TES letters

14th November 2014 at 00:00

Why great schools create their own freedoms

Although I empathise with Hugh Greenway, managing director of the Elliot Foundation chain of academies ("Should we pay for child protection or asbestos removal?", News, 7 November), primary schools that were lured away from local authorities can hardly complain now that they have insufficient funding. My school considered academy status, but we could see that the sums didn't add up in the long term and that local authorities' economies of scale saved valuable taxpayer money.

Greenway complains of a lack of freedom. Great schools create their own freedoms. Only about 13 per cent of primaries have become academies and a significant percentage were forced to do so after poor Ofsted results. If a vast majority of primary headteachers and governing bodies have rejected academy status, perhaps they should be listened to - they are the ones who can see it for what it is.

Dominic Cragoe
Headteacher, Sheringham Community Primary School and Nursery, Norfolk

At the sharp end of attachment theory

It is encouraging to read of moves to raise whole-school awareness of the destructive and difficult behaviour caused by attachment disorder ("How to get a grip on attachment theory", Professional, 7 November). For years I have worked at the sharp end of attachment disorder, with severely traumatised looked-after children, but it extends well beyond this cohort - and it can be confused with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

For teachers working with attachment disorder who are seeking further support, I recommend Heather Geddes' Attachment in the Classroom (2006), a highly accessible review of how attachment disorder impacts on learning. And Louise Michelle Bombr's Inside I'm Hurting (2007) considers how to bring stability and trust into the lives of children with attachment disorders. Both books are published by Worth Publishing.

Kevin Street
Education consultant and author

Universities' subject-snubbing is a myth

The future for the sixth-form curriculum does indeed look bleak (" `Modern languages will be dead in the water' ", Further, 7 November). But let me clarify: the so-called facilitating subjects are not "recommended by universities": very few degree courses, even in Russell Group universities, require more than one of them.

I have interviewed and made offers to students all this week and half of them had only one "facilitating subject". Most departmental admissions tutors have never even heard of facilitating subjects. The Russell Group policy committee came up with the concept as a way to advise pupils who wanted to keep their options open, then the Department for Education jumped on the idea as a way of measuring sixth-form success in performance tables. At first, the DfE measured AAB in three facilitating subjects. After pressure from all sides, it changed the measure to AAB with two facilitating subjects.

There is no way, in the current performance measures, for schools to get credit for AAB with less than two of these subjects. This is nonsense. Try it for yourself: say you have A and B grades in English, music and drama at A-level and see how many universities are closed to you. Let me know if you find one.

Roger Marsh
University of York

We are playing a dangerous game with PE

I am deeply concerned about the reforms to the PE GCSE to be taught from 2016. The government seems intent on forcing through these incredibly damaging changes. Under the new guidelines, the current split of 60 per cent practical and 40 per cent theory will switch to 30 per cent practical and 70 per cent theory. Students will only do two sports rather than the current four - and the activities they can choose from are far more traditional than at present.

A largely theoretical course will have a knock-on effect on the activity level in lessons, as schools try to maximise students' performance by focusing on written work rather than physical activity. This will have long-lasting and damaging consequences for the health of the country. The reforms will also affect students who are less academic and want to get a qualification or pursue a career in this area.

Tom Chapman
Head of PE at a secondary school, Colchester, Essex

Show no fear in the face of inspection

A long time ago, as an untrained teacher in a village school in Kenya, I was not aware that I was supposed to be frightened of inspectors. I thought an inspection was an opportunity to discuss what the school was lacking and find out how to get the resources we needed. The headmaster thought I was mad.

He was even more concerned when he saw me chatting to the inspectors as equals. They had watched my lesson and I had acknowledged the faults before they had a chance to. I also discovered that the wife of the chief inspector worked with a friend of mine. A discussion about resources led me to finding out about money that had been allocated but not received. All very useful. The headmaster continued to quake.

Back in Britain, I have often used inspectors as an extra resource for students to refer to in the classroom. One inspector even offered me advice when I admitted that I was teaching a subject I did not know well to pupils who had special needs (which was outside my remit). She gave me some great ideas that I used successfully in the next lesson.

Jane Giffould
Halstead, Essex

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