Education Talkback

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From Mr David Bothwell Sir: Tim Montgomerie's letter on collective worship (Education, 13 October) and religious education misses the point. Teachers have no objection to teaching about 'the Judaeo- Christian heritage' (although it could be argued that this is more a matter for the history lesson).

Their objection is to any suggestion that they might be required to teach any of the religions as if they were true. Obviously, they cannot all be true and a substantial number of people, between a quarter and third of the population, believe that none of them are.

As for the idea that schools should import teachers from outside, the mind boggles at the image of an army of Christians, Sikhs, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus arriving daily at school gates in every city, town and hamlet in the land - Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Quakers and Jehovah's Witnesses? Reform and Orthodox Jews? Sunni and Shia Muslims? Can you really be serious, Mr Montgomerie?

Yours sincerely, DAVID BOTHWELL Chairman, Education Committee British Humanist Association London WC1, 14 October From Mr Rupert Edwards Sir: Mr Major's announcement that 'the national curriculum will be changed to put competitive games back at the heart of school life' sits badly with the Government's so-called initiatives to stamp out bullying.

Probably no other activity than competitive sport offers greater opportunity for bullying by both pupils and staff, particularly the psychological forms involving ridicule, denigration and humiliation of the individual.

It is right that opportunity should be found within the school timetable for physical recreation and that a wide variety of options, not necessarily of a crude competitive nature, should be available, from which the individual may choose freely.

However, from experience and observation it should be obvious that, in the name of competitive sport, the bully, the lout and the yob have all too many opportunities to indulge their uncivilised behaviour.

Yours faithfully, RUPERT EDWARDS Colchester, Essex 17 October From Ms Janine Owen Sir: I am a third-year mature student at Sheffield University reading social and political studies. The sociology department at my university has cut back on staff by 16 per cent this year and the first-year intake is 300 students] When you bear in mind that the second- and third-year students in this department total only 200, the state of higher education becomes clear.

A politics course I am reading has been divided into two seminar groups, each meeting fortnightly. This means that each group will cover only half the course, seven topics in all. We are assured that questions on the exam paper will reflect this, but surely higher education is about more than taking and passing exams, it is about personal fulfilment and development as well as meeting the needs of society for specialist-educated individuals.

Yours faithfully, JANINE OWEN Chesterfield, Derbyshire 7 October From Dr James Hemming Sir: Judith Judd reports in today's Independent (14 October) that government spokesmen still insist that class size does not matter. This is idiocy in high places. Of course you can teach by rote to a class of any size. Why not close the schools and let TV do it? But education of the whole child as a person and as a responsible member of a community is quite another matter.

That calls for classes of less than 25.

Yobs are not born; they are made - by inadequate home life combined with lack of personal attention at school.

Yours faithfully, DR JAMES HEMMING Teddington, Middlesex 14 October DO YOU have views about education? Mark your letters 'For Publication' and include daytime and evening telephone numbers. Send them to: the Education Editor, the Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB. They may also be faxed to 071-956 1894. Letters may be shortened for reasons of space.

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