Brain surgery is not for amateurs

I found Steve Abbott's article "Booklets that bind" puzzling. He says: "I believe that SMP 11-16 has harmed children's education," then "Many SMP 11-16 booklets are undoubtedly excellent resources".

The SMP 11-16 series of booklets is an excellent resource that can be used for individualised teaching without mystifying children. An unbroken diet of this learning is bad for children, but to blame the SMP scheme for this is akin to blaming the writers of a first-aid manual for the antics of a keen amateur attempting brain surgery.

Geoff Tennant 171 Fortis Green Road Muswell Hill London N10

Steve Abbott replies:

Both Paul Garcia and Geoff Tennant have missed my point. They say that mixed-ability teaching done well is good teaching. Unfortunately, what often happens in practice is that mixed-ability classes are either taught as if they were a homogeneous group or they are left to teach themselves on an individual basis. I know of very good maths teachers who struggle to cope with genuine mixed-ability teaching. It is hard for them to make their critical interventions at the right time if their pupils are working at several difficult tasks. Weaker teachers find it almost impossible to manage. This is not SMP 11-16's fault. I admire SMP 11-16's materials, which helped improve maths teaching in the 1980s and I welcome the new course planned for the next century.

In the editing process - which The TES regrets - the sense of my article was affected. It is not SMP 11-16 which has harmed education, but the uses to which it has sometimes been put.

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