Grammar schools only further division within our society

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Why do we worry only about bright kids and grammar schools when our educational system most fails the many more that are not academically inclined? To do so is to hasten the re-emergence of the default option, namely the discredited secondary modern.

What is noteworthy about those who criticise comprehensives is their coyness as to the grammar schools' share of intake. We know that the higher the share, the greater the enthusiasm of the middle class for grammar schools. Conversely, restricting the intake to the truly academically gifted (some 5 to 10 per cent) as opposed to merely academically inclined will result in a waning of middle class enthusiasm.

This calls for a less socially divisive, tripartite secondary school system consisting of grammars and vocational institutes with high schools for the academically inclined sandwiched in-between. The vocational institutes, needless to say, should be properly funded, staffed and equipped. Selection, ideally self-selection, should occur later than at eleven.

What's wrong with becoming a plumber, electrician, mechanic or joiner? Our civilisation is no less dependent on these trades than, for instance, those of banking, marketing or even legislating.

Yugo Kovach Dorset 

Our country has become unwelcoming

The letter from Karen Schafheutle about her life in the UK, making Wales her home after arriving as a student at Swansea University, must surely be the tip of the iceberg.

I have friends and work colleagues from Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Poland, France, Austria, Italy and Portugal. My dentist is from Hungary with others in the same practice from Asia, the Middle and Far East. The staff in the nursing home where my elderly aunt died recently were largely Filipino and Indonesian. Our local shop is run by a charming couple of Indian origin. The chap who cleans the public toilets is Caribbean; the domestic staff in the hotel I stayed in near Southampton were eastern European. Many of the pubs and restaurants I have visited recently are either run by non Brits or have staff who are, not to mention the many workers who keep our service industries going, often on minimal earnings.

How has it come about that we, as a nation, have allowed the situation to develop where this huge and valued section of society has become spotlighted in this unseemly Brexit fiasco?

I have a niece who has a child with her French partner. They live in London. I would not be in the least surprised if they decided to abandon this unwelcoming country and decide to live in France.

Steve Edmondson Haslingfield

We need to support African women this International Women's Day

Reports that upwards of 20 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are on the brink of famine provoke a terrible sense of déjà vu.

In a world that produces enough food to feed everyone, it’s hard to countenance that millions of people – in this instance in South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen – can still die of hunger.  

For those of us working to combat food shortages, it means that, collectively, we are failing in our mission. Although civil war and the effects of changing climate are partially to blame, other factors are also at play.

On the one hand, we trumpet the enormous potential of Africa to become the breadbasket for future food production. On the other, we hear time and again about the millions who are going to bed hungry, or are at risk of famine. Something doesn’t add up.

Perhaps what’s missing is a global commitment to put African women at the heart of that continent’s production of food.

The UN estimates that food production in Africa could increase by as much as 30 per cent, if women received an equal share of support in agriculture. Women farmers now produce more than half of the food grown in the world, and roughly 1.6 billion women depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. Despite this, women receive just five per cent of farm advisory supports, and own only two per cent of farmland.

In Ethiopia recently I was struck by what this statistic looks like in practice. When I met with government officials, I met with men; when I met farming cooperatives, it also met with men;  yet when I visited farms, it was most often women who were bent double in the fields – weeding, sowing and harvesting.

Providing support to Africa’s women farmers is not a magic bullet that will ensure that famines and food emergencies will no longer happen in Africa.

However, as we celebrate International Women’s Day this week, we must redouble our efforts to end this imbalance and ensure that women – who suffer poverty’s greatest hardships – are supported to improve harvests, lower hunger and increase incomes.

Ray Jordan, CEO, Self Help Africa

The referendum lies are coming to light

Pre referendum, the Brexiteers promised us an extra £350m per week to be spent on the NHS. Today we learn that a £60bn contingency fund is needed to cover the cost of Brexit and there is no extra for the NHS.

The scale of the lies with which the electorate was hoodwinked is exposed in grand style.

Mike Bradburn Northumberland

Black and Muslim communities are disproportionately affected by misogyny 

From the targeting in the streets of women wearing hijabs, to the horrendous experiences of Diane Abbott, it is evident that women from black and Muslim communities are disproportionately affected by racist abuse and assaults. In the United States the election of Donald Trump who has put together a team of misogynists, means that women’s rights will be under attack.

History shows us that women can be both organisers and leaders in our own defence. International Women’s Day commemorates the 1908 walk out of 15,000 garment workers from New York sweatshops, most of which were migrant women. They demanded the right to vote, better pay and an end to the harassment and discrimination they faced. 

The impressive worldwide Women's Marches against Trump, showed that by taking to the streets and protesting against sexism, racism and prejudice, our voices can be heard and a movement can be built. 

Following today's celebration, we need to ensure that we support the call to march against racism in London, Glasgow and Cardiff on March 18th. This will be an international day of action, coinciding with UN Anti-Racism Day. On this day, we will demonstrate our opposition to anti-Semitism and Islamophobia; show our solidarity to the Black Lives Matter movement and make it clear that refugees and migrants are welcome here.

Kate Osamor MP & Vice Chair, Stand Up To Racism
Sabby Dhalu, Stand Up To Racism
Janet Alder, Sister of Christopher Alder
Maz Saleem, Daugther of Mohammed Saleem
Salma Yacoob, activist
​Siema Iqbal, Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND)
Shannon Davis, Women's March on London organiser
Julie Ward, North West MEP
​Cllr. Claudia Webbe, Islington Council Executive Member for Environment & Transport
Louise Regan, Senior Vice President, NUT
​Kiri Tunk, NUT Junior Vice President 
​Nahella Ashraf, Stand Up To Racism
​Amal Azzudin, human rights activist, 'Glasgow Girls'
​Bibi Khan, Trustee Wightman Road Mosque, Haringey
​Sabia Kamali, TV Presenter and Director of Sisters Forum
​Zlakha Ahmed, founder and manager of Apna Haq
​Clare Moseley, Care4Calais
​Cllr. Heather Fletcher, Co-Chair of the Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester
Anne Alexander, Co-editor Middle-East Solidarity magazine
​Aderonke Apata, Human Rights Activist Feminist & LGBTI Equality Advocate of Manchester Migrant Solidarity/African Rainbow Family
​Naima Omar, Student Stand Up To Racism
Annette Pryce, NUT LGBT Executive Member
Jess Edwards, NUT executive member for Inner London
Dawn Taylor, NUT Executive
Amanda Martin, NUT Executive
Saira Weiner, UCU Joint Regional Sec, Liverpool John Moore University branch sec
Jenny Sutton, branch sec UCU college of Haringey, Enfield & North East London
Rose Wilson, UCU Branch Committee City and Islington College
Carol Cody, UCU Liaison Secretary CoLC, NW UCU Women's Equality Officer
​Amira Taha, Salford City Unison Black Members Officer

Seema Chandwani, Secretary Tottenham Constituency Labour Party
Cllr Peray Ahmet, Noel Park ward, Haringey
Cllr Emine Ibrahim, Harringay ward, Haringey