Education funding must be made fairer

As some of your readers will know, Saturday, May 19 marked the start of Adult Learners Week 2007.

As some of your readers will know, Saturday, May 19 marked the start of Adult Learners Week 2007. Until May 25, events throughout the country, including here in the North-East, will celebrate the achievements of adult learners.

What is less well known, however, is that these well deserved plaudits will mask some disturbing features of the Government's current funding policy for adult education.

The majority of available funding is directed at the under 25s and is focused on relatively narrow work-related skills.

The rest, for older people and for non-vocational courses, is very thinly spread.

None of us can argue against the notion that the United Kingdom needs a well educated and skilled workforce, but we should all be alarmed that the consequence of concentrating funding in this area is the jeopardising of the existence of liberal adult education programmes for people of all ages.

Subsidies for liberal adult education classes - for example history, current affairs, music appreciation, literature, philosophy, science and art - are set to fall.

It is estimated that student fees will double, student numbers will drop, fewer classes will be viable and there will be less choice.

This type of education, where learning is enjoyed for learning's sake, where students gain confidence, are intellectually challenged and are motivated to learn more will become the province only of the "better off".

This is a disgraceful situation for a country which enjoys one of the richest economies in the world.

Here in Newcastle a group of students, mainly from the Workers' Educational Association (WEA), are "celebrating" Adult Learners Week by inviting signatures on a petition for fairer funding for adult education.

We will be at Grey's Monument on Wednesday between 11am and 2.30pm.

If you value affordable, liberal, adult education come and give us your support.

LIZ ARMSTRONG, Newcastle upon Tyne Branch Workers' Educational Association, 21 Portland Terrace, Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 1QQ

One fan praying for better times

OH what have they done to my beloved Newcastle United? They have appointed an inelegant person to be our manager, a man without any "pedigree", famous for his bargain buys, including a champion long distance thrower in and the notorious spitter.

What have we done to degenerate to this level? We can only pray for deliverance.

GORDON MOFFAT, Newcastle upon Tyne

Testing ground for stun guns?

IFULLY back-up Chief Constable Mike Craik's enthusiasm for Taser stun guns. If he wants to give his officers practical training, he should bring them up to Amble. The scope is out of this world, day or night.

ROBIN THOMPSON, Amble, Northumberland.

Debate, not political backslapping, please

NEIL Aitchison and Andrew Tebbutt may choose to disagree (Voice of the North, May 19), but I continue to hold the view that the letters page should not be used by politicians to say "thank you".

Where would it end? Should the paper, say the Monday after an election, clear the page for all groups of councillors on all the councils in the North-East to thank the electors? On the Tuesday, it could be kept for all unsuccessful candidates to say thanks. Then on Wednesday, would sneaky, elected councillors thank people for not voting (say Lib Dem for example)?

I believe the letters page is for political comment and local issues of the day - wind farms, post offices and fly tipping, for example - not as a cheap advert. If I want to thank the electorate, I would take an advert in The Journal and pay for it.

Look no further than Tynedale District Council where, within two weeks of the election, three maybe four Lib Dem councillors have left the party to be come independent. I wonder if the voters who elected them are bit upset or need thanking.

Oh yes, Aitchison mentioned hunting: it was and is a hot topic. My stance is the same as that of Lib Dem MP Alan Beith.

RICHARD DODD, Belsay, Northumberland

Tories fought on a broad front

THE local election results in Sunderland show what an excellent job the now 16-strong Conservative Group are doing on the city council. It is clear in both South Tyneside and Sunderland that local Conservatives are providing the only real and effective opposition to Labour.

Whilst the Liberal Democrats were flying the white flag in 20 wards across South Tyneside and Sunderland, local Conservatives fielded a full crop of candidates in Sunderland and fought all but one ward in South Tyneside.

COUN DAVID POTTS, Conservative Group Leader, South Tyneside Council, Town Hall, Westoe Road, South Shields NE33 2RL.

Rights and wrongs of Thatcherism

SO Lol Dunn disliked Tony Blair and he doesn't like Gordon Brown either ("My emotion on Blair retirement was elation", Voice of the North, May 19). He then prattles on about the NHS and education, yet isn't it the case that these are a lot better off than they ever were under the governments of Thatcher and Major, who tried their best to destroy them?

"I'm no Tory," writes Mr Dunn, but he praises the great lady herself, adding: "Thatcher was strong, mostly for the right reasons." Could Lol please inform us all what exactly these reasons were?

G WILLIAMS, Wallsend, North Tyneside

Tripping up over too few pints

YOUR Quiz of the Day on May 12 gave the answer to the question "How many pints of beer does an imperial barrel contain?" as 36. Of course, an imperial barrel actually contains 36 gallons of beer or 288 pints.

ALISDAIR GIBBS-BARTON, Blyth, Northumberland

A stumble in the march of time

IN your 175th anniversary section last Saturday, May 12, you feature a photograph of the Jarrow March which your caption says took place in 1934. I take it that this was a previously unknown full dress rehearsal for the actual march, which took place two years later?

Pity you had to spoil your birthday with such a howler.

P RAMSAY, South Shields, South Tyneside

Good use for fees

NOW that hospitals are collecting millions of pounds in car parking fees, would it not be possible to use the income to clean the wards?

STAN LODGE, Widdrington Station, Northumberland

Have your say

NEW forums have been introduced on our website,

Here are some of the comments that people have been leaving this week:

How do we stop people getting trapped on the Holy Island causeway?

"THERE is no way to stop the idiots driving over the causeway when they have been told not to.

"If a private rescue service was formed then they would be able to charge them for a rescue, as the RNLI have said they cannot charge for rescues. Perhaps if a private service was started they could give either half or all of the money collected to the RNLI."


"A GATE at each end would be pretty cheap and a foghorn to give people half an hour's warning. People have always ignored the signs and always will so create some revenue by adding small print about a £5,000 recovery charge."


Wind turbine noise

"THE problem is that developers are rushing to install turbines that were only designed for use at sea, well away from houses.

"The person disturbed in (The Journal's) report lives 900m away from a turbine. Now you can understand why even people who are committed environmentalists are saying this is wrong."


"WIND farms are not noisy. This is just another myth used by nimbys. I have visited a number of sites and can state for the record that the noise generated is minimal, only a swish as the blades slowly pass.

"The greatest threat to the environment is from man-made climate change . . . and action must be taken now to address it."


"IT is all about understanding how immediate and severe our problems regarding climate change are. Perhaps the design of some wind turbines (noise and size) are not ideal.

"However, they are a great improvement on continuing to use polluting power stations... and the more wind farms are used to provide energy, the more money can be invested into developing more efficient turbines."


Should there by one council or two in Northumberland?

"DOES anyone out there really believe that Northumberland County Council has represented the electorate either fairly or properly over the last few years?

"This pitiful council has failed to secure proper funding over travel, has misled parents over the school options and has unnecessarily closed the care homes in our regions. Even their own Labour colleagues are turning against them."


"I'VE gone for two. NCC have commissioned an audit of its school transport debacle. They recently refused a request from the chair of their own strategic services scrutiny committee (an opposition councillor) that her committee see the auditor's report when it is produced. Is this not a council incapable of democracy?"


"SADLY party politics seems to play too big a part in NCC. Our councillors do what their party leaders say instead of listening to the local voters."


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