Primary school children should repeat year - Readers' Letters

Home schooling or home learning is neither. For primary children it is an attempt at keeping their skill and knowledge level from slipping. Unless the parent is a teacher, most parents would find it difficult to “teach” new concepts as either teaching methods have changed since their school days or they do not have the task analysis skills to figure out why their child cannot grasp the new concept.

Home schooling adds pressure to parents working from home

Also if the parent is working from home that would usually involve phone calls and Zoom meetings, which means either the job does not get the proper attention it requires (and is expected from the employer who is paying their wages) and/or the children do not get the attention they require to learn.

As to secondary education, I think it would be a safe bet to say most parents would flounder across most subjects – for example, how many reading this can remember the complicated maths formulas or the passive French verbs

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If the Education Mnister is serious with regards to education being a government top priority then plans should be put in place for all primary children to repeat the year they are in at present.

Primary education gives a child the grounding in mathematical concepts (decimals, fractions, place value, time, measurement etc) and the English language (grammar, sentence structure, reading and reading comprehension etc) which are necessary for the child to benefit from secondary education (as well as life in general). Without them a child will fail throughout secondary so limiting their life choices to unemployment and possible routes of escapism (drugs, drink, crime) as they will see no place for them in society. It will also fail the country as the number of those capable of becoming teachers, doctors, lawyers, inventors etc will be diminished.

As the children’s and parents’ mental health also need to be taken into account, plans need to be long-term and not reactive so that every parent knows their lack of teaching skills are not damaging their child's future and every child knows that they will have a second chance to fill the gaps in their learning.

Elizabeth Hands

Etna Court, Armadale

Healthy eating

Iain WD Forde (Letters, 19 January) skates through the accepted norms of a relationship between poverty and diet, ie “bad food cheap" versus “good food expensive”.

Most families that prepare meals from basic materials (fresh meat and vegetables, for example) will take issue with that simplistic view.

That there are dietary differences must be accepted but to pin these down to income levels probably masks a wider difference in family coping mechanisms. Certainly much more could and should be done to understand and help those families that subsist on unhealthy diets.

Child obesity is as much a symptom of child abuse as those who suffer physical harm in the home and should be treated as such. The health issues associated with both examples (mental and general health) suggests that a task force to focus on this issue would not come amiss.

As an aside, I am surprised and disappointed that Scotland’s Children Commissioner is not more fully focused on the identification of those parents whose obese children exist on unhealthy diets and helping them to move to more nutritious food habits.

AB Lewis

Parklands, Coylton, Ayrshire


I’ve just received with my mail a large, glossy leaflet from Douglas Ross and Ruth Davidson.

It seems, despite the pandemic, that the Conservatives have started campaigning for May’s Scottish elections.

Will they now stop demanding that the SNP government remains 100 per cent focused on the virus, or do they intend to secure an unfair advantage?

Robert Farquharson

Lee Crescent, Edinburgh

Deer versus trees

Duncan Orr-Ewing’s article for the RSPB on growing deer populations posing an environmental threat (Scotsman, 19 January) must be challenged.

He writes: “Across our countryside deer numbers have exploded in recent decades.” They haven’t. In fact, the Deer Working Group report that he cites references research from the James Hutton Institute that established that upland red deer numbers have declined in the last 20 years (due to culling effort) and now average less than ten per sq km. He also totally overlooks the impacts of other herbivores in the deer range, where sheep alone outnumber deer two to one.

Where is evidence for his methane emissions data that is being used to influence politicians and the wider public? Having put these figures to various Scottish academic institutions we have drawn a blank on there being any research on methane emissions and wild deer in the uplands.

He pays lip service to the importance of red deer in cultural, economic and environmental terms but it is quite clear he thinks they should be considered a pest species to be reduced in numbers by more than 50 per cent over much of their range regardless of the impact on employment, the rural economy and tourism.

Is this how the people of Scotland wish their most iconic and largest wild mammal to be treated?

This article sets out to mislead. It takes no account of the ongoing contribution of the Deer Management Groups across the Highlands to the Government’s climate change programme, amounting, according to NatureScot, to 9,000ha of woodland expansion and 19,000ha of restored peatland up to 2018.

Why does it have to be a question of trees or deer? There is a balance to be struck where both can thrive, and where we can work together to address the unprecedented climate challenge.

Richard Cooke

Chairman, Association of Deer Management Groups, Brechin, Angus

Care home staff

I have always believed that care homes should be a safe sanctuary for the vulnerable and elderly sheltering them from the dangers of the outside world.

Unfortunately these people have suffered dreadfully from the coronavirus and it's against this background that care home provider Barchester has decided not to employ new care home workers who have not had the vaccine and are considering the position of existing staff who refuse the vaccine (Scotsman, 20 January).

Care home owners and staff have a duty of care towards the vulnerable people they look after and surely to allow unvaccinated staff to operate within these compact environments would be a breach of that duty?

Unvaccinated care home staff, while they may be hard-working and no doubt have the best interests of their charges to heart, must look at their situations and decide on what basis they can justify not having the jab.

With care home deaths from Covid-19 continuing, the wellbeing of the elderly and vulnerable is paramount.

Bob MacDougall

Oxhill, Kippen, Stirlingshire

SNP’s lost cause

Brexit has broken the case for an independent Scotland within the European Union. A case already worn after the Lisbon Treaty weakened the nation state veto lies in tatters. Like the last suitcase on the airport conveyor belt, it sits with its guts hanging out and the owners too embarrassed to pick it up the pieces.

This core SNP policy made sense when the UK remained in Europe. Scottish direct representation in Brussels was preferable to the indirect variety via Westminster. No issue with trade barriers when all nations in the UK remained in the single market. The SNP leadership was dragged out of the EU against its will but there is no easy way back for Scotland. However much Scottish ministers huff, puff and deny reality they can’t blow Britain back on to European territory.

The SNP are simply lost to the point where a “hostile takeover of consciousness by emotion” is under way. They have no plan for this scenario. No route map to get out of it. A pathetic plea for Brussels to leave a landing light on is all that can be heard.

They need to start thinking about what is in the best interests of Scotland going forward. For all their foot stamping about fish rotting at Dover, introducing another customs border at Berwick would hardly speed Scottish produce to the continental marketplace.

A widening political and economic gap between the EU and UK is unstable ground on which to consider independence again. It would be an act of political madness for Scotland to head off in a new direction when we don’t know our location or heading. The SNP leadership should heed the advice of survival experts: when lost, stay put long enough to calm down and assess the situation rationality.

Calum Miller

Polwarth Terrace, Prestonpans

Was Wells right?

Isn't interesting that HG Wells conceived a situation in the 1900s where the planet would overcome a species that was damaging it by way of a virus.

What cost global warming now? The planet always fights back . . . now it continues to evolve.

John Cutland

Montgomery Street, Kirkcaldy

Who governs?

Alan Sutherland (Letters, 19 January) seems to be arguing that as the SNP espouses independence but has provided poor governance, it follows that independence would mean poor governments.

Underlying this view seems to be the widespread assumption that independence would mean perpetual government by the SNP – which is emphatically not so.

If, however, I am misinterpreting Mr. Sutherland and he takes the view that none of the other parties in Scotland, either alone or in combination, is capable of providing a competent administration he might have a point. On the other hand the governments we have had at Westminster for some time now have hardly been inspiring.

S Beck

Craigleith Drive, Edinburgh