Ban mobile phones in schools to boost learning - Readers' Letters

Cameron Wylie is absolutely right in his view that mobile phones in schools are a huge impediment to learning (Scotsman, 12 August). I would go further and claim they are currently the greatest impediment to learning.

Should pupils be forced to hand in their mobile phones at the start of every school day?
Should pupils be forced to hand in their mobile phones at the start of every school day?

Schools are understandably reticent about imposing a ban on mobile phones and some claim to have “robust” (a favourite but meaningless educational term) policies in place to deal with phones but these are ineffective at best. It is impossible for any school to have them under control the way things stand.

As mobile phones have almost become a physical extension of young people, efforts to control or confiscate not only incur the time-consuming wrath of pupils but also some parents.

It is grossly unfair to expect teachers, who have enough on their plate, to have to deal constantly with phones in the classroom as even confiscation has little effect. It has to be up to government to make it compulsory for all pupils to hand in their phones at the start of the school day and up to parents to support this. If this practice becomes common in every school, it will be accepted more readily by teachers, parents and pupils.

The quid pro quo, as Cameron Wylie rightly says, is that all pupils receive a more effective and uninterrupted education and teachers can concentrate on teaching.

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D Mitchell, Edinburgh

Teachers’ legacy

The son of Saroj Lal, a former Edinburgh teacher and race relations activist, is pushing to have a new primary school named after her. What son would not be proud of her legacy?

My late mother, a teacher as well, was also exceptional. Most unusually for a girl, she obtained a degree before the war and, after living in Nazi Germany with a Jewish family whilst studying, determined to fight the evils of Nazism and racism, by helping others of different races, religions and many nationalities for the rest of her life.

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She started in top secret work in Hut 4 at Bletchley Park for several years, helping to defeat the German U-Boat campaign to starve the UK into submission, narrowly avoiding being killed by a V2 strike in 1944.

Always an independent woman, in later life, she worked as a secondary teacher at a rural Scottish school teaching not one, nor two, but three modern languages. An active member of the GB-USSR Friendship Association, promoting friendly links with the people of Russia, she also led a successful campaign to prevent Penicuik being split by a motorway project to divide the town in two, if not three in the 1970s.

Her funeral following early onset dementia was hugely over-subscribed and two services had to be held.

Her memory is perpetuated by the “Maigret Cup” to be awarded for excellence in languages that I gave to her former school, which, in true Scots tradition, is named after its location. Being May Gray, her nickname was, inevitably “Maigret”, after the Belgian detective, as she taught French, as well as German and Russian.

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Sufficient recognition for any outstanding teacher, I would say.

Andrew HN Gray, Edinburgh

On the right track

Alastair Dalton’s column (Scotsman, 13 August) was refreshing and right to concentrate on the longer-term opportunities we now have to improve ScotRail.

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It is important not to forget that Scotland’s railway is more extensive than just the passenger services. An environmentally sound response to the climate emergency requires much more use to be made of the railway for freight. This means looking at line capacity strategically.

Wiring the Dumfries line as an alternative to the Lockerbie route for electric trains would be one measure. Another would be to follow through on the 2008 priority promises to eliminate the single track pinch points on the Perth to Inverness and Aberdeen to Inverness routes. Priorities like this should not have taken 13 years, and counting, to resolve.

Restoring the dynamic to the Scottish economy requires action on this kind of strategic thinking.

RJ Ardern, Inverness, Highland

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Population crisis

To a geographer, it is strange that the words “world population” did not appear in The Scotsman’s coverage of the IPCC report, or in the editorial comment on it.

In the 1960s when the human number on Planer Earth totalled three billion, there was alarm about the “population explosion” that was happening, and how people would be fed. The other worry was the likelihood of a new Ice Age and how far the ice sheet might extend in Britain.

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Climate change: UN report shows 'code red for humanity' as it sets out stark rea...

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Fast forward to the present time, with eight billion people on the planet forecast for 2030, and climate change is now about global warning.The destruction of land surfaces across the continents and islands in order to provide food and shelter, or commercial crops such as oil palm, is too readily accepted, as is the migration of people from the countryside to cities and towns “bursting at the seams” in the hope of bettering themselves.

Rarely is there mention made of male-dominated religions, or of women’s rights to education. At present, there aretwo illiterate women to every illiterate man world wide.

Without education, women are unlikely to understand or take control of their own fertility. Yet biologists state that it is the number of females of reproductive age that is the “time bomb” for population growth in a country.

Dr IA Glen, Airdrie, North Lanarkshire

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Blown away

Dr Mark Aitkehnead seems to be grasping at straws with his wind turbine CO2 emission calculations (Letters, 12 August). He does admit that the turbines are not always running at full capacity but the fact is they never are, 25 per cent is nearer the mark. That immediately casts doubt on his figures.

He also fails to mention the toxic mining, manufacturing, transportation, installation and decommissioning process, all of which add to the turbines’ carbon footprint.

He appears to be delighted about the 1.2 million people employed in the UK “low carbon industry” in order to avoid mentioning the “wind industry” specifically, which employs only approximately 13,000 people in Scotland, (where the majority of wind turbines are located) – and that no doubt includes the part-time, temporary staff employed at the Visitor Centre at Whitelee Windfarm. I suppose it all helps to add to the paltry numbers. Not exactly the great opportunity for wealth creation which he speaks about.

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As for the number of lives the wind industry is meant to save due to reducing CO2 emissions, which lives are those? Certainly not the wildlife whose habitats are destroyed and/or those killed directly by the turbine blades.

I agree with Dr Aitkenhead on one thing; the impact is certainly clear.

Aileen Jackson, Uplawmoor, East Renfrewshire

Health pass

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Just a little bit of homework would have saved Cara Hilton the hassle of having her Scottish paper COVID certificate of vaccination turned down in France (Scotsman, 12 August).

The French government website has a system for travellers in this position. They are currently providing QR codes online, when the appropriate documentation (certificate, passport and return travel tickets) is emailed in.

At present this is for tourists already in France, and those travelling before 15 August, but it will soon be extended. I also have an email from their Covid helpline confirming that a paper version is equally acceptable, which they confirmed the same day when I queried it.

Dr Sally Cheseldine, Edinburgh

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Oil and gas

The oil and gas sector has been fundamental to the economy of north-east Scotland and the UK for the past 45 years, and we have at least 30 years of cost-effective extraction ahead of us.

This week our First Minister has requested a rethink on the development of the Cambo field west of Shetland (Scotsman, 13 August). She feels she cannot upset her Green Party backers so she sits on the fence and urges Boris Johnson to reverse the licence. This cannot and will not happen.

Global warming is principally caused by emissions created in part by the production of single-use plastics and methods used in the production of batteries. Emissions are not caused by the extraction of oil and gas and this industry must not be blamed and highlighted as the root cause.

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There are methods in development to reduce emissions and whilst the demand for oil and particularly gas will not reduce over the coming 20 years there will be huge progress in the reduction of greenhouse gases.

It is simply not possible to turn off the tap and stop production and whilst the industry does progress to a greener future the most important consideration is the protection of its skill base, the creation of the next generation of skill base and the industry’s monumental future contribution to our economy.

Conrad Ritchie, Cairnglass Limited, St Combs, Aberdeenshire

Cookie crumbles

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May I suggest that Jane Lax (Letters, 13 August), tries a Border biscuit instead of McVitie’s?

This exceptional Scottish business, with biscuits sold across the world and enjoyed by millions, is a true example of the enterprise encouraged by the Scottish Government.

Smell the coffee while savouring a fragrant Chocolate Ginger or taste the tea with a Viennese Finger. Border biscuits make McVitie’s digestives look dreary. No wonder they are going out of business.

Frances Scott, Edinburgh

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Apology

In yesterday’s letters page we attributed a letter about the lack of digital proof of vaccination in Scotland incorrectly. The letter was sent by Bill Cooper of Kinross. We apologise for the error.

Write to The Scotsman

We welcome your thoughts. Write to [email protected] including name, address and phone number. Keep letters under 300 words, with no attachments, and avoid Letters to the Editor in your subject line.

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