‘Horrified’ by baseline test claims

6th November 2015 at 00:00

It was with utter dismay that we read Dr Richard House’s letter (“Wellbeing of pupils is key to debate on baseline tests”, 30 October).

Dr House seems to insult the 12,000 schools who chose to use EExBA assessment and what must be more than 50,000 early years practitioners whom he believes are “colluding with this unnecessary new assessment” and therefore the “enemies of our young children’s wellbeing and age-appropriate development”, causing the further “toxic ‘schoolification’ of early childhood”. Strong words that Early Excellence and all the practitioners who work closely with us will be horrified by.

One of the key strengths of Early Excellence is how we help practitioners to remain true to their values and beliefs about young children’s education within the context of current policy. Using EExBA is, for them, a principled choice. The very first part of EExBA is to assess the child’s wellbeing using the Leuven Scales as this is the most important aspect of their capacity to learn and develop.

Our experience of teachers using EExBA has been overwhelmingly that this has supported an appropriate and flexible pedagogy – largely because it does focus on the aspects that matter, particularly wellbeing and involvement.

Liz Marsden and Jan Dubiel

Director and national development manager, Early Excellence

Seeing Hanukkah in a new light

I would like to thank TES for promoting the forthcoming Jewish festival of Hanukkah in early December on the cover of your 30 October edition. I couldn’t help but notice something odd about the cover picture for the “Guiding lights” feature. The composite image was of a reindeer or elk with a nine-branched, antler-like candelabra on its head. I realised with some surprise that it was in fact a menorah, a Jewish religious artefact used during Hanukkah, which is also known as the Festival of Lights.

Jo Richler

Lead consultant, Ciel Associates

‘If it’s worth doing, do it badly’

Tom Bennett writing about “The best advice I ever got” (Comment, 23 October) reminded me that when I was an inexperienced and hard-pressed teacher, my head told me: “If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.”

His point was that teachers are often asked to do the impossible – either because of lack of time, resources or sometimes both. Nevertheless, he argued, this should not be a reason for not attempting something, so if the job needs doing, do it to the best of your ability.

David Rowlands

Lydbrook, Gloucestershire

Blinded by focus on phonics

The government is obsessed with phonics. But it seems that Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw can’t see the clear link between primary’s successes with phonics (“Wilshaw: ‘Nobody can say phonics isn’t working’ ”, News at a glance, 30 October) and his remark that the “benefits are being lost” by the time pupils move to secondary.

Phonics can teach children to make sense of marks on the page, but it does not teach comprehension. It comes nowhere near teaching the range of other high-level skills that real reading requires, including prediction, inference, empathy and making connections.

The success of the focus on phonics should come as no surprise – schools will generally do what assessment regimes require of them. We don’t have any evidence yet on the long-term effects of phonics drilling. However, no one should be surprised if there is a negative impact on the development of the aspects of literacy that support a child to enjoy reading through secondary school and beyond.

Jane Branson

Jane Branson Learning, East Sussex

From social media

The Department for Education’s £3 million television advert to attract new teachers has certainly got people talking.

On the TES Facebook page, Christine Harvey suggests: “Spend £3m on reducing stress and workload. Your staff is your biggest asset in attracting new staff.”

Heidi White adds: “No wonder the general public think we have too many hols, are overpaid and moan too much when the DfE are presenting such a fictitious image of our profession.”

Meanwhile, the advert’s claim that “good” teachers could make as much as £65,000 prompted a few chuckles. “That’s the hours a week [teachers] work!” Sue McLaughlan says.

On Twitter, @LVRANSLEY wonders if it is a surprise policy announcement: “Maybe we are all getting a massive 150% pay rise?!”

Follow TES on Twitter at twitter.com/tes and on Facebook at facebook.com/TESConnect

From the forums

On TES Community this week, some members have announced their dismay at the government’s potential introduction of more “rigorous” tests for seven-year-olds (bit.ly/YetMoreTesting).

Kartoshka writes: “Why do the government seem to think that testing is the answer to all education’s problems? Tests show what pupils can do; they don’t actually help pupils to achieve.”

Lanokia calls the decision “pathetic”, adding: “These tests, at 7 years old, will have zero meaning. But they’ll cause more stress for pupils, for teachers and create more bureaucracy.”

Forum members are also unconvinced by plans to use financial incentives to entice “elite” teachers to work in underperforming schools (bit.ly/EliteTeachers).

Twinklefoottoe writes: “IMHO, even if they can define, attract and recruit [“elite” teachers], it will make no difference to schools. These teachers will be too busy working their normal 12-hour days, 7 days a week, doing the endless pointless jobs all teachers are required to do to start innovating and being dynamic…I bet they get an extra period a week to change the world.”

Key stage 3 science teacher chezdizzy is asking for opinions on single-sex v mixed classes with a view to running a pilot in her school (bit.ly/SingleMixed).

TCSC47 states: “Education should be more than just passing exams in a subject. To segregate children removes one aspect of growing up.”

User caterpillartobutterfly makes some important points: “The independent sector has successfully run single-sex schools for hundreds of years, so one would assume single-sex learning is perfectly possible…[But] how will you persuade staff in a very unequal year group that they are not getting the raw deal with 40 girls when their colleague has 20 boys, or vice versa? Marking, planning, report writing and so on become unmanageable with large classes.”

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