YP Letters: Zombie ideas on education refuse to die

Proposals for a rise in grammar schools will also lead to more secondary moderns says a reader. See letter
Proposals for a rise in grammar schools will also lead to more secondary moderns says a reader. See letter
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From: John G Davies, Alma Terrace, East Morton, Keighley.

THE second part of the title to Peter Davies’s article “Decades over educational failure – and still no lessons learned” is highly appropriate to his reasoning and knowledge about education. The column (The Yorkshire Post, September 7) is straight out of the Donald Trump/Boris Johnson manual of evidence-free politics.

These zombie ideas keep circulating amongst Conservative politicians in spite of plenty of evidence against them.

He takes a shotgun approach to almost everything that has changed since the 1945 Education Act.

There is plenty of data to show that the overall level of achievement in selective authorities is lower than in comparable comprehensive ones; a small detail that should kill off this zombie once and for all.

He conveniently ignores the fact that in many authorities “comprehensive” is effectively synonymous with “secondary modern”.

On what data are his criticism of “child-centred learning” based? You cannot hammer information, ideas or skills into children’s heads; they have to do the learning. Mixed-ability classes are standard in primary schools, no one criticises it there and mixed-aged teaching is not uncommon in small village schools.

In secondary schools of all types, mixed-ability teaching is rare; the class structure is almost always an imitation of the grammar school approach. The little research that has been done in this area indicates that mixed-ability grouping leads to better result than selective approaches. Children can be resentful at being classified as “failures” and this depresses their motivation to learn.

Grammar and punctuation were abandoned in English largely because they were effective only at enabling children to pass grammar and punctuation tests, not to help them write coherent passages. The use of apostrophes has always been bizarre and mysterious.

Maybe that is why even Shakespeare got them wrong occasionally.

His poor understanding of what teaching is about is shown by the statement “Chronological English history is rarely taught”; I might as well say that “chronological science is rarely taught”; teaching it in historical order does nothing to illuminate the nature of history or science.

Where is the evidence that “Latin and Greek are excellent languages to study to improve English usage and vocabulary”? Neither have much connection with English, except for second-hand words from French.

The most useful “Latin” idea that students can learn is Illigitimi non carborundum, particularly when it comes to pedants like Peter Davies.

EU maths made simple

From: Dr Alastair Cook, Austwick.

YOUR headline “EU funds vital to Yorkshire says top Minister” (The Yorkshire Post, September 7) is quite disconcerting. Not for the obvious reason that it is a tentacle of Project Fear but for the educational achievements of the “top Minister”.

I do not think that even the most avid Europhile would deny that we are/were a net financial contributor to the EU. In deference to Robert Goodwill’s innumeracy, the precise numbers are irrelevant.

Making the numbers very simple, we paid out £1bn and got back in “EU funding” £80m, thus a net contribution of £200m.

While our future relationship with Europe is cloaked in obfuscation and delay, let me suggest that we are likely to continue to contribute to EU funds.

This, of course, means the £800m we have been getting back from Brussels as “EU funding” is still in Her Majesty’s Treasury, never having gone anywhere. It beggars belief that a “top Minister” cannot see that this fund can be used exactly as before.

From: Dr Glyn Powell, Bakersfield Drive, Kellington.

PEOPLE who voted to exit the EU in June’s referendum should be extremely worried by this government’s lack of action. Indeed, it is apparent to myself that Theresa May’s hapless government is backsliding on quitting the EU.

Article 50 should have been invoked with Britain informing Brussels that we were leaving the single market.

This would have two main consequences.

First we could control our border and block migrants entering Britain from eastern European EU states. Secondly, we could explore trade agreements with economically vibrant states. The argument over a points- based migrant control system or allowing entry only to migrants with job offers is a deliberate distraction from the real issue of quitting the EU.

Put cash into cycling

From: Edward Grainger, Botany Way, Nunthorpe, Middlesbrough.

ANDREW Vine’s clear message that investment in cycling will fall comes as no surprise (The Yorkshire Post, September 6).

Until politicians grasp the nettle and show a real commitment by offering real money to secure safe cycling provision, the comparison with the Netherlands, which has put cycling ahead of almost all other forms of transport, will be just a dream.