TES letters

22nd August 2014 at 01:00

Education is too important for political point-scoring

An open letter to Tristram Hunt and Nicky Morgan

It was with a shiver of embarrassment that I followed your recent public altercation. I prefix this letter by pointing out your equal lack of qualification for and arguably unwise appointment to your positions.

Unlike both of you, I am happy to admit my relative ignorance in the political and educational spheres. Having spent two years as a teaching assistant, I am about to embark on teacher training. I speak only from professional experience and the anecdotal evidence afforded me as a hereditary teacher who, like my parents, moves in narrow social circles.

Nonetheless, I am certain that many of the recent upheavals in education will have long-lasting negative consequences: narrowing the curriculum; creating school places at the whim of parents, faith groups and private companies; removing decisionmaking from trained professionals (local authorities); ignoring and alienating the profession.

You need to accept that this is not a step on the career ladder. If you do not see your role as the most important in your party, you must resign. If you think there is someone within your party who is better qualified to do your job, you must resign. You are responsible for the welfare and future of our country's children. Consequently, you are responsible for the future prosperity and morality of the UK.

Education is not a chip to be gambled for votes. Endeavour to act on strong evidence, but oppose the twisting of evidence to suit any populist agenda. If your policy comes with a sound bite attached, you may need to reconsider its validity. Work with consensus and see policies through to fruition. Most importantly, show reverence for the professionals you direct. They know more than either of you could ever hope to.

Hamish Livingstone

Teach First's lessons in togetherness

Your insight into the Teach First Summer Institute ("Bright lights and hard truths: this is Teach First", 15 August) highlights its positive celebration of the important work of teachers.

Founder Brett Wigdortz has it right when he says that "teaching should be a collaborative job". Teachers deeply value the support of mentors and coaching from colleagues. Everyone in schools benefits from a supportive professional community and your article might inspire us to begin the new academic year resolving to share with and support each other.

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

What about ethical objections to dissection?

Sarah Cox of the Society of Biology reportedly acknowledges that "some students may be squeamish" about dissecting animals ("Cut dissection out of A-level biology, says expert", 15 August). Apparently, dissection is "something they will need to overcome". I would point out that many students have a moral objection to the practice, and I object to the insinuation that students who don't agree with animal dissection are displaying a weakness that they need to overcome.

Mark White
Education officer, Animal Aid

A twist of fate and a familiar face

Having heard Ken Robinson on the radio talking about the importance of creativity in schools, I had a look at the article in TES ("Cha-cha-change the balance in schools", News, 8 August). Turning the page, I was amazed to see a photograph of our then teenage daughter competing in a dance competition.

The photograph is now some years old. And our daughter? She is head of performing arts at a successful school in York, where she works to bring a love of drama, music and dance to pupils and hopefully enrich their lives for years to come.

Karen Saywood
Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands

Dumbledore's magic is to give courage

I was interested to read the response to my letter from M Riley ("Dumbledore may be gay - but who cares?", Letters, 8 August). All I would add is that until society really is equal, positive images of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and characters help to give courage to others to be who they are.

It would be great to reach a place where sexuality is not an issue. However, the reality is sadly somewhat different. There are still so few out and proud members of the teaching profession, and students who come to identify as LGBT need positive role models. Therefore it is vital that a person's (or character's) sexuality is referenced where necessary.

John Yates-Harold
Out and proud deputy headteacher

Everyone loses in the numbers game

I agree with Professor Jo Boaler's recent critique of the culture of testing and levelling, with its focus on speed, memorisation and procedural thinking. In policy briefs released as long ago as 2006, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development emphasises the need for formative assessment to support learner involvement, effective teaching and deep learning, rather than our mania for collecting and tabulating pupil scores.

For this to be achieved, teacher-training programmes have to become learner-centred rather than score-centred. This will encourage teachers to change the ways in which they interact with pupils, setting up supportive and collaborative learning situations and using assessment to support learning, rather than as a minimum competency means of measuring success.

Bill Boyle
Retired professor of education, University of Manchester


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