TES letters

28th March 2014 at 00:00

Why we must be true to type that is easy to read

The article on font choice was fascinating and said what teachers have known all along - you get out of learning what you put into it ("Why bold isn't always best for learning", Professional, 21 March). But highlighting "disfluent" fonts and downplaying readability misses some important considerations.

Research on vision highlights several issues that impact on reading development: inaccurate tracking and coordination of the eyes when making saccades (moving from one part of the page to another); undiagnosed squints and conditions such as lazy eye; problems with focusing; and visual stress (text shifting or blurring). These all lead to perceptual distortions that can make reading tiring, uncomfortable and off-putting. Even the simplest font may be hard work or disfluent for some children, which is why "dyslexia-friendly" fonts are often recommended.

Additionally, the idea that a disfluent font might discourage reading was a theme of all the studies quoted in the article. Research suggests that reading for pleasure is more important for cognitive development and attainment than parental background. Given these findings, might it be advisable to lay off the Haettenschweiler, concentrating instead on making the content of material engaging, motivating and appropriately challenging?

Ian Abbott

Lead professional of cognition and learning at a special educational needs and disability service

Religious education: a blessing or a curse?

How refreshing to read a feature (21 March) that not only reflects on religious education but considers the depth and richness of experiences it can offer to young people. Around England and Wales, schools are applying for the RE Quality Mark (www.reqm.org), which enables them to celebrate the strengths and challenging nature of the subject. Our assessors hear some insightful comments from young people, such as: "I like the way a question often leads to a question."

In some schools RE is leading on new initiatives - for instance, by providing a model of excellence on Assessment for Learning. One member of a senior leadership team commented: "RE innovates and we follow." RE also challenges young people to evaluate current issues in a way no other subject allows. As one student said: "This is the one subject that helps me in other subjects - for example, analysis in history."

Funding to support initial teacher training in RE should be provided to ensure that the subject continues to be a success.

Jane Brooke

Joint project manager, RE Quality Mark

Thank you, TES, for Tom Bennett's excellent defence of religious education, reminding us that we do not teach subjects, we teach children.

Julie Robinson

Education and training director, Independent Association of Prep Schools

I agree that religion is important, especially to its adherents but also as a social and cultural phenomenon. I accept that the way it is taught has improved. However, with the best will in the world it is impossible to teach religious education without privileging one particular religion or religion per se. This is particularly the case with primary-aged children.

As one of Ed Dorrell's "secular naysayers" ("The end of religious education? God forbid", Editorial, 21 March), I believe strongly that in order to prevent conscious or unconscious indoctrination we should follow the US and France in banning the teaching of RE, as well as acts of collective worship in schools. If that is a step too far, then it should be taught only to teenage students who are more able to understand the issues and concepts involved. Yet paradoxically, as a report published last year by the schools inspectorate for England Ofsted pointed out, RE is too often "lost" or downgraded at this stage. What to do about RE? God knows. Or does she?

Colin Richards

Spark Bridge, Cumbria

There is plenty to agree with in last week's cover story and editorial. In particular, the idea that the great philosophers should be taught in schools alongside the teachings of Jesus Christ and other religious prophets. Truly objective education about religion is important, but there is no reason why it should be prioritised to the detriment of other ethical perspectives.

It's time we moved away from the outdated concept of "religious education", which ring-fences religious ideas for special treatment in schools, and moved towards a new and inclusive subject that covers a variety of religious, non-religious and secular philosophies and world views.

Terry Sanderson

President, National Secular Society

Training on the cheap is a waste of time

I couldn't agree more with Jo Brighouse ("Training is way off course", 21 March). As a secondary music teacher, I really need subject-specific continuing professional development (CPD). What I don't need is repetitive training on "whole-school" issues.

I can't remember when I last went on a real course, delivered by professional practitioners with something useful to say. My subject is one of the few that has relatively little need for numeracy and literacy and yet I must endure training that is relevant only to writing-based subjects. There is always something new to learn about the craft of teaching, but with schools so strapped for cash we are being given the economy version of CPD.

And by the way, lunch provided on real courses is an opportunity to discuss issues with colleagues further and not just one of the few times you can sit down and take the time for a proper meal during a working day.

Paul Ingleton

Head of music, Borden Grammar School, Kent

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