IoS letters, emails & online postings (11 September 2011)


It is interesting to read that ministers and David Orr, the chief executive of the National Housing Federation, believe that allowing unrestricted housing development is one way of keeping rural schools and post offices open ("Rural exodus leads to dozens of village schools closing", 4 September). Around here, local developers and Carterton Town Council have used this argument to justify a 1,300-home development, even though the school authorities say there are no plans for any closure, and we have no shops to lose.

Locally, there are 262 people on the housing waiting list. This figure includes those in private rented accommodation and others who have moved elsewhere. On the spurious claims of housing need and "protecting services" we are being threatened with a huge development that will destroy the rural environment that attracted most residents to this area, and provides more than enough children to keep our village school open. It reminds me of the famous Vietnam War quote from a US officer: "We had to destroy the village in order to save it."

Roger Bellamy

Alvescot, Oxfordshire

In the 1980s I helped villagers in Plymtree, East Devon, to retain their school, with just 13 on roll; by 2011 and partly as a result of new build in the village, the children attending has climbed to about 80. The crunch point is precisely what the Government means by promoting "sustainable growth", which forms the cornerstone of the draft national planning policy framework. Ideally the level and type of new build in rural communities should reflect the wishes of villagers themselves. Conversely, the term "sustainable development" must not become a cloak for unleashing yet more market housing on communities that desperately need affordable homes. There is nothing sustainable about places like Salcombe or others across our national parks that are overrun with second and holiday homes.

James Derounian

Principal lecturer in community development University of Gloucester, Cheltenham

I was appalled, but not surprised, to read Kunal Dutta's article about pupils being expelled from top state schools for low grades at AS levels. The story names Fortismere School in Muswell Hill, north London, as one of the offenders. In fact, their selection processes start considerably earlier than AS levels with requirements at GCSE that have grown steadily more rigorous over the past five years. Five C grades was amended to five B grades and then further tightened by requiring Bs in both English and maths. The ruthlessness with which children are turfed out of what is supposed to be a neighbourhood state school is both shocking and wrong. Children mature at different speeds. Their concentration levels wax and wane. Through adversity, some will succeed, if they are allowed to. Some will fail and stain the school's unblemished league table results. But that is no reason not to let them try. The school remit should be to educate all its students, not merely act as a launch pad for the most gifted among them.

William Weinstein

London N2

Janet Street-Porter's article (4 September) warning against letting ex-squaddies, who know only square-bashing and obeying orders, loose as teachers set me thinking of my own brief brush with army teaching and its superiority to anything I had received from my local college. The thought and effort put into what and how to teach, motivation, and good teachers were obvious. I soon realised that any organisation able to take recruits lacking even basic maths and, in a few years, enable them to understand, repair and operate the most advanced technical equipment around must know something about teaching.

Alan Dove

London SE3

The Home Office must be aware that animal-tested drugs are the fourth main cause of death in the UK after heart disease, cancer and stroke. So it is disingenuous for it to depict animal testing as a means of ensuring the safety of human patients ("Anger over factory breeding beagles for experiments", 4 September). The true motivation for approving such testing emerges from its refusal to disclose details of laboratory animal breeders on grounds of "commercial sensitivity". Animal testing serves purely commercial, and not medical or scientific, purposes.

Dennis B Stuart

Brighton, East Sussex

Channel 4 and The Independent on Sunday have chosen to contemplate the fates of children left behind by victims of a rare act of aggression against the United States ("9/11 10 years on: The children left behind", 4 September). I cannot recall any corresponding interest by the mainstream press in the children left behind by victims of habitual US aggression in Indochina, Latin America and the rest of the world. Granted, a fair treatment of that subject would consume a vastly greater and constantly expanding space. Still...

Al Burke


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