Monday, 11 December 2017

Your letters...

Short-sighted schools policy

Sir, — I am a local primary school governor and a father of three children (two currently in state primary education in Henley).

I wish to register my grave concern at the Schools National Funding Formula that the Government is proposing to implement and to ask for the support of our MP John Howell in Parliament to prevent this.

At Trinity Primary School we, the governors, are deeply concerned about the implications of the proposed formula in respect of the academic year 2017/18 and beyond.

Perhaps Mr Howell is not aware that, in real terms, we have had our pupil funding cut from £3,300 per child to £2,963.47, a little over 10 per cent, in one year.

On current pupil numbers this equates to £93,555.34 in lost funding.

This comes on top of the local education authority’s increasing inability to provide any sort of functional level of service for which we must pay due to its own cost-cutting.

As you may imagine, this is a significant loss, especially when the headteacher and her wonderful team of staff have just achieved “outstanding” status from Ofsted following an inspection in November.

In addition, I understand that Henley’s state secondary school, Gillotts, has had no increase in its pupil funding now since 2010, leading to a 14 per cent reduction in funding in real terms.

How are these types of cuts possibly justifiable, let alone considered sustainable for our schools?

These schools and the quality of education they provide are the bedrock of our country’s future prosperity.

Between 1998 and 2007, productivity in Britain grew at an average of 2.25 per cent a year. Since 2008, it has stood still.

It is true that similar experiences have been evident across the world, from France and Germany to the US, but the track record in Britain is worse. The productivity gap with our G7 partners has now widened to 20 per cent on average.

One thing every economist, from the Bank of England to the World Bank, seems to agree on is that education is the most effective way of boosting productivity.

Yet Britain’s ranking in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s international education league tables has nosedived in the past decade and the impact is already all around us today.

So investing in improving education is clearly critical, yet the new formula would slash the vast majority of our schools’ budgets. How on earth can this be good policy?

I also ask Mr Howell for his opinion specifically as to why successfully performing schools, such as Trinity and Gillotts, should have their funding cut by the Government to such a level that can only lead to reduced teaching capacity for their pupils, our children?

No doubt some of the proposed beneficiaries under the new formula desperately require additional funding to improve and I take no issue with that.

However, it cannot be right for other schools to be penalised and so heavily as to affect their ability to maintain, let alone improve, the quality of education they provide.

Against this backdrop, it seems ludicrous that the Government is considering the additional funding of £300million for new free schools, grammar schools, etc. while cutting the funding of current successful schools. Where is any sense in that?

In summary, the formula proposed is a very poorly thought through policy and incredibly short-sighted.

It will directly affect many hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of our children whose quality of education will determine all our futures. — Yours faithfully,

Tom Potter

Church Street, Henley

John Howell responds: “I am extremely grateful for Mr Potter’s letter and similar letters I have had from others.

“I do so agree. The new Schools National Funding Formula does not appear to live up to what was promised.

“This is the point I made directly to the Secretary of State and which I will also be making to the education minister when I see him with my parliamentary neighbour Alok Sharma MP and representatives of schools.

“The formula has recently been out for consultation and I hope everyone made their views known. The consultation closed in late March and we are awaiting feedback.

“I believe in the good standards of education we have and, having visited every school in the constituency, I am keen to see them prosper.”

Don’t just move problem

Sir, — As a West Street resident, I was one of those objecting to the Henley traffic advisory committee’s consideration of a “pinch point” in Gravel Hill near the old Basketmakers Arms (Standard, March 31).

Many longer-term residents of West Street have experienced the considerable increase in traffic when there is any restriction in Gravel Hill (roadworks or removal vehicles), making pedestrian crossing at the bottom of West Street even more hazardous.

This medieval street, running parallel to Gravel Hill, is the natural escape route for eastbound vehicles seeking access to King’s Road in the congested town centre.

The consideration of the Gravel Hill width restriction applies equally to this narrow medieval street, used by mothers with prams, many elderly and infirm pedestrians, etc., in seeking access to the medical facilities off West Lane. (I would also suggest that the sub-base of this street would be unable to withstand regular use by bigger commercial vehicles).

I believe that the busiest Gravel Hill pedestrian crossing point is between Hop Gardens and Paradise Road, a difficult point in view of the speed of traffic emerging from the restricted view available near Friar Park.

How much use a crossing elsewhere would be is uncertain, an example being people choosing to cross between the pizza restaurant to Facy’s in the town centre when there is a crossing just some 20 yards away.

An answer would be the installation of a camera outside the entrance to Friar Park, which, while generating income/penalty points, would be unpopular and require resources to administer.

The desire of all Henley residents must be to curb the speed of traffic using this (and other) routes in and out of town. Pedestrians using the crossing points around the town hall one-way system are only too aware of vehicles speeding out of access points.

In writing this, I appreciate that my views of this (and any other proposals) may well cause objection from residents of other roads.

Surely, a longer term proposition, despite the difficulty of enforcement, would be a blanket 20mph speed limit covering the entire town centre. — Yours faithfully,

Tim Large

West Street, Henley

Road safety comes first

Sir, — I would invite anyone who objects to the improvements being made at or near the proposed pinch-point in Gravel Hill, Henley, to walk along that pavement — uphill and downhill — and experience it for themselves.

Then imagine wheeling a buggy or wheelchair along it, or try carrying shopping up from town.

Crossing the road to the other side may be an option for some but one Gravel Hill resident was killed doing just that not many years ago.

Hundreds of students use this path daily. Safety must come first and the council should not be condemned for trying to do something about it. — Yours faithfully,

Patricia Mulcahy

Milton Close, Henley

Don’t forget about this bus

Sir, — I was pleased to read that the Henley town bus services are likely to continue (Standard, April 7).

However, there is a new Saturday town service which leaves Hart Street at 35 minutes past the hour and is a red double-decker bus.

I have not seen this advertised anywhere and I only found out about it by chance.

There were only three people on it on Saturday, probably because nobody knows about it.

It goes along Gravel Hill, Deanfield Avenue, Deanfield Road, Valley Road, Elizabeth Road and down Greys Road, eventually stopping outside Boots. Would it be possible to have an announcement about this service in the Henley Standard so that more people know about it and would use it? Thank you. — Yours faithfully,

Marion Brockway

Deanfield Road, Henley

Be careful of deer on roads

Sir, — Our local deer are becoming bolder and groups of them are now appearing on our country roads, almost exclusively at night.

May I urge all drivers to use these roads carefully: deer fatalities on British roads are estimated at between 40,000 and 70,000 annually.

The smaller, brown muntjac deer can often be seen grazing at night on the grass verges but the larger European fallow deer, which appear grey at night with a white underbelly, are browsers and usually want to cross the road to enter thickets on the other side.

If you see a deer, dip your headlights or the animal may “freeze”. Where there is one, look out for another — muntjac are more solitary but fallow deer are social animals and live in groups.

Collisions with deer have widespread impact: they are a major cause of deer mortality, they cause a welfare issue because many deer are not killed outright but must be caught and put down on site or they escape into the undergrowth and suffer.

They are a safety hazard to drivers and cause car damage, human injuries (400 a year in the UK according to the AA) and, occasionally, deaths. If you hit a deer, call the police and they will record it and find someone to come and remove it.

We are approaching the calving season when the young are born and will, in time, disperse.

Young animals have no idea of the danger a road poses and therefore their only guarantee of safety is in our hands. — Yours faithfully,

Dr Chris Furley

Henley Mobile Veterinary Service

Man to thank for hospital

Sir, — At the annual Henley town meeting on Thursday last week, the Mayor Julian Brookes mentioned that one of the highlights of his year in office was attending the official opening of Townlands Memorial Hospital, but that was it.

The Townlands Steering Group was set up 14 years ago by Henley Town Council and the same person has chaired it over that period.

This has obviously been a team effort but every team needs a leader.

A few people have claimed success for the outcome of the new hospital and complex but one man stands head and shoulders above all others with his determination to succeed.

When others felt the hospital would never be built, Ian Reissmann would not accept this and would find more information as to why meetings should continue and a new hospital should be built.

I am not sure how many hours Ian gave to the project, how many meetings he attended, or how many reports he put forward over those 14 years, but they were considerable. Throughout the negotiations and against all the adversity, he calmly went about securing the long-term future of Townlands.

It would have been appropriate for the Mayor to have mentioned Ian but perhaps he did not know the history of what had taken place, having only been on the town council for a couple of years.

The town of Henley owes Ian Reissmann a great debt of gratitude for his services, which were well above the call of duty.

Being a very modest man, Ian, in his letter last week, finished by saying, “Together we achieved something special”. Ian, you made it happen. — Yours faithfully,

Ken Arlett

Henley Residents’ Group candidate for Henley Town Council (Henley North ward), Elizabeth Road, Henley

Waste of
our money

Sir, — I was stunned and surprised by Councillor David Nimmo Smith’s comment regarding the empty Chilterns End care home (Standard, April 7).

He stated: “What the people of Henley don’t appreciate is the extent of the property portfolio the county council has got.” What the people of Henley do appreciate is that Chilterns End is empty and its value of £5million could be put to better use.

Cllr Nimmo Smith states this will not be looked at for another two years, which is shocking. This is in our neighbourhood plan and should be developed now.

Oxfordshire County Council has a vast number of properties which are surplus to requirements, let us say, 20 that are worth £100 million.

That is £100 million surplus to requirements doing nothing. What a waste.

This all proves that the county council is wasteful and run ineptly.

I’d like to know:

How many potholes could you fill with £100 million?

How many social care packages could you fund with £100 million?

How many bus routes could you fund with £100 million?

How many children’s centres could you fund with £100 million?

How many pedestrian crossings could you fund with £100 million?

How many traffic-calming measures could you fund with £100 million? — Yours faithfully,

Stefan Gawrysiak

Henley Residents’ Group candidate for Oxfordshire County Council, Elizabeth Road, Henley

Remember some toilets

Sir, — I hope the plans for the forthcoming street food festival in Hart Street, Henley, (Standard, April 7) include the provision of extra toilet facilities — with a programme of 12 hours of food and drink they will certainly be in great demand!

Please would the organisers provide more than were available during the late-night Christmas Festival in December?

My neighbours in Hart Street will attest to the number of visitors who found private property more convenient than a walk to the existing facilities in the town’s car parks.

Conveniently situated loos would also enable all of the food handling staff working at street stalls to maintain the same level of hygiene that we expect in our restaurants.

The event is an exciting initiative which deserves to succeed. — Yours faithfully,

John Louth

Hart Street, Henley

Why no PO alternative?

Sir, — Are we really so unimportant to the Post Office that they can choose to close their shop in Reading Road, Henley, for several days for refurbishment without making any alternative arrangements for private and business customers?

Last time something similar happened they installed a very effective mobile van in the station car park which gave us a very full service — and parking was a pleasure! Yours faithfully,

Bruce Brown

Henley

Misleading argument

Sir, — Graham Lloyd’s picture of the sky and ill- informed statement unfortunately epitomises the lack of understanding about airliners and Heathrow Airport generally (Standard, April 7).

The contrails illustrated are from high-flying aircraft which neither start nor end their journey anywhere near Heathrow. Many are over-flights from other countries.

A third, fourth or fifth runway at Heathrow will have absolutely no impact on vapour trails over southern England.

Wikipedia states: “Contrails; short for ‘condensation trails’, are line-shaped clouds sometimes produced by aircraft engine exhaust, typically at aircraft cruise altitudes several miles above the Earth’s surface. Contrails are composed primarily of water in the form of ice crystals.

“The combination of water vapour in aircraft engine exhaust and the low ambient temperatures that often exist at these high altitudes allows the formation of the trails.

“Impurities in the engine exhaust from the fuel, including sulphur compounds (0.05 per cent by weight in jet fuel) provide some of the particles that can serve as sites for water droplet growth in the exhaust and, if water droplets form, they might freeze to form ice particles that compose a contrail.”

It also states that this happens at heights of between 25,000ft to 40,000ft, so nothing to do with aircraft approaching or departing from Heathrow or any other local airport. I hope this clears up one of the many fallacious arguments about Heathrow’s expansion. — Yours faithfully,

Aldon Ferguson

Ridgeway, Wargrave

Trails from high-fliers

Sir, — Surely the development of a third runway at Heathrow will make little difference to the condensation trails visible over Henley?

I understand these trails are mainly generated by aircraft flying above an altitude of about 25,000ft, far too high to be making the descent into Heathrow and more likely to be made by transatlantic flights criss-crossing their way to and from other European destinations. — Yours faithfully,

Dr Robert Treharne Jones

Middle Assendon

Glamour on red carpet

Sir, — Last month, friends of mine staying in Henley took themselves off to the Regal cinema and came back thrilled not only with the film but with great envy that such a superb complex of three screens, a café and a car park were so easily available.

I was rather chuffed on the town’s behalf and I could not help but reflect on those efforts many years ago when there was such a fight by the town to retain such a facility when Waitrose was planning to demolish our then cinema and leave us without one!

I have many memories of those times, not least of the Midnight Matinée performances when, as a committee, we worked so hard to raise thousands of pounds for scores of worthwhile causes and when genuine celebrities dined at Leander, or somewhere similar, and came in droves for the midnight showing of a newly released film, often the first cinema showing after the Leicester Square royal premiere just a few days prior.

It was such a relief when all these efforts of ours came to fruition and our Regal was saved.

Joan Bland’s letter (Standard, March 10) reminded me of just how hard she worked behind the scenes at South Oxfordshire District Council to pull it off.

It was close to being a lost cause all those years ago but her tenacity worked wonders, I recall. It would be nice if the Standard could produce some of the old pictures of those red carpet days when dozens of locals turned out late at night to see the glamour walk the red carpet. — Yours faithfully,

Laureen Williamson

Bell Street Mews, Henley

Consider the autistic

Sir, — As more than one in 100 people is autistic, many autistic people live in Henley but they’re not getting the understanding they need.

Only 16 per cent of autistic people feel the public understands them. In particular, 77 per cent say that people don’t understand that autistic people can need more time to process questions or instructions.

This can make simple things like going to the shops or using public transport extra daunting.

Autism is poorly understood and more people should be made aware. It is a hidden condition, so people expect you to look or behave differently.

What they don’t see are those same people who appear to be “normal” on a bad day when unexpected changes can give high anxiety or when that person cannot cope with crowds, restricting their lifestyle.

Encouragingly, recent research from the National Autistic Society found that 80 per cent of the general public would be happy to change their behaviour to give autistic people more time to process information, if only they knew they needed it.

Giving people more time, using clear language and being more patient can make the world of difference to the lives of many autistic people.

So I’m asking people in Henley to join me as part of the National Autistic Society’s Too Much Information campaign to make these small changes to make our community more autism-friendly.

To find out more tips for autism-friendly behaviour, visit www.autism.org.uk/tmi — Yours faithfully,

Linda Knight

Swiss Farm, Henley

Responders collection

Sir, — I would like to thank everybody who donated to the street collection held in Wood Lane, Sonning Common, on Saturday, April 1 for the benefit of the South Central Ambulance Service charity, Sonning Common First Responders.

Despite the Co-op store being closed (it was anticipated to have re-opened before the day following refurbishment), it was thanks to a group of splendid collectors with Smiley Faces, including First Responders Adam, Chris and Sue, that a total of £182.96 was collected and passed in full to the charity, there being no claim for expenses incurred. — Yours faithfully,

Hilda Garnham

Permit holder, Gravel Hill Crescent, Peppard Common

Enjoyable experience

Sir, — I cannot remember the last time I wrote to a newspaper, nor do I have a connection with the subject of this letter.

In your edition of March 31, I read a letter from Jackie Macdonald, from Hambleden, recommending a lesser-known local eatery, namely the Swiss Farm Kitchen Café, off Marlow Road, Henley.

Being retired, I have the time to visit such outlets and have done so to quite a few within a 10-mile radius of my home in Charvil.

Motivated by the complimentary observations made by your correspondent, I decided to pay a visit.

I was not disappointed: easy parking; very modern, spotless facilities; ample seating inside and out; friendly, efficient staff and well-prepared, tasty food competitively priced.

A most enjoyable experience which I will certainly repeat. — Yours faithfully,

Tony Lehain

Charvil

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