22nd January 2016 at 00:00

In your otherwise excellent article on the lunacy of key stage 2 times table tests (“Why the new multiplication tests are dividing opinion”, Insight, 8 January), you quote Tim Oates of Cambridge Assessment as saying the tests could help England to catch up with global rivals and averring that schools would prefer them to another numeracy strategy.

Given that many thousands of teachers received the best CPD they’d ever had on numeracy from the National Numeracy Strategy, what planet is he living on? I never thought I’d hear him say that teaching by rote was a substitute for quality professional learning!

John Bangs

Greenwich, London

We’re not technophobes

At last TES is balancing some previously uncritical promotion of IT with more thought-provoking coverage about the gimmickry of many apps, the unwanted side effects that intensify workload, and the burden on school budgets (Ed tech special, 15 January).

Teachers are not technophobes. They fully appreciate washing machines and vacuum cleaners that liberate them from domestic drudgery; the internet that opens a virtual library; and photocopiers, which are great when not jammed. IT is a hugely profitable industry, which ought to be delivering reliable, relevant, labour-saving benefits. After all, when the internet is down, teachers still teach.

Yvonne Williams

Ryde, Isle of Wight

A Bard act to follow

Roger Brown is right. Regional schools commissioners (RSCs) do invite comparisons with the short-lived, ineffectual Cromwellian major-generals (Comment, 15 January). But note, too, that “ RSC” is also the abbreviation for the Royal Shakespeare Company, and this invites other comparisons.

How many RSCs are concerned with “much ado about nothing”? How many accord their favourite academies or chains the freedom to do “as you like it”? Are they all equally concerned with “measure for measure”? Can we be sure that the evolving but shambolic arrangements governing our fragmented educational system will result in “all’s well that ends well”? Or, most significantly of all, are we witnessing a tragic “comedy of errors”?

Professor Colin Richards

Spark Bridge, Cumbria

Speaking up for the academies

I feel I was pretty clear in my 8 January Whispers from Westminster column as to where I come from and why I advocate an all-academised system. I even provided a helpful link to a published report in which my argument, and that of Policy Exchange, the thinktank that I work for, is set out at exhaustive length (bit.ly/PrimaryFocus). So I’m not quite sure that Anurag Jain has uncovered some big, hidden secret (“ ‘Partisan analysis’ cuts both ways”, Feedback, 15 January).

On one point though, I fear I have to correct the record. Policy Exchange does not advocate for for-profit schools, and indeed has written (most recently in late 2015) explicitly against them. The report referred to was published shortly before the 2010 election – six years ago. Funnily enough, although I have pointed this out several times to the Local Schools Network, among others, they still persist in making this claim (most recently in their ironically titled book The Truth About Our Schools). Perhaps the actual truth just makes for less of a story.

Jonathan Simons

Head of education, Policy Exchange

The circular thinking of ‘centralisation’

Sir Peter Newsam is right to suggest that academisation is simply “nationalisation by another name” (Feedback, 8 January). But it isn’t only the teaching unions that are aware of the implications. In an episode of Yes, Prime Minister in 1988, Sir Humphrey was not enthusiastic at the prospect of 24,000 schools operating independently in a free market. He preferred a different approach – centralisation. And the name of that episode? “The National Education Service”!

John Till

Professional officer for Wales, Voice

Twitter and Facebook users respond to last week’s ed tech special

“I still think the ‘distraction’ is a behavioural issue and not technology related. #edtech #mobilephone”


“Looking and listening. Interaction is hard to achieve with a gadget in your hand.”


“Tech free for a week? 26 years old, teaching 3 years, computing coordinator, no idea how I’d teach without any tech.”


“Pretty sure I’d be a wreck by Day 2.”


And on “Parenting not schools has the biggest impact on student outcomes, so why are teachers blamed for results?” (bit.ly/SchoolParent)

“You can’t teach kids that don’t want to learn, no matter how many interventions or even bribes you try. If the parents won’t even read with their children what chance have they got!”


“Pupils have to take responsibility for their own learning. Their parents also have to play their part.”


From the TES Community forums

We teach only to tick boxes


It has reduced the job of a teacher to a mere bureaucrat. It trains the kids to be the same way. Unthinking, uncritical drones.


Teaching has become pyramid-shaped. Teaching students is merely the capstone at its apex. The massive dead weight of limestone blocks below it represents the time spent on pointless paperwork.


The whole system is based on a completely false premise that children improve year on year in a steady, upward trajectory. The brighter kids can see what’s going on. They know that we are all cogs in a machine.


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