So happy to work among Brethren

8th April 2005 at 01:00
I write with reference to your article (TES, March 18) concerning the education of children in schools run by the Exclusive Brethren.

The article highlighted the favourable report from the Office for Standards in Education on the quality of education provided in these schools. As you mentioned, David Bell, the chief inspector, described the quality of teaching as generally good and, quite rightly, made positive comments about the guidance provided by Focus Learning Trust itself.

However, I was less impressed by other aspects of your report. While accepting that you have to inform the reader about certain aspects of the Brethren and give a balanced view, you seemed to give a negative slant to the main features of the sect. Surely praise from Ofsted, difficult as it is to achieve, should be stressed rather than underplayed?

I am not a member of the Brethren but have taught Brethren children for nearly five years and am currently head of one of their schools. In addition, having previously taught in a state school for 24 years, I can offer informed comparisons between the private and public sectors.

The comments by Keith Porteous Wood ignore the benefits of a Focus education. These children are not handicapped by lack of access to modern technology, such as IT, television and videos. On the contrary, many have more highly-developed study and research skills than their counterparts in state education.

Furthermore, they are generally motivated and hard working, possibly due to the influence of their religious background, and therefore generally seem to value education more highly than many students in the state sector.

They work well individually but also as a team. This is especially shown in PE where, although competitive, the students are prepared to spontaneously applaud the opposition, especially in football if they score a well-worked goal.

They have not been adversely affected by the media in their attitude to football. They do not question refereeing decisions and are honest about throw-ins and corners. What a breath of fresh air.

Furthermore, you quote the experiences of only one teacher from a Focus school. How typical is this of all teachers in these schools? Those that I work with genuinely seem to enjoy teaching these students. Indeed your article may make teacher recruitment more difficult for many of these schools.

All in all, Brethren children seem very contented with their lifestyle and this is reflected in their attitude to schooling. They are generally a pleasure to teach.

SJ Waugh Moordale Academy Sowerby Road Middlesbrough

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