Letters, Saturday, August 4th, 2012

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What is MP’s view on free school?

BELATEDLY we welcome Sharon Hodgson MP to the debate about the conversion of Grindon Hall Christian School to a free school, due to open this September.

Located in one of the most deprived areas of Sunderland, the excellent academic results and high standards of behaviour at this school will now be more widely available. That is why parental demand and support for the free school has been high with the prospect of an outstanding education on offer within the state system, and on the doorstep.

Free schools essentially operate as academies and the freedoms they enjoy to tailor their curriculum, control budgets and choose services are leading to significant improvements in results.

Academies can work in other ways too, with the most successful, such as Emmanuel College in Gateshead, raising standards in all local schools through competition.

Contrary to the scaremongering, this is not a free for all, with free schools being regulated by Ofsted and set up only where there is sufficient demand and without a profit motive.

Unfortunately, the Labour Party is all over the place with regard to free schools, caught between an ideological distaste for them and parental support in their constituencies.

Shadow Education spokesman Stephen Twigg says that “we oppose the policy” but when Everton Free School was proposed in the city he represents, his opposition wavered.

Ideology aside, the bottom line is that parents like these schools, which are mostly located in Labour constituencies, and in areas of multiple deprivation as is the case here. Grindon Hall Free School represents a genuinely progressive and aspirational policy which may offer transformation for people in Sunderland in a way that has, thus far, been absent.

Ms. Hodgson, to whom I wrote several months ago asking for her view on the application, has so far failed to respond but did take the opportunity to criticise the process, labelling it “shambolic”.

With parents queuing up to get in, it’s time the constituency MP and Shadow Education minister gave us a clear answer as to whether she supports or opposes Grindon Hall Free School.

Councillor Robert Oliver, Leader, Conservative Council Group

Good councillors

IN recent times, a lot of column inches on the Letters Page have been used to complain about our councillors and council.

Recently I had occasion to email my local St Peter’s Ward councillors with a query and requesting a meeting. Low and behold, within two hours I received two emails in reply, and later that same evening a personal visit from Councillor Julia Jackson.

So I would like to state that everything is not always negative concerning local government,

as I think my experience shows.

W. Bellerby, Roker

Bus problems

AFTER reading about the gent who prefers his car to the bus because of the things passengers get away with like piling at the front of the bus when there is lots of room at the back, surely the driver can shout for them to move along.

One big fault I find as an elderly and infirm passenger if sitting on side seats and prams and the young mothers sometimes take up three seats and we have to move. Yet the first two seats in the rows are supposed to be for the elderly and infirm but you find much younger and fitter people sitting there and they won’t move.

There again, the driver should request them to move, but no. Don’t the drivers have any say in these matters or they can’t be bothered?

June Houghton

Famous game

THERE have been several letters on Jim Baxter, with none of them forgetting that he played keepy-up in a Scotland game against England at Wembley. Brilliant.

What they do forget, however, is that very early on in that game Jack Charlton suffered a bad injury and played as a makeshift centre forward for almost an hour, hardly moving from the centre circle. This was before the laws were changed to allow substitutes.

Bearing in mind Big Jack was possibly the best centre half around at the time, would Slim Jim have been able to do his keeping up? Understandably the other English outfield players would have been fatigued at the time Batxer did his act and of course neither did he have Big Jack snapping at his ankles, a thing or two he knew about having played for Leeds United.

Yes, the Scots did win at Wembley but against 10 brave Englishmen. A Baxter fan I was, but an Englishman I will always be.

T. Henderson, Witton Grove, Houghton

Spot on, Mick

IT is not often I agree with “The Pen” but I had to in his recent letter re women parking.

You usually do have to wait for ages when they park up and the annoying thing about this is that it all adds to the price of the ticket. It’s the same all over, I suppose, in any city but women are the main culprits.

On another point, Mick the Pen complains about females putting on lipstick while they are driving, well I have seen them eating crisps and drinking out of bottles.

I suppose Mick eats a Yorkie when he’s driving, but seriously, the laws must change and female parking bays are a good thing.

E. Fairweather, Blind Lane, Silksworth