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No cause for praise

IN THE statistics-ridden (statistics-worshipping?) society in which we live, it is understandable that school teachers should give themselves a ‘pat on the back’ (or maybe a ‘gold star’?) for improved Key Stage 1 results (SA Oct 28.).

Likewise, one can see why the leader of the council is delighted that the results are in line with and above national averages in many subjects.

But, are the results anything to be proud of? Assuming that the ‘expected standards’ are relevant, surely these results, both local and national, should be a cause for concern.

In reading, 76 per cent of Swindon’s pupils reached the standard; that means that nearly a quarter of all children are not able to read properly.

For writing, the figure was 71 per cent; thus, nearly one third cannot write properly.

And in maths, 77 per cent met the standard; so, again, nearly a quarter are below standard.

To summarise, between a quarter and a third of Key Stage 1 pupils are not meeting the expected standard in the ‘three Rs’ (reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic).

If this is allowed to continue, they will have difficulty in almost any job when they leave school, and life in the world outside. So there is no place for complacency – let alone congratulations.

MALCOLM MORRISON, Prospect Hill, Swindon

Stop war addiction

It is right to pay our respects to the millions who died in the First World War.

Hundreds of thousands of British troops did not die “defending freedom and democracy”. It was a furious scramble for colonial possessions. The millions of victims had no stake in the war and their sacrifice was a criminal waste.

Many will wear a red poppy in sorrow to commemorate this. But how do the official events match this purpose?

After the war a number of ex-service organisations calling for “justice not charity” campaigned for proper treatment of ex-service people.

Promised a “land fit for heroes”, the reality was different and they were angry. In 1919 rioting ex-servicemen burned down Luton Town Hall where the mayor, a war profiteering businessman, organised an exclusive dinner to celebrate the war’s end.

In Swindon rioting ex-servicemen burned down a flagpole.

In conscious response to these developments a safe charity for ex-service people was set up, along with the poppy appeal to defuse the movement.

A fight for “justice not charity” was replaced by a charity increasingly run by lords and ladies.

Latterly, the official abuse of sorrow has become ever more lurid. Since mass opposition to the attack on Iraq, British governments have had to consider public opinion when deciding to bomb people in Third World countries.

David Cameron made a conscious decision to mobilise the remembrance industry to rehabilitate war and militarism. Remembrance couldn’t any longer be about sorrow or thinking about war.

Now we had to endure ceremonies which “showed our pride” in killing and “captured our national spirit”.

White, red or no poppy, the best way to remember wars is break our addiction to them.

PETER SMITH, Woodside Avenue, Swindon

Honour the fallen

IF I say that I do not wish to go to watch a “Pride” parade or have anything to do with them does not mean that I hate them, I try and treat all people with respect.

Wishing that the Government would curb immigration does not mean I hate those trying to come into the country.

“Hate” is a terrible word in this day and age. In my National Service I was trained to shoot to kill an enemy because I was ordered to do so, but how could I hate a person when I had never met him?

When a country invades another country by force then it is up to others to try and defend them, then war is declared, in doing so many are killed on both sides.

Having visited the Somme to see an uncle’s grave the wearing of a red poppy means so much more to me.

To those who denounce the red and wear the white I ask if a foreign power invades and enters your house, attacks the family and perhaps rapes your mother or sisters, would you try to protect them?

Because that is what we and other countries did in two world wars.

Honour the fallen.

JH OLIVER, Brooklands Avenue, Swindon

Peace not war

REF CHRIS Gleed’s letter White poppy not needed, Oct, 27 in which he says if anyone writes in support of the white poppy then his response could be personal.

Well, Chris, I’ve been a proud wearer of the white poppy for close to 30 years and I say this to you: “Bombs and bullets may break my bones but your personal insults won’t hurt me.”

Peace not war.

W THOMAS, Ferndale Road, Swindon

Memories of bridge

I CANNOT view the repetition of bridge strikes by supposedly professional drivers with anything other than helpless despair.

When I drove HGV vehicles in BAOR many years ago, all large vehicles had their hight indicated on the dashboard in full view of the driver. There was just no excuse then to be unaware of the vehicle’s height. It is hardly rocket science.

The only bridge strike that I can personally recollect occurred back in the late 1960s near Celle in what was then Western Germany.

A a convoy of tanks was being moved on tank transporters down to the tank ranges, then at Hone, the route had been surveyed by the RMP and passed as fit for purpose.

Unfortunately, although the vertical clearance measured from the bridge to the road was considered sufficient, no account had been taken of the fact that the road dipped under the bridge.

The length of the first vehicle bridged the dip raising the tank on board into the overhead structure. This promptly disappeared in a shower of nuts, bolts and associated masonry.

Heads rolled fast and furious that day and I believe the Germans were rather miffed too.

CLIVE HARRIS, Haydon Wick, Swindon

Fine these drivers

THERE is little wrong with the signage for Swindon’s low rail bridges. It is the responsibility of the lorry or bus driver to know the route and the height restrictions applicable to it.

Drivers should know the height of their vehicles, which I understand is marked in the driving cab.

A simple answer is to fine the driver and/or company the true cost of the bridge strike.

Delays to trains are charged per minute in the region of £100. A possible fine of £50,000 or more would concentrate the mind.

ANDREW KIRWAN, Parr Close, Grange Park, Swindon

Gripes over parking

SWINDON, like every other town or city has far too many cars. No, I’m not going Green, just pointing out a fact.

When I grew up we were lucky to have one family car. Now in many families every member over the age of 17 has one.

We have limited parking in North Swindon but our spaces were recently painted and allocated numbers. This still doesn’t stop people from using them or blocking them with their cars.

We have six ‘visitors’ spaces allocated and every single one of them almost every day is used by people from other streets.

It is so frustrating, as they all live in ‘coach houses’ above their own two garages and two parking spaces.

We have had a new family move in opposite, dad has a car, mum has a car and their teenage son has a car and has taken up one of our visitor spaces every day since they arrived.

There are plans to expand Swindon and also build a huge tower block in the centre of town, where parking is already a problem.

Things can only get worse!