Bad Grammar

As soon as I started a tale with a subordinating conjunction
The insubordinate ones ran off, all noise and wild rambunction

The coordinating conjunctions were nowhere to be found
They’d left in perfect synchronicity, for that’s how they get around

Yet is it really necessary to have so many junctions in this life?
To write should be a joy and yet the grammar police are rife
With rules and regulations for what can and can’t transpire
A manual of do’s and don’ts, inspiration turned to ire
To write without mechanics gives more freedom on the page
There’s always time to learn the rules but it’s hard to escape the cage
Photo by Pixabay on

My daughter asked for my help with her English homework the other day because apparently I’m, ‘you know, good with words and stuff.’

I valiantly stepped up to the challenge, only to fall on my own sword. I was bamboozled by the plethora of grammatical terms which my eleven year old (and apparently my ten year old), are being asked to learn in school.

Subordinate clauses, fronted adverbials, relative clauses. These terms are a foreign language to me, but my kids have been learning them since they were seven or eight. My son’s struggles with literacy and my daughter’s growing dislike of English as a subject (despite her being an avid reader and a fantastic storyteller) are starting to make sense.

I was so chagrined I wrote a poem about it, then went online to find out who was responsible for my children’s escalating loathing of the English language.

I came across an interesting article in The Guardian from 2017 that raised concerns there was little evidence to support this technical approach to grammar in schools. It turns out even the academics responsible for advising the Government to bring in these changes back in 2014 have admitted this aspect of the curriculum is ‘not based on good research evidence.’

It turns out none of the academics advising the Government had much experience of Primary education when developing the requirements for the curriculum. Debra Myhill, one of those advisors, is now lobbing for the removal of this grammatical focus in Key Stage 2 SATS tests because,

‘There is no evidence that simply being able to name and identify linguistic terminology has any effect on your use of language.’

Actually, I’d say it does have an effect: it tends to make the person being asked to learn it fall asleep.

It’s easy to see how too much focus on the descriptors of the language itself, and not enough on the use of the language and the colour and joy found in words can suck the life out of learning.

Despite this article being written in 2017, the top down behemoth that is our education system continues to teach young children complex (and in my opinion, unnecessary) grammar, at a time in their lives when they should be having fun with words and exploring how to apply them creatively. Basic grammar should more than suffice at this stage.

As the poem says, there’s always time to learn the rules but it’s hard to escape the cage.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on


5 thoughts on “Bad Grammar

  1. Here, here! Have been horrified to hear the terminology that has to be taught to young children, just when the focus should be on developing a love of language. Great poem and thoughts spot on (in my book anyway).

    Liked by 2 people

      • I’ll take all the hear’s I can get, Ben 😊

        Apparently ‘here, here ‘outpolls ‘hear, hear’ on the web anyway, and let’s be honest, does it matter that much when the sentiments are conveyed all the same? (This one depends who you ask, I suppose).

        Thank you for your kind comments anyway, it’s good to know I’m not the only one left scratching my head over the seemingly heroic but counterproductive efforts today’s teachers have to put in to teach useless information to small children.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. It is such a shame that children are being taught English in this way, it just stops creativity in its tracks. My son was criticised at school for writing stories as if he was orating them conversationally, yet to read them now it is that very style that brings them to life. I despair of our education system sometimes. Have fun and play with words or kill the joy of expression.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There’s not many things that get me all riled up but this is one of them.

      When the kids were at home I could see how much they learned through playing and experimenting, but anything that looks like learning is kept at arms length when they’re in school, because by the end of a school day they’ve had enough.

      I wish there was a balance. I’d love more openness in the education system to school more flexibly, an approach where families and schools work together for the good of the child. It feels quite us verses them in its current format & I think it’s quite dated.

      I’m sorry that happened to your son, imagine creating something & then being told you hadn’t done it ‘right.’ 😡


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