TES letters

1st August 2014 at 01:00

Is play a victim of the academies revolution?

It is a bit unfair to criticise local authorities for shrinking playground space by expanding schools, especially when they are caught between a rock and a hard place ("Where the walls are closing in on playtime", 25 July).

Thousands of pupils do not have a school place because of the rising birth rate and the influx of Europeans, refugees and asylum seekers. Local authorities have a statutory duty to provide for these children at schools either inside or outside their boundaries. However, they are prevented from doing so by the Academies Act 2010, which stipulates that they must first invite the "community" to open new academies andor free schools. Only if the community fails to do so can local authorities establish new institutions on fresh sites with adequate space.

The lead-in times can be lengthy. Accordingly, in the interests of speed (and mindful of their duty of care), local authorities appeal to governing bodies to expand their existing schools. Most governing bodies respond positively.

In his Gadarene-like haste to encourage and force schools to become academies, former education secretary Michael Gove enacted a piece of legislation that has had unintended consequences - the negative effects of which are being felt. The Academies Act 2010 has resulted in a diminution of much-required playground space for our children. Mr Gove, and not local authorities, must take responsibility for this.

David Sassoon
Director, Schools Support Services

The full story of part-time statistics

Last week you published an article about questioning scientific claims and the importance of evaluating evidence ("Dubious scientific claims go under the microscope", 25 July). On the following page (By the numbers) you presented Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development data on part-time working, in which one of the key findings is that 3 per cent of staff in high-performing Singapore work part-time. This finding is based on small sample sizes, and so, as your asterisked footnote points out, it "should be treated with caution".

Am I the only person to see this irony? Singling out the low-performing US (at 4 per cent, a similarly low level of part-time working and similarly asterisked) would, of course, have supported a different argument. This sort of analysis of data is exactly what we are trying to teach our children to be wary of, as your first article pointed out. Or maybe this was a deliberate and subtle illustration of the wildly varying conclusions it is possible to draw from differing approaches to analysing evidence.

Jon Gore

Harry Potter and the unspoken assumption

How wonderful to see Albus Dumbledore take the top spot in your list of teachers' favourite fictional educators ("Who's your top fictional teacher?", Feature, 25 July).

It's also great to see that his sexuality was obviously not an issue to those voting for him - J K Rowling outed him in 2007. In an article on the BBC News website in October of that year, gay rights charity Stonewall said, "It shows that there's no limit to what gay and lesbian people can do, even being a wizard headmaster."

However, it's sad to see that nowhere in TES was Dumbledore's sexuality discussed. After all, if he were from an ethnic minority or religious group, this would be blindingly obvious or at the very least openly referenced. Perhaps this should be redressed in future?

John Yates-Harold
Out and proud deputy headteacher

Stop running scared from bad behaviour

One statistic stands out in your feature "6,000 teachers, 3 continents, 1 problem" (18 July). I refer to the statement "Parents should take responsibility for the way their children behave at school", which was strongly agreed with by 35.4 per cent of teachers in Australia, 46.2 per cent in the UK and 52.2 per cent in the US.

It is an experienced view that good classroom behaviour is of vital importance in the learning process of pupil and teacher. The fact is that we have all allowed bad classroom behaviour to develop. The way to mutual respect is long and painful, as we are all in this together and not creating our own personal legacy. Too many times teachers have said, "What will they think of me?" Teachers need to man up and discover that they are dealing with paper tigers.

R Wolstencroft

Hot under the collar over uniform

Forgive the pun, but in her discussion of the alleged increased "sexualisation" of school uniforms, Ellie Ward skirts the real problem of uniforms ("Don't skirt the issue of inappropriate attire", Professional, 27 June).

The real question, certainly in the state sector, should be: why are we still maintaining this 19th-century uniform requirement at all? In Australia, numerous debates that included schoolchildren from all backgrounds - and former prime minister Julia Gillard - registered overwhelming resentment among both sexes in the state schools represented, and contentment with uniforms only at the predominantly male private and religious schools.

Any historian worth their salt could show abundant evidence that uniforms are linked to a subordination and drill ethos wholly irrelevant to 21st-century education, be it in the UK or Australia.

L I Iles
Eastbourne, East Sussex

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