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Head teachers should be able to write basic sentences

17 Mar 2006 / in general stuff, going off on one

This is not Cleo’s headmaster!
The media tells us education standards are dropping. Until yesterday I would have disagreed, but my daughter Cleo came home with the school newsletter. She was horrified with it. Having me as a mum and Moth – an editor and plain language guru for a government department – for a step-dad has turned her into a language pedant. This is an excellent thing and I’m very proud of her for giving such a toss. It means we can easily find things to have a laugh and a cry about when reading or watching the telly. But I digress… back to the newsletter.

First she showed me a hastily written item about the ‘Cunty Council’. And then she showed me a piece written by headmaster who is consulting parents about reviewing the school uniform which is currently worn inconsistently and so gives a bad impression of the school. A sloppier, flabbier piece of writing I have not had the misfortune to read in many months. Full of needless fluff phrases such as ‘..at this moment in time…’, ‘..we would like to…’, ‘…in terms of…’ and passive verbs, it was unclear, repetitive, not proof-read, contained lazy ampersands, badly punctuated and was inconsistent in its use of capital letters.

What kind of example does this set to the other teachers, parents and mostly crucially of all, the pupils of the school?

Cleo and I sat in awe as together we edited this shocking piece of writing. She intends to show our work to her English teacher. And I feel a letter to the headmaster coming on…

Now I’m not suggesting that head teachers should be journalistically trained writers. But I feel strongly that a basic standard of written English is required. If only Cleo’s headmaster has consulted his expert English teaching staff for proof-reading and editing his text! The irony of a sloppily written letter to the parents of more than 1,000 pupils about poor standards of uniform presentation giving a bad impression of the school is not lost on me.

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