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Dear madam: letters to the editor 13/9/18

In this week's postbag of letters to the editor, Tes readers discuss SEND and exclusions, setting and home education

Letters to the Tes editor

In this week's postbag of letters to the editor, Tes readers discuss SEND and exclusions, setting and home education

Excluding the lack of SEND support

You report on an open letter signed by a number of education campaigners including Tom Bennett, who chairs the influential Department for Education Behaviour Group ("Curriculum campaigners defend exclusions",, 11 September 2018). 

It is ironic that Mr Bennett himself should counsel against “sensationalism”, given that he is no stranger to wildly sensationalistic writing himself. Recently on Twitter, he wrote: “More serious point: it’s obvious that some people literally have no idea what happens in schools. Some people have no idea how challenging some schools can be. Some people have led cosseted, privileged existences that they can’t conceive of circumstances where misbehaviour is common, nor how to endure it. Some people are privileged to compare sitting quietly, working by yourself, with torture, barbarism or tyranny. It’s ridiculous. But it’s tragic because these people frequently get to influence how schools are run. Their fantasy football ideology condemns children to desperate classrooms of bullying, stress and distraction. I’d say I was just tired of these constant, inexpert, amateur-hour hot takes on ‘our prison classrooms’ but my patience has dried up with it. Final point: people who object to clear, structured school cultures that maintain boundaries with consequences would never dream of sending their own children to schools where misbehaviour was common. They’d never dream of it. Shame on them.” 

Phew! Follow that, lovers of purple prose.

Presumably, the “some people” Mr Bennett is referring to are not just the parliamentarians who have recently criticised the “zero-tolerance” exclusion policies that he and his “neo-Victorian” ideological soulmates (such as Frank Furedi from Spiked, who Mr Bennett assiduously courts for his ResearchEd conferences) seem to favour so much. No, presumably they include also the thousands of working-class parents of children with SEN and disabilities who have no choice but to send their kids to these schools. Schools in local authorities that fail catastrophically every single day to deliver the health and social care support to pupils with SEND which might preclude the need for their exclusion in the first place, and support to which Mr Bennett makes absolutely no reference (and I mean none) in any of his feted DfE reports.

If Mr Bennett is looking for people on whom to hang shame, he might start by looking a little closer in the mirror.

Simon Morton
Old Trafford, M16

Research versus workload

As a career-long supporter of mixed-attainment teaching (which for too long I erroneously described as “mixed-ability” teaching), I welcome the recent research supporting the ending of setting and streaming in secondary schools – and if in secondary, why not even more in primary? (“Setting is a risky game: your move”, Tes, 7 September; article free online to subscribers or see magazine).

Mixed-attainment classes offer the flexibility of forming similar attainment groups as and when necessary, though hopefully not for every aspect of any subject. However, there is little doubt that such classes and groupings make more demands on teachers, especially in the early stages of their introduction. I hope that a research-informed profession might well want to take up the challenge, but it will have implications for workload. Which will win out –  traditional ways of working, research-informed practice or workload?

Colin Richards
Former Senior HMI, Spark Bridge Cumbria

Home educators need support

Our children will be among tens of thousands who will not be going back to school this week. We are adoptive parents and we are home-educating, either by choice or as a last resort.

Most adopted children have had traumatic experiences in their early childhood, and live with a legacy of learning, developmental and social challenges.  

Some of us have chosen to home-educate because it allows us to tailor education to our children’s complex needs.

Some of our children have been excluded from school – adopted children are 20 times more likely to be excluded than their peers. Others have been quietly told that home-educating was the only way to avoid a permanent exclusion. 

Many home educators have to give up their jobs and are paying for tutors, activities and materials – all without the benefit of the thousands of pounds that schools receive to support adopted children. Families who home educate should be supported with funding and with a constructive relationship with local authorities. 

Home education should always be a choice, not a last resort. Children who have had a tough start in life deserve an equal chance to learn.

Tracy Chapman; Sue Chiu; Hayley-Jane D’Adamo; Helen Gates; Julie Graham; Mandy Grice; Shirley Hackling; Helen James; Jill Jarvis; Foye Jones; Debbie Meadows; Katy Perry; Lydia Price; Julie and Stephen Turnbull; Rebecca White; Sarah Widdicombe; Helen Avey

Let's learn from apprenticeships abroad

I found what Sydney Pryce had to say about apprenticeships to be important, particularly her point that a lot of young people do not know about what apprenticeships are available to them (“Vocation, Vocation, Vocation,” Tes, 7 September; article free online to subscribers or see the magazine).

The London School of Economics team’s research into the pay differential between male-dominated and female-dominated occupations shows how important it is to attract more women into Stem occupations, and men into teaching. I believe it is also important to know how apprenticeships work in other European Union countries, to see what Britain could learn and, equally, what Britain does, in fact, do well. 

The 1950s, when the British economy was growing and living standards were rising, saw a rapid increase in the provision and take-up of part-time and evening courses in technical, commercial and arts subjects (Education, W.O. Lester Smith, Penguin 1957, Chapter 8, Education and Industry),

Shouvik Datta,
ESOL teacher

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