Letters: Academies aren’t always a change for the better

These letters appear in the Monday 5th May edition of the Independent

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While I agree with Mark Steel (“If this counts as consultation, then Gove and his allies must be taking inspiration from Kim Jong-un”, 2 May), that the headteacher of Hove Park School has a different understanding of what consultation means to most of us, this was not always the case.

He has most recently denied the staff the right to a ballot on academy status; he has also denied the council’s offer to ballot the parents on the same issue. However, there was a time when he did understand what it means to consult. Three years ago, the school proposed a uniform change. All parents were invited to vote on this; we could vote for or against a new uniform, and we could then vote on which of many options of uniform we liked the most.

I am disappointed that he is willing to extend democracy to the colour of the trim on our children’s blazers but not to the future status of the school.

Alrik Green, Hove

PS: I voted in favour of the blue trim.


Here in Leeds the school community has for the most part avoided jumping to any general conclusions on the basis of the tragic death of Ann Maguire. Even when the facts are established this shocking incident is likely to tell us little or nothing about the day-to-day challenges faced by staff and pupils in our schools.

There is, however, one aspect of the aftermath which should tell policy-makers and politicians something of real significance. The intense level of support put into Corpus Christie Catholic College by the Leeds local authority has been excellent.

A host of skilled and experienced staff, from a range of services including counsellors, educational psychologists and human resources professionals, have been in the school all week. This has been linked up with work carried out by the other social services that support the local community.

Trade unions representing staff have been kept fully briefed.

There isn’t an academy chain in the country that could provide that level of support and expertise, not to mention the local knowledge that goes with it.

Serious incidents in our schools are very rare. When they do happen, however, schools and communities need a local authority to support them. Not an academy chain, nor a government department in London and nor (if you are listening, Messrs Blunkett and Hunt), a local schools commissioner

Patrick Murphy, Division Secretary,  Leeds, National Union of Teachers


Cancer: we can save even more patients

The Royal College of Radiologists welcomes news of the increasing cancer survival rates reported by Cancer Research UK (editorial, 29 April).

However, a finding by Macmillan Cancer Support that a quarter of cancer cases are diagnosed in accident and emergency departments, when their cancer is advanced and often incurable, indicates an enormous problem in the healthcare system. If this problem of late presentation were to be addressed, then it would have an enormous impact on the profile of cancer treatments offered to patients and require a greater investment in and availability of curative treatments. 

Radiotherapy is a highly effective form of cancer treatment and contributes to cure in 40 per cent of the cancer patient population. It does this either alone or in conjunction with other treatment approaches such as surgery and chemotherapy. However, advances in the range and complexity of non-surgical oncology approaches means that there needs to be an expansion of the workforce if cancer patients are to receive modern treatments delivered to the highest international standards.

Figures from the Macmillan report on late presentation are disappointing but do indicate a very identifiable problem which we have the capability of addressing through improved screening and early diagnostic initiatives. Successful implementation of these strategies will see far more patients coming to oncology services at a stage when their cancer is still curable. With appropriate investment in the clinical oncology workforce, and with expansion of cancer services more widely, the vision of survival rates of 75 per cent seems achievable.

Dr Diana Tait, Vice-President, Clinical Oncology, Royal College of Radiologists, London WC2


It was heartening to read how well Guy Keleny’s lymphoma has responded to treatment. Unfortunately there is a potentially very misleading statement in his article (1 May).

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) is a very heterogeneous condition; while in many cases it is indeed “about as mild as cancer gets”, in others it is an aggressive disease. Happily, there has been great progress in treatment of aggressive NHL, which can in many cases be cured.

Ken Campbell MSc (Clinical Oncology), Kettering, Northamptonshire


Church to blame in chancel liability row

The Archdeacon of Hereford’s attempted riposte (letters, 1 May) serves only to underline the heartlessness at the heart of the Chancel Repair Liability scandal. He callously suggests that it is the responsibility of conveyancing solicitors to find these things out, and that if house purchasers don’t trust their solicitors to get it right, they can always take out insurance at their own expense against the possibility of a demand.

One could equally argue that if parochial church council members are worried that if they exercise their consciences and elect not to behave like legalistic mafiosi they risk legal action being taken against them, and if they don’t trust their bishop to get it right, they could always insure themselves against him at their own expense. Of the two, the latter would be the more just course, since it is they who are the perpetrators of the injury: it is the householders who are the victims.

It is moral cowardice to place the onus upon the victims to fight their corner if they can. The right way forward is for the Church as a body to instruct its PCCs to refuse point blank to register any of these liabilities, use its influence in the House of Lords to get this pernicious, archaic, bad law abolished, and, in the meantime, take whatever action is necessary to protect their PCCs from personal liability in any legal disputes.

Chancels are holy places. You can’t “repair” them with the proceeds of extortion: you destroy their very meaning.

Bob Gilmurray, Ely, Cambridgeshire


Vince Cable’s Royal Mail mix-up

The claim that the early sales of Royal Mail shares prove that many agreed with Vince Cable’s mistaken valuation (letter, 2 May) is a fallacy.

There are many reasons for early sales. The two most common being that the purchaser just wanted to make a quick buck and couldn’t or wouldn’t tie up his money, and that the allocations were so miserly that it wasn’t worth the admin to keep them. One of these is the reason that I bought and immediately sold Royal Mail shares.

Of course this matter is all over and there is no point in grousing; but we must not forget it. At the next election Vince Cable will be touted as the Lib Dems’ business guru; if he made such a mess of this should we really trust him to make more important decisions?

Clive Georgeson, Dronfield,  Derbyshire


The Kremlin’s Italian style

Maybe it is possible to see the Kremlin less as a monument to the myth of Russia’s “otherness” (“Russia’s hidden heart”, 2 May), when we recall that Ivan III invited Italian craftsmen (Fioraventi in 1479, Solari in 1491) to complete or design considerable portions of it, and in the latter case to decorate a palace in the style current at Ferrara.

The idea of a nation’s otherness is often hard to sustain when one discovers that multicultural artists were at work.

Christopher Walker

London W14


Clarkson, big-mouth but no racist

I cannot imagine Jeremy Clarkson being embarrassed or mortified by anything he says or does. However, after listening to his N-word recording online I don’t believe there was any malicious or racist intent behind what he said either – it was hard to make much of the mumbling.

This “incident” revealed by the Daily Mirror was over two years ago and wasn’t even aired. Clarkson is an arrogant loudmouth but the only thing he is racist against is the Toyota Prius.

Emilie Lamplough, Trowbridge,  Wiltshire


Pity the poor cold-caller

You have published several letters about cold callers and how to deal with them.

Let’s remember that they are typically young people on minimum wage, trying to sell a product they may not believe in. We don’t have to buy what they’re selling; and we don’t have to be rude to them either. Asking them “what they have got on” (28 April) is just pathetic.

Keith Robinson, Beckington, Somerset