TES letters

5th December 2014 at 00:00

Our workload is unworkable - and 'twas ever thus

In "Teaching is a job and a half, survey reveals" (News, 28 November), Brian Lightman of the Association of School and College Leaders warns that the high workload of teachers "is making the profession less attractive".

As a trainee primary teacher, I can vouch for this. My university peers and I, who are now undergoing our final placements, are having second thoughts owing to the workload. Research into trainees' workload expectations would help to achieve cultural change as it would flag up exactly how unattractive the profession is becoming. Something needs to be done.

Sarah Bennett
Trainee primary teacher

Here we are in 2014 and even education secretary Nicky Morgan is joining the horrified reaction to the revelation that teachers work ridiculous hours. It might be a good thing except for one small detail: the information hasn't changed in the 40 years since I started teaching.

In 1996, I kept a diary for a survey by the Office of Manpower Economics. I put in 86 hours in a week that was not exceptional. On no evening did I finish school-related work earlier than 10.30pm and one evening I went on until 12.30am.

I wasn't untypical. The School Teachers' Review Body took action, but every single one of the improvements made to our jobs has since been either eroded or scrapped. How dare a member of the government express astonishment!

Colin Padgett
Secondary teacher, Essex

The buck stops here, Ofsted

Sir Michael Wilshaw claims that schools and teachers criticise Ofsted to deflect attention away from poor performance ("Schools, stop passing the buck to inspectors", Comment, 28 November).

Could it not also be the case that criticism of schools and teachers has been highlighted and exaggerated to justify the very existence of Ofsted? For if everything in the educational garden were rosy, what would the point of Ofsted be?

Tony Mills
Semi-retired languages tutor

When Ofsted visited in July, the inspectors said that, despite the quality of teaching and learning being good or outstanding, we were a "requires improvement" school. Then, in the summer, we achieved more than a 20 per cent rise in our results.

Why Ofsted couldn't effectively analyse the work it saw during its two days and marry that up with the predictions made by staff was beyond me. Rather than judging us on the progress we had made, inspectors simply stuck to the last set of results data - data we had received 11 months prior to the inspection.

If this is what Ofsted does then why bother visiting schools at all? It should save itself the cost of inspectors and just email the data-rich report directly to the headteacher.

Wayne Wilkinson
Ashford, Kent

We must calibrate the inspection machine

Your story "Does your grade depend on the inspector you get?" (News, 21 November) did not surprise me.

In the 1990s I trained first as a science inspector and later as a lead inspector of primary and secondary schools. After that I took part in various refresher courses and training in the latest criteria. But in all that time, nobody ever sat next to me in the laboratory or classroom and said "I think that's worth a 3 because." or "Why do you want to give that a 4?"

The system is flawed - indeed unscientific - because the measuring instrument is not properly calibrated. I was glad to get out of it.

Dr Peter Borrows
Amersham Old Town, Buckinghamshire

Hunt's missed the mark on private schools

Tristram Hunt's latest initiative regarding public school support for the state sector illustrates the paucity of Labour education policy ("Private schools could lose tax breaks under Labour", bit.lyTristramHunt). His approach is embarrassing at a time when so many issues in education need to be addressed. If this is all Labour has to offer then the party has absolutely no chance of forming a government in May.

I can assure Mr Hunt that very few parents, teachers or students are expressing their delight that a state-school pupil might get an invitation to play in a cricket match at Eton College or obtain a role in a Harrow School drama.

Mr Hunt should talk to people about what they perceive to be the real issues in education. As a product of the classist system of private schools himself, perhaps he needs to develop policies that are less patronising to the state sector.

Edward Breen
Retired comprehensive school headteacher, East London

Why tailored feedback fits the bill

I agree with Tom Bennett ("I like my well dones rare", Comment, 21 November) that overuse of praise can dilute or even negate its effect. He says that praise should be sincere, proportionate and earned. I would add that it is most effective when it specifically describes what students have done right, as this gives them valuable feedback on what behaviour you value.

"Descriptive feedback" can be applied to matters small or large. You might say: "It's good to see you've remembered your pen", "You spelled every word correctly" or "I liked the way you used a variety of adjectives". As each piece of feedback is clear, informative and tailored to the student's ability and needs, it does not have to be rationed for fear of overuse.

Lucinda Neall
Author of books including How to Talk to Teenagers

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