Newham's recovery marred by stupid sexist remarks

12th September 1997 at 01:00
As a feminist I ought to have been pleased when I read Graham Lane's comment that GCSE results in Newham improved because they "got rid of all the dozy men" (TES, August 29). But I wasn't. It was one of the crassest remarks I have ever read in The Times Educational Supplement. It even beat Chris Woodhead.

First of all, it's blatantly sexist. Not all men are dozy. I hate to say it but some women teachers aren't too good either. Quality is independent of gender.

Secondly, it does nothing to help the morale of the substantial portion of the teaching profession which is, through no fault of its own, male. What would have been the reaction if Mr Lane had said "we got rid of the dozy women"? Howls of outrage. Men are as vulnerable to scapegoating as women.

Thirdly, Newham's experience, like many inner-city areas, shows substantial underachievement among working-class males. GCSE results for white boys are the worst. If Newham is serious about real equal opportunities, and is not just posturing, it should be addressing the greatest needs of which white male underachievement is one. As we've found in improving girls' performance, positive role models in school are important. Don't boys need good role models, too? More male teachers would help, especially in primary schools.

I have it on good authority that the secondary schools in Newham with the best improvement in GCSE results have male heads. I'm sure it is a genuine coincidence that women head the traditionally worst schools in Newham, but Graham Lane really should check his evidence.

The improvement in Newham results is encouraging and reflects well on the hard work of teachers and pupils. It's a pity the good work has been downrated by the silly remarks of someone who, as chair of the Local Government Association Education Committee, should know a lot better.

SARAH WEBSTER 89b York Road Ilford Essex

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