Many independent schools have responded with alacrity and sensitivity on matters relating to race

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Thursday 24 December 2020 15:31 GMT
The independent sector received a wake-up call in May 2020
The independent sector received a wake-up call in May 2020 (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


I hope Temi Akindele Barker’s article about independent schools’ failure to address matters of diversity and inclusion (“I am the parent of a Black child at a private school – the sector is shockingly behind on matters of diversity and inclusion”, 21 December) will soon feel historical rather than topical.

The independent sector received a wake-up call in May 2020, challenged about its lack of urgency on matters relating to race by alumni and current pupils and parents. Many schools responded with alacrity and sensitivity, given the other pressures they’ve faced in recent months, with the commissioning of race audits and the establishment of diversity and inclusion alliances; with changes to recruitment policy and practice; and with an analysis of the curriculum.

However, one of the inherent flaws in independent schools is an underlying belief that every school has to find its own way forward and ought to have all the answers. The best news in regard to race awareness has been the emergence of organisations like the African Caribbean Education Network (ACEN), which is looking to support independent and grammar schools in their work on diversity. 

Certainly in its work with Dulwich College, as with other independent schools, ACEN has acted as the best of critical friends, helping pupils, staff and parents, from all backgrounds, to grow in confidence in talking about race and promoting racial equity. I hope Temi Akindele Barker’s Inclusion Labs will offer further support to schools wanting to get this right.

Dr Joe Spence

The Master, Dulwich College

Our flawed vaccination policy

If you ask any firefighter how to control a fire they will tell you that you must remove the source of the fire and aim your hosepipe at the base of the fire, from which it is spreading. It’s no use aiming at the flames above the fire.

In the case of this pandemic, we need to reduce the source of the infection spread which, it has become evident, is from younger people who are mixing in schools and colleges and then taking it home to their older relatives. If these younger people were to be vaccinated first, the infection rate would be controlled more quickly. Each vaccination would reduce the spread by several degrees and would reduce that spread upwards through the generations. The need to vaccinate older people would therefore quickly reduce.

The other advantage is that it would be far easier to vacinate the youngsters as they are all gathered together in schools and colleges in large groups and it would make the process much more efficient. You could take the vaccine to them instead of trying to gather older people into one place.  

Once the young are immune, the schools will be free to open and the source of infection will be mainly removed.

Arthur Walmsley


No time for a jolly clown

I am astonished at John Rentoul’s article, “Boris Johnson has blustered through a disastrous year – which means he will be prime minister for a long time yet” (23 December).

We are talking about the man who hid in a fridge rather than face difficult questions from the press; the man who refused to take part in political debates with other party leaders during the election; the man who refused all but one television interview (and that was 20 minutes of waffling over Andrew Marr’s questions) during the same election. 

He would rather be the jolly, fat clown who wants to only give people good, or not-too-bad news. 

Yes, he has to step up occasionally to the difficult issues and announcements, but that is his job. However, in the main, he would rather push out the Hancocks, the Williamsons, and the Patels to do the nasty bits and come in when he thinks he can sweep up the good bits.

People like him for the same reason people in America liked Trump: he is outside the mould of the stuffy, serious politician and they think he is the bloke you can have a pint with down the pub. I know because I hear this over and over again. Please do not credit this incompetent fraud with qualities he seriously lacks.

Kate Hall


Sovereignty won’t pay the bills

When the principle defies the logic, the outcome is often disastrous. This is what Boris Johnson is doing right now with his stance about “taking back control” over British waters. Sovereignty over economic logic.  

Not only will he destroy the livelihood of French, Belgian and Dutch fishing communities, he also will hurt British fishing, which used to export the majority of its catch to the EU. With new tarrifs on seafood, health certificates and other export documentations, the EU can reduce the British export capability to a very low level. British fishers that cannot sell their catch won’t be able to survive for long.

Apart from that, French fishers won’t sit at home and do nothing. They will protest and a very good way of doing this is by blockading the port of Calais and other ports on the continent that have ferry traffic with the UK. The French authorities are very unlikely to stop this. They might say it, but won’t do much to stop it.

The couple of days the ports were closed because of the new Covid-19 variant will seem to be a glitch in comparison to what is coming. It is hard for me to see how Britain – sorry, Global Britain – can prosper mightily with import and export lines being severed.

Sovereignty is nice to have, but it doesn’t feed you or earn income when it is used the way Boris Johnson uses it.

Christian Gossel

Address supplied

Driverless cars offer opportunities for criminals

James Moore makes some interesting points about why people might not be eager to trust driverless cars (“Can Apple’s driverless car transform our roads? Unlikely – and this is why”, 22 December), but there are still more risks, which haven’t yet been properly considered.

First of all, since the AI will be programmed to preserve life at all costs, computer-controlled cars will be very easy to bring to a halt simply by stepping in front of them, meaning that the hijacking of vehicles or robbing of their occupants will be a simple matter of obstructing the route and surrounding the vehicle – easily achieved by small gangs in both inner-city settings and remote areas.

Secondly, and perhaps more unsettlingly, in an age in which most technology is hackable to someone with sufficient skills and patience, remotely accessing the AI to redirect or even crash an autonomous auto would leave no fingerprints and could prove to be the perfect crime.

Paranoid? Perhaps, but I’d sooner remain safe by retaining control than be sorry to have surrendered it.

Julian Self

Milton Keynes

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