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TES letters

Difference should be a delight, not a dirty word

How refreshing (but also sad) to see that Jo Brighouse and Mike Kent are saying similar things ("Dread the spread" and "Talent over trends", 4 April). Indeed, everyone is saying it but headteachers and higher ranks are not listening.

I know that if you left me alone for one academic year with any key stage 1 or 2 class, I could guarantee that 99 per cent of them would make good progress (there's always one). More importantly, the children would be happy and enjoy their learning.

The problem is, I could not guarantee my performance if I were continually being told to teach in one way only, and told that masses of planning and record-keeping were "helpful" in my work and in gauging my performance or reassuring others.

When studying for my PGCE, I was told that children were all different and had different learning styles. Unsurprisingly, teachers are all different too, and have different teaching styles and methods. If they are getting results, why are they wrong?

Steve Smith


Supplying student demand

It was with great interest that I read last week's article about involving students in the teacher recruitment process ("Interviewing recruits? Enlist your students", Professional, 4 April).

I am a former teacher and now co-own a supply teaching agency. Based on our experience, I would say the recruitment process has certainly changed for the better in the past 10 years. We have found that a combination of interviews, trial lessons and feedback from staff and children presents a much clearer and more balanced picture of a teacher's ability.

The schools we work with increasingly gauge the quality of a teacher's performance from student feedback as well as observations and input from teaching assistants. When supply teachers are asked back to schools, we have observed that the decision is now related in more than 70 per cent of cases to the impression they made on students.

This is to the benefit of those who may in the past have missed out on jobs when they were judged solely on their interview performance. We know of some fantastic teachers who have found it hard to secure permanent roles through interview and so turned to supply; they have then earned full-time positions by showing their true strengths in the classroom.

Barry Simmons

Director of Provide Education, Yorkshire

Assessing soft skills? No problem

The news that students in England are outperforming their international counterparts at problem-solving should be well received by both educators and businesses ("It's no longer what you know, it's what you can do with it", News, 4 April). But such results come in spite of our education system, which continues to struggle when it comes to measuring such skills.

In recent years, the overemphasis on sitting exams and hitting targets has been to the detriment of developing soft skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity and teamwork. It used to be said that it was too difficult for schools to assess these accurately and efficiently. However, technology is making it much easier to capture and measure skills, so there is little reason why they should not be seen as any less important or valid than maths or science grades.

Matt Wingfield

Managing director, TAG Assessment

A potential minefield

As education policies from countries all over the world harp on about children fulfilling their potential, it is useful to remember that no one, in any school, has ever succeeded in this.

All of us have infinite potentialities, for good or evil, that cannot ever be fully realised. The implication of this and of Calum Mittie's thought-provoking article ("Success is a lifetime, not a letter on a page", Comment, 4 April) is that "potential" should be removed from the educational lexicon and teachers should stop feeling guilty about their students not being able to fulfil it.

Colin Richards

Spark Bridge, Cumbria

Supercharged dyslexia debate

My answer to Garry Freeman's letter ("Diagnosis is not the point of dyslexia", 21 March) is that, like all serious conditions, dyslexia requires a sensitive and comprehensive diagnosis. Just one aspect of that diagnosis is a full intelligence test, which highlights a profile of strengths and weaknesses.

Teachers can use the strengths revealed to help bolster a student's self-esteem, and they can pinpoint the weaknesses that need to be overcome. These may lie in such areas as short-term or working memory, processing speed or visual problems. A complete diagnosis is essential and a springboard for action.

Over many years, students have contacted me claiming that the original diagnosis of dyslexia changed their lives. That in itself would make a worthy subject for research.

Dr Peter J Congdon

Consultant educational psychologist

Colin Richards ("A heavy burden for young shoulders", Letters, 4 April) is correct that it will not be long before some private "consultants" are offering to help prepare four- and five-year-olds for their baseline checks for a fee.

I suggest that what will swiftly follow is the arrival on the scene of children's superhero Dyslexia Man. In return for a further (large) fee, he will offer to test a child for the condition in order to secure them special consideration in the baseline checking process. Of course, each child will be found to suffer from it and the parents offered private "dyslexia lessons".

Garry Freeman

Special educational needs coordinator and director of inclusion, Leeds

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