Children need trained teachers, not careerists | Letters

Professor Marilyn Leask expresses her serious doubts about the value of Teach First, Melian Mansfield says education policy should be based on research, and John Freeman says there’s a simple way to stop schools improperly excluding pupils

I was shocked to read of Prince Charles’s intervention over Teach First (Prince lobbied Alex Salmond over teacher training charity, 8 December). He joins the ranks of anti-intellectuals like Michael Gove and Nick Gibb who see no contradiction between expecting doctors or electricians to be qualified but not teachers.

Yet teachers deal with what is most precious to us as individuals and our society – our brains, our self-belief, our aspirations, our attitudes and our understanding of society and our role within it. Put simply, Teach First claims it is good for the most disadvantaged pupils to have the least trained teachers. What kind of cruel joke is this? It is clearly nonsense.

Teach First trainees are led to believe that they are an elite, able to go into high-flying jobs and speak with authority about teaching. This is a cruel hoax exposing them to ridicule except within their own closed circles. Again, more nonsense.

Those who think anyone can teach with no training should skim the indexes of textbooks used for teacher training. There are about a thousand generic basic concepts underpinning teaching.

Teach First may be necessary to provide emergency training in some places but young people deserve teachers whose interest is in becoming expert teachers rather than using them as a springboard to some other career.
Professor Marilyn Leask
(Visiting professor, De Montfort and Winchester universities; initiator, at the DfE’s Training and Development Agency for schools, of the Teacher Training Resource Bank)

• Recommendations from government ministers, who are proposing a baseline test for four-year-olds, and Ofsted, who have just issued a report, “Bold Beginnings”, about reception classes, demonstrate that established knowledge and understanding of how young children learn are not being used to formulate policy.

Most other countries do not consider formal teaching of reading and writing until children are seven, when they learn very quickly. What is being proposed and much of what is happening already will not only fail children at a young age, but consequently damage their progress and motivation for the rest of their education.

Research is plentiful. Why do ministers, and now worryingly Ofsted, not heed research?
Melian Mansfield
Campaign for State Education and Early Childhood Forum

• It is great that Amanda Spielman, Ofsted chief inspector, has recognised that too many schools exclude too many children – both properly, according to the rules, and improperly – to improve their Ofsted ratings and their position in the performance tables. But is she really serious? It would be simple for her to take action to stop this scandal in its tracks. All it would require is for all inspections to look at the school register and to include the analysis in the inspection report. Any school that off-rolls pupils improperly or can’t explain “proper” exclusions should be put into special measures. Job done!
John Freeman
(Former director of children’s services, Dudley metropolitan borough council)
Kingswinford, West Midlands

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