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Readers’ Letters: Pedestrianisation of Union Street, Indy Ref 2, ‘inflated grades in exams’

Union Street during lockdown in 2020
Union Street during lockdown in 2020

Sir, – Of the many changes brought about by the pandemic, one of the most profound will be how pupils are assessed academically in our schools.

During 2020 and 2021 exams were cancelled to reduce the spread of the virus and in their place pupils’ grades were based on their teachers’ assessment.

Not surprisingly this resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of top grades being awarded – good for the school’s reputation, good for a teacher whose class produces many of these grades and, more importantly, parents will be satisfied their offspring are receiving first class education.

Seems ideal so what can be wrong? Plenty in fact as our youngsters are not, as a surprise benefit of Covid, more intelligent than previous generations.

The floodgate to inflated grades, ultimately of no benefit to the recipient or society, being opened will prove difficult to close.

Now exams are back but authorities think pupils are so unaccustomed to the pressure that “advance information” on the topics they will be examined has been provided.

I almost fell off my chair in amusement at the reported comments of the exam watchdog chief regulator: “They (the pupils) loved the idea of advance information as it took the stress off their shoulders.”

How correct was her observation.

Nothing better for easing the anxiety than knowing what topic is going to be on the paper. But as Burns said: “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men/ Gang aft a-gley.” Some illiterate setting the exams included topics not on the expected list.

This understandably caused distress to the pupils and, although all will be given top marks because of the mistakes, many “came home upset, disadvantaged and disappointed”.

The plan is to phase out advance information next year but will this not leave future generations of pupils expected to be familiar with all aspects of a subject at a disadvantage, their chances of top grades much reduced?

Or to compensate will the paths to those grades be made ever easier?

How much simpler during the 1950s when at exam time we either passed or, if I may be permitted to use the now unacceptable “f” word, failed.

Ivan W Reid, Kirkburn, Laurencekirk.

Good example set for Union Street

Sir, – I wonder if Aberdeen councillors and officials look for exemplars elsewhere?

Many years ago Northumberland Street in Newcastle-upon-Tyne was pedestrianised with buses.

Now, along with a larger area around Greys Monument, it is fully pedestrianised.

Northumberland Street was and remains the main shopping and commercial thoroughfare of the city and has recovered well, not only from lockdowns but the competitive establishment of the MetroCentre, a vast out-of-town shopping centre across the river.

Pedestrianising Union Street is a good idea with, under the proposed scheme, access to buses very close.

Courage please!

Mike Salter, Glassel, Banchory.

Sweet memories of sporting great

Sir, – Neil Drysdale’s article revived memories of George Kelly, one of the north-east’s greatest sportsmen.

He and his doubles partner Jimmy Wood graced many a tennis tournament in the ’60s, not least that of my home town Fraserburgh. They were serial winners. (It’s worth noting that Kelly’s sisters, Margaret and Helen, were also excellent players.)

Kelly had brilliant ground strokes and he would dismiss players even of county standard with the loss of a handful of games.

Kelly and Wood, although completely dominant in the north-east, had not been tested on a bigger stage. They duly set that to rights, as Neil Drysdale notes, by winning Scottish titles.

Rumour had it that to prove it wasn’t a fluke, they returned the following year to defend their titles and replicated the feat.

Tennis tournaments in the ’60s were great social occasions. Players (and hangers-on) would gather in a local hotel in the evening to relax.

George Kelly had a fine voice. He often sang the lyric: “Can’t beat the memories you gave to me.” Indeed.

John Ritchie, Macleod Road, Inverness.

‘Free’ education should have price

Sir, – I have every sympathy for Calum Buchanan and his problems in getting to see a doctor. However a new Scottish Government initiative aims to attract more GPs from other parts of the UK and elsewhere.

If “elsewhere” means poaching them from the Commonwealth and countries that need them more, then this is unethical.

The shortage of doctors and dentists could have been easily avoided with a bit of Scottish Government foresight.

For many years students who have lived in Scotland for three years are entitled to have their university fees paid by the government, ie the taxpayer. Students from England pay £9,250 per year.

Thus Scottish-based students get the benefit of £37,000 or more of free education. There should have been a condition that those getting this free education, especially student doctors and dentists, would have to work in Scotland for five years or longer to repay taxpayers’ generosity.

There would not then be the present shortage of doctors and, dare I say it, NHS dentists who are scarcer than hen’s teeth.

Clark Cross, Springfield Road, Linlithgow.

Islanders get what they voted for

Sir, – It was interesting to read that people in the Western Islands and other communities are not best pleased by the service being provided by Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) ferries.

The article claimed people are leaving the island communities in large numbers and that many businesses on the islands are under threat of going under due to the unacceptable service provided by CalMac ferries and that the people in these communities do not trust this Scottish Government to put it right. I would just like to remind these same islanders that every single community on both the mainland and on the islands of the west coast, which rely on ferries for their survival, they have an SNP member of the Scottish Parliament and every constituency voted for an SNP MP to Westminster.

No doubt if there was another election tomorrow these same people would again vote for the same SNP MPs and SNP MSPs and no doubt when Nicola eventually gets her way on another referendum they will vote for Scottish independence. So don’t please come crying to the rest of the country when you got what you voted for.

Hugh Millar, Castlegreen Road, Thurso.

SNP needs to show it is competent

Sir, – It appears Nicola Sturgeon has finally realised she has a serious problem in that her distant dream of winning an independence referendum with the current stalemate in public opinion is impossible, but her latest response is quite frankly ridiculous and laughable in its illegality.

It will still not change the impasse no matter what other tricks are tried, or what freebies are provided. There are limits to these forms of persuasion.

They lowered the voting age to appeal to the younger idealistic voters but that did not make any appreciable difference. Should they now disenfranchise elderly voters as they tend to be less gullible to emotional persuasion and have a wealth of experience to make more rational judgments?

Fifteen years of divisiveness has achieved nothing but increased unhappiness, especially when SNP performance over a range of devolved activities directly under their control has totally failed. She should perhaps look back at Norway which had 99.95% approval when they voted for independence.

I would suggest what is really needed is a clear demonstration of better SNP performance and competence. I recall a statement that when SNP support reached 60% that would indeed be the right time to have another referendum. We are still a very long way from that.

I am reminded of an old nursery rhyme from Dick King-Smith: “Patience is a virtue, Virtue is a grace. Grace is a little girl, Who would not wash her face.”

Perhaps less flannel from Nicola might have more success.

David Philip, Knockhall Way, Newburgh, Aberdeenshire.

Sturgeon’s date with destiny?

Sir- With the SNP announcing their battle cry of ‘referendum, referendum’ to take place on October 19 next year, it lies on an important date in British history.

General Charles Cornwallis surrendered his troops in Yorktown, Virginia on October 19 1781 to American General Washington winning “freedom” from Britain.

Perhaps Nicola Sturgeon is hoping for a similar outcome this time? If not, when will indyref3 be?

T. Shirron, Davidson Drive, Aberdeen.

Crazy idea!

Sir- I was delighted to read that Union Street is not going to be pedestrianised, but bemused to read that they now want to widen the pavements. Why?

What other crazy ideas have they got in store for us?

Sandra Yeats, Balmedie.

Show respect for the dead

Sir- I read with horror the plan to build on top of the mass grave of the plague victims.

Have these people got no feeling for those interred there, even though it was a long time ago and probably there are no records of names or how many are buried there?

What are we to expect in another couple of hundred years? “Oh, let’s build houses on the old Trinity cemetery, no one uses it now!”

I think there is more need to build a memorial for those unfortunate people who lost their lives in the plague, not the sacrilege of digging up the ground and building houses on their final resting place.

If Aberdeen Council allows this abomination to go ahead, they ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Dave Blair, Hatton, Peterhead.