3rd October 2014, 1:00am




Schools will help mothers who help themselves

I read Lisa Jarmin's article with interest ("Why must parenthood mean losing the race?", Comment, 26 September). The profession is flexible and supportive but you have to find the right school and headteacher. Ms Jarmin chose to leave the profession for five years and presumably had the financial luxury to do so. I took six months' maternity leave for each of my three children and consider myself fortunate. I knew taking more time out would affect my career but also my ability to stay up to speed with an evolving educational landscape. Any woman's decision to come out of her workplace for a long period of time will have consequences and she will always find it a challenge to return.

Mariella Wilson
Deputy headteacher, Feltham Community College

Religion within reason

In a response to my article ("Worship in schools is insidious", Feature, 19 September), Tom Bennett writes that my objective is to "rinse every drop of religiosity from state education" (bit.lyBennettReplies). I certainly think that religious practices and faith-based schooling should end, but I did not say that there should be no education about religions. Religious world views should be taught as part of a larger enterprise, namely, the history of ideas, because then they are seen for what they are - early and mainly superstitious efforts to make sense of the world, since superseded by more rational and evidence-based enquiry.

I take this opportunity also to say what was edited from my piece, that by far the largest number of people teaching philosophy in schools are religious studies and theology graduates, which is one reason why universities tend to look askance at philosophy and philosophy and ethics (ie, RE) A-levels, and why these courses perpetuate the distortion of introducing students to only one strand, and a tendentious one, of humanity's efforts to make sense of itself and the world.

Professor A C Grayling
Master, New College of the Humanities

Chained up by academy `freedoms'

Thinktank Policy Exchange and regional commissioner Sir David Carter think that all schools in England should become academies by 2019 (News at a glance, 26 September). In other words, they believe that England's schools should be nationalised: defined as contracted to a government minister and wholly dependent for their existence on annual funding from them. One hopes that no one is still fooled into supposing that an academy is as genuinely "independent" as elite private schools.

Many academy chains and individual academies provide excellent education; some do not. Much the same applies to schools that are not academies. But Parliament could legislate to give an education secretary direct financial control over every school in England through transferable funding contracts. These are at the heart of the privatisation project. They serve no other purpose. Are such contracts for all schools what Policy Exchange, Sir David and the Independent Academies Association have in mind? If so, what if a Michael Gove-like future minister decided to hand over the management of several thousand contracts to the private sector?

Sir Peter Newsam
Thornton Dale, North Yorkshire

An impossible choice with an easy answer

With reference to Roger Pope's column "An impossible choice" (19 September), I am appalled that this profession can lead to such a dilemma. Mr Pope's time should have been spent with his dying father. His two colleagues would have handled the situation and understood why he could not be at school. They may have been "feeling the strain", but hopefully they would have realised that his family should come first. Sad though the circumstances were, no leader should believe that they are the only one who can hold a community together. I do hope he does not live to regret his choice. The situation is a sad reflection of teaching. It is a job - some things are more important.

Name and address supplied

The best assessment fuels innovation

David Didau's article could be read as another thinly veiled attack on teachers who are trying to break the misguided Ofsted-driven "ideal learner" profile of compliance, coverage and coaching ("Forget about assessing learning after lessons", 19 September). After 25 years as director of the Centre for Formative Assessment Studies at the University of Manchester, I am heartened by the strides that teachers have made in redefining assessment within teaching and learning. But the word "assessment" has been debased by political misuse to fit a one-size-fits-all, minimum-competency model of learning.

Professor Bill Boyle
Director, The Evaluation Business, Tarporley, Cheshire

Be counted or count yourself out

Yes, many teachers choose not to strike or join non-striking unions ("Forecast is stormy as union ballots on new wave of action", 19 September). But they seem quite happy to accept benefits resulting from action. Perhaps it is time for some to say that if they are not happy to strike then they are also not prepared to accept concessions won off the backs of others?

David Briggs
Teacher, North Yorkshire

Man of letters

If Professor Simon Burgess really did tell TES "If it is easier to raise a B to an A than a D to an E, then that is what you'll do", we should have no faith in his conclusions ("Progress 8 may not mean an end to gaming the system", 26 September). Raising a D to an E would be impossible, unless the government has moved the goalposts again.or someone wasn't listening properly.

M Desborough
Head of pedantry, Beverley

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