Elementary, my dear Sir Cyril;Letter;Opinion

9th July 1999 at 01:00
DEAR oh dear, the chair of the Technology Colleges Trust, Sir Cyril Taylor, ought really to have a better grasp of elementary mathematics. Statements such as "40 per cent of Year 7 children are two years or more behind in reading skills" are the sort of meaningless twaddle that huge initiatives have been launched upon, and really he should know better.

A reading age is no more than an expression of the average score of a large and representative sample of children of that age. If 40 per cent of this Year 7 intake are two years below, then 40 per cent must be two years above average - or an equal weight - which leaves only 20 per cent to inhabit four years around the mean. Of course, another explanation could be that the 650 schools affiliated to the TCT attract an abnormally low standard of entrant, but I doubt if Sir Cyril would subscribe to that.

On a more serious note, the use of reading ages for children above age 10 tends to become pointless. Most tests have a ceiling at 15, and a reading age of 12 is deemed to be sufficient for most study up to A-level. My own reading age is 15, and as I am 55 this year, Sir Cyril may categorise me as 40 years behind in reading skills which doesn't worry me too much. But I would like to know his mathematical skills age.

Phillip R Roy Headteacher Wyche Primary School Manor Road Nantwich, Cheshire

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