How to define failure?

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May I ask you a question? Do you consider yourself to be literate? Do you possess the basic skills of reading and writing needed for your job and life?

Since you are reading this I will assume the answer yes.

So let me ask a second question.

Did you pass O-level in English (GCSE grade C for younger readers)? Given that O-levels were only aimed at the top 25 per cent of the population, the chances are your answer will be no!

Do you realise the present government considers you to be illiterate?

Don’t believe me – less than 50 per cent of students in Portsmouth are leaving school today with the ‘basic skills of literacy and numeracy’.

By which the government means five GCSEs graded A* to C including English and mathematics.

I have no idea how schools have allowed it to become accepted that O-level English, which I recall as a demanding and rigorous qualification, can in its modern equivalent (GCSE grade C) be considered both as a minimum entry standard for university and a measure of basic literacy.

Is the implication that if you can’t go to university you can’t read and write?

By all means judge schools on their ability to produce literate and numerate 16-year-olds but let us make the measurement of that accurate and realistic, lest we label half the population failures!

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