Decline in GCSE English standards

4th May 2001 at 01:00
John Steadman suggests that the researchers "who revealed that key stage 2 English tests have become easier could take a look at GCSE English" ("Is GCSE English also getting easier?", TES, April 20).

A study has been done: Aspects of writing in English Examinations at 16+ between 1980 and 1994 by AJ Massey and GL Elliott, published in 1996 by the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate. The findings strongly suggest a decline in standards of written English.

On the same letters page, Michael Todd writes: "This measurement craze trivialises what we (teachers) do, and sets children up to be knocked down."

But sbjective judgments are not enough: without objective checks, we cannot be sure whether students are performing as well as their predecessors or peers taught by other teachers.

Three years ago, a Scottish study showed that a change in teaching methods could produce far better reading and spelling (Accelerating reading attainment: the effectiveness of synthetic phonics, by JE Watson and RS Johnston, published in 1998 by the Scottish Office). I think the teachers involved would be the first to welcome the objective testing which showed the scale of improvement achieved.

Jennifer Chew The Mount, Malt Hill Egham, Surrey

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