Barking mad? Marking mad!
Last Updated on Tuesday, 27 January 2009 13:44
Plain English Campaign has highlighted the poorly-marked Standard Assessment Tests (SATS) released by a Lancashire head teacher as an example of the plummeting literacy standards in schools. Janis Burden, of Moss Side Primary in Chorley, revealed that an essay littered with spelling and grammatical errors had received a higher mark than another, more literate one.
The campaign’s media advisor, Steve Jenner, said: “The marking of English SATs has been a standing joke in the teaching profession for years. Many teachers see the SATs, their administration, preparation and marking as a national scandal. They are often badly marked and returned late to schools. Teenagers who haven’t passed their A-levels have been employed to mark papers. This means that results are often called into question by the schools, and parents don’t have a reliable indication of how well their child has actually done.”
The SATs marking system has already run into serious problems, with MPs and senior teachers expressing concerns about the company appointed by the government to mark the tests. Schools Secretary, Ed Balls, has refused to apologise for the debacle.
Steve Jenner added “We congratulate Janis Burden on taking a stand. To award higher marks to papers containing lots of mistakes is frankly ridiculous. It is time for ministers to take action to make sure this sort of thing stops. We need to have a real debate about the best way to teach our children how to read and write. And SAT markers should have the relevant subject knowledge and expertise.”
Lack of clarity earns 0% for families
Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 January 2009 10:36
Revelations from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) market study released today have reinforced the damning criticisms about bank charges that continue to arrive at Plain English Campaign from members of the public. Based on the OFT findings, the lack of clarity in some communications is a major reason for banks having poor relationships with customers.
While many banks acknowledge that plain language enables better financial management for both themselves and their customers, there is an obvious need for legislation in this area to ensure consistency for the customer.
Financial organisations have a responsibility to answer and help people as part of their service. But the current financial climate has highlighted that unclear and misleading information can cause peope financial hardship. For instance, recent customer marketing from one major bank claims to counteract the effects of the 'credit crunch' by offering emergency funds. In fact these funds are no more than an addititional overdraft facility at a hugely inflated interest rate.
Plain English Campaign's founder Chrissie Maher OBE said, "The grass roots issue here is that clear communications can make the difference between a family being out on the street, or them getting through this period of economic challenge. Our key message is that clear communications empower the individual."
"Many organisations, particularly in the finance industry, already recognise the valuable contributions that crystal-clear language can offer in preventing the confusion around unnecessary and excessive charges. Over the coming months we will continue working with the banks and other consumer groups, and have offered our services to the OFT on this matter in the hope of achieving greater clarity, consistency and transparency throughout the industry."
Plain English is coming home
Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 January 2009 10:36
Plain English Campaign plans to play a major part in the “Liverpool - European Capital of Culture celebrations” - if it can find somewhere to accommodate an exhibition.
The national organisation shot to fame campaigning for clarity in the language used in official documents. It is also well - known for the “Golden Bull” awards it gives every year to people who have put “foot in mouth”, and for the Crystal Mark.
The roots of the Plain English Campaign are in Liverpool. Founder Chrissie Maher was one of the original team who worked on the groundbreaking Liverpool newspaper, the “Tuebrook Bugle”. Copies of the “Bugle” going back as far as 1971 will form part of the exhibition. Now she’s looking forward to showing how the campaign started and giving local people the opportunity to try Plain English for themselves through workshop sessions which will be offered as part of the Campaign’s exhibition.
“We are part of Liverpool and it’s history and culture so naturally we want to be part of the Capital of Culture celebrations. As the campaign grew out of the frustration of ordinary people in Liverpool with the way they were being treated we feel that it is right that we should return to the city at this time. We’ll be reminding everyone of the importance of clear language and how this can help people understand what to do and what is happening in their lives” says Chrissie.
“We need somewhere for our exhibition which is easy for people to get to but is also well - known so that everyone will know where we are. Language is one of the most important parts of any culture - and being understood is the key. Our presence at the City of Culture event should be central to a celebration of this City’s part in developing and promoting different aspects of our common culture. We’re speaking with the City Council and the University at the moment and hope to have more news soon.”
The Plain English Campaign are looking to run their exhibition in the city for over a month.during next summer.
Crystal Clear campaign wins victory for broadband users
Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 October 2008 11:31
The Crystal Clear Broadband campaign, launched by consumer magazine Computeractive, with support from Plain English Campaign, has convinced industry regulator Ofcom to force network providers to give customers clearer information about their internet connection speeds. More than 11,000 people signed a petition on the Downing Street website to put pressure on Ofcom to act.
The communications regulator has now introduced a Code of Practice that requires companies to give consumers an accurate estimate of the maximum speed their line can support before a contract is signed. Previously network providers were advertising super-fast connection speeds that were impossible to obtain for all but a very few of customers.
According to an Ofcom spokesman, the "issue of broadband speeds is an area of consumer interest and concern, as the Computeractive Crystal Clear campaign helped to highlight. Our Code of Practice will provide real clarity for consumers about the actual broadband speeds they can expect.
The regulator will also be carrying out what it has claimed is the UK's most authoritative and comprehensive broadband speed survey. This will identify actual broadband performance across the country and its relationship to advertised speeds. Many customers are still unaware that the actual speed they can get depends on a number of factors, including how near they live to their telephone exchange.
The 10p tax band explained
Here at Plain English Campaign we ponder over letters and their meaning and can usually make some sense of the most challenging jargon and gobbledygook.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 September 2010 09:37
But when it comes to numbers we have to hold our hands up in despair on occasion – for example if asked to explain the 10% (10p) tax band.
Fortunately, we have access to accounting expertise and we have set out below a clear explanation of the tax band change for people who are struggling to understand it. In 2007/2008 everyone who earned enough was entitled to the 10% tax band (on the first £2,230 of income above the personal allowance).
In 2008/2009 the loss of this tax band will cost extra tax on most salaries up to £16,499. Most people earning more than £16,500 will pay less tax.
From 6 April 2008 the amount you can earn before you start to pay tax has been raised from £5,225 a year to £5,435. At the same time the 10% tax rate has ended and the basic rate of tax has been lowered from 22% to 20%.
So, as an example, if your wage was £8,000 in tax year 2007/2008, after taking away your tax free allowance of £5,225 you would have paid tax on £2,775 (£8,000 minus £5,225).
The first £2,230 would have been taxed at 10% which equals £223.
The remaining £545 would have been taxed at 22% which equals £119.90
So you would have paid £342.90 tax on the £8,000 you earned in 2007/2008.
With the new tax rates, if your wage is still £8,000 in 2008/2009, after taking away your tax free allowance of £5,435 (raised from £5,225 in 2007/2008), you will pay tax on £2,565, at 20% which equals £513. So you will have £170.10 less this year than last (£513 - £342.90).
This is £14.17 less each month.
In 2008/2009, most people earning less than £16,500 will be worse off after tax than they were in 2007/2008 and those earning £16,500 and above could be better off.
Recent survey results from national media sources shows that in 2007 the 1,000 wealthiest people in Britain had a total wealth of £412 billion (£412,000 million). That is four times more than they had in 1997.
Police forces accused of using 'ploddledygook'
Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 October 2008 11:48
Plain English Campaign is calling on the country’s police forces to return to basics – starting with the language used to communicate with the public. The campaign has noticed an increase in the number of complaints it receives about police communication, particularly slogans.
Statements about standard policing are made into 'revelatory' slogans such as ‘Committed to fighting crime’ or 'Keeping you safe'. Other taglines such as “Putting you First” and “Our focus is you” suggest an extra commitment to the tax–payer. Forces are also adopting new jargon such as 'Citizen-focused command centre', and referring to members of the public as 'customers'.
Campaigners argue that as police jargon-busters exist on a number of police websites, forces must already know that explanations are needed for some of their commonly-used terms. They say that the longer people have to fight their way through this sort of meaningless jargon, the less they pay attention to the real issues.
PEC spokeswoman Marie Clair said: "It is reminiscent of politicians announcing that they are ‘taking the terrorist threat very seriously’ and that ‘education is a top priority’. You can’t argue with the sentiment, but the repetition of a widely accepted ‘truism’ isn't acceptable as a replacement for clearly–stated policy.”
She added: "Do the public really understand terms such as 'County Delivery Unit'? It sounds more like a milk round than policing. It seems that administrative confusion is hitting our streets when we really need to spend the resources on policing. Maybe this Ploddledygook is the latest weapon against the criminals - it certainly had me floored."