Adam Caller, CEO and Founder of Tutors International, responds to a recent article on the teaching of grammar in schools in England.
OXFORD, UK: A recent article published earlier this month, presented a case for change in the way grammar is taught in England. Based on research funded by the Nuffield Foundation, the article described how a new approach to teaching grammar and writing known as Englicious, required the pupils involved to learn grammatical terms, after which they applied this new knowledge to a piece of writing. Ten Englicious lessons were delivered by teachers guided by a manual, closely tailored to the linguistic content of the National Curriculum. Crucially, the main outcome of the research revealed that this intervention failed to improve narrative writing in pupils aged six to seven.
The Teaching of Grammar Needs to Have a Purpose
Adam Caller, founder and CEO of respected tutoring company Tutors International, which offers full-time residential and personalised private tuition to its Clients, is not surprised by the results of the research. Says Caller: “I have misgivings about the current emphasis on the methodical teaching of grammar in schools. There is a difference between the way that language is written and how it is spoken. Language is not a fixed entity and so writing can’t be improved by following prescribed rules and regulations which will become obsolete in time. Language is fluid, constantly changing on a daily basis and so it creates itself”.
Caller illustrates this by pointing to the Oxford English Dictionary which regularly adds new words to its lexicon: “Language never stops evolving and new words become part of our language almost daily. Dictionary editors study language in use, including which words and phrases people use most often and how they use them.
In 2021 for example, more than 700 words were added to the OED. In 2018 the abbreviation ‘OK’ became a recognised Scrabble word and yet the National Curriculum would frown upon its use in written pieces from pupils”. Caller continues, “Learning grammar needs to have a purpose. I am at a loss to see how knowing what a fronted adverbial is will improve a pupil’s writing. Currently, the National Curriculum requires pupils to be able to recognise a frontal adverbial in a sentence whereas the emphasis should be on how to use them effectively to improve writing ability”.
The Importance of Reading in Improving Writing
So how does Caller suggest that writing can be improved if teaching pupils the rules of grammar has been shown to be ineffective? According to Caller, schools need to encourage a child to read more: “Reading will broaden a child’s vocabulary and give them a greater command of the language”, he says. “In time, this will enable them to articulate their ideas more coherently in their writing and become more effective in communicating with others through spoken language. More importantly, reading widely will help develop creativity and act as a guide, illustrating how to create narrative, dialogue and characterisation”.
Despite arguing the case for more emphasis on oracy and reading as means of improving writing ability, Caller does believe that standards do need to be maintained with regard to the teaching of grammar: “Children’s work is littered with grammatical errors. Sadly, the fact that primary teachers often don’t have degrees in the subjects they are required to teach compounds the problem. I receive job applications from teachers who use inverted commas in the same way as apostrophes. This fundamental lack of knowledge will inevitably be passed on to the pupil”.
Caller also maintains that the slipshod manner in which correct grammar is used is putting the future of our language at risk: “Whilst it makes sense to add new, everyday and commonly used words to the OED, I draw the line at seeing the addition of ‘it’ll’ to the online dictionary. I also disagree with those who argue that apostrophes serve no purpose. Language is deteriorating but whilst there are still employers who will throw a job application in the bin when they see an apostrophe used incorrectly, we need to keep teaching children how to use them correctly”.
Tutors International: Tuition for Every Stage of Your Child’s Journey
Caller draws attention to his company’s core principle, that of delivering high quality learning that meets a pupil’s exact educational needs: “This is where we excel,” he declares. “For most pupils, their classroom experience revolves around learning what is necessary to pass the exam. We feel strongly that preparing pupils for exams should not be the ultimate goal. Pupils need to learn skills that can equip them for life beyond the classroom. Learning should go above and beyond this and be driven by curiosity and personal interests”.
Caller encourages all parents who may be interested in engaging a private tutor to provide high-end specialist tuition, to contact Tutors International.