Some home truths 1

March 14, 2003

In suggesting that differences in attainment in schools and colleges are behind social class divisions in higher education participation, the government mistakes correlation between two measures of academic success for cause and effect ("GCSEs key to greater success", THES , February 28).

Nursery and primary school skills could also predict later attainment. Success requires ability (intelligence), attitude (motivation, dedication, work ethic) and training. At best, school provides half the training, the rest comes from family background. Parents' pre-school teaching, encouragement, aspirations and attitude to academic success are infinitely more important than anything the state can do.

Hugh Fletcher Queen's University, Belfast

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