At school, my old Latin master, Georgie Lamb, once told us how Cato, in the face of the rising power of Carthage, used to include in every speech he made in the senate, the words, ‘Carthago delenda est!’ – Carthage must be destroyed. Allegedly, he (Cato) finally got his point across by holding up a bunch of fresh grapes from Carthage to indicate the proximity of the growing threat to Rome.
In the Telegraph, as in a number of other newspapers, once again there has been shock at the publication of this year’s SATs results, in which it was revealed that twenty thousand boys will begin their secondary education with the reading age of children of seven. That, according to the Telegraph represents one in ten boys finishing primary school with a reading age of seven!
I don’t believe these figures myself. I think that if children were to be given a properly standardised test that focused on reading and spelling only, the figure would be even worse. I know from working with special needs staff in many secondary schools that pupils entering Year 7 are screened for their reading ability and that many of these schools are reporting as many as seventy percent of pupils scoring below chronological age. Even more worryingly, of those scoring below chronological age, increasing numbers are unable to read at all.
As Nick Gibb conceded, ‘getting the fundamentals right is crucial to a child’s success in secondary education and throughout their adult life’. Now is the time for the Coalition government to do something about the problem. Illiteracy can and must be eradicated!