Quotes were used to distort the truth

1st December 1995 at 00:00
Thank goodness someone saw through Panorama's tawdry programme. Margaret Maden has my relieved thanks for exposing prejudice and distortion masquerading as educational debate (TES, November 17).

I watched the programme with amazement - for the simple reason that the teacher and I were interviewed several weeks before about the making of a completely different programme! The teacher agreed to participate since she understood that her case illustrated the danger of not having properly safeguarded assessment, monitoring and appraisal schemes. My own comments were made in support of the old LEA probationary scheme which assessed, guided and supported newly-qualified teachers. I believe the scheme maintained standards while safeguarding teachers' rights. I knew the scheme well and assisted several members through it. I was shocked by the way that things that we said in good faith were used to distort the truth.

The teacher referred to was not sacked. The local education authority's advisers were unhappy with the way that her probationary period had been handled and agreed to extend it. She passed her probationary year and is now teaching successfully elsewhere.

The record should be set straight. Panorama quoted from an interim report on the teacher's work. The programme also had access to the following, quoted from the final report made when the teacher passed her probation in March, 1993 - but did not use it since it would have ruined their tale: "She is enthusiastic, hard-working, fully committed and dedicated. Her success has been through working in a supportive team sharing ideas and good practice. She has the makings of an excellent primary classroom teacher."

I told Panorama that I believed that headteachers should display sympathy and understanding to their staff. Does anyone seriously think they should act otherwise?

Any teachers who have experienced Office for Standards in Education inspections will agree with Margaret Maden's description, "McCarthyite". Many of us feel that OFSTED blitz planned for our borough is the education equivalent of a Boot Camp - tough and nasty, but ineffectual and counter-productive. Presumably they intend that at least 2 per cent of us will be exposed and punished.

The programme consisted of three cautionary anecdotes, treated as facts from which we were supposed to draw the conclusions so clumsily fed to us. Chris Woodhead, the chief inspector, was given so much time to air his narrow-minded opinions that I can only conclude that Panorama had decided to act as a vehicle for his views. What it was really about is the Government's game of pinning the blame for their failing education policies on teachers.

RON HAYCOCK NUT Waltham Forest Association Education Centre Queens Road London E17

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