Letters: School pupils allowed to 'disappear'


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The news that schools are unlawfully excluding difficult pupils (19 March) will not be a surprise to many people who work with young people in other capacities.

I began volunteering more than 10 years ago with a local youth justice service, sitting on community panels for young people who had offended. We were well aware then that some schools not only excluded pupils informally and arbitrarily but were also willing to allow young people to "disappear" from school for very long periods, sometimes over a year, without follow-up.

Your leading article refers to "disruptive elements", and certainly many young people can be disruptive in schools. Frequently, though, these children are experiencing problems outside school, often within the family. School can be a refuge from this, but unsurprisingly children bring the problems with them, expressed as bad behaviour.

Teaching staff find it hard to deal with this, and have no time, and the pressure of league tables is now always a factor. Education policies in both the present and previous governments have focused almost without exception on maximising measures of academic achievement and good behaviour. Schools no longer provide the vital ancillary services such as social, welfare and psychology work which can enable children's problems to be identified and support given.

In relation to youth offending, a common set of circumstances would be: family problems; school problems; non-attendance at school; offending. The fact of offending could often then be the catalyst for the support which had not been given earlier. I wonder for how long lip-service will be paid to the usefulness of "early intervention" while the consequences of not providing it cost us all money and cost young people their futures.

Christine Lehman

Ripon, North Yorkshire


Children are excluded from school for a reason; the reasons may seem trivial to the people who do not have to endure the task of trying to educate the ineducable, but for those that work on the front line of a difficult occupation, disruptive pupils are a constant drain on morale.

I left school with absolutely no qualifications, because I spent the majority of my school years messing around and giving teachers a hard time. They wanted to teach me but I didn't want to learn. And who do I blame for my academic failures? Myself. You go to school to learn and if you don't want to learn you shouldn't be there.

Rich Channelle



Sitting on the train during my daily commute to school I was interested to read Sarah Cassidy's article about excluding pupils from school illegally. An accompanying case study found a student's mother complaining that the school had failed her daughter by not diagnosing her learning difficulties. As a teacher I sympathise with the mother. I often find that parents fail to diagnose their child's effort difficulties.

Seán Green

London SE22


Remember the Forgotten Army

The article on the "road of death" (Magazine, 17 March) offered an interesting insight into the horrors of the Japanese invasion of Burma. However the comment by Dr Greenbank that "We got absolutely thumped by the Japanese in Burma" tells only part of the story.

In May 1945 the British Empire forces returned to Rangoon, having chased the Japanese Army from the Indian border and turned defeat into victory. It seems that Field Marshal Slim's Fourteenth Army, with whom my father served and who achieved this feat of arms, remain the "forgotten army" of Second World War legend.

Mark Vardy

Bromsgrove, Worcestershire


Drunken MPs

You report that Speaker Bercow has ordered a review of Parliament's drinking culture. He could start by ensuring that the existing law is enforced in the Palace of Westminster. The Licensing Act 2003 makes it an offence for the holder of a licence to allow disorderly conduct on licensed premises or to sell alcohol to a person who is drunk.

Anthony Bramley-Harker

Watford, Hertfordshire


British islands

The Orkneys are considering refusing to go along with the Scottish move to separate from the Union. Good for them. And, of course, it will be much easier to dispatch a battle fleet there than it would be to send one round the world to fight over the Falklands. With a bit of luck our lads could give the Scots a pasting and be back home in time for tea.

Paul Dunwell

Alton, Hampshire


Gay royalty

David Thomas's thought-provoking article (19 March) on the benefits which gay marriage might bring to untitled men married to titled spouses failed to consider the most prominent case of all. What would be the title (official or unofficial) of the married male consort of a future gay king?

John Oakley

Kenilworth, Warwickshire


Bad manners

Anthony Rodriguez (letter, 19 March) castigates those who consider it a mistake for Cambridge University to rusticate a student on the grounds of the "violation of the unwritten rules of etiquette". And this about a university which elected Prince Philip as its Chancellor .

Daniel McDowell

Ludlow, Shropshire


Football medical cover lags behind other sports

As an emergency medicine specialist who is involved in occasional stadium medical cover, I have had the chance to observe the organisation of medical teams at sporting events, where the positive impact of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport's "Green Guide"' for spectators at sporting events is undeniable.

Notwithstanding the praiseworthy response of medics at White Hart Lane and despite some improvements ("Mourinho to thank for rapid response at the Lane", 19 March), medical contingency plans, training, and equipment available to medical teams providing cover for professional footballers in the Premier League remain amateurish compared with those in sports such as Formula 1 and American football.

I have had the opportunity to have an insider's view of the response to some near-misses in recent years and hope the Fabrice Muamba case will spur a more professional approach by the Premier League to the way in which this cover that is organised, funded and provided.

Naeem Toosy FRCS(Ed)

Oxshott, Surrey


It seems that football has a heart after all. We are accustomed to thinking of our national game as a soulless business where results are everything and people valued only by their performance. However, the recent response to the death of Gary Speed, and the present wave of prayer for Fabrice Mouamba, are unprecedented.

Perhaps we are realising that winning is not everything, and that despite Shankly's well-known assertion, football is not more important than life.

Tony Horsfall



Why the rich will stay in London

Our governments are fond of telling us that we risk the "wealth diverters" leaving the country if we tax them like the rest of us. Is it true? Consider a move to the USA (specifically New York) where, according to the politicians, wealthy individuals are treated more leniently than here. Certainly the maximum income tax rate is 35 per cent, which is lower than ours, but this is only federal income tax and ignores the state income tax and the city income tax, together amounting to around 12.62 per cent in New York (with no special rate for capital gains) – a total not too different from ours.

Try "non-dom" status. It doesn't exist in the US and if they catch you quietly exporting your profits to the Cayman Islands this is tax evasion, with a $25,000 fine and a five-year prison sentence for each year that you do it. Ouch! It's why there are continual squabbles between the US and Switzerland about secret numbered accounts.

How about the property tax on your £10m house? – sell up here and buy a similarly valued one in the US. Your annual tax will go from £2,000 a year here (Band H) to between 1.5 and 2.25 per cent of value, depending on where you live, which comes out at £150,000 to £225,000 a year.

Having spent most of my working life in the US, I could fill a page with the various stealth taxes imposed by different government bodies. The wealth diverters won't leave, because the UK is a prime tax haven for the wealthy.

John Day

Port Solent, Hampshire


Mary Ann Sieghart (19 March) welcomes the public "informal pre-Budget negotiation" between the two parties in the Coalition Government, because it's likely to lead to "better policy". I'd be more enthusiastic if the apparently more open discussion of tax proposals wasn't conflated with pre-Budget announcements, hidden briefings, leaks to newspapers and partisan sniping.

Dr Alex May



China won't 'fall' very far

It's a shame that The Independent has to help perpetuate the great patronising myth about modern China and the fragile states of its economy. According to Ben Chu's piece "The great fall of China" (13 March), the "worrying signs" for its forthcoming "storm" are export dependency (has he not seen the long queues of middle class Chinese shoppers outside western designer shops in Hong Kong?), bad loans (unlike western banks, of course), the real estate bubble (but most wealthy Chinese now buy their property overseas) and corruption.

China has downgraded its growth forecast to 7.5 per cent, largely as a result of the potential meltdown of the eurozone, which they are prepared for. The ECB has just reduced its growth forecast for the eurozone to minus 0.1 per cent for next year. Not hard to see where the fall is happening.

The truth is that the balance of world economic power has shifted quite dramatically to the east, and yet most of the European media prefers to remain in denial. In China you are less likely to hear talk of the potential "great fall of China" than you are to hear jokes about Europe now being the "great mall of China". Get used to it.

Stuart Heaver

Whitstable, Kent and Hong Kong


End of the day of rest

Your editorial in favour of the abolition of all restrictions on shopping on Sunday (20 March) is a masterpiece of social enhancement. Twenty-four hour shopping, seven days a week. Non-stop social bliss!

But why stop there? Just abolish weekends altogether! Do away with such unnecessary concepts as days of rest, moments of reflection, peaceful enjoyment. So much fairer to the employer and crucial to the overwhelming purpose of life as we know it: endless consumption and the pursuit of profit .

Christopher Dawes

London W11


In his enthusiasm to "relax" Sunday trading, David Cameron would do well to remember the current concession was not won fairly. Leading retailers blatantly flouted the law as it then existed : opening eight till late every Sunday, while all the time taunting John Major: "Come and get us! Catch us if you can!"

Godfrey H Holmes

Chesterfield, Derbyshire