13th February 2015 at 00:00

No parachute - even after the Workload Challenge

It's admirable that the government has committed to reducing unnecessary bureaucracy for teachers. There is nothing worse than a task that has no benefit for students. Unfortunately, although the government response appears helpful, it simply fails to address the key problem facing the vast majority of teachers: we don't have time.

We will be "encouraged" to share resources (although we already do), but this doesn't save much time because they have to be adapted for our particular needs. There will be no more mid-year tinkering, but new A-levels, GCSEs and the key stage 3 curriculum require new schemes of work. Should we do this instead of all our marking, planning, report writing and lesson preparation? No other time is available. All these tasks are important, we know that, which is why we resent the bureaucracy. We wish we could do them all properly but we can't, even if we work every night, most weekends and most holidays.

More time really means less time in the classroom, or fewer classes per teacher, or fewer students per class, therefore more teachers per school. Unfortunately, this costs money. However much the government encourages us, nothing will change until it funds education properly. The solution is simple: fewer contact hours, more time to get the rest of the work done, happier teachers, happier students. But it's not in the government's response to the Workload Challenge.

Alex Porter

Head of history, Parmiter's School, Hertfordshire

Pluck up courage in this climate of fear

So, the days of the "bog-standard" comprehensive are numbered ("Cameron under fire for `self-serving' attacks on coasting schools", bit.lyBogStandard). Presumably the government is confident that potential superheads are lining up outside every school that is at risk of slipping into "requires improvement".

Is there nothing we can do to stop the relentless undermining of our profession and the unremitting climate of fear?

I have one small suggestion and I urge everyone to support it: delete without reading any marketing email with "Ofsted" in the subject line. This might give the message that we are not prepared to allow everything we do to be dictated by anxiety about our next inspection or the latest political agenda.

Stephanie Gibson

Headteacher, St Catherine's Primary School, Surrey

Prime minister David Cameron is to wage an "all-out war on mediocrity". How? By using flawed Ofsted judgements based on a government "testocracy" to condemn hard-working teachers and pupils. How is "mediocrity" defined? By Mr Cameron, in the socially divisive language of "sink schools". And by Ofsted, an agency that is under governmental control. Isn't it time parents and educationalists voted against this continued and cynical misuse of education as a political strategy?

Professor Bill Boyle

Tarporley, Cheshire

Planting ideas to help group work bloom

I read with interest "Talk may be cheap but group work is priceless" (Professional, 6 February). I would also argue that high-order questioning is at the heart of effective group work.

Furthermore, before group work takes place, a discussion led by the teacher is sometimes needed for thinking skills to blossom. It is imperative that we nurture pupils' inquisitive minds by evaluating their ideas. Learners need specialist subject input prior to group work in order to take the lead with their peers. Through this they can become empowered, independent and ultimately inspired.

Mark Damon Chutter


CPD can stem the tide of quitting teachers

We are shocked but unfortunately not surprised by the figures on teacher retention released by the Department for Education, which reveal that the number leaving the profession is at a 10-year high (News, 30 January).

The pressures that schools and teachers are under are manifold. However, recent research that we conducted in partnership with Sheffield Hallam University shows that engagement with the CPD available via the National Science Learning Centre has a positive impact on teachers' intention to remain in the profession. The majority (57 per cent) of respondents say their involvement has made them more likely to stay in the job. And 92 per cent of participants report improved confidence, motivation and engagement in the classroom after attending Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) CPD.

To begin to reverse the trend, high-quality CPD should be made available to all teachers.

Yvonne Baker

Chief executive, Myscience; director, National Science Learning Centre

Computing must be switched on to history

The development of GCSEs and A-levels in computer science is indeed very much to be celebrated, as is the growing number of British children taking up maths and science at A-level ("Code to joy", Feature, 16 January). However, Britain and other European countries still have a way to go to catch up. Most global production of microprocessors and semiconductors is now concentrated in the US and East Asia. Europe does not have a computer company with the size or prestige of Intel or Samsung.

This is ironic, because computer science was founded in Britain by Alan Turing. History has a role to play in encouraging children into computer science: figures such as Turing, Apple's Steve Jobs and American programmer Grace Hopper should be as familiar to schoolchildren as David Beckham.

Shouvik Datta

Orpington, Kent

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