Basic ignorance

29th August 2003 at 01:00
Professor Alan Smithers, in his defence of GCSEs and A-levels (Summer debate, TES, August 15), questions the logic of students taking "so-called'

key skills after completing 11 years of maths, English and computing.

Well, the answer is simple: most 16 to 19-year-old students do not have these skills, though everyone assumes that they do.

As a tutor, senior examiner and moderator of key skills, I can assure the professor that whatever post-16 system the Government decides on, the need for key skills will remain. The evidence is irrefutable, particularly at level 3 where pass rates for numeracy are appalling, the standard of spelling, punctuation and grammar in communication is weak and few candidates can write an acceptable formal letter.

Perhaps the professor should investigate why so many students, after 11 years of compulsory education, lack these essential skills. This would be more enlightening than academic arguments about the "dangers" of an English baccalaureate.

Martin Rolfe

17 Keyberry Park

Newton Abbot, Devon

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