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Let's work to unshackle FE and set adults free

Three pieces in the Further section of last week's TES - "Fresh strike threat as sector is `torn apart' ", "FE needs radical reform, report says" and Sarah Simons' column "Fighting talk" - paint an alarming picture of the state of further education in the UK. A pay freeze? Seriously? When the country has never been more in need of a skilled workforce and too few people are studying for level 4-5 work-related qualifications?

On the same pages, Ros Morpeth of the National Extension College gives evidence of the impact of paying for the education of 28 people who were disadvantaged to the point of being on the edge of society ("One woman's legacy of a life without walls"). Most adult learners come from less troubled circumstances yet still leave school unequipped for the life they want.

How sad that just when students are waking up to their need for education, we should be conspiring to remove access. Come on TES - time for a campaign.

Hilary Moriarty

Education consultant and former FE lecturer

We need a clean break on holidays

Teachers have been dining out on their workload since I started the job more than 30 years ago. We need to acknowledge that we're no longer the only profession to take our work home with us. Advances in technology mean many people are working and emailing late into the evening and during the weekend.

But we are the only profession - and the only public service - with no working hours or holiday allowance. We have both 13 weeks' leave and none; we finish both at 4pm and never.

It's time to give teachers a set holiday allowance. In return, there could be a reasonable cap on weekly working hours that would support demands for additional staffing. We could work a normal school day without resenting being in "during the holidays". And, when on leave, we could enjoy guilt-free time off.

Stephanie Gibson

Headteacher, St Catherine's Primary School, Surrey

Pie-in-the-sky dreams for the curriculum

Although I am a critic of the content-dominated national curriculum, it's wrong to criticise it as "not fit for purpose", because its purpose has never been properly discussed in order to reach a professional consensus ("Teachers condemn the `joyless' new curriculum", News, 17 July). All we have are the "motherhood and apple pie" clauses of the 1988 Education Act, which are so general that they can be interpreted any which way - and have been from all sides of the political and educational spectrum.

Colin Richards

Spark Bridge, Cumbria

Rich claims about academy investment

An interviewee in "Academy sponsors admit the schools `are not a panacea' " (News, 10 July) claims that "the two most successful academy chains, Ark and Harris, have also had the most investment". But this is not so in our case.

Although Lord Harris has been incredibly generous in supporting extracurricular provision, we have received no more financial investment for our core activity than any other multi-academy trust or local authority.

Our educational achievement (every Harris Academy that has been inspected by Ofsted is either outstanding or good) relies on us managing our funds well; we thus do not need nor expect Lord Harris' generosity.

Sir Dan Moynihan

Chief executive, Harris Federation

Authors are invaluable - so pay them

Writer Alan Gibbons is right that many school managers do not value author visits ("Authors demand `professional rates' for work with pupils", News, 10 July). As a secondary school librarian, I hear many mentions of slashed budgets and none of funding for "extras" such as visits. What happened to the library as "the beating heart of the school"?

At the Romsey School, the value of author visits is appreciated. Every summer we take part in the Wessex Schools Literary Festival. Each school books its own authors, illustrators and poets, and opens up the talks to other schools.

The value of such visits cannot be overstated. Whether it is Steve Cole generating excitement about Young Bond or Sita Brahmachari speaking about her multicultural background as an inspiration for her writing, there is always something that captures a pupil's interest and imagination.

Paying an author pound;250 to talk to a whole year group could amount to as little as pound;1 per pupil. Surely this is a small price to pay for generating enthusiasm for reading.

Fiona Crowther

Librarian, the Romsey School, Hampshire

Prom? Don't dance around the subject

At last, some sensible views are being expressed about the over-the-top prom situation that schools find themselves in ("What message does prom for 11-year-olds give out?", Professional, 3 July).

As a governor for more than 20 years at key stages 2 and 4, and with seven grandchildren aged between 2 and 17, I have found that the prom idea is escalating out of control. There is too much peer pressure, with young people aged 11 and even 6 being made up as if they are brides or dolls. Just because the Americans do it, that's no reason for us to adopt it.

My recommendation is to leave prom until age 16 at the earliest - that is far more "age appropriate" and will also spare parents unnecessary expense. Let's preserve some innocence for children. Let's stop being a cash cow for retailers of make-up, evening gowns, limousine hire and so on. Let's be brave enough to stand our ground as teachers, governors, parents and grandparents, and call a halt to this new "tradition".

Jackie Payne

Governor of a school in Leicestershire

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