Education Quandary: 'As a teacher, my wish for 2009 is for the Government to get off the profession's back. What would others like to see happen?'

Hilary's advice

Over Christmas, I spent a lot of time contemplating the miserable state of education: the SATs mess, the uncertainty over diplomas, the huge number of children who leave school without basic skills and and the sky-rocketing mental and physical health problems of today's young people. It left me sure, like you, that the one thing we now need more than anything else is for the Government to leave schools alone.

Last year, I worked for the Department of Children, Schools and Families and was shocked by the people I dealt with. Emails were ignored or answered weeks afterwards. Standards of grammar and literacy were hair-raising. These are the people whose working lives are dedicated to aiming a debilitating stream of targets, directives and paperwork at over-stretched teachers.

A decade ago, there was a need for the Government to get a firmer grip on schools, but those days have gone. My wish for 2009 is that the Government realises that its main job should be to make sure classrooms are stocked with high-quality, well-trained, well-paid and well-supported teachers. And then to step back and let them get on with it.

Readers' advice

I want to see more investment in adult education. I work for an FE college in local care homes and my subject is reminiscence. A couple of hours a week of reminiscence, which includes music, poetry, prose, reading aloud, singing and sharing anecdotes from our lives (I'm 77) revives older people, even those with dementia, and restores self-esteem. But as they are all in receipt of benefits, they pay no fees, and that's the problem.

Joyce Morris, Lancashire

Teachers are professionals, and should be allowed to deliver learning with more flexibility – less, not more, "top-down" ideas. The six new areas of primary learning as advocated by Jim Rose last week – including human society and the environment – may allow for this. I would like to see an end to teaching children citizenship studies, well-being studies, media studies and all the other "studies", when most of them cannot write a decent sentence, let alone speak a foreign language, or understand basic maths.

Barney Sinclair, Devon

Next Week's Quandary

What are the advantages of streaming children according to their ability compared with mixed-ability classes? We are looking at secondary schools for our elder child, but no one seems to be able to tell us which system is better, and in our area all the schools appear to do it differently.

Send your replies, or any quandaries you would like to have addressed, to Please include your postal address. Readers whose replies are printed will receive a Collins Paperback English Dictionary 5th Edition. Previous quandaries are online at where they can be searched by topic.

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