As part of a schools curriculum revamp for seven to eleven year-olds, children will be educated in the art of recognising when formal English is appropriate, and using it accordingly.
The proposals come in response to increasing concerns about the number of children who suffer from so-called ‘word poverty’. These children are unable to string a coherent sentence together by the time they start school, according to Sir Jim Rose, a former head of Ofsted. Sir Jim has been appointed by ministers to overhaul the primary curriculum in response to concerns that it was overly prescriptive
These fears do not appear to be unfounded, as in some areas up to 50% of the school-age population has speech and language difficulties, according to a government-backed report last year by John Bercow MP.
The skills that the children will be taught include how to moderate tone of voice and use appropriate eye contact and hand gestures.
Perhaps controversially I would like to step out and say – about time too! Long gone it would seem, are the days when it could be assumed that parental responsibility extended to grammar and elocution. Furthermore it is not only the communal parental unit and indeed teaching staff of Britain that should shoulder the blame; in recent times the Oxford English dictionary has seen additions such as ‘jiggy’ ‘dope’ and ‘phat’ – all ‘street’ terms of approval.
For fear of generalising I would swiftly like to add that there are of course young people who are incredibly polite, and are what would traditionally be referred to as ‘well brought-up’. This is certainly not another nail in the coffin of ‘ailing teenage Britain’ – that the press so delight in prodding at every opportunity, and is not furthermore a question of class or background.
Without sinking too far into the mêlée of finger-pointing and accountability, the more relevant question is surely – when did learning to speak properly ever leave the curriculum? There should not be a need to highlight this, it should surely be a given?
Does this signify an erosion of standards in teaching, or is it parenting that is in focus here? Will there finally be an end to ‘I should of’, ‘ain’t’ and the irrepressible ‘innit’? Or better still a long-overdue death to the letter ‘h’ pronounced as ‘haitch’, as opposed to ‘aitch’. Early indications would suggest perhaps not…but I will continue to live (not-so) quietly in hope.