Letters: The private schools dilemma


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I wholeheartedly agree with Barry Richards's letter headed "Private schools? Abolish them" (30 October). My family has a tradition of service to state education stretching back to the late 19th century and continuing in the present. I taught in the state sector and in my retirement help with reading at a local primary school; my two daughters were educated in the state sector; my elder daughter is teaching in the state sector. My younger daughter and her husband, however, are educating their children privately.

I do not criticise them: they live in London, where schooling can be a problem, and I have two kind, gentle and intellectually curious grandchildren, who are a delight to be with. This, of course, is partly the result of their home life: materially they want for nothing, but, more importantly, emotionally and mentally they are nurtured by their parents' ability to introduce them to plays, concerts, galleries and travel and to encourage them in every way. At school they can take part in a range of activities. They are unfailingly polite and considerate, and I really do not fear that they will ever use the word "plebs".

As we watch them grow into well-rounded people, I and my elder daughter are, sadly, aware how different they are from most of the children we meet, who have few of their advantages. Dysfunctional families, lack of money, lack of awareness of what is possible – these contribute to an impoverished lifestyle, which state schools, however committed the teachers (and I know from experience how committed most are), cannot compensate for. Does anyone else have a better solution than Barry Richards?

Christina Jones

Retford, Nottinghamshire

Climate chaos? This is what it looks like

The ferocity of Hurricane Sandy is directly linked to climate change. Man-made global warming has increased the temperature of the sea surface around the world. This leads to Hurricane Sandy having more energy to suck up and in turn becoming more ferocious.

A scientific study that uses accurate tide measurements since 1923 removes any doubt that hurricanes are stronger in warmer years. The number of warm years has steadily increased over the past century and especially in the past decade. For every increase of 1 degree Fahrenheit US hurricanes will likely get 2 per cent stronger.

Those who talk about solar energy being "more expensive" than coal or natural gas are not figuring in the expensiveness of climate change.

Alan Hinnrichs


Owen Jones is right to highlight the Government's appalling record on tackling climate change and the need for campaigners to address bread-and-butter issues like rocketing food prices and job creation (29 October). He may be a little pessimistic, though, about the degree of public engagement with the climate issue.

I was one of the organisers of the Climate Jobs Caravan, which toured 25 towns and cities in Britain in May, promoting the creation of green jobs and especially the union-backed campaign for a million government climate jobs. What surprised us was the number of people – especially young people – who responded to our message not just in terms of jobs but because of their concerns about the possibility of catastrophic climate change.

They are right. Recent reports on the rapid depletion of Arctic ice suggest that we are heading helter-skelter towards a global catastrophe. People also know that a million young people – many of them graduates – are desperate to find jobs. All they need to believe is that, with the political will, we have the means to start tackling both these problems.

We need the Government to act to stimulate the creation of green jobs, but we also need the direct creation of government climate jobs dealing with clean electricity generation, increased energy efficiency, and the reduction of carbon emissions by our industries and transport systems.

Ken Montague

One Million Climate Jobs Campaign, London NW2

While I agree with Owen Jones about the need to create green jobs, is it likely to happen? We live in a neighbourhood of 80 detached houses: ours is the only one with solar panels for domestic hot water.

This is because of the cost of installation; the absence of financial incentives from government; the lack of interest from contractors, with only one quotation from the three firms contacted; the lack of trained personnel; the poor financial standing of installers; and the solar panels being made in Switzerland, with its high labour cost.

As Mr Jones writes, there is no strategy to deal with this crisis. Yet "strategy" is not in the lexicon of this government or of the previous government.

William Robert Haines


Owen Jones writes of saving the planet: "Make it an issue about creating jobs and improving lives and people will care."

Well the agenda has already been set, by the planet; it can look after itself and if it means getting rid of humankind to do so, that will happen. As far as we're concerned the issue is about saving us as a species, and if that doesn't get people interested, I don't know what will.

Colin Brogan

Runcorn, Cheshire

Doubts about badger cull

It is good news that the Government is reconsidering its plans for culling badgers in Gloucestershire and Somerset. In the absence of a predator, such as wolf or lynx, there may well be too many badgers, but that is a separate issue.

Bovine TB is rare on the Continent. In this country, when a case of bovine TB or a reactor is discovered it is killed: on the Continent the whole herd is slaughtered. That way, no carrier cattle are left to spread the disease to the rest of the herd or pass it on to other herds, or give it to wildlife. Recent research seems to confirm that cattle can be non-reactors, but still carry the disease.

Robert Craig

Weston-super-Mare, Somerset

We notice that the UK government report regarding the postponed badger cull, dated December 2011, has stated that the prevalence of bovine TB within the badger population ranges from 11.3 per cent from the Randomised Badger Culling Trial to more than 70 per cent from previous badger removal operations.

The reason for this discrepancy appears to be regional variations in bovine TB rates. We understand that Defra is proposing "standard-level" post-mortems rather than detailed ones on the culled badgers. We are aware that detailed post-mortem examinations have been found to double the prevalence estimates in some areas.

This report also states that a selection of culled badgers will have a post-mortem but only to study the humaneness of the culling method used and that it will not examine the prevalence of bovine TB in culled badgers, despite a reported lack of knowledge in this area, because it would be too costly.

If culling is to start next year to prove Defra's hypothesis that it will reduce the transmission rate of bovine TB to cattle, it would be advisable to test for TB. Without this knowledge, Defra can only assume that the badgers culled may be infected; this is conjecture, not science.

Dr Bharat Pankhania

Consultant in Communicable Disease Control, Bath

Dr Bret S Palmer

Specialist Registrar in Public Health, Chippenham

The guts to end this benefit scam

At last. A politician with guts. I refer to Iain Duncan Smith and his "child benefits stop at two" policy. I look forward to seeing the end of women being used as baby factories to put more money in the pockets of the workshy.

Ian Hall

Portland, Dorset

Nobody, not even IDS, is suggesting a limit on the size of family you can have, so for Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (29 October) to conflate a cap on benefits with China's "draconian one-child policy" is irresponsible and wrong.

Rodger Witt

Poole, Dorset

A pointless poll, but vote anyway

Like Howard Fuller (Letter, 30 October), I can't see the point of the election of police commissioners. "Why should I bother to vote for a candidate I don't know?" he asks. The answer is to find out about the candidates and choose the best; otherwise, a determined group of loonies or extremists might get their person elected. Being enfranchised involves duties as well as rights.

Simon Gazeley


Howard Fuller plans to spoil his voting slip. I will be simply not voting, although spoiling my slip has some appeal. Does this involve human, or perhaps animal, body fluids? Is there a standard spoiling-of-the-voting-slip procedure?

Barrie Spooner


Probation works

If the Prime Minister wants to slash one-year reoffending rates (report, 26 October), he should build on the part of the criminal justice system that is delivering the lowest reoffending rates: probation. Community sentences have resulted in a decline of 3.7 per cent in reoffending since 2000. At a cost of a tenth of an annual prison place, and combining punishment with rehabilitation, they offer the solution to both the rehabilitation revolution and budget deficit.

Sarah Billiald

Probation Chiefs Association, London SW1

Rising recalled

Richard Davis (letter, 30 October) proposes a new visitor centre at Culloden. Is he not aware that the National Trust for Scotland's visitor centre there is only five years old? It has an exhibition taking the visitor through the Jacobite Rebellion from the perspectives of the Hanoverians along one side of the exhibition and the Jacobites on the other.

Catriona Wheeler


Not Americans

Buried in the lengthy reports about US preparations for Hurricane Sandy (29 October) is a 14-word reference to 66 people killed in "the Caribbean". Where? How much damage? How many injured? Do they need help? Who were these "66 people"? Just people, I suppose, in some god-forsaken place like Haiti or Cuba. Hardly worth mentioning.

Richard Thomas

Winchelsea, East Sussex