28th August 2015 at 01:00

Gaining hard data at the expense of `soft skills'

After receiving their GCSE results last week, 16-year-olds are now considering their options for the future. Alas, it is clear that careers guidance is poor in many schools. Ofsted and the CBI have both pointed to the need for improvement, but these students need advice now. The bottom line is that they need to know the qualifications required for careers and university entrance before starting courses in September. If they do not, they may find themselves studying the wrong things.

Some very poor advice has been reported in the media. It was particularly unfortunate that Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the Royal Society of Arts, advised students to avoid the Russell Group universities. Courses at these research-heavy institutions are very demanding and call for A and A* grades at GCSE, but they are undoubtedly rewarding for those who can gain entrance.

Mr Taylor said that many Russell Group courses did not develop the "soft skills" increasingly needed by employers; vocational courses may do just this, but that is a problem for the academics to tackle. Employers need to be clear that they want these soft skills, because state schools are being turned into exam factories geared towards churning out paper qualifications.

A debate on what we actually want schools to produce is urgently needed.

Trevor Fisher


Your body language can tell students everything they need to know

Teachers are communicators, so surely a major part of teacher training should be the development of communication skills, including body language ("Letting body language do the talking for you", Professional, 21 August). Our first impressions of people are often very telling. Pupils will judge whether they are in for a good or bad lesson within seconds, just by observing their teacher.

Of course, first impressions can be proven wrong, but teaching is more difficult if you have set off on the wrong foot. I would advise any school to invest in hiring a communication skills expert for all staff. It could be money well spent.

Frederick Sandall

Retired headteacher and local authority adviser

Enlisting teachers could lead to an inspection revolution

In last week's TES, Geoff Barton suggested that subject leaders and excellent classroom practitioners might make the most effective inspectors ("Ofsted expects? Forget it", Comment, 21 August). This is an excellent idea. Furthermore, these teachers should be encouraged in their inspection role to advise as well as to judge, to make suggestions in order to promote best practice.

In the meantime, we should be building collaborative local communities of learning so that innovation and initiative from the middle tier of teachers can make our classes more vibrant and inspiring.

Yvonne Williams

Isle of Wight

University reform? Don't waste your breath

I write to take issue with Ann Mroz's leader in the 14 August edition of TES ("Universities are standing in the way of fairer admissions"). I'm not taking issue with the contents of the article at all. The argument that the university admissions system needs to be ripped up, rethought and reimagined is, of course, a strong one.

It is, as Ms Mroz correctly suggests, utterly mad that in the 21st century thousands of our young people still have to go through a process as painfully archaic as clearing. My issue with the piece is that anyone thought it worthwhile to make the argument again, or with such truthfulness. It is a waste of column inches and of the editor's no doubt valuable time.

Call me defeatist, but there is no point in making the case for the introduction of post-qualification admissions, because no one will listen. Rarely can an educational issue have been so clear-cut. It is so obvious what needs to be done, yet action appears so far away.

I recommend that Ms Mroz stop talking about this issue. No one in the corridors of power will be able to hear her through the sand in which they clearly have placed their heads.

R Forster


Should we fear the end of grade inflation?

So, GCSE grades have remained steady this year ("Calm prevails as GCSEs remain largely stable", News, 21 August). Yet the converse of grade inflation will have its consequences, too. Many teachers and many institutions will be unable to demonstrate improvement in their pupils' performance, thus restricting increases in teachers' salaries and forcing coasting schools to become academies.

It's a win-win situation for the government.

A A Mills

Semi-retired languages tutor

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