Exploring primary and secondary students’ experiences of grammar teaching and testing in England

I. Cushing, M. Helks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
73 Downloads (Pure)


This article reports on data generated from focus groups held with primary and secondary school students in which they were asked about experiences of grammar teaching and testing in the context of post-2010 reforms in England. Data from these focus groups were triangulated with a bricolage of other data, including fieldnotes, teacher surveys, pedagogical materials and government-produced policy documents. Our findings show that, in spite of differences within primary-secondary policy, students’ perceptions of their experiences had significant elements of commonality. Students’ conceptualisations of grammar were focused on word and clause-level notions, generally rejecting the idea that grammar was associated with meaning, creativity and choice. Students emphasised experiences of decontextualised grammar teaching, despite evidence from their teachers which espoused contextualised grammar. Finally, the state-issued primary school grammar tests were found to be working as a powerful de facto language policy, warping and distorting students’ memories and experiences of grammar.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-250
Number of pages12
JournalEnglish in Education
Issue number3
Early online date18 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


  • Grammar teaching
  • grammar testing
  • student voice

Research Centres

  • International Centre on Racism


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