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I enjoy reading Melanie Phillip's column but she should remember she earns her living through the media and if she considers studying media, which affects us daily, frivolous - it doesn't say much about her chosen profession.

I would ask her to actually visit her local schools' media class, especially those working at the top level to look at their project work and subject content and maybe give a talk to the students about journalism and research. (No, I'm not a teacher and didn't take Media Studies)

Many employers moan about media studies because they don't know the content of the GCSE, then in the next breath moan that children don't have 'soft' skills like communication, letter writing, an appreciation of customer (target audience), and how to create reports which are all covered in the course. Media Studies pupils have a better understanding of media including marketing, use of web sites and advertising which are all studied to effect in media lessons, these lessons are often taken by the English and Humanities teachers at most High Schools, to the same levels as other humanities subjects such as Geography or RS.

I don't agree that forcing all children through modern language education is productive have you ever tried to hold a discussion with a GCSE C grade language student in French or German?

Selsdon Man

The article shows that there is much for the conservatives to develop policies and campaign on. The Left has hijacked and destroyed education. We need a comprehensive strategy to reclaim it. The electorate will not take us seriously if we all we talk about is choice and vouchers - even though they are very important.

David Sergeant

Sorry Selsdon Man, we always seem to be looking for "comprehensive strategies" for just about anything. We have policies at the General election - what's wrong with them? We should be getting our hands dirty selling them instead of sitting back and wondering about a big idea.

May I suggest that our education policies didn't persuade people because coming from us they were not seen as policies Tories would automatically support because we never said so. And, worse, the electorate believed we did nothing for education while in power so any likeable policies (and they liked them) were just seen as oportunistic.

There is the need for strategy: to link individual policies to party core beliefs and to link them to what we did during the 18 years.


It was under Thatcher that GCSE's were introduced. I remember at the time when I took my GCSE's - the first year that they were introduced - that they advocated giving schoolkids marks depending on how well they did and not in comparison to how well did to other schoolkids.

I always thought that never made sense - I think the rot started then.

Tom Ainsworth

How abuot encouraging the reintroduction of grammar schools? DC indicates his support in today's Telegraph:

Currently parents are able to vote to abolish them (though none have done so), but are not allowed to vote to create them. I could find nothing about this in our policy-light manifesto; all Howard did was say he went to one. A 'comprehensive strategy' is just what we don't need!


I was horrified to learn that at one school where a friend of mine taught History had to be called 'Past Studies' because 'his story' was sexist. This is the sort of phenomenal stupidity that pervades are education system.

What is needed is a root and branch reform of secondary education replacing GCSEs and A-levels with a school diploma in which joke subjects like psycology and anything with 'studies' in the title can still be taught but have less weight than important subjects such as English, Maths and History.

We also need individual marks rather than grades in order to better differentiate between candidates.


Wasp don't you think that reform, reform, reform is part of the problem. People used to know what an O level stood for or a CSE/16+ examination. I read an article by Estelle Morris on the Guardian website on Thursday and agree with much of the comment.

If Media Studies was called 'Communication' or 'Information Intelligence' would that make you feel better about it as the course content includes publicity, public relations, telecommunications, reporting, advertising etc. I take it that you didn't take Media Studies and that you assume it is easier than English, Maths and History. Please go into High School and look at the course content it is no easier to get an A in Media than it is in Maths.

Business Studies - would this be better called Economics or Enterprise Education or Commerce.

I agree that the individual marks are required but there are three different papers for maths all called GCSE.

Everyone should get a certificate with your five year attendance record, how you performed as a citizen of the school with your commitment in curricula and extra curricula. Your general level of attainment as assessed by your course tutors which can be used by prospective employers, colleges, universities as a measure of commitment to your education.

There should then be voluntary exams in each subject set at a sufficiently taxing level to differentiate between all levels of ability. Employers need to know the % banding for each grade and then the students grade and % pass mark.

Oh by the way to an Employer that's looking for a new trainee chef an A grade in food technology with a food hygiene certificate is of a higher value than a B grade in Maths it's horses for courses. Everybody has their own individual strengths that's what makes us unique.

Tom Ainsworth

It's a pedantic point, I know, but when I was at school (fairly recently) one could choose to do either Economics or Business Studies at A level, and it was pretty much universally acknowledged that the former was harder.

I'm not sure we should be encouraging the growth of new subjects until the majority of children can read, write and add up rather better than they can at the moment, but if we do I'd like, instead of Media or Food Studies, to see more people advocating Latin and Greek. Classics has all but disappeared from state education on the ridiculous grounds that it is elitist. As anyone who has studied the ancient languages will know, they are an enormous help in promoting a greater knowledge of English grammar and vocabulary (on top of the many other excellent reasons for studying them - great literature, philosophy, history, etc.)!


Tom - one has to have a great Greek or Latin teacher to do this and do you think there are are enough in the UK for every Comprehensive School? Perhaps if compulsory Latin or Greek were in place rather than three years of compulsory French or German everyone's English would improve, I don't know classics weren't on offer at my school in the 80's, nor is it on offer at my children's High School now. I think we should concentrate on getting fantastic English teachers for every school.

Did you actually go to school Tom with people struggling with the basic national curriculum, and watch them switch off because everyone seemed to 'get it' when they didn't? The danger with only teaching academic subjects is that the people who possess the necessary skills to perform the practical jobs that are required in a healthy economy would disappear.

Tom Ainsworth

There are currently about 600 undergraduates studying Classics at Oxford, while fewer than 300 do, for instance, Geography, so there should be no shortage of able graduates if the demand was there. At the moment people who want to teach are pretty much forced into the private sector, even more so if they want to do Greek as well as Latin.

I worry that an ever-increasing emphasis on skill acquisition, due to the belief, fostered by the expansion of the internet, that no one has to know anything anymore, is only accelerated by focussing on non-academic subjects, which teach skills that most people can pick up for themselves in no time at all. Rote learning is much disparaged, but it doesn't have to be boring: I can still remember and enjoy the poems that I learnt at prep school. Why does this not happen in the state sector?


Why does this not happen in the state sector?

In State school you have a mixed ability class of about 30 children some of whom aren't introduced to reading before commencing school let alone poetry. They generally can't dump disruptive children in the same way that private schools can either.

Children whose parents appreciate literature can pick up poems and books from the library and do. In prep aren't the classes approx. 14 - 20 children generally from well educated (heeled) parents?

My children's State primary school offers a selection of literature that the children choose to take home to read recording this reading in their homework diary, unfortunately some parents don't support or encourage this - you can lead a horse to water and all that.

The only poem I remember from school was The Irish Airman Forsees His Death by WB Yeats, school didn't give me a love of literature although as an adult I read voraciously on a wide variety of topics. I'm not at all sure that the children at my school would have appreciated being force fed the Classics, however I have many class mates that run their own businesses now and have been wealth and job creators and tax payers.

Tom Ainsworth

It is of course appalling if parents don't encourage their children to do homework. However one way to counter this is to motivate the kids to want to do it themselves. After learning our poems we were asked to stand up in class and recite them, and our marks were announced to the class. This may sound old-fashioned, but I still remember them. Healthy competition is the answer!

Obviously one needs to cater to all abilities. My prep school was streamed for everything, and certainly the lower sets did less poetry learning. However the Harry Potter phenomenon, as well as the works of other popular children's authors like Philip Pullman, Eoin Colfer, etc. (yes I have read them!), amply demonstrates how children of all abilities lap up good literature. People shouldn't have to wait till adulthood to enjoy books, and giving up in favour of teaching them to browse the web (which they will pick up themselves anyway) is surely a mistake.


Yes Tom but unfortunately the Labour Party has done away with healthy competition, everybody is encouraged to be average now in the State sector and there is certainly little praise for excellence. High School is not streamed for a year and disruptive pupils are spread one (maybe more) per class.

In fact as our son is consistently top in Maths he loses out - everyone who improves is given a Mars Bar and he just gets a chat if his magic number dips. It is up to us to provide him with additional educational opportunities to nurture his talent for Maths and for those children whose parents can't be bothered to chaffeur them to the free occasional extension classes I despair (we ended up providing the transport for several children who would otherwise not be able to attend due to parental apathy).

Our three children love reading they've just completed the reading voyage at the local library during the school holiday - it was free and they've been rewarded with a certificate and medal.

At school now in Year 7 they've introduced lessons called 'Integrated Curriculum' 10 hours per fortnight, project based to learn how to be good citizens and teamwork and give more respect lets hope this reform is not another waste of time as our children are being used as guinea pigs by the educational establishment, it seems a shame as my children have been taught a healthy respect for others and themselves from being toddlers.

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