This article traces the trajectory of educational ideas through policy, curricular materials and enactment in the classroom. Specifically, I examine current English policy regarding the teaching of grammar in primary schools, and its enactment in a Year 3 (8-year olds) literacy lesson. While the policy advances a broadly rhetorical approach to grammar and its instruction, the enacted lesson ... [Show full abstract] retains a number of features characteristic of the formal, rule-based grammar instruction this policy seeks to replace. I discuss possible explanations for this outcome, and implications for language education policy. Among other issues, I argue that rhetorical grammar teaching has been thwarted by the “grammars” of schooling and educational accountability.