17th June 2016 at 00:00

While I admire Jules Daulby’s enthusiasm, careful thought must be given about where, when and why phonics might be useful at secondary level (“Sound phonics strategies for secondary schools”, Professional, 10 June).

Phonics instruction helps pupils in two ways: with decoding and with regular spellings. Spending time, as the author suggests, on looking at variants of the same sound (eg, “a, ai, ay”), is unlikely, therefore, to be helpful. How, for example, do I learn to distinguish between “male” and “mail”? The answer has nothing to do with phonics and everything to do with word recognition.

Indeed, almost all sound spelling advice recommends not tackling variant spellings of the same phoneme at the same time. So I would learn “male” alongside “tale”, “gale” and “sale”, with each word approached in context.

Students have plenty to learn in secondary school as it is. For the vast majority, spending time on phonics will contribute very little to their learning.

Andrew McCallum

Director, English and Media Centre

The team makes the leader

I’m delighted that the Education Development Trust’s Steve Munby and other influential speakers are signalling the end of hero leadership (“No more heroes: heads told to pave way for new blood”, Insight, 10 June).

Highlighting the importance of ensuring school leaders are replenished and energised requires a culture change, not least among school leaders themselves. Much school leadership is now run in teams.

It’s clear that the role is too complex for one person. What remains is the idea that leaders should be able to “cope”. My research into school leadership shows the value of proactively building resilience through coaching or group interventions. There is a conspiracy of silence around the pressures on school leaders. There are plenty of coaches ready to support school leaders: they have only to ask.

Julia Steward

Director, Chrysalis Leadership Development

Sats all folks: resits are a bad idea

Jonathan Simons gives several good reasons for opposing Sats resits in Year 7 (Whispers from Westminster, 10 June), but he misses what is surely the most obvious point. It is generally recognised that the Sats are irrelevant, inappropriate, unhelpful and at best a waste of time; how can taking a rotten test twice improve the life chances of anyone?

Russ Law

Coach and Education Consultant

Sats resits in Year 7 are a seriously bad idea. Even their advocates are having second thoughts. Will the Association of School and College Leaders have the courage to follow the lead of the NAHT headteachers’ union some years ago and organise a national boycott of this damaging initiative if the supposed “consultation” fails to convince the government to abandon it? That would be a true test of secondary heads’ self-proclaimed moral purpose.

Colin Richards

Spark Bridge, Cumbria

Undertrained and over-audited

The fact that teachers are being semi-trained (at best) in a ragbag of government-accepted models to become test coaches has been concealed for too long. Now a trinity of the Public Accounts Committee, the departing head of Ofsted (writing his own professional obituary) and the Department for Education are squabbling over the responsibility for the fiasco (bit.ly/TeacherShortages).

While teachers are undertrained and over-audited, nothing will change. The losers will continue to be children and parents, all in the cause of politicians making careers out of false claims of rising standards.

Professor Bill Boyle

Director, TETEC: Education Development and Assessment

Mats must prioritise SEND

Sir Steve Lancashire’s article (“How to expand your MAT beyond 10 schools”, Professional, 3 June) recommends the development of geographical clusters within MATs. In his quest for cost-effectiveness, I’m surprised that he doesn’t refer to the opportunities for economies of scale this offers to participating schools to ensure that their special educational needs and disability (SEND) provision fits in with their relevant local authority’s SEND “offer” as required by the 2014 Code of Practice.

K Wedell

SEND governor, Longtown Community Primary School, Herefordshire

Facebook users on Amanda Spielman getting the nod as the next head of Ofsted bit.ly/ASpielman

“Has never taught…perhaps she could fill her time between now and December in a variety of schools.”


“Those who can’t teach…join Ofsted! Appalling she has never taught Year 9 on a wet and windy afternoon!”


“So sad that the government does not respect the integrity of the teaching profession [enough to] choose a teacher for this job,”


“From corporate finance to the board of an academy chain, the choice speaks volumes about this government’s priorities for education.”


And on one teacher’s new-found love of direct instruction


“This way gets children to pass tests. But what about when they’re out in the real world with no teacher to instruct them?”


“I have always felt that good ‘old- fashioned’ teaching is best, with a little of the other stuff mixed in!”


From the TES Community forums

New Ofsted boss Amanda Spielman has never worked as a teacher


I thought there was no way I could have less respect for Ofsted…I was wrong!


Well all the previous heads [of Ofsted] have been teachers and they made a dog’s breakfast of it so she can’t be any worse.


I just can’t get my head around the fact that this woman, who has never taught a lesson to children in her life, can sit in judgement on teachers and schools, and will have the power to destroy countless careers in the profession. This person will be advising the government as a so-called “expert”.


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