The importance of being a teacher

7th May 2004 at 01:00
Judith Gillespie's comments on Peter Peacock's decision to commission research on the importance of teachers' relationships with their pupils (TESS, April 23) are, as usual, spot on. However, I'd like to add two further points.

* You don't need to go as far as Durham to find relevant research on this issue. As long ago as 1993 Mary Simpson and Jenny Ure reported in their study What's the Difference? A Study of Differentiation in Scottish Secondary Schools: "By far the most important factor to emerge from the pupils' interviews was their perception of the teacher as the key mediator of their learning success."

* I have no doubt as to the validity of Carol Fitz-Gibbon's work, as cited by Judith Gillespie. But I do worry that it may simply encourage an even greater focus on exams and their outcomes. It is widely agreed that children need to develop many important qualities that are not measured by the current examination system. Such qualities are likely to be enhanced in environments where teacherpupil relationships are good.

Authoritative research at King's College, London, shows that the use of marks and grades harms classroom learning. Therefore I fear that emphasising the exam aspect of the relationship issue will, if anything, increase classroom use of marks and grades and produce the opposite of what we desire.

Colin Weatherley Critical Skills Programme manager (Scotland amp; Channel Islands) The Paddock, Gullane

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