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Spirit, imagination . . . and a first

As a postgraduate certificate in education studentdeveloping teacher, I see an important part of my role as encouraging children to challenge stereotypes, but I would like to begin by challenging the stereotypical representation of the first-class honours graduate which is implicit in Ian Small's letter "Spirit and imagination as vital as a top degree" (TES, September 19).

As a mature student entering teaching, I have had extremely varied and valuable life experiences, not least having lived in another culture for six years and studying while bringing up two young children.

I have had extensive commitments, such as being secretary of a Parent Teachers' Association, as well as interests, having sung regularly in choirs and played tennis. I achieved a first-class honours degree in English this year - not as a result of locking myself away from the world and becoming a social outcast with an obsessive personality, but precisely because I was organised, enthusiastic, committed, and, perhaps most importantly, balanced in my approach to my studies in relation to the rest of my life. I would argue it took much spirit and imagination on my part, just to stay sane, at times, let alone to achieve a first.

Can we also please stop talking about the mythical 2:2 graduate who spends all their time in the bar and has lots of friends - in Mr Small's words the "good gentlemen's degree". Yes, achieving a balance in life is important, but to devalue academic achievement, whatever the classification, in favour of myths and stereotypes is to deny the hard work and commitment which all of my friends put in to complete their degrees.

SANDRA RUSSELL

(PGCE, Didsbury School of Education, Manchester) 9 Eden Close Wilmslow, Cheshire

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