TES letters

5th September 2014 at 01:00

Without the arts there can be no happy medium

There's no hope for us until the government takes notice of our dear Sir Ken Robinson ("Cha-cha-change the balance in schools", 8 August). Why do the powers that be not realise that happy people are happy workers? Why does it take an official survey ("Don't worry, be happy - and get better grades", 22 August) to tell us the bloomin' obvious: that happy teachers get better results? And why is it that people still believe you can only learn maths through being taught maths? The arts play a vital role in enabling students to absorb information.

Children should not be going to school to learn stuff in order to be factory fodder. They should be going there to discover themselves, to find out what they are good at, and maybe to recognise and accept their weaknesses, too.

If industry wants calculus to the nth degree, it can offer training or apprenticeships. The way we work now is to stuff all our kids with more maths than they need, then offer them up to industry - which helps itself to the "best". This leaves the rest with no job, no self-awareness and a great hole where their natural skills and their happiness could have resided.

Victoria Jaquiss
Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, teacher and education campaigner

Putting some thought into new GCSEs

Schools that had lower GCSE English results this year will continue to suffer when higher-demand GCSEs take effect in 2017 ("Schools reeling after `clobbering' in GCSEs", 29 August). The new specifications will require students to respond to unseen 19th-, 20th- and 21st-century texts that will be more demanding than at present. They will need to deduce and infer meaning confidently, form opinions swiftly and write them up fluently.

With great respect to Sir John Rowling, the PiXL (Partners in Excellence) Club's approach of focusing on exam technique won't help much with this. Teaching needs to encourage students to develop higher-order thinking skills, which most can achieve. There is growing evidence that the Let's Think in English programme from King's College London works particularly well with the "disadvantaged, needy" students of whom Sir John speaks (www.letsthinkinenglish.org).

Laurie Smith
Let's Think in English, King's College London

New teachers: enjoy the ride

As the first day of my teaching career approaches, I feel a sense of trepidation similar to queueing up for a roller-coaster ride. The PGCE year feels a million years ago and yet the ink on my qualified teacher status certificate is barely dry. Is it any wonder that I find myself drifting between fear and excitement? Newly qualified teachers have two choices: screaming or enjoying the ride ahead. Let your passion make you brave, remember how far you have come and don't forget to smile for the camera!

M I Arbons
Newly qualified teacher, Wirral, Merseyside

Chapter and verse on the RE syllabus

I read the advice pertaining to the "new" RE curriculum with some confusion ("Tackling the changes to RE and citizenship", Professional, 22 August). Although the work by the Religious Education Council of England and Wales has been largely welcomed by RE professionals, it is not a new (statutory) curriculum but a suggested framework for delivering effective and engaging RE; nor are all schools able to produce their own agreed syllabus for RE with other local schools.

A voluntary-controlled school - or an academy that has converted from this status - is obliged to follow the Locally Agreed Syllabus for RE. In a voluntary-aided school - or an academy that has converted from this status, a new academy or a free school - the RE syllabus is decided by the governing body. This is a fairly confusing state of affairs and one that many of us hope can be addressed in the near future, but it remains the statutory status of the RE curriculum in England.

This is not to suggest that RE subject leaders, teachers and coordinators cannot use the council framework and local collaboration to encourage the best possible practice in RE, but just to clarify the situation as regards curriculum requirements.

Gillian Georgiou
Diocesan RE adviser and schools officer, Lincoln Cathedral

We shouldn't play the wild card

I was surprised and disappointed with the message conveyed by the picture for "21 ways to tame your new class" (Front cover, 22 August). Should we be sending the message of the teacher as a tamer of tigers in the 21st century? Surely their role should be as a facilitator of learning, guiding children to find their strengths and develop new skills. The 21 ways included positive and useful ideas but the picture leads us to believe that it is just about control and "whipping them into shape". A more positive image would have been better.

Retired education adviser
West Sussex

`Failed' pupils? Failed tests more like

In coverage of the Year 6 Sats results, the word "failed" is being liberally applied to 11-year-olds. This is a disgraceful and damaging epithet for children barely halfway through their school careers. As well as being offensive and negative, the claim is also baseless. Perhaps these journalists should explain to their readers that the achievement levels are based solely on responses to tests on one single occasion during the school year. The endeavours (and positive demonstrations of learning) of those children across the rest of the year are ignored to create "tables of performance".

Professor Bill Boyle
Director, The Evaluation Business, Cheshire


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