Armed services training is of value to our young people

From: James Hinchliffe, Beck Lane, Bingley.

IT is very rarely that I tend to agree with the Labour Party but I must say that the comments by the Shadow Education Secretary [Yorkshire Post, July 12] had me nodding in agreement.

At the time, I resented doing National Service as it made a dent in my career prospects but, in the long term, it did have benefits; two things I learnt were discipline and comradeship which stay with me to this day.

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This was brought home to me recently when I had the pleasure of attending a ceremony at which my Rotary Club of Bingley presented the local Army Cadet Force Detachment with a donation to enable them to improve their computer service and connection to broadband services.

The young men, and women, “gave up” two evenings per week to train and we were able to see them taking part in training exercises and the discipline and camaraderie shone through. It is often said that National Service should be returned, which I personally consider a “non-starter”, but the idea of increasing the number of ACFs, and the suggestion of “service schools” manned by service personnel, does seem to be worthy of greater consideration.

These young men and women are a tribute to the “younger generation”, which is too often condemned as feckless, and their training and dedication will, I am sure, give returns in their futures and be of benefit to the whole population.

I hope the comments by Stephen Twigg are pursued as it may be one of the few sensible things to be proposed my any politician in recent times.

From: Ron Jevons, Muncastergate, York.

IAN McMillan’s column (Yorkshire Post, July 10) could well have ben written by me. My whole school and college career was thwarted by my dread of sitting exams.

I came from a very poor mining family background in Mexborough who could ill afford my daily clothes let alone school uniform.

This was partly why I did not take the 11-plus as my parents were not financially able to support a grammar school education. The other reason was that I was almost petrified at the thought of sitting the exam.

However I sat the grammar school transfer exam at 12 years of age and was one of only six people who passed. This was essentially because the exam was on a Saturday morning and I was not so nervous because I was thinking more about getting to Barnsley to watch my beloved Tykes in the afternoon!

I went to grammar school wearing a uniform purchased on the “never-never” but felt so out of place because of my background that I developed a phobia about sitting exams and ultimately left school to earn a crust and help support my parents before taking O-levels.

I obtained an apprenticeship with the NCB and went to Mexborough and Rotherham Colleges but my education againn suffered greatly because of my exam phobia and I ultimately walked out of my final examination before completing the paper and there my education involving examinations ended.

I was always fairly good at school work throughout the year and if a yearly assessment had replaced the dreaded examinations I feel sure my progression would not have suffered so greatly.

From: Diane M Priestley, Fixby Road, Huddersfield.

WHAT a very silly article from Ian McMillan on scrapping exams – just because he didn’t like them! The one sure way of telling how children have made progress is to test them. This doesn’t only tell parents and teachers, it tells the child, who discovers where his/her strong or weak points are.

For the teenager approaching public exams, it is the key to knowing how much further he can progress, and young people are surprisingly realistic about their own prospects. Again, if a student has taken a two-year course in a subject, the chance to show that they understand it is a challenge.

I recall being told at my old school that we would not be entered at O-level in those subjects that were offered for A-level, that is, our best subjects. I thus never discovered how I would have done, and had to be satisfied with mediocre passes in (to me) less interesting subjects.

From a teacher’s viewpoint, those lessons carrying no exam are routinely dismissed by students as not worth the effort.

Much has been made of continuous assessment. I suspect this of concealing help from parents, siblings, the internet. This is hardly civilised and certainly not fair. Long live exams!