Obsession with grammar schools just leaves poor children behind | Letters

Dr John Somers reflects on his path not taken, and Katy Simmons writes of the schools that are missing out

I read ‘We are in an education arms race’ (G2, 5 December) with interest and some dismay. I attended a very good village primary school in Wales immediately after the second world war and, from the beginning, was acutely aware that near the end of my time there I would take an exam, the result of which would decide whether I went to an urban grammar school or a rural secondary school.

The education received in each was wildly different, and when I passed the exam at the second attempt I entered a world of Latin, trigonometry and other studies. These seemed irrelevant to my life as a rabbit and mole-catching youngster living in a village house lit by oil lamps with a weekly tin bath in front of the living-room fire, where my mother seemed to work from the time her eyes opened until she slept. My subsequent career in education led me from an urban secondary modern to a comprehensive, a college of education and a university. I have worked extensively abroad, founded and edited an international research journal and held senior roles in my university. If I had gone to the rural secondary school – the curriculum of which prioritised rural skills including pig-keeping and gardening – I would probably have left at 14 and got a labouring job in my locality.

Continue reading...

Shire railways are losing out to London | Letters

Les Bright points to deprived areas of the south, while Peter Fellows crunches numbers

It is no surprise that, with all eyes turned towards Brexit, politics has reverted to type with the “north-south divide” reasserting itself (North of England continues to see cuts in public spending, report finds, 5 December). But this formulation is inaccurate and divisive, suggesting that all of the south is prosperous and favoured by those who allocate government resources. Tell that to the people of the southern shires where per pupil spending is significantly below that of London; rail travellers whose trips are cancelled or made by bus when moderate storms coincide with high tides; and communities where bus services have been reduced or removed. Crossrail will do little or nothing to improve rail services outside of the corridor of privilege that it will create, and HS2 has no relevance for most of us. London’s dominance over the rest of the UK, as measured by power, influence and funding, may well have contributed as much to the outcome of the referendum as migration-related fears and must be addressed if further fractures are to be avoided.
Les Bright
Exeter, Devon

• Transpennine rail upgrade linking Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Bradford Hull and York: £2.9bn. Crossrail 2 vanity project: £30bn. Says everything you need to know about the government’s political priorities (Transport secretary considering ‘seriously flawed’ rail upgrade, 8 December). Roll on a general election.
Peter Fellows
Bradford

Continue reading...

NHS spent money on ads instead of jabs | Brief letters

Flu jab | Shire elections | Navy photo | Brexit | Theresa May

Sarah Matthews (Letters, 10 December) describes the difficulty that she experienced in getting a flu jab from her GP and local pharmacist after having been exhorted to do so as an over-65 by Trevor McDonald in an NHS advert. When I was experiencing similar difficulties I discovered that while the NHS had spent a great deal of money on such adverts, no provision had been made for supplying an adequate number of vaccines to meet the extra demand to which such advertising would inevitably lead. A serious case of left hand/right hand perhaps?
Harvey Sanders
London

• Further to Jacqueline Angell’s advice (Letters, 10 December), I stood for election for the Labour party, repeatedly, in the not very leftwing heart of Buckinghamshire, following in my daughter’s footsteps. Despite doubling her vote to a respectable, if definitively losing, figure, I rarely met people who would admit to supporting me or the party beyond an occasional “congratulations” on getting a letter printed in the Guardian. Such quiet words appear to be the shibboleth among true but hidden believers in the shires.
Peter Hutchinson
Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire

Continue reading...

Gambler’s victims to sue bookmakers where he spent stolen cash

Claims totalling £1.5m against William Hill and Paddy Power for allegedly failing obligations

Two of the UK’s largest bookmakers are facing compensation claims worth £1.5m over allegations that they allowed a gambling addict to bet hundreds of thousands of pounds in stolen cash.

Betting shop records seen by the Guardian show that the addict, who has asked for his name to be withheld, staked £650,000 in two William Hill shops over six months, losing £150,000.

Continue reading...

UK man accused of importing 1.3 tonnes of cocaine goes on trial in Paris

Robert Dawes arrested two years after drugs transported on Air France plane in 30 suitcases

A British man believed to be one of Europe’s biggest drug traffickers has gone on trial in Paris, accused of importing 1.3 tonnes of cocaine into France.

Robert Dawes was arrested two years after the drugs were discovered inside 30 unregistered suitcases, transported on an Air France plane from Caracas to Charles de Gaulle airport. The cocaine had a street value of €240m (£217m).

Continue reading...

Discovery of dead Himalayas pair brings ‘closure’ after 30 years

Friend Steve Aisthorpe told remains of Kristinn Rúnarsson and Þorsteinn Guðjónsson found

A Scottish mountaineer who spent weeks searching for two friends who disappeared in the Himalayas more than 30 years ago has spoken of finally feeling a sense of closure after their bodies were recently found.

Steve Aisthorpe, 55, was with Kristinn Rúnarsson and Þorsteinn Guðjónsson on an expedition to Pumori on the Nepal-Tibet border when he fell ill partway through the expedition and told his friends to go on without him.

Continue reading...

National Theatre Wales to showcase homegrown talent after backlash

Programme for 2019 features array of Welsh artists amid accusations of English bias

National Theatre Wales, which has been accused of favouring English artists, has announced a 2019 programme that it says will showcase the depth and richness of its homegrown talent.

NWT’s artistic director, Kully Thiarai, said she hoped the programme would address the concerns of more than 200 actors and writers, who have also criticised what they saw as the paucity of its output.

Continue reading...

Crossrail now delayed to 2020 and to cost another £2bn

Final bill of London’s new rail line could hit £17bn as the mayor demands release of board minutes

The final bill for Crossrail could reach £17.6bn, with London picking up the likely £2bn shortfall for the new rail line that will now be delayed until at least 2020.

A bailout has been agreed between the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and the government for loans totalling just over £2bn to city authorities.

Continue reading...

Claims that NHS rubber gloves made by forced labour spark inquiries

UK and Malaysia investigations launched after Guardian reports allegations that firms are exploiting workers

Related: NHS rubber gloves made in Malaysian factories accused of forced labour

The UK and Malaysian government have launched separate investigations after the Guardian reported allegations that factories supplying rubber gloves to the NHS were exploiting migrant workers in conditions of forced labour.

Continue reading...

Claims that NHS rubber gloves made by forced labour spark inquiries

UK and Malaysia investigations launched after Guardian reports allegations that firms are exploiting workers

Related: NHS rubber gloves made in Malaysian factories accused of forced labour

The UK and Malaysian government have launched separate investigations after the Guardian reported allegations that factories supplying rubber gloves to the NHS were exploiting migrant workers in conditions of forced labour.

Continue reading...

I salute the heroic Stansted protesters who saved me from deportation | Anonymous

The ‘Stansted 15’ face jail for stopping my flight from taking off. But without them, I’d have missed my daughter’s birth

I’ll never forget the moment I found out that a group of people had blocked a charter deportation flight leaving Stansted airport on 28 March 2017, because I was one of the people that had a seat on the plane and was about to be removed from Britain against my will. While most of those sitting with me were whooping with joy when they heard the news, I was angry. After months in detention, the thought of facing even just one more day in that purgatory filled me with terror. And, crucially, I had no idea then of what I know now: that the actions of those activists, who became known as the Stansted 15, would help me see justice, and save my life in Britain.

Related: Activists convicted of terror offence for blocking Stansted deportation flight

Continue reading...

I salute the heroic Stansted protesters who saved me from deportation | Anonymous

The ‘Stansted 15’ face jail for stopping my flight from taking off. But without them, I’d have missed my daughter’s birth

I’ll never forget the moment I found out that a group of people had blocked a charter deportation flight leaving Stansted airport on 28 March 2017, because I was one of the people that had a seat on the plane and was about to be removed from Britain against my will. While most of those sitting with me were whooping with joy when they heard the news, I was angry. After months in detention, the thought of facing even just one more day in that purgatory filled me with terror. And, crucially, I had no idea then of what I know now: that the actions of those activists, who became known as the Stansted 15, would help me see justice, and save my life in Britain.

Related: Activists convicted of terror offence for blocking Stansted deportation flight

Continue reading...