Letter: Too many exams

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Michael Barber, the head of the Government's Standards and Effectiveness Unit, identifies one pillar of the Government's education policy as "comprehensive targets for 2002" described in the Government's White Paper, and another pillar as enabling everyone to reach their full potential (Podium, 23 June). He cannot have it both ways.

The comprehensive targets described in the White Paper are extremely narrow and involve specified percentages of 11-year-olds nationwide reaching by 2002 standards expected of them in English and Maths. These standards, to which the Government has proudly given first priority, attach no weight whatsoever to the achievements of those who cannot reach those standards or of those who will attain them in any case but who, with good teaching, are capable of exceeding them by a wide margin.

To ignore the achievements of those groups of pupils in setting standards tempts schools to focus on the middle rather than to encourage all pupils to reach their full potential. The Government's relentless devotion to reach such narrow goals is misguided.


Lechlade, Gloucestershire