TES letters

9th January 2015 at 00:00

Call a truce on notion of private school `class war'

You report Alun Jones' wish to banish outdated descriptions of the private school sector as part of a class war ("Consign class war to past, private school head says", News, 2 January). Unfortunately, public perception of independent schooling in this country is dominated by images of elitism and privilege. Every media reference seems to quote annual fees that exceed pound;26,000, accompanied by pictures of the Eton wall game.

We seem obsessed by a few unrepresentative schools, whereas thousands of others play a vital part in the local educational matrix, often through partnerships with their state school cousins and well beyond Sir Michael Wilshaw's "crumbs from the table" - another outdated class war reference.

Although many aspirational families will never be able to afford private school prices, despite bursary assistance now approaching pound;800 million annually, it will come as a surprise that fees can be around the same as the average block grant received by state secondaries, factoring in the pupil premium. Thousands of great-value private schools are providing a world-class education and of that we ought to be proud.

Neil Roskilly
Chief executive, Independent Schools Association

Independents, try true independence

David Rowlands believes that independent schools will be prepared to kiss goodbye to their charitable status so that they can be masters of their own destinies ("We will pay the price of forced charity", Letters, 2 January).

Perhaps such free-spirited schools will also ensure that their staff forgo membership of the Teachers' Pension Scheme. When they give up both subsidies from the taxpayer, they will truly be independent. Until that day, they should be inspected by Ofsted, judged on a level playing field and play their part in supporting the communities in which they are sited.

Lisa Whittet

Science stereotypes are already shunned

With the greatest respect, Professor Averil Macdonald is being somewhat disingenuous in lambasting schools for their failure to dispel stereotypes about scientists and get more girls to study physics (" `Sticking bananas in liquid nitrogen doesn't work' ", News, 2 January). Many teachers do all they can to promote gender equality by exposing students to inspiring female role models and emphasising career opportunities. In my last school, we invited space scientist Maggie AderinPocock to our science week and organised a trip to the Large Hadron Collider at Cern.

If, in spite of this, biology classes are still dominated by girls and physics classes by boys, it is not the school's fault. We must all take responsibility for our choices - this includes women.

Stan Labovitch
Windsor, Berkshire

Pillars of additional learning support

The article "Empower learners to accept help" by Tom Starkey (Professional, 2 January) raises some crucial points about how to support learners in a further education context. Arguably, the key to additional learning support (ALS) is making timely interventions via the tracking of student progress. The "honest conversations" identified by Mr Starkey are imperative so that learners feel safe, encouraged and motivated to seek appropriate help from staff. I do feel, though, that ALS needs a heightened profile in colleges.

Furthermore, additional needs are complex and should be handled with sensitivity and confidentiality. Learners do not want to feel labelled or stigmatised. Access is key and, as the article argues, support needs to be normalised and consistently embedded in the curriculum.

Mark Damon Chutter

Commitment is a two-way street

Although I agree to an extent with Tom Bennett's opening line - "Jobs are like relationships: without commitment, resentment breeds" - he does not follow the analogy through by stressing how imperative reciprocity is to this commitment ("In it but not of it", Comment, 1926 December).

Shouldn't every relationship be grounded in trust? The role of leadership is conspicuous by its absence. Too often teachers report feeling as if they live under a cloud of distrust, with frequent monitoring and negative lesson feedback. As teachers, we are encouraged to be positive and bring out the best in every individual. Why can't leadership emulate this model?

A job in a school is all about the kids: let's work towards this ultimate goal, which does not change even if the monitoring criteria do. When a worker is trusted, valued and developed, then commitment to the role is easy, genuine and profitable.

Name supplied
Initial teacher training senior lecturer, South East

The classics can be an open book

It was interesting to read Tobias Fish's piece about "cracking the language of the classics" with young readers ("When a novel seems like a dense jungle", Professional, 1926 December). We work with primary schools and have produced a range of guides to help teachers read classics such as A Christmas Carol, The Hobbit, and Swallows and Amazons with seven- to 11-year-olds.

Many excellent 19th- and early 20th-century novels can be a little daunting, for hard-pressed teachers as well as pupils. But through modern teaching techniques - which involve activities outside the books, historical research online, lots of discussion and relating the stories to personal experience - it is possible to unlock the tremendous riches of classic literature at any age.

Stacey Almond
Editor, Love to Read Classics, Cornerstones Education

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