Letters: A rowdy school, and why some parents go private

These letters appear in the Tuesday 15th April edition of the Independent
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At last, some reality. A study from the University of East Anglia says that unruly behaviour in schools has been seriously underestimated by official reports. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why we have such a lowly position in the global educational achievement league tables. No matter how inspirational a teacher may be, disruptive elements can create an extremely negative classroom. From my own experience, some people just do not have “it” and seemingly cannot create the correct atmosphere to facilitate learning.

A school must have the correct ethos to support its teachers; this depends in part on the “management team”. Parents also have their part to play in ensuring that the correct example and encouragement is given to their offspring. The size of the school is one of the factors that is often overlooked; a training officer in the Royal Marines once told me that too many of today’s youth could either hide or get lost when they attended schools which were too large.

It is vital that we address these problems to ensure that our youth can compete upon the world stage.

Dr David Bartlett, Ilkley, West Yorkshire

On the sunny horizon of Ofsted-led soaraway school improvement it is rare to find a blemish. So it is with some amazement that we learn from a major study that pupil behaviour may be “worse than thought”.

 Whose thought this may be is not clear, but it surely could not be that of Ofsted by whom the fall of a sparrow in the remotest playground is immediately ticked in a box. I wonder could it be then that the health, mental or otherwise, of teachers is not considered significant?

Martin Murray, London SW23


Chris Blackhurst proposes to abolish public schools (“So if I were Prime Minister, here’s what I’d do”, 11 April). Allow me to paint him a picture.

This concerns a family of six, three sons, three daughters. The boys passed the 11-plus and were sent to the local state grammar school. None of the girls gained a place in selective education and were educated in three different private schools according to their particular gifts.

This family was not wealthy, being basic-rate taxpayers, but they were passionate about securing a happy education for all their children. There were no expensive foreign holidays and few meals out, and many of the children’s clothes were passed on by good friends and handed down. None of this was a hardship because it was a mutual decision to make education the priority and channel family resources completely to that end.

Chris Blackhurst must be aware of the many small private schools that are peopled by families similar to our own. He does all these families a great injustice by characterising them as over-privileged.

Children blossom when their teachers take the trouble to find their talents and celebrate them with genuine interest. Success is narrowly defined if only academic achievement  is lauded.

Banning public schools is an easy political target but does little to address the many inequalities that exist in children’s lives. Far better to address both the size of state school classes and the issue of disruptive behaviour by a small but persistent minority.

If anyone asked me to be Prime Minister my suggestion would be to reduce all state school classes to 20 pupils as a maximum, provide much smaller separate classes for the pupils with behavioural problems and promote a curriculum which has enough flexibility to accommodate both academic and practical education.

A state education would become so attractive that you might find there would be no need to ban public schools.

Francesca Barrow, Rugby, Warwickshire


Kidney donor kept  out of Britain

If a matter of life or death is not “sufficiently exceptional” to allow Keisha Rushton a visa for the UK from Jamaica to be a kidney donor for her brother (report, 12 April), perhaps the Case Referral Unit at the Home Office could give us an example of something that is.

It would seem that either the CRU members are totally brainless, or perhaps this is yet another example of the heartless Tory policy to bully and crush the weak and defenceless and those down on their luck.

Maureen Lewis, Ambleside, Cumbria


Witch-hunter allowed in

The notorious Nigerian witch-hunting pastor Helen Ukpabio recently arrived in London where she has been holding a number of church services to promote the belief in witchcraft and her ability to “deliver” people from this perceived evil.

Since various UN reports have linked her activities to wide-scale abuses of child rights in South-Eastern Nigeria, would it not be reasonable to ask that the Home Secretary considers deporting Mrs Ukpabio from the UK pursuant to section 3(5) of the Immigration Act 1971 on the basis that her presence here is not conducive to the public good?

Gary Foxcroft, Executive Director, Witchcraft and Human Rights Information Network

Kirsty Brimelow QC, Chair, Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales

Sir Tim Lankester

Professor Jean La Fontaine

Andrew Copson, International Humanist Ethical Union (IHEU)

Pavan Dhaliwal, British Humanist Association, Lancaster


MPs guilty until proven innocent

Andrew Grice (12 April) repeats recent assertions by the Prime Minister that Parliament is honest. I suggest there is a mismatch between the criteria for honesty of those in the orbit of Parliament, like Mr Grice, and those of us outside that orbit.

The Legg report made clear that 52 per cent of MPs were over-claiming expenses, and I would add that the other 48 per cent were letting them do it. David Laws found a lack of frankness about his personal affairs no bar to his return to the Cabinet; Maria Miller, who breached a code of conduct, is to be welcomed back to the Cabinet at the earliest opportunity, and there are MPs whose behaviour has led to them to “stand down at the next election”, but in the meantime they continue to draw the pay and enjoy the perks of being an MP.

One of those perks is a share of the outrageous £7.3m annual subsidy of catering in Parliament. IPSA publishes claims by MPs for £15 to cover “working late” meals that mask a much higher cost to the public.

The lack of accountability  colours my assessment of the honesty of the recent privatisation of Royal Mail: why would I accept that the huge undervaluation was anything other than a scheme to enrich those in the personal networks of some MPs? When it looks like a duck, waddles like a duck and quacks like a duck it is probably a duck. If Mr Grice thinks MPs are honest let’s see and hear the evidence.

Kevin Dobson, Groby, Leicestershire


Deprived of  books in prison

I read with great interest Arifa Akbar’s piece (11 April) about writers’ protest postcards to Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, with the names of books they would most like to send to a prisoner if they could.

Having taught literacy in a prison, I know how much books are valued by prisoners, ranging from those who are learning to read to those studying on OU courses. Access to a library is often very limited, and inability to obtain books can be extremely frustrating.

May I suggest that your readers who feel as I do should follow the example of these writers.

Christina Jones, Retford,  Nottinghamshire


Peers won’t  listen to UKIP

It is worrying that their Lordships (letter, 11 April) apparently do not understand why the Ukip-affiliated peers did  not partake in any  debate or vote on the Immigration Bill.

Surely the reason is because they were aware that their contributions would be ignored and their votes would not influence the result of any division. So, quite sensibly, they kept their powder dry.

Surprising that their Lordships felt the need to attempt to make political capital out of such an obvious situation.

C R Atkinson, Honley, West Yorkshire


Holier than Harlow

So there are 632 potholes in Harlow (Andy McSmith’s diary, 11 April). All I can say is, lucky Harlow! My half kilometre long road, used as a rat-run during morning rush hours, has over 200.  Forty-six of them are within 15 metres of my front drive.

H Kilborn, London SE12


Ending it all under bicycle wheels

Howard Jacobson has used his column on 12 April to express again his dislike of cyclists.

In reality, should he choose to seek his end  on a pedestrian crossing, he is far more likely to be obliged by a motorist than a cyclist.

John Armstrong, Southampton