Letters: Burnt-out teachers are a loss to our children

These letters appear in the 9 September issue of The Independent

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The experiences of your correspondents (“I’m burnt out after three years of 70 hours a week”, 6 September) will be familiar to teachers all over the country.

My daughter has just resigned after more than 20 years’ teaching in the secondary sector. Conscientious and creative, described as “outstanding” at inspections, she would not compromise her standards and became, like so many others, disillusioned and burnt out.

Like your correspondent “Socrates”, as a parent I am relieved that she has left, but sad because all those pupils she would have inspired in the future will never know her.

The daughter of friends, also outstanding, has recently resigned from her primary school for the same reasons. My brother, a much-respected primary head, is about to take early retirement, tired of all the unacceptable changes. What a loss to the profession such great teachers are.

I retired from teaching in further education 10 years after the sector was taken from the control of LEAs and colleges became PLCs. My pay was frozen because I refused to sign a new contract which did not limit weekly teaching hours. I watched as colleagues suffered under the strain; many left because they could not or would not teach on those conditions. A student once told me that I was the only teacher who had any time for him; I pointed out that this was literally true.

Earning the same in 2003 as I had in 1993 has meant that my pension is smaller than it would have been, but I don’t regret it; teaching is not about money.

And thank you, Michael Rosen, for saying that the powers-that-be should  leave education to teachers, “who know better how  to do it”.

Christina Jones

Retford, Nottinghamshire
 

Avoid messy divorce with Scotland

It is bad enough that Scotland wants a divorce, but it is worse that the UK wants a messy one, as it does not want any currency union with Scotland.

Given that Scotland and England have a shared history that goes back 300 years, and given that 51 per cent of Scottish voters now want independence, any long-term solution would have to include some sort of economic mechanism to ensure that these historical ties are preserved. What better way to maintain these ties than to bind the two countries together via a currency union?

With currency union, an independent Scotland would remain, albeit nominally, a part of the UK. Without it, it will be like any other foreign country. The currency union between Scotland and the rest of the UK could work overwhelmingly in the interest of both countries

Randhir Singh Bains

Gants Hill, Ilford

 

If the Scots vote Yes, perhaps the rest of us may be allowed a referendum to vote on whether they should be allowed to participate in a currency union. I suspect that rejection of the Union and the probable resulting turmoil in the currency and financial markets following such a vote would leave very few favourably disposed to underwriting Alex Salmond’s project.

J R Whelan

Bebington, Wirral

 

It seems surprising that no one so far has mentioned the enormous amount that would have to be spent to build or rent Scottish embassies and consulates all over the world – and to staff them. Do the potential Yes voters realise this?

Trevor Baker

London N3

 

As I sat watching the sun set at an unreasonable 7.30pm, it struck me that if Scotland became independent, it could have its own time zone to enable farmers to greet their cattle in daylight and children to go safely to school.

Then the remaining bit of the UK could adopt double summer time and have the benefits of extended evenings that the rest of Europe enjoys. One positive for the Yes vote, from an English perspective.

John Nichols

Colchester, Essex

 

Could an independent Scotland be persuaded  to take Northern Ireland with it?

Robert Davies

London SE3

 

Recognise that pupils are all different

One reason why more older children have limited reading skills (“Literacy crisis makes for uneasy reading”, 8 September) is that their early exposure to the education system, with all its pressures, has made learning more of a struggle.

When starting school, a load of four- to five-year-olds are put together in one class and treated as if they’re the same, but they develop at different rates.

Some perfectly bright individuals have difficulty with fine motor skills, so holding a pen or pencil is hard. Others can’t really begin to grasp reading and writing until they’re seven or eight because that’s simply when the relevant part of their brain has matured sufficiently.

There’s nothing wrong with children who can’t catch on to formal lessons right away – whether it’s not recognising their letters or being unable to draw shapes – but despite this, they are often labelled as “special needs”, and such morale-sapping failure to meet expectations, at such a young age, puts many youngsters off education for life. They develop a fear of learning or are fed up with trying to learn.

Emilie Lamplough

Trowbridge, Wiltshire

 

Your otherwise sound exposé of child illiteracy made no mention of the vital work put in by local libraries, with their Reading Challenge and other excellent programmes, in promoting children’s reading. Our libraries have taken an appalling series of hits in the cuts imposed since 2010 – yet another facet of the Cameron gang’s new serfdom, in which literacy is reserved for People Like Us.

Richard Humble

Exeter

 

Yes, there is life outside London

David Lister (6 September) wrote a coherent and compelling plea to artists such as Kate Bush to recognise that not just London is eager for its shot of concerts and culture. So please could The Independent’s Radar practise what it preaches. 

Instead of three pages of London cinema listings, please bring back a smattering of publicity for good cinemas throughout the UK. You might even include those in Scotland before they want nothing to do with the rest of us.

Maggie Humphreys

Allerton, Liverpool

 

Russia has reasons for its actions in Ukraine

Russia’s bloodless annexation of Crimea was in accord with the genuinely overwhelming support of the population of Crimea. Despite this, the West has been screaming for sanctions against Russia.

Contrast Russia’s action with that of Israel – Israel has been seizing Palestinian land illegally over a long period, against the wishes of the Palestinians, ignoring UN resolutions and killing hundreds in the process. Where are the sanctions against Israel?

The US has a long history of conspiring to overthrow governments of which it disapproved (never mind if that government was democratically elected), sometimes installing a ruthless dictator.

How much of the removal of the democratically elected pro-Russian president of Ukraine was due to US and European interference?

If Russia annexes part of eastern Ukraine, that too may be in accord with the wishes of the people there. Ukraine was part of Russia for hundreds of years – Kiev was once the capital of Russia. Many famous Russians were born in Ukraine, and many people in Ukraine regard themselves as Russian. There needs to be some recognition of this.

Ron Watts

King’s Lynn, Norfolk
 

‘Sans-culottes’  did have trousers

The sans-culottes of the French Revolution to whom John Lichfield refers, in his article “Revenge of ‘les sans dents’” (6 September) on Valérie Trierweiler’s memoir of François Hollande, could be seen as ancestors of Hollande’s “sans-dents”.

But they were known as sans-culottes not because they were “trouserless”, but because they wore trousers (pantalons) rather than aristocratic breeches (culottes).

Peter Cogman

Shirley, Southampton

 

Momentous news: another Royal baby 

I was listening to a fluent, impassioned speech on BBC News by the General Secretary of the TUC on the subject of the gross inequalities of the British class system.

Suddenly, the announcer cut in to deliver the momentous news that the Duchess of Cambridge is pregnant.

This was then followed by a long analysis of this great event by various journalistic royal-watchers, and Frances O’Grady’s excellent and important contribution to the national debate was forgotten.

Only in England!

Chris Payne

Lipa City, Batangas, Philippines

 

The news that William and Catherine are expecting yet another child suddenly makes the prospect of a long flight to one of the outer planets seem quite enticing.

Andrew McLuskey

Stanwell, Staines

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