TES letters

24th October 2014 at 01:00

The Blob 2: we should all have the casting vote

I was interested to read last week's editorial ("We mustn't let the loudest voices drown out the rest"), as well as the feature ("The Blob 2: this time it's personal"). It seems dangerous to replace the traditional educational establishment of local authorities and unions with bloggers who are no longer teaching andor who are associated with academies.

Why don't we organise a nomination system in various categories? For example, academies, free schools, independents, religious schools, pupil referral units, alternative education, further education, higher education and so on. Nominated individuals could meet with Ofsted and the Department for Education to discuss what's really going on in education and how we can move forward together.

Becky Durston
Retired headteacher, Barnston, Essex

Your feature suggests that the "power of the unions" is dwindling. However, in her editorial Ann Mroz writes that the influence of "Twitter, Facebook and other social media" is turning the "silent profession" into a "rather loud one".

In fact, union membership continues to rise at an exponential rate. This is because the NUT and other professional bodies espouse social media communication channels as the most effective way of contacting and responding to members. Far from "dwindling", our influence is expanding and members are contributing to educational debate on a much wider scale.

Fred Greaves
Division secretary, Surrey National Union of Teachers

Creativity is conspicuous by its absence

Tom Bennett's challenging yet negative piece on creativity ("Creative accounting", Feature, 10 October) headed in a familiar direction: if an attribute can't be measured, let's steer clear of assessment.

How does he imagine the creative and performing arts are regularly assessed? Are we in his "very subjective, very loose and almost immeasurable" landscape?

Mark Featherstone-Witty
Founding principal and chief executive, Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts

It may be notoriously difficult to define creativity, but it is still possible to point to where it exists or is missing. Love and intelligence, like most abstract concepts, also defy tight definition but we can discuss their presence or absence.

I could point Tom Bennett to a school with little creativity - one that a friend of mine left after being told to drill a Reception class in literacy and numeracy all day. Children I know at other primaries never do art or design and technology. Writing is reduced to learning how to demonstrate prescribed features of syntax, numeracy to times tables. No creativity is in sight in these schools. I could also point Mr Bennett to schools that do encourage a creative approach to learning. Thankfully, the school where I am chair of governors is one.

Creativity may be a concept with a blurred and fluid border but it can nevertheless be squashed or promoted. I cheer those like Sir Ken Robinson who promote creativity, since I believe it is necessary for both the individual and society to flourish.

Sandra Palmer

Let's halt the erosion of holidays

It's interesting that Tom Finn-Kelcey ("Give us a break, we need the long holiday", Comment, 10 October) picked up on a theme from a letter of mine (25 July). I agree with all that he says and reiterate that learning loss is, for the most part, a myth. Maybe he took up this theme because we work in the same borough, where a local academy chain has cut its summer holiday by a week. I suspect this could be the thin end of the wedge.

Paul Ingleton
Borden Grammar School, Sittingbourne, Kent

Take courage and embrace new freedoms

Tom Bennett is absolutely right about the teaching profession's fear of freedom and determination to hand the reins back to its captors ("Rattling the cage", 17 October). There does seem to be a desire to crawl back into the safety of a cage of our own making. This is largely owing to the fact that younger headteachers have known only level-driven data and many younger teachers have grown up being "levelled" themselves, whereas we fiftysomethings can remember heady days when all the documentation you got was your class list.

In my school, we have decided to take a simple approach to assessment now that levels have gone, so that we can spend more of our time reflecting on our teaching and developing effective practice. We are relishing the end of an era when pupils were units of data. There is no doubt that it is scary and is going to take courage, especially if we are in the minority. But I can't help thinking that if we don't take the initiative now when it is being offered to us, we may never have the opportunity again.

Stephanie Gibson
Headteacher, St Catherine's Primary School, Surrey

Separate inspections aren't equal

Julie Robinson's letter ("In defence of independent inspection", 17 October) misses the fundamental point of my critique, which did not attempt to evaluate the merits of the independent and state inspection regimes.

Instead it argued that all schools should be subject to the same inspection regime (whatever that may be). No school should be privileged in that respect. It's a matter of fairness, which ought to be a fundamental British value that both the private and state sectors embrace.

Colin Richards
Spark Bridge, Cumbria

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