Letters: Mystery of the disappearing teachers

These letters were published in the 18 January edition of the Independent

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The Chief Inspector of schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, says it is a scandal that 40 per cent of teachers leave the profession within five years, and claims this is because they have been inadequately prepared to deal with unruly pupils. I would be interested to know what research this is based on.

In fact, teachers leave the profession for a variety of reasons. Since 1992 one of the main reasons has been Ofsted: an organisation which places schools and teachers under intense pressure. Since 2010 the stress of constant inspection has been intensified by ever-shifting goalposts. What was deemed “good” a few years ago is no longer acceptable. 

So how does Sir Michael intend to tackle the problem of teachers leaving? Why, he plans “a tough new inspection regime.”  

John Cosgrove



I see that ashen-faced Ofsted supremo Sir Michael Wilshaw has announced yet another tough new inspection regime. He wants to find out whether the training of new teachers has been adequate. Given that 40 per cent are baling out within five years of qualifying I think we can guess the answer.

It is shocking, nonetheless, to hear him say that the dropout rate is to do with ill-discipline in the classroom. He is dead right, of course, but I thought it had long been decided that discipline was a dirty word and that if teachers could only be entertaining enough their pupils would, well, you know, just give up being naughty and, like, learn. Isn’t that what our student teachers are taught?

Martin Murray

London SW2

My daughter, who is a teacher in a secondary school in London, would be writing this herself, but she doesn’t have time. The reason that four out of 10 teachers quit the profession is because of the workload, not inadequate training. My daughter has a full working day, with a full working evening to follow, much of which is spent in unnecessary detailed planning, and marking. The weekend is the same.

When will the Government recognise that something is going wrong? When five, six, or seven out of 10 graduates leave?

Janette Davies   



The ‘blame’ for conceiving a girl

Having read your leading article (16 January) about sex-selective abortion, I am in full agreement that education is a very important part of any solution to the problem. One vital fact should not be overlooked: it is the male gamete that determines the gender of the child.

No woman ought to feel guilty because her child is a girl, but if she can be sure, through education, that only the father is biologically responsible for this fact, she can be released in her own mind from any sense of guilt. She can also feel more powerful to oppose abortion. This might influence any misled female relatives and gain support from them.

P Atyeo

Church Hanborough, Oxfordshire


 If you are concerned about discrimination against girls and women, what would you do? Would you work to ensure that girls had equal access to education, training and jobs; equal pay; equal rights in marriage; equal rights in inheritance; and access to justice, support and redress if they are sexually abused or raped or beaten up? 

Or would you investigate every women of Asian descent to find out whether they may ever have had an abortion because the foetus was female, and investigate all the doctors who provide abortions to find out if they have ever allowed Asian women to have such an abortion, and prosecute them all?

Which would be more effective in combating discrimination? The former, of course.

Why is it, then, that The  Daily Telegraph, Jeremy Hunt, the Tory Secretary of State for Health, and now The Independent, surprisingly, in the name of opposition to gender discrimination, appear to be pursuing the latter course? 

Their stance supports foetal rights. That is, it supports the right of a fetus to be born if it is female. This raises the question: can you support the right of even one foetus to be born, and still support women’s right to have an abortion? 

Marge Berer

Editor, Reproductive Health Matters, London NW5

Fighting within our means

Mary Dejevsky (17 January)  says that the UK should live and fight within its means and that Cameron and Co are trying to do this, despite what former US Secretary of State Robert Gates has to say (as an aside from touting his new book over here).

If so, why are we building two huge aircraft carriers? They will cost over £7bn, and that does not include the cost of the aircraft to go on top of them. We could be living in a Britain of a century ago – big poverty at home, big warships at sea.

Vaughan Grylls

London WC1


In the context of Britain’s military funding crisis and American worries about whether we can pull our weight, I am reminded that in 1588 we saw off the Spanish armada with a fleet of 197 ships, only 34 of which belonged to the Royal Navy while 163 were privately owned.

Perhaps the current Queen Elizabeth should take a leaf out of her illustrious namesake’s book, and hand the lion’s share of the defence of her realm over to private enterprise. After all, entrepreneurs are now running everything else. Who wouldn’t like to see Sir Richard Branson launch his own aircraft carrier?

Paul Dunwell


Where is the new Robert Mark?

Sir Robert Mark, on taking over as Commissioner of the Met over 40 years ago, famously said: “The test of a good police force is that it catches more criminals than it employs... the Met is currently failing that test.”  Mark confronted corruption head on. It appears, however, that after his retirement the cancer returned.

Is there another Robert Mark capable of the radical surgery necessary to delivering a reliable police force? No one doubts the honesty of many police officers of all ranks, but the exposure of police corruption over the past years, that has culminated in your publishing of parts of the in-depth internal enquiry named Operation Tiberius, is evidence that the scale of the problem goes far beyond “a few rotten apples”, and is bolstered by a supremely arrogant Police Federation.

Clearly, the direct impact an infiltrated criminal justice system has on the public makes institutional failures in this area the most alarming.

Serena Wylde

London SW15


The claim that secret networks of Freemasons have been used by organised crime gangs to corrupt the criminal justice system is an allegation that United Grand Lodge of England completely refutes (“Revealed: how gangs used the Freemasons to corrupt police”, 13 January).

The story refers to historic inquiries – Operation Tiberius and Project Riverside – which, we understand, closed years ago, and neither the police nor the Serious Organised Crime Agency has ever contacted us with regard to any inquiries concerning these operations. United Grand Lodge of England has not seen copies of the reports to which your report refers.

United Grand Lodge of England welcomes and strongly urges total transparency in every aspect of such investigations and we would eagerly assist the relevant authorities with any inquiries if we are approached or if we know of any way that we can voluntarily do so. Criminal activity is completely unacceptable within the organisation and totally alien to our values and any member found to be involved would instantly be removed.

Mike Baker

Director of Communications, The United Grand Lodge of England, London WC2

Catastrophe in Syria

The report of starvation in the Syrian refugee camp in Yarmouk (17 January) was harrowing. According to the piece, “Pro-Assad Palestinian factions blame the presence of 2,500 rebel fighters in the camp for the length of the siege.” Presumably, these “fighters” are Sunnis.

While the West beats itself up over this catastrophe, the wealthy Middle Eastern powers have remained silent. Shouldn’t they take some responsibility? Why have they not been invited to take part in the Geneva talks?

John Gordon

Twickenham, Middlesex

British art goes abroad

“Premium Bacon, but will anyone pay £30m to bring it home?” asks your headline (16 January), on the forthcoming sale of a Francis Bacon painting.

Must British art be only for the British? If Turner had not bequeathed the bulk of his work to the nation he would be better known and respected abroad than he is, and British art would have greater universal consequence than it does.

Peter Forster

London N4

Sinister precedent

Political scientists have a label for the overlap Owen Jones (16 January) suggests between socialism and Ukippery. They call it National Socialism.

Philip Goldenberg

Woking, Surrey