Letters, May 3, 2012, part two

PUBLISHED: 10:39 03 May 2012

False claims over no flights over district

SIR – Steve Pryor smugly writes that he cannot hear Luton planes where he lives – so that’s alright then. He seems happy to report that those living in the countryside, and presumably elsewhere in Harpenden and St Albans, can suffer the noise as long as he is happy in his ivory tower.

Mr Pryor foolishly impugns the expertise of aircraft campaigner John Davis.

Had he consulted John he would learn that the aircraft do not fly directly above Harpenden but they frequently make an early rapid left turn when taking off to the west when en route to the Dover or Clacton navigation points. Frquently (such as 10.40pm on the night of Thursday, April 26) he would have heard the noise from such a premature turn. Or on the following morning (7.05pm) he would have heard a plane flying east to west over south Harpenden.

Please stop being so selfish and be wise enough to listen to the knowledge of the experts. Then maybe people would listen to us and stop the wrteched expansion plans.

DAVID MOSBERG

West Common, Harpenden

SIR – Once again Steve Pryor’s letter of April 26 is suggesting that Harpenden does not suffer from over flying Luton aircraft.

Not true. My husband and I are often woken by Luton flights, also when in my garden I can assure him that flights go right over the top of our house, as do low-flying helicopters. True I do live in South Harpenden, but last time I checked Harpenden did not start and finish in Granby Avenue.

PAULINE WILSON

Mons Close, Harpenden

The best neighbours you can ask for

SIR – When planning a move abroad with two children two weeks after the youngest’s birth the phrase “self-inflicted pain” comes to mind. If I add that over the last week the washing machine, oven and toilet have broken while I had mastitis I might conjure up some empathy.

We have been living in the UK for the last eight years, for the majority of that time we have lived in Harpenden.

I worked firstly as social worker and later as therapist for Hertforshire County Council and my husband as manager for Cotswold in St Albans.

We have been so fortunate to have always been blessed with the loveliest colleagues, neighbours and friends during our time spent here but the Holly Walkers in our lovely street in Harpenden have truly taken kindness to a whole new level over recent weeks when it was so very much needed with the new baby.

We have had homemade meals cooked and freshly baked biscuits delivered. Washing done, play dates organised to give me some time to sort out the packing and most of all a shoulder to cry on when the hormones took over and I was by what we will miss.

I am quite sure there is no street like it and we will so miss all the neighbours, who are some of the kindest people you could ever hope to meet.

MARIETJIE STRYDOM

Holly Walk, Harpenden

Mixed messages from Michael Gove

SIR – You reported that Michael Gove (pictured above) wants to let ‘teachers do their own thing’ but it seems this is only applicable to academies and free schools (April 26). The state sector is bombarded with fresh dictats from his office on a weekly basis, he seems totally unaware of his hypocritical stance.

DAVID PROTHERO

Lea Road, Harpenden

SIR – I was very interested to read your recent interview with Michael Gove and I was particularly interested in his comments that schools have “nothing to fear from Ofsted” with respect to the new inspection framework.

I think Michael is wrong in this view and is not close to the reality of what is happening. Manland primary school in Harpenden is a very good community school that all three of my children have attended and my youngest daughter still attends. It was recently inspected under the new Ofsted inspection framework introduced in January 2012 and was downgraded by Ofsted from its previous overall rating of “good” (with some outstanding features) to a lower rating of “satisfactory”. Readers might think that satisfactory sounds OK until they understand what Ofsted thinks of satisfactory – not good enough!

The majority of parents were shocked to hear that Manland should receive this rating and a significant number used Ofsted’s own online ParentView system to give their vote of confidence in Manland: 98 per cent of parents felt their child makes good progress at the school and that their child is taught well and 100 per cent felt that the school is well led and managed.

Manland performs very well nationally, even when taking into consideration the high starting point of achievement for many (but not all!) of its pupils. The so-called “value add” measures which Ofsted are very keen on.

I formally complained to Ofsted to reject their assessment of Manland and supplied considerable statistical evidence to support my case.

My complaint was rejected, with an Ofsted response full of words and no substantial data. I then appealed and provided more evidence to support my case..

Once again my complaint was “not upheld” and I have now been offered the right to seek an independent review. My impression so far is that the appeal process to Ofsted is very biased in favour of the original inspectors and very few, if any, assessments ever get over-turned.

I have now submitted a Freedom of Information request to Ofsted asking that they clarify the statistics in this respect. Clearly this has become a major commitment of my time but I feel that an injustice has been done to all the hard working teachers at Manland School and the active body of parents and governors who support them.

It is interesting that Michael Gove quoted his meeting with the head mistress of Sir John Lawes school in Harpenden to support his argument that outstanding schools have nothing to fear.

My two eldest children currently attend SJL and we think it is an excellent school, but the school received its current assessment of “outstanding” several years ago and it has not been inspected under the new framework. The new inspection framework is quite different to the old inspection process and it puts a heavy reliance upon the limited observations of teachers in the classroom by inspectors during their visits and pays scant regard to the important things like the actual achievements of the pupils and what both the parents and the pupils think about the school.

So readers beware – if you feel passionate about the local schools your children attend, then you do have something to fear when Ofsted announces an inspection. I shall send copies of this letter to both Michael Gove and Michael Wilshaw, the head of Ofsted.

MARTIN BEVAN

Overstone Road, Harpenden

Not so in touch

SIR – I recently received a badly produced information sheet from the Conservative Party entitled In Touch. I seem to remember a similar effort last year.

Is there an election on or is this just a reflection of just how in touch the Conservatives really are?

Is there a communications gap or some more subtle explanation?

I recently listened to a programme hosted by local radio on city centre business initiatives. There were some good ideas being aired. But why were only Conservative councillors present? How many more good ideas could have been developed had the net been thrown wider? Or is this another example of the Big Society? Plenty of room for Conservatives but the rest stay away.

DICK BIDDLE

Dickens Close, St Albans

To the rescue

SIR – Through your paper I would like to thank a young man who was walking along Jersey Lane at about 8.30am on Thursday morning who came to my aid.

He helped me to my feet after I had broken my arm and even with my friends’ help I had been unable to stand up.

HILARY BROCKWELL

Rose Walk, St Albans

Thanks for diamond anniversary party

SIR – With regard to the article on the Diamond Wedding of Mr George Smith and Mrs Jean Smith (Herts Advertiser, April 19), we would like to thank Vesta Lodge day centre for their very nice luncheon, flowers, champagne and all the work put into the event. Thank you Mary, Betty and Sam.

JEAN AND GEORGE SMITH

St Albans

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