This article reports on an investigation into the level of grammatical knowledge among 503 primary teacher trainees (1997–2001) following a one-year Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE) course. Since 1997, official expectations have changed, with greater emphasis on grammar teaching in England. Trainees' grammatical knowledge was explored in the light of government initiatives, in particular the 1998 standards for teacher training courses (Department for Education and Employment, DfEE, Circular 4/98) and the introduction of the National Literacy Strategy (DfEE, 1998). To identify baseline needs, we focused on measuring trainees' ability to identify 'parts of speech' and sentence-types through entry-level audits. Prompted by the findings from these audits and discussions with trainees, we investigated through further audits, interviews and talk-aloud activities how trainees perceived grammatical categories, how they understood and talked about grammar and whether their knowledge of grammatical metalanguage increased during their training. We found that although postgraduates had a significant amount of grammatical knowledge, they felt considerable anxiety about their level of understanding when they entered training. In general during the PGCE year, knowledge increased but anxiety remained high. There is a tension between public expectations and what can be achieved during training
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