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From Professor R.A. Sharpe

Madam: Your correspondent, Judith Judd, concludes her article on teaching quality assessment in universities ("Will dons make the grade in class?", 16 March) with the observation that for students "that must mean progress".

But is it to the benefit of students? The central costs of administering this run into hundreds of thousands of pounds. The costs to departments in terms of time spent on preparing and collating documents are considerable. Every pound spent is a pound which could be spent on acquiring multiple copies of essential textbooks for libraries. Every hour spent by a member of staff is an hour which could be spent talking to students, or even reading some of the material that appears annually in his or her field.

The benefits of testing will have to be considerable if they are to outweigh the costs. To my astonishment, I was told by the manager of a TQA that no cost-benefit analysis has been done. Not to have some idea of how the benefits of this exercise outweigh the costs is, I am afraid, typical of the irresponsibility of a government that will always spend money on the multiplication of what are grandly (and significantly) called "audits" rather than on education itself.


Department of Philosophy

University of Wales

From David Younger

Francis Beckett's article ("They have the cash, but not the cachet", 16 March) requires clarification on several points.

It is true that SHMIS discussed the manner of publication of GCSE results with Gillian Shephard. All independent heads associations would prefer publication of results in a way which gave an accurate picture of the performance of their schools in any particular year.

There is also widespread concern throughout independent education on how to give schools due credit for added value and not merely for raw results at GCSE and A-level.

All SHMIS schools provide education up to 18 with sixth forms offering a wide range of A- and AS-levels, together with vocational courses. All maintain high academic standards. A number cater for pupils with special education needs, while others offer places to gifted dancers and musicians.

It is also worthy of note that 20 heads of SHMIS schools are also in joint membership of HMC.

My own school has membership of both SHMIS and HMC, has more pupils now than in 1993-94 and has a full and able entry at all levels for 1995-96.

Yours faithfully,


Chairman, Society of Headmasters and Headmistresses of Independent Schools

From Rosslyn French

With reference to the article by Geva Blenkin ("You can't treat a tot like a teen", 9 March), I have been moved to write and wholeheartedly endorse everything it says.

I am a teacher with 38 years' experience, mainly with reception classes, and realise how true are the sentiments expressed.

The last few years of direction and oppression from the National Curriculum have caused so much stress and frustration to teachers and pupils alike.

The article should be compulsory reading for all connected with the education and care of children, and I sincerely hope that those with responsibility for the national curriculum will duly take note and act accordingly.

Yours faithfully,


St Albans, Hertfordshire

In Talkback last week, a letter from D.A.G. Smith, chairman of the Independent Schools Joint Council's Assisted Places, inadvertently omitted part of his argument in support of the assisted places scheme. The missing line said that more than 60 per cent of Labour voters approve of the scheme.

Please send your letters to the Education Editor, the Independent, I Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL, and include your daytime telephone number. Fax your letters to 0171-293 2056.