Dear madam: letters to the editor 6/8/20

In this week's postbag of letters to the editor, Tes readers discuss joined-up handwriting and academy finances

Tes Editorial

Tes readers' letters 6/8/20: Joined-up handwriting and academy finances

Why joined-up handwriting is so important

The people in the informal poll in Lucy Moss’ article on cursive handwriting ("Cursive handwriting: do we really need to teach it?", 3 August) must not have read some of the dozens of peer-reviewed research papers showing why it is important for children to learn this important lifelong skill – and there are many reasons.

The American Handwriting Analysis Foundation produced a white paper on this subject, translated into seven languages. It's free to download and I invite anyone interested to read it here.

By the way, I am from the UK and learned to write there. When I came to the US as a child, I was forced to change my handwriting, which I believe was detrimental. Handwriting is a projective technique that reveals a great deal about the writer.

Sheila Lowe
President, American Handwriting Analysis Foundation

Get a grip on academy finances

It was with interest that I noted your article referring to the Department for Education investigation into why more local authority schools are choosing not to become academies ("DfE to investigate why schools don't become academies", 20 July).

My first instinct was to ask why the DfE would not know the answer to an apparent problem with which it is so closely involved. It is worrying that it feels the need to ask an outside agency to investigate what is clearly an internal problem.

You don't have to look very far to see that the majority of academies that fail do so for financial reasons that subsequently impact on teaching standards. Academies, and especially multi-academy trusts, are part of the service sector and, as such, require good business management. The DfE has allowed academies to be established without ensuring that these skills were present.

In the worst cases, this has resulted in MATs going millions of pounds in debt due to systemic failures and having to be bailed out by the Treasury. There have also been cases of academy CEOs taking excessive salaries, although this was addressed by Lord Agnew, who, at the time, was the academies minister.

Additionally, in the headlong rush to academisation, the DfE has not always provided the full information on the status of trusts, and thus LAs have not always been in a position to make a qualified judgement. 

So, why would LA schools not want to become academies? All of the above.

If the DfE wants to make the move from LAs to academies more attractive, it needs to start by improving the skill set of its staff to enable them to properly assess the business capabilities and long-term financial viability of potential and existing academies. Additionally, a system of periodic inspection of all aspects of academy governance should be established. These measures would help to provide the confidence needed for change.

V Ward
Port Talbot







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