Saturday's Letters: Our daughter's unfair treatment over school dismissal

We are writing as parents of Sandra Barnes, one of the four people dismissed without notice from Greenacre Special School (Yorkshire Post, November 6). Sandra visited Crevesford Special School in Barnsley at the age of 15 and from that day she knew that working with special needs students to be her life's calling.

We supported her through school and a four-year degree course at Lancaster University designed specifically to train special needs teachers and since then she has given 26 years of excellent service without a blemish on her record. Indeed, all her previous headteachers recently provided excellent letters of support confirming her professionalism and competency and the latest Ofsted inspection at Greenacre School noted her drama work as being of outstanding quality.

For our daughter to be dismissed without notice means that she will find it impossible to be employed on a permanent basis in the future, so serious and extreme is this form of dismissal.

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The aggressive treatment she received resulted in her mental health being badly affected. At the investigation meeting, her husband had to be called in because of her distressed condition. Later, her doctor wrote a letter to the governors stating that she was unfit to attend the dismissal hearing and requesting a delay until she had received counselling.

The request was ignored and during the hearing she was faced with hostile questioning not just from the headteacher and her human resources adviser but also from the adviser to the governors, who are supposed to be impartial. These advisers are from a private company hired by and paid for by the headteacher. This whole process was not conducted in a fair and reasonable way, considering the life changing consequences for our daughter.

Prior to this dismissal hearing, the text of the Facebook conversation was shown to the Local Area Designated Officer for Child Protection in Barnsley and to Ray Woodhams, the head of the Special Services for Children, whose judgment was that there was no harm or threat to children contained in the comments and therefore no case to answer.

Even so, on the advice of the her headteacher, Sandra erased all comments from her Facebook site and ended her Facebook account so that charges by the headteacher of potential damage to Greenacre pupils and the school's reputation are completely untenable and should have not have been pursued.

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Our daughter remains a dedicated, talented teacher whose future is blighted by the misrepresentation of a Facebook conversation between school colleagues after a very trying day at work.

We know that this pattern of conflict between school staff and their managers has been repeated on a regular basis over the past six years since the current head was appointed.

We are informed that elected officials are impotent and cannot intervene so that Barnsley's ratepayers are footing the considerable bill for four more tribunal hearings. As council tax payers, we watch our payments being used to abuse our daughter's life.

From: Graham and June Gooder, Barnsley.

Our Church leaders should focus on faith

From: Maureen Hunt, Woolley, near Wakefield.

DISREGARDING the rights or wrongs of Rowan Williams' vehement criticism of the Government's plans for long overdue welfare reforms (Tom Richmond, Yorkshire Post, November 9), it seems to me that the leaders of the Anglican Church devote far too much time to politics to the detriment of their real function, which is to be our spiritual guides.

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In our secular society there are plenty of journalists to enlighten us, who are well-versed in all aspects of politics, not to mention a strong Opposition party in the House of Commons.

Our permissive, amoral society continues to slide down the slippery slope into the abyss. From the Church, there is a deathly silence. Politics appears to be a safer option.

We need religious leaders, with the courage and tenacity of Old Testament prophets, who will stand up and speak out in the face of hostility before it is too late.

Four days before Christmas last year (Yorkshire Post, December 21, 2009), the Bishop of Wakefield wrote an article in which he discussed the forthcoming election in the spring. There was no mention of Christmas. What a missed opportunity. This year, let's hear the real message about the birth of Jesus. There are people out there who may never have heard it.

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Jesus said: "The harvest truly is plenteous but the labourers are few." Today there are many labourers but, if they are engaged in other work, how will they be able to gather in the harvest?

Foolish pride from France

From: Norman W Leslie, Cambridge Avenue, Marton-in-Cleveland, Middlesbrough.

IN answer to Tony Wilding (Yorkshire Post, November 6), France never did pay the beef fine because it was only threatened rather than imposed. I was not directly involved, but as a public health and food safety veterinarian, I followed events closely.

As I recall, British beef was accepted as safe, and exports resumed to many countries other than France. In defiance of EU rules, France unilaterally continued to ban the import of British beef for at least two more years, as its scientists acting on Government orders, continued to state that British beef was unsafe.

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Without avail, strenuous and sustained objections were made by the NFU and the British Government, until at last a formal appeal to the European Court of Justice was supported. All these formalities drag on and on, but only when threatened with infraction proceedings by the European Court which would have resulted in massive fines had the case gone ahead.

Suddenly and miraculously, only about two weeks before the hearing, French scientists changed their minds. British beef was safe after all, and so an expensive case was dropped!

Thus objective science and politics make uneasy bedfellows, as seen later in our continuous controversy over badgers and bovine TB.

It is, of course, well-known in Europe that France only obeys those directives which are convenient for compliance, and as for the others, mais oui, we have a derogation in France!

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European institutions are located in Brussels, the capital of a lesser member state, but only France can get away with a separate and expensive location for the EU Parliament in Strasbourg. A beautiful country, France, but a shame about the arrogance and selfish pride of its ruling elite.

Let's fight independently

From: Trev Bromby, Sculcoates Lane, Hull.

THE coalition has committed our Armed Forces to a coalition with France. There seem to be many questions and complications.

When the Americans order the British Government to commit troops to their next act of aggression, what will happen when the French don't want to be an accomplice?

If the Brits crash a sub, will the French pay towards the cost of repairs?

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Bring the Ark Royal and harriers back, and let the Armed Forces keep their independence.

From: Jack Chantry, Doncaster.

TERRY Palmer's assertion (Yorkshire Post, November 8) that the French "left us to fight alone" in two world wars is a supreme example of an ignorant distortion of history.

True, the French capitulated after only a few weeks fighting in the Second World War, but in the First World War they fought bravely alongside their allies for four bitter years.

This ignorance of historical fact simply feeds the stereotipical views of so many misinformed people of the present generation.

Digging out the truth

From: H Marjorie Gill, Clarence Drive, Menston.

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SURELY Malcolm Naylor is mistaken in his assertion that utility companies can dig up roads to their own convenience anywhere and anytime (Yorkshire Post, November 8)?

It is my understanding that it is the responsibility of the borough engineer to oversee all street activities. He or she should make sure that all roadworks are co-ordinated and hopefully see that when one utility needs to lay pipes or cables all the others are told to use the same trench to do their work to the minimum inconvenience of the public.

Perhaps Mr Naylor should get in touch with his local councillor to find out who is responsible for his dismay. I can't imagine that devolving the decision-making back to Whitehall will have the desired effect; after all what do they know of Otley's affairs?

The description of the workforce sounds exactly like the old days when miners used to go back for the tools they had left at the pit head and riveters in the shipyards refused to fit a new light bulb and waited for an electrician to arrive.

Fairtrade focus remains on helping poorest

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From: Barbara Crowther, director of policy and communications, Fairtrade Foundation, London.

NICK Hayns is way off the mark when he claims that if you buy a Fairtrade coffee, only 25 per cent of the difference you pay goes back to the farmer (Yorkshire Post, November 10).

For someone claiming to be an economist, his analysis is woeful. His reference point for coffee value chain analysis? An article from 2005 comparing the price of bananas. Today, anyone can buy a Fairtrade banana in Sainsbury's for the same price as an ordinary one in Asda. We suggest Mr Hayns stops whingeing and shops around a bit more.

He is also wrong to say Fairtrade doesn't focus on the poorest countries. Around 47 per cent of Fairtrade smallholders are in East Africa. Fairtrade operates in Mali, Uganda, Malawi, Cote d'Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Haiti and many other poor countries. Small-scale farmers in Mali report they are earning 50 per cent more from selling organic Fairtrade cotton. However, the face of global poverty is changing.

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Mr Hayns would do well to read the Institute of Development Studies' recent report that confirms three quarters of the poorest billion are now in middle income countries, like India or Mexico, which is why we continue to work with rural poor communities there too.

The Fairtrade Foundation genuinely welcomes scrutiny and debate.

More importantly, we welcome any serious suggestions of how the Fairtrade system might be improved. But Mr Hayns should get his facts right before attacking one of the few campaigns that is drawing attention to injustices in world trade, and which also offers shoppers the opportunity to freely choose products that offer a better deal to farmers around the world.

Losing plot on bank bail-out

From: D Smith, Sandhill Way, Harrogate.

A RECENT headline proclaimed that Lloyds Banking is returning to profit and preparing to repay the taxpayer the massive bail-out, but I see no mention of any accrued interest.

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Surely, the previous Government did not hand out our money without collateral? Surely our money bought us shares which could now be sold at a profit or held for the dividend, giving us a say in the running of the company? One is aghast at the ineptitude of the previous socialist Government.

Dinner winner

From: Michael J Robinson, Park Lane, Berry Brow, Huddersfield.

IF I were invited to respond to the question "who would you most like to have dinner with?", I should have to say that it would be whoever it was in the catering trade who found a way to sell empty pea pods – give them a French name and put them on the menu as "mange tout". That person is surely a marketing genius, never mind Richard Branson, and well worth a dinner.

No-pay bonus?

From: G Ellison, Hawthorn Avenue, Dronfield.

ALEX Alexander (Yorkshire Post, November 10) claims the last Government did not address the issue on benefit claimants. Has he a short memory? The last Tory Government told us when Norman Lamont was Chancellor that it was good for the economy; high unemployment and more people on benefits keeps inflation low. Maybe that's why the Tories want the unemployed to work for no wages.

Snow business

From: G Cooper, Mill Street, Barlow, Dronfield, Derbyshire.

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I NOTE that the latest initiative involves forcing the long-term unemployed, who are dependent on public handouts, to undertake community work, and thus become accustomed to toil.

This is an excellent idea. A spot of snow shifting will do some of our "sitting" MPs a power of good.