Dear Editor, My young daughter last attended school on Thursday, February 7 and isn't due to return until this Wednesday (February 27). She hasn't been sick and I've not been keeping her away from the classroom.
The reasons for this prolonged absence are fourfold: on February 8 there was a teachers' training day, then there was a week for half-term. On the Monday following the holiday my husband took her in to find that there had been a flooding problem over the previous weekend and her part of the school was closed. We were informed later that day it would remain closed for the rest of the week. Last Thursday we had a call to say her classroom wouldn't reopen until Tuesday. On Friday, when he went into school to collect some work to keep her occupied, my husband was informed she couldn't return until Wednesday.
This situation would be laughable if it wasn't so serious. It's not the missed lessons that gall me - my daughter is too young for that to matter - it's the inconvenience it has caused many parents. My husband and I are lucky, we work from home, but imagine the office-worker parents who took a week's leave to cover half-term (plus a day for the teacher "training") and then found themselves, en route to work the following Monday, discovering that they couldn't go back to work after all unless they could find instant child care. Imagine, too, the pressure on affected employers.
In an age when education is deemed so important and when the Government is falling over itself to persuade stay-at-home mothers to return to work, I find it incomprehensible that a child has to stay off school for so long. My husband recalls that when his school all but burnt down many eons ago, it was "business as usual" barely two days later. Similarly, I remember the days when schools battled on, even when snow lay thick on the ground. Now, it seems, even a few snowflakes sends them scurrying to the phone to call Radio WM and announce that lessons are cancelled for the day.
What, inadvertently, are we teaching our children?
Important to advance new Metro routes
Dear Editor, Last week The Birmingham Post questioned the future of the Midland Metro, which consists of one line between Birmingham Snow Hill and Wolverhampton (Post February 23).
As Cabinet Member for Transportation 2003-4 I felt it a matter of great importance to advance new routes.
Every new tram system brings out the 'nimby' groups, and so it did here with the Tories drumming up opposition in Edgbaston and the Lib-Dems canvassing residents living along the Walsall Road. What I didn't expect was for other Labour councillors to try to outdo the Lib-Dems in opposing plans.
They enlisted the support of Khalid Mahmood, MP for Perry Barr, who described it as a "white elephant". Since he was then PPS to Tony McNulty, a Transport Minister, does he bear any responsibility for stalling the one hope we have of getting some sort of public transport system which will help get cars off the road?
The problem is that he and others have no alternative suggestions. The only idea they have is the bus, which instead of improving in Birmingham steadily gets worse.
Anyway the Tory/Lib-Dem coalition have closed bus lanes I approved. Desperate.
The underground? Well it was always patently obvious that if we were having difficulty funding the Metro then the likelihood of getting an underground was below zero, but you couldn't tell them that. Anyway the Metro can be an underground, or it could become a "sky train" like in Vancouver. If it ain't there at all it can't do anything.
Nottingham managed to get its plan through for a tram by employing a public relations officer to build enthusiasm for the venture. Yes the nimby lobby were there but not allowed the upper hand. Their numbers pale into insignificance compared to other residents. Councillors opposing the scheme in Birmingham did not bother to sound out other opinion.
Dick Knowles, former Labour leader of Birmingham City Council, passed away last week.
His contribution to the development of Birmingham really shows up the lack of vision the present leadership has. They go crazy because the city has been offered New Street Station renovation, which should have been done as a matter of course.
Two tracks make it impossible to develop the rail system properly. It has been reported our local rail service is the poorest in the country. Then it has to compete on that line with intercity and freight.
The one light at the end of the tunnel is to see the raised platform intended to take the Metro beyond Snowhill. There is talk of taking it at least to New Street to link in with the new station there. At least it will not remain hidden from view. I wanted to see a mock-up of the tram placed in Victoria Square where the proposed route would pass the Iron Man, perhaps moving him a short distance. However this didn't happen and no one was appointed to promote it. My pleas fell on deaf ears.
Ken Livingstone's comment that "Birmingham hasn't got a public transport system" looks like being validated once again.
Our so-called leaders are truly pathetic.
The spirit of enterprise
Dear Editor, Sir Richard Branson and all those involved in Virgin Galactive deserve to be congratulated on their spirit of enterprise and their technical and commercial achievements ( 'Branson planning to order five new spaceships', Post February 22).
Leisure and recreation are not without importance, but in a world where poverty, conflict, pollution and limited resources are such pressing concerns, have the energies of those involved, and their technical and commercial abilities, been best directed?
What is the environmental harm caused by the totality of the activities needed to achieve each flight? What benefits could have been achieved had all the effort, expertise and investment been applied to increasing the efficiency of mundane processes and activities? To the alleviation of poverty? The avoidance or reduction of conflict?
I urge anyone considering one of these journeys to give careful thought as to whether they are not sufficiently clever and resourceful to find a way of gaining the benefits they anticipate in a much less harmful and wasteful way.
A couple of points to raise about sport
Dear Editor, I write as an ignoramus on the world of sport, but even so I feel that a few comments upon the subject would not be out of place.
Take the not-so-beautiful game of football for instance: millions of pounds spent on the purchase of second-hand players with little more concern than buying a tube of Smarties, but should they lose a couple of games, then the over-paid gumchewing manager is usually given the order of the proverbial boot.
This fails to take into account two very important aspects of the game: the manager was not even playing, and the other team probably had better players.
Now boxing, a 'noble art' in which the objective of opponents is to inflict injury on each other. Not unlike a human form of dog fighting, spectator approval is usually proportionate to the quantity of blood on the canvas.
Shouldn't we ban the only sport in which the aim is to hurt? Over the past 40 years of so, many boxers have died as a direct result of injuries from this 'sport'.
Short term and blinkered
Dear Editor, The discovery of the old canal under the proposed new library should be of concern and not dismissed so lightly (Date for library start - and finish, Post February 22).
Whilst the effects of an anticipated rise in the water table of 55 feet can be taken into account in the design for the library, this cannot be the same for the surrounding buildings, Baskerville House, the Rep, and Symphony Hall and the ICC that would presumably be similarly affected by this change in the water table levels.
Yet again its the short term blinkered view that seems to be prevailing rather than a full consideration of all the implications both to the other buildings and possible costs to the city council in the future.
Setting the timetable so precisely indicates to me that this administration is more concerned about building the new library in their chosen location regardless and with a total disregard to the future implications. I value a single-minded commitment to civic regeneration but even the late Sir Richard Knowles, reknown for his ability to cut through the challenges, would possibly have had second thoughts on this one.
Coun JAN DRINKWATER
Huge clamour for new stations
Dear Editor, There is massive support for new stations to be opened on the Birmingham to Tamworth line.
I recently conducted a survey of Castle Vale residents which showed that 99 per cent were in favour of a new station on the Vale. This demonstrates that people will change from using cars if a reliable and quick service into Birmingham is provided.
A new station would ease congestion on our overcrowded roads, cut CO2 emissions and reduce journey times into Birmingham to a mere nine minutes.
The Government must provide the money for this project as a matter of urgency.
Coun ANN HOLTON
Rules created by a class warrior
Dear Editor, Paul Dale claims that Councillor John Lines may be in hot water with the local government standards board because of his comments on asylum seekers (Iron Angle, Post Agenda, February 23).
Such standards boards, and the rules requiring councillors to treat everyone with respect, were created by that eminent political partisan and class warrior John Prescott, in the Local Government Act 2000.
I wonder if there has ever been a successful complaint against a Labour councillor for making equally trenchant remarks about the upper class or the Royal Family?