What is needed is an acknowledgement that while for most children the main purpose of schooling is academic - learning; for a considerable minority it needs to be social, ie to supply the framework of discipline and values without which academic education for themselves or their fellows is impossible. For most teachers to manage a class including both elements is much more difficult than one comprising children of differing academic abilities.
The late Donald Winnicott, the wisest and most practical of child psychologists because he understood psychopathology, believed that special schools were needed for children who had for whatever reason failed to develop a moral endoskeleton and therefore needed a moral exoskeleton to be provided by whatever institutions they might join - as in pre-war public schools, Borstal, Sandhurst, the forces, prison, etc. The rather strict and rigid discipline imposed in such institutions is inappropriate for children with developed values of their own and a genuine need and ability to learn about the outer world without being distracted by turmoil in their inner one.
Once this is recognised, many problems in running schools will resolve; and of course some children will graduate in time from schools teaching them how to behave to those teaching them language, mathematics, science and history.
To throw them together for ideological reasons is to compromise the education of both.
Professor John A Davis
Great Shelford, Cambridge
A special need for funding
If David Blunkett was genuinely interested in preventing boys truanting and dropping out of school without qualifications, ending up unemployed, he would ensure that the schools' special needs sections received sufficient funding so that children with learning difficulties, usually boys, were given the extra help they needed in order to achieve academically.
As it stands now, only the children displaying gross learning problems are assessed, and the schools are so starved of funds that only those with a three-year learning delay receive extra help. Indeed, a great number of children, who present slight to moderate learning difficulties, are never diagnosed as such, even when teachers might suspect that there is a problem.
Unless parents are made aware of their children's difficulties, can afford to have them privately tested by a psychologist, and are prepared to pay for expensive private remedial tuition, these children are left to flounder. They face uncomprehending teachers who are not aware of their learning problems, and they soon get labelled as unco-operative, unwilling to learn or plain dumb. They are being failed by the education system, and it is no wonder they get discouraged and rebellious.
It is laudable that the Government plans to intervene to remedy this failure, but throwing money at the unemployable will not cure the cause of the problem, which will perpetuate itself unless and until it is addressed. Targeting adequate money into special needs in the early stages of schooling would ensure that those children could get the best out of their 13 years of very expensive compulsory education in the first place.
Mrs Dominique Beral
Supporting older teachers
I feel sorry for the colleagues ("subordinates"?) of the anonymous deputy (Personally Speaking, Education+ 14 May) who are on the receiving end of this patronising sympathy - the older, experienced teachers who have stayed in the classroom to teach, in spite of all the difficulties, instead of seeking to clamber like monkeys up the management tree away from the learning problems.
Yes, I can see why he wants young teachers - so they can be discarded as "burnt-out cases" in later life when they have served the purposes of their "line managers" who move on when they have set up the latest project.
Your deputy would be better occupied fighting for the better use of his older staff (and others); more non-contact time; regular refresher courses; more clerical assistance; less social work; genuine acknowledgement of the worth of the dedicated classroom teacher - encouragement, not sympathy! Perhaps even - perish the thought! - a demonstration of how it is done with disaffected classes: no, not the discipline, the learning; especially in those areas of the curriculum which teenagers apparently find boring.
Hypocrisy on teachers' pay
Before the last election, the Labour party proudly stated that their priority would be "education, education, education", and that they would strive to ensure "fairness".
What has actually happened is that those working in education have for the sixth year running received much smaller pay increases than most other workers. Moreover, the Government appears to have no intention of doing anything about this in the foreseeable future, since there are no plans to lift the pay freeze in the public sector.
In view of the above facts, is it any wonder that the phrase "blatant hypocrisy" springs to mind? Perhaps one of those clever spin doctors of whom one hears so much could explain the enormous gulf between words and action; and how the demoralisation of those in education is consistent with producing the desired substantial improvement in educational standards.
Professor Michael W. Eysenck
Head of the Department of Psychology, Royal Holloway, University of London
I have run an exchange between our school and a public school for nearly 12 years. As we have too many pupils at the moment who would like to take part in such an exchange, I'm trying to find an additional school.
We are a traditional coeducational grammar school of about 800 pupils aged between 10-15. English is taught right through. The school was founded in 1945 and has an important function in this hilly, rural area with its extensive forests. The village of about 10,000 inhabitants including quite a few smaller places around and the area is visited by tourists year around.
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:email@example.com
Letters may be edited for length and clarity.Reuse content