TES letters

16th January 2015 at 00:00

Ofsted, let's be reliably informed

How decent and honest Ofsted's Sean Harford is to confirm what headteachers have believed for decades: that inspections are unreliable (" `We've not done enough to ensure reliability' ", 9 January). How shocking, though, that some great headteachers and teachers have been forced out on the basis of "weaker" inspections while some bad ones sit on good and outstanding judgements. Ofsted has much to answer for. Hopefully the future will be far more secure.

Dominic Cragoe
Headteacher, Sheringham Community Primary, Norfolk

I understand Sean Harford's view of over-reliance on data. Our school was inspected last spring. The new headteacher, staff and governors had turned the school around and we were well on the way to improved results. The lead inspector could see this, but said he could not trust the data to show the same thing so could not give us a good rating. Our summer results were great, by the way.

How reliable is data as an indicator of teaching quality? At the end of the day, how can we prove that children are learning?

Primary school governor

All art illustrates our humanity

Phil Scott raises vital points about the role of contemporary art in education ("Take pupils for a walk on the wild side of art", Comment, 9 January). Mr Scott's teaching will stand his pupils in good stead and his strong argument may cause those who believe contemporary art is irrelevant to reassess their stance.

I would add that historical art is also of relevance to young lives lived now. In some ways historical art suffers the opposite plight of its contemporary counterpart: it is put on the pedestal of tradition and deemed prestigious, untouchable, out of reach.

Artists, living and dead, put their humanity into their work, expressing their views or the views of their time in imaginative, often profound ways. Concentrating on this humanity, and the urge to communicate it, supports the development of art and design as a subject in its own right, as well as demonstrating how engaging with contemporary and historical art can bring past and current affairs vividly to life and sharply into focus.

Gill Hart
Head of education, National Gallery, London

Warped perspectives on `elite' education

Neil Roskilly complains that public perceptions of independent schools are dominated by "images of elitism" ("Call a truce on notion of private school `class war' ", Letters, 9 January). Sadly, TES is part of the problem: a few pages earlier you describe Brighton College as an "elite public school" ("Brighton College to open a Thailand campus", News at a glance).

It would be helpful if you stopped using the anachronistic and misleading term "public school" and explained what you meant by "elite" in this context.

Matthew Handy

Say Auf Wiedersehen to stereotypes

Richard Cairns, head master of Brighton College, is right to condemn the mindless anti-German attitudes of the British youths he encountered in Berlin (see bit.lyAntiGerman). He is right, too, to blame a history curriculum that concentrates on an aberrant couple of decades of German history and neglects centuries of mutually beneficial Anglo-German connections.

As we approach the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, it is worth reflecting on one of the most controversial aspects of Britain's conduct: the firestorms ignited by merciless Allied bombings of Dresden and other cities.

The Dresden Scholars' Scheme, which I founded in 2000, has enabled about 300 boys and girls from schools in Dresden and elsewhere in Saxony to attend British independent schools. Many lifelong friendships have been formed as a result and, no doubt, many erroneous stereotypes have been contradicted.

David Woodhead
Leatherhead, Surrey

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