When difficult questions lead to valuable answers
The new-look TES is terrific, and its willingness to ask difficult questions about matters such as inherited intelligence, growth mindsets and what children need to learn is admirable (E D Hirsch feature, 6 November, and Sugata Mitra comment, 20 November).
Robert Plomin’s focus on twin research has many flaws, with Nature describing any effect size as “maddeningly small”. Some would question his use of A-levels as a measure of intelligence, too. With Carol Dweck, it seems to us that when anyone’s work acquires the unfortunate status of a “fad”, it is likely that it is being poorly implemented.
Simply focusing on effort will not make children smarter but there is ample evidence that a spotlight on learning strategies brings gains. Don’t forget, the inventor of the IQ test, Alfred Binet, believed intelligence was expandable.
Professor Bill Lucas and Dr Ellen Spencer
Centre for Real-World Learning, University of Winchester (for an extended version of this letter, see www.tes.com/news)
Didn’t William Golding write famously about a self-organised learning environment? (Comment, 20 November.) A teacher is more than “just a friend, a moral support, fumbling in the dark with their cohort” as Mitra suggests. Some things should remain non-negotiable. Otherwise we all know what will happen to the obese kid with the glasses.
Headteacher, Longden Primary School, Shropshire
Birmingham's lingering image problem
Congratulations to TES for revealing to the nation what those of us who have worked in Birmingham schools have known for many years ("The untold story of the city swept up in scandal", 13 November). Since the first “Brighouse revolution” began more than 20 years ago, the city has been at the cutting edge of educational development and it continues today in the groundbreaking work of the Birmingham Education Partnership.
Your article demonstrated beyond doubt that Birmingham students rival their much-vaunted peers who have achieved so much in the London Challenge, also led by Tim Brighouse. Why is it, then, that Ofsted seems to have such difficulty in arriving at an objective view of Birmingham’s schools?
Analysis by the Association of School and College Leaders shows that in 2014-15, Ofsted found 24 per cent of schools in the West Midlands to be inadequate; in London the figure was 3.6 per cent. For the same period, 6.3 per cent of West Midlands schools were judged outstanding; in London it was a staggering 35.7 per cent.
These extraordinary figures cannot be explained by the much-publicised problems of a few so-called “Trojan Horse” schools. Sadly, one suspects the dark hand of politics.
We all want young people to succeed
Teachers, parents and businesses want the same thing from education: to see our young people well-prepared for success in adult life – at work but also outside it. Although businesses are concerned by the lack of esteem for technical and professional options, by no means do they want schools to be training centres for their workforce.
Therefore, we didn’t recognise Tim Oates’ characterisation of CBI policy, (“The CBI’s ‘absurd’ call for ‘work-ready’ pupils must be attacked, says exam board director”). In the past some businesses may have been guilty of criticising without offering solutions or support. I’m pleased to say this is no longer the case. The CBI, like the business community as a whole, takes seriously its responsibility towards education. We will continue to speak up for the conditions needed for the UK to flourish, including how best to deliver on the potential of our young people.
Director for employment, skills and public services, CBI
Stark contrast in straitened times
Was it an editorial decision or just a coincidence that “Schools face another wave of severe cuts” (20 November) was followed one page later by a celebratory piece on one of the most prestigious independent schools in the country spending £800,000 on a new learning centre? (“Putting ancient Eton at the cutting edge of research”.) Good job we’re all in it together, eh?
Headteacher, Compton Primary School, Plymouth
Mark my words, marking won’t wait
It’s good to see that TES is keeping workload at the top of the teaching agenda (“Is your workload heavy because of the way you look at it?”, 20 November). However, I would like to point out the fallacy of Alex Quigley’s tips: if I were to mark five books a day, seven days a week, then my 210 pupils would have their books marked only once every 42 days. I’m not sure how I could reconcile that with my school’s policy of marking every book every two weeks.
Embarrassed? Yes, but not by pay
Jonathan Simons concludes that teachers must be “embarrassed” by pay as a motivator in relation to the recent recruitment advert saying they could be paid up to £65,000 (Whispers from Westminster, 20 November). Let me draw a parallel: it’s like the January sales when shops have big, flashy “50% off” signs on which, in very small writing, “up to” is carefully placed. The promotion is technically correct but will only ever apply to a very small minority.
Education and profit do not go hand in hand. Budgets are finite, therefore passion and commitment are everything. We need reasonably paid professionals who ultimately care more for people than they do for money. Yes, it is “embarrassment”, but at the slow, inexorable slide of the education sector into the land of commodification.
Headteacher, Chilwell School, Nottingham
Twitter users respond to our story on the perception of workload
“Dear @education govuk, We DO understand the benefits of tasks, but it’s not helpful to use them SO OFTEN.”
“I understand what the benefits are supposed to be but it doesn’t help with workload at all.”
“How patronising and unhelpful!”
“Would be interested to see how much data they have to support this statement. The issue is necessity of task!”
“Advisers need to read Will It Make the Boat Go Faster? Lots of tasks are actually not needed”
Ann Mroz’s editorial on life-readiness
“How does a young person learn about the behaviour and skills required in the workplace without being in one?”
“Develop the attributes, knowledge and skills they will need to flourish in life, learning and work.” [Quote from Scottish] #CurriculumforExcellence
From the TES Community forums
Brighter pupils make getting top ratings easier, Ofsted admits
“Oh goodness me! Do they mean that some children are more able than others? Well, I wish I’d known that years ago. I wouldn’t have flogged myself trying to get everyone to make the required levels of progress! Who would have thunk it!”
One in five secondary teacher trainee places have not been filled
“That this shortage arises at a time when young graduates in general are finding it hard to find jobs makes it doubly worrying. But if you make a job visibly horrible, no job can be a better alternative.”
Join the forums at community.tes.com