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Gazette letters: Brexit, Mrs Benson and reply to Sasha Simic

PUBLISHED: 08:30 16 February 2019

Syed Kamall MEP, will keep updating on Brexit developments. Photo: PA

Syed Kamall MEP, will keep updating on Brexit developments. Photo: PA

PA Archive/PA Images

With uncertainty around the negotiations between the UK and the EU on our future relationship, there have been many questions writes: Syed Kamall, (Conservative), MEP for London.

For example, constituents have asked me whether they would still be able to travel to EU countries or need a visa for European holidays after Brexit.

The British government had already confirmed EU citizens would be able to make short-term visits to the UK without a visa after Brexit on March 29, whether there is a deal or not.

Fortunately, the EU has now reciprocated and agreed that British citizens will also continue to enjoy visa-free travel to the EU for up to 90 days.

I will keep readers updated on future announcements on both sides.

Your story regarding Mrs Benson at Haggerston School and a memorial tree is very pertinent to the wider condition of schools and teaching in the UK today, writes Elizabeth Racki, Hackney, full address supplied.

That a dearly beloved teacher, remembered fondly by ex-pupils, may not be commemorated at the school where she made such a difference in her students’ lives is a tragic indictment of what education has become. That schools are now tick-box exam factories is evident. We may not have realised how souless this must be for teachers and students alike, “no-one remembers” and “the school can’t honour everyone”. Well, yes it can, and should.

Furthermore, I am certain that our illustrious public schools up and down the country house within their premises honour boards going back centuries.

My guess is that there are some headteachers who do not like to admit that before they were even qualified (if they have ever qualified) as teachers, which is no longer the required norm for school management teams, the school they now reign over was a successful and well-loved place of learning.

I speak as a retired Hackney teacher myself and my husband was a teacher at Haggerston while Mrs Benson was there. He remembers her exactly as her students do. Mrs Mary Metcalfe was the headmistress – a wise and wonderful woman too! On meeting them I decided to train as a teacher myself in 1976. Moreover, our daughter was subsequently educated there, when Pat (now Dame) Collarbone was the head. Our daughter went on to teach in schools and universities herself, has a PhD, and is currently working for the British Humanist Association (Humanists UK). There were several visionary teachers at Haggerston at that time, working for Hackney and The Inner London Education Authority, subsequently abolished by Mrs Thatcher, in spite of a referendum which voted 99 per cent plus to retain both the ILEA and the GLC! (Merely advisory, as are all referenda! ...)

Haggerston School has a proud history of educating young people in Hackney and Mrs Benson, along with my husband George Oswald and Angela Rush, Pam Siddons, George Demetrius ... ( and many others we could name but we have not had time to seek their permission for this letter) are the bedrock. Shame on any incumbent who would decide that because a few younger teachers currently in post cannot remember that they stand on the shoulders of giants, a favourite teacher should not be celebrated on the school’s grounds.

The school has a long frontage (where playgrounds could usefully be screened from the road) along Queensbridge Road where, it seems to me, a long row of slim silver birches could indeed commemorate each and every worthy ex-teacher and student of the illustrious Haggerston School, which will be educating the community long after the present incumbents are, possibly, forgotten in their turn.

I wish Jacqui Jenkins and her group every success and thank them on behalf of all us teachers who tried our very best.

Thank you too, Sam, for the piece.

I was interested in the letter from Sasha Simic ‘Stand in solidarity with Diane Abbott’, where Mr Simic tries to make much of the seemingly far right bias of BBC’s Question Time and in particular one of the producers Alison Fuller-Pedley, writes Imran Khan, Hackney, full address supplied.

The merits of the argument as to whether or not the BBC has an inbuilt right wing bias I won’t go into here, rather I wish to throw a little light on Mr Simic’s own background.

He is a long time member of the far left Socialist Workers Party, which Hackney Stand Up To Racism – of which it seems he is a member of the organising committee – is a front for.

The SWP is more of a quasi religious sect than a political party following the teachings of the mass murderers Lenin and Trotsky.

Mr Simic was a candidate for the now defunct Respect party, another SWP front, which split and faded into insignificance but not after it had promoted many extreme Islamist preachers of hatred. Respect was at one time chaired by the now disgraced Ken Livingstone, had as a secretary the equally disgraced Lee Jasper and on its committee one Azad Ali of the extremist Islamic Forum Europe. Nice people!

It has always been a tacit of extremists of either the left or right to create or take over seemingly laudable organisations and campaigns. Stand Up To Racism is a totally controlled SWP front taking its orders from their central committee and he should be honest enough to admit this so that everyone contributing time or money, signing petitions or going on their demonstrations is aware.

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