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Primary debate needs injection of objectivity

However understandable it may be for hackles to rise defensively at the latest barrage of criticism of primary education, it must also be sensible to look objectively at some of the questions raised by Chris Woodhead and others in the Panorama programme. Indeed it could be said that the reluctance of many of those involved in the primary sector to engage in genuinely objective debate has contributed to the difficulties it now faces.

The issues which still need addressing in the primary school classroom include: * the raising of expectations of the large middle-ability band of children; * an increase in the proportion of time spent on direct instruction by the teacher; * the need for whole-class teaching techniques which keep children involved, interested and thoughtful, and learning with understanding; * an awareness of the amount of time which should be spent consolidating previous learning; * and a sharper analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of group teaching.

The commitment, dedication and sound common sense of primary school teachers should be the starting line to take the debate forward, with less emphasis on ideology and fashion and more reliance on a practical knowledge of what works in the classroom.

It really is time for polarised and doctrinaire positions to be abandoned in favour of objective assessments of methods irrespective of whether they are held to be progressive or traditional.

Not only will this raise the educational standards of our pupils, it will also lift the professionalism and esteem of the classroom teacher on whom so much depends.

ALAN KERR 8 The Barton Bleadon Weston-super-mare Somerset

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