I do not always necessarily agree with the views of Ofsted’s Sir Michael Wilshaw – particularly his hints that unless teachers walk in fear of the head, something is not right. This goes against all my experience of two successful secondary headships and my subsequent work as a school improvement adviser. Having said that, I admire him hugely for his independence of thought and speech – a quality that is absolutely essential in a chief inspector, and even more so when cronyism appears to be so rampant.
Sir Michael has now indicated that his well-earned retirement is imminent and it is absolutely vital that the new chief inspector exhibits the same independence of thought and expression. Should it be suggested that someone from the education secretary’s “inner circle” or closely connected with the latest highly questionable government policies – such as forcible academisation – be appointed, it is my fervent hope that the profession and all right-thinking people will rise up in protest and opposition.
I can live with a leader who expresses views different from mine, but only if I can be confident that they are not merely rehashes of “His Master’s Voice”.
National challenge and school improvement adviser
Attachment disorder: connect the dots
While I agree with Kevin Street that there could be better special educational needs and disabilities training for teachers, I do not share his concern for the lack of attention given to attachment disorder, especially while there is considerable ambiguity over the diagnostic criteria (“In absence of a magic bullet for adoption trauma”, Letters, 8 April). In education, we appear to have a weakness for being sold things that have limited evidence behind them. We need professionals (not those with vested interests) to reach a firmer understanding of what constitutes attachment disorder before we can confidently train new teachers.
Headteacher, Dunchurch Infant School and Nursery, Warwickshire
The best-laid plans are flexible
James Pembroke’s article (The data doctor, Professional, 8 April) shows how we unintentionally short-change pupils. Overzealous interventions distort long-term learning. Gold-plating planning is equally unprofitable. How many times do we plan prolifically and use only a fraction of the material? Pupils’ contributions and wider reading move lessons on; overplanning may smother their independent thought. Lesson planning has been too much about what teachers do. How much more beneficial would it be to leave bigger spaces for pupils? The most useful message from the workload review groups’ reports is that less is better: better learning and better work-life balance.
Ryde, Isle of Wight
Living in a fool’s paradise
The article “Child-centred pedagogy ‘will put us on top of the world’ ” was well positioned in the 1 April edition opposite the By the numbers about Pisa data. Reading it, in my role as chair of governors of an “outstanding” junior school, I at first took the content seriously, because it was not out of keeping with the way schools have been treated by this and previous governments. It wasn’t until the reference to Summerhill School and the content in the penultimate paragraph that I realised it was a spoof and I was an April fool for taking it at face value.
I believe in allowing some time for children to determine their own learning. As a retired teacher, however, I worry that the top-down model currently in place in schools makes it possible for the author to write such an article and for me, as a reader, to take it seriously. Ministers, with a brief time in office, hold too much power over schools and take too little notice of those with real expertise in the education of children: parents and teachers.
Dr Wyn Burke
Chair of governors and retired teacher
The secret’s out…
I think I’ve worked out who your new “expert” columnist “The secret CEO” is (Comment, 8 April). It must be education secretary Nicky Morgan herself. Two clues gave it away: firstly, it’s obviously written by someone who has barely stepped foot inside a school and is so impressed by their own ideas that they can’t appreciate the arguments of anyone else. Secondly, surely only Ms Morgan herself would utter the words “our heroic education secretary”.
Primary school teacher, Lancashire
Facebook users respond to ‘No one utters the word “Ofsted” at my school’
“Schools succeed in spite of Ofsted not because of it. This man has guts and I could only hope to work with someone like him.”
“After 14 years in the profession I haven’t met a teacher who is an Ofsted fan or a head that hates the hoop we have to jump through. Please leave teachers to teach.”
“Unfortunately, I’ve worked in two schools where Ofsted was the standard and driver by which EVERYTHING was judged. It made them horrible, hostile and corrupt places to work.”
“Easy to say when Ofsted has judged you to be ‘outstanding’.”
“Maybe schools would feel more confident in not chasing these validations if parents of bright pupils stopped chasing Ofsted reports.”
“Spot on. I only wish this sentiment was more common.”
From the TES Community forums
School days to get longer
What would happen is that KS3 will have “enrichment” activities and sit there exhausted and unhappy. KS4 will have compulsory exam drilling. Teachers won’t be paid any extra but they will be told to do it “for the good of the children”.
If KS3 aren’t getting home until 5.30pm will those pupils still be expected to do homework after that? They are kids for God’s sake! Also, how is this going to improve the massive problem of teacher workload. If teachers are going to have an extra hour taken out of their day to do revision (and let’s face it academy heads will be forcing this) then it will affect planning and marking time.
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