Letters to the Editor, April 14

Often fun

I WAS appalled to learn from the Mercury’s front page article (April 7) that primary school children in North Somerset are still receiving sub-standard education: in particular, inefficient instruction in basic English grammar and spelling.

I was born and brought up in Kewstoke, and when I was a pupil at Kewstoke Primary School, under the excellent head teacher Miss Parker, we each had a small spelling book for writing in any new words, which we learned ready for an end-of-week test.

We also learned our times tables by rote, chanting them every morning as well as whenever the teacher had to leave the room - of course that’s another story, but did result in us being able to do mental arithmetic instead of reliance on calculators. None of which was particularly hard, often fun, but it was education - it trained our brains.

In 1970, when I trained at Bath University to be a teacher, we had to study many education reports, and one main point was that children who were encouraged and expected to do well did much better than those given the opposite impression.

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Even so, several weeks teacher-training in local schools revealed that the irresponsible, woolly-headed trends in education had already started creeping in: ‘We don’t mark all little John’s spelling mistakes - all those red pen corrections might stifle his creativity - it’s more important that the meaning comes through.’

Such bilge is as wrong and damaging now as it was then.

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To do any task properly, you need the knowledge and basic techniques to carry it out, as in an apprenticeship.

Neglecting to pass on this knowledge to children inevitably leads to their frustration at being regarded as ignorant, not an inherent condition, simply ill-educated, through their inability to write even a letter or job application which isn’t littered with grammatical and spelling mistakes, or to express themselves properly: eg pronouncing ‘h’ as ‘haitch’ instead of ‘aitch’; using the non-existent verb ‘to of’: ‘I should of (should’ve/should have) told him’; using the past participle: ‘He done it’ instead of the correct part of the verb ‘did’. There’s nothing wrong with regional accents, it’s the syntax which is important.

In short, those who still adhere to the ‘Mustn’t encourage children to succeed; to compete with each other, for fear of failure; to learn self discipline; etc’ mantra are still betraying our younger generation and sadly ignoring the overwhelming truth that from birth our youngsters are able to absorb an incredible amount of information and knowledge, which is where parents have such a vital role - an ability to absorb which becomes so much more difficult with age.

If, according to the LEA, national best practice (NB ‘c’ in the noun, ‘s’ in the verb) is to assume that all children are incapable of getting their spelling and punctuation correct and understanding the key elements of their lessons, they are doing the children a great disservice - which apparently Ofsted believes too.


Spring Terrace, Milton

Really felt sorry

READING your lead story on the front page of the Mercury last week I really felt sorry for today’s schoolchildren.

It seems that they are not being given the chance to be able to be prepared for the real world when they leave school

Times have changed so much since I was at Worle School when I left in 1948.

Our teachers controlled us at all times, I remember very well that when any of us got out of line we were put firmly in our place. We had our lessons and were encouraged to work hard.

In all the subjects we were taught the teachers made them interesting and when they looked over our school work, if we had made mistakes we were told about them and it would be explained to us where it was wrong and they made sure that we understood.

This new idea that teachers should not tell children who had made spelling errors just in case it may upset them, to me, is completely wrong. Why ever not? It’s the only way they can learn. Letting them think that their work is correct when it isn’t, is what’s wrong or can the same sort of errors be allowed to happen in maths?

That is why they are going to school - to learn. If the teachers cannot see that then maybe they should be doing another job. Education is why they are there. The teacher’s job is to teach and this is what they should be doing. I know that teachers have one of the hardest jobs there is.

They have to do it with one hand tied behind their backs. You cannot make children learn but what ever happens at least make sure that what they do learn is correct.


Shrubbery Avenue, Weston

No surprise

LAST week’s headlines: “Spelt write or rong” came as no surprise to me.

In 130 years of state education Britain has not been able to eliminate illiteracy. There are still more than 3,500,000 men and women who can’t read or write.

Millions more can’t speak grammatically or punctuate properly.

Is it any wonder then that we come across such headlines in the Mercury which give rise for concern for our primary schoolchildren who are being badly let down.

When children leave school today few are able to speak or write English correctly. Even fewer have a familiarity with the literary heritage of the language.

Teachers seem to think it is not their job to introduce pupils to the heritage of English literature. They emphasise the study of modern works (often of little merit) which are presumed to be ‘relevant’ to their pupils.

Furthermore, English, instead of being taught rigorously like maths and chemistry in which there is a right and wrong, is increasingly regarded as “an opportunity to enrich and diversify personal growth.”

It has been my lot in recent months to read through a variety of letters written by 15 and 16-year-olds. Looking through a sample of these I was appalled to find erratic punctuation, chaotic spelling, meagre or inappropriate vocabulary, and ignorance of sentence construction and paragraphing, to realise how important grammar is to a pupil. For example, punctuation simply cannot be understood without an understanding of basic grammar.

If you are getting your commas, semi-colons, stops and colons wrong it means you are not getting your thoughts right and your mind is muddled. Punctuation, therefore, is an invaluable aid to clear writing.

I doubt very much if teaching of grammar alone is likely to have an effect on the performance of speech and writing, but I do consider it is important to teach young people the way language works.

It says little for our educational system, and the blatant disregard we have for our mother tongue, when the Confederation of British Industry voices loud and clear its claims that the standard of education of new entrants into industry is abysmally low.

Some of them can’t even compose an intelligible letter of introduction to a prospective employer.

The study of grammar should be made an integral part of a teacher’s curriculum (if specialising in the English language) at training college together with a religious study of all its allied subjects. Only when fully trained in this field will teachers be able to make English more enjoyable and stimulating in the classroom, rather than the irksome one being presented to pupils in schools today.

Perhaps then, and only then, will they begin to realise the importance of the correct use of the English language and what it can do for them in later life.

So primary schoolteachers, and North Somerset Council, get your act together because this is where it all begins.


Westbrook Road, Milton

Made me smile

YOUR front page story made me smile. Only last week my fully-confident daughter made a comment about her five-year-old daughter’s work not being corrected by teachers at school.

More than 20 years ago I spoke to my daughter’s teachers on this very subject, in fact it became quite a heated debate, pointing out that if not corrected how can they possibly know if their work is right or wrong?

I was told that it would affect her confidence if mistakes were pointed out.

Now that my daughter is a parent herself she fully understands that corrections have to be made and like I did when she was growing up, she now corrects her daughter and points out that the way to learn is to have mistakes pointed out and then the correct way shown. Is it any wonder that there are so many illiterate people about?

Lucky pupils have good parents to do the job that teachers do not. They also instil confidence in their children by spending time and effort on them.

One would think that commonsense would prevail but if it hasn’t done in 20 years I don’t expect it to now.


Cherrywood Rise, Weston

Never repeated

THE Grand Pier and Pier Square are wonderful assets to the town and we must all do our best to keep them clean and tidy for the enjoyment of our residents and visitors alike.

I was therefore disappointed to see Mr Paynter’s letter and photograph of empty food packaging piled up on the wall next to our seating area in last week’s Mercury.

Although we provide and maintain the seating area, it is often used by customers from adjoining businesses, however, we will do our utmost to ensure that it is kept clean and tidy at all times in the future.

I can assure readers that we take our responsibility very seriously and we will ensure that this scene is never repeated.


Manager, Waterfront Street Caf�,

Regent Street, Weston

School holidays

WHAT on earth is going on with our education system? I am not referring to the curriculum but rather the boffins who arrange school holidays.

Many schools are breaking up two weeks before Easter and the children are returning on the Tuesday after Bank Holiday Monday. In the same week they return there is another holiday for the royal wedding and then soon after more days off for the local elections, where schools are used for polling, and then the Mayday Bank Holiday.

Easter Monday will see our motorways clogged up while everybody rushes home to get ready for school and there is no chance for families to take a holiday together during the week after Easter.

Surely it would have been better for schools to finish a couple of days before Good Friday and take in at least some of the other days after Easter as part of the school holiday?

No doubt someone will say that it is all because Easter is late this year but this was known a long time ago.

Heaven help the children if those in charge are so disorganised.


Clarence Grove Road, Weston


ONE year ago this week, the decision was made to close Poppyfields Dementia Care Home following an intensive campaign against.

It is futile going over old ground but your readers should know that the Poppyfields building is still completely empty and badly deteriorating.

No use whatsoever is or has been made of it since closure.

Sadly only two of the 11 residents who were moved on closure survive today.


Pennycress, Weston

At one stroke

IN MY opinion we have far too many councillors and some of these have got very greedy, we only need one councillor per ward. At one stroke we would save at least �500,000 which could be used to save some of our amenities.

On May 5, I shall only use one of my votes. No councillor deserves any votes if they are taking a pension paid for by us from our council tax. I hope others will use their votes wisely and show these greedy councillors we don’t need them.

Power to the people.


Boulevard, Weston

Memorial Hall

WITH reference to the article regarding the threatened closure of Congresbury War Memorial Hall, as secretary of the Royal British Legion (RBL) Congresbury Branch, I would like to make a few points regarding the hall.

Money was raised for the hall by the ex servicemen of Congresbury and Hewish, who returned from the battlefields of the 1914/18 war, as they wanted a permanent memorial for their mates who did not return, and were laid to rest in the foreign fields where they fell.

The memorial plaque was placed in the hall on December 15, 1922, by Mr Willis of Bristol. The unveiling took place on December 17 by Mrs Fisher, the religious side of the service was by Canon Laws, Rev Lattey, Rev Collins and Mr T Sheppy. Last post and reveille by Mr Clark of Yatton.

It states in the minutes of January 15, 1923, that �70 was raised to clear the debt on the Memorial Hall, and �35 was collected for the tablet.

In the minutes of February 28, 1925, it states the land was available for purchase for the skittle alley.

A plaque for the 1939/45 war, similar to the 1914/18 plaque, was unveiled and dedicated by the Rev Cran and the Chapel Minister gave the address, the parish council had a sub committee for this plaque.

In 2003 the Congresbury RBL placed a plaque in remembrance of Anthony King, who gave his life in the Iraq conflict.

As these memorial plaques were placed in the War Memorial Hall by the members of the RBL branch members, I have been given to understand by my predecessors this hall is the Village War Memorial and the plaques are the property of the RBL.

War Memorials, unless privately owned, are the responsibility of the local authority or the parish council who are the custodians.

The RBL holds its branch meetings in the hall and it is recognised as its headquarters. As secretary for the past 30 years for the branch, if the waning interest in the hall continues the future looks bleak, we only had a verbal request that the hall committee were to implement charges against us for the use of the hall.

This is possibly some of the hall’s problems where things have not been instigated properly by poor administration.

A grant was put aside by the parish council subject to the hall committee raising the same amount of money, but shortly after a change of the chairman for the hall, this was withdrawn.


Kenn Road, Clevedon


WESTON Hospicecare is a unique charity. It is well known and respected locally, and gives help and hope to people like you and me, in the worst of circumstances.

Throughout the year, a team of dedicated people work tirelessly to organise events and functions to support the hospice at Uphill. Some are paid members of staff, but the majority are people who give their time free of charge. They are the hospices’ volunteers.

The annual income needed to keep the hospice operational is more than �2million. Some support is given by the Government. The balance of more than �1.5million has to be raised by the hospice’s fund-raising team along with the volunteers.

The Weston Hospicecare shops are a main source of income generation for the hospice. They are run on minimum staffing levels, which is why they, along with other charity shops, are targeted as easy pickings for theft and pilferage.

The volunteers who help in the shops are dedicated and give their time and energy without question.

On Saturday a callous member of the general public walked into the very busy Weston Hospicecare shop in Regent Street, Weston, deviously climbed the stairs to the third floor, and stole the shop’s weekly takings.

The volunteers and staff at the shop have been shocked and devastated.

Such a lot has been written about today’s society, and yet until faced with a situation such as this, each one of us, I believe, will still try to hang on to the belief of good in their fellow human beings. After all, for every evil person, there are countless good.

After this incident however, I am beginning to question my judgement and generosity. For anyone to sink so low as to steal from a charity that does such brilliant work has left me sad and disillusioned.

Perhaps one day that person who crept up my stairs on that busy Saturday will need the support of the staff at the hospice. Will it be refused then? Of course not … perhaps it should.

My thanks to all the lovely volunteers at the Regent Street shop.



Crookes Lane, Kewstoke

Wonderful job

I AM writing to express my utter disgust at the council’s decision to stop the Play Forum.

So many of us enjoy and look forward to our days in the park all around Weston during the holidays and we would sorely miss these wonderful activities, funding must be awarded to the Play Forum so that they can continue their wonderful job.

And that is not all. Even more disturbing is the loss of our Grove Park Music Festival in July which is a fantastic weekend and loved by thousands.

Many local musicians, clubs, organisations and individuals entertain with their marvellous talents and they are watched and appreciated by a huge audience of residents of all ages from miles around.

I know many of the Mercury readers will agree it is the best weekend event of the year. Apparently the powers-that-be who will hopefully not be for much longer have decreed that this fantastic festival is not an important enough event to continue.

Why can’t they just consider charging a small entrance fee instead of completely axing it?

And finally, let’s not forget the brilliant Halloween event also held in Grove Park which thousands of families attend.

Please write to the Mercury if you agree and put pressure on the council to listen to the wishes and needs of the residents of North Somerset.


Nithsdale Road, Weston

AS AN ex library employee I would like to join the debate on the proposed relocation of Weston library, to give a view from another angle.

In my opinion, unless relocated, the library service will slowly grind to a halt.

The well intentioned protestors are confusing two things, the wonderful fa�ade of the building and the service from the building.

Beautiful though the building appears, the people working inside will tell a different story. The service has long since outgrown the space the present building allows. Unless there is a move, the services as offered at present will have to be curtailed.

Workspace is very limited: it’s a question of work where you can. Storage and use has to be checked; weight may be too great for the pillar supports below. There are leaks after heavy rain or snowfall. The heating system has been troublesome for years and replacement would entail major works. Ventilation and lighting are all inadequate. It’s a 19th century building trying to function with 21st century equipment and requirements.

One million pounds or one billion will not solve the problems at Weston library, space is the issue.

I believe the present library building ceased to be viable from the day that the Government gave every person access to the Internet. It is undeniable that to be able to use a computer, without charge, is good for everyone.

The cabling for the system and updates since, have taken up more space than is suitable within an old building. Working out the logistics for such things has been an ever constant problem.

Funding for libraries has never been adequate for the service. Funds required for Weston library are greater than should sensibly be spent on a space the service has outgrown.

This time the council has made the right decision. It is time to move on into the 21st century.


Trewartha Park, Weston

I READ Geoff Malham’s letter ‘Safety Reasons’ in last week’s Mercury with interest.

Like many of the armchair experts who regularly opine in your columns, Mr Malham seems rarely encumbered by anything as inconvenient as the facts.

Take the Pier Square re-development as an example. Had he taken the trouble to enquire, Mr Malham would discover that it is an example of the ‘shared space’ concept. Far from being a new, harebrained idea, the planning philosophy has existed for 40 years and is widespread throughout Europe and as far away as Australia, New Zealand and the USA.

Far from being, in Mr Malham’s tabloid hyperbole, ‘an accident waiting to happen’ shared space has proved to reduce accidents, improve traffic flow and shorten journey times.

For example, in London’s Kensington High Street – one of the busiest shopping areas in the capital – accidents involving pedestrians were reduced by 44 per cent over just two years, against a London average of only 17 per cent.

Shared space projects already exist elsewhere in this country too, in Ashford and Brighton for example with Edinburgh, Hereford and Staines among other locations that plan to do the same. So, by adopting the Pier Square scheme, our town has shown itself to be at the forefront of modern urban thinking and civic design.

But this raises another, more important point. For some time now, many people have attempted to drag a tired and outdated Weston into the 21st Century. But with every new proposal, the likes of Mr Malham and his ilk are soon there complaining from the sidelines and talking the town down rather than supporting it. Although they may regret it, the 1950s have gone and the moaners should look to and embrace a new, innovative future for us all.


Church Road, Winscombe

HAVING received a number of letters this week which we deem to have a political agenda criticising individuals or parties we have decided not to publish them or have deleted such content.

This is because we will not publish political letters in the run up to the local government elections on May 5.

Letters which were not published came from Ariana Williams and a political candidate.

A number of letters were also held over this week due to lack of space.

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