27th May 2016 at 01:00

Over the past few months, I have visited 20 schools in six of the highest-performing education systems in the world, and I saw no correlation between teachers’ dress and educational standards (“Why we need a school uniform for teachers”, Professional, 20 May). Some of the best schools had some of the most casually dressed teachers.

Of course, what works in one country won’t necessarily work in another. In the UK, we have a tradition of formal dress in schools, so informality stands out. But smartness is nothing like as important as teaching skills.

Sir John Holman

Department of Chemistry, University of York

It is astonishing that “Schools should stop policing female attire” (Professional, 20 May) fails to mention the one word that holds the key to resolving the issue: uniform. Skirts must be a suitable length for school.

The issue is not objectification or sexualisation, or obsession with female appearance, but the simple notion of what constitutes appropriate attire for children in a learning environment. Rather than accentuating body differences, uniforms ameliorate the effects of a society obsessed with female perfection, fuelled by celebrity-inspired media. Learning what to wear when (miniskirts for discos, not for school) is an important part of growing up.

Elaine Bracken

Sevenoaks, Kent

The process of Progress 8

A huge thank you for a clear and succinct explanation of Progress 8 (Feature, 27 May). If only the new measure were equally clear! I am horrified that students must suffer through an unfair transition that will leave employers flummoxed by CVs for decades to come.

Most striking and insidious is the attempt to set up a system where schools are constantly pitted against each other. This is not about raising the bar but hiding the bar until they decide to beat you with it. It’s an impossible attempt at “market forces” in education. Someone has to fall below average no matter how well they have improved. Something has to give… unless anyone has seen Rumpelstiltskin recently.

Anna Back

Assistant headteacher, De La Salle School, St Helens

Your otherwise excellent article on Progress 8 doesn’t mention the political reason for introducing it: the need to reduce the tail of students leaving school at 16 with poor qualifications or none. There is cross-party agreement about this. Surveys show that our 16- to 25-year-olds have among the lowest literacy and numeracy in the developed world. This is a huge waste of talent, and arises from a GCSE system where only grades A*-C count, leaving less able students to be treated as relatively unimportant.

Progress 8 is the third strand of policy to rectify this, along with the pupil premium and investment of £110 million in research from the Education Endowment Foundation. The present government remains committed to this policy.

Laurie Smith

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

Earn respect, don’t demand it

I agree with Joe Nutt when he says that governors and headteachers need to treat employees respectfully (Comment, 20 May). However, it works both ways.

Sitting in the staffroom moaning won’t gain you any kudos. If you want to be respected, stop focusing on yourself and start thinking about others. How can you inspire change, growth and innovation?

Respect is for people who deserve it, not those who demand it. Establishing your credibility and demonstrating that you’re proficient at the job for which you were hired is the way to gain respect. Self-respect is important, too. If you do not understand how to appreciate yourself and your worth, how do you expect others to?

Jane Redfern Jones

Chair of governors, St Giles Primary School, Wrexham

Working-class wonders

You are right to focus on the academic underperformance of white, working-class boys (“Evidence be damned: the fault must be female”, Editorial, 27 May). Working-class men such as Labour politicians Ernest Bevin, Aneurin Bevan – the architect of the NHS – and Herbert Morrison played a hugely important role in British public life in the early 20th century. History has an important part to play in highlighting them as role models for today’s children.

Shouvik Datta

South London

Facebook users respond to “Why schools should stop policing female attire” bit.ly/FemaleAttire

“I teach girls that they should respect their bodies and not be the kind of girl who wears a tight, short skirt that leaves nothing to the imagination.”


“This is silly. Do you think it’s only female attire we police? I work in a boys’ boarding house and tell them off for inappropriateness all the time!”


“If a student can’t follow simple instructions on how to dress (a girl caked in make-up or a lad with a halfshaved head), then how can we expect them to follow the other school rules?”


“School time is precious and should be spent teaching, not enforcing a child’s supposed ‘free choice’. Rules are there to be obeyed.”


“Start with the staff first, walking around like they’re out on the town. Be role models!”


“Comments about the policing of women’s bodies and girls wanting to drop out of sports are relevant.”


From the TES Community forums

Schools struggling to recruit should get extra funding


We’re struggling and our school is really not too bad. But management are ineffective – the kids get away with too much and teachers don’t enjoy it as much as they should.


I offer you golden handcuffs of £2,000 a year more. Same job, same conditions, same weak leaders, same unqualified [staff] all over the shop, but £2K extra. £5K extra? Have you got a price?


As it involves spending government money, it is less likely to happen than workload reform or Michael Gove admitting an error.


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