Education matters under the spotlight

‘There are many routes into teaching, and these can and should complement each other, not compete,’ says Russell Hobby of Teach First. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Professor Marilyn Leask implies that Teach First believes disadvantaged pupils deserve the least qualified teachers (Letters, 13 December).

In fact, we exist to make sure that children in low-income areas have great teachers. All our participants earn fully qualified teacher status and a postgraduate diploma in education over a two-year training programme. We are proud that our academically rigorous programme is designed and delivered in partnership with leading UK universities. Research underpins all our work as a charity, including our postgraduate diploma in education.

There are many routes into teaching, and these can and should complement each other, not compete. The important thing is that they produce great teachers to support children to reach their potential. Like all teachers, our participants are committed professionals who want to do the best for their pupils. And we are delighted that independent research by the Institute of Education has shown that Teach First teachers have a positive impact on pupil results in disadvantaged schools. Russell HobbyChief executive, Teach First

 I am grateful to Catherine Pepinster (Ofsted is wrong to criticise faith schools, 14 December) for name-checking the Accord Coalition. We unashamedly campaign for an end to selection in school admission policies because in this increasingly dangerous and uncertain world it is vital that all views, faith and non-faith, are given the opportunity to participate in the vitally important task of education – on a level playing field.

It is surely wrong in principle that one particular section of society, or faith tradition, should be allowed by law to operate selective policies in their schools, and thus be given the opportunity to discriminate against and exclude those who do not share their views.

And if, as Ms Pepinster states, it is truly the case that the Catholic church stopped building new schools because the 50% cap ruling broke its canon law then it is surely canon law, and not government policy, that needs to change.Rev Stephen TerryMember of Accord Coalition steering group

Discouraging as it is to find the Ucas admissions revealing that students on free school meals were half as likely to attend university (Poorer primary school pupils increasingly left behind, 15 December), it should not be a surprise to most of us. When the County of Avon still existed (up to March 1996) its education department had collected and analysed data relating to assessment. So, even then we knew at key stage 2 that the factors linked to Sats results were: free school meals (higher performance for those who did not have them); gender (girls performed better than boys); month of birth (early in school year superior to late months).

Some areas, like London, acted on this knowledge and improved matters considerably. As the Guardian has discovered, some schools break this pattern of performance. Surely what we should be doing is publicising what they do to achieve this and encouraging others to follow suit. This ought to have many more benefits than putting the kind of pressure on schools that leads some to divest themselves of pupils with special needs.Paul CollisBath