22nd May 2015 at 01:00

Children who tell a good tale can write a good tale

It's great to see storytelling in TES ("And the children all learned to tell stories. The end", News, 15 May). Ten years ago, I was lucky enough to meet educationalist and storyteller Pie Corbett at a training day, and what did I learn? "If we want children to write good stories, they have to be able to tell good stories."

It's so obvious once you've heard it, but at the time I'm not sure how many teachers had this idea embedded in their practice. Nowadays, most teachers recognise that speaking and learning skills are the foundation of good writing.

I've also worked with Chris Smith of Storytelling Schools, who had all the pupils and staff starry-eyed during his sessions. He taught us the simple process of story mapping, as well as the importance of repetition and performance. Teachers developed termly curriculums based around stories. The pupils loved it and the teachers loved having enthusiastic learners.

I wish I'd known how effective and fun storytelling could be earlier in my career - it would have made me a better teacher.

Gareth Alcott


I've long been an advocate of children learning to listen to and tell stories to enhance all aspects of learning. Storytelling Schools also gets it absolutely right for the process of beginning writing. If children don't have a deep understanding of stories and how they are constructed to hold attention, how can they write to engage the reader? Drilling alone is not the answer.

Frederick Sandall

Retired headteacher

`Coasting' schools are in hot water

In the same edition as Ann Mroz's editorial highlights the growing crisis in the recruitment and retention of teachers ("Nicky Morgan has had it easy - until now", 15 May), I turn the page to read that David Cameron and Ms Morgan will wage "all-out war" on "coasting" schools. This policy and rhetoric seem deliberately designed to drive more people from the profession, exacerbating the crisis. And to think, we have five more years of this reactionary ineptitude.

Gary Ellins

Teacher, Stockport

Conservative plans to force more schools to become academies are based on a false optimism about what academies can do.

As an experienced (and "outstanding") headteacher, I took over a stand-alone academy last September that was rapidly heading towards a budget deficit. We were inspected in January and unexpectedly downgraded from good to special measures. We are fighting this judgement, but I have nonetheless been astonished at the lack of support available - much less than we would have received as a local authority school. What is available is extremely costly and I can't spend money I don't have.

If the only answer is chains or multi-academy trusts, then all we have done is replace one level of middle management with another. I'd rather be part of a non-commercial local authority, but I can't opt us back in - I know, because I've asked.

Rachel M Swaffield

Headteacher, Gilbert Inglefield Academy, Bedfordshire

Can computer marking make the grade?

No doubt a computer could grade 16,000 essays in 20 seconds, thus providing a superficially attractive and cost-effective solution (News, 15 May). But would the right grades be matched to the right scripts? And how many scripts would have to be fed into a computer to create a sufficiently nuanced program?

Moreover, an Ofqual report noting "problems with on-screen marking software" last summer should sound a note of caution (bit.lyOfqual2014).

Yvonne Williams

Ryde, Isle of Wight

High-stakes testing is a mountain to climb

Robert Peal makes some interesting points ("Cultural ignorance is an Achilles' heel", Comment, 15 May). Children have a right to historical knowledge and we have a duty to impart it. However, there is one caveat: while it is not possible to teach skills without knowledge, it is possible to teach knowledge without skills. If you pile the Pelion of accountability on to the Ossa of a high-stakes, reductionist testing regime, you will turn out nothing more than generations of pub quiz champions.

John Connor

Independent modern foreign languages consultant

The aftermath of an Ofsted judgement

I was saddened and shocked when a trainee teacher outlined the events that have unfolded since Ofsted placed his school in special measures last month. The pupils all want out because they have been told (via the media) that they are not getting the education they deserve. This in turn has impacted on teacher morale and teaching and learning.

Isn't it ironic that schools are put into a category ostensibly to improve the quality of education, yet the reverse occurs? Behaviour and teaching and learning were good at this school but have now deteriorated significantly.

An emerging trend in schools in special measures is that the quality of mentoring tails off significantly. Trainee teachers are left to their own devices when they most need support. Observations become Ofsted-driven and punitive rather than developmental and supportive.

It was encouraging to note John Blake's view that there needs to be "greater interest from Ofsted in how its pronouncements impact on schools" ("There is no workload crisis - just politics", Comment, 24 April). I'm not alone in questioning the fallout that Ofsted does not observe.

Initial teacher education lecturer

South East of England

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