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A Tory think-tank proposal that children should be made to stay on for another year at primary school or attend a special summer crammer course if their reading, writing and arithmetic skills are not up to scratch will probably go down well at the Conservative Party conference.

But it is not a very practical contribution to an extremely important issue.

If youngsters are lacking the basic tools of education by the time they reach the age of 11, it is probably already too late to do much to turn matters around within the space of an academic year.

Additional tuition, when it is needed, must be offered far earlier since the whole point of Key Stage tests, which pupils sit regularly throughout their school career, is to detect those who are struggling to meet standards and, crucially, to take action to raise levels of achievement. That action is not being taken anywhere near soon enough, as can be seen from the number of students leaving school lacking basic skills.

To have in place what the Tories are describing as a "backstop", where under-achieving children would be forced to stay on for another year at primary school, suggests almost an expectation that youngsters will fall through the net. To have arrived at such a situation in the first place represents a colossal failure of state education.

There is of course another reason why this idea is just plain wrong.

The impact on children, already suffering from low selfesteem, who are publicly humiliated by having to remain in the primary stream while their brighter friends go on to secondary school can only be imagined. It is difficult to see how the creation of what the Tories are referring to as a "remedial year" would provide a stimulating learning environment in which youngsters can get the help they so desperately need.
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Title Annotation:Leaders
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Sep 3, 2007
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