New tests needn’t spell disaster for dyslexic pupils

18th March 2016 at 00:00

While sympathising with the outrage and injustice felt by headteachers at the Department for Education’s stance on spelling in key stage 2 writing assessments and the impact on students with dyslexia, one needs to keep a sense of proportion – although I accept that this is far easier said than done (Insight, 11 March).

My advice is to step back and reflect. A low spelling score, age 11, is not going to affect a person’s career or life choices – ask Richard Branson, Nigel Kennedy or Keira Knightley. There will always be issues of low self-esteem for those who struggle to spell, just as there are for those who believe they are “useless” at maths or “rubbish” at sport.

I know of one dyslexic who at 11 years old was the only pupil in a cohort of 160 to achieve level 3 in English. Yes, she was downhearted for a while, but with support and encouragement she bounced back, eventually leaving school with three good A levels. She is now a teacher.

David Rowlands

Lydbrook, Gloucestershire

To instil compassion, we must live it

The anonymous headteacher who paints such a depressing picture of a future schools system “run by a handful of huge academy chains” (Feature, 11 March) nonetheless comes across as engaged in the struggle against divisive cuts, caring and in touch with their staff and students.

The description of the one compulsory redundancy as “a harrowing procedure” really struck a chord with me. At my place of work, large numbers of staff on fixed-term contracts were recently told briskly – and without empathy – that they wouldn’t have jobs to return to in September. They were then left waiting weeks for more information. The contrast between this heartless approach and the agonising one described by the writer makes me wish there were more heads like them in charge of schools.

Do we really want to borrow cut-throat practices from business while attempting to instil a sense of community and compassion in our students?

Name and address supplied

Supply teachers can meet the demand

School funding problems and the teacher recruitment crisis are linked by their detrimental effect on education, so I would suggest the following. First, scrutinise school structures. Seemingly, too many highly paid leaders – or should this be administrators? – exist. Second, conduct a skills audit and adjust teacher training. Third, billions is spent on obtaining teachers via recruitment agencies. The main beneficiaries are the agencies and not the students and teachers. Instead, a public sector database should be set up for schools to obtain suitable supply teachers.

Resources could be more effectively used to improve teaching and learning by employing experienced supply teachers who are passionate to re-enter the profession.

Harriet Carter

Teacher working in supply after redundancy

What role is there for play?

Dear Ms Morgan, I’m a newly qualified teacher in Year 1. Things have been OK, despite the crippling workload, and my headteacher seems satisfied with my performance so far. However, she is encouraging me to get rid of my role play area next term in order to “get the children ready for more formal learning in Year 2”.

My headteacher’s main concern is the new standards expected by the end of key stage 1, particularly in writing. Because of the fear of slipping below government standards, many teachers seem to be taking the view that creative subjects and play-based learning must be cut back.

Do you feel that flying in the face of a considerable body of research is the avenue that we should be travelling along in order to meet arbitrary (and frankly fanciful) standards? Or should we continue to provide a largely play-based learning curriculum throughout KS1, which we know to be the most effective way of engaging children and allowing learning to be rooted in their own experiences?

On a practical level, it comes down to this: can I have a superhero hideout in my classroom next term or not?

Name and address supplied

Primary teacher

Exclamations: straight to the point

At last we have a clear statement from the government regarding its vision for English education in the 21st century. We are charged with providing a workforce that is in full control of the exclamation mark (“Making a mark on children’s exclamations”, Letters, 11 March).

Stephanie Gibson

Headteacher, St Catherine’s Primary School, Surrey

Facebook users respond to literacy expert Pie Corbett on grammar testing

“I love grammar. In fact I’m a pain in the butt about it, but it needs to be relevant, in context and fun!”


“Marking has become such a bore, and my enjoyment of my pupils’ writing has severely waned by the time I try to spot the 29th fronted adverbial and subordinating conjunction.”


“Children need to be encouraged to write for pleasure and purpose not to make every sentence grammatically correct in every way.”


And to the impact of new primary writing assessments on dyslexic pupils

“Some of my most creative writers have suffered from dyslexia. Making children feel like failures due to a disability is appalling.”


“My son is struggling to keep up with the expectations and is totally aware of it…he belittles himself, which makes my heart bleed.”


From the TES Community forums

Tony Blair on the need for ‘innovation’ in education, including for-profit providers (

It was his government’s idea [to bring in] academies and look at the mess we are in.


There is no need for for-profit education in the UK. However, developing countries do not have our established institutions with huge checks and balances on what governments do.


He has absolutely no stake in the community that the rest of us live in. Upon what basis does he think he has the right to pontificate? He is yesterday’s man, living in yesterday’s world. Blair, nobody is listening any more!


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