Shame about the media

July 12, 1996

The account given by Christopher Brumfit and Rosamond Mitchell from Southampton University of how their research on "grammar" was handled by the Economic and Social Research Council (THES, June 28) does not correspond with our perception of the same events.

Earlier this year, the ESRC produced an information pack and research briefing which summarised findings from the ten projects funded under the programme on Innovation and Change in Education. The Southampton team saw and approved the sections which described their work. The press release about which Brumfit and Mitchell complain was based directly on the pack and briefing and reproduced the four main findings of their project almost verbatim. It gave particular attention to the Southampton research because it was felt to be significant, and because it had not received much previous publicity. It was headed "Grammar left out of English lessons". Since the team found that "there was little formal teaching of grammar in English lessons", this does not seem unreasonable.

A draft was sent to the Southampton team before it was released to the media, over a week before the embargo date. A team member confirmed that it was acceptable. Only then was it sent out.

One can have some sympathy with the researchers about the ways in which the media handled the story. However, those involved in producing the press release acted in good faith.

MARTIN HUGHES Programme director JOHN GRAY Chair, Programme Steering Committee ESRC Research Programme on Innovation and Change in Education

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