Tuesday's Letters: Closure shows lack of understanding of rural schools' role

THANK you for your feature article (Yorkshire Post, December 16) about the closure threat to small schools in Upper Wharfedale, and in particular that you involved my former colleague Gervase Phinn in this.

I, too, am very concerned that North Yorkshire County Council is proposing to close the school at Kettlewell and that this proposal is based entirely on the need to make savings.

I understand the council's officers claim they will save 50,000 by closing the school.

However, in spite of the fact that travel costs appear in a different budget, this figure will be reduced inevitably by the additional costs of transporting pupils to another school.

Therefore, the actual saving to the council will be less than is claimed.

There is absolutely no educational argument for closing Kettlewell School.

Its ratings have been of the highest for 40 years – my daughter was a pupil there in the early 1970s when the school was led by an outstanding headteacher who ensured that the 30 or so pupils had the best possible educational experience.

More recently, Ofsted inspectors have given the school top marks.

Clearly, those proposing to close the school lack a proper understanding of the vital role played by small rural schools in the lives of those who live in remoter areas.

One has to ask the question: would those leading the charge to close the school subject their own children to the length of journey, in winter, necessary to attend the school at Grassing-ton?

In addition, there is the matter of the longer-term demographic effects: less families with young children and an increasing proportion of ageing people who will need more social and medical care as they grow older.

Obviously, small schools need more funds per pupil to provide a high quality educational experience for their pupils than do large schools.

The county council's report compares the costs per pupil at Kettlewell with the county's average to support its case for closure.

Rather, the county council needs to recognise that high quality education doesn't come cheap, more so in small schools.

In this connection, the annual fee per non-boarding pupil at a well-known independent school in North Yorkshire is quoted at 11,910 which I suspect is more than double the yearly cost per pupil at Kettlewell.

When seeking cost reductions, it is often easier for education authorities to pick off the small fry than to risk the reactive wrath of larger, more heavyweight establishments. Is this a case in point?

From: Peter Massingham, Formerly Senior Inspector, North Yorkshire, and registered Ofsted inspector.

The economic burden of new railway line

From: Dr Paul Thornton, Cromwell Lane, Kenilworth, Warwickshire.

IF Government proposals for a new high speed rail line are allowed to go ahead, all your readers will be burdened with their share of massive public expenditure for a scheme based upon exaggerated economic, business and environmental claims.

Will the 30bn to reduce the journey time from Leeds to London by 20 minutes be the first post-recession priority? Will it really bring a fair share of any economic benefit out of London, let alone as far as Leeds or indeed to the rest of Yorkshire? The reduction in London journey times for the other cities on the line will be greater both in proportion and in absolute terms.

Leeds already has a fast direct line. The more important and timely upgrading of the Midland Main Line that connects the conurbations of the East Midlands, South Yorkshire and the West Riding with a further direct route to London was demoted from rail investment proposals announced recently.

More than this, many of your readers will find their lives directly vandalised first by the massive construction of the infrastructure, and then the blast of the 225 mph trains across attractive areas of Yorkshire.

To go so fast, the track has to be straight and level. The cuttings will be deep and the concrete viaducts high. The very high speed, and the added distance of going via Birmingham, will mean much more carbon use.

It is going via Birmingham to feed Londoners in to that airport to compensate for Heathrow not getting an extension. Do not see this project as green. Here in Warwickshire, councillors from all political parties on the county council unanimously voted to oppose the HS2 proposals. I am confident that Leeds City Council will come to share that consensus view, sooner rather than later.

What about the victims?

From: Barry Foster, High Stakesby, Whitby.

A FAILED asylum seeker banned from driving and with a string of convictions mows down and kills an innocent 12-year-old girl and is then allowed to remain in this country on appeal (Yorkshire Post, December 17).

Have I got all this wrong but is there something going seriously wrong with the way we conduct our affairs in this country? I should think her family and any right-minded person is beginning to question if all the effort put into living a decent life is worthwhile.

I don't know who is responsible for making all these decisions but someone somewhere ought to take up the cause of the much-abused everyday person.

From: John Watson, Hutton Hill, Leyburn.

CAN somebody please tell me who in the judiciary decides what is a "human right" and what is not, and how do they come by their decisions?

From where do these paragons of virtue get the inspiration to decide on such issues?

Have they any idea of the contempt which some of their rulings have engendered in the general public who only want to get on with their lives by applying basic common sense?

From: Karl Sheridan, Selby Road, Holme on Spalding Moor.

THE granting of political asylum seeker Mohammed Ibrahim's claim to be allowed to stay in the UK is utterly bizarre, and the judges should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. This man has been allowed to get away virtually scot-free with leaving a child to die and fleeing the scene and only serving a mere three months' detention.

My heart goes out to the parents of the child who, quite frankly, have been let down badly by our justice system.

Is it any wonder we are being besieged by bogus asylum seekers who see great potential in a country that upholds human rights to the point of injustice and absurdity to those wronged!

From: Tom Whitley, Nicholson Road, Healing, Grimsby.

WHERE is the justice in the ruling by the Upper Tribunal of the Immigration and Aslyum Chamber regarding the non-deportation of a failed asylum seeker, a criminal with a string of convictions, and who killed a young girl while being a disqualified driver and failing to stop after an accident? Human rights was cited as the reason for the ruling.

Human rights is surely a two-way issue but time after time it seems that the victims are given second consideration in any judgement.

Tough times lie ahead

From: Malcolm Naylor, Grange View, Otley.

As another year approaches so does another reality. Will it be better or worse than we think? Has the Establishment softening up adequately conditioned us? Will the combined effect of job losses, rising taxes and costs, cuts in services and frozen incomes be as bad as we fear,

For sure, poverty and inequality will increase. But will this make the public realise that our so-called democracy is nothing more than a charade and the real power lies in the hands of the Establishment capitalists. It matters not a jot, which party we vote for the result is always the same.

There are fundamental obstacles to our way of life, which the Establishment damps down by tinkering at the edges. Changing the governing political party every now and then will never get to the root of the problem. It matters not one jot, which party is in power.

This next year is going to be grim especially for those on low incomes.

Don't have an identity crisis in shops

From: John Hannett, General Secretary of Usdaw (the Union of Shop,

Distributive and Allied Workers), Wilmslow Road, Manchester.

MANY of your readers will be buying products that are age-restricted such as alcohol, tobacco, DVDs, computer games, even Christmas crackers.

To prevent under-age sales and avoid possible prosecution, most shops operate a "Think 25" policy because it is difficult to tell someone's age.

This means if you look under 25, you maybe asked for proof of age ID at the checkout and if you cannot provide this the sale may be refused.

Shopworkers don't do this to be awkward, both the law and their employer say they must.

Any shopworker making an under-age sale risks being fined up to 5,000 and getting a criminal record.

Failure to ask for ID could also result in disciplinary action from their employer.

An Usdaw survey showed that a shocking 65 per cent of shopworkers have been verbally abused for asking for ID, over 16 per cent have been threatened and two per cent physically assaulted.

Shopworkers don't deserve this at any time of year, let alone at Christmas when they are working harder than ever.

Please take ID to the shops if buying age-restricted products and if asked for ID please treat the shopworker with courtesy and respect as they are only doing their job.

That way we'll all be able to enjoy a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Mind your Olympic language

From: Trevor Mumford, St Giles Close, Thirsk.

WHILE listening to the radio news a couple of days ago, I was forced to check with the calendar as to whether or not it was April 1 – but, alas no, we are indeed in December 2010.

The cause of my wonder was the announcement that the official language for the 2012 London Olympics will be French, this taking precedence over English in announcements and on billboards.

I wonder whether if Paris had won the Games then English would have been the official language, though I think not, and I would like to know which spineless individual signed up to this insult.

Given the sacrifice of lottery funding etc that otherwise would have gone to deserving causes rather than this disgraceful jamboree, which despite the protestations of Lord Coe benefits the south east and in particular London to the detriment of the rest of the country, I would have thought that the use of our language could have been expected.

Lighting the way by bike

From: Rob Wheway, Director. Children's Play Advisory Service

People grumble about cyclists without lights, but parents cannot buy bicycles with built-in lights.

There would be chaos on the roads if motorists had to rely on fragile plastic lights which break easily and rely on separately fitted batteries which keep running out.

Modern technology lights could be an integral part of a bicycle and be expected to last for five or 10 years without needing replacement parts.

It would be easy, nowadays, to provide the power without the drag associated with the old-fashioned dynamos.