TES letters

29th August 2014 at 01:00

The positives of studying maths are numerous

Dr Kevin Stannard is right that England needs a broader educational framework (online opinion, 19 August, bit.ly StannardOpinion) and we strongly support his call for fundamental reform of the curriculum and its assessment.

However, we are concerned that the "need" to study maths up to the age of 18 should be doubted. Education systems should encourage and support young people to develop their particular interests and talents. Post-16 maths education should recognise these variances, and the new "core maths" qualifications are being designed to cater for different students.

We believe that studying maths (and science) to the age of 18 will help to ensure that young people are equipped with critical thinking skills that will be of lifelong value, such as the ability to assess risk.

Sir Martin Taylor and Professor Dame Julia Higgs
Chair and vice-chair of the Royal Society Vision Committee

Exams only prepare students for the past

Last week, students in England and Wales received their GCSE results. For most, it was a day of relief. However, it saddens me to see that the current education system still isn't able to deliver the skills that businesses require. The modern workplace demands problem-solvers and creatives who can collaborate with each other, but none of these abilities are assessed in a traditional exam setting. As a consequence, we could fall behind countries that nurture them.

The exam system is only effective at preparing our young people for the past. The headmaster of Eton College, Tony Little, summed up the situation when he said that little had changed since Victorian times. Exams watchdog Ofqual continues to excuse this system because it is thought to provide valid and reliable results that people can trust. However, it works to the detriment of soft skills and, ultimately, the UK economy.

Advances in technology have consistently shown that validity and reliability are not mutually exclusive from the assessment of 21st-century skills. Breakthroughs have been made, giving us a real opportunity to lead the world in assessment.

Despite our current trajectory, many economies - such as China and Singapore - look to the technology we have in Britain to inspire their teaching practice. But instead of merely exporting our advantage, we should also be seeking to benefit from it. Unless our education system opens doors for young people, they won't be ready for the 21st-century workplace.

Karim Derrick
Chief executive officer, TAG Assessment

It's time for Ofqual to get off the fence

Sir John Holman (Letters, 15 August) may have a case for a new A-level system - we are facing an extraordinarily confused and short-sighted set of reforms. The most obvious issue is the failure to institute co-teachability for the new AS- and A-level specifications. The coalition wants a separate system, but the Labour Party wants to keep the AS-level, as do the Russell Group universities. Ofqual has not made a statement on this, so it seems each subject will go its own way. This is ridiculous.

If Ofqual supports the coalition, it should ban co-teachability, making two entirely separate systems. If it believes Labour might change the system, it should impose co-teachability across all A-levels. If the same syllabus were used across AS-levels and the first year of A-level, maintaining the current AS system would be easy. Ofqual appears to be sitting on the fence, allowing some subjects to have co-teachability and others to have entirely separate systems. If this proves to be the case, post-16 academic teaching faces a wholly illogical future.

Trevor Fisher

Religious education is a rounded education

In response to your article concerning Accelerated Christian Education and the International Certificate of Christian Education (ICCE), there are always two sides to a coin. This emotive article ("No God-given right to university places", 15 August)needs to be viewed from its opposite face.

More than 90 universities in the UK and more than 30 in other countries have accepted ICCE graduates, and some of these students have been awarded first-class honours degrees, master's degrees and doctorates. But not all our students wish to go to university. We aim to train them in character and intellect, to be the best they can so that they may find a place in the world where they can engage positively, be profitable and contribute with excellence to the work in hand.

We are glad to have rectified the inaccuracy that was the subject of the Advertising Standards Agency ruling. We may not get everything right - who does? We believe only God has the answer to this. Others would disagree. However, when we are told of issues that are not accurate, we transform them into what is in line with current thinking and practices, just as Vesalius, by his empirical methods, was able to correct the errors that Galen had projected in medical science.

We offer an education that is an alternative to secular qualifications, that is based on biblical truths and practices and is designed to help students manage people, life, work and academics. It also teaches respect for humanity and embraces tolerance for all mankind.

Lionel Boulton
Chief moderator and academic adviser for ICCE

Animal language will create beastly pupils

I know that it is meant in a light-hearted way, but I hate the use of phrases like "21 ways to tame your new class" (front cover, 22 August). Children are not animals, and until we learn to stop putting them down with language like this, we can expect only more resentment and less learning of meaningful social skills.

Martyn Steiner

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today