The Cambridge Pre-U, literacy, and school uniforms as a great leveller | Letters

Letters from Michael O’Sullivan of Cambridge Assessment International Education, Ursula Hutchinson and Dr Peter Glanvill

As creators of the Cambridge Pre-U, we’d like to correct a point made by Bernie Evans (Letters, 12 July) that “Cambridge Pre-U qualifications are not regulated like other exams by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ)”. That is incorrect, on two counts. Ofqual, not JCQ, regulates qualifications, and Cambridge Pre-U is indeed regulated by Ofqual. Thus state schools can and do offer Cambridge Pre-U, and make up 38% of all schools taking it.

It is also obviously incorrect to conclude that differences in pass rates between A-level and Cambridge Pre-U mean one exam is easier than the other. The differences in results simply reflect the different levels of attainment of the candidates.
Michael O’Sullivan
Chief executive, Cambridge Assessment International Education

• Re “Philip Pullman attacks ‘monstrous’ English education policy” (theguardian.com, 6 July), in the late 1980s I took up a new post as literacy leader in a nine-to-13 middle school. I was appalled to find that many children, across the ability range, were transferring to high school barely literate. I began introducing a policy that required teachers to focus in a rigorous way on the teaching of reading fluency, reading comprehension and writing skills. I was labelled a “Gradgrind” by colleagues who said I was destroying the children’s enjoyment of books. This kind of opinion is misguided. If a child comes from a home where books, newspapers and a rich vocabulary abound, he/she will often learn to read almost by osmosis and will catch the adults’ enthusiasm for communication. But many children do not experience this and need to be taught the skills in a structured and methodical way. Moreover, in order that the teachers and headteachers become accountable for the results of this process, the children, at some point, have to be tested. The teaching of reading and writing is very hard work, but without that input most children would never, ever be able to read His Dark Materials.
Ursula Hutchinson
Newport, Isle of Wight

• Comparisons are odious and to compare the imposition of school uniform to that placed on the military or the emergency professions misses the point (Letters, 10 July). Wearing expensive designer clothing does nothing to improve children’s creativity but does affect the disadvantaged. So school uniforms, if sensible and inexpensive, are good social levellers. When in Meghalaya, one of the more economically depressed Indian states, my wife and I were impressed by the immaculately uniformed children making their way to school in the smallest and poorest villages.
Dr Peter Glanvill
Chard, Somerset

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