Education letters: Cadet forces in state schools

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Strategic planning

The fact that the Government wants to see cadet forces in the state-school sector is fine, but it means that £80m worth of funding will have to be spread more thinly, and I don't see the Chancellor giving the MoD any extra cash to do it with ("The battle for hearts and minds", EDUCATION & CAREERS, 15 May). The youngsters who are in the cadet forces already are, by and large, educated in the state sector. Are the schools who decide to form Combined Cadet Forces going to be allowed to poach them from the Army Cadet Force, Air Training Corps and Sea Cadet Corps? The officers in charge of those organisations might have something to say about that.

Then comes the problem of finding the training staff. I am the school staff instructor at one of the other five state schools that formed CCFs last year. The training staff for the new corps will have to come from the school's staff and will need to be volunteers. Given the remark you quoted from the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, and the hostility of the NUT towards the Army at the moment, the Government could have a lot of persuading to do.

If they do get the volunteers, they need to be trained, security cleared and commissioned. The Army cannot provide all the training staff. At present, CCF training support comes from Cadet Training Teams (CCT), small teams of regular soldiers, not below the rank of sergeant, strategically placed around the country. From experience, these teams are hard-worked already. They will need to be made larger or more of them created.

As to the question of cadets having access to weapons, they are only allowed to have weapons under strict adult supervision, and are trained by qualified instructors. They do not get to "play" with weapons, and as Andy Sharman reported, the weapons are stored under strict security conditions.

John Ross, Ulgham, Northumberland

Adult learning

Neil Merrick asserts that adult learning is under attack ("Adult education fights for its life", E&C, 1 May). This is simply not the case. Three-quarters-of-a-million adults were enrolled in courses subsidised by the public purse in 2006-7, over and above those who took part in full programmes of learning to get the skills needed to get a job, or to progress in a job.

Many other government departments also fund informal adult learning, including the rich mix of activities supported by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. And many people are now organising their own learning, with 203,000 older people taking courses run by the University of the Third Age.

In January this year, we launched a wide-ranging consultation into the future provision of non-accredited learning. As a government, we have had to take some tough decisions over the past few years to make sure we were able to prioritise funding towards longer courses to improve the skills levels of our nation's workforce. However, over the next three years, the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills has committed £210m a year to informal adult learning. This funding is guaranteed, reflecting our commitment to this vital component of publicly funded education. I encourage all parties with an interest in shaping the future of adult learning to participate in the consultation, which closes on 12 June.

David Lammy, Minister for Skills

Independent choice

We very much welcome the views expressed in the leader (E&C, 15 May) on evidence submitted to the Children, Schools and Families Select Committee by the ISC chief executive Chris Parry.

Mr Parry cited examples of prejudice and bullying in initial training experienced by those teachers who expressed a desire to take up positions in the independent sector. In your leader, you challenged him to produce the evidence.

The authoritative evidence is based on a survey of 757 NQTs conducted in summer 2007 by ISCtip (the Independent Schools Council Teacher Induction Panel). It revealed that one in five of teacher training providers projected negative attitudes towards those students who were about to work in the independent sector.

The full report is available in ISC Bulletin 22, which can be found in the publications section of the ISC website (

Many of the tutors' attitudes that were reported in the survey respondents indicated extreme hostility to independent education. Students were ignored or sidelined; advised not to tell anyone about an independent school job offer; or criticised for variously squandering the British taxpayers' money, selling their souls, or being traitors. Some claimed that they were treated as pariahs. Others were warned that a position outside the maintained sector would affect their future career prospects and prejudice their return to the maintained sector. They were also told that their induction year would not be professionally or competently run.

In fact, teacher induction in the independent sector is at least as valid and extensive as induction in the maintained sector. Indeed the independent sector provides teacher induction for up to 1,200 NQTs every year, many of whom go on to work in both sectors. Conversely, more than 500 teachers per year move from the independent sector to the maintained sector. Independent schools have always worked hard with maintained sector schools to bridge the divide between the two sectors and to offer opportunities for teachers and pupils across the UK education community. It is surely right and proper that teachers seeking to enter the independent sector should not be subjected to harassment and prejudice for making a perfectly legitimate career choice.

Judith Fenn, Independent Schools Council

Quality in Qatar

The goal at Education City, Qatar, always has been to bring the best universities to, as you describe it, an élite educational facility ("An oasis of learning in the desert", E&C, 15 May).

Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), the first university in Education City, serves as the centre for education in the design arts. Apparently you are unaware that the VCU School of the Arts is ranked among the élite art schools in the US. Our Master of Fine Arts program is ranked fourth by the US News & World Report graduate rankings. Specifically, our sculpture department is ranked first in the country.

Based on Top 10 specialties, we rank second in the US, with our university peers being Yale and UCLA. That's about as premier as it gets.

Richard E Toscan, Dean, School of the Arts, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia, USA

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