Letters: Male teachers

Lack of male teachers harms girls as well as boys
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The Independent Online

Your headline "One in four primary schools has no male teachers" ( 25 September) does not do justice to a serious problem. The article says only 13 per cent of teachers in primary schools are male.

The conventional view is that this is just a problem for male pupils. However, girls, too, are growing up in households without reliable father figures and the faint presence of men in primary schools will only reinforce the sense that it is only mother that matters, something they may go on to replicate in the eventual care they offer their children.

More than this, the fact that there are only two men under 25 in the whole country working as nursery school teachers is surely a cause for alarm bells to ring. Something is seriously out of kilter, something which will leave children oblivious to the important part men have to play in the care and education of young children.

Gender matters in schools. For pupils, the presence of a man is not the same as the presence of a woman – and they need to experience both in a healthy way in order to situate themselves in relation to their own gender identity. Primary schools and nurseries (not to mention many special schools) have become female territory, and this is unhealthy for both genders. This problem needs some serious attention.

Phil Goss

Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria

(The writer, a former Headteacher, is Senior lecturer in Counselling and Psychotherapy, University of Lancashire)

Risk of a new war in the Middle East

It is possible that the recent Obama almost daily "two-minute hates" against Iran are an attempt to keep Israel from mounting a unilateral attack on Iran.

Israeli threats to attack Iran could not come at a worse moment for the US, which has 200,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, countries bordering upon Iran. An attack by Israel would guarantee a two-front US war with Iran, a war that the US has neither the troops or money to fight without bringing back the draft and raising taxes.

In a recent interview with CNN, Mr Medvedev, the Russian President, said that an attack on Iran would be "the worst thing that can be imagined". Mr Medvedev disclosed that Mr Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, had made a visit to Russia, but only hinted at the reason, which could be the Russian contract made two years ago to sell S-300 air-defence missiles to Iran, a move that worried Israel because the weapons would boost Iran's nuclear facility defences. Mr Medvedev acknowledged the Israeli concerns but refused to cancel the contract.

Israel is now seeing the window of opportunity for a successful attack on Iran closing, as once Iran has the new air defence systems, it would be difficult if not impossible to mount a successful attack on Iran. Will they mount an attack? If they do the only winners will be the American Christian fundamentalists, whose support for Israel is based on the hope of an mid-eastern war that would hasten Armageddon and the second coming of Christ.

George D Lewis

Brackley, Northamptonshire

Yasmin Alibhai Brown's very well thought-out piece "Don't Israel's nuclear weapons count?" (28 September) omits a small documented fact. Iran's leader has, on numerous occasions, threatened the total destruction of Israel.

So as a citizen and resident of an Israel, constantly threatened with obliteration by an Iran openly developing nuclear weapons, I would hope that our "plucky vulnerable little state" is not sitting by quietly waiting for this to happen.

I would respectfully ask you as the editor to show a single news report in which Israel has ever threatened the destruction of another nation.

Joe Dushansky

Tel Aviv, Israel

Contrary to Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, I believe the west is right to confront the Iranian regime, regardless of Israel's nuclear stockpile.

The consequences of a nuclear Iran will be terrifying for the world. The country will seek regional dominance, empowering its terrorist allies in Lebanon and Gaza with nuclear technology and sparking an Arab arms race in the Middle East. It is therefore right that the West compels the Islamic Republic to back down.

Israeli leaders have not threatened to wipe other Arab or Muslim countries off the map using the blood-curdling, genocidal rhetoric of their enemies.

Jeremy Havardi

South Oxhey, Hertfordshire

Everything all right with your waiter?

I work as a waiter in one of my jobs and was very surprised by Tom Sutcliffe's views on what we call a "checkback" ("Please stop asking if my meal is OK", 22 September).

This is a small part of the service that most customers seem to appreciate. If they are enjoying their meal they are more than happy, often very keen, to tell someone about it. If things are unsatisfactory, all the customer has to do is not reply and pull a face (the natural human reaction) and the server will take time to stop and talk about the problems with the food. This usually results in a freshly cooked replacement of either the same or a new choice of dish, or a full refund .

Checkback can also be a useful excuse for a table visit to check if more drinks or anything else is required. This reduces the time the server is "hassling" the table and the risk that the customer is in need of something and has to desperately scan for a server to pull over to the table.

I will continue to ensure with customers that their meals are OK and sincerely hope that when I'm on the other side I continue to be asked.

James Garrard


Along with the well-hackneyed phrases "Can I help you" and "Have a nice day", "Is everything all right?" is coming up fast on the outside rail in the race for champion cringer.

While staying in a travel lodge recently and eating in the attached pub, my partner and I were asked the dreaded question on five separate occasions during a two-course meal. The meal was average. Are we going back again? Not if I can help it.

Michelle McArthur

Wakefield, West yorkshire

Don't be rude to the Queen Mother

What was the point of Johann Hari's poisonous attack on the Queen Mother (25 September)? She was the product of a bygone age and she is now dead and buried. One thing we all remember about her is her consistent courtesy and good manners – pleasant accomplishments which Johann Hari has yet to master. He might begin by considering De mortuis nil nisi bonum.

David Robinson


Johann Hari does a disservice to himself and to your newspaper in his absurd rant against the Queen Mother. The Queen Mother had many real qualities – courage, determination, patriotism and a sense of fun – that rightly endeared her to the nation.

Euan Kennedy

London SW4

I never had much time for the Queen Mother, or other royal "hangers-on", but the institution of constitutional monarchy is a rather clever device.

The power-obsessed among us can never aspire to be head of state. You can only be born into that post, and no matter how useless you may be you have no power and can do little harm.

The best the politically ambitious can aim for is Prime Minister, who may have power but is never seen by the general population as the head of the country. Prime Minister is nothing more than a temporary post, in danger from the electorate at the next election, the rampant media, and even more so from the members of his/her own party eager to put in the boot and take over themselves.

Not a bad set of checks and balances.

R J Hoskin

Banbury, Oxfordshire

Menacing and matey banks

A minor oversight has resulted in my bank account being 45p beyond my overdraft limit. This oversight will be in place for 12 hours, as I get my wages direct into my account at midnight. Halifax Bank has charged me £63 for this infringement.

Is it any wonder that the nation has no love, confidence or respect for banks when they are cold, inflexible and clearly making money at the expense of customers?

Anthony Shelmerdine

Oldham, Lancashire

As a current account holder, I have just received a circular from Barclays Bank. It is all about "changes to your agreement with us from 30 October 2009".

The missive is deliberately, and excruciatingly matey in tone. I think it goes over the edge when it exhorts account-holders, in a side note, to "have a read of this letter and leaflet". It should have gone the whole hog and asked us to "have a shufti" at them.


Harpenden, Hertfordshire

Adrian Hamilton ("How did we ever think greed was good?", 24 September) refers to public anger at financiers paying themselves multi-million pound bonuses while losing billions. But not everyone is angry; Boris Johnson has derided criticism of the bankers as "neo-socialist clap-trap". As so often, Tories just don't understand how what is good for them and their friends isn't good for society as a whole.

Alex Black


Why Alonso took that pit stop

It is lazy to deduce that Fernando Alonso must have been a co-conspirator in Renault's Singapore Grand Prix fix ("So, Alonso, why did you think you were pitting on lap 12?", 26 September). I can offer an equally compelling alternative argument.

From 15th on the grid, Alonso simply had no chance of winning the race unless there was a safety car period. On such a tight track this was easily a possibility. So, by fuelling short, if a safety car was deployed in the early stages of the race while cars were still bunched up, Alonso would have an opportunity to finish high in the results.

So why not take that opportunity? After all, if it didn't pay off, he would only finish back in the pack in the same position that a more standard pit-stop strategy would have given him. Alonso was cleared of any wrongdoing by the FIA, yet it seems he has been found guilty by your newspaper.

Michael O'Hare

Northwood, Middlesex

Fighting spirit

I am delighted that Gordon Brown says that he will fight on. Margaret Thatcher said that, and was out days later.

Peter Gooderham


If Vince Cable could survive a period as Chancellor of the Exchequer, he'd make an ideal next leader of the Labour Party.

Roy Hewetson

Portishead, Somerset

Backing the troops

Simon Heywood's proposal for providing defence by subscription (letter, 28 September) would have great merit if people could choose not to subscribe to public services they disapproved of. Given the choice between bank-rolling HM armed forces more generously or continuing to meet much bigger costs, such as benefits, I suspect that millions of readers of some other newspapers would fly several thousand new helicopter gunships straight through his liberal notions about what most people in the UK are happy to pay for. Be careful what you wish for – you might get it!

R S Foster


Internet rights

James Mullan (letters, 28 October) misunderstands the meaning of internet access being a human right. It has nothing to do with allowing users to obtain internet access without paying. It means that an internet connection that has been legitimately obtained by paying an ISP cannot be cut off on the say-so of a third party. Lord Mandelson proposes to create a quango that would sever people's internet connections for unsubstantiated allegations of copyright infringement. There is a big difference between this and an ISP enforcing its contract by cutting off users who have not paid.

Alex Macfie

London NW10

Retirement age

Have those people whingeing at having to give up work at 65 ("Court backs forced retirement at 65", 26 September) given a single thought to the thousands of young people facing the future with no work at all? The court was right to uphold the current retirement law and thus free at least some jobs for those currently unemployed.

Robin Hutt

Pawlett Somerset

Bishops' move

The Rev Martine Oborne writes (letter, 28 September) that the Church of England and its bishops bother because "to follow Christ is the best way to live our lives". When they are prepared to put their money where their mouths are (Matthew 19:21) we might take some notice. In the meantime, the rest of us shall just have to avoid leading "meaningless and destructive" lives without them.

David Hooley