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Poor writing, lower results

The Commons education select committee has decided to investigate reading.

Why this narrow focus? Literacy is an essential national concern, but it is much broader than the committee seems to realise, and it should widen the inquiry.

Reading is the least problematic aspect of literacy in Britain, as international comparisons show. It is writing - much harder to teach and learn - that drags down English Sat levels (this year's dubious key stage 3 results for England notwithstanding). But the third component, speaking and listening, would benefit most from the high-level publicity generated by an inquiry. These crucial, but un-tested, skills had a low profile under the national literacy strategy - but as more children start school without the language skills necessary to learn to read and write, they need the greatest attention.

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