Key Stage One

How do we test the English Language skills of seven year olds? By checking whether they write sentences they- and I!- would never speak. To be classified at “working at the expected standard” they must use four different forms of sentences- statements, questions, exclamations and commands. A sentence has a subject and a verb, and an “Exclamation sentence” must start with “How” or “What”. “How odd!” would not do, as it has no verb.

We learn to write by reading and thinking. But what we read rarely has exclamatory sentences in this form, so one can only learn it by rote. What a lot of bullshit this is! How it reduces writing, an exploration of freedom, into a boring rote-learning!

Ah. I could just add “How” to the start of a sentence, check if it just might do, and tick the box in my own mind; though not to the sentences beginning with conjunctions. I understand you are not supposed to start a sentence with a conjunction. But I do it all the time, and now have found out about “subordinating conjunctions”. I am not sure what they are, exactly: I must ask a primary school child.

Key stage two writing assessment

These changes take writing back to the 19th century, and I remember a story of children learning Willie, Willie, Harry Steve (I never learned that, it was not mine, no-one has made Three Alexanders John ROBERT!! David two Roberts six Jameses into a rhyme. Onywye. Why learn it? Not so’s they could understand history, but so’s they could practice learning by rote. “So’s” mightn’t be one of the contracted words included, as it is regional.

“Stories that teachers have to make checklists of hundreds of different tickboxes are just plain wrong” says Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, but this is a lie. To count as “Working at the expected standard”, the child needs to tick all the boxes on that list, and so must write exclamation sentences; and evidence of their exclamation sentence, suffixes and contracted forms must be preserved. I have no idea what “exception words” are, and this list makes it no clearer. I was right, more or less, they are exceptions to spelling rules, but the abbreviation GPC for Grapheme Phoneme correspondence did not make it easier. I also found that “ture” in creature is pronounced tʃə: so my pedantry of saying “creature” rather than creacha is condemned. You might realise from that “t” that I liked rules- until now.

The 2014 English curriculum has set out the various spelling rules (and exception words) that need to be learnt by children in each year of their primary education.

8 thoughts on “Key Stage One

  1. One is not to start a sentence with a conjunction? That’s just a plausible-sounding rumor. But if I’m incorrect I’d like to be corrected.


    • Robert Burchfield: The widespread public belief that But should not be used at the beginning of a sentence seems to be unshakeable. Yet it has no foundation. “But” rather than all conjunctions- I am multiplying rules where none are- yet public belief is the only foundation for grammatical rules, and I tend to feel that if people object to a grammar practice one should avoid it except where it can be effective.


  2. There’s a campaign gathering steam in Scotland to follow the Finnish, and other European countries model, and not start academic style classes till 7. Hope at works. These kind of tests, even if they were well constructed, at such a young age are cruel. I’m glad Scotland has a separate education system at least, no tests like these as far as I’m aware.


  3. There is so much wrong with our education system at the moment that it hurts – children are under far too much pressure from a young age – sure childhood is meant to be enjoyed?


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