12th February 2016 at 00:00

Jo Brighouse has hit the nail on the head (“Metaphorically speaking, this is getting simile”, 5 February). She echoes a conversation I had this week with our Year 5 teacher, who complained that two children cried in her literacy class because they couldn’t write a story.

I suggested that maybe they could if they hadn’t had three days’ worth of success criteria shoved down their throats before starting. Maybe, just maybe, they’re not “wimps” at all. Maybe, just maybe, they have wonderful, creative ideas for their “myths and legends” story but are nervous that they won’t tick the boxes. We must allow for creativity in its raw form – at least some of the time.

Disillusioned primary teacher

Independents stand firm

There have been many predictions of imminent decline in private education and Lord Lucas joins a long, if not very distinguished, list of ill-informed commentators (“From class C to A-grade, state schools are on the rise”, Insight, 5 February). The opinions expressed by the owner of The Good Schools Guide are simplistic and contradictory.

Those who properly understand private schools welcome improvements in maintained schools and remain confident that, by continuing to provide outstanding education and care, independents will remain a vibrant partner in the country’s increasingly diverse education sector.

John Tranmer

Chair, the Independent Association of Prep Schools

Lord Lucas’ assertion that the private sector is in crisis feeds the age-old divide between the sectors and is about as far from the truth as could be.

Many parents are looking to the private sector for the first time, worried by the curriculum squeeze and the growth of faceless academy chains. Inflationary house prices mean that parents are finding, in many cases, it is actually cheaper to “go private”, particularly with the number of bursaries on offer.

They are also looking beyond the media’s portrayal of the private sector as elite and expensive. That’s why data from the Independent Schools Council shows year-on-year increases in numbers. Lord Lucas, after all, is just trying to sell a product, and that’s easier if he bashes an industry that remains the envy of the world.

Neil Roskilly

Chief executive, Independent Schools Association

What’s happened to love of language?

The writing exemplification materials and assessment criteria for reaching the “expected” levels are the most depressing, unmanageable and child-unfriendly documents to have passed through my hands in four decades of working in schools. What has happened to real learning and the love of language? Thank goodness that the exit door beckons at the end of this school year.

Hilary Richardson

Headteacher, Parish CofE Primary School, Bromley

Let’s get to the point on ‘core’ subjects

Many subjects are feeling squeezed in schools today, whether through budget cuts (“Academies cut curriculum and staff as budgets shrink”, Insight, 5 February) or as a result of the English Baccalaureate. Angry critiques have been aired for design and technology and for the arts. But in all this noise we have missed the stealthy birth of a new concept: the core academic subject. We need to stop and think carefully about this potentially intellectually flabby and socially divisive notion.

Bill Lucas

Professor of learning, University of Winchester

The sad fate of academy governors

Thank you for your article about the disappearing autonomy of academies (bit.ly/AcadAutonomy). You quote Ian Comfort from the Academies Enterprise Trust as saying that heads in maintained schools have more autonomy than their peers in multi-academy trust (MAT) schools.

The same is true of governing bodies. Before conversion, they had powers and tenure that today they can only dream of. And then they find themselves unceremoniously abolished, as in the E-Act chain. By contrast, it takes the education secretary’s signature to abolish a maintained school governing body.

Governors are, by and large, smart people who do a good job. They don’t want to be stripped of all levers to improve a school while the MAT chief executive runs it like a local authority in the 1970s, and with modest success at that.

Phil Hand


Facebook users respond to Stephen Grix on work-life balance bit.ly/GrixBalance

“I have it for the first time in my life. I don’t work at weekends and I leave school at 3.20pm. How? I’ve moved country.”


“I’m done with teaching – it is not a sustainable career when you have a family, unless you’re married to the job.”


And to the Cosmic Classroom project (www.tes.com/cosmicclassroom)

“What a great experience for all the kids and one they’ll always remember.”


Twitter users on academy cuts


“Will we be seeing academies getting sponsorship from big business? How long till McDonald’s, Apple, Games Workshop academies…?”


And on competition between state and private schools

“So many non-UK pupils attend UK boarding schools now, I wonder what the national relevance of these institutions is.”


From the TES Community forums

“Ofsted: England’s biggest academy chain is ‘failing too many pupils’ ” (bit.ly/AcademyFail)

When LAs ran schools, they were at least democratically elected and locally accountable. In theory, at least, LAs could be voted out. Academies are neither – and if more chains get rid of their governing bodies, there’ll be even less transparency and accountability to parents and the community. It stinks!


“Academy chains forced to cut teachers and the curriculum” (bit.ly/AcadCuts)

My view is that the funding model is designed to deliver profits in the form of inflated salaries at the top of the chain. This is an unnecessary continuation of top slicing.


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