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Friday 22 June 2012
Letters: Exam reform
This disgraceful behaviour must stop, Mr Gove
Mr Gove, I know that what I say you will dismiss as the rantings of a loony left teacher defending the status quo but as a classroom practitioner I am well used to my voice not being heard.
You really must stop making up policy on the hoof. I am not sure my nerves can take it any more and, as most teachers' careers last longer than that of our Education Secretaries, you really should be more thoughtful about the mess you will leave behind.
None of us would suggest that the present system is perfect (ahem) but I think it mischievous to throw the baby out with the bath water for your own ideological ends. Your continuous snide comments about the validity of the GCSE pass rates is undermining the hard work of thousands of students and their teachers. It has taken us many years to build up their self-esteem which you have destroyed with what is best described as "in my day-ism".
This disgraceful behaviour must stop. It is right for you to engage in a conversation about curriculum reform but not at the cost of young people's sense of pride in what they have achieved. But, strangely, your suggestion of one exam board will warm the hearts of many of us in the profession who have been dismayed by the inexorable rise of the eye-watering profits of the privatised exam boards. I guess you feel that "competition" is not suited to certain parts of the education market.
Michael Gove's announcement on a move back to O level-type examinations once again shows his muddled thinking. He says that academies and free schools do not have to teach the National Curriculum and wants to give greater choice, and yet the pupils at these schools will sit examinations based around the curriculum.
So what will these assessments be testing? If not the curriculum covered then what? How will teachers know what to teach and the examination board know what questions to set when subject content will not be common in all schools?
He wants to raise standards and aspirations but plans to introduce a second-tier exam for the "less able". One wonders how long before he proposes to introduce a new version of the 11-plus. Playing roulette with children's education is not acceptable.
Mr Gove's decision to return to more rigorous testing in the form of O levels will be welcomed by employers who see the lack of of literacy and numeracy skills in young employees. But, in my experience, the problem needs to be tackled early in the school career.
Children generally leave primary school well-versed in literacy and numeracy skills drummed in for key stage 2 SATS. But expectations at the beginning of secondary school, key stage 3, are so low, bright children reaching level 5 at KS2 can simply coast along and expectations stay low.
An emphasis on basic literacy, numeracy and reasoning skills at this stage would be the appropriate direction so that students are ready for the academic challenge O levels would bring.
My school, Torquay Community College, wants to become an academy in September this year. The news that Mr Gove wants to go back to O levels and old-style CSE exams my dad took 30 years ago is a poor idea. Teachers will be teaching two levels and students split into those who learn swiftly being given the best and others left out. This is unfair and he should think again.
Now it can be seen why the government put up fees to £9,000 a year for university. They hope by having only a few at them that only the well-off can go and the least well-off get a secondary certificate and end up on low pay.
Richard J Raybould
Given that most able pupils are going to study up to 18 in some chosen subjects, why not require them to take exams at 16 only in the core subjects that they propose to drop? That would encourage breadth in learning to 16, while also giving students the space for deeper learning. Now that would be truly revolutionary.
Dr Kevin Stannard
Director of Innovation and Learning, The Girls' Day School Trust, London SW1
There is outrage at Michael Gove's desire to return to a two-tier exam system. Talk of branding children as sheep and goats at the age of 14? Here in Torbay we brand children as failures at the age of 11, because we still have grammar schools.
Mr Gove wants to reintroduce O levels. Mr Clegg wants to abolish the House of Lords. Seems like GCSEs, and the peerage, will be safe for a good long time yet.
(The Revd) Richard Haggis
Short-sighted look at immigrants
As a lifelong member of the Labour Party and a former Labour councillor I can only shake my head with dismay at the latest comments on immigration by the Labour leadership. How petty and short-sighted.
However grim it may seem at present, in the depths of a double-dip recession, the bold decision in 2004 to open the labour market in the UK to EU citizens from central Europe subject only to control by the worker registration scheme was the right one. Because of the failure of other countries in the EU to follow the UK's example (except Ireland and Sweden) Britain got the brightest and the best from Poland and its neighbouring countries.
Initally, nearly a million young, entrepreneurial, work-hungry Europeans arrived here from beyond the Oder, took any job that was going, revitalised the hotel industry, rescued Scottish and East Anglian agriculture, set up more than 50,000 businesses, some of which employed UK citizens, and ensured a friendly, experienced face in the health service, in offices, cafés, pubs and public utilities. Gradually, many moved on to book-keeping, office and factory management and City jobs, while others admittedly did not fare so well. Then, with time, many of them have set up families and we know that in London schools alone we have as many as 19,000 Polish-speaking children helping their parents integrate more easily into British society.
This is a repeat of earlier gifted immigrants such as the Flemish in the 12th century, the Huguenots in the 17th century, as well as Indians from East Africa and Hong Kong Chinese in the past century. They endured resentment and prejudice especially during periods of high unemployment and economic depression but the ultimate value of their input into the British economy was never in doubt.
Junior doctors don't earn much
I do not understand why the media quote only the salaries of GPs and consultants when discussing the doctors' strike (although I would be surprised if the salaries quoted are correct).
There are numerous junior doctors such as myself who earn a quarter of those quoted figures, and on top of that have to pay for mandatory professional exams out of our own salary, and take the exams during our own holidays. We also have to pay to go on numerous courses and conferences to try to keep our CVs competitive, and pay towards our own medical indemnity insurance (with a massive student loan and debt from university hanging over our heads).
On top of this, we face having to move around the country with work every year. The majority of us are likely to end up as salaried GPs, staff grade doctors or associate specialists and will never end up as consultants or be close to earning the figures quoted in the media.
Dr Dan Thomas
The BMA and vociferous doctors believe their pension scheme is over-provisioned. Andrew Lansley believes it is under-provisioned for its future liabilities. Let's stop the argument.
Transfer the fund to the BMA, or any other authority the doctors choose, and make it responsible for their pensions. Let those of us in the private sector welcome doctors to the real world.
Doctors may defend principle not greed, but where is the principle that says doctors, independent self-employed contractors, should be entitled to NHS public sector pensions?
Nurses yes, they are public sector workers, but doctors are not and should make their own private sector provision.
Dr Mike Asher
A grand gesture by Jimmy Carr?
It is said, by some more modern folk, that "actions speak louder than tweets". With this in mind, I invite Jimmy Carr to give some serious thought to a grand gesture. Perhaps he can ascertain from his former advisers at K2 a ball-park figure that this arrangement has saved him.
He can then invite "man of the people" George Osborne to his gig in Regent's Park on 8 July and present him with an obscenely large cheque for him to pass on to HMRC. This might save him from what might become an endless torment of a tour that extends until the end of October 2013.
Newton Abbot, Devon
Paul Dormer's letter (21 June) about his skill of calculating base 16 hexadecimal multiplication being useful to fellow pioneer computer programmers was interesting. Glad to hear early techies were joining the hundreds of thousands of us who learnt a similar skill in the more humble role of chalking up dart scores down to 64, the entry to the darting descant down to double 16 (but which always seemed to end up at a tungsten tussle for double one).
Lest we forget
There seems to be a curious lack of interest in Kim Sengupta's article (18 June) about the forthcoming defence axe, a chilling portent of just how quickly servicemen and women can expect to be forgotten after Afghanistan subsides from the news. I also noticed the stress the "New Army" will place on reservists, comprising a quarter of the force. Does this mean the ridiculous classification of reservists as "casual labour" will now be repealed?
S N Preisner QCVS
(Former SNCO, Royal Armoured Corps), Nottingham
It's where you live
There are reasons why energy prices are different depending on where you live (report, 22 June). The costs of transporting gas and electricity vary according to distance from the source so different network charges apply in different areas. We have the cheapest gas and among the cheapest electricity in the EU 15.
Director of Communications, Energy UK, London SW1
The right of parents to choose to pay for their children's education (letter, 21 June) is undeniable, and large numbers take advantage of that. What I have never understood is why privately funded schools have charitable status and entitled to claim relief on VAT.
A bit late
So Moody's is starting bank ratings downgrades: at least six years too late. How many other businesses would survive with that level of efficiency?
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