TES letters

High hopes for Royal College still ring true

Ask whether people support a complex new proposal that hasn't yet had huge publicity and you are doing well if you get more than 40 per cent outright support and a similar proportion unsure. So the results of the Sutton Trust's survey on the Royal College of Teaching are anything but a setback ("Great idea, but a right royal muddle in practice", Editorial, 16 May). They are consistent with responses to the consultation - 82 per cent support among teachers and 87 per cent among headteachers.

The objectives of founding a Royal College - to take control back from the state and put it into the hands of the profession, set standards based on evidence and promote professional development - tend to win very strong support in discussion. Ann Mroz rightly highlights that knowledge of the proposals is not as widespread as it will need to be. Building universal awareness must be central to the next stage of work.

But all of us who care about the future of education and teaching need to support the principle of the Royal College even as we debate and refine the details of how it will work.

Jon Coles

Chief executive, United Learning

If you are seeking "an independent body committed to improving the status and professional development of teachers", these already exist. They are called subject associations and the one I volunteer for (the Geographical Association) does many things a Royal College would do. Who does the Department for Education rely on to advise them on the curriculum through "expert panels"? None other than volunteer teachers, subject specialists and teacher educators who give up their holiday time. These are member organisations run on a shoestring whose websites attract many thousands with their high-quality support, guidance and resources. All at no cost to the DfE.

Anthony Barlow

Senior lecturer in geography education, University of Roehampton

Fairy tales are full of feisty females

Calum Mittie focuses on fairy tales' happy endings at the expense of the struggles so often experienced by their characters ("Cinderella stories set students up for a fall," Comment, 16 May).

In Aladdin, Jasmine insists "I am not a prize to be won", before showing that love can transcend social class and prejudice. Belle in Beauty and the Beast sacrifices herself out of love for her father and learns to see past the ugly appearance of the Beast. In The Princess and the Frog, Tiana works hard for her lifelong dream of opening a restaurant. And Frozen has shattered once and for all the facade of the handsome prince.

There is a great deal more good that can be drawn out of these fairy tales than bad, and we should not sacrifice that. Honour, bravery, intelligence, sacrifice, independence - these are qualities epitomised by the heroes and heroines of my childhood.

Esther Kezia Harding

English and education graduate, University of Cambridge

Don't perpetuate the primary maths myth

There is sometimes a feeling that primary teachers can't "do" maths. Jaimee Baker's piece frustratingly upheld this view ("Mental maths tests are driving me insane", What keeps me awake, 9 May). Mental maths skills are essential for teaching effectively in primary. Come on, TES, please don't perpetuate myths about primary teachers not being bright. We need recruits who are willing to put themselves forward for challenges, not those who think primary education is all about colouring in.

Alexa Swaine

Primary teacher, West Yorkshire

Spelling reform could happen - but it won't

Nigel Probert ("Dispelling all hope of spelling reform", Letters, 9 May) exaggerates the problems of devising a consistent orthography for English. There would be no need for diacritics, and only one extra letter: ? for the schwa vowel. The ?d (th) distinction is too small to require different graphemes.

Conversely, Masha Bell ("Put creativity in context by embedding soft skills", Letters, 16 May) has an over-optimistic view of the regularity of Korean spelling.

No progress will be made on spelling reform without accurate analysis - and possibly not even then, given the political impracticality of getting the world to agree on any changes.

Greg Brooks

Emeritus professor of education, University of Sheffield

Comparison works for practical purposes

I read with interest your article on adaptive comparative judgement ("A practical solution to marking muddle", 18 April), but it must be noted that Ofqual is incorrect in saying that the method is not suitable for assessing practical skills in sciences.

I directed the "e-scape" research project from 2004-10 at Goldsmiths, University of London, where ACJ first came to life. Initially, we tested ACJ ourselves using a portfolio of GCSE coursework. However, in 2009, we trialled it in 19 English schools, using a number of practical science, geography, and design and technology coursework portfolios.

All the work went into a national pot and each teacher collaborated in making the paired comparisons of it at random. The result in assessment reliability was an astonishing 0.95, with the number 1 representing perfect accuracy. There are two main reasons for this. First, the assessment process is collaborative, which eliminates bias. Second, comparative judgement is far easier than absolute judgement (it is easier to say that one room is warmer than another than it is to state the exact temperature of both rooms).

The fact is that ACJ can be used to mark practical skills. It is also simple and quick, so it is no wonder that every teacher in the pilot study preferred it to "normal" scoring and adding up.

Professor Richard Kimbell

Director, Goldsmiths' Technology Education Research Unit

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