Brain surgery is not for amateurs

23rd October 1998 at 01:00
I found Steve Abbott's article "Booklets that bind" puzzling. He says: "I believe that SMP 11-16 has harmed children's education," then "Many SMP 11-16 booklets are undoubtedly excellent resources".

The SMP 11-16 series of booklets is an excellent resource that can be used for individualised teaching without mystifying children. An unbroken diet of this learning is bad for children, but to blame the SMP scheme for this is akin to blaming the writers of a first-aid manual for the antics of a keen amateur attempting brain surgery.

Geoff Tennant 171 Fortis Green Road Muswell Hill London N10

Steve Abbott replies:

Both Paul Garcia and Geoff Tennant have missed my point. They say that mixed-ability teaching done well is good teaching. Unfortunately, what often happens in practice is that mixed-ability classes are either taught as if they were a homogeneous group or they are left to teach themselves on an individual basis. I know of very good maths teachers who struggle to cope with genuine mixed-ability teaching. It is hard for them to make their critical interventions at the right time if their pupils are working at several difficult tasks. Weaker teachers find it almost impossible to manage. This is not SMP 11-16's fault. I admire SMP 11-16's materials, which helped improve maths teaching in the 1980s and I welcome the new course planned for the next century.

In the editing process - which The TES regrets - the sense of my article was affected. It is not SMP 11-16 which has harmed education, but the uses to which it has sometimes been put.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today