Gavin Williamson, I am absolutely at my wits’ end.
I am a single parent of two boys. Boys who are intelligent and, despite our socioeconomic standing, have done very well in their education. I have raised them on my own for 18 years.
My first son attended the same school as my second, a state school. We live in Dagenham, east London.
A few years ago he got Bs in his A-level mocks but achieved three A*s and an A in his final exams, enabling him to take a place at University College London (UCL) to study law despite attending a below-average school.
His younger brother is equally intelligent. This year was predicted AABC but got downgraded to BCCD, which means he has lost his UCL offer and can’t even get a place at his insurance option.
I don’t know what else to do. That is why I decided to address this email to you directly. You are a parent. This system has put my son at a disadvantage. The school intends to appeal but I’m worried the process will take too long. We have three weeks or he loses his place at UCL.
The essence of this email is to ask you to consider children like mine who have worked so hard but are disadvantaged due to the school they attend. My son would have passed his A-levels just as his brother did.
Please help us and reconsider the government’s decisions. I have no one else to turn to, I have not slept a wink since this happened and my son is absolutely distraught.
Give my son a chance to attend university this year. He, like so many others, has suffered enough.
Exam result hysteria
I am very concerned that the media in general has been fuelling hysteria about the exam results. Of course, there are many, many disappointed students who did not get the grades they were hoping for. It happens every year. That’s why clearing exists. Do we know if the proportion is very different this year? We have been told that the proportion of the top grades has gone up and that more disadvantaged students have been accepted onto their chosen courses. Surely we should be celebrating this.
Undoubtedly there will be some outliers who have been wrongly graded but these are the very people for whom the appeals system is intended.
It is vital that the integrity of the exams should be maintained. Is it fair to last year’s and next year’s students who had (or will have) the undoubted trauma of sitting actual exams should see their grades distorted by artificial inflation this year?
Just for the record, my own A-level results in 1960 were not good enough to get into university. I was upset at the time but I went down a different path and had a successful professional career. My life was not blighted.
Farewell to Public Health England
I am pleased to learn that Public Health England (PHE) is to be reconfigured, but concerned that the faults of the past may be repeated.
As a non-executive director of PHE`s predecessor, the Health Protection Agency (initially concerned with aspects of infection), I was alarmed as that body grew with radiation and chemical hazards added to its remit. Later, PHE took on responsibility for obesity, anti-smoking, “healthy children” and mental and sexual health, amongst others. It has been shown to be too large to succeed.
What is needed is a slimmed-down and nimble agency to tackle all aspects of infection, its diagnosis and treatment in hospitals and the community. Included in this should be the battle against antibiotic resistance and an emergency response capability for future problems. What must not happen is the addition of track and trace to the remit of PHE. We must learn from our mistakes.
Don’t listen to IDS
Iain Duncan Smith is the last person we should listen to, let alone act upon his “advice”.
As far as I see it, he single-handedly caused severe problems for those in need. He now sits in some dark corner sniping at those brave MPs and organisations who dare to criticise the Conservative government.
Let’s not forget that he also voted to leave the EU and supported Boris Johnson to become leader of the Conservative party. And don’t get me started on his comments about PHE.
He claimed that “everything PHE touched has failed”. Duncan Smith must have been looking in the mirror when he penned that nugget of information. He also said that PHE was, “arrogance laced with incompetence”. We may not have a competent government but taking his advice and guidance would be a real slap in the face for the people of Britain.
Boris Johnson is keen on saying he would rather die than allow certain things to happen.
In September 2019 he would “rather be dead in a ditch” than agree to extend Brexit beyond 31 October, before then having to go cap in hand to Brussels to request a delay until 31 January this year.
Recently, he noted that there would be a trade border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK “over [his] dead body”.
Bizarrely, that was after Michael Gove announced funding of £355m to ease trade over what was, according to the prime minister, a border that doesn’t and won’t exist.
It appears that Johnson has surpassed Lazarus, not just rising once, but twice from the dead.
Investing in libraries
I recently had a day trip to Doncaster to see my friend. On our walk around the town centre, we passed the new central library which is nearing completion.
My friend commented on how there is nothing wrong with the existing library building in the city centre and how the tens of millions being spent on it would be much better spent on restaffing some of the libraries, with all but four of 25 Doncaster libraries now run by volunteers after the council deemed branch libraries non-essential and fair game for cuts when it needed to make savings a few years ago.
Sheffield needs to learn the lesson from Doncaster’s bad practice and that of the new central library in Barnsley which saw costs rise significantly and invest in its current central library instead of building a new one.
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