21st August 2015 at 01:00

Misguided policies can traumatise young twins

We were very pleased to see the article about the potential dangers of applying blanket policies regarding the separation of multiples starting primary school ("Why schools should do a double take on separating twins", News, 7 August).

As honorary consultants in education for the Twins and Multiple Births Association (Tamba), we have to deal with increasing referrals about this issue: in this year alone, at least 25 families have asked us for help because headteachers have decided to split their twins or triplets without prior consultation.

Tamba believes strongly that the decision to place multiples together or apart within a school should be made after careful consideration of the needs of the children in question, and has produced detailed guidance for teachers and parents to use in order to make this decision. This is based on the work of Professor Pat Preedy as well as research undertaken at King's College London, published in 2009.

The Department for Education has stated that schools must not have a blanket policy in relation to the separation of multiples and that any written policy must ensure that the individual circumstances of each case are taken into account. However, this was in response to a particular case. Tamba would strongly urge the DfE to make this official guidance for schools, as the enforced separation of young multiple-birth children can have deep and lasting psychological effects.

Margaret Dorsman and Anne Thomas

Twins and Multiple Births Association

Speaking out about the IB

Your article "Teachers angry over `lottery' of IB coursework" (News, 14 August) criticises the International Baccalaureate for inaccurate marking of coursework and the extended essay, and states that "teachers are afraid to speak out". I would dispute this.

1. Overall, our pass rate is stable and has been for many years.

2. We have improved the reliability of marking considerably over the past few years as we have moved from paper-based marking to electronic marking (eMarking). Specifically, we are currently eMarking nearly all our externally assessed work, and will eMark internally assessed coursework samples for moderation in a phased approach from November 2015. Electronic marking of the extended essay will follow in 2016.

3. I am genuinely bewildered by the suggestion that teachers are afraid to speak out. The IB is a strong community of educators who operate in a collaborative environment. IB teachers have many avenues to express their thoughts - in our many conferences and meetings, on our online forum, or via phone or email. Your article states that teachers were afraid to talk on the record "for fear they would be suspended for speaking out about the organisation". The IB has no power to suspend any teacher so this is clearly unfair.

4. You state that the extended essay "can be worth as much as 25 per cent of the overall grade". In fact, both the extended essay and the theory of knowledge essay combined represent a maximum of 3 potential points out of a total of 45.

Carolyn Adams

Chief assessment officer, International Baccalaureate Organisation

At this price, free meals are too costly

It is hard to argue against the idea of free school lunches in state schools but, as many have now discovered, it does raise a dilemma. Smaller schools are now having to make decisions in key areas, having to prioritise either teaching or feeding their pupils (bit.lyFreeMeals1).

It is clear that many children are in need of better nourishment, and it is a disgrace that in a rich country we struggle to feed so many of them properly. The government needs to make a decision: if this policy of free lunches for all is important, it must be fully funded to allow all schools to continue to offer a rich curriculum, which includes music and other creative subjects.

We should applaud the principle of feeding our young children, but if it is to be at the expense of providing a first-class education then more wealthy parents should be asked to pay.

Frederick Sandall

Former headteacher

Beat grade inflation - by backdating it

The increase in grades at A-level highlights the persistence of grade inflation and the need to increase all previously awarded subject grades accordingly. The same reasoning can also be applied to holders of first-class degrees, as they too have been subject to classification inflation. Such a plan may sound unreasonable but these grade and classification increases are valid on the grounds of equality and reducing discrimination.

Mr R Wolstencroft


Speaking up for correct grammar

Toby Young is right to emphasise the issue of grammar in teaching (" `Spellign' out the need for accurate end-of-year reports", News, 31 July). Ever since the linguist and media analyst Noam Chomsky published Syntactic Structures in 1957, studying grammar has become a key tool in understanding languages.

Students whose first language isn't English often find its grammar baffling and they expect it to form part of a typical English lesson. I used to teach a special grammar class once a week to migrants from Africa, Europe and Latin America. I would teach the key features of English grammar; the different tenses, modal verbs, the structure of questions and so on. I would get students to compare the grammatical features of their own languages with those of English.

A wide array of textbooks are available; most of them - for example the Headway series - have special sections on grammar. Also, Raymond Murphy's English Grammar in Use is helpful, with many exercises on the full range of usage.

Shouvik Datta

Orpington, Kent

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