Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

TES Letters

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

TES Letters

Article excerpt

One-sizefits-all rarely leads to improvement

Five words were enough for me to realise that Sir Michael Wilshaw's proposals for school clusters were going to be bad news: "all schools should be forced" (News, 5 September). It is extremely likely that the negative associations of forcing schools to join clusters would lead to half-hearted implementation.

Besides, as headteacher Tony Draper comments, clusters may not be helpful or relevant in all cases, anyway. Far better to encourage and empower schools to make their own decisions about what is in their best interests.

Martyn Steiner

Forest Farm School, Oxford

Stability in a turbulent world

John Bangs' piece "In praise of society's last moral guardians" (Comment, 5 September) reminds us that schools represent a stable moral culture for pupils in an otherwise turbulent world, and that teachers are custodians of justice and hope. As a microcosm of society, every school is an opportunity to ensure a steady culture with explicit, shared values.

None of this is articulated in the new national curriculum. Yet a school's values system is crucially life-enhancing for children as they develop ideas about themselves and the world in which they live.

Julie Robinson

Education and training director, Independent Association of Prep Schools

The only limit is your imagination

Wonder and surprise are key elements of practical work in school science, but were missing from the article "The science fiction that doing is best" (Professional, 5 September).

The challenge for science teachers is to design enquiry-based practical experiences for drier topics. Let's fill conical flasks with carbon dioxide and measure their temperature under a lamp, then discuss the validity of our evidence for global warming. Or shine white light through a custard-powder suspension to answer "Why is the sky blue, Sir?"

Every school prospectus contains a picture of an amazed class beaming at a Van de Graaff generator. Yet every science teacher knows that is simply a hook for explaining electrostatic forces - just like popping hydrogen for covalent bonding, flame tests for star absorption spectra and dissection for blood flow. Yes, it's fun, but that's not why we do it.

Ofsted says we must "maintain curiosity", with students "observing scientific phenomena and conducting experimental investigations for themselves". Getting the stuff to work is hard. Yet when groups collaborate and arrange complex kit for precision and reliability, that is pretty useful learning on its own. Merely telling students what they need to know will limit the wonder of science. To inspire their imaginations we must first apply our own.

Sean Davies

Science teacher, Sheffield

Bullying hurts but well-being can heal

It was interesting to read your recent article about bullying ("Killing with kindness", Feature, 29 August). …

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