TES letters

Reception teaching is of primary importance

I was so glad to read that Jo Brighouse has discovered the pleasures of teaching Reception ("Shiny, happy people", 2 May).

Yes, good Reception teachers are a rare species. But as someone who has moved from teaching key stage 2 to early years, I would encourage colleagues to take the plunge. The most creative, engaging, curious, self-motivated and independent learners are to be found in Reception classes. Our challenge is to develop their natural enthusiasm and self-belief, and not to let inappropriately target-driven objectives dictate our teaching methods.

Ms Brighouse is right - having the time to talk with children individually is a joy and is central to good early years practice. It is vital that Reception teachers resist the downward pressures of later key stages and protect the child-led, play-based learning that is so important for children's development.

Polly Shields

Reception teacher, London

Employers don't have all the answers

So business secretary Vince Cable believes the solution to the skills shortage is a "new generation" of specialist national colleges led by employers ("Welcome to colleges: the next generation", Further, 2 May). What is it with successive governments trying to throw the baby out with the bathwater?

Do they ever do an inventory of what is happening in further education colleges? Two positive examples were cited in your article but many more exist. And employers had their fingers burned by the last government's great idea - specialist diplomas. I am not sure they will want to waste more valuable time devising course material that will be binned in the next Parliament.

By all means work with employers to improve provision. But let's do it with the understanding that they do not have all the answers and that some of the provision already out there would knock spots off any of their suggestions.

Sally Butler

Lostwithiel, Cornwall

To go forward, we must look back

Usually my mind goes blank and my eyes glaze over whenever a pundit argues that schools need to prepare children for an unknown future. My response is that this is so impossible we shouldn't even try. The best and only real preparation is to help young people to face the challenges of the present - which is where Martin Robinson's sage advice is so appropriate ("Tradition need not be the enemy of progress", 2 May). He is absolutely right to argue that "we should educate in a way that harnesses critical thinking while retaining a respect for our cultural and social inheritance". That's far from an easy task but infinitely easier than second-guessing societal and individual fortune.

Colin Richards

Spark Bridge, Cumbria

Oiling the wheels of social mobility

My school is one of those that will be consulting over the next 12 months on prioritising eligibility for free school meals as an admissions criterion ("Grammar schools opt to give priority to poor children"). Broadening access is about much more than the 11-plus, though. It is about a school's commitment to openness and about financial assistance with costs such as travel and sports equipment so that every pupil can attend on an equal basis.

Our experience is that some former pupils are keen to give philanthropically to support these aims. Our donor-funded primary school programme (InspirUS) was shortlisted for a TES Schools Award in 2013, and our financial assistance fund (the Lune Scholarship) was generously established by a local entrepreneur.

Chris Pyle

Headmaster, Lancaster Royal Grammar School

Inflated grades quandary is overblown

Ed Dorrell presents his educational question, "Riddle me this: what is the answer to grade inflation?" (Editorial, 25 April). The answer is not a discovery but a rediscovery. With all questions in education the answers are simple - it is civil servants and politicians who make things complex. First, remove all the coursework elements from exams. Second, move from criterionreferenced testing to norm-referenced testing.

R Wolstencroft

Cardiff, Wales

Dispelling all hope of spelling reform

Masha Bell ("To break the rules, first we must spell them out", Letters, 4 April) seems almost ludicrously to underestimate the problems of English spelling reform. She calls for "modernisation", by which she means, one supposes, simplification. But to represent all English sounds clearly would require a system of accents, as in French and German, adding to the complexity. Finnish (her "simple" ideal) uses many umlauts, presumably to denote vowel-differences. English has two sounds for "th" (as in "the" and "tooth"): wouldn't we need an extra letter for one - say the Old English _? Some modernisation!

The critical question is: what committee would recommend a spelling reform, and what authority would it have over schools, let alone the rest of society? We could end with a confusion of systems (as we already have with partial metrication).

Ms Bell grossly oversimplifies the whole problem of literacy in relation to education, seeming to assume, like so many, that "creativity" will automatically result from basic literacy. But literacy is not the be-all and end-all, it is only the first stage in developing powers of thought and it needs to keep in step with the demands of a student's growing maturity.

From the viewpoint of the teacher I am dismayed that "experts" seek to take over teaching when betraying a slack grasp of its nature.

Nigel Probert

Porthmadog, Wales

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