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Test school-leavers on the basics

According to their employers, many school-leavers can neither read nor write, nor do simple sums, let alone explain what they have been doing.

A possible remedy would be the introduction of a preliminary communication test (PCT).

This would cover the simple skills which the employers say are lacking. This test would be taken early during the last school year, with one re-sit if necessary. It would be monitored by a committee of employers and teachers. To ensure that this idea is taken seriously, no candidate for GCSE would be allowed to proceed without a pass in PCT.

The standard of PCT would be such that "more able" pupils would be able to pass provided that they took a little trouble with the basics.

In addition most of the "least able" could be awarded some sort of PCT certificate, to improve their morale and indeed their employment prospects.

As a final bonus, judging from comments by university teachers, it is just possible that it would be revealing to give a preliminary communication test to undergraduates in their final year.

GEOFFREY MATTHEWS

Emeritus professor of mathematics education University of London

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