YEP Letters: April 22

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Try walking to work to boost health

Tompion Platt, Head of Policy, Living Streets

Walking to work reduces the chance of heart disease by 27 per cent, a new study published in the British Medical Journal has found.

The study by the University of Glasgow found that people who cycle to work are 45 per cent less likely to get cancer, and people who walk to work have a 27 per cent lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease and a 36 per cent lower risk of dying from it.

Walking is a free, easy and accessible way to stay healthy and protect ourselves from chronic conditions. New figures from the NHS last month revealed that one in four adults are inactive, but by choosing to swap short car journeys for a walk instead, we can easily fit more exercise into our day. The high levels of air pollution in our towns and cities puts some people off travelling actively but the myth that we are protected from air pollution inside the car is simply not true – we are less exposed when on foot. And when people walk more, they are being part of the solution. It’s Living Streets’ National Walking Month in May and we’re encouraging people to #Try20 – and fit 20 minutes of walking into their day and see what benefits they feel to their health and happiness.

Schools being put in hands of privateers

Victoria Jaquiss, Leeds Education campaigner, teacher, parent, grandparent, ex-school governor

If Theresa May thinks she has called her election in time, then based only on the situation in education, she is surely wrong.

Parents have now seen what teachers have known through dreadful experience for some time now. Ignorant political interference from successive governments has reduced what should be the happiest days of our children’s lives into ones of trauma.

How many parents see their kids’ favourite teachers suddenly leave? Qualified, dedicated teachers are leaving the profession and their charges in droves. These are teachers burnt out before they get properly started, and those burnt out when they have years more to give.

Parents see their own children, tested to oblivion, hysterical at the age of ten, at the very thoughts of SATs. These are Year 6 tests which only there to judge how well schools are doing. Parents are being criminalised for taking their own children on holiday. Whose children are they? The state’s? This country is penalising parents for wanting to spend more time with their own children and give them experiences that they couldn’t afford or which aren’t available during the normal holiday period.

Parents know that funding cuts are losing us the TAs and are increasing class sizes.

Parents know that their school has cancelled GCSE music even if they didn’t realise that arts subjects are already being lost to the curriculum.

And above all parents know that schools are being put in the hands of the privateers, and taken out of the hands of experienced educationalists. And, if they didn’t already know, they will soon, that they don’t even need to be consulted anymore. In the UK the privateers are the academisers. If it was up to teachers and parents no schools would become ‘academies’. Sadly a combination of a succession of ignorant secretaries of state and, all too often, their stooges, governing bodies, have allowed businesses to expand their money-making plans into the field of education. (And I write as an ex-school governor of 20 years ‘experience)

Academisation is not not just putting control of education into the hands of the privateers. It is a land grab. The public, tax-payers’ school buildings and the the land that they stand on are just given away to the new owners.

It will take one generation to see off all that the Education Act of 1944 and Tony Crossland’s Comprehensive Statute of 1965 put in place. If we don’t stop this government’s disastrous uninformed “educational” policies, this generation of 10-year-olds will be the illiterate, uncreative, disillusioned and suicidal adults of the 2030s.

And it is with some sadness that on going to the NUT Conference in Cardiff I find out that yet another Leeds high school is going for the old “jump before you’re pushed” argument. I hope that the parents of this school get together to tell its governors to just say no to academisation.

That old notion that jumping before being pushed gives you some sort of a choice has long been discredited. The instability that all other schools have gone through, and are still going through, should be warning enough.

Seismic shocks on the way?

M Hickes, Farsley

tHE CALLING of a snap general election by Conservative PM Theresa May might unwittingly bring about the destruction of the United Kingdom.

Should she win the June 8 poll, her slender majority will no doubt increase, and her personal position – just like those PM’s before her who have entered No 10 via the back door as it were.

A little like Yes Prime Minister, one can only imagine what Sir Humphrey Appleby might have to say. With widening eyes: “Very courageous Prime Minister.”

Mrs May might easily destroy Labour and others and romp home. Her bargaining position with be strengthened in Europe and, as a result, she could find herself in the position Mrs Thatcher found herself in in 1983 not long after the Falklands Crisis.

But if she loses, a new political genie could well and truly be let out of the bottle. Brexit – that already wearisome subject – will overshadow this election like no other.

In fact all other manifesto pledges – didn’t we just hear those recently? – could become sideshows next to such.

The prospect of a Corbyn led coalition might loom; one which has the Remain campaigners at heart. And if such should occur, the SNP, wishing to remain in Europe also, might make it the perfect excuse to stage a second referendum on Scotland which they could win.

If Scotland exits from the UK, attention will then centre on Northern Ireland, which might be asked whether it prefers to remain part of the UK or Europe.

If Mrs May wins, Northern Ireland will, like the rest of the UK, be dragged out of the EU. But if Mr Corbyn wins, in whatever form, might a Brexit rethink or a second referendum on such occur?

If Mr Corbyn as PM finds his hands bound by rules already in place on Brexit, he may have to honour the democratic will of the electorate on Brexit. But should Scotland leave the UK, might not NI also cast a glance at Eire and consider whether membership of the EU is preferable over membership of the UK? It’s perhaps beyond the Pale, but some might find themselves looking at a crumbling UK and taking this view. If the Welsh also take the option, the Celtic breakaway would be complete.

No-one predicted either David Cameron’s victory at the 2015 poll nor his resignation thanks to the aftershock of the Brexit referendum. Could equally seismic shocks be on the way, brought about by a seemingly ‘uneccessary’election?

Imagine Jim Hacker sitting at the Cabinet table and saying: “Well, Humphrey, I’ve decided to press ahead with an election in any case….” One can picture the expression on the late Nigel Hawthorne’s face, even after all these years.

Searching for information

Brian Smallwood, by email

I’m trying to trace someone I knew many years ago.

All I know is her name is Denise (surname not known) and that she frequented the Wise Owl pub in Ireland Wood, Leeds, (the area where she also lived) in and around 1980, when a visually-impaired organist (myself) played there for a few weeks.

She used to drink at the bar with the drummer (Sacha) and me, during our breaks from playing and we went out together once. She was then 24, going on 25 in May. If she reads this, may I wish her happy birthday for May, and could she please contact me on brian_organist@btinternet.com as I would rather like to hear from her. Alternatively, if anyone thinks they know this lady, could they show her this letter, or give me any more information on the same email address?

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YEP Letters: October 19