AS A TEACHER who has been involved in dealing with a case of child cruelty I was encouraged to see an article attempting to shed some light on this disturbing phenomenon ("Man's inhumanity to child", 21 March). Coming into contact with young people who have suffered the kind of abuse described by Theodore Dalrymple is surely one of the most emotionally demanding aspects of this job.

I was astonished, however, when the author went on to refer to the British educational system as "...a publicly funded form of child abuse". I searched for some justification for this appalling remark, but none was evident - perhaps because such crass ignorance is impossible to justify. Dr Dalrymple instantly alienated himself from the thousands of people in this country's education service who work tirelessly (and, it seems, thanklessly) to enrich the lives of children, and to prevent the type of cruelty he condemns.

Every school in the country is staffed by people dedicated to improving the life chances of the youngsters in their charge. I would not be foolish enough to suggest that this process takes place flawlessly but this certainly does not make teachers and other educational workers party to institutional child abuse. Were it not for the vigilance and solicitude of many people working in schools, precisely the type of abuse referred to by the author would be more prevalent, less often detected and perhaps more terrible. What a shame that the opportunity to discuss a matter of such gravity was wasted.

MORGAN P THOMAS

Greenford, Middlesex

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