30th January 2015 at 00:00

Setting the stage for the great drama school debate

It's a minor delight to see how debates segue into sand.

Put simply, this one started with the idea that posh kids were taking all the drama places. Research by Drama UK, which accredits drama schools, detonated that line of argument, as Ann Mroz notes in her editorial ("Names won't hurt you but lack of cash will", 23 January). At the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, 87.4 per cent of our students come from state schools.

The next line of argument was that children from disadvantaged families couldn't afford to go to drama school. Since they have access to student loans like everyone else, and allowances that consider family income, that doesn't hold up either.

The latest is that, because there are so few jobs, those with financially supportive parents (and that doesn't necessarily mean "privileged") tend to survive. Hang on. What about trained architects, cooks, beauticians or graduates of media courses?

Actors enter a pragmatic world. In this respect, they are like everyone else. The debate has run full circle.

Mark Featherstone-Witty

Founding principal and chief executive, Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts

We need the heart to foster the arts

Reading Sir Ken Robinson's article ("The beating heart of human life? The arts", Comment, 23 January) reminded me of a comparison of two "successful" education systems. The South Korean model, which achieves almost 100 per cent literacy, favours rigorous hard work. Students spend long hours in school and with tutors. The Finnish system, however, prizes rigour and flexibility. The comparatively short school day is supplemented with extracurricular activities. This system recognises that rich learning can and does take place outside school.

Maybe we can learn from both systems and find a better way to develop all students' "personal talents and passions".

Frederick Sandall

Retired headteacher

Sir Ken Robinson says that "the real basics of education" are four "purposes": "economic, cultural, social and personal".

Our education secretary, however, seems to believe that only the "economic" matters ("Use tax data to find subjects' `worth', Morgan says", News at a glance, 23 January). Nicky Morgan's speech at the Bett ed-tech show suggests that she thinks the true "worth" of a subject can be evaluated only by the size of a student's eventual salary, rather than its intrinsic value.

Is the history studied by a chief executive worth more than the history studied by a history teacher? Is the maths studied by an engineer worth more than the maths studied by a charity worker? Is Ms Morgan really a cynic - someone who "knows the price of everything and the value of nothing"?

Deborah Lawson

General secretary, Voice

I couldn't agree more with Sir Ken Robinson about the importance of the arts and their marginalisation in current policy and practice. This enters our thinking in so many unexamined ways, as his article unwittingly testifies. Note the order of his "purposes" of education: economic, cultural, social and personal, with "economic" first. This could have been provided by any coalition or New Labour politician. It should be revised to read "personal, social, cultural and economic" - that would more faithfully fit Sir Ken's conscious priorities. We all need cultural education to make us aware of unexamined preconceptions.

Colin Richards

Spark Bridge, Cumbria

Teachers go to extremes for their students

Today's educational package requires greater discernment than ever before. Sex education has become enormously complex and now citizenship and PSHE must protect children from extremism (Feature, 23 January). Today's world weighs heavily on teachers' shoulders; not only must they carry this burden but they must simultaneously demonstrate effectiveness for inspection purposes. The workload is unrelenting and our inspirational teachers deserve enormous respect.

Julie Robinson

Education and training director, Independent Association of Prep Schools

When a job is a state of mind

Tom Finn-Kelcey tells of how he turned down a post at a school in Surrey because it was "a comprehensive in name only" and "serving a community with million-pound houses and calling myself a `state educator' just didn't sit right" ("Thanks, but no thanks", Your First Job, 23 January). So how does he square his conscience with his current position surrounded by similarly expensive housing in a grammar school that can by no stretch of the imagination be described as comprehensive?

Annette Margolis

Supply teacher, West Midlands

Cultivating reading for pleasure is a joy

I read with interest "Teachers warn of decline in reading for pleasure" (News at a glance, 23 January). It is, of course, imperative that we encourage learners to read outside the classroom. Giving students reading lists and independent reading to engage with is essential.

Every year I take my A-level students to a recording of BBC Radio 4's Bookclub, where they meet the author to debate the text under discussion. I have also pioneered a school Twitter account for my subject to encourage learners to share their reading and critical ideas. Of course, this is not just about reading itself or reading for pleasure. It is also of fundamental importance to cultivate the evaluation of ideas, concepts and interpretations of texts inside and outside our lessons.

Mark Damon Chutter


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