We have spent the last week developing a different way of looking at GCSE English papers. Once a GCSE paper has been marked the results have to be analysed and then work needs to be prepared for each child.
The AQA paper of 2008 was made up of two sections. In Section A (27 marks) the candidates had to answer all the questions. They were advised to spend around an hour on this section of the paper. The marks for questions were shown in brackets. The instructions included a reminder for the need for good continuous English and clear presentation of answer.
Section B covered writing to `Argue, Persuade or Advise’. There were 18 marks for answering the question – with 9 marks for spelling, grammar and presentation.
The mark schedule did not allow many marks for grammar. Grammar itself is not as important as the ability to answer clearly and thoughtfully. KS4 pupils are not expected to remember that `To have’ takes after the Past Participle while `To be’ can be either a `Past Participle or a Present Participle’. It would help some KS4 children, however, to remember that a Complex Sentence has a Principal Clause and one or more Subordinate Clauses.
Eleven Plus children are expected to be able to write Simple Sentences (one Subject and one Predicate) and Compound Sentences (two or more Principal Clauses). When parents are reading their child’s work they could be encouraged to remind their children that a Principal Clause is often called an Independent Clause – because it stands on its own.
We started our review of the way we teach our Eleven Plus English by looking at KS4 English because it is an unwise teacher who only prepares a child for an examination. The English our children produce at the Eleven Plus stage must have some bearing on the English they write at GCSE.
It is not, however, our intention to teach our Eleven Plus children some general analysis with:
Please let me know (Principal Clause) where the clothes shop is (Subordinate Noun Clause) with all the beautiful wedding dresses. (Subordinate adjectival Clause).
Some children, however, will love the beauty and the sense of purpose of the grammar. The love of order will enthral some children – and lead them to a university course that will meet all their emotional and intellectual needs.