Being able to read simple texts with general accuracy and understanding, using more than one strategy to read unfamiliar words and to establish meaning, and being able to express opinions about major events or ideas in stories, poems and non-fiction, are surely achievable targets for children of this age, regardless of their varying backgrounds.
Mr Alston may also be interested to know that the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority is providing age-standardised scores for the 1996 key stage 1 reading comprehension tests. These will allow teachers to consider children's performance in relation to their age on the date of the test, and to share this information with parents and governors. These scores have already been distributed for the optional level 2 test, and similar scores for the level 23 test will reach schools in England by early July.
We hope teachers will try different ways of using this additional information and let us know how useful they find it.
DAVID HAWKER Assistant chief executive (statutory assessment) School Curriculum and Assessment Authority Newcombe House 15 Notting Hill Gate, London W11