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Perhaps Williamson could start by reviewing a curriculum and assessment strategy that presents outdated, irrelevant content as embodying so-called high academic standards, but in fact disenfranchises many young people and is one of the roots of the mental health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

• 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


The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Funding and staff levels in schools at crisis point | Letters
Letters: School governors urge the government to ‘stop ducking its responsibilities’ and provide essential funding


11, Mar, 2019 @6:21 PM

Article image
Imaginative lessons and teacher-awarded exam grades | Letters
Letters: Rob Watling thinks an education secretary with imagination could transform this summer for children, while Philip C Stenning calls for moderation. Plus letters from Dr Cary Bazalgette and Sarah James


26, Feb, 2021 @5:13 PM

Article image
The Guardian view on schools: ministers outclassed by teachers | Editorial
Editorial: The chaos surrounding the start of term is the fault of a government that prefers not to listen


03, Jan, 2021 @6:30 PM

Article image
Outstanding schools should be treated fairly | Letter
Letter: Primary school head Rachel Hornsey responds to news that outstanding schools in England will no longer be exempt from routine Ofsted inspections


02, Sep, 2019 @4:44 PM

Article image
An ambitious overhaul of education is needed | Letters
Letters: The Conservative One Nation group’s report on schooling doesn’t go far enough, according to Greg Brooks and Steven Burkeman, while Ruth Eversley ponders a career recommendation


12, Oct, 2020 @4:28 PM

Article image
Schools diverge on reopening strategies | Letter
Letter: A teacher who changed schools during the pandemic has come to the conclusion that the government’s guidance for getting children back is pointless


27, Jul, 2020 @3:10 PM

Article image
Smaller class sizes should become the new normal in state schools | Letter
Letter: Annie Clouston says such an adjustment would be hugely beneficial to all pupils, and hopes teachers who left the profession could be enticed back


24, May, 2020 @5:26 PM

Article image
The divisive issue of grammar schools returns | Letters
Letters: Readers respond to the news that grammar schools in England are to get a £50m expansion fund


13, May, 2018 @4:57 PM

Article image
Nursery schools need a fair deal from ministers | Letters
Letters: Robin Thomas, Tony Rea and a day nursery practitioner on the continuation of early years education while other schools are closed. Plus Alexandra Smithies on the government’s failure to provide equipment for remote learning and letters from Paul Godiera and Maggie Johnston


10, Jan, 2021 @5:30 PM

Article image
Back-to-school strategy is lazy and flawed | Letters
Letters: Gavin Williamson’s one-size-fits-all approach to reopening schools will not work, writes Anthony Side, while Chris McDonnell is disappointed in the education secretary’s lack of leadership


05, Jul, 2020 @4:09 PM