tesletters

31st July 2015 at 01:00

Open pupils' eyes to the wonders of literature

How I hate the word "should". I would recommend many of the books on your list of 100 fiction books that primary children "should" read, but why give it a title that conjures up an image of a wagging finger or obstacles to overcome?

It's time that education started using the language of pleasure and nourishment rather than command. Let's encourage our children to read because they love reading, to investigate because they are curious. Let's help them to gain pleasure and satisfaction from puzzling through a maths problem, from finding the answer to a question, and from completing a piece of work into which they have put heart and soul.

Many teachers recognise that this approach is best for children and provides the best foundation for their future, but they struggle against government commands - and against headlines such as this one.

Sandra Palmer

School governor in the North West of England

It has been known since the 1970 British Cohort Study that reading good fiction can enhance children's overall intellectual abilities ("Take a leaf out of Roald Dahl's book this summer", Editorial, 24 July). Children can be curious and observant, and introducing them to high-quality fiction is a good way of engaging their interest more deeply in the world around them.

Some of the novels voted on to your list of "100 fiction books all children should read before leaving primary school" (Pull-out poster, 24 July) have also been made into great films, in particular Black Beauty and The Railway Children. Watching and discussing these films in class can be a good way of getting children to read the books.

For older students, a classic film such as Tarka the Otter, based on a novel by Henry Williamson, is an effective tool to develop appreciation of nature and local ecology.

Shouvik Datta

Orpington, Kent

Sats are a pressure cooker, even for markers

In your article "`Every incorrectly marked Sats test is a scandal'" (17 July), the suggestion is that this year's online marking of scripts has been less accurate. I would reiterate what is said in the article: teachers are now marking questions in isolation. In the past, if a marker was unsure of a particular word or numeral, they would flick through the script to find confirmation, for example, of whether a digit was supposed to be a 1 or a 7.

Markers were previously instructed to block off all spaces in the script, to annotate mistakes or to strike a line through any place where something had been omitted (such as a decimal point or an apostrophe). These steps prevented teachers from subsequently altering scripts and claiming that they had been incorrectly marked.

It's a sad indictment of our times that teachers should resort to such measures, but it does highlight the pressure that schools are under. There is no getting away from the fact that the Sats results are, first and foremost, about judging schools; individual pupils' scores are of secondary concern. Headteachers might deny this, but it is the reality.

In your article, a Pearson spokesperson is quoted as saying that a system is in place for reviewing scripts, if a school feels there is a case. But this rather misses the point. It is the marking process that is flawed, rather than the performance of individual markers.

Name and address supplied

Scotland: a comprehensive overview

From the beginning, the English comprehensive school revolution has been different from that in Scotland (Feature, 10 July). Over the past 20 years, England has diversified the governance and institutional form of its secondary schools, whereas Scotland's national debate of 2003 showed substantial support for local authority comprehensives.

In our book Everyone's Future: lessons from 50 years of Scottish comprehensive schooling, we evaluate the experience of Scottish comprehensive schooling using a variety of evidence. We also apply some key democratic principles that underpinned the original reform and continue to guide Scotland's educational thinking: equality, liberty, fraternity and fairness.

We conclude that comprehensive schooling has worked well for Scotland, although there is work to be done to deliver a genuinely comprehensive education system that can match up to its founding ideals.

The government circular establishing comprehensive schooling in Scotland was published on 27 October 1965. An event marking that 50th anniversary will be held on 27 October 2015 in the University of Edinburgh, based around the findings reported in our book.

Daniel Murphy, Cathy Howieson and Linda Croxford

Senior teaching fellows, University of Edinburgh's Moray House School of Education

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