Education letters: Isle of discontent

* It is depressing to have confirmed in your pages the extent to which the Isle of Wight education service appears to be out of touch with so many of the people it serves (Letters, EDUCATION & CAREERS, 17 April). In a £55,000 consultation exercise, a glossy brochure ("Tell Us Your Views") was launched at the beginning of this year. To have your views recorded, it was necessary to register agreement with one of three options for change proposed by the council; these would close between 23 and 41 of the island's 67 schools. The response to this questionnaire was low.

Many people, against school closures, chose instead to voice their protest through public demonstrations, larger than any seen in recent years on the island. Steve Beynon, director of children's services says there was just one rally in Newport. There were, I think, six marches on the island, three of them in Newport, the two main ones of which (26 January, 15 March) massed outside the windows of his offices at County Hall and were well covered by television, local press and the police who closed the street to traffic.

Mr Beynon states that reorganisation of schools is all about improving results – and not about money. Strange, then, that the three people handling this project at County Hall have been seconded from the following departments: finance, property and premises.

Finally, Mr Beynon claims good support from heads for these proposals.

As teachers have been warned not to speak out on the subject, it is hard to gauge opinion. However, early this month the local NASUWT agreed almost unanimously (15:1) on a vote of no confidence in the director of children's services. Among the many excellent teachers on the island, there are some I know now feeling sufficiently dispirited by the turn of events to be actively seeking jobs elsewhere. That is not the way to improve results on the Isle of Wight.

Rupert Besley, Newport, Isle of Wight

* If Steve Beynon took issue with The Independent's article about proposed school closures on the Isle of Wight, why did he tell teachers he had complained but then wait a whole month to actually do so?

He quibbles over points that were accurately reported. Steve McCormack's article ("Fight on Wight over closures", EDUCATION & CAREERS, 13 March) rightly stated that thousands protested against school closures outside council buildings.

Those who attended the three Newport rallies (two in January, one in March) will be surprised that Beynon knows of only one. And there were others in Shanklin, Ryde and Freshwater.

Beynon says the school reorganisation is solely about improving results. Your article stated that was the council's intention. However, there is no evidence that its plans will raise standards, and as The Independent pointed out, results have already been improving.

Are the majority of head teachers in favour of change, as Beynon claims?

We only have his word for it, and as the reorganisation will put many of them out of a job in two years' time I suspect the truth is as your article reported it: that they are "quaking in their boots". The recent NASUWT vote of no confidence suggests a less than rosy picture. Could that be the real reason Beynon is now trying to pick holes in the article?

Wendy Varley, Newport, Isle of Wight

LATIN HELPS

* I could not agree more than with my namesake Dr Lorna Robinson, of the Iris Project, Oxford, in her advocacy (Letters, 17 April) of the teaching of Latin in schools.

I support in particular her comment that "classical languages....help immeasurably with the learning of other foreign languages, including the modern."

Among the latter I would include English, which, with its multiple roots and vast vocabulary, I found overwhelming as a 1940s/1950s school child. Until, that is, I began to study Latin, when prefixes such as ad-, de-, in-, per-, ex-, sub-, super-, etc., added to Latin-derived roots such as -spec(t) (see); -pend (hang); -tract (drag) expanded my word-capacity enormously by giving me a system for analysis and understanding. And this also made other languages I studied – French, Spanish, German, Russian – more-easily accessible because of their derivation from or influence by, Latin vocabulary or grammar.

And the little Greek that I know has given me greater access to other areas of our complex tongue.

Frederick Robinson, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex

SMALL CLASSES BEST

* In a very limited sense, Conor Ryan might be right in arguing that "Schools should be free to have big classes" (EDUCATION & CAREERS, 10 April), but one wonders just why he is making such a big noise about what is arguably a minor technicality – especially when it draws attention away from the far more compelling arguments that favour smaller class sizes. There is a wealth of reputable empirical research supporting this view.

It is most telling that the utilitarian calculus that Ryan uses in the research he quotes is whether class size can enhance comparatively narrowly defined "pupil achievement"; yet thankfully, for many if not most of us, there are far more important aspects to schooling than narrow academic test and examination results.

It is also most revealing that the one real-world example that Ryan cites refers to a large room-full of computer-using students, with the extraordinary claim that this is a good example of "personalised learning"! The irony is that as we live in an increasingly individualistic age, smaller class sizes will become more and more appropriate, not least because many of us still believe that it is real human relationships between teacher and student that matter most, and not "efficient", mass-delivered computer-assisted "learning".

What this points to is that the mass industrial model of education is now out-moded and unable to meet the generality of modern children's learning needs; and the attempt to smuggle in cost-saving measures whose unacknowledged aim is really education on the cheap via larger class sizes simply won't do.

Dr Richard House, Research Centre for Therapeutic Education, Roehampton University

ONE TO WATCH

* While the plans of outgoing NUS President Gemma Tumelty to turn it into some kind of business were hardly in the best traditions of student unionism, and hence rejected, her rostrum rant (Diary, EDUCATION & CAREERS, 17 April) on learning that delegates had had the cheek to reject the New Labour line, certainly was. Post Dave Cameron, a Cabinet post surely beckons.

Keith Flett, Tottenham, north London

Send letters to: The Editor, Education, 'The Independent', Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS (with a daytime phone number); fax to: 020-7005 2143; email to: education@independent.co.uk; letters may be edited for length and clarity

Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
News
The energy drink MosKa was banned for containing a heavy dose of the popular erectile dysfunction Levitra
news
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Sport
Australia's Dylan Tombides competes for the ball with Adal Matar of Kuwait during the AFC U-22 Championship Group C match in January
sportDylan Tombides was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011
Sport
Steven Gerrard had to be talked into adopting a deeper role by his manager, Brendan Rodgers
sportThe city’s fight for justice after Hillsborough is embodied in Steven Gerrard, who's poised to lead his club to a remarkable triumph
News
Ida Beate Loken has been living at the foot of a mountain since May
newsNorwegian gives up home comforts for a cave
Extras
indybest10 best gardening gloves
News
Russia's President Vladimir Putin gives his annual televised question-and-answer session
peopleBizarre TV claim
Arts & Entertainment
tvIt might all be getting a bit much, but this is still the some of the finest TV ever made, says Grace Dent
Arts & Entertainment
Comedian Lenny Henry is calling for more regulation to support ethnic actors on TV
tvActor and comedian leads campaign against 'lack of diversity' in British television
News
Posted at the end of March, this tweeted photo was a week off the end of their Broadway shows
people
News
peopleStar to remain in hospital for up to 27 days to get over allergic reaction
Arts & Entertainment
The Honesty Policy is a group of anonymous Muslims who believe that the community needs a space to express itself without shame or judgement
music
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Life & Style
life
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Primary Teacher

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: KS1 KS2 Crewe Teacher Perm Ch...

Primary Teacher

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education is the lea...

Primary Teacher

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: KS1 KS2 Teaching Cheshire

Primary Teacher

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Long term position in large p...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit