THE continuing debate over how schools should be run during a pandemic should be an opportunity for change rather than merely considered as a challenge to maintain the status quo (“Pupils in test call to keep schools from virus closures”, The Herald, January 3).
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Education Act (Scotland) 1872. It effectively made early education compulsory for all Scottish children, who were to be taught in accommodation organised by local school boards.
Reading the Act today, it is obvious that what was assumed was that a competent teacher would be responsible for teaching a class of pupils in a suitable room. It was a system which built on existing practice, but perhaps 150 years later it now seems a little questionable that this model is still in use when annual statistics reveal that it clearly only works well for some pupils.
When the Scottish Government talks about closing the “attainment gap” what it really means is closing the gap in the number of exams passed and academic certificates attained by pupils from underprivileged backgrounds and those from the better-off. Modern technology can be harnessed as a powerful teaching machine and can mitigate social class barriers at the point of delivery.
Having been following the UK Government’s Learning During the Pandemic series evaluating what has happened over the last two years in schools, I hope that lessons have been learned, although the research has mixed findings. Individual pupils deserve individual provision to suit their learning styles. I expect that some pupils, even at senior level, should certainly be in a school full-time but for others a balanced approach in some subjects of online e-learning and regular in-school tutorials should now perhaps be considered the norm. We may perhaps never make education and schools pandemic-proof but this is surely the time to start building flexibility.
Bill Brown, Milngavie.
OUR GPs ARE WORKING HARD
I CONTACTED my doctor last week and was given a telephone appointment the same day. Having heard rumours that GPs are doing very little work, drinking tea and not seeing patients, imagine my surprise when I was asked to attend the surgery the next morning for examination.
Being of an inquisitive nature, I asked the doctor about the rumours. She said she had arrived at work at 8.15, seen 25 patients in the morning, had more patients to see in the afternoon and was then undertaking out-of-hours work due to the Covid pandemic.
I am beginning to think the idea that the GPs are doing no work could be fake news.
Scott Simpson, Glasgow.
SCEPTICISM ON PLANNING BIDS
I NOTE that the planning application for a 24-storey development on Waterloo Street in Glasgow is to be debated on the grounds that it is too tall (“Decision due on flats plan to demolish bulk of historic distillery in city centre”, The Herald, January 4). I am no planning expert, but I have noted a number of similar planning applications in Glasgow and Edinburgh being initially rejected at first application only to be subsequently approved albeit a little bit smaller.
Forgive my cynicism but it appears to me that the game sometimes is to apply for something excessively big in the full knowledge that it will be cut back a little with the concession being seen as compromise and a victory for consultation. In any event it all makes work for planners, architects, engineers and project managers from which I have benefited financially in the past.
Duncan Sooman, Milngavie.
BRING POSITIVITY TO PRISONS
IT was good to read the letter (January 3) from AJ Docherty, a short-term prisoner at Barlinnie, confirming that “prison phones are a godsend”.
I am sure that the mobiles issued to prisoners can be a positive factor in allowing them to keep in touch with families and friends and help prepare them for a successful return to society. It is accepted that some inmates will abuse this privilege, but as prisons should be about rehabilitation and not just punishment, I think this is an excellent initiative.
In Scotland we lock up a greater proportion of our population than the majority of the countries in Europe. We should focus more
on prevention and the factors which cause some people to offend and land up in prison. So let’s focus on more positive initiatives like the provision of mobile phones to some prisoners, so that prisons can become places which can address the issue of rehabilitation and preparing the inmates for a successful return to society,
Ron Lavalette, Ardrossan.
HOW WILL I COPE WITHOUT POEMS?
WOE is me! Lesley Duncan is retiring (“Remarkable career of our poetry editor as she steps back … a bit”, The Herald, December 31, and Letters, January 3). How am I going to cope? They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away; well, for me, a poem a day keeps the madness of the world at bay.
I’ve said goodbye to Fidelma Cook in 2021 and now I’ve lost Lesley on a daily basis too. I shall have to drown my sorrows and devise some new strategy to boost my spirits on a daily basis in 2022.
Lesley, thank you for years of enjoyable, inspiring and thought-provoking poetry. Thank you for introducing me to new poets. And thank you for the rich seam of poetry in Scots which you have encouraged. My scrapbook is full of poems I’ve cut out and kept over the years which I offer as my party pieces on nights like Hogmanay and Burns Night. I shall be reading them still in my dotage with fond memories of Lesley’s daily poetry column.
Katie Allstaff, Aberfeldy.
TEA? IT’S A WHAMMLE DUNK
BEFORE the topic of children asking “What’s for tea?” (Letters, December 28, 30, 31 & January 3) draws to a close, I should like to contribute “whammley” as the parental answer in my childhood. My Concise Scots Dictionary spells it “whammle” and gives the meaning “no food, nothing to eat or drink”.
I have been rather surprised that it has not cropped up in earlier letters. My parents were of Ayrshire origin and I always assumed it would be known in that part of the country.
May MacLennan, Stirling.