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Minister needs to learn about our low literacy levels

It was with interest that I listened to the Minister of Education, John O'Dowd, being interviewed on radio last week.

It is commendable that the minister aspires to raise the educational level of all our pupils. However, I am uncertain whether he is receiving the most appropriate advice from his advisers.

The Department of Education has known for decades that the primary reason for pupils under-achieving at post-primary level is poor literacy skills.

A significant proportion of pupils preparing for examinations have not the literacy skills to read the requisite textbooks. This fact can be corroborated by statistics collected by the education and library boards. The Department of Education has been ineffective for many years in attempting to raise literacy levels.

When a new minister shows determination to raise standards, it appears a circuitous course of action to send out the inspectorate to carry out inspections, write reports, provide support to targeted schools and engage in the inevitable debates with schools about whether the 'support' was sufficient, or effective.

The cynical observer might suggest that this was a delaying tactic straight out of Yes Minister.

If the minister wishes to focus on the core of the problem, I suggest that he obtains the information on the literacy levels of pupils in our schools and audits how schools use the funding for pupils who are under-achieving.

This concept of accountability has been absent and it would constitute a first step in raising educational standards.

STUART ROONEY

Newry, Co Down

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