The Cam­bridge Pre-U, lit­er­acy, and school uni­forms as a lev­eller

The Guardian - Journal - - Letters -

As cre­ators of the Cam­bridge Pre-U, we’d like to cor­rect a point made by Bernie Evans (Let­ters, 12 July) that “Cam­bridge Pre-U qual­i­fi­ca­tions are not reg­u­lated like other ex­ams by the Joint Coun­cil for Qual­i­fi­ca­tions (JCQ)”. That is in­cor­rect, on two counts. Ofqual, not JCQ, reg­u­lates qual­i­fi­ca­tions, and Cam­bridge Pre-U is in­deed reg­u­lated by Ofqual. Thus state schools can and do of­fer Cam­bridge Pre-U, and make up 38% of all schools tak­ing it. It is also ob­vi­ously in­cor­rect to con­clude that dif­fer­ences in pass rates between A-level and Cam­bridge Pre-U mean one exam is eas­ier than the other. The dif­fer­ences in re­sults sim­ply re­flect the dif­fer­ent lev­els of at­tain­ment of the can­di­dates.

Michael O’Sul­li­van

Chief ex­ec­u­tive, Cam­bridge As­sess­ment In­ter­na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion

Re “Philip Pull­man at­tacks ‘mon­strous’ English ed­u­ca­tion pol­icy” (the­guardian.com, 6 July), in the late 1980s I took up a new post as lit­er­acy leader in a nine-to-13 mid­dle school. I was ap­palled to find that many chil­dren, across the abil­ity range, were trans­fer­ring to high school barely literate. I in­tro­duced a pol­icy that re­quired teach­ers to fo­cus on the teach­ing of reading flu­ency, reading com­pre­hen­sion and writ­ing skills. I was la­belled a “Grad­grind” by col­leagues who said I was de­stroy­ing chil­dren’s en­joy­ment of books. This kind of opin­ion is mis­guided. If a child comes from a home where books, news­pa­pers and a rich vo­cab­u­lary abound, he/she will of­ten learn to read al­most by os­mo­sis and will catch the adults’ en­thu­si­asm for com­mu­ni­ca­tion. But many chil­dren do not ex­pe­ri­ence this and need to be taught the skills in a struc­tured and me­thod­i­cal way. More­over, in or­der that the teach­ers and head­teach­ers be­come ac­count­able for the re­sults of this process, the chil­dren, at some point, have to be tested. The teach­ing of reading and writ­ing is very hard work, but with­out that in­put most chil­dren would never, ever be able to read His Dark Ma­te­ri­als.

Ur­sula Hutchin­son

New­port, Isle of Wight

Com­par­isons are odi­ous and to com­pare the im­po­si­tion of school uni­form to that placed on the mil­i­tary or the emer­gency pro­fes­sions misses the point (Let­ters, 10 July). Wear­ing ex­pen­sive de­signer cloth­ing does not im­prove chil­dren’s cre­ativ­ity but does af­fect the dis­ad­van­taged. So school uni­forms, if sen­si­ble and in­ex­pen­sive, are good so­cial lev­ellers. When in Megha­laya, one of the more eco­nom­i­cally de­pressed In­dian states, my wife and I were im­pressed by the im­mac­u­lately uni­formed chil­dren mak­ing their way to school in the small­est and poor­est vil­lages.

Dr Peter Glanvill

Chard, Som­er­set

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