TES letters

21st March 2014 at 00:00

Nonsense and hypocrisy are driving good teachers away

At last, an article of refreshing directness and humanity that cuts through all the nonsense, hypocrisy and dishonesty around performance management and lesson observation ("Original thinkers? We don't want your sort", Comment, 14 March).

If a lesson is judged to be anything less than "good", then there cannot be any other reason than the teacher being "inadequate". You are not allowed to say that you are affected by some personal crisis or unable to manage the workload or, indeed, that the observer is talking from their nether regions.

I know teachers who have been in exactly the situation described and have walked away rather than fight the injustice. They are mostly women and all in their fifties. Those in charge of education need to consider if the Gadarene rush to employ hordes of younger, cheaper, malleable recruits is really desirable. We face an unbalanced age structure in the profession, with the death of teaching as a long-term career for all but a few.

Nigel May

Secondary teacher and school governor, Essex

The pseudonymous Tessa Matthews and Mrs Swan are right to point out the dangers of classroom observation if its limitations are not recognised. In the vast majority of cases, judgements about teaching quality have to be tentative and should be offered as such. Teachers need to be reassured that because of the partial nature of those judgements no firm generalisations can be made based on any one lesson. There are promising indications that England's schools inspectorate Ofsted does recognise this, but do many Ofsted-obsessed senior managers?

Colin Richards

Spark Bridge, Cumbria

Better exams are our business, too

We welcome AQA giving examiners more freedom to use their professional judgement ("This is a God-given chance to improve", 14 March). At OCR we have always ensured that examiners use their judgement as well as a range of statistics and it is good to see that AQA chief executive Andrew Hall has realised that this produces the most reliable and valid grading.

All boards are enhancing mark schemes, but syllabuses, examiner guidance and training also have to be improved. We are ensuring that we draw from the expertise of all those involved in exams - in particular, teachers and examiners.

Contrary to what Mr Hall says, we have been really pleased by how many schools and colleges want to engage with us. The pilot scheme he mentions is just a part of our work with schools but is already attracting significant interest from teachers.

Mark Dawe

Chief executive, OCR

Michelle Pfeiffer got there first

The "unconventional" strategy advocated by researchers in "When every child is a straight-A student" (14 March) is not new. I first saw it used by Michelle Pfeiffer's character in Dangerous Minds - a 1995 film loosely based on the true story of an ex-US marine who found herself teaching a difficult class in "the hood". Who needs Harvard when we have Hollywood?

George Bethell

Director, Anglia Assessment

Tame fierce parents with kindness

Teachers understand that parents care fiercely for their children and can express concern in a variety of ways (some less helpful than others: "Attack of the parents", Feature, 14 March). Teachers also appreciate that even the fiercest animals can be calmed by witnessing kindness towards their young.

Julie Robinson

Education and training director, Independent Association of Prep Schools

Diagnosis is not the point of dyslexia

It seems that all of your correspondents who take issue with Joe Elliott's arguments in The Dyslexia Debate are either academics or educational psychologists who diagnose the alleged condition ("The dyslexia label: lifeline or damaging distraction?", Letters, 7 March; "Discarding dyslexia would be a bad move", Letters, 14 March). They seem unable or unwilling to separate diagnosis using a single, meaningless, umbrella term from identifying literacy problems and working with parents and children to overcome them. They are two different things.

No one is saying, as Dr Peter Congdon claims, that we should discard dyslexia and "lump.together" all literacy problems. Indeed, many - myself and Professor Elliott included - are saying the opposite: let's identify the precise nature of literacy issues and support children to overcome their barriers, but without hanging a label around their neck.

Garry Freeman

Special educational needs coordinator and director of inclusion, Leeds

A working hypothesis

I don't know how many young people Claire Fox spoke to for "Dreaming of life, the universe and everything" (Comment, 7 March) but she misses the point: students value learning about work.

Since 2010 I have worked with 5,000 young people in Milton Keynes, bringing hundreds of guests from the world of work into classrooms. In questionnaires, 99 per cent of students agree or strongly agree that they enjoyed the activity and 97 per cent say they learned a lot from it.

Young people of all ages are interested in real work and want more rather than less time learning about it. Asking "What are you going to be when you grow up?", and listening actively, should be every educator's starting point.

Tom Bulman

Consultant, Worktree, Milton Keynes

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