School funding

MANY readers will have been surprised to see the D&S Times swallow hook, line and sinker a set of figures which are widely acknowledged to be based on poor methodology, out-of-date data and published purely for partisan political purposes.

I refer to the page one report “Unions claim county’s schools to lose millions” (D&S Times, March 9). The news report does at least have the merit of attributing the information to the National Union of Teachers and other teaching unions. The table on page three simple presents the information as fact.

Journalistic alarm bells should have started ringing when looking at the data presented for Hackforth and Hornby CE Primary which your report suggested was to lose £158,000 or £3,500 per pupil between 2015/16 and 2019/20.

Given that its budget in 2015/16 was just £169,000 according to the dodgy data you have based your report on, you could reasonably assume the school must be closing.

Of course, the reality is very different. The school is thriving with pupil numbers rising and its funding increasing too. In 2018/19 the school is to receive funding of more than £252,000 – an increase of £83,000.

It is a similar situation for other schools quoted in your report and table. Gunnerside – allegedly facing cuts of £95,400 over the period – is receiving an increase of £20,000. Askrigg – supposedly losing £39,700 - is to receive an increase of £30,000.

And when the new national funding formula is implemented in full in 2019/20 all of these schools will have received further increases in their budgets.

Rural areas like ours stand to gain substantially from the new funding formula which our local MPs have successfully fought for. In total, an extra £2.1m is coming to our area by which I mean the Richmond parliamentary constituency covering Richmondshire and a large part of Hambleton. This is an increase of 3.9 per cent on current funding levels.

Far from being cut, national school funding in 2019-20 will in fact be around £2.6bn higher than it was in 2017-18 – £43.5bn – that represents record levels of investment in schools.

I hope parents and others with a genuine interest in the health of our schools – as opposed to those playing politics – will be reassured by these numbers. I imagine your irresponsible reporting will have frightened the life out of them.

Geoff Cousins, Catterick Garrison

Budget increase

I READ with regret your article on the unions’ claim that county’s schools are to lose millions.

As a governor on Ingleby Greenhow CE voluntary controlled primary school I was shocked to read that the school would be losing £10,000 or £266 per pupil. Having just attended a full governing meeting when we were informed that the school would be in fact seeing an increase in our budget if the projected number of pupils for 2018/19 intake is correct and not a decrease as you state in your article.

This article would appear to me to be both irresponsible and misleading to parents. Rural schools already face huge problems of maintaining pupil numbers without misinformation being printed that could potentially put off future parents from sending their children to the school if they fear cuts of this size could impact on the quality of education provided.

Michael King, school governor

* Editor’s note: The D&S Times report on March 9 made it clear the figures were claims made by the unions. It also reported the education authority did not recognise the unions’ analysis but had “very real” fears of funding pressures.

School woes

NOBODY can blame you for mentioning the failures highlighted in the recent Ofsted report on Northallerton School and Sixth Form College - you would be failing in your duty to the readership if you didn't.

I owe an apology to a relative who has consistently railed against the mental abuse and bullying highlighted and of not being listened to by teachers. Shamefully I often felt “methinks she protests too much” but clearly I was wrong and she was not alone as the report shows.

It has seriously affected her daughter's health and well-being, her life chances are now negligible. It is an outrage. I suspect many of us are to blame because, like others I've spoken to over the past decade, I became aware of local pupils being taken out of the school and sent to schools in Thirsk, Richmond and further afield.

So the warning signs were there, the question to ask is why were they ignored and who, with the power to alter things, chose to ignore them.

We moved to Northallerton 30 years because state education in the town had such a good reputation and we weren't disappointed. Excellent O and A-level results led to an LLB, Doctorate and a First-class honours degree at university for our three. Many others in their year did even better - this was the norm a couple of decades ago. Which is why the fall from grace is so dramatic.

What is different, what has gone so drastically wrong? Good teachers don't become bad overnight, has the town expanded too fast without anyone realising that with the benefits of that also would come risks?

Were our teachers in too much of a comfort zone to be able to deal with the more street-wise kids from inner-cities? Should infrastructure upgrades and extra training have proceeded the expansion of the population, rather than other way round?

Phil O'Brien, Northallerton

Crying need

MANY would agree that the country has a crying need for more homes at prices or rents that ordinary people can afford. However, as recent letters to the D&S Times by Chris Purser and Charmian Walter have explained, it is all too easy for the big house builders to use "the viability assessment rule" to retract from commitments to provide agreed numbers of affordable homes in developments such as Sowerby Gateway and North Northallerton.

This rule allows the builder to cut back on affordably priced homes if the profit on the development is projected to fall below 20 per cent. The sooner this figure is reduced to something more reasonable the better.

Taylor Wimpey is the builder at both Sowerby and North Northallerton. In the financial year 2016-17 the company made £589m profit, an increase of 20 per cent on the previous year. Its chief executive received a remuneration package of £3,764,000, and the share price in January 2018 was 211p compared to 114p in January 2014.

Some of us would think that all this has been won at the price of the company's reputation.

We all benefit when homes are available at prices that nurses, teachers, police officers and care workers can afford, not to mention our own young people.

For their sake, for our sake, we need our councillors and MPs to get to grips with this problem.

Trevor Mitchell, Osmotherley

Police planning

SPECTATOR tells us (D&S Times, March 16 ) that North Yokshire’s police and crime commissioner had said vis-à-vis the suggested closure of Northallerton magistrates’ court that “the proposal looked like it had been put together on the back of an envelope”. She must be right because nobody around here knows more about planning on the backs of envelopes than the PCC.

She announced she would sell Newby Wiske Hall even before she had been appointed and therefore before she could have investigated the matter properly.

Her original decision to build a new HQ at South Kilvington must have been planned on the back of an envelope because she had to drop the idea when it was shown how ridiculous her intentions were. We have yet to be told how much of our money she wasted.

Next she moved the HQ to a building in Northallerton with insufficient room for the staff let alone their cars and caused chaos in the vicinity - chaos now to be alleviated but only on a temporary basis until a permanent solution can be found. A solution to problems apparently not considered in her back-of-the-envelope planning.

In the full knowledge of the problems at the new HQ Northallerton police station was closed and the staff moved to the building already known to be inadequate.

And she sold the old HQ causing problems for the villagers of Newby Wiske apparently not considered on the backs of her envelopes. I am reliably informed the estate was sold for a third of its proper market price although again we have not been told officially how much we lost.

This week I received my council tax demand for the coming financial year accompanied by the PCC’s propaganda leaflet. It tells us that she has increased the precept “after consulting with more than 2,000 people” - that is only 0.39 per cent of the adult population of the county and hardly a valid consultation.

There is not a word in it about what we really want to know - the wastage at South Kilvington, the loss at Newby Wiske or indeed the cost of the new HQ. We are being kept in the dark and treated with contempt. Perhaps there was not enough room on the back of the envelope on which she drafted the leaflet.

David Severs, retd chief superintendent, Northallerton

Tree lament

IN Blackwell, Darlington, protesters have fixed notices on the felled trees, lying like struck-down Goliaths, which read “environmental vandalism”. Four ancient specimens still proudly standing have been kindly marked with bright green ribbon and carefully and beautifully tied bows.

People care, and if those trees had our human emotions their hearts would be broken today. I am not sure what protection the ribbons and bows will offer when the fellers arrive, but we humans have consciences, and consciences can be pricked even by simple green bows and ribbons.

The company that was commissioned to remove 200 or so trees has a mission statement which tells of its concern for the environment: “We ensure our services are at minimal cost to the environment by the use of biodegradable oil in our chainsaws.”

Tell that to those great trees.

The owls could be heard making their protest at the felling ten days ago, but the company’s website tells them: “We inspect sites prior to carrying out work to ensure we do not destroy nesting bird sites or bat roosts and have a minimum impact on other habitats.”

How considerate.

The guardians of Blackwell meadows are the councillors, the planners and, of course, the residents. An email from a ward councillor tells us: “The work taking place is to allow access to the development on the former golf course land which was supported by the residents of Blackwell in consultation for the planning brief…and I represented the views of the residents who had minor objections to the plans.”

I wonder how minor those objections would have been if the full scale of the damage had been made clear?

But I am biased. I have seen the meadows and the fallen trees for myself.

If you have five minutes to spare, visit the ‘development’ and make up your own mind. Then tell the trees, as they need to know. Don’t tell the planners, as they should already know.

All the councillors, including the leader, should also take time to talk to those trees. The trees – and the owls, the newts and the other wildlife – had no choice.

After talking to the trees, they should go away and mull over their words, picturing the meadow in their mind, thinking about their planning processes and their positions of authority, and their places on this planet. Then they would conclude: “Oh, how the mighty have fallen.”

Michael Green, Darlington

Remembering Read

MAY I through your newspaper thank the library staff of North Yorkshire County Council and the City of York who celebrate local and international writers, one of whom, Herbert Read, Pickering library is celebrating this week and next with a display. This presents Read in three strands: childhood Innocence; contrary experience; his legacy. A book display supports.

Read was born on a Ryedale farm in 1893 and died at Stonegrave in June 1968 - 50 years ago. A happy childhood came to an end for he and his mother Eliza Strickland and brothers William and Charles with lapse of tenancy on the death of husband and father Herbert Edward.

Many struggles for mother and sons ensued, but many helping hands and maturing influences awaited, harrowing ones too: Eliza’s death from cancer and Charles in war in 1918.

Read was in uniform by 1914 - in Leeds University Officers Training Corps - and in March 1918 for five days, as adjutant of the Green Howards’ 2nd Battalion, he led all that was left of them in the St Quentin retreat through hardships and deaths to rest and safety, where he could read the copy of Thoreau’s ‘Walden’ he had in his pack. Its message of peace and order in a rural haven was appropriate. The Green Howards’ history honours Read - and his cultural achievements and pacificism.

It is 100 years almost to the day since this event. Anyone with memories of Read or his works is asked to leave their contact details at Pickering Library on the form provided or phone so more events can be arranged-perhaps so schools, groups at libraries can join in.

John Dean, Beadlam

Tax query

I WONDER how many other recipients have been puzzled by figures on Hambleton council tax bills received over the last two years - specifically those for NYCC Adult Social Care. The bills indicate an increase of two per cent for both years, whereas the actual increases are 53 per cent this year and 104 per cent last year (on a band E property).

I queried this anomaly with Hambleton council staff and was told that the figures are presented in a legal fashion as the two per cent is supposed to indicate an overall increase when added to the main NYCC council tax figure.

However, I still think that the presentation is highly misleading and, at minimum, is an unacceptable form of creative accounting.

John Slater, Northallerton

Top place

IT is great that Saltburn, the jewel in Redcar & Cleveland’s crown, has made it to number four in The London Economic’s list of the Best Up-And-Coming Places to Live.

This serves to ratify Saltburn’s appearance, last year, in the Sunday Times’ list of Best Places to Live.

It’s true Saltburn has grand Victorian buildings, magnificent scenery, a great beach and pier, the cliff tramway, scrumptious food, the Valley Gardens, and facilities for all ages. But, above all, it has residents who value culture, sport and education, as well as a passion for their local environment.

On March 13, I attended the Mayor’s Community Achievement presentations and there were no less than two individuals, Barbara Helen and Roy Smith, who won awards for keeping Saltburn and its beach clean and tidy. It makes it so much easier for the council when our residents are sweeping in the same direction!

Throughout the East Cleveland villages, we are all proud of Saltburn’s success, and it is a privilege for us to include ‘Saltburn-by-the-Sea’ as an essential element in our postal addresses.

Keep it up Saltburn. You are an example to us all.

Cllr Steve Kay, Moorsholm

Bus cash

WE would like to thank the people of Stokesley for supporting the recent collection in the Co-op food store. We are delighted to tell you £200 was raised towards Moorsbus 2018 services for Stokesley.

Moorsbus CIC and Friends of Moorsbus are all volunteers. We believe that public transport is important for people to get out and about and keep healthy and find companionship. It also helps to reduce the pollution and congestion by reducing the number of cars.

We arrange a connecting network of buses from different operators. We pay for the buses with passenger donations, bequests, fundraising and by grants we apply for. Fares and bus pass reimbursement covers less than half the cost.

With Moorsbus, local people get out for walking, sightseeing, special events, visiting friends, shopping, local attractions in the National Park area, and to visit pubs and tea-shops. We also bring visitors into the area to support the local economy, and we connect with the national rail network.

In 2017 we achieved 10,000 passenger journeys. The 2018 Moorsbus services will start on May 20. We will serve Stokesley every Saturday and Sunday until the end of September. Our timetables will be available at libraries and other local information outlets from early May. We also have a website, and a Friends of Moorsbus Membership and MoorRewards scheme.

Wendy Smith, Moorsbus

Great hospital

I AGAIN wish to record my thanks to all the staff in the various departments of the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton.

My husband has recently been in hospital for nearly four weeks and the care and staff have been wonderful.

The follow up following his return hom has also been excellent from carers and availability of equipment.

It is very reassuring to know we have such a good hospital in North Yorkshire and long may it continue to give such good service.

Mary Boardman, Great Ayton