A ten-year-old girl who spotted grammar mistakes in her English exam has written a letter of complaint – to Michael Gove.
Eagle-eyed Rebecca Lee noticed basic punctuation errors in two questions in her SATs – and has pointed out the howlers to the Secretary of State for Education.
Rebecca says she was so ”annoyed” by the exam blunders in her Year 6 exam she wanted to take her complaint to the top.
The sentences in Rebecca’s exam which annoyed her and her teachers were as follows:
The world’s oldest railway station, built for steam locomotives, is Broad Green.
If there is not enough rainfall this month there will be a drought.
As he was the chief of the tribe the final decision was his.
Rebecca and her teacher felt that if there is a comma after the word ‘station’ and ‘locomotives’ in sentence one, there should be commas after the words ‘month’ and the word ‘tribe’ in the other two.
Bright Rebecca, a pupil at Christ Church Primary in Clifton, Bristol, has now sent a letter to Mr Gove.
In her letter, she said: “I understand that you are very keen for us to all learn our complex sentences and use of accurate punctuation.
“I believe that your department should also use the correct punctuation in all SATs tasks.”
Speaking yesterday, she said: “The exam wording should be setting an example and I was annoyed. I had to write.
“I’ve not heard back yet and am still waiting – Mr Gove’s busy but I do hope to get a response back.”
The mistakes were in a section of the exam on complex sentences – and had commas missing in two sentences.
The same sentences – featuring commas in the correct places – had appeared in an earlier part of the exam on grammar.
Rebecca’s proud mum Jo, 40, a town planner, said: “A group of children were discussing in the playground that there had been a mistake and that it wasn’t right.
“Rebecca said she thought she should write to whoever was responsible and found that it was Michael Gove. I helped her write the letter and we emailed it.
“It’s great that she decided to do it. Generally, I encourage her to do these types of things – to stand up to the people who are supposed to be setting an example. I’m fully behind her.”
The Government’s Standards and Testing Agency is meant to check if exams are up to scratch before pupils take them, but a spokesman insisted that using commas in complex sentences was “a matter of choice”.
Rebecca’s teacher Barney Braithwaite said many of his pupils noticed the mistake when they undertook the new spelling, punctuation and grammar test.
He said: “It throws up the issue of standardised testing, which suggests there’s a standard English – either there is or there isn’t.
“To say one thing is right and the rest is wrong, and then to say it’s optional, is a bit hypocritical.
“I laughed my head off when I had heard that Rebecca had sent the letter. She obviously felt moved enough by the mistakes.”
Rebecca sat the exam last Tuesday (May 14). The SAT was taken by around 500,000 pupils across the country.
Her teacher Barney Braithwaite said: ”There were two sentences in the exam which were constructed in the same way, but both used commas differently. The issue is about consistency.”