LETTER : Classroom `trench warfare'

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The Independent Online
Sir: As a former headmaster of a medium-sized comprehensive school, I can sympathise with the dilemmas facing the Derbyshire headmaster Robin Lees ("Part-time classes for school starved of money", 8 February). The "trench warfare" situation of beleaguered headteachers fighting to maintain staffing and other resources against the onslaught of financial depredations from central government is becoming the norm, and it is not merely the education of a generation of young people that is suffering. Ultimately, it will manifest itself in the inability of Britain to compete on equal terms in the labour markets of the 21st century.

Just as it is, however, too simple to argue that larger class sizes would lead to a reduction of standards in schools, neither can we dismiss the fact that it is not merely the school which provides the sole route to learning. Work undertaken by the Institute of Education which indicated the achievement of children in primary school was the single most important factor affecting their GCSE performance should guide us to consider the fact that it is in secondary school that pupils should be at least part of the way towards learning to learn by themselves.

All head teachers are realists, and have learned to face and deal with changing circumstance with the sort of practical solutions which, in themselves, are a lesson to governments. Is it not time for politicians and policy makers to pay heed to how learning may best be supported rather than "administered" through, for example, information and communication technologies, in order to satisfy the wishes of teachers, pupils and parents alike in providing an imaginative solution to the provision of life-long learning?

Yours faithfully,

John Abbott


The Education 2000 Trust

9 February