TES letters

6th February 2015 at 00:00

Yes, schools should work together - we already do

The NAHT's Russell Hobby is spot on about collaboration between schools being essential, but you don't need federations and trusts when you have a teaching school alliance ("We must go forward together, or not at all", Comment, 30 January).

There are more than 500 of these alliances nationally, working with thousands of schools to deliver initial teacher training, provide support and develop leaders. If you're a headteacher, you ought to be part of an alliance for all the reasons Mr Hobby describes - and because it will lead to better educational outcomes for all the children in your area, not just in your school.

Jim Sweetman
Bury St Edmunds

Russell Hobby sees that the future for schools is in voluntary collaborations rather than forced academies. Since 2011, nine schools in our corner of south Bristol have forged an extremely successful voluntary partnership. The Malago Learning Partnership has no legal status, but through a joint moral purpose we have offered each other practical support and aided transition to secondary for the 4,000 children we serve.

I believe that small, close-knit local collaborations can be developed on trust and goodwill. Through this model, Malago has delivered significantly improved results all round, and all our schools are now judged as either "good" or "outstanding". We are providing support to others seeking to establish such ways of working, and are committed to sharing what we have learned and continuing to learn from others.

Mark Lacey
Chair, Malago Learning Partnership, Bristol

Inspired to succeed or goaded to fail

It does not surprise me that working conditions are cited as a reason why one in 12 staff is leaving the profession every year ("Staff quit teaching at highest rate in 10 years", News, 30 January). However, I would also argue that some teachers quit because they are simply not encouraged or inspired by senior leadership. Staff need to be nurtured and supported. Sadly, some management teams behave in a dictatorial fashion and foster a culture of fear and intimidation. This can be soul-destroying and suppresses creativity, innovation and talent.

Mark Damon Chutter

The last word on reading motivation

I agree that allowing Year 6 children to explore young adult literature can be extremely beneficial ("Don't starve children of The Hunger Games", Professional, 30 January).

As Sally Ashworth alludes, the issue is one of motivation: many commentators note a lack of impetus for UK children to become lifelong readers. There is evidence that giving children, when they are ready, the freedom to explore issues within rich YA literature can lead to wider and better reading habits.

YA themes are no less worthwhile than those within "culturally approved" children's literature such as John Boyne's The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (anti-Semitism, the Holocaust) or even David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress (transvestism).

Ian Abbott
Lead professional, cognition and learning, special educational needs and disability service, Wiltshire Council

Lead from the front (most of the time)

I applaud Sir Tim Brighouse for the sentiment behind "Headship shouldn't be a vanishing act" (Professional, 30 January). However, headteachers do need to create a space for themselves: they are key leaders who need to be able to reflect and plan; they should not become so indispensable on a daily basis that this is compromised. Be seen and be around to listen to your staff, but create a space to lead, too.

Frederick Sandall
Retired headteacher

Let's be pragmatic about practical science

Education secretary Nicky Morgan has called on Ofqual to rethink its decision to stop science practicals counting towards final grades. If the regulator sticks to its guns, as it appears to be doing, this will have a significant impact on the young people (20,000 families and rising) studying A-level and GCSE sciences at home through distance and online learning.

It is challenging to obtain salts from sea water or assess the factors that influence the activity of enzymes in a domestic setting, but many ways of carrying out scientific investigations lead to effective learning. There is a big difference, however, between doing an experiment in the spirit of scientific discovery and conducting one under exam conditions.

Semta (the sector skills council for science, engineering and manufacturing) has warned that the UK faces a shortfall of 80,000 workers by 2016. Do we really want to risk losing what home-schooled young people have to offer because of a decision to include the results of practicals in the final exam grade?

Dr Ros Morpeth
Chief executive, National Extension College

With languages, you must sink or swim

Learning a foreign language in a British school is like learning to swim by standing beside a pool and waving your arms. In both cases, you need immersion. Independent schools now have large numbers of Spanish children who spend a year boarding in Britain simply in order to become colloquially fluent in English. They return to the Spanish education system fully equipped with a second language.

British education has become exam-oriented and results-driven: could it accommodate young people taking a year out in the greater interest of really learning a foreign language?

Hilary Moriarty
Managing partner, Greenings Education

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