26th February 2016 at 00:00

Can someone please explain how I can help my students stay sane in an insane world? One day we hear in the news of an acute mental-health care crisis and the next, during London Fashion Week, we find that size zero triumphs once again. How about that for ambition? An aspiration to be zero. Nothing. To not exist.

While we encourage our students to value how they can contribute to medicine, politics and industry, they feel, on the whole, compelled to be identified by how they appear to the world, not how they shape it. How confusing is that?

It is not only our female students who feel the pressure. Young men are increasingly concerned with body image. We must continue to challenge our airbrushed world and encourage students to question the agenda of mass media and its interdependent relationship with the fashion industry. It’s enough to drive anyone mad.

Margaret Inglessis

Psychology teacher

Biased attitudes run deep

Dr Sally Palmer makes a very serious and important point in Simon Creasey’s feature (“Is unconscious bias holding your pupils back?”, 19 February) about “promoting positive attitudes towards minority groups at an early age in the hope that [they] extend into adulthood”.

This should be far more than just addressing any negative attitudes, important as that is. It must be about helping children to unlearn those behaviours and assumptions that lurk deep in our society.

Jane Lane

Advocate worker for racial equality in education

What happened to social mobility?

Some of the measures being taken by parents to secure a place for their children in the best independent schools – such as mothers booking specially timed caesarians to get ahead of the admissions race and three-year-olds receiving private tuition – are obscene (“Can I get a school place for the baby I intend to have?”, Insight, 19 February). It’s high time that top state schools upped their game and started to counter the narrative that private education is axiomatically superior. Whatever happened to social mobility?

Stan Labovitch

Windsor, Berkshire

Market-driven reform sells pupils short

Andy Hargreaves refers to the backlash of market-driven reforms to education (“Why England is in the ‘guard’s van’ of reform”, Comment, 29 February). This appears to be all about reducing teaching to a delivery system. Get the system right so anyone can deliver; the cheaper the better.

This kind of thinking is not only wrong, it is dangerous. The professional status of teachers is under attack and the risk is that we are failing vast numbers of children just when we need them to find answers to some of the greatest threats our world has ever seen.

Frederick Sandall

Retired headteacher

Defence of ‘easy’ subjects is a hard sell

I read the letters regarding “hard” and “easy” subjects with interest (“Talk of ‘easy’ subjects is hard to swallow”, 19 February). Rob Penman makes reference to “sustained efforts…to improve standards” in English – but is this the same as being a hard or easy subject?

Is the standard of English writing and comprehension required to achieve a grade C at GCSE higher now than it was 25 years ago? I honestly don’t know, but I don’t think that GCSE English has got harder in any measurable way. As for a reduction in the percentage of C-grade passes being an “injustice” to pupils who rely on this to move on to higher study – that’s only a valid point if they have achieved the standard of English needed for that further study.

In reference to David Baker’s hypothesis that “children get higher grades in subjects where they are motivated”, we must remember that the percentage of each grade is predetermined by Ofqual, based on prior attainment. So if, on average, students nationally achieve higher grades in one subject compared to another, isn’t that simply related to the “difficulty” of the subject as determined by Ofqual?

Mark Smith



In the 19 February issue of TES, the odds ratios of black Caribbean students excluded to white students excluded were published incorrectly. The correct figures can be found here: bit.ly/ExclusionStats

Facebook users respond to news that £30,000 training bursaries aren’t stemming the recruitment crisis bit.ly/30Kbursary

“Maybe they should focus on retaining teachers by reducing workload and increasing salary to competitive levels instead of the real-terms cut in pay over the last decade.”


“If people go into teaching for the money then they are most definitely in the wrong job. There are hundreds of jobs out there and so few teachers that people are able to accept a job, interview for another ‘more desirable’ school then turn down the original school!”


“The £30K is lovely, but the problem is that as soon as you start your NQT year you take a pay cut while working twice as hard as your training year, making a very disheartening start to your ‘career’.”


“What they need to do is give power back to the teachers, stop treating children as data and pay teachers what they are worth.”


From the TES Community forums

Training bursaries are failing to tackle the teacher recruitment crisis


The crazy working conditions in schools, and the public standing of teachers, are forcing out or putting off people who would have become good teachers.


Surely the sort of person who is looking to genuinely go into teaching is more than just money motivated. Those who think they would be in it for the long haul would join regardless of the bursary!


Let students co-plan your lessons (bit.ly/Co-Plan)

It can occasionally work on investigative projects, but with a group of 30, collective planning is heavy going.


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