Exams'favour middle classes

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The Independent Online

School exams and tests are biased in favour of middle-class children, a teachers' union said yesterday. And rules on coursework should be changed toensure that children are notpenalised if they cannot complete projects at home, the Professional Association of Teachers added.

School exams and tests are biased in favour of middle-class children, a teachers' union said yesterday. And rules on coursework should be changed toensure that children are notpenalised if they cannot complete projects at home, the Professional Association of Teachers added.

Delegates to the annualconference of the union - which has about 40,000 members - warned that many children suffered because they did not have the same access to reference books and the internet as more affluent households.

Pam Southcote, a delegate from Berkshire, said: "My concern is for the children who do not have this domestic support - those who don't have the internet world as their oyster, those whose parents can't or won't drive them to the local library, those who have no books on their shelves...

"There have always been the haves and have nots. The difference between access to the internet and old-fashioned textbooks is easy; the school can supply textbooks to take home, and books don't need a telephone line."

Ms Southcote told theconference in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, that children could be at a serious disadvantage if they were asked to complete projects without having reference materials at home.

In a separate debate, delegates rejected calls for limits on computer teaching. Simon Fletcher, a teacher from Norfolk, said children were missing out on basic skills because of their increasing reliance on computer technology. He said: "When talking to teenagers today I find that their knowledge of the great works of English literature is woeful and their reading and spelling skills are even worse."

But conference participants agreed with Janet Martin, a delegate from Surrey, who said computers were a useful tool and especially helped "children who have many skills and many abilities but cannot present their work really well".

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