12th June 2015 at 01:00

The best-laid plans are tailored to pupils' needs

Of the many lesson plans I have seen in my career as a headteacher and local authority adviser, very few have been effective in advancing learning ("Get up to speed by giving up planning", Comment, 5 June). Indeed, the best are often the shortest, outlining the intended outcomes and sketching routes to achieve them. In successful lessons the teacher reacts to pupils' responses, guiding them carefully.

Emphasis on bespoke planning has led to an abandonment of textbooks. At a recent conference about maths teaching in Singapore, I learned how textbooks can be used to support teachers and learners. Perhaps we need to look again at how textbooks can help. At the very least they can save teachers hours of planning, which often doesn't deliver good learning.

Frederick Sandall

Retired headteacher and local authority adviser

More than anything, we need to minimise the assembly-line approach to teaching. Teaching is a highly sophisticated art. Lesson planning tailors material to children's abilities and needs, and provides a thorough rehearsal for delivery. Moreover, if others do the thinking behind the planning, what opportunities are teachers missing for deepening their pedagogical understanding and expertise? To liberate our creativity, what we really need to outsource is the bureaucracy.

Yvonne Williams

Ryde, Isle of Wight

Employ experience, expect excellence

I read with interest "How retirees could soon be cruising into classrooms" (News, 5 June). As an experienced practitioner who lost my job because of cutbacks, I propose a scheme to employ qualified and experienced staff in education.

Experienced teachers like me find it almost impossible to become re-employed, and cuts result in more job losses. Supply teaching maintains our skills but does not suit all, including me. I would appeal to unions, schools and governments to devise ways of selecting teachers on merit, as there can be consequences if the overriding factor in appointments is cost. Remember, with experience comes wisdom.

Harriet Carter

South Wales

Inspection introspection

As an experienced independent school headteacher and team inspector for the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI), I was disappointed to read many inaccuracies in " `Gaming' the system in a private school" (Under inspection, Professional, 5 June). The ISI is far from perfect (likewise Ofsted) but it is far more rigorous and professional than characterised in the article.

Inspectors carry out a wide range of lesson observations and detailed work scrutiny. The team inspectors are experienced teachers (many are heads). ISI inspections also include a comprehensive, anonymous survey of pupils and parents. In my experience, there are always indicators to alert inspectors to issues that require further investigation.

I would also add that, in preparing his school for an inspection (albeit a little too zealously, perhaps), the headteacher described was doing what the governors would expect of him.

John Tranmer

Headmaster, the Froebelian School, Leeds

Levels are no loss, but let's keep it simple

Aislynn and Nigel Matthias are right about the need to replace levels with an assessment system that runs from Year 7 (or earlier) to GCSE ("All you need to know to create a master", Professional, 5 June) but mistaken about the most effective way to do so. Creating 90 "mastery points" for each subject will be a distraction from preparing students for the greater challenge of the new GCSEs, for two reasons.

First, there is no research evidence to suggest that detailed lists of skills raise attainment in the long term. Second, the workload demands of standardising understanding of criteria and carrying out assessments are formidable. This will distract from creating and refining inspiring lessons.

A simpler and more effective way of tracking student progress is to create assessment tasks based directly on the assessment objectives of the new GCSEs, marking them against Ofqual's indicative mark ranges for the new grades 9 to 1.

Laurie Smith

Let's Think in English, King's College London

A new multilingual spirit is abroad

The rise in the number of students planning to take a degree abroad is in many ways a good thing ("Schools grapple with `have A-levels, will travel' culture", News, 5 June). Being exposed for a year or more to another language and way of thinking will help young people later in life, when they may find themselves working in a multinational company.

Learning a language at school or college is also good preparation for working life in a globalised world. Learning French, for example, is about linguistic proficiency, but it is also about literature and developing empathy by reading novelists such as Honor de Balzac. A contemporary of Charles Dickens, de Balzac's greatest novel, Le Pre Goriot, contends with issues of urbanisation, wealth and status, and criminality.

Shouvik Datta

Orpington, Kent

Asking the right questions

Thank you for making your quiz easier recently. I now finish TES feeling pleasingly intelligent. Will there be accusations of "dumbing down", though?

Emma Henley

Class teacher, Buckinghamshire

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