TES letters

23rd January 2015 at 00:00

Interrogating how the governors are interrogated

I'm afraid John C Hare's article is a bit of a masterclass in how not to prepare for an Ofsted inspection as a governor ("Governors, get ready for your close-up", Professional, 16 January). Reminding governors to be on top of school data is very sensible, but advising them to know how many lessons have been graded good and outstanding - when Ofsted has recently and volubly knocked lesson grading on the head - is a mistake.

Elsewhere, the article betrays some typical but unhelpful examples of schools' supplication to Ofsted. Minutes, apparently, should be written not to note decisions and aid reflection but to prove to a future inspection team that an issue has been discussed. And rather than simply describing their actions and rationale, governors are advised to "reach for a file as thick as a house brick and let its heft make your point".

The really sad thing about the article is that Ofsted has made much-needed strides in recent months to improve inspections. There remains a way to go, but governors being behind the curve doesn't help anyone, least of all their schools.

Jonathan Simons
Head of education, Policy Exchange; chair of governors, Greenwich Free School

"Governors, get ready for your close-up" was a good and timely piece. Governors need to be prepared to be questioned on all aspects of their work and this article gives them some pointers. There are, however, two things I would like to clarify.

First, the article seems to suggest that inspectors will invite two other governors, besides the chair, to meet with them. In fact, which governors and how many governors attend is not up to the inspectors, the chair or indeed the school to decide. Any governor who would like to attend can.

Second, when a question is asked during the interview, it is perfectly acceptable to suggest that a particular member of the governing body provide the answer. Though all governors will be expected to know their school, some will be more able to give detailed answers to certain questions. For example, the question being asked may relate to a particular committee or to the role of a particular governor. No one should feel they have "let the team down" or exposed a weakness if they suggest that another governor is better placed to answer a question.

Naureen Khalid
Governor of a secondary academy, Orpington

A-level reform: solving the linear equation

It's disappointing that so many schools have not embraced the opportunities of A-level reform ("Schools seek to bypass `chaotic' A-level reform", News, 16 January). Arguments regarding choice are understandable, but linear A-levels require a different approach - a two-year approach. The challenges of teaching a linear course shouldn't be underestimated; it shouldn't be interrupted by an exam for a different form of assessment that will be of no consequence to a student's final grade.

Some schools may be quick to cite the chaos of implementation as a reason for retaining the status quo, but others see this as an opportunity for change. Our pupils will be offered the option to study three or four A-levels, with no AS-levels for new specifications. Pupils following old specifications will sit AS exams, but we are asking them to consider all their subjects as a two-year commitment. Together with the Extended Project Qualification, we are providing choice and challenge.

Dr Simon Chapman
Deputy head (academic), Warwick School

Ucas' report Unpacking Qualification Reform reveals the serious problems that teachers face regarding A-level reform (bit.lyUcasSurvey). The comment by Ucas chief executive Mary Curnock Cook that responses to the survey show "a high level of uncertainty and anxiety among schools and colleges" is sadly justified. There is an urgent need for clear direction.

Teachers do not have to plan for stand-alone AS-levels. As the report states, "awarding organisations have sought to develop AS qualifications that can be co-taught" alongside the first year of A-levels. Beyond this, there is considerable confusion.

It is worrying to read that University College London is considering dropping its requirement of a pass at AS-level "now that there has been a change in funding and a return to linear A-levels". Government has decreed that there must be standalone AS courses, so it must provide funding to run them. However, the funding issues are also unclear. It is vital that the Joint Council for Qualifications makes an authoritative statement.

Trevor Fisher

Why we all need poetic licence

In her otherwise well-argued piece "Metaphors? They're a mountain to climb" (Further, 16 January), Kate Bohdanowicz asks, "If you're studying a vocational subject such as building or beauty, hospitality or hairdressing, do you really need to study Shakespeare and poetry?" At risk of invoking her bte-noire jargon of "triadic structure", I would answer, yes, yes, yes.

John Irving Clarke
Sandal, Wakefield

Role models must prove themselves worthy

Uri Geller is a wonderful showman; it is, however, extremely unlikely that he can move clocks with his mind, as he asserts in your article (My best teacher, 16 January). He may have a place in TES as part of a lesson on how to prove or disprove theories using the scientific method. He does not have a place as a role model in the way your "My best teacher" column implies. Next week, can we see something on noted sceptic and magician James Randi or science writer Dr Ben Goldacre?

Damian Hayes
Principal teacher of social subjects, Newbattle Community High School, Dalkeith

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