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Opinion

Here’s what readers had to say about our article on absenteeism in school

Beth Prescott’s piece on why children aren’t attending school has prompted readers to write in. Join the conversation at the end of this article

I’ve just read Beth Prescott’s piece on children persistently absent from school. I think she misses a key piece of the equation for solving this which is a rethink of schools themselves. Our school system is antiquated, based on a private school system from victorian times, schools are often authoritarian and discipline focused rather than nurturing, as well as being severely under funded. They don’t prepare our children for life in the adult world, and certainly not the climate change affected world today’s children will be forced to survive in. No modern jobs force us to spend all day in a small room with 30 bullies, while an overseeing bully torments us. This sort of toxic environment really needs a rethink. Growing Great Schools Worldwide gives an alternative vision of how things could be. 

Amy Doherty, Exeter 

Amy Doherty’s rant complaining of a toxic school environment states that every child in a class is a bully, based on class sizes of 30, and that every teacher is also a bully. The writer offers no constructive alternative suggestions to change this perceived environment, just a full on whinge of a situation that is just not creditable. Yes there is a focus on academia because that is how schools are judged in the current climate and the recent suicide of a head teacher following an Ofsted visit shows just how much pressure schools are currently under. I suspect the writer’s ire should be directed at the government and its policy making rather than bashing schools with statements that cannot be justified in reality. Just my two cents’ worth (I am not a teacher by the way).

Regards,

Tim Grindley, London

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I’m not normally moved to respond to a point of view with a letter myself but on reading Amy Doherty’s labelling of the teacher in today’s classroom as an ‘overseeing bully’ I felt I had to reply. Yes, as a teacher of English in an academy I do work within an ‘antiquated’, ‘Victorian’ system. However, that does not make me Mr Gradgrind. My colleagues and I are inspiring, warm and caring teachers who do our very best to help our students achieve their very best. 

Last week I took four students to the English Speaking Union Debating Competition in Cambridge, along with ten of their peers who wished to support them, and a further eighteen members of staff, including two caretakers and three Finance staff, all of whom wanted to give up their Sunday in order to support our school team. On Wednesday I took 12 students to The University of Essex for them to receive their certificates for working over the last ten weeks on a degree-level dissertation. During the previous week I attended the Jack Petchey Speakout! Challenge to see one of our pupils deliver an amazing speech on a Thursday evening. Three of my colleagues were there with me.

The challenges facing our students undoubtedly include factors that Amy refers to in her letter but there are many more issues at play here – the Covid epidemic has been a major factor, affecting not only students but many adults as we attempt to come to terms with the disruption that disease brought to us all. Please, though, don’t succumb to the old fashioned Dickensian stereotypes of teachers. Just because we work in a flawed school system doesn’t mean that we don’t recognise this, and that we don’t do our absolute utmost to ensure that our future generations succeed, no matter what.

Kind regards,

Shane Howard, Rayleigh, Essex

Beth Prescott’s heartbreaking article about vanishing school children attendees is mind numbing. How can we continue to pretend we are a forward looking society, when we are clearly failing those most in need? Remember they are our future! We must nourish and nurture, not neglect those most in need: free school meals, free transport, free breakfast clubs and after school clubs can all be financed by the windfall taxing of the huge companies benefitting from our lax government spending application.

A.C.Zacharski

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