Praise for Ofsted's by-the-book approach
It is unusual for me to defend Ofsted, but on the issue of book scrutiny, I think Russell Hobby of the NAHT headteachers' union and others are misguided (" `Assessment treadmill' may overwhelm staff", 14 November).
It was ludicrous for an inspector to make a judgement on teaching quality and learner progress in a 20-minute observation. At long last Ofsted has accepted this and now judgements of "progress over time" will take into account a range of evidence, including the work of learners. Some leadership teams have decided that the only way to produce such evidence is for teachers to mark and re-mark books.
But far better ways are available to achieve the same goals while reducing the marking load. First, give oral feedback and get students to record a memo of the feedback in the margin of their work. This evidence is instantly visible to any visitor.
Second, rather than getting learners to redo work, give targets for future work. Ask the learner to repeat the target underneath the title then, if they achieve it, award them a smiley face. Progress over time is easily identified, no teaching and learning time is lost and no re-marking is necessary.
Author, trainer and former headteacher, Stafford
Elite sixth form won't set the world on fire
On the one hand I applaud James Handscombe, principal of the new pound;45 million Harris Westminster Sixth Form, for wishing to increase the number of low-income children in London attending Oxbridge and Russell Group universities ("This headteacher wants his students to run the country", 14 November).
On the other hand the enrichment of this unashamedly elitist, de facto grammar school may be at the expense of depleting surrounding comprehensives of their best students, much as the Premier League robs the Championship of its best players.
Using pound;45 million to nurture future state-educated Cabinet ministers is not good value for money, which would be better spent improving neighbouring schools. This is a misguided vanity project in which the education of the many is being sacrificed on the bonfire of the few.