29th January 2016 at 00:00

As an RE teacher, I always turn to Tom Bennett’s comments in TES. It was really nice to read this week’s article about making children cry (“I’m not proud of it, but I make children cry”, Comment, January 22).

Everyone always has an opinion on RE and this mainly focuses around what religions should or should not be taught. But what is often forgotten is how amazing RE teachers can provide a classroom in which students can feel confident to write about issues they may never have discussed before with anyone else.

Tom writes about the girl who wrote about her parents’ divorce in her RE book and had never told anyone else her feelings about it before. RE allows students to discuss ethical issues and gives them space to think about their own feelings and share their views.

It is so important and I want to shout out about all those great teachers who enable this sort of reflection to happen. It may not be linked to levels or grades necessarily, but it is linked to life skills and these are just as important for our young people.

Natasha Fox

Chelmsford, Essex

Digital daydreamers

I was intrigued and dismayed by the long article on the digital school day (“Teaching unplugged: my week without tech”, Feature, 15 January).

As a long-retired language teacher, my understanding of my craft is that there are two levels of interaction between teacher and learner: the conscious and the non-conscious. The conscious is the level of fact and transmission of information, whereas at the non-conscious level, the rules change.

At this deeper level, the teacher can convey confident expectation non-verbally through gaze, movement, gesture, voice tone and laughter to relax and prepare the learner.

Slowness on the surface allows great speed at the multidimensional levels beyond it. Daydreaming would be a positive indication that such activity is in progress. It seems to me that there is no space in the digital world for hyper-concentration, only surface speed and perpetual distraction.

Grethe Hooper Hansen

Batheaston, Bath

Power to the pupils

I watched Educating the East End and just read your interview with Jenny Smith (“‘The constant fear almost sent me over the edge’”, Leadership, 15 January). I wasn’t very impressed.

For one thing, I have no time for people who work 15-hour days and six- or seven-day weeks. As a libertarian conservative, I don’t believe in smart uniform or any other kind of uniform; why shouldn’t they wear what they want? Or have piercings? I don’t believe school should be there to prepare the right kind of employees.

And, as a democrat, I believe the head should be elected by staff rather than appointed by governors, and that all school rules should require the assent of a freely elected school council with one rep for each year.

Anticipating one argument, to paraphrase Sojourner Truth [the 19th-century African-American abolitionist]: ain’t the kids part of the “community”?

And I have little time for people who base their conduct on the potential disapproval of coffee-morning gossips.

Mark Taha


Have faith in French students

Peter Gumbel is absolutely right to stress the need to tackle social inequality in France (“Citizens’ army will promote ‘French values’ in schools”, Insight, 15 January). Without tackling existing inequality, the French revolutionary ideal of “liberté, égalité and fraternité” is just an empty slogan.

The film The Class, set in a multi-ethnic school in Paris, shows many of the social and racial tensions in France. Part of this is teachers underestimating the abilities of students. In one scene the French teacher, Mr Marin, and the history teacher discuss literature and history. Mr Marin advises his colleague that studying the Enlightenment satirist Voltaire would be too difficult for the teenage students in his class. It transpires that one of the girls in the class has been studying Plato’s Republic.

It is important for teachers to have high expectations of their students, and confidence in their ability to grasp intellectually challenging texts.

Shouvik Datta


Facebook users respond to Ann Mroz’s editorial on workload


We should have a 40-hour week like most full-time jobs. However, 18 should be for teaching and 22 should be for marking and planning, when they cannot use you for cover or other tasks.

Raegan Finlay

Bernard Trafford on why school leaders shouldn’t be judged on results bit.ly/moraleruined

You can work as hard as you can but when it comes to the effort a child puts into an exam and they fail it’s still everyone’s fault but the child’s!

Graham Teasdale

Twitter response to whether Ofsted could be facing the final curtain


The final throes before a change – to a more developmental, relationship with schools – bit like LA model.


On Twitter:

I haven’t even started my teacher training yet but @tes is my new best friend #amazing


From the TES Community forums

State schools must promote appenticeships


Of course the pupils know they exist and they are “promoted” as much as FE/uni. Considering that careers advice is given by teachers, many of whom went from studenthood to teaching, they may not be the best arbiters; can I suggest a dedicated careers service? LOL!


A clear understanding of how apprenticeships operate must be taught. A reasonably well informed 16-year-old should be capable of deciding.


Am I right in thinking BTECs and other vocational routes will not be part of league tables in the future? So how is that going to help?


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