Letters: Teachers have their own families


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The Independent Online

Sir Michael Wilshaw undoubtedly believes he has the best interests of the nation's children at heart (report, 11 July), but he does not seem to realise teachers are also parents and spouses. Is he prepared to see a new sector of neglected children, the offspring of teachers?

Even without the present retrenchment being visited on the profession by the government, does he really believe that people will be prepared to neglect their own families for the sake of such an unending vocation?

And by narrowing the criteria by which teachers are judged, he is presumably assuming that such wide- ranging dedication would not even be recognised by the statistics-led success criteria that his own organisation has set up.

It is unclear how he would then decide which teachers are worthy of higher rewards.

Fortunately, we still seem to have a supply of young people who are prepared to sacrifice almost their entire personal lives for the sake of their pupils, but as teachers age, their own priorities shift, legitimately, with changing circumstances. The impact of teachers' work on their families is already significant; Sir Michael will be very lucky indeed to find many more experienced teachers prepared to accept such extended terms.

This is another example of the personal martyrdom being expected from public servants in exchange for very little. It seems to be forgotten that they are people in their own right, not just society's fixers.

Your leading article is right: there is only so much that can be reasonably asked of teachers; this is too much.

I J Stock

Coggeshall, Essex

According to Sir Michael Wilshaw, "Teachers must 'parent' failing pupils."

This, presumably, is in addition to actual teaching, marking, lesson preparation, extra coaching, ticking boxes, running school trips (often abroad), attending parent evenings, coaching school teams, running after school clubs, and putting on plays and concerts.

Back in the Seventies, my "bog-standard comprehensive" put on a leavers' party and, of course, alcohol was smuggled in. A girl in my form got drunk, and passed out. I carried her out to my car, and took her home.

She lived in a block of flats, and, of course, the lifts weren't working. I carried her up six flights of stairs (I would be arrested if I did this today) and knocked on her door.

Her mother came out, looked at her daughter, and asked, "Has the silly cow spewed up yet? 'Cos if she hasn't, she can't come in." I left the poor girl, unconscious, on the balcony outside her front door.

May I respectfully suggest to Sir Michael that parents must "parent" their children, and if he ever was a teacher, which planet did he live on?

Richard Guscott

Liskeard, Cornwall

Whatever the merits of Sir Michael Wilshaw's ideas about teachers, what are we to think of a chief inspector of schools who uses the phrase "mitigate against"?

Carolyn Beckingham

Lewes, East Sussex

Winners and losers in the care proposals

The introduction of the Care and Support White Paper should be applauded, but I would urge caution (Andreas Whittam Smith, 12 July).

It is possible that local authorities exceeding the standard rate will now scale back to the minimum so there will be losers and winners, an unfair predicament for those classed as "at the bottom of the pyramid". Overall, people may receive the same basic help, but there may be no net gains at all, so where's the value?

The plan is to lend money to families to support them with care costs. This does not solve the care-funding problems; it simply moves central government cash to local authorities, who have to pay the care fees, then it gets recovered from the families using the facility. Do not be fooled into believing this is new cash.

The Dilnot Report recommends a cap on what people have to pay, yet this would obviously set a limit on what someone might wish to pay for their own care needs. This is what requires new funding. But funds are sparse within the Government so it requires either more borrowing or more taxation. Either option leaves the burden with the next generation.

John Kelly

Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex

There's something odd going on in all these outcries over costs of care for the elderly. There is hardly any mention of the large numbers of elderly who divest their assets (savings and property) to their potential inheritors in advance of any need for care. Solicitors and accountants tout for the trade.

Why should the sainted elderly get away with such overt avoidance of charges for care, when avoidance and evasion to obtain unemployment or sickness benefits is so readily prosecuted?

I'm 80 and ashamed of so many of my once relatively well-off, property-owning peers who seem to be quite happy to end their lives as voluntary paupers, scrounging on the earnings and taxes of the already heavily over-burdened adults at work.

Those who have never experienced a society where nobody cares for anyone, as I have, where bad regulations are evaded rather than changed don't know what kind future they are leaving for their grandchildren.

Alison Sutherland

Kirkwall, Orkney

Free residential care in Scotland is a myth, a "Scotch mist". Fees for a self-funding resident are often in excess of £800 a week and "Free Personal Care" contributes either £163 or £237 a week, depending on the level needed. The huge gap in cost is borne by the resident or his/her family.

The Dilnot Report makes makes important observations, one most notably being that the amount individuals should contribute to cover their living costs, such as food and accommodation, should be in the range of £7,000 to £10,000 a year. This, most would accept as reasonable. When asked in a radio interview last year about "free care" in Scotland, Dilnot said the true care costs are disguised as accommodation fees.

As elsewhere in the UK, individuals and their families in Scotland still have to sell heritable property to fund long-term residential care. In Scotland, as elsewhere, residents funding their own care are subsidising the costs of those residents receiving local authority funding.

What all independent observers do agree on is that the present system of funding care in Scotland is unsustainable. A call for Scotland's politicians to have a cross-party debate to find a fairer and sustainable way of funding fell on deaf ears.

Ian McNamara


No discrimination at our borders

Separate immigration desks for passengers bearing passports of countries with reciprocal visa waiver arrangements is not discriminatory toward those with visas that do require scrutiny (report, 10 July).

Passengers with visitor, student or other forms of visas issued in their home countries should be closely inspected. There already are fast-track queues for passengers with British or EU passports, regardless of whether they arrive from a developing country or a developed one. Many passengers from developing countries such as India and Pakistan already hold British, EU and North American passports and sail through the immigration chaos, regardless of their economic status.

Dr Shaaz Mahboob

Uxbridge, Middlesex

We arrived in London on Monday about 1pm on BA0288. Having flown first-class, BA "invited" us to use the fast-track lanes at immigration. We were pleased by this little courtesy, until we discovered the fast-track lanes were closed.

Contrary to Damien Green's claims, we waited in line for 48 minutes before passing through. There were only eight to 10 officers working, far fewer than half the desks being manned. As we were leaving, my wife noted that the queues were approximately double what they were when we arrived.

We feel tremendous pity for folks coming to London this month. We hope they really, really want to see the Games.

Richard and Randi Theobald

Scottsdale, Arizona

Water companies leave sour taste

Withdrawal of the hosepipe bans after only three months shows the fragility of the water companies' argument about the parlous state of water supplies. In March, we were told in the strongest of terms by suppliers and Environment Agency alike that groundwater, reservoir and river levels would take "at least two years to recover", but here we are in July and all is back to normal.

The water companies have deployed this hysterical argument many times over the years so they can impose universal metering. Then they could charge the consumer what they liked, just as with the power utilities. It would also prevent the need for them to spend their vast profits on improving the industry's infrastructure.

This is decades overdue and what the privatised companies were supposed to do. We need greater storage capacity (surface and underground reservoirs) and also a regional water distribution network to move water around this small island. Both are eminently doable.

Malcolm Brookes

Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands

The problem with store bags

One reason for the rise in the use of plastic bags at supermarkets is their automated checkout system and their own reusable bags. I used to take a large store-bought bag. But at the checkout I had to call an assistant to "verify" their bag before loading my shopping. I assume this was because the bag was above the minimum weight for the scales. This was an irritant to those waiting. I have stopped using my reusable store-bought bags.

Des McCarthy

Dunstable, Bedfordshire

I see plastic bag use in Wales has dramatically decreased (letters, 11 July). So what do the Welsh use for bin-liners then? Are they buying rolls of plastic bin-liners?

Carolyn Lincoln


In a word...

I solved the 10 July Word Ladder in 30 seconds flat using the word "fart". I am not a professional footballer; is this allowed? Also, I wish to object because the person who does your word wheel puzzle starts by selecting a nine-letter word and goes on. How dare they then coyly inform us at the end that they "found one nine-letter word". I demand a Parliamentary Select Committee hearing on this ASAP. On second thoughts, don't bother, they couldn't hack it.

John Williams

South Darenth, Kent

Man is an island

What a coincidence, Tony Blair and Silvio Berlusconi both say on the same day that they want to return to politics (12 July). The world, inspired by their laudable ambition, should reward them: maybe grant them the governorship of (say) Pitcairn Island, with each serving alternate months of office. There they could experience the joy of service.

Christopher Walker

London W14

No butts

I could stop it raining tomorrow (letters, 12 July). I have had a water-butt I have been meaning to connect to the down-pipe for two years. But I know that if I make a start it'll only stop raining, so what's the point. Sorry.

Paul Sullivan


Bang goes ratio

At least the US troops in Vietnam did something about the inefficiently high ratio of officers to men (letters, 11 July). They "fragged" hundreds of them.

Mike Cordery

Almería, Spain