A culture of failure

Ofsted says the quality of lessons in primary schools has improved significantly in the past four years. What Ofsted means is that more of the observed lessons now display the characteristics (teaching styles, pupil groupings etc.) which Osfted and the government want. For you to suggest (Leader, July 9) that it is good that "child-centred primary education is drawing to a close" is sad. What we are witnessing in our schools is the dawning of a new era of utilitarianism, one which, by promoting a culture of failure, is already causing dissatisfaction, alienation and higher levels of truancy.

I have no doubt that the "education cycle" will come full circle, but only when teachers are once again allowed to consider the way children learn and the purposes of education and to develop a philosophy to underpin their practice. The young teachers now entering the profession have been denied such opportunities and we shall pay dearly for this omission in the years ahead.

Of course children must learn to read, write and add up. But education is about much more than that. It is ultimately about personal and social development - something the world could do with rather more of at the moment but which is not easily measurable by Ofsted.

Derek Gillard

Letter to the Guardian, July 10 1999

OFSTED is the Office for Standards in Schools which inspects UK schools.