On an Olympics high, but are we lowering the bar?

26th August 2016 at 00:00

As Team GB celebrates a record number of medals, to be consistent with the way young people’s exam achievements are annually derided, certain media hacks will presumably be sharpening their quills to write about how Olympic standards are slipping. How it’s much easier to get a medal now they’ve “lowered the bar”…or doesn’t that sell papers?
Science teacher

It was a great idea to feature teachers who inspired Olympic athletes (“Meet the teachers who lit Team GB’s Olympic flame”, Insight, 19 August) but why only secondary teachers? In some cases, I suspect that spark was ignited by primary teachers with a passion for sport. Let’s give them some credit.
Colin Richards
Spark Bridge, Cumbria

A burning injustice

“Poor boys eschew HE: who says they’re wrong?” (Editorial, 19 August) calls for a better understanding of working-class culture. Perhaps Ann Mroz should do what she herself suggests.

The reality isn’t that working-class children do not aspire to university. Many of them do. The article is right to say there is nothing inferior about “decent high-paying trades”. However, these jobs are reducing in number and the vast majority do not pay as well as the majority of graduate jobs.

I founded and lead the National Education Opportunities Network (NEON). Our experiences tell us that many working-class young people never get to choose their educational path or even think about HE. We are working every day to change this burning injustice.
Dr Graeme Atherton
Director, NEON

Combating extremism

It is now a widely held view, supported by the Chilcot report, that British military intervention in the Middle East has contributed to destabilisation in that area which, in turn, has resulted in increased terrorist activity around the world. Is it not hugely ironic, therefore, that Adrian Packer, the chief executive of Birmingham’s former Park View School has introduced a “Combined Cadet Force, in association with the British military” in order to “combat radicalisation” (“Trojan horse school and British values: don’t mention the Queen”, Insight, 12 August)?
Cormac Loane

Appeal to heart and head

Ed Dorrell’s imprecation that the “Anti-grammar school argument must heed Brexit’s lessons” and target the heart (Editorial, 12 August) was rightly supported by your letters last week. When I failed the 11-plus, my parents were in despair because they couldn’t afford the cheapest private school. I only managed to get to university because of a visionary head who tutored students.

Where I part company is with the dismissal of educationalists quoting research. It sounds a bit too close to Michael Gove’s condemnation of experts. The fact is that the OECD’s Pisa has consistently found successful education systems are undermined by pupil selection. The anti-selection campaign should focus on the heart and head. It would be silly to ignore stark evidence when it stares you in the face.
John Bangs
Honorary visiting fellow, University of Cambridge

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