Guest blog from Rachel Williams, professional copywriter.

So Michael Gove has just declared that anyone wanting to become a teacher will face tougher testing as of September 2013. The unions, not surprisingly, are unhappy, but I for one welcome a more robust assessment of the basic literacy and numeracy skills of new teachers, those people tasked with educating our children and preparing the workforce of the future.

I know that spelling and grammar isn’t the be all and end all. I also recognise that there are some fantastic teachers around – I’ve met some great ones over the last six years or so since my children started school and I have absolute respect for the job they do. But I do despair when I look in the boys’ books and notice spellings that go uncorrected (have they even been noticed, I wonder), sentences that don’t start with capital letters, apostrophes used haphazardly, misuse of words such as ‘there’ and ‘their’.

There is an argument that it’s the ideas that are important (‘content is king’ at the most elementary level, perhaps!), and that children’s thinking processes shouldn’t be shackled by spelling and grammar. I understand this argument but I disagree wholeheartedly. My eldest child is an appalling speller and I am always trying to explain to him just how important it is to be able to write well (nag, nag, nag!) – what’ll happen in ten years time when he’s applying for university places or jobs? An application that is poorly written is unlikely to result in invitations to interview.

Or at least that’s what it was like in the old days. Now, of course, we have spell checks in Word that picks up all kinds of mistakes and, who knows, in the future technology will probably be sophisticated enough to pick up every nuance of linguistic anomalies, so type in ‘the Queen rained’ and ‘reigned’ will automatically replace the offending spelling.

Technology worries me. To step away from my pet subject for a moment, here’s an example. Sat Nav is, for many, a heaven sent gift that saves marriages on a daily basis, but there is also the possibility that we are all beginning to stop thinking for ourselves, losing our most basic skills. Are we, in the process of developing technology, experiencing a backward biological evolution that will ultimately render us incapable of logical thinking processes, understanding and reasoning? There have been plenty of incidents of people prepared to drive into rivers because the lady with the nice voice insisted that they make a left turn.

I hope that anything that can be done will be done to ensure basic quality standards in teaching, and that future generations keep a firm grip on their spelling and grammar. The written word is an essential communication tool and it would be a travesty for anyone to not possess it as part of their skillset.

I know I bang on about this from time to time! Do you think spelling and grammar still count for anything?

Picture credit Stuart Miles /