Truth is my sums just didn't add up

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The tests are designed to stretch the brightest pupils aged nine and 13 but I have to confess they managed to stretch this 51-year-old as well.

The tests are designed to stretch the brightest pupils aged nine and 13 but I have to confess they managed to stretch this 51-year-old as well.

With other newspapers' education correspondents, I navigated my way through one of the maths tests. My saving grace – and I suspect the same for my colleagues – was that I was assigned a pupil from Holly Park Primary School in Barnet, north London, to help me to solve the problems.

Selina Mir, who is now 10, told me maths was her "favourite subject" and described the problem-solving test she had already sat as "good fun".

I think my mistake was not just to sit back and let her do all the questions by herself. I insisted on sticking my oar in.

The questions dealt with rectangles, squares and circumferences – all the sorts of things that I gave up when I decided to do English, history, politics and economics for my A-levels way back in the Sixties.

Yesterday, I didn't fare disastrously. The test examiners award pass, merit or distinction marks. On my showing, I would have fitted in the middle band.

Dorothy Lepkowska, The Mirror's education correspondent, who sat next to me and came joint top, had the right idea. She asked Holly Park's Henry Simons, aged nine, to do all the questions. If ever I am on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? and a maths question comes up, Henry would be the friend I would want to ring.

At least I had the courage to do the test. Estelle Morris, the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, was asked if she would sit the tests with us.

"No," she said, "it's your turn." She had the sort of malevolent smile on her face of a politician who remembered the trouble you can get into (remember Stephen Byers saying 8 x 7 was 54 when he was Minister of State for School Standards?)

But David Hargreaves, chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, came up with the perfect answer when asked to sit them. "I can't. I know the answers. It would be unfair," he said.

So it's a fair cop. I am not the sort of person to fast-track through maths exams at an early age. But roll on next year when they have world-class English tests. I can dream.

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