Schools minister in grammar slip-up as he tries to defend tests

Written by David Singleton on 3 May 2016 in Diary

Nick Gibb apparently failed to differentiate between a preposition and a subordinating conjunction.

Schools minister Nick Gibb came unstuck as he defended the government’s controversial SATS tests for primary school children.

Ministers have been forced on to the defensive as 40,000 parents have signed a petition calling for a boycott of the tests, which are due to be taken later this month.

Parents supporting the Let Our Kids Be Kids campaign have complained of a damaging culture of over-testing and keeping their children off school for the day in a protest.

In an open letter to the education secretary Nicky Morgan, campaigners have warned of schools becoming "exam factories" and that testing causes stress and can make young children feel like "failures".

Gibb today insisted that “schools should not be putting pressure on young people when taking these assessments”.

As he appeared on the BBC’s World At One programme, he also insisted the exams were essential to raising standards. But was then subjected to a ticking off - after he apparently failed to differentiate between a preposition and a subordinating conjunction...

Martha Kearney: Let me give you this sentence, “I went to the cinema after I’d eaten my dinner”. Is the word "after" there being used as a subordinating conjunction or as a preposition?

Nick Gibb: Well, it’s a proposition. “After” - it's...

MK: [Laughing]: I don’t think it is...

NG: “After” is a preposition, it can be used in some contexts as a, as a, word that coordinates a subclause, but this isn’t about me, Martha...

MK: No, I think, in this sentence it’s being used a subordinating conjunction!

NG: Fine. This isn’t about me. This is about ensuring that future generations of children, unlike me, incidentally, who was not taught grammar at primary school...

MK: Perhaps not!

NG: ...we need to make sure that future generations are taught grammar properly.

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