New grammar, punctuation and spelling test will raise children’s literacy standards

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Education Minister Elizabeth Truss says a rigorous new spelling, grammar and punctuation test will raise standards for all children.

The new test – made up of a 45-minute grammar test and a separate 15-minute spelling test of 20 words – will be taken for the first time by around 600,000 11-year-olds.

The exam - part of the annual round of SATs tests - will also cover the correct use of punctuation, including colons and apostrophes, and ensure that pupils apply grammatical rules such as subordinate clauses and a range of connectives.

The move comes amid concerns that the basics were neglected under the last government, with too many pupils struggling to write accurate sentences and structure essays properly.

An evaluation by the Standards and Testing Agency in March found that the tests “are rigorous, are in line with international best practice, and ask pupils the appropriate questions needed to assess their grammar, punctuation and spelling”.

England's main classroom unions have attacked the test, insisting it will heap extra pressure on young children and force teachers to drill pupils to pass.

Children will be tested on whether they can:

  • spell some of the most commonly misspelt words – including separate, preferred and necessary
  • punctuate sentences properly – including the use of colons, ellipses and apostrophes
  • use grammar correctly – including the use of subordinate clauses and a range of connectives

The exam will also focus on the grammatical functions of words, including nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, prepositions and conjunctions.

A sample writing test carried out last year found 23 per cent of 11-year-olds failed to reach the expected standard for their age group - equating to around 125,000 children.

Education Minister Elizabeth Truss said: “Many children struggle with the basics of the English language at primary school, then don’t catch up at secondary school. That is why employers bemoan the poor literacy of so many school and college leavers.

“This new test will mean that children are again taught the skills they need to understand our language, and to use it properly, creatively and effectively.”

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