TES letters

Put creativity in context by embedding soft skills

"When creativity and facts are a good match" (News, 9 May) revealed that the UK is ranked sixth out of 39 in The Learning Curve report, below the premier league East Asian nations.

The key point missing in the skills v knowledge debate is context. Skills are the ability to do something well, but context is essential in determining what "doing something well" means.

If you assess problem-solving in a paper-based test you look for a limited use of it. Yet when such "soft skills" are practised regularly, in different contexts, they develop in sophistication and necessitate creativity. East Asian governments and educationalists know that creativity is vital and are trying to move away from rote learning that limits creative interpretation.

We need an education system where problem-solving isn't seen only as a box-ticking exercise. As Singapore shows us, 21st-century learning is about embedding these skills into the curriculum so that they are developed in a range of contexts.

Phil Parker

Ex-senior leader; education consultant for Student Coaching

Perhaps South Korean pupils are better at problem-solving not because they have to learn more facts but because they do not have to learn thousands of irregular spellings, such as blue, shoe and flew. The systematic spelling of Korean allows quick and easy literacy acquisition, meaning that pupils are less likely to lose their initial enthusiasm for learning. The long battle with English literacy has far more potential to demotivate.

Masha Bell

Author, Wareham, Dorset

Hit and Miss record on equality

"What Miss really means" (Feature, 9 May) could have used further historical examples of the discrimination against women in schools. For instance, the Burnham Committee first set out national pay scales for elementary school teachers in 1919, putting women's pay at 80 per cent of men's, on the grounds that men had to support a family. In 1919, a group of male teachers broke away from the NUT teaching union in disgust at its support for equal pay, forming what became the NAS. This was forced to merge with women's union the NUWT in 1976 after single-sex unions were prohibited, forming the NASUWT.

Lois Louden


Speak out for struggling teachers

Nelson Thornberry's "An exodus of talent" (Comment, 9 May) struck a depressing chord by alluding to the intense and intolerable pressures that many teachers now face on a daily basis.

TES paints a picture that everything in education is rosy. It is not. The government and inspectorate Ofsted treat teachers with contempt. Teachers are at breaking point. Yet TES is silent.

Mr Thornberry's piece was a rare example of someone daring to speak the truth. It is time for TES to show moral courage and survey those at the sharp end. It has a duty to give a voice to the teachers trying to do a good job in difficult circumstances.

Simon Martin

Head of religious education, Reading

The learner is forgotten once again

I finally plucked up the courage to read the Department for Education report Reforming Assessment and Accountability for Primary Schools (March 2014). After 25 years of a national curriculum, nothing has been learned by our policymakers. There is no mention of the "learner". Instead, the focus is on "setting a higher bar", "no child allowed to fall behind", "floor" standards and external testing. This report marks a nadir: the resurrection of the mantra of "external testing good, teacher assessment flawed" and the return of external testing of seven-year-olds because teachers are not trusted to support emerging learners.

Professor Bill Boyle

Tarporley, Cheshire

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