Letters: A teacher’s world is all too close to life’s realities

These letters appear in the Saturday 29th March edition of the Independent

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Where is this “real world” that Graham Hinitt (letter, 27 March) inhabited? It is entirely unclear why he believes that his role in financial services, which entailed, inter alia, long hours of record-keeping, was more real than that of teachers, or whether he believes that teachers should be doing more paperwork or should stop moaning about what they already do. 

Although my days as a teacher did involve increasing amounts of record-keeping and, obviously, teaching, they also required me to deal with the baggage that the pupils brought to school with them.

Over the years, this baggage included: acrimoniously divorcing parents who used the child as a stick to beat each other; eating disorders; abuse of drugs and/or alcohol; pupils with suicidal feelings; those who were being physically, sexually or emotionally abused at home; acute anxiety over academic performance; unwanted pregnancy; and those struggling with their sexuality.

I’m afraid Mr Hinitt is suffering from the delusion that because teachers are not engaged in wealth creation they are not living in the real world.

I can assure him that it was uncomfortably real to those pupils and often to the teachers who tried to support them.

Kathy Moyse, Cobham, Surrey

The trouble with some financial services managers, such as Graham Hinitt, is that even when they leave school they never actually work in the real world. They don’t understand how tough it is in the teaching profession, having only seen it from the point of view of the pupil.

Before my retirement I worked at one time in a secondary school – not as a teacher but in admin. Having previously worked in the “real world”, I gained a new respect for the teaching profession.

The hours were long  and much time was spent on record-keeping, as  well as actually in the classroom. Not possible to get a coffee whenever you feel the need – not with a class of pupils requiring your undivided attention the whole time.

Many teachers have worked in business before taking up teaching and they certainly would not consider it to be a soft option.

I suggest that Mr Hinitt spends some time volunteering in a school, I am sure his expertise would be much appreciated and he would gain useful knowledge.

Jill O’Kelly, Horringer, Suffolk

In the late 19th century, my grandmother taught classes of about 50 children and regularly fell asleep over a pile of marking in the evening – long hours and hard work. Yet she inspired generations of my family to follow her, because teaching is a joyous and rewarding experience.

The line of teachers has survived unbroken until now, but it is about to come to an end with the resignations of two members of my family,  one from the primary and one from the secondary sector, both consistently rated “outstanding” throughout their long careers.

It’s nothing to do with hard work and long hours; it’s because of frustration at not being able to do the job as it should be done.

Alison Sutherland (letter, 28 March) says it all: “daft organisational and curriculum ideas” imposed by people who have no idea of the implications. Teaching and learning are no longer a joyous experience for anyone.

My grandmother would be very sad indeed.

Christina Jones, Retford, Nottinghamshire

Why Crimea is so important to Putin

Mary Dejevsky (27 March) recommends bold action to negotiate and resolve our problems with Russia, but I don’t think she addresses the main reason why Russia wants to secure Crimea – which is the link Crimea provides with its naval base in Syria, preserving its ability to support its clients, mainly Assad, and its general ability to influence events in the Middle East.

This is also the reason why the West, pungently represented by the US’s Victoria Nuland, whose scorn for her European Union partners was so memorably recorded, gave so much power to the elbow of the anti-Russian streetfighters  in Kiev.

A secure pro-Western Ukrainian government intending to winkle the Russians out of Sevastopol would have been extremely helpful.

Russia is acting ruthlessly, but not from sheer weakness, as Barack Obama claims, rather from a determination to preserve, for good or ill, what power over the world’s most vital region remains to it.

The problem that needs to be resolved is not so much those that Mary Dejevsky explicitly mentions but the Israel/Palestine problem, which is spreading poison through all the world’s veins

Martin Hughes, Wokingham, Berkshire

Vladimir Putin’s colonialist occupation of Crimea offers Islamic jihadis a pool of potential recruits among the peninsula’s 300,000 Muslim Tatars, and a new Black Sea coastal forward base for terrorism only 200km from the EU’s eastern border.

The Crimean Tatars have no love for Russia which, in the 1940s, ethnically cleansed their grandparents from their ancestral homeland to Central Asia, from where they have been returning since the 1980s to a territory safely outside Russia since 1954.

Faced with new threats to their security and ethnic identity, the more embittered Tatars will be natural allies for Chechen separatists to the east of the Black Sea, battle-hardened by two wars with Russia and now fighting in Syria against Russia’s ally President Assad, and other regional activists.

A saner strategist than Putin might have considered that the last thing the world needs is any more disaffected Muslims – especially ones with a genuine grievance against the occupation of their country. We should not, therefore, be surprised when we see TV footage of Russians again reeling from Chechen-style bombing campaigns, orchestrated from a Black Sea arc with easy access to the whole Middle East.

The pity is that jihadis, once indoctrinated, don’t tend to feel geographically restricted from turning their wrath against other targets.

David Crawford, Bromley, Kent

Privatised power has run out of steam

When the largest gas supplier threatens us all with the lights going out, we surely know that the experiment with privatised power generation and supply has failed.

It is time for the public sector to re-establish control over our power supplies. We deserve a cheaper, sustainable, more reliable alternative. We would never put our national security at risk by selling our military defences to the private sector to be subsequently sold to foreign institutions, yet our energy supplies are essential to our daily security.

Lee Dalton

Weymouth, Dorset

With the CEO of Centrica threatening blackouts, has it occurred to anyone else that the privatisation of our national energy was the worst legislation in Parliamentary history? I know who I will  be burning in effigy on  5 November.

David Monkman

Ramsey St Mary’s, Cambridgeshire

end this sex discrimination

With the first same-sex marriage taking place in Britain today, is not the time ripe either to pass legislation permitting civil partnerships between heterosexual couples or to repeal the legislation recognising same-sex civil partnerships? Until such legislation is passed, is not unjustified discrimination being manifested?

Peter Cave

London W1

cow fodder  vs the gadfly

I am happy to enlighten Dave Keeley (letter, 28 March) on the origins of the word Farage. Obviously, it comes from the Latin farrago which my Shorter Oxford English Dictionary tells me meant “mixed fodder for cattle, hence fig, a medley, a confused group, a hotchpotch”.

As for the word Clegg, it seems to have Old Norse origins from “kleggi: a gadfly”, now meaning figuratively “one who torments and worries another” and “an irresistible impulse”. I leave you to draw your own conclusions.

Patrick Walsh


I have long believed that the world would be a jollier place if we were allowed to pronounce two names in British politics in a slightly different way.

Farage should surely rhyme with the south London garage of my youth, ie “farridge”, while Gove must, in all conscience, rhyme either with “move”  or “shove”. See? You’re smiling already.

Steve Clarke

Portree, Isle of Skye


Farage vs Clegg was like two donkeys going round Aintree.

Amanda Baker

Morpeth,  Northumberland

how many mothers  are you buying for?

Is there any special significance in one town-centre card shop offering “Mother’s Day cards: five for a pound!”?

Godfrey H Holmes

Chesterfield,  Derbyshire