Dear Editor, I refer to the final section of your Editorial in Tuesday’s Post, where it is claimed that at GCSE ‘…anything below A*-C grades is regarded as worthless by employers.’
I would dispute this assertion as being an untrue and over-broad generalisation. I work in a school identified twice in the past year by different Ofsted inspectors with different focuses as ‘Good with Outstanding features’; the industrial partners we work with – all very large multi-national companies - are keen for students to be able to think for themselves, to be able to work as part of a team and to have the resilience to stick at a problem when the going gets hard.
Every year 11 per cent of our eleven-year-old pupils arrive in the school with little or no English; 50 per cent have Key Stage Two levels below level 3 (the Government’s expectation is that all pupils transferring at age eleven have reached level four), yet the school is among the top 15 per cent of schools in the country for the value it adds to pupils’ skills and knowledge over five years.
This is because of outstanding teaching and a school ethos that promotes high expectations and achievement, relative to pupils’ prior attainments. Last year 98 per cent of pupils gained GCSE passes, 37 per cent of them reaching the 5 A*-C threshold, which was a very real and important achievement for all of them, as well as for their families and teachers. Visitors to the school comment on its positive atmosphere, and the wide range of opportunities presented to pupils, many of whom have never been to school anywhere in the world before.
However, often because their learning is effectively starting from scratch 63 per cent of pupils do not achieve the magic number of grade C passes: are you really suggesting that these pupils are unemployable?
Another aspect of this issue that is often omitted is that because we have grammar schools, there are no comprehensive schools in Birmingham, resulting in an in-built imbalance in school populations because a significant proportion of high-achieving children are selected for education elsewhere.
What is grade C anyway, if it is not validated entirely by the grades D, E, F and G achieved and celebrated by my pupils? If all pupils achieved grades C and above, would we not then be reading in The Birmingham Post about the debasement of standards, and the need for all pupils to reach grade A, as we do every year when the A’ Level results are published? It is because of glib media statements like this that teachers and pupils are made to look and feel inadequate when in fact they have performed exceptionally well. You should be celebrating the outstanding work of Birmingham’s schools, not reaching for the clichés.
Holly Road, Edgbaston.
Villagers state their case over future plans for runway
Dear Editor, The letter from Richard Brennan of Birmingham Forward on June 14th is well argued – from his standpoint. Indeed we have invited him to come and talk to fellow villagers how he sees the future of the airport providing local benefit. He has agreed to meet us.
However, we feel that it would be prudent to set out this Association’s view of the airport’s runway extension plan. Our position is also supported by Balsall Parish Council.
We recognise that the airport makes contribution to the region both in terms of jobs and in raising its profile.
However, those who are its immediate neighbours have rights too, especially those for whom there is no obvious benefit.
We have requested both the airport and Solihull Council to consider the following as basic requirements as part of the new s.106 agreement:-
The principal concerns currently are:-
Over flying the village of Balsall Common – both at take off and landing.
Noise Preferential Routes (NPRs)
Width of flight corridor
Non-Directional Beacon (NDBs) approaches
Potential increase in night flights
The impact of the longer runway will be that planes will be lower in the sky at Balsall Common during both take off and landing and will be larger ( that being the purpose of the extension to the runway). This will bring greater nuisance and noise, despite ongoing advances in aircraft technology.
We seek a change in the NPRs to the point that if they were shifted southwards, they would not then overfly the village. Equally, we would wish to see the guideline increased to 4000 ft as the threshold when fines would be imposed.
Whilst the need for NDBs is acknowledged for pilot training and skills purposes, these should not take place directly over the village of Balsall Common. This situation is both unnecessary and unsatisfactory, it should be stopped completely.
Our recommendations would be:-
Take off & Landing Corridor - Subject clearly to NATS (National Air Traffic Control System) approval, the existing NPR corridor from the Airport south should be extended 10 miles southwards from the Airport apron. It is clear that the current ‘Barston Turn’ is generally ineffective. This would ensure that all departures which are “south to fly north” off Runway 15 would make their turns south of Balsall Common and over ‘open countryside’ again minimising complaints.
If this is not achievable then as an alternative the NPR should be held until a height of 4,000 ft instead of the existing 3000 ft. At this stage it would miss the village of Balsall Common and be higher in the sky.
In addition we would wish to see the corridor reduced in overall width from 3 km - 2 km. We are aware that the very occasional high winds from the south west could have an impact – but just that very occasionally.
The re-direction of NDBs from over the village of Balsall Common. Such flights should avoid populated areas.
A strict control on night flights.
It is recognised that some night flights currently are of a military nature transporting injured personnel from war zones. When the requirement for these flights lessens in future, matters should return to minimal disturbance. However, if there is any transfer of airlines from Coventry, strict control should be adhered to.
Departures and arrivals to / from the Far East and West Coast USA will have an impact (that after all is the purpose of the exercise).
There is a limit to such night time arrivals at London airports, a similar situation should be put in place for BHX.
This is in order to improve the environment for the residents of Balsall Common.
It is also recognised that some night flights are due to unfortunate delays in originating airports, as well as safety matters.
However every effort should be made to ensure that the “economic benefits” should not outweigh the needs of residents affected. There should therefore be no increase in the current “normal” level of night flights.
Balsall Common Village Residents Association.
You’ve been patient, but let’s move on
Dear Editor, I read with some interest Douglas J Wathen’s (Oaksfield) letter published on July 1st. It’s a shame poor Mr Wathen has still so many questions about this fantastic new hospital. Plenty of information is and has been made available over many years. There have also been good articles in your paper. A significant amount of consultation about the new hospital was undertaken in and around Birmingham, perhaps living in Oakfield he has missed out on this.
I too hope that he never has to go into the new “Super” hospital, but if he were too I’m sure would be mightily impressed and proud that we have such a hospital in the UK. All the issues he raised have been addressed and much much more by dedicated teams working in both the QE and Selly Oak over the many years of planning, with considerably input from clinicians and patient groups.But perhaps he wants the people of Birmingham to keep the creaking old QE and Selly Oak Hospitals?
I say “Let’s move on Mr Wathen”.