10th July 2015 at 01:00

Smarting from another of the DfE's bright ideas

Branding schools as coasting is yet another half-cocked idea from the government (bit.lyCoasting1). Some years ago, a similar initiative was introduced to grade schools' progress. A nearby school - the former Gravesend Grammar School for Girls - had its usual 100 per cent A*-C pass rate at GCSE and was awarded an A grade. The next year it got the same results but was given an E grade because it had shown no improvement.

Even worse, the grammar school down the road from us had a poor year in the first round. The next year we retained our usual high pass rate and the aforementioned school got back to normal. However, because it had made so much progress, staff were awarded a cash bonus while we got nothing!

Do people at the Department for Education think no further than the next sound bite? Or maybe it's just a ruse to ensure more academy conversions because there aren't enough failing schools to satisfy Daily Mail readers. Oh, and don't forget, "There is no recruitment crisis" (News, 3 July) - so they do see the real situation after all.

Paul Ingleton

Borden Grammar School, Sittingbourne, Kent

`Exam factories' turn pupils into products

How saddening to read the NUT teaching union's report warning that schools are at risk of being turned into "exam factories" (bit.lyExamFactories). We've become used to students being measured like factory components under governmental pressure. Five years ago, I gave a speech on the theme of "redefining assessment", which called for a move away from measurement and a return to learning and the development of pupils as autonomous individuals capable of independent thought.

A simplistic measurement strategy is seductive to politicians, who can manipulate the data to match their policies. However, it is strangling schools, teachers and pupils.

Professor Bill Boyle

Tarporley, Cheshire

Teach First means I'm last in line

I'm in no way anti-Teach First (well, maybe a bit) or scornful of academic individuals, but the value we place on the approach seems so misguided ("Teach First soft soap", 3 July). I'm a highly experienced middle leader and an outstanding teacher, but I've found it difficult to break into senior leadership owing to Teach First fast-trackers sprinting to assistant headship.

They may never have led a curriculum, been accountable for results or even experienced adversity in leadership, yet a shiny degree certificate makes them as tempting to headteachers as cold beer on a hot day. A top degree indicates a high level of intelligence and determination. But let's not confuse that with an outstanding ability to instruct, inspire or lead.

Thank you, Jo Brighouse, for raising concerns about how dazzled (or hoodwinked?) we are by the Teach First concept.

J Griffiths


The future of sixth-form colleges is clear

If I hadn't seen Professor Roger Brown in the front row at the Sixth Form Colleges' Association summer conference, I might have concluded from his letter that he couldn't have been there ("Sixth-form academies? It's too soon to say", 3 July).

For the record, 112 delegates attended the meeting, representing 72 sixth-form colleges (75 per cent). Of these, 91 per cent voted for closer alignment with schools and academies, and 68 per cent voted to explore academy conversion. Just three delegates indicated that they had abstained. The association's policymaking body had considered the matter two weeks previously and resolved to support both propositions unanimously. This seems like an unambiguous and clear mandate to me.

Of course, individual college governing bodies will have to decide the matter for themselves. Clearly, those that resist the move to form closer strategic and structural alliances with schools and academies may risk becoming isolated and miss the opportunity to take an active part in determining local 16-19 provision. Only time will tell, but at least let's get the facts right.

David Igoe

Chief executive, Sixth Form Colleges' Association

Is primary prom too much, too young?

I share the headteacher's concerns about prom for 11-year-olds as outlined in What keeps me awake at night (Professional, 3 July). When I was just starting out as a teacher, I had my doubts about celebration discos for Year 6 leavers. Little Jane and John would be transformed into adolescents overnight. They would ape teenage behaviour and often get hurt physically and emotionally as things got "out of hand". But when many of them started secondary education, they were once more "little Jane and John" until their next prom years later.

Frederick Sandall

Retired headteacher and local authority adviser

Ofsted's `purge' is all for show

In response to Ofsted's apparent "purge" of inspectors, I would like to present another viewpoint: the providers responsible for training "additional" inspectors for the past few years have overrecruited trainees ("Ofsted purges more than 1,200 inspectors", News, 19 June). This situation resulted in many inspectors finding that very little work was available once they had qualified.

Therefore, Ofsted needed to reduce the excess numbers - rather than "ditch" those who were "not good enough". The fact that Ofsted hopes to go from using about 3,000 inspectors to between 1,800 and 2,000 appears to prove this point.

The lead inspectors I have worked with have always done their utmost to find all that is good about each school by asking searching questions, probing all evidence and being incredibly fair yet robust in their judgements. It has been a privilege to witness and be part of this process.

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