More than one way to see a CAT

13th December 2002 at 00:00
YOUR correspondent Claire Planel shows a commendable concern for the welfare of her pupils (TES, November 22). However, her concern is based on some misconceptions.

First, the Cognitive Abilities Test (CAT) is not an intelligence test: it assesses a pupil's ability to recognise similarities, analogies, patterns and relationships. Such reasoning processes are fundamental to pupils' understanding and assimilation of information and ideas. Rather than being limited to "English, maths and visual patterns", these skills are fundamental to learning and underlie pupils' success across the whole curriculum.

Second, there is no assumption that these reasoning abilities are fixed. Good teaching can significantly improve pupils' performance in these areas.

Third, these reasoning skills are strongly related to success at school. However, success at school is also related to the motivation and effort of the pupil, the teaching they receive and parental support.

Finally, it is up to each school to decide how to report the results, but in our experience few are deliberately secretive. Being informed I have a verbal reasoning standard age score of 105, or blood group O-plus, is not particularly useful unless I know what to do with the information. Best practice with the CAT involves identifying areas of relative strength or weakness for the pupil, any curricular targets that might be set, and how parents can support their child in achieving these.

Tim Cornford

General manager, nferNelson

The Chiswick Centre

414 Chiswick High Road, London W4

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