20 May '13

News Letters: Mr Gove, please listen to teachers

The secretary of state for education is pressing on doggedly with his proposals for the reform of education at all levels. This is in the face of opposition of the major headteachers' unions and representative associations throughout the maintained and independent sectors (ASCL, ISC, GSA and HMC). And all the admissions tutors of Cambridge University. At the weekend the NAHT expressed clearly what many teachers and headteachers think (Report, 18 May). The lack of respect for our professional expertise and long experience is breathtaking and will win no one to the cause. Indeed, it is a strategy no good teacher would ever use to alter the mindset of an apparently troublesome student. Conflict breeds conflict and, before long, contempt.

There is no hunger for many of these reforms. Parents and students are not baying for them. Teachers oppose them as retrograde steps in many cases. Too much change at too many levels is a recipe for chaos for the next decade. And at A-level – to name but one area – we risk undoing the progress since 2000 towards greater breadth and flexibility in the two years of study. Am I alone in thinking that cost-cutting may be just as important in these developments as any altruism apparently tilted at standards?

No good teacher I have ever met was against rigour. If it has been lost, by all means reintroduce it – but with teachers on side and not embattled by long lists of implied failings. Above all, Mr Gove, please just listen to those closest to the country's young people. You will find us open to constructive dialogue. But deeply resistant to endless, destructive – and undeserved – criticism.
Alice Phillips
Head, St Catherine's, Bramley; president-elect of the Girls' Schools Association

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