Effect of poverty can't be ignored

27th October 2000 at 01:00
YOUR account of the first transatlantic conference on school improvement (TES, October 13), is high on messianic zeal, but rather low on accuracy or reality. Rather worse, the rhetorical flourishes, including such gems as "teachers are the problem", misrepresent a rapidly improving situation in the UK.

I would have expected our minister of state to make it clear to the US delegates that her government acknowledges that the causes of educational underachievement are multi-faceted and that many schools acknowledge and appreciate this, without using it as a "excuse" for their own ineptitude.

The Government should be proud of its policies which aim to tackle complex problems in many dispirited and dispiritin urban communities. Excellence in Cities and other urban regeneration programmes recognise that poverty, in all its forms, is disabling for individuals and communities. This affects schools, as well as other enterprises, public and private.

Grown-up attitudes to schools and teachers needn't rely on simple-minded, exclusive solutions to under-achievement, especially when these blame the very people (teachers) who are increasingly "succeeding against the odds".

Flatly denying the existence and impact of such odds insults the intelligence of teachers and denotes a frivolous attitude to the seriousness of the situation.

Professor Margaret Maden

Keele University

Keele, Staffordshire

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