Schools minister Nick Gibb has attracted a lot of criticism from teachers for the government’s primary school reforms, and now a student is voicing his concerns, too.
Thomas, an 11-year-old Year 6 student, was so upset that his overall “standard as a writer” is unfairly judged to be poor due to his spelling difficulties (he has received additional support for this for many years) that he has written Mr Gibb a letter.
In it, he says that, despite writing imaginative stories in which grammar and punctuation is exceptional, he is stuck pigeon-holed as a weaker writer because of his spelling difficulties. “The only thing in my way is spelling," he writes. "I get upset about this, as I feel as though I will never be able to move on."
The increased focus on spelling in the KS2 writing assessments has caused widespread outcry among primary heads.
"It means students are failing to meet expected standards simply because of a few misspelt words, despite every other aspect of their writing being excellent," says a primary headteacher in Bath.
Thomas' father, a headteacher, has written to Mr Gibb many times to point out how flawed this approach is, with little in the way of a response. After he discussed the lack of communication at the dinner table with his wife, Thomas interjected to say he had decided to take matters into his own hands.
“He said he was going to write a letter himself to see if that made any difference,” explains Thomas’ father, who wishes to remain anonymous to protect the identity of his son. “So he wrote it out and sent it off. I think it is very effective in this raw form as it supports his point perfectly.”
The letter was sent on the 8 January, but no reply arrived by the end of the month. Thomas’ father emailed to enquire whether a response could be expected and he was told the department was awaiting advice from “policy officials”. A reply was expected before the end of last week, but again nothing arrived.
To get things moving at the Department for Education, Thomas has agreed to let us publish his letter in full below (you can click the link to view it as a PDF). We at TES hope that he gets the reply he clearly deserves as soon as possible.