T A L K B A C K

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The Independent Online
From Mr John Tierney

Madam: State education is in crisis. There is a flaw in the conceptual basis for the system which has implications for human rights and the stability of a future generation. Mainstream state schools, which exist to enable emotional, social, physical and academic growth, are not equipped to resource the development of children with significant unresolved emotional needs.

This claim is based on three essential concepts. First, the conditions on which children depend for emotional growth can now be accurately defined. These include protection, control, consistency, acceptance, guidance and insight within the context of long-term relationships with adults. These conditions cannot be resourced in mainstream state schools because of large class sizes and intense curriculum constraints.

Second, it is wrong to assume that emotionally undeveloped children exhibit overt symptoms of disturbance, deviance or developmental delay. Some escape the attention of the special needs system because they can conceal their condition and function socially. It is not known how many emotionally undeveloped, socially functioning children exist in mainstream state schools.

Third, the incidence of emotional and social break-down in adult society is undeniable. A significant proportion of the population is failing to mature during childhood. For socially functioning children who have failed to develop emotionally in their homes, the education system provides the only controlled environment in which they could catch up. Unless schools begin to fulfil this function, the cycle of emotional suspense that afflicts adult society will remain unbroken.

The National Association for Therapeutic Education (Nate) has defined the crisis in state education and is campaigning to draw attention to it. The Nate has also identified a potential solution to the problem. Further information is available if required.

Yours faithfully,

John Tierney,

Director

Nate

Chichester

From Professor Alan Smithers

Madam: Maureen O'Connor ("Two thousand jobs lost ... and counting", 25 May) mistakenly suggests that we have predicted "14,000 job losses, year on year". In Affording Teachers, Pamela Robinson and I considered staffing for the two school years 1994/95 and 1995/96. A survey of a representative sample of primary and secondary schools indicated likely reductions of 5,060 (1.2 per cent) and 8,964 (2.2 per cent) for the respective years. David Hart's impression of a potential loss of 7,000 posts for one year is consistent with our findings.

Yours sincerely,

Alan Smithers

Centre for Education and Employment Research

School of Education

University of Manchester

From Mr Doug McAvoy

Madam: Recent talk of failing schools ignores other failures, namely ensuring that schools are properly funded and teachers provided with the support and in-service training to meet changing demands. If the inspection system were fair and constructive and teacher appraisal backed with resources for training and a teacher was then found incompetent, it would be neither for the good of the pupils nor the profession for that individual to remain in post.

Yours sincerely,

Doug McAvoy,

General Secretary

National Union of Teachers

Correction: The photograph on last week's Higher Education page was of Dr Andrew Dawson, of St Andrews University, not of Professor Bill Plumbridge. We apologise for the error.

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