Shortsighted approach to transforming schools in England | Letters

Readers react to Gavin Williamson’s proposals for education reform, suggesting ways to bring about real change and highlighting the merits of a five-term academic year

Gavin Williamson’s ludicrous assertion that there should be a “transformative” moment in education (England’s school catch-up scheme ‘chaotic and confusing’, say headteachers, 7 March) translates as he wants to take some simplistic steps to make it appear that he is doing something to save his political skin. Thank goodness for Ofsted (I never thought I would write that), which is calling for evidence-based transformative moments.

Perhaps Williamson could start by reviewing a curriculum and assessment strategy that presents outdated, irrelevant content as embodying so-called high academic standards, but in fact disenfranchises many young people and is one of the roots of the mental health crisis in schools.

To call for shorter holidays and longer working days is the wrong thing. Schools need to build back trust and confidence, and demonstrate that they are secure and caring before any real cognitive catching up can start. Why does this government damage everything it touches?
David Lowndes
Southampton

• For a transformative moment, a long-term plan is required, not short-termism. An egalitarian school system with extra support for disadvantaged students and underprivileged areas is transformative. All schools providing smaller classes in modern buildings with equal facilities is transformative. A vision of equal opportunity for every child, not the current two-tier system where privilege and money ensures greater advantage, is transformative.

I am a retired advanced skills teacher in mathematics with over 30 years’ experience. Summer schools and longer days do not reach those most in need. Time, encouragement, identifying leaning gaps and positive learning experiences with trained teachers is a long-term transformative process, not a short-term fix.

Most importantly, it is about trust and strong learner-teacher relationships, where each student is recognised as an individual with distinct needs to build their resilience and counter low self-esteem.
Ann Moore
Stocksfield, Northumberland

• In the years leading up to my retirement in 2002 as a primary headteacher in the Staffordshire local education authority, I was a strong advocate of the five-term school year on educational grounds. We have inherited the present three-term structure from the agrarian model of earlier years, which is no longer fit for purpose. There are now sound reasons for revising the accepted pattern, provided that the motivation to do so addresses long-term educational value and is not seen as a short-term political fix. The research literature from the late 1990s should be revisited and examined again, for the five-term year has much to offer.
Chris McDonnell
Little Haywood, Staffordshire

• The National Tutoring Programme seems likely to operate at the same level of effectiveness as the test-and-trace system. What is common to both of these outsourced services is that they operate outside public scrutiny and appear to be accountable to no one. As test and trace has shown, poor performance is no barrier to receiving extra billions of public money; in fact, it seems to be the reverse as extra billions are poured into the business to correct failures.
Derrick Joad
Leeds

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