As the debate intensifies about road and rail access to Leeds Bradford Airport, perhaps the time has come for the region’s politicians and policy-makers to answer this fundamental question before deciding whether to press ahead with transport ‘improvements’ which might – or might not – deliver the intended benefits to passengers.
If this exercise concludes that LBA’s location is an impractical one because of poor passenger access, and also its longstanding vulnerability to inclement weather, is it feasible to move the airport – as some have suggested – to the Vale of York or upgrade Robin Hood Airport in the south of the county? After all, the latter is conveniently close to the East Coast rail line and a major new link road will be completed shortly.
If, however, any review concludes that LBA should not move, it still leaves the issue of transport – and what is the best way of maximising passenger growth in an area of Leeds already blighted by interminable road congestion. There are no easy answers. For, while Leeds Council is exploring the feasibility of road improvements in the vicinity, it only takes one accident for this city to grind to a halt and local MPs believe a train connection would provide a better financial return than the long-delayed Trolleybus scheme. Conversely, there are those engineers who say there is insufficient land available and that the ascent to the airport, some 208 metres above sea level, is too steep for rolling stock.
Given this, the time for further flights of fancy should be over until it is determined, once and for all, whether Yeadon is the best location for the region’s premier international airport – or not. For the sake of the whole region and also future generations, today’s leaders cannot afford to delay this debate any longer.
School ‘brain drain’: The most important lesson of all
AS THE morale of teachers dissipates, Ofsted’s chief inspector has posed this thought-provoking question. Why, asks Sir Michael Wilshaw, should the Government pay to train school staff who are lured, after passing the requisite qualifications, to lucrative jobs at private schools overseas?
It’s certainly an issue that will resonate in the staff rooms of Yorkshire schools. Despite the Government spending £700m a year on the training of new teachers, the failure of Ministers to meet recruitment targets – coupled with a greater preponderance of disillusioned teachers opting to quit the profession – is now compromising the day-to-day education which children receive.
Sir Michael’s solution is an intriguing one – he has suggested that newly-recruited teachers sign up to a ‘golden handcuffs’ deal which would compel them to work in state schools for the first few years of their career. Rightly, he says this is not an unreasonable request.
Here is the rub. What if this principle was applied to those teachers and lecturers from overseas who now work in the UK’s schools, colleges and universities? Would there still be a staff shortage – or not? After all, the NHS simply would not be able to function without the reciprocal arrangements that enable UK hospitals to recruit doctors, nurses and other staff from abroad.
Perhaps the more pertinent question is establishing why there is such a ‘brain drain’ of teaching staff and what more needs to be done to reverse this trend. It’s perhaps the most important lesson of all facing the education profession today.
Bridging the Gulf: Enduring legacy of Desert Storm
WHEN THE British military were deployed to the Middle East 25 years ago to help liberate Kuwait as part of the first Gulf War, the actual deployment of the Armed Forces was such a rare occurrence that no one believed that Operation Desert Storm would be the precursor to even bloodier battles in the region.
Yet, as veterans commemorate these events, it was this conflict which gave rise to ‘Gulf War Syndrome’ and far greater awareness of not just the physical scars of battle but the mental anguish suffered by those who fought for Queen and country.
For this, the country remains in the debt of groups like the Hull-based National Gulf Veterans and Families Association whose tireless work has contributed so much to this important issue and helped ensure that service personnel, and their relatives, receive sufficient support coming to terms with the unimaginable trauma of war. As such, the military family will always be in the NGVFA’s debt.