SIR – As a former headmaster and current vice chancellor, I am becoming increasingly alarmed by how young people’s achievements, in their A-level results last week and GCSE results this week, are being questioned.
The longer the political furore continues, and the longer the validity of centre assessment grades is disputed, the less the young will believe in the value of their results.
I know from my own experience how much self-confidence is gained through achieving good grades in exams. We are in danger of producing a cohort of young people who lack that confidence.
Sir Anthony Seldon
University of Buckingham
SIR – Because of the change in the way GCSEs were awarded, pupils have received higher grades than normal, as teachers have a natural tendency to overestimate their students’ standards.
And this in a year when you would have expected to see lower grades because much less teaching has been done.
Professor Arthur Morris
SIR – I congratulate every student who received results yesterday.
We now need to halt the language of “inflation”, which suggests that teachers sat around blowing hot air into balloons, making up grades on a whim. No. Centres approached the process with gravity. We weighed up all the data, as well as our detailed knowledge of students. Our expertise and integrity, and their hard work, must not be undermined.
Head teacher, St Augustine’s Priory
SIR – In the days of assessment by examinations alone, I achieved by a number of fluke A-level results just sufficient to obtain a university place. For me, this was the wrong path, and led to unfortunate consequences. I was lucky: I eventually arrived at the right destination, but it might not have ended so well.
Inflated grades, whatever the reason for them, are not necessarily in students’ best interests.
West Auckland, Co Durham
SIR – Spare a thought for those pupils who, if they’d been able to sit their exams, would have got higher grades than their teachers predicted.
Every year there are a few who have been underrated and unsung by their teachers – the shy, quiet ones who don’t believe in themselves. Many of them have a shining moment of self-realisation in August, when they open that envelope.
This year, those students have not had the chance to experience that moment. I hope it dawns on them not too much later in life.
SIR – My sister, a retired nurse, is caring for her husband, who has motor neurone disease, her mother, who has Alzheimer’s disease, and my frail 94-year-old father.
Last week, the hot weather exacerbated my brother-in-law’s breathing difficulties, prompting my sister to request a home visit from her GP. She was concerned that her husband might require antibiotics for a possible chest infection. During the 10 years that he has suffered from this awful disease, she has never called out her doctor.
Having battled through the brick wall of triaging receptionists and nurses, she was eventually called by her doctor. She was told a home visit would not be possible because he lacked personal protective equipment.
I found this response completely unacceptable. Just what is going on in GP surgeries? No face-to-face appointments, no referrals for life-limiting illnesses – and no PPE.
Green case for paper
SIR – I note that, in the debate over shopping bags, the well-worn propaganda against paper is being reiterated (report, August 17).
Paper is not made by cutting down forests at random: the trees used have been planted specifically for that purpose. And what about all the good effects of growing trees, which absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen?
A J Butcher
Market Harborough, Leicestershire
SIR – I use string bags, which stretch to contain vast amounts of shopping. They are also washable and fold into nothing. Foolproof.
Never without a mug
SIR – Seeing Gavin Williamson pictured on your front page (August 18) clutching a mug made me wonder: what is this obsession with drinking in public? I have seen many other photos of people entering No 10 holding similar containers.
I was brought up to eat and drink at mealtimes, sitting at the table. One might have made an exception on hot days, but leaving home bearing a canteen of liquid was unheard of – unless one was stepping in to the Sahara desert.
SIR – This country is floundering. As you point out in your Leading Article (August 19), only about 33 per cent of white-collar workers are back at their desks, and our once-vibrant capital is in danger of turning into a ghost town.
We need positive messages from our Government, along with confidence and true leadership – but it doesn’t appear to be listening.
SIR – While I agree with Geoffrey Wyartt (Letters, August 20) that a Corbyn administration would not have done a better job of governing Britain over the past few months, I do not see this as a valid excuse for the atrocious performance of Boris Johnson’s team.
What a sad indictment of a once- great political party that its senior politicians are merely the least-worst option available to us.
SIR – I note with chagrin that Baroness Dido Harding will be head of the new quango that replaces Public Health England (report, August 17), despite, like Matt Hancock, having no scientific experience or qualifications (both studied PPE at Oxford).
As yet another senior Tory with no in-depth scientific understanding of the problems we face, she is unlikely to be able to do the job required.
When will the Government realise that without suitably qualified leaders, its departments will simply make the same mistakes that we have witnessed over the past six months?
Languishing in care
SIR – Much has been said about the lockdown of care homes to protect their residents (Letters, August 20), but to what end?
My 100-year-old mother had no visitors for months until we were recently allowed a socially distanced half-hour once a week.
The results are heartbreaking: she has gone from being an amazingly lucid old lady to a demented one living in a fantasy world. I wonder how many others have suffered, or will suffer, the same tragic consequences in the name of keeping them safe.
Woodsetts, South Yorkshire
SIR – The passports we recently renewed are indeed black not blue (Letters, August 20).
They are also incredibly flimsy, and I cannot see them being fit for purpose for regular travellers. Perhaps the Government foresaw that people wouldn’t be needing them very often.
West Hill, Devon
SIR – Am I alone in thinking the old passport was black not blue?
SIR – Like Chris Drew (Letters, August 19), I remember visiting my company’s advertising agency in the Sixties when it was pitching for a Portuguese sardine producer's account.
Instead of a long liquid lunch (as was usual), we took part in a sardine tasting, ranging from one to 50 years in age. I recall them trying to convince me of the supremacy of the 1920 vintage (a tin of purée) over the 1969 (which I would at least put on toast).
Harnessing the health-giving power of honey
SIR – I am delighted that scientists have confirmed that honey can be used to combat the curses of winter: colds and coughs (report, August 19).
In the interests of humanity, may I pass on the recipe that has been handed down through generations of my family, and which has never failed to fight off illness?
Precision is important. Take a tumbler and in this order place: a hefty slop of orange juice, a generous dram (or two) of whisky, a large spoonful of honey and, finally, a drop of hot water.
Take this elixir to bed to guarantee a good night’s sleep and awake cured in the morning. You may have to repeat as desired – for medicinal purposes only.
Helping young adults escape the cycle of crime
SIR – Last year, more than 50,000 cautions or convictions were handed to 18- to 25-year-olds for low-level and non-violent crimes, such as theft.
In later life these minor offences dominate the criminal records of adults; people who repeatedly offend now account for nearly 40 per cent of all offenders. Behind these numbers lies misery – a revolving door of crisis and crime that destroys lives, families and communities.
These offences are driven by persistent poverty and profound trauma, but they are preventable. A smarter criminal justice system would intervene earlier, giving young adults hope of a good life.
The preventative measures taken by police and youth offending teams have shown what is possible, reducing the number of children entering the criminal justice system to the lowest levels on record. We can do the same for young adults.
We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to stop the cycle of crisis and crime. That is why our coalition – led by the Revolving Doors Agency and our patron, Lord Patel of Bradford – has committed itself to taking action in order to prevent young adults being pulled into this cycle, and to divert them towards a better life.
Head of Policy, Revolving Doors Agency
Lord Patel of Bradford
Chief Constable Jo Shiner
National policing lead for children and young people
Professor Loraine Gelsthorpe
Director, Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge
Police and Crime Commissioner for Bedfordshire
Chief Executive, Clinks
Criminal justice lead for Lloyds Bank Foundation
Deputy Chief Constable Sara Glen
Former national policing lead for children and young people
Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for Avon and Somerset
Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland
Police and Crime Commissioner for Derbyshire
Police and Crime Commissioner for Gloucestershire
Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent
Police and Crime Commissioner for Humberside
Lord William Bach
Police and Crime Commissioner for Leicestershire
Police and Crime Commissioner for North Wales
Police and Crime Commissioner for Nottinghamshire
Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey
Police and Crime Commissioner for West Midlands
Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire
Chair of Transition to Adulthood Alliance
Chief Executive, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation
Director, Prison Reform Trust
Co-director, Zahid Mubarek Trust
Chief Executive, Switchback
Chief Executive, Agenda
Chief Executive, Leaders Unlocked
Chief Executive, Brighton Oasis Project
Chief Executive, Spark Inside
Chief Executive, Expert Citizens
Chief Executive Back on Track Manchester
Chief Executive, Working Chance
Director, Collective Voice
Head of Policy and Communications, Birth Companions
Professor Kieran McCartan
Professor Huw Williams
Professor Ben Crewe
Professor Jane Millar
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