From Wragg to riches

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I am always sad to see a fellow academic, in this case Professor Ted Wragg (`View from Here', Education+, 2 April), using flimsy arguments for questionable ends.

In arguing for the demise of the Teaching Training Agency, I can only imagine that Wragg wants to get back to the days of no public accountability for the funding and quality of initial teacher training.

Before the Teacher Training Agency came on the scene, Her Majesty's Inspectors were reporting that one in 10 newly qualified teachers were so unsuited to teaching that the trainers should never have allowed them to get through to the school gates, let alone a classroom door; and the funding was so irregular that the same trainee could go to different institutions and attract either pounds 400 or pounds 4,000, depending on accidents of history.

The Teacher Training Agency has changed all that by reforming the funding; by introducing new high standards for future teachers, backed by the first ever national curriculum for initial teacher training; by developing new standards for other key points in the teaching profession, including subject leaders, special needs co- ordinators and head teachers; and by helping to increase recruitment to teacher training and boost the esteem of teaching, for instance through our high profile "No-one forgets a good teacher" campaign. What is more, the best teacher trainers are working with us on all these enterprises, for they realise that the stakes in terms of public interest and concern are high.

In suggesting that we return to the days when funding, accreditation, standards and recruitment were split across four different bodies, all with different agendas, Wragg is arguing for the very division that he rails against in the case of the old Schools Council. He has failed to recognise the strength of the Teacher Training Agency, and the reason for the success that he dislikes so much is its ability to integrate all these areas and ensure a strategic approach to the delivery of government objectives. And how sad that Wragg, who normally has such a critical eye where vested interests are concerned, should ally himself to an old guard hankering for the days of "give us the money with no questions asked".

Professor Clive Booth,

Chair, Teacher Training Agency.

Oh Dearing

The detachment of teacher education funding from the mainstream of university funding is not only destabilising some institutions of higher education but flies in the face of the recommendation in the Dearing inquiry into higher education that the Teacher Training Agency (TTA) and the Higher Education Funding Council should work more closely together. Ted Wragg instances the impact of removing in-service funds from institutions whose other programmes will consequently be affected.

It would be important to know if Hefce, the lead accounting body of almost all higher education institutions, was informed of the TTA's decisions so that it could be warned of costs and liabilities that could rebound on it, as has happened in the past. The disbursement of hitherto undisclosed sums of money by both bodies following TTA decisions is a matter worth investigation by the National Audit Office.

Anand C. Chitnis


On the level

"Parents are becoming increasingly pragmatic and hard-nosed about where they send their children to school" (`Parents who pick'n'mix state and private schools", Education+, 2 April). Most head teachers would agree with this observation, whether they are heads of state or private schools. What head teachers would hope, however, is that parents are also discerning and thorough when it comes to researching the facts about possible schools for their children.

Your article quoted a family as saying that, in their case, a private school had been chosen for their two daughters, who were "clever but rebellious" and "clever but less confident" respectively, and that a state grammar school had been chosen for their third daughter who was "a trier". The private school was particularly complimented for getting good A-level results.

However, a look at the published A-level statistics for the two schools shows that the state school to which the apparently less clever daughter has gone gains the better A-level results by a significant margin. In the lists published last summer of the top 200 schools (both private and state) the private school in question does not feature. The state grammar school in question, of which I am head teacher, and at least one other locally both feature in the top 200.

No head teacher would suggest that ranking and league tables tell the whole story about schools. Head teachers do wish, however, that where state schools achieve superior results and, therefore, "greater added value", and where they give outstanding opportunities for all-round excellence confirmed in the Ofsted commendation, these facts could be acknowledged by both parents and the media.

Wendy Carey, head teacher

Tonbridge Grammar School for Girls, Kent

Please send your letters to Wendy Berliner, Editor, Education+, `The Independent', 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL. Include a daytime telephone number. Fax letters to Education+ on 0171 293 2451; e-mail:

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