4th March 2016 at 00:00

Reading Nick Gibb’s article (“This panic over primary assessment is nonsense”, Comment, 26 February) leads me to the following suggestion. He should consider the idea of teacher-minister exchanges – and he should be the first minister in such an exchange with a primary school in London. It would offer him the opportunity to better understand how hard primary staff work – and how much of this work has sadly moved from teaching children to administration in order to facilitate “measurement”. His place could be taken by a primary school teacher – voted on by state school primary staff – to act as an assistant/adviser to Nicky Morgan for a term. As a retired secondary maths teacher now volunteering two mornings a week in my local primary school, I cannot begin to explain the respect I have for the work that staff now have to do.

Mike Rath

Barnstaple, Devon

In his article, Nick Gibb tries to be reassuring (unlike your provocative headline). However, he fails to address the appropriateness of the standards themselves. Teachers are gravely concerned about pupils’ ability to achieve them. One teacher commented on our blog: “Writing standards are way beyond what was expected. Maths is virtually Year 7 content with too much to cover. SPAG is nonsense – some of the grammar knowledge is way beyond the current level of Year 6.” Voice is calling for the standards to be reviewed and revised, and I will be raising this, and other concerns, with Nick Gibb at our next meeting.

Deborah Lawson

General secretary, Voice: the union for education professionals

Nick Gibb stresses that he wants to “save primary teachers any unnecessary worry or workload before the summer term so that they can focus on what is most important – teaching”. This implies that their summer term will be focusing not on teaching but on assessment and testing. What a waste of those late spring and early summer months when children could be enjoying meaningful learning and good teaching rather than preparing to be tested on subjunctives and modal verbs.

Colin Richards


How kind of Nick Gibb to urge us all not to panic over primary assessment. Was the juxtaposition of this piece with Tom Bennett’s headline on the facing page – “Try not to be smug” – deliberate?

Dr Helen J Williams


Change is all in the name of progress

It’s good to see Sam Freedman drawing attention to the huge changes that Progress 8 will bring (“Massive upheaval will change schools’ focus”, Insight, 26 February). As an important part of this change, our research shows that Progress 8 will reward progress by less able students more than able ones. This is part of the government’s agenda, which began in coalition, to require schools to raise the attainment of students who currently leave school with poor qualifications or none. International comparisons show that England does very poorly by its less-able students, which is a huge waste of talent and opportunity.

Laurie Smith

Let’s Think in English, King’s College London

‘Broad-brush’ initiatives are final straw

I am a headteacher of 13 years. I have experienced two “outstanding” Ofsted gradings and been accredited as a national leader of education (NLE). Or should I say ‘was’, as last week I resigned. Partly this was due to the heavy-handedness of a confused Ofsted team, but it was mainly because of the plethora of poorly thought-out initiatives and agendas that we are being asked to promote: crass safeguarding initiatives such as disqualification by association; broad brushes to attack elements of safeguarding that are wholly inappropriate to individuals and their role; the increasing shift of social services and medical responsibilities into school; the farce that is assessment. But my greatest concern is the seemingly accepted view that it is now the ‘job’ of primary education to prepare for GCSEs. It won’t be long before this is started at baseline assessment and children are harried throughout their primary career with fears of failure. Of course we must promote academic achievements, but we must also let children be children.

Stewart Plowes

Darwen, East Lancashire

Facebook users respond to Gordon Cairns’ blog, “I fear you can’t be both a good parent and a good teacher”


“My son aged 17 was diagnosed with cancer in March. I am ashamed to say it was this that made me finally realise how much I put work before home. He has just finished his treatment and I will never put school before my family again. They managed without me and no one will die if I don’t commit my whole life to my job!”


“Very true, sometimes it feels like ‘every child matters’ except mine. I love my job but it’s so hard to get a good balance.”


“This is why I left teaching. I’m still in education but not in the classroom. I’ve rediscovered being a parent. No regrets at all.”


It took two years for me to realise my six-year-old son was dyslexic. I was so busy giving summative and formative feedback in my marking to notice that he was struggling himself.


From the TES Community forums

Ofsted’s Sir Michael Wilshaw on the “moral obligation” of UK teachers not to leave and work abroad.


If he really means it, he should lobby the government to create a scheme where, say, graduates who go into teaching in state schools get a year of their student loan paid off for each year they teach.


Rather than solving the problem of why teachers are leaving, simply guilt trip them in to staying in an awful profession we refuse to fix.


No surprise to me that you’d go somewhere where the job is still pleasurable. Wilshaw will always look to apportion blame elsewhere though.


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