Letters: High wages don't equal high worth

These letters appear in the 31st January issue of The Independent

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In one fell swoop, by equating the value of education with long-term earning potential, our Education Secretary has managed to reduce the whole thing to a profit and loss account. Nicky Morgan’s promise, made at the education technology show Bett this week, to attach students’ qualifications to tax data so she can demonstrate to the waiting world their “true worth” is a short jump from believing that the worth of individuals is measured by the size of their bank account.

If these plans go ahead, those students whose talents lie in other directions will know from the outset that they are second-class citizens.

A range of subjects could be marginalised which, while not linked to high earning, are powerfully linked to the well-being of individuals and communities.

It would be disingenuous to pretend that students and their families are not interested in the kinds of salaries that they may earn in the future. What Ms Morgan fails to appreciate is that not everyone is motivated entirely by money. In school I learnt that the well-stocked mind was a virtue in its own right and that to be intellectually curious, creative and spiritually aware were good things.

The flaw in Ms Morgan’s logic is that, among those who achieve spectacular financial success, many are mavericks, the kind of people who are not particularly successful at school. I don’t think Richard Branson bothered much with his A-levels…

Lynne Taylor-Gooby

Principal,  The Royal School,

Haslemere, Surrey


The sad fact about the current secondary league tables debate is that its focus is on the metric rather than on the pupil.

The purpose of an assessment is that the pupil should be allowed to demonstrate his or her learning of a concept. As pupils learn at different rates (another fact), those demonstrations of learning will occur at different times and in different modes over the pupil’s learning journey.

 The metric as currently prescribed in England demands performance data for comparability purposes on certain dates. This naturally creates a mismatch between natural pupil learning progress and the demand for data for league tables.

Which is more important: that the pupil learns iteratively and rigorously with depth, understanding, support and challenge over the course of the journey; or that test data are available to supply political soundbites?

Professor Bill Boyle

Tarporley, Cheshire


Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department for Education is right to call for reform to school accountability, but he fails to get to the crux of the issue (“Turning the tables”, 29 January).

The problem with today’s system is that it focuses too heavily on exam results and not enough on preparing young people for work. The reality is that youth unemployment is still high – it’s three times that of adults – so we need to stop talking about the problems, and focus on practical solutions.

We want to see schools assessed on their pupils’ job destination, along with academic achievement, so that schools have the incentive to focus on equipping children with the skills and attributes that employers are looking for.

Chambers of Commerce around the country are already working to bridge the gap between the worlds of education and work – this is what our young people need to succeed, what UK firms need to stay competitive, and what this country needs to remain prosperous in the long term.  

Dr Adam Marshall

Executive Director,

British Chambers  of Commerce,  London SW1


More statistics emanate from the Department for Education, and from staff-rooms across the land comes a chorus of “You don’t fatten a pig by weighing it.”

S Lawton

Kirtlington, Oxfordshire


Apprenticeships: don’t believe the hype

Your editorial of 28 January describes apprenticeships as “‘good things’, that no one disagrees with”. Two members of my family are now employed as “apprentices” but they are really glorified shop assistants serving customers in a high-street pawn shop, being paid £2.50 per hour, with no extra pay for weekends etc.

This would be fine if they came away with a trade that would lead them to a worthwhile career, but these companies use them as cheap labour for one year then get rid of them and bring in another “apprentice”.

While these lads are glad of a chance to work, please don’t insult our or their intelligence by referring to them as apprenticeships – it’s just a ploy to reduce the unemployment figures.

No wonder the tax revenues are stagnant as unemployment drops.

John Mitchell

North Yorkshire


The Archers’is on a roll

Tony Hall should certainly not interfere with The Archers’ scriptwriters (“Has ‘The Archers’ lost the plot?” 29 January). The new road plan and the Brookfield sale present one of the most ingenious plot lines yet developed. Of course the farm and the family at the core of this venerable saga cannot disappear. We are just agog to find out how it all crumbles.

When the Brookfield sale finally falls through for a host of possible reasons (Heather dies, the planners cancel the new road, Justin loses interest in the whole Ambridge project, someone falls for someone else’s wife or civil partner with disastrous financial fall-out, a key character is murdered or drowns in a slurry pit – beat the scriptwriters to the eventual outcome yourself) a whole complex of consequential storylines then opens up among David Archer’s relations, their partners, friends and neighbours, keeping them in storylines for several years. Wonderful stuff!

Gavin Turner

Gunton, Norfolk


Tony Hall is right to be worried – as are all of my friends who listen – about the direction of The Archers. Not only do the plots appear to come from EastEnders, but actors have been changed so that a key father and son relationship now has different voices.

Chris Jones

Bourne, Lincolnshire


Shameful treatment of asylum seekers

New regulations mean that asylum seekers from all over the country who have been refused refugee status will have to submit their documents in person, on a specified date in Liverpool (report, 21 January). Many genuine cases fail at the first attempt because there is no legal representation. How can these people, who have been refused leave to work, pay for their train tickets?

As a Jew born after the war, I know that the Danish helped their Jewish population and that Switzerland turned everyone back to die. How will our treatment of asylum seekers be remembered by future generations?

Kathryn Salomon

London N2


Germany, Greece and the morality of debt

From Athens, Patrick Cockburn writes (28 Janauary): “There is something old-fashioned about the Greek crisis with German and north European states pontificating to the Greeks about the virtues of balanced budgets and debt payment.”

I say Amen to that. The irony, which the Germans, the eurozone’s hard taskmasters, are at pains to overlook but which we should shout from the rooftops, is that, were it not for the fact that the Allies after the Second World War agreed to write off the entire public debt – 670 per cent of its GDP – run up by the Nazis and to inject billions of dollars in aid into Germany under the Marshall Plan, the German postwar economic miracle, the Wirtschaftswunder, would never have happened and Germany today would not be in a position to crow about debt immorality.

Benedict Birnberg 

London SE3


Standing up for men’s rights

I was amused by the formality of the German court’s ruling that men have the right to relieve themselves in a standing position, as wittily elaborated by Rosie Millard (24 January).

It occurred to me some years ago that the British people lost a vital part of subliminal toilet training when the car took over from the train as the preferred form of transport. Beyond the Fringe drew our attention to the legend contained in every toilet compartment on a train: “Gentlemen Lift the Seat”.

Where do today’s rising generation of gentlemen learn such etiquette? They no longer do, it seems, or else there are no more gentlemen.

Ron Hill



A Mancunian by another name

Manchester is a great city but so are its neighbouring cities and boroughs (report, 29 January). Manchester United is in Trafford Borough. The BBC media city is in the city of Salford as is the Lowry, shown in your picture. The population of the city of Manchester was 514,417 in 2013, not 2.71 million. Greater Manchester may have 2.5 million, but you try telling Wiganers or Boltonians that they are Mancunians.

Aidan Turner-Bishop