19th February 2016 at 00:00

I wonder whether the inclusion of general studies within the five “hardest” subjects at A level illustrates the inability of statistical modelling to take into account contextual factors (“Grading shake-up could lead to ‘big drop’ in passes”, Insight, 12 February). It is rarely given either the curriculum time or the intense, exam-focused teaching from which other subjects benefit. Moreover, it is often compulsory. That pass rates are low is not surprising, and to classify it as a “hard” subject is surely misleading.

In the opposite way, and rather more importantly, the classification of GCSE English as “easy” is also dangerously wide of the mark. More so than any other subject, English has been the focus of sustained efforts over almost 30 years to improve standards. Schools have gone to remarkable lengths to improve attainment. To classify English as an “easy” subject and lop percentage points off the A-C pass rate would be a serious injustice to the thousands of pupils every year for whom a pass at GCSE English is a crucial stepping stone to future attainment.

Rob Penman

Chair, secondary education committee, the English Association

The issue of 12 February lays bare the two extremes that currently characterise the English education scene.

At one extreme, there is the ineptitude of our central authorities, exemplified by Ofqual’s branding of “easy” and “difficult” subjects. Had they asked why, they might have reached the alternative conclusion that children get higher grades in subjects where they are motivated to work harder by the opportunity for self-expression and/or relevance to their future lives.

And at the other we have wonderful work at the local level, as exemplified by Dave Strudwick in “How to run a school based on the art college model” (Professional). Three cheers for a headteacher who is fighting the system by putting “arts subjects at the front and centre of the curriculum”.

David Baker

Managing director, Design Education CIC

Reform and function

Given the debacle over the government’s latest reforms to assessment, perhaps it is time for schools to unite in ignoring government diktats and develop their own curricula and testing arrangements (“It’s merely the end of the beginning for reform”, Editorial, 12 February).

The government has a stranglehold over schools and is doing untold damage with its constant, and politically driven, reforms. It is surely time to take education out of the hands of politicians and put it back in the hands of the professionals. We need some brave schools to challenge the Department for Education/Ofsted hegemony. Let’s call time on education as a political football.

Fiona Carnie

Director, Parent Councils UK

Your editorial declares that: “Education…is about teachers doing the best that they can for their students.” I beg to differ. It’s about teachers teaching as well as they possibly can. Aspire to be “highly accomplished”, as described in John Hattie’s excellent argument (“Schools guru throws ‘grit’ back in ministers’ faces”, Insight).

Long-term exposure to poor teaching is probably as dangerous as a brief encounter with a poor doctor at a critical moment. So we should holler: “You want to be a teacher? Then be a bloody brilliant one – or don’t bother at all.”

Hilary Moriarty


Baseline tests are ‘inappropriate’

Assessment information (evidence of learning) should be used purely by a teacher to match their teaching to a learner’s need (“Scrap ‘damaging’ tests for four-year-olds, say teachers”, Insight, 12 February). Test outcomes are a totally different beast and should never be confused with assessment – and, as is the case in the Department for Education’s misuse of this “baseline” instrument to collect predictive data, are certainly inappropriate as a tool to predict future learning progress.

Professor Bill Boyle

Tarporley, Cheshire

What the Dickens?

Jonathan Simons claims that “for every Kensington and Chelsea there’s a Knowsley” (Whispers from Westminster, 12 February). That’s true – but it is also true of the independent sector. For every Eton there is a Dotheboys Hall.

Professor Colin Richards

Spark Bridge, Cumbria

Social media users respond to research calling for the new baseline tests to be scrapped bit.ly/ScrapTests

“This government’s obsession with tests is pathological and unhealthy, revealing a terrifying lack of imagination. Isn’t it time we wrestled the future of our children from the sweaty grasp of morons disconnected from the real world and give education back to the educators?”


“This is not education. Depriving such young kids of their childhood & labelling them even before they have started. Height of child abuse.”


“Don’t schools assess all their new children shortly after entry to enable them to teach at an appropriate level?”


Twitter users respond to John Hattie on “grit” bit.ly/GritHattie

“John Hattie tells us what we had guessed: that the government plan to teach children ‘grit’ is flawed.”


“Holy-shamoly, we knew, didn’t we? Grit & resilience & character! Plah! It’s called living.”


From the TES Community forums

Writing exemplifications for teacher assessment (bit.ly/WritingExemp)

I am worried that we’ve been told that each child has to hit every statement to achieve “working at” – even handwriting.


I am also utterly confused as to whether I should be judging the children against the interim framework or the national curriculum.


Now it’s the unions’ fault there’s a teacher shortage! (bit.ly/UnionShortage)

So the DfE “refuse to be complacent”. I have a suggestion: check the A-level grades of the teachers without degrees in the subjects they are teaching.


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