the English language, leading to them never catching up and becoming poorly literate. Therefore, this new test aims to aid children in grasping the skills they require to understand English and use it correctly, creatively, and effectively.
As Monday saw the reading test for 11-year-olds, teachers have noted an error in the exam materials. In their correct explanation of how to approach the test, pupils were told: "Different question need to be answered in different ways". The Standards and Testing Agency, an executive agency of the Department for Education, is responsible for developing and delivering these national tests.