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Dear madam: letters to the editor 6/11/18

In this week's postbag of letters to the editor, readers discuss supply teacher pay, Ucas references and foreign aid

In this week's postbag to the editor, readers discuss supply teacher pay, Ucas references and foreign aid

In this week's postbag of letters to the editor, readers discuss supply teacher pay, Ucas references and foreign aid

Schools can't afford experienced staff

I am a primary teacher of 18 years. I toiled hard to work my way up to Upper Pay Scale 3 (UPS3) about nine years ago. Gradually, since this point, I have slowly become unemployable. Very few job advertisements offer a pay grade beyond Main Pay Scale 6 (M6) (which, in essence, is a pay cut for me).

I often work as a supply teacher and have been told, from this September, “not to expect any more than M6 any more”. In fact, my supply work from this summer was “capped” (entirely without notification) at M6, meaning that my earnings were lower than expected. Of course, this is largely to do with funding cuts imposed by the Tory government. Schools simply cannot afford experienced staff. It also says a lot about the practices of some teaching supply agencies, which are often also scandalous. Teaching assistants are now regularly used to cover classes rather than qualified teachers.

It seems that this is now the “norm” and something that experienced teachers seemingly just have to “put up with”.

It amounts to a pay decrease and is entirely scandalous. This would not be allowed to happen in other professions. Not only is this move demotivating and a factor in the teacher retention crisis, it also has huge financial implications for those who are relying on a certain wage.

Lucy Kirkbright
MA early years education

Ucas references are a waste of time

As a careers and higher education manager in a large sixth-form college, where more than 1,000 students make Ucas applications every year, I feel it is time universities and Ucas reviewed the benefits of teacher and tutor references.

At a time when teachers are overburdened with teaching, marking and assessment duties, to expect them to write subject and personal references for every student they teach (some of our staff could be writing more than 100 at this time of year) is unnecessarily onerous.

Ucas wants "an informed and academic assessment of an applicant's suitability for further study" and it wants us to provide no fewer than eight criteria that it wants addressed. For teachers and tutors, the task of addressing these points and making the references personal, relevant and more than a "cut and paste" exercise, is a senseless waste of valuable teaching and planning time.

I am currently overseeing our Ucas process and haranguing and hounding busy staff to complete well-crafted references, only to hear last week from a Russell Group admissions tutor that they "don't read them anyway"!

Surely a better system would be something more akin to what the Sutton Trust asks for when students apply to its summer schools. It wants confirmation of what the student has done, and is doing, the qualifications they've stated, followed by three lines where a tutor can draw attention to any widening participation criteria or mitigating circumstances that may affect a candidate's prior or future achievement.

In a time when universities are so keen to get students on board that unconditional offers are now making an unwelcome appearance, surely a 4,000-word reference that nobody reads is an anachronism and needs to be completely overhauled?

Shoonagh Hubble
Barton Peveril College, Hampshire

Foreign aid funding for education is the right thing to do

You reported that St Albans MP Anne Main has called for foreign aid to be diverted to help school budgets. She argues that "the aid budget should be under the same scrutiny and pressures as other departments' budgets because effectively we're shovelling money out of the door to meet arbitrary targets set in law". But this is not true. 

The 0.7 per cent target, and the UK law to meet it, takes the politics out of the budget by pegging it to evidence. The level of funding needed to end extreme poverty could never be met by the UK alone, so there is not a question of whether the funding is sufficient, as with domestic resources. But new research from the Overseas Development Institute shows that if every advanced economy invested 0.7 per cent of their national income, extreme poverty could be iradicated by 2030. It has already halved since the 1990s.

The value of the 0.7 per cent target is in drawing a line that forces a decision for the governments of advanced economies around the world: do they commit to paying their fair share of what it will take to achieve the global goals? Every member of the UN has agreed to these aims, but Britain is showing global leadership by remaining committed to provide the funding to meet them.

There is absolutely no need to “shovel money out of the door”. Investment in education is a long-term endeavour, with tangible returns. Analysis conducted for The Learning Generation, a report from the global Education Commission, shows that for each £1 invested in an additional year of schooling in low-income countries, the benefit, in terms of higher lifetime earnings, is £5.15.

Everyone agrees that charity begins at home, but it shouldn’t end there. We can properly invest in the benefits of education both at home and abroad. It’s the right thing to do, as well as the smart thing to do.

Richard Darlington
Milton Keynes 



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