3rd April 2015 at 01:00

For buoyant pupils, dive into `holistic' education

The CBI's John Cridland is absolutely correct in his assertion that schools should focus less on metrics and more on holistic education (" `Everybody has A*s - employers want character' ", News, 27 March). This is why the Independent Association of Prep Schools opposes the use of league tables despite all its members exhibiting excellent standards. Such tables will only ever take into account a small portion of data and, therefore, can never reflect a true picture of a school or how suitable it is for an individual pupil. True education develops and nurtures the whole child, not just their exam grades.

David Hanson

Chief executive, Independent Association of Prep Schools

In my experience, what other countries praise about England is teachers' ability to innovate and match the curriculum to learners' needs. As your editorial pointed out, our education system is admired by many other countries and we should feel proud of what we do well ("The world sees our strength. Why can't we?", 27 March). So I am thankful that employers have prioritised "character" and "holistic development". I am sure there are many teachers across the country applauding this, too.

Frederick Sandall

Retired headteacher

Why heads needn't always cut class

I appreciate Bernard Trafford's dilemma as a headteacher who doesn't feel he has time to teach ("Why I fired myself", 27 March). But why exclude himself from the classroom completely? He could step in and do coversubstitution.

Not only would this enable him to get to know Year 7 students but he would also earn the gratitude and respect of those teachers who would otherwise have to forgo their non-teaching periods. After all, we're all in it together.

A A Mills

Semi-retired languages tutor

Don't let political spin be a vote-winner

What planet is David Cameron on? (" `Bit by bit, education is changing for the better' ", Comment, 20 March.) He writes of "trusting" teachers. Presumably these are the same teachers who were vilified by former education secretary Michael Gove and his attack dogs as "The Blob" and "enemies of promise"?

Mr Gove managed to alienate the entire profession during his tenure. Even Mr Cameron finally realised how toxic he had become, and I fear that Nicky Morgan is little better given the Workload Challenge fiasco - not to mention an increasingly adversarial and inconsistent inspection regime.

Mr Cameron's spin is breathtaking in its disingenuous audacity, and I'm sure that colleagues will see it for what it is - cynical opportunism. If he is relying on the teacher vote, he won't get a second term, let alone the opportunity to turn down running for a third. But then he didn't win his first term either, did he?

John Connor

Independent modern foreign languages consultant, Devon

`Reflective' Ofsted? That'll be the day

Before we preen ourselves on the quality of our school leadership and bask in American praise, let us remember that US observers have often got it wrong about things English ("Why the US wants to follow England's lead on headship", News, 27 March). For example, their uncritical support for child-centred education in the 1970s, their delight at our espousal of testing to ensure "no child falls behind" in the 1990s, their adulation of the privately educated royal family and their latest eulogy to an Ofsted of which they have no direct experience.

Whether England has the "best" leadership is a value judgement, but I am certain that the Thomas B Fordham Institute has got it only half right in saying "the Ofsted system evaluates schools on a mix of qualitative and quantitative indicators and includes an emphasis on self-reflection". Experience since 1992 strongly suggests that quantitative indicators and an emphasis on outputs have unduly influenced overall judgements of school effectiveness. Let us hope that Ofsted's proposed reforms do represent "a profound shift in thinking", and that this premature praise is eventually justified.

Colin Richards

Spark Bridge, Cumbria

Encourage staff to bring out their best

I read with interest "A confident teacher is a better teacher" (News, 27 March).The thrust of the article embodies a poignant irony: the argument that the focus on teachers' self-belief can influence achievement relies heavily on senior leaders instilling confidence in their staff and not stifling creative teaching.

In the past, I have been led by weak managers who didn't collaborate, support or inspire but sought to undermine staff. One particular manager was constantly criticising me and this led me to start questioning myself. As with our students, we all need to inspire colleagues to achieve the very best. Furthermore, we all need encouragement and to be led from the top in a dynamic way so that we can empower staff and acknowledge their self-worth and value to the teaching profession.

Mark Damon Chutter


The language of music speaks to us all

Having just read your Research corner on bilingualism providing an intellectual advantage (Professional, 27 March), I would regard music in the same light. Many years of experience have shown me that students with musical training usually do better in other subjects, too. Music is a language that everyone can understand and learn to speak: it should be seen as one of the most valuable parts of the curriculum, not just an amusement for the better off as it has become.

Paul Ingleton

Head of music, Borden Grammar School, Kent

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