TES letters

4th July 2014 at 01:00

The lesson from London is that more money works

I was delighted to read about the success of London schools ("The London wonderground", Feature, 27 June). However, coverage of the Lessons from London Schools report has glossed over the disparity in funding around the country.

Between 2006 and 2013, only 15 secondary schools in England improved their headline GCSE scores (of 5 A*-Cs including English and maths) in each year. Four of these were in London.

My Staffordshire school - one of the 15 - receives pound;4,295 per pupil per year. The median figure for secondaries in London is pound;8,070. Even applying a generous uplift of 25 per cent for London, that still leaves a funding gap of pound;2,700. For a school of 1,300 pupils that is a shortfall of approximately pound;3.5 million per year and a mind-blowing pound;35 million over 10 years.

The cynic in me wonders what conclusions a report in 2024 might reach if London schools were each deprived of pound;35 million over the next decade. The optimist in me hopes the powers that be may decide to distribute funding more evenly so that more schools have a better chance of repeating the city's success.

Neil Finlay
Headteacher, Walton High School, Stafford

I agree that the extraordinary improvement of London schools is due to initiatives such as London Challenge and Teach First ("The simple truth behind the London miracle", Editorial; "The London wonderground", 27 June). But other factors have been at work. Over the past 10 years, outreach programmes have mushroomed in a city that has a uniquely rich cultural heritage. Organisations such as the Royal Institution and Imperial College London enable hundreds of children to attend cutting-edge science courses, while the National Theatre and English National Opera enable many more to appreciate the arts. But let's not be complacent: the riots showed that some parts of the capital are yet to be refreshed by its educational miracle.

Stan Labovitch
Windsor, Berkshire

Teachers deserve meaningful feedback

"There's no `isolation' in `team', survey says" (27 June) highlighted the findings of the Teaching and Learning International Survey, which underlines the importance of a collaborative teaching culture. It was a timely reminder to schools to ensure that there is meaningful feedback on teaching and effective performance management review alongside peer observation systems. Good teachers expect schools to embed mentoring alongside a fair accountability system so that their teaching is appreciated and they can engage in professional development.

Julie Robinson
Education and training director, Independent Association of Prep Schools

Schools must find the happy medium

Clare Jarmy's article on schools' role in happiness ("Aiming to please", Feature, 20 June) raises the question of whose happiness this should be. Effective approaches should help pupils to recognise that the well-being of others matters as much as their own - in other words, developing their capacity for empathy. There are great, free resources for classwork on empathy and promoting positive mental states at www.sealcommunity.org.

It's important that all schools make a commitment to pupils' personal development. But many are striving to be good or outstanding and so focus almost exclusively on academic results. What happened to a broad and balanced curriculum for all?

Jean Gross
Director, the Seal Community

Damaged or thriving? You decide

I am one of the children on whom "appalling damage" was "wreaked" by the progressive teaching of the 1960s and 1970s ("Restoring character to its rightful place", Comment, 27 June). I relished going to my open-plan primary school and left with a love of music and art. Unfortunately, this devastation led me to grammar school where I was successfully filled full of facts and developed a fear of closed doors. I hated it but it must have been good for me as I am now a primary teacher in a school with glass panels in its entrances. I am enjoying wreaking appalling damage on children and they are happily thriving on it. Shame on you James O'Shaughnessy; you do not speak for me.

Anna Myatt
Everingham, East Yorkshire

DfE `sidesteps' phonics check flaws

In your coverage of our open letter urging the abolition of the phonics check ("Why `pseudo words' may not be wise", 27 June), you quoted the Department for Education response: "We are determined to eradicate illiteracy and our phonics check is a key part of this objective."

So, by implication, all those opposed to the phonics check are not interested in tackling illiteracy. Moreover the DfE reaction simply sidesteps our arguments. The phonics check is incoherent and potentially confusing for young children. This is a very serious matter and raises fundamental questions about the professional competence of those devising the check.

Andrew Davis
Durham University

Novel works are worthy heirs to US classics

Clearly the torrent of words around the new GCSE English literature syllabuses confused you (By the numbers, 20 June) because none of the draft specifications include Of Mice and Men or To Kill a Mockingbird. And I should know: my team designed OCR's specification. But we believe our draft syllabus will inspire teachers and students alike, with exciting new additions such as Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro and Charlotte Keatley's My Mother Said I Never Should.

Paul Dodd
Director of education and learning (reform), OCR

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