Schools triumph against the odds

THE article in the YEP on January 13 called the GCSE results a cause for celebration.

And the strangest move of goalpost from Mr (how can I put you down even more?) Gove from 30 per cent to 35 per cent just as City of Leeds gets there.

Anyway, we got there. Target 30 per cent; achieved 32 per cent – and that was while being bombarded with threats of closure for one whole academic year (thanks, Education Leeds, for nothing!).

That's with a great mix of ethnicities and social groups. That's with children entering the school UK system randomly from halfway through Year 7 to half way through Year 11.

Yes, Education Leeds, we cater for all.

In the meantime, those poor newly-made academies. And how do you spin it?

While it's hard to stand by the damage they do to staff morale and community cohesion, Judith Blake has no option but to stand by them because the poor children and families had no option.

They have to believe that stuffing Billy or Razia into a blazer has some sort of educational justification. Though it seems more like a working-class straitjacket to me.

Academies are "work in progress". No, they're not. Each one is another nail in the coffin of our central services, where schools once co-operated to share resources.

Whatever happened to Every Child Matters?

Intake and South Leeds were pulling themselves together when the disgraceful disruption and distraction that was their change of status, staff, uniform.

Why City of Leeds succeeded was largely because of staff stability and its robust, modern, watertight building. The same people in the same new building opened by John Smith in 1994.

But Judith Blake is right: the targets are a distraction, as are league tables, in fact. To compare the grades of a refugee child who arrived from Somalia half way through their year 9 with the results of a child who has lived in Menston all their life, spoken English all their life, and who has private music lessons, and maybe even extra tuition for maths, well, only bears of little brains would try that one.

Victoria Jaquiss, Leeds

Church clarification

I AM the Churchwarden of Sherburn-in-Elmet Parish Church wishing to answer the question raised by M Meadows of Castleford in your column, and correct a few misconceptions.

C of E parish churches retain and control all the income raised in their parish. This includes weekly offerings from the congregation, fees for weddings and funerals, (baptisms are free, though there is usually a collection plate at the rear of the church), legacies, donations in memoriam, and many necessary fundraising events organised by members of the parish.

Most parishes are asked to pay a "quota" to the diocese which is used to partly pay the clergy, and other central expenses. Any donations from the general income to overseas aid, missions etc. is entirely at the discretion of the parish church council. Many parishes have a separate fund-raising committee for that purpose.

So, to Sherburn-in-Elmet in particular. Here the vicar is non-stipendary (not paid) and thus we are asked to pay a slightly lower quota to York Diocese (32,000) out of an income of 64,000. We then have heating, lighting, insurance (we have had the lead stolen again), cleaning and building maintenance and general administration costs.

Last year we were unable to pay our full quota, and certainly none of our general income was "sent to the Third World". Any such aid was given from separate donations, usually for specific appeals.

Like M Meadows's parish church, we have serious Grade I building maintenance and conservation work required (costs estimated at 50,000-100,000). Some of this deterioration may be due to acid rain and our proximity to coal-fired power stations.

We wish his/her parish well in their fundraising and grant-raising efforts and assure him/her that any donations by their parishioners to a local building fund will not be sent elsewhere.

K D Stott, Churchwarden

Dental costs

I COMMEND the feelings of Terry Watson of Adel. I just wanted to add to Mr Watson's comments that dentists don't do all the fillings in one session. The reason being that they will charge patient 45.60 on each visit – though the NHS charges information leaflet clearly states that for fillings the maximum charge is 45.60.

I have been a victim of this, where one filling fell out in less than a week – a total of two amalgam fillings were done. When I went back to the dentist, I was told that I needed to pay 45.60 again, as this time three other fillings would be done, on top of redoing the first one, which was no fault of mine.

As Mr Watson said, rip-off Britain. It's not just dentists who are ripping people off, it's builders, plumbers and car mechanics who will name any price which will be very hefty.

The PhD-educated working person will be earning a much lower hourly rate than these rip-off builders, plumbers and car mechanics. It's ridiculous that nobody oversees the pricing mechanism for sole traders/companies in such business. We need to have an Ofcom-type body to regulate prices.

I again agree with Mr Watson that I only pay the dentist a visit when I am in a pain.

My wife has gone off dentists so much that in her life she has

only visited them three or four times.

Ejaz Butt, Leeds

Expensive luxury

Regarding the recent statement on bio-methane fuelled bin wagons in the YEP, which, although attributed to Coun Murray, was obviously produced by the same Leeds City Council spin doctors who write the rag About Leeds. You would never know LCC was facing a funding crisis.

While bio-methane might come free from waste – just like water falls from the sky as rain – great cost is involved in capturing and storing it and putting it into the tanks of bin wagons, which need to be heavily modified before they can use it, instead of the readily-available diesel fuel.

It seems pointless when Meals on Wheels, branch libraries, support for disabled children and the elderly, and a lot more besides, are all under threat.

More so than ever when Coun Murray goes on about carbon or climate change, when Leeds is freezing to death these days.

Who is he trying to kid?

Like the pointless office of Lord Mayor, and a lot more besides, bio-methane powered bin wagons are an expensive luxury Leeds cannot afford, especially when it's only really about 'Keeping up with the Joneses' – or, in this case, Wakefield Council.

DS Boyes, Rodley

Story corner

A HEADLINE in the YEP made me smile. 'Volunteers needed to tell tales to OAPs'.

Excuse me, I thought we had plenty of those in the Civic Hall.

Heard the one about the rubbish collection?

Mr T Golesworthy, Croft House Way, Leeds

Yorkshire romance

I LIVED in Leeds for over 40 years and moved to Norfolk six years ago. My wife and I knew many people in the area and many knew us. I worked 25 years in private gardens in various districts, especially Bramhope and Rawdon.

I am now 83 years old and one of my hobbies is writing. I used to give talks and readings of my own poems to elderly groups and the blind at Headingley.

Many retired people suffer from boredom because they have no hobbies. It may encourage some to know that at this age I have just had my first novel published by Its title is The Boy from Harker's Bridge and is a romance of the 1930s and 40s. The boy is from a poor family in a hamlet in Yorkshire, who prospers in spite of difficulties and obtains the girl of his choice.

There is no bad language or explicit sex and the only violence is enough to spice it, as salt and vinegar do to fish and chips. A book Grandma would enjoy.

Mervyn S Whale, Norfolk

Dinner bill

A spokesman for Leeds City Council suggested that the Lord Mayor's costs "have been reduced significantly over the past few years". If you were to examine the real facts, you would see a different picture. The food expenses and hospitality for the guests of the Leeds Mayor during 2005/6 was 19,726 and during the period 2007/8, these costs rose to 33,536. During 2009/10 the cost of providing this function rose significantly to a whopping 38,298.

The cost of the Lord Mayor's dinner for roughly 200 guests during the 2009/10 period cost the taxpayers 12,555 – and this equates to roughly 62 per head.

James McKenna is the present Leeds Mayor and I would like him to explain to the taxpayers why we are being forced to pay for food to help feed the city councillors. Please tell us, Mr McKenna, how much money did you spend on this year's Lord Mayor's dinner and did the price rise from the 2009/10 period, which cost the taxpayer 12,555?

P Cockroft, Tingley

Bad language

IT is no longer possible for a respectable family to watch films, dramas, comedy shows, and even outtake TV, without vile, filthy language being used. How can one expect the younger generation to desist from this, when they have foul-mouthed 'stars' corrupting them. The future looks disgustingly bleak.

J Shedlow, Fir Tree Vale, Leeds

Dirty path

RE D Leek's letter, I must agree. I also have not had my path cleaned since April 16, 2008. I have written many times and not had a reply.

The last time I had to write to your Get It Sorted to get my path cleaned. Will I have to do so again?

W Heald, Stainbeck Road, Leeds

EP 22/1/11

Kirkgate Market, Leeds

YEP Letters: February 9