Letters: We expect too much of our overworked teachers

These letters appear in the Thursday 27th March edition of the Independent

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Whether we agree with the teachers’ strike or not, we must pay attention to the effect that the current primary school system is having on our children and their education.

Primary teachers are expected to teach English, maths, science, history, art, geography and languages – plus perhaps music, PE and other subjects.

They teach a class of mixed-ability children, at times being the only adult in a class of up to 30 children. A good teacher needs to be able to impart knowledge in a way that can be understood, and be a skilled disciplinarian and comic, as well as kind and sensitive to the wide range of needs in the class. They also need to be able to identify the different range of learning needs of their students, putting in place and supporting the strategies that enable each child to fulfil their potential and retain the love of learning that most start school with.

Through my children’s years of primary school, I’ve never met a teacher who has delivered this – and I believe my children have had mostly good and often excellent teachers in a school that really tries and succeeds as much as  is possible.

Often, the problem is lack of experience, related to limited training (especially in the area of teaching strategies for children who don’t learn in the traditional way, eg mild learning difficulties/dyslexic spectrum conditions). But mostly, I believe it is the huge expectations we have of them.

I’m not a teacher but I’ve worked in 60-hours-a-week jobs for a few years, and for increasing pay that let me live a comfortable life outside work. Teachers don’t have this financial reward. I’ve also worked in a decently paid and rewarding job where it wasn’t physically possible to achieve everything needed, and this, after many years, was a major reason in my decision to leave.

We cannot expect our teachers to remain in the profession with the expectations laid upon them currently. The primary school system, with one teacher expected to achieve everything, and a lack of funding for specialist knowledge and focus on learning abilities, is failing children. They reach secondary school with difficulties not addressed and confidence smashed.

Rather than complaining about the teachers or the Government, the Department for Education and the unions should be looking at how to improve the whole system.

Pippa Jones, London W10


The trouble with some teachers is that they  never actually left school and worked in the real world. They don’t understand that it’s just as tough for professionals in other sectors.

Before I retired, I worked as a sales manager in financial services; the hours were very long and the majority of my time was spent on record-keeping to satisfy the regulators.

Michael Gove is doing the right thing, and some teachers need to realise that their package of benefits is what most ordinary workers dream of.

Graham Hinitt, South Anston,  South Yorkshire


Our GP services are just not coping

On two occasions in the past six months, I have needed to see a doctor.

On the first occasion, I was told there were no appointments for three to four weeks at any of the three surgeries. I went to a local walk-in centre where I was diagnosed with upper respiratory tract infection and given antibiotics.

Then, three weeks ago, I realised I might have shingles. I went to my local doctors and asked for an emergency appointment. I was told there was none and to go to the walk-in centre, which I did. I had shingles and was given antiviral medicine.

Without the walk-in centre, I could have been seriously ill. The local clinical commissioning group has recommended that the walk-in hours be restricted to night times and weekends, and within the year it is expected to close. Our GPs simply are not coping with the numbers, and this recommendation will impact on people’s access to doctors – and on numbers attending A&E.

Pat Nimmo, Fleckney, Leicestershire


The Government keeps telling us how it is  improving the NHS and how much extra money it is pouring into it, but the NHS is slipping down the pan more and more every day. Before the Coalition took power, we could phone our local surgery any morning and get an appointment the same  day or at least the next morning.

Now, if you phone any morning at opening time, you are told: “Sorry, we have no appointments left, we can give you one next week or the week after.” 

Do David Cameron or Nick Clegg get the same answer when they phone their surgery? Do they ever go to an NHS surgery?

If someone wants to see a doctor, it is because they need help now – not in a week or a fortnight.

Dave Croucher, Doncaster


London’s hospitals are under huge and increasing pressure, spawning sectoral Save Our Hospitals groups, such as ours in north-west London.

We oppose the closure of four out of nine existing Accident and Emergency departments (Charing Cross, Hammersmith, Ealing and Central Middlesex), leaving Hammersmith and Fulham with no A&E.

The closest A&Es will be in Chelsea, Paddington or Brentford. This is iniquitous: Hammersmith and Fulham’s population gets steadily older and larger. Yet Charing Cross will be downgraded to elective surgery and diagnostic tests only, with an “urgent care centre” manned by GPs and no emergency consultants.

“Shaping a Healthier Future”, the report proposing changes in February 2013, asserted that cardiac care, strokes and major trauma – including road traffic accidents – should go to specialised hospitals with “super” A&Es.

We agree. But the report ignored the need for continued prompt and local treatment for other emergencies, eg diabetes crises, kidney failure, aneurysms, cancer, septicemia, asthma attacks and others that are life-threatening.

Improved “social care” to the elderly and immobile was mentioned without plans or funding. The way in which it is proposed to trim health services in north-west London is not fair; specialised, well-funded parts of the hospital service are being favoured at the expense of “ordinary” A&Es.

Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust proposes to sell “surplus” land, such as 40 per cent or more of Charing Cross, to fund redevelopment at remaining sites.

With Imperial College, it will pursue clinical research at the Academic Health Science Centre. International health companies will fund the new Imperial West research centre at White City.

The reputation of Charing Cross for emergency medicine is second to none – but for how long?

Una Hodgkins, Committee member, Save Our Hospitals, London W6


One spring doesn’t make a democracy

I agree there is considerable naivety in expecting a smooth and short transition from autocracy to democracy in Egypt (Editorial, 26 March) or elsewhere.

It took England more than 700 years to transition from Magna Carta to women (over 30) gaining suffrage. In between, there were many extended periods of bloody internal power struggles about who rules and how.

Yet we are expecting the  “Arab Spring” to short-circuit the process that took us several dozen generations.

David Bracey, Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire


Dangerous jobs in danger

I am concerned on behalf of a number of professions that the Chancellor’s ill-timed abolition of annuities will send shock waves through the rank and  file of those in dangerous jobs.

The imminent release of newly redundant actuaries on to the employment market presents a real threat to the likes of lion tamers, jump jockeys, stuntmen, steeplejacks and Grand Prix motorcyclists, who will naturally feel threatened that these devil-may-care, foolhardy, risk-taking pen-pushers and danger addicts will steal their jobs.

Nicky Samengo-Turner, Hundon, Suffolk


Are you disrespecting the police?

If you continue to draw your readers’ attention to corruption and misbehaviour in the police (“Something rotten in the Metropolitan Police”, 26 March), there is the risk that, as with Andrew Mitchell in the “Plebgate” case, you will be accused by the Prime Minister of not showing them “the respect they deserve”.

Gyles Cooper, London N10


It’s no longer a boys’ club

The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews is proposing to end its ban on female members.

Over to you, Eton.

Anthony Rodriguez, Staines, Surrey