SIR – My daughter has not been at school for more than four months.
The evidence points to school-age children being among those least at risk from coronavirus. However, children’s charities have seen a vast rise in the numbers making contact during the lockdown, which strongly suggests that theirchildren’s mental health is suffering as a result of not being in school. Meanwhile, the public and independent school sector has continued to provide a far higher standard of pupil engagement and education than the state sector.
While most many thousands of people have just got on with things over lockdown – and many have served the public above and beyond the call of duty – so II therefore find it astonishing that teachers across the land are to be granted pay rises of between 2.75 and 5.5 per cent (report, July 21).
SIR – Teachers and their unions have disrupted the reopening of schools by putting unreasonable objections in place, and senior civil servants have performed miserably during the pandemic when it came to ensuring adequate supplies of personal protective equipment, widespread testing, and other measures.
This is a case of rewarding incompetence.
SIR – All public- sector employees placed on furlough should have had their salaries reduced by 20 per cent. Those on £100,000 should have had their pay cut by 25 per cent, and those earning over £250,000, should have taken a cut of 30 per cent.
I am sure this would have galvanised a lot of people into speedier, positive action.
SIR – Who’d be a teacher?
They are represented by unions determined to keep them out of classrooms, and they have been awarded a pay rise insensitively presented both in terms of timing and in its portrayal as a reward for their work during the pandemic. Of course there is outrage.
Respect for teachers has evaporated since March because their representatives and paymasters are so out of touch with both the needs and the mood of the nation.
Dr Mark Betteney
Senior Fellow, Higher Education Academy
School of Teacher Education
University of Greenwich
SIR– Nurses were not included in the inflation-busting pay rises awarded to public-sector workers as they had been awarded a pay increase, agreed in 2018, more than three years ago.
This huge part of the workforce, neglected by the Government, has seen this country through the crisis and is already preparing for further waves of the virus.
SIR – In his piece on liberalism and social cohesion (Comment, July 20) Nick Timothy repeats the familiar claim that “with children’s life chances defined more by their parents’ prosperity than talent, social mobility is in crisis”.
Politicians keep saying this, but it’s not true. In my 2019 Civitas report, Social Mobility Truths, I exhaustively reviewed the evidence and demonstrated that social mobility in Britain is common and widespread (65 per cent of people born into the working class have been upwardly mobile). Social fluidity has not declined and is similar to other advanced countries, and talent is far more important than social origins in deciding where people end up in life.
Telling youngsters that they live in a rigid, closed and unfair society when they don’t is the best way I can think of to demotivate them.
Hastings, East Sussex
SIR – I wish more GPs shared Dr Michael Blackmore’s approach to joint injections (Letters, July 18).
I rang my surgery last week to request an injection in my knee. I have severe arthritis and need a total knee replacement. Steroid injections and painkillers are part of the management plan to delay the operation as long as possible as I am “only” 56 years old.
I was told that I cannot have another steroid injection until a vaccine is available, as these injections suppress the immune system and put me at risk of contracting Covid.
If this is PHE’s advice it is very short-sighted and will cause immense pain and stress to all those like myself who are dependent on them to maintain a normal and active lifestyle.
SIR – I can assure Elizabeth Vernon-Powell (Letters, July 21), that the tradition of the midnight feasts is still going strong, albeit in a different corner of the Abbey, as my office is located just off the minstrel gallery.
I am also pleased to report that the organ is soon to be back to its former glory after a lockdown restoration. Mrs Vernon-Powell is welcome to return for what we hope will be an autumn recital.
Headmaster Battle Abbey School
Battle, East Sussex
The ‘Islamist’ debate
SIR – I read the article by Charles Moore (“The word Islamist has a meaning. Leave it be”, Notebook, July 21) with dismay.
As a matter of fact, when the perpetrators of terror attacks are of Christian or any other faith, they are defined as merely “terrorists” and in some cases as “gunmen”. However, when the perpetrator is of Islamic faith, they are, without any hesitation, their identity is deliberately pointed out by the term “Islamist terrorism”. This is sheer racism and offends almost two billion Muslims worldwide.
In this context, the recent debate within the law-enforcement forces regarding a reform to drop the terms of “Islamist terrorism” or “jihadi” is a democratic, mature and positive development.
On the other hand, a stance that is intolerant to any debate on the issue and an attitude dictating limits to the debating civil servantsis another outcome of a distorted mindset.
Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey
SIR – I am returning to the United Kingdom after a week’s stay in France. The bureaucracy for re‑entering my native land is not inconsiderable, running to three pages of A4 containing personal data.
Internet access is required to complete the forms online within 48 hours of landing. The completed forms must then be printed, or saved on a phone or tablet, for inspection at the UK border – a task that may be challenging for those who are not tech-savvy or who do not have access to the internet and a printer.
My biggest concern is that, having started this intrusive system as a temporary measure in response to the pandemic, the Government will use the greater border security it offers as a an excuse never to rescind it.
Picauville, Manche, Normandy
SIR – Over the past few days I have been trying to make arrangements for my annual cycling holiday in France.
The high-speed ferry service from Portsmouth to Cherbourg is not running, and, even if it were, it would not accept cyclists or foot-passengers. The Folkestone-Calais shuttle service through the Channel Tunnel is operating except for the cycle service. Eurostar is running – but Eurodespatch, which handles excess baggage and bicycles, is still closed and there is no indication as to when it will reopen.
The British Government is promoting cycling as a means of getting about, but cross-Channel services seem to regard cyclists as something to be avoided.
A gap in dental care
SIR – Those who need a filling and who are registered with an NHS dentist seem to have been forgotten. The dentists are waiting for advice from the NHS before they resume treatment – and such advice does not seem to be forthcoming.
The nation’s teeth may never recover.
Dr David Jones
There’s a novel idea …
SIR – Perhaps we should instigate an “unprecedented” day – during which the word is not used for 24 hours.
Back when signalmen worked outside the box
SIR – Forty years ago, I worked for British Rail as a relief signalman.
At one rural station passengers bought their tickets from the signalman after midday, when the booking office had closed.
At another, the signalman also ran the village post office. No specific training was ever available for these commercial duties. How times have changed (“Rail worker was sacked for selling a ticket”, report, July 21).
Help for those who find masks truly intolerable
SIR – Sally Dubuis (Letters, July 22), who finds that wearing a face mask puts her in a state of “complete panic”, should go to the government website.
There is an exemption for anyone who suffers severe distress if made to put on a mask. You can obtain an exemption card online.
SIR – Andrea Pepper’s article (Comment, July 22) shines a light upon how the difficulties of deafness are exacerbated by the wearing of masks.
There is little doubt that these impedimenta reduce the less- visible spray produced by speech and such, – but transparent masks are of little use since, like spectacles, these fog up too and highlight the moisture released while speaking.
I will use my Bluetooth hearing aids and a reporter-like microphone to help me communicate where face coverings are compulsory, but they won’t save me from silent e-scooters, or from the Lycra-clad cyclist hurtling without warning along pavements and dual-use country paths.
SIR – To prevent lenses from fogging up, the opticians Specsavers recommends resting glasses on top of a mask to help seal any gap, or using a piece of surgical tape to secure the mask to the bridge of the nose.
Pullborough, West Sussex
SIR – Polishing spectacle lenses with soap solution to avoid fogging has worked for surgeons for years.
St Andrew’s, Guernsey
SIR – On Monday, while I was waiting to use the hand gel in the foyer of my local supermarket, I noticed that many shoppers were so preoccupied with their face coverings that they sailed past the sanitising station.
The Government should be sending out a clear, concise message reminding the public of the importance of hand hygiene. Face masks lull most people into a false sense of security.
SIR – Surely, contrary to Anne Ansell’s suggestion (Letters, July 21), – it is not up to shops to provide bins for discarded face coverings.
Councils already provide waste bins, which are ignored by many people. It is up to individuals to take home unwanted items that they have taken out with them.
Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire
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