One may be too exclusive

6th May 2005 at 01:00
Your article on schools run by Focus Learning Trust on behalf of Exclusive Brethren (TES, March 18) drew two responses from non-Brethren heads of such schools. I would like to support what they said in my capacity as a senior teacher working with trustees at another of their schools.

Quoting the experiences of only one teacher from a Focus Learning Trust school can give people a very negative impression of all that school stands for.

I am not questioning the authenticity of that teacher's perception of how schools are run, but my experience is that their teachers invariably enjoy teaching their students.

I would add that our GCSE students can use IT, which is supervised, but they are given no advice as to how to improve their coursework, which examination boards might object to. TV videos can be used in lessons providing they are approved by the Focus Learning Trust. Keith Porteous Wood says "denying children access to knowledge, that would help them cope in the modern world, is tantamount to abuse", but I feel that is an overstatement.

Students are not handicapped, on the contrary they are well-read and are not reliant on a technology that others may excessively depend upon.

The students have a crystal-clear view of what is right and wrong, which is refreshing, and are hard-working, keen to help each other, and show a concern for the wider community.

I have taught for more than 30 years in a variety of state and private schools and I would say that the students in my current school are very unspoilt, are well adjusted, well behaved for the vast majority of the time, and encourage each other.

We offer a full curriculum, have a full range of non-Brethren speakers who come in to talk and lead workshops on a variety of issues, linking with curriculum subjects including careers, social and personal education. They raise money for charity, and in our school almost half our students attended a holiday course learning sign language, in order to help other people.

The remaining 37 Focus Learning Trust schools out of the 43 nationally will have been inspected by the end of this term, and one hopes that they are all officially accredited. Let us hope that very positive comments continue to emerge from Ofsted staff and through inspection reports, and that they will be positively presented, and not be crowded out by negative comments from other sources.

T Smyth Clocktower House Coldharbour Wood Rake, Liss Hampshire

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