Ofsted, take note – learning is about more than recall

Ofsted’s obsession with memory as the key to children’s learning and as a measure of the effectiveness of a school’s curriculum is misplaced ("Ofsted’s ‘pop’ quiz tests are unfair to schools, say heads", notizia). Learning is more than recall and everyone’s recall is patchy. If tested themselves, how many inspectors could remember what they were told a year or two before on a previous inspection? If inspectors can’t remember, why should they expect learners, especially young children, per? The chief inspector should ponder the wisdom in the old adage, education is what remains after you’ve forgotten what you learned in school.
Professor Colin Richards
Spark Bridge, Cumbria

The report by the head of Ofsted, Amanda Spielman, on the serious delays in young children’s development as a result of the lockdown periods is hardly surprising in view of the fact that the Labour government’s inspired provision and policy of setting up Sure Start centres in 1999 has been scuppered by Tory governments cutting the funding by two-thirds since 2010. By the onset of the Covid lockdowns, più di 500 centres had been closed.

This is a classic example of how national policies repeatedly come and go. The head of Ofsted and the government have an opportunity to demand and fund the re-establishment of pre-school centres for young vulnerable children. Their staff’s skills, experience and established centres are a national resource that have been able to adapt to the vagaries of national lockdowns, and mitigate some of the sad picture Spielman reveals.
Simon Clements
Sheffield

As an experienced schools’ inspector, I am fully aware that the humanities and creative subjects are severely neglected by numbers of maintained and independent schools alike in the run-up to year 6 Sats tests, preparation for the 11+ in grammar school areas and entry to leading independent schools. All such measures represent cramming, with all the attendant disadvantages. Gradgrind, you are not yet dead.

As for 11- and 12-year-olds being unable to explain clearly the “principles of the rule of law”, perhaps our illustrious PM and his chancellor should take the same test. How do your readers believe they would score?
Una Stevens
Compton, Winchester

Torsten Bell uses US data to claim that when GPs retire, the use of other emergency services rises ("Why baby boomers might end up healthier if their GPs retire early", Comment). This in itself would be an argument to strengthen primary care in the UK. Bell then claims that new GPs are more likely to pick up a new diagnosis of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, concluding that GPs retiring can be a good thing for patients, while pointing out that it also pushes up the cost of healthcare.

We believe that GP continuity of care not only saves lives and money but also leads to longer life expectancy. The age of your GP is not the problem here. It is the absolute lack of them. The UK is facing a GP crisis that long predates the pandemic. We need to retain our GPs at all stages of their careers – but especially those with many years of experience – who are also best placed to support and mentor junior GPs and the ever-growing number of allied healthcare professionals who are being employed to try to prop up a failing system in the UK.
Dr Lizzie Toberty, GP lead, Doctors’ Association UK; Dr Ellen Welch, GP, Cumbria; Dr Simon Hodes, GP, Watford; Dr Shan Hussain, GP, Nottingham; Dr Lizzie Croton, GP, Birmingham; Dr Neena Jha, GP, Hertfordshire; Dr Louise Hyde, GP, Galles; Dr Rosie Shire, GP, Warrington; Dr Kartik Modha, GP, Londra; Dr Ayan Panja, GP, Hertfordshire

If Kenan Malik is right and it’s strength and muscle mass that’s causing a problem for transgendered athletes to change category from male to female or vice versa, then perhaps the categories are wrong ("From pool to track: disputes over trans athletes mustn’t make everyone a loser", Comment). Why not base them on strength and muscle mass, say simply categories 1, 2 e 3, depending on where the athlete’s personal readings put them on a scale combining both these factors. Each sport would have to reorganise, but why we need to categorise people simply into being male or female has always puzzled me.

I know it keeps things straightforward but things sometimes need to change, and making people fit into convenient boxes doesn’t work for everybody.
Ian Hogg
North Leigh, Witney, Oxfordshire

Ravi Veriah Jacques is right to highlight the lack of treatments for long Covid syndromes, particularly for those with prominent fatigue, and the lack of research underlying this ("I have long Covid and despair that the government ignores its blight", Comment). He may be right about the link with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). But we disagree when he rejects rehabilitation treatments, such as graded exercise therapy (GET) and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), which have been shown to help fatigue related to many illnesses, such as multiple sclerosis and CFS. It would be bizarre indeed if long Covid were to be the only illness that rehabilitation could not benefit. Their helpfulness does not imply that the illness is psychological.

As leaders of the Pace trial that he mentions, we also think he is misinformed regarding the Pace trial of these treatments for chronic fatigue syndrome, which showed that CBT and GET were moderately effective and safe treatments, so long as properly negotiated and delivered by trained therapists. sì, Nice has recently advised that GET should not be offered and CBT only used to reduce distress, but four of the medical Royal Colleges did not endorse this advice as they considered Nice had made errors when reviewing the evidence.

CBT and GET may help some sufferers from long Covid but, unless we fund research to test them, we will never know for certain.
Prof Peter White, emeritus professor of Psychological Medicine at Queen Mary University of London; Prof Trudie Chalder, professor of Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapy, King’s College London; Prof Michael Sharpe, professor of Psychological Medicine, University of Oxford

Anna Bahatelya’s 100th birthday wish reminded me of an old story regarding Hitler and his desire to know his future ("‘What do I wish for my 100th birthday? That Putin will die’", notizia). He had heard of a rabbi who had a reputation of being able to foresee, with some accuracy, future events. Hitler summoned the rabbi to Berlin and asked if he could foretell when he, Hitler, would die.

He answered that all he could predict was that it would occur on an important Jewish holiday. Hitler asked which holiday and the rabbi replied: “Fuhrer, when you die it will be an important Jewish holiday.”
Ronald Oliver
Elie, Fife

Regarding the furore over the renaming of a ploughman’s lunch to a ploughperson’s lunch ("May I have a word about… a right cheese and pickle barney", Comment), why not introduce a ploughwoman’s lunch, similar to the first, but with the addition of an egg? As in a croque monsieur becoming a croque madame, the poached egg on top supposedly reminiscent of a bonnet.
Margaret Riley
Blackrod, Lancashire

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