Letters: The country’s children have been let down by ill-judged teacher strikes

Thousands of the National Education Union (NEU) and Public and Commercial Service (PCS) union members demonstrated in central London yesterday - Getty
Thousands of the National Education Union (NEU) and Public and Commercial Service (PCS) union members demonstrated in central London yesterday - Getty

SIR – When my wife retired from teaching a few years ago, she was given a small plaque that read: “A hundred years from now it will not matter what your bank account was, the sort of house you lived in or the kind of car you drove. But the world may be a better place because you were important in the life of a child.”

Those teachers who have been on the picket line might consider this.

Richard Brown
Heathfield, East Sussex

SIR – If a parent prevents their child from attending school for any reason other than sickness, they could face a fine. The teaching profession will say that the child is being deprived of education.

Yet this doesn’t appear to work the other way, when teachers go on strike. Why is that?

David Hewitt
Heacham, Norfolk

SIR – I heard a teacher on the radio protesting that teachers work hugely long hours, often more than 60 per week, while not being paid anywhere near enough.

I now see that, in order to earn the standard annual salary, teachers only need to work 1,265 hours a year (report, February 1). I ran my own business for many years, and the standard number of working hours per annum was more than 1,700. Most staff would also work overtime without extra pay.

The claims of the National Education Union suggest that it takes us for fools.

Quentin Skinner
Warminster, Wiltshire

SIR – When I retired as a teacher, most staff I knew were working between 50 and 60 hours a week, and I was working 60. That translates to 2,340 hours per annum.

The 1,265 hours figure is misleading: no teacher could possibly work those hours and fulfil the terms of their contract. I feel sorry for teachers today, whose workload is enormous even compared with that of my generation. We were fobbed off with promises that pay increases would come when economic circumstances improved. I was still waiting when I left the profession.

Derek Graham
Stockton-on-Tees, Co Durham

SIR – Most of those who have been striking – be they railway workers, teachers, NHS workers or firemen – are being offered pay rises of about 5 per cent.

It is true that inflation is currently double this amount, but it will fall over the coming year. Wage increases will not.

Post-pandemic, Britain simply cannot afford double-digit pay rises, and the unions know this. Their Left-wing bosses are motivated as much by politics as the interests of their members, many of whom do not support industrial action.

For these reasons, the Government must stand firm.

Robin Nonhebel
Swanage, Dorset

Erasing Christianity

SIR – The recent decision by the London School of Economics to erase traditional names drawn from the Christian calendar – Michaelmas, Christmas, Lent and Easter – for each term (report, January 30) is but the latest example of a university determined to “cleanse” itself of any identifiably British heritage.

Whether it be changing the names of buildings or removing statues, plaques and busts, chipping away at the fabric of our national heritage is a manifestation of the culture of shame that bedevils much of the liberal establishment that runs too many of our once great institutions.

The move is indicative of either ignorance as to why such language matters, or knowing dismissiveness of its significance. It may be tokenism or something more sinister; either way it damages the reputation of the LSE and all British higher education.

University administrators claim their motive is to “better reflect the international nature of our community and our broader global engagement”. If this justification is genuine, it is shockingly neglectful of the common culture that informs our communal sense of belonging. A more resentful anti-Christian explanation of such zealotry is surely at odds with the open-mindedness at the core of rigorous higher learning.

We members of the Common Sense Group are concerned that, unheeded, this wayward iconoclasm will cause an irreversible erasure of the Christian language, and the heritage it embodies, which links our universities to the nation that bore them.

Sir John Hayes MP (Con)
Sir Desmond Swayne MP (Con)
Sir Edward Leigh MP (Con)
Pauline Latham MP (Con)
David Jones MP (Con)
Brendan Clarke-Smith MP (Con)
Scott Benton MP (Con)
Nicholas Fletcher MP (Con)
Andrew Lewer MP (Con)
Craig MacKinlay MP (Con)
Andrew Rosindell MP (Con)
Henry Smith MP (Con)
David Jones MP (Con)
Caroline Ansell MP (Con)
Gareth Bacon MP (Con)
Bob Blackman MP (Con_
Paul Bristow MP (Con)
Jonathan Gullis MP (Con)
Damien Moore MP (Con)
Lia Nici MP (Con)
Alexander Stafford MP (Con)
Baroness Nicholson (Con)

Look after the pennies

SIR – Roger Burgess (Letters, February 1) suggests scrapping 1p, 2p and 5p coins.

We put all our small change in a cardboard box by the phone. I raid this from time to time to pay for a pint at our local. The bar staff seem delighted, as a pint of Solar costs £3.23, so change is particularly useful when a customer hands over a fiver.

William Blake
Clun, Shropshire

SIR – The Royal National Lifeboat Institution would lose out if 5ps vanished. They cleverly provide jam jars for you to fill with those annoying little coins and then hand in when full.

Annabel Weston
Hastings, East Sussex

Jets to Ukraine

SIR – Rishi Sunak has said that it is “not practical” to send British fighter jets to Ukraine (report, January 31) because it would take months to train Ukrainian pilots to fly them.

Surely this is the moment to start training them, so that by the time dithering Western politicians have decided to supply the Ukrainians with the weapons systems they have been crying out for since they were invaded, the pilots are ready to operate them.

John Kennedy
Hornchurch, Essex

SIR – The months to train pilots to fly any fighter jets supplied to Ukraine are only the start of the process.

The crews who will maintain these jets need training; the supply lines for spares need to be established; the special tools for repairs need to be supplied; the arming and delivery of appropriate missiles need organising.

In short, it is easier to talk about sending modern fighters than to do so. By all means think about the eventual arming of Ukraine with modern Western equipment, but it will never be a short-term solution.

John Ralph
Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire

SIR – I agree with John Pritchard (Letters, February 1) on the need for greater defence spending, which should also include the reinstatement of “British Forces Germany”.

A more active role at the heart of Europe’s security could help to improve our terms of Brexit and gain influence in Washington, given America’s aspiration for a more self-sufficient Europe.

John Barstow
Fittleworth, West Sussex

Coronation diplomacy

SIR – For once I disagree with Allison Pearson (Comment, February 1), who thinks the Duke and Duchess of Sussex should not attend the Coronation.

The focus of the ceremony will be on King Charles and Queen Camilla. The Prince and Princess of Wales are capable of dealing diplomatically with the Sussexes, and whatever Prince Harry has said about the Royal family, he remains the King’s son. In my work as a child psychiatrist (now retired), when families had a falling out I advised them to “keep the door open”.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is a good choice as negotiator, as he will be well acquainted with the parable of the prodigal son.

Dr Tony Saunders
Otterbourne, Hampshire

A cautionary tale

SIR – I too have been collecting books since I was about 10 (Letters,  January 31). But now, aged 86, I have discovered the sting in the tail. No one wants my beloved friends and I am reduced to giving them to charity shops or anyone who will take them. Beware – the pain can be intense.

Robert Miller
Rowlands Castle, Hampshire

Just coffee

SIR – The varying strengths of coffee (report, February 1) do not concern all of us. On Tuesday, in the café of the Tunbridge Wells branch of Marks & Spencer, the man in front of me ordered “a cup of coffee please”.

When the attendant listed the endless formats of coffee available, he said: “Whatever – just coffee.” She gave him an Americano, and inquired: “Do you always ask for just coffee?” “Yes,” he replied.

I liked that man.

Colin Bostock-Smith
Uckfield, East Sussex

Hope springs eternal from this avian breast

Of joy illimited: a mistle thrush in the village of Knott End-on-Sea, Lancashire - Alamy
Of joy illimited: a mistle thrush in the village of Knott End-on-Sea, Lancashire - Alamy

SIR – Last week, despite the frost and fog, I heard a mistle thrush singing its familiar mating song.

This bird, one of our earliest resident breeders, is among the first to open a slender gap in winter’s doorway into spring.

Its song is unmistakable and always puts me in mind of a hopeless karaoke contender as the bird attempts but fails to emulate its more melodious cousin, the song thrush, which also sings at this time of year (as Thomas Hardy’s wonderful poem The Darkling Thrush reminds us).

We can only hope, during these gloomy times, that such beautiful and powerful constants will continue to prevail.

Major John Carter (retd)
Bream, Gloucestershire

A diet to combat the pain of inflammation

SIR – Miranda Levy (Features, January 16) rightly highlighted the role of inflammation in obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

She also noted the lack of routine testing in medical practice and described a number of dietary and lifestyle changes that may reduce inflammation. However, interventions must be supported by high-quality clinical trials.

Current Nice guidelines for osteoarthritis advise that “weight loss will improve quality of life and physical function and reduce pain”.

Using MRI scanning, our colleagues in Copenhagen have shown the link between inflammation in the knee-joint membrane and pain; while others, also in Copenhagen, showed that dietary energy restriction and 10 per cent body weight loss reduced the levels of 10 blood proteins associated with inflammation.

Other Danish colleagues, using a diet very similar to the NHS “soups and shakes” plan for diabetes remission to achieve 10-15 per cent weight loss, have reduced the severity of the skin inflammatory disease psoriasis, and improved heart function and cardiovascular risk factors.

Ms Levy notes that “eating is, in itself, an inflammatory act”, so it follows that eating less should reduce inflammation. Thus, contemporary evidence supports the use of the NHS “soups and shakes” diet – not just to achieve diabetes remission but also for the pain of osteoarthritis, for psoriasis and as a component of secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease.

Dr Anthony Leeds
Senior Fellow
Professor Henning Bliddal
Director, Parker Arthritis Institute, Copenhagen, Denmark
Professor Hamish Simpson
Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon, University of Edinburgh

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