5th February 2016 at 00:00

Congratulations on such a well-researched and balanced article exposing the weaknesses of the current and crude North-South divide dogma and making a compelling case for a deeper and more sophisticated assessment of school performance (Feature, 29 January).

Given that private tuition and mentoring is now a substantial industry, particularly in the wealthier South, its impact on school outcomes should be acknowledged.

The trajectories for children’s rates of learning steadily diverge from birth onwards according to their social and economic backgrounds. To ignore the statistical evidence for this only serves to reinforce further the crude judgements regarding the North-South divide.

Cecil Knight

Adviser and former headteacher, Small Heath School

Homework is where the art is

Justine Roberts misses the point and purpose of homework for younger children when arguing that it should be voluntary (Parents’ view, Professional, 29 January). Homework for infants is not designed to enable them to master time management but the robust demands of the new curriculum, particularly maths, grammar and spelling. Parents are key partners in this effort and, whether they like it or not, a significant portion of learning must take place outside the classroom.

It is unfair to blame homework for tears and tantrums – it may be the occasion of a parent-child power struggle, but is unlikely to be its cause. Finally, it is patronising to suggest that schools do not understand working days extending beyond 6pm. Many teachers take home marking to be completed once the children are tucked away in bed (homework completed).

Elaine Bracken

Sevenoaks, Kent

Revamp careers guidance

Jonathan Simons writes that the new law to get schools to inform pupils about apprenticeships won’t work (Whispers from Westminster, 29 January). But something must be done. Clearly, it is nonsense to suggest that individual schools could engage with a plethora of providers. A dedicated careers service could do this for them. This existed before the creation of the ill-conceived Connexions set off a downward spiral in provision.

A revamped independent careers service should be mandated to support pupils of all levels of ability so that future plans match the needs of the pupil and the country, not necessarily those of the school leaders and universities.

Michael Sinker

Retired proprietor of Career Discovery

‘Victims of enforced learning’

With the news that nearly half of teachers have dealt with physical aggression from pupils at some point during their careers (Insight, 29 January), can no one see that there is something wrong with our system of schooling?

It is easy to blame the pupils. But they are not evil. They are victims of enforced learning. Anyone who restricts your freedom, forces you into unwanted activity and punishes you if you don’t conform has to be your enemy. Outside the classroom, they are as nice as pie.

Pupils need to be given a stake in what they learn. If they could choose their areas of study, they would work with a will and value, rather than hate, the learning process.

Is anyone brave enough to address this? Or must we continue with the waste and conflict of a system where pupils vent their disenchantment on their teachers?

A J Marsden

Retired secondary school teacher

A positive plan for SEND behaviour

I read with interest Nancy Gedge’s article “Try to keep your emotions in check when teaching children with SEND” (bit.ly/SENDemotions). I am a parent of a young person with complex needs who is a non-verbal communicator, and I find the term “challenging behaviour” a narrow and inapt descriptor, as all behaviour is a form of communication and conveys emotions.

Ms Gedge’s suggestion to “analyse the good times” is the most beneficial. This year, we developed a “positive behaviour plan” for our son with school staff. We are starting a potentially difficult conversation in a positive way.

The recent SEND reforms are quite rightly ensuring that the focus is on what is important to the young person. Our ultimate aspiration for our son, which I’m sure is true for all of us, is to be happy!

Sam Bergin Goncalves


Social media users respond to ‘Schools are not a panacea for deprivation’ bit.ly/WSleader

“If only governments would listen to actual teachers and give the cabinet post of minister for education to a teacher, someone who understands what is needed.”


On ‘Make homework voluntary’ bit.ly/VolHomework

“Parents need to understand it can’t all be done in school time and they should make time at home to help their children.”


“Homework: yes. But reading should be separate from this. Home reading is vital.”


“It’s a cop-out to say parents are too busy. You should spend time listening to your kids read. Ban worksheet homework though.”


On Carol Dweck’s article about praise bit.ly/DweckPraise

“The learning journey is far more valuable than the end product for many learners. Definitely an advocate of Dweck’s works.”


From the TES Community forums

New teachers should not have to plan lessons


Of course you need planning. How would it make an NQT feel comfortable and confident to be winging it in every lesson?


Some of the best lessons I taught were ones I’d just made up as I went along. In fact after a few years most experienced teachers should be able to teach a topic with minimal planning.


I just can’t see how following plans based on what even an experienced teacher taught the previous year is a good idea. Using that as a guide yes, but not having NQTs planning lessons based on their own groups seems bizarre.


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