LABOUR'S CHANGES in education will mean many students are expected to choose their future jobs aged just 13. They won't have to learn foreign languages, history or technology. Instead they will be taught a narrower work-based curriculum tailored to meet the demands of employers.
No prizes for guessing which students will get to do hairdressing and plumbing. This plan will reinforce selection between and within schools, separating the academic sheep from the working class goats. It will undermine the principle of comprehensive education, already under attack from New Labour.
It's no wonder many of our teenagers are fed up with school. Our kids are already the most tested in Europe. They're coached for the SATs all the way through year six when music, art, history and geography are all sacrificed in favour of a Gradgrind curriculum of exam preparation.
They come to secondary school already labelled successes or failures. And there the target setting and testing continue, as schools desperately try to look good in the league tables. Socialists believe education should be about opening up opportunities for young people, encouraging them to reach their full human potential and broadening their horizons.
Labour wants a system where children are taught to 'know their place'-while the 'cleverer' ones can go on to university secure in the knowledge that a lifetime of debt awaits them.
FRAN POSTLETHWAITE, Barnsley
Union leaders are handing our money over to New Labour
AS A result of the financial crisis in the Labour Party the GMB union is set to increase its affiliation fees to Labour. A report in the Financial Times last week indicated a deal worth some £40 million over the next five years is being arranged with the trade unions to bail out Blair.
The deal is being planned despite Blair's insistence on burdening the unions with the cost of holding political fund ballots in 2004. News of this deal is extremely shocking given New Labour's drive to war and its attacks on firefighters.
And the deal is being considered despite the government ignoring GMB pleas to limit the role of the private sector in public services. Fortunately motions regarding the democratisation of the union's political fund will be discussed at the GMB congress in June this year.
These argue for the political fund to be opened up to other political organisations, like the Scottish Socialist Party and the Socialist Alliance, which back the firefighters and oppose privatisation and war.
HENRY RAJCH, branch secretary, Barnsley GMB (personal capacity)
Bosses off on a shopping spree
THE FRENZY about which supermarket group should be allowed to grab Safeway entirely misses out the interests of the consumer. Sainsbury's, Tesco and Asda already have nearly 70 percent of the British grocery trade between them. This is now set to get much worse.
Safeway's market share will give another 6 percent of the trade to someone. Supermarket prices are cheap for a very small range of goods but on most items they charge inflated rates-that's how they make such big profits! Any government that was serious about protecting the consumer would pass legislation to ensure that no group had more than, say, a 10 percent market share and would come down hard on any price fixing and collusion.
We can expect nothing of the sort from New Labour, especially as Lord Sainsbury has been given such a prominent role in government. I would urge everybody to shop at independent retailers and street markets that, although they make a profit, are not in the pockets of a tiny elite that is destroying our food and freedom.
HENRY BAXTER, Oxford
Wading through gutter
PRESS COMMENTS on Rebekah Wade's appointment as editor of the Sun were muted. She directly incited vigilantism in the 'name and shame' witch-hunt she launched in the News of the World last year.
Rebekah Wade subsequently showed cowardice unique in the history of British journalism. She refused to speak, to give an interview or take part in a debate. Most shamefully of all, she hid behind the tragic parents of Sarah Payne, who she exploited.
For these reasons other newspapers have a responsibility to counteract any public effect she may have as editor of the Sun.
JACK PAULIN, East London
Don't be drowned in sea of debt
PAUL McGARR is quite right to knock on the head the idea that having a mortgage makes you middle class. Many who exercised their right to buy council houses didn't become middle class overnight.
Councils have stopped building houses and have sold many off. In parts of Cardiff you could wait 900 years unless you were a 'priority' case!
Private renting is as expensive as a mortgage. People who get into mortgage arrears don't know they can repay their arrears during the length of the mortgage.
They end up getting their homes repossessed-and the mortgage companies still chase them for the shortfall after the house has been sold at auction for peanuts. People in difficulty should get help from the Citizens Advice Bureau, Shelter or Age Concern.
TERESA GOSS, Citizens Advice Bureau case worker, Cardiff
Armed gangs wear police uniforms
A HUGE force of 200 police, many carrying shotguns, are policing the areas of Stapleton Road in Easton and Grosvenor Road in St Pauls, Bristol, nightly. They swooped in on Wednesday 15 January, operating a stop and search policy on every male aged between 17 and 30.
The guns are out of sight in the daylight, but at 5pm they're back out. Community residents have complained of excessive stop and search of black youth. Police openly admitted that any black man wearing a hood or a baseball cap would be stopped and questioned.
A meeting of 60 local residents and community workers in St Pauls was told that 'this was an exercise in reassurance' by police divisional commander Mike Rowe. Bristol City Council has just approved a £500 million shopping mall right next to St Pauls, with horrendous traffic and roadworks implications. But nothing is going on housing, education or employment measures.
MATT CLEMENT, Bristol
I AM writing concerning your article 'Hodge Doffs Caps To Posh Schools'. I agree that under a fair system there would be no private schools. But your article implies that everyone from a private school is bad, posh and has nothing to do with socialism.
I went to a private school, not a particularly expensive one, and by 17 was involved in socialist politics.
NATALIE SEDACCA, Cambridge
Views on war... Views on war...
TO ADD to Sue Ram's letter 'Trouble on t'moor', there is growing anger inside and outside parliament at the upgrading of Fylingdales Base in North Yorkshire. The base will be part of Bush's Son of Star Wars scheme.
There are fears that this will relaunch the nuclear arms race. North Korea has said it is going to leave the non-proliferation treaty, China is expanding its nuclear programme and this is certain to be followed by India and Pakistan.
Local residents complain that car alarms go off and car immobilisers stop cars in their tracks near the base. If the base does this to cars, what does it do to the human body?
JOHN APPLEYARD, Leeds
THE UNITED Nations bound member states to 'settle international disputes by peaceful means and to refrain from the threat or use of force against any state'. When the UN was set up in New York in 1949, I was one of many who were opposed to it. It was obvious that the US would use the UN to its own advantage as it is now doing.
The war planned against Iraq, the killing of women and children, is not only immoral-it is against international law. We must stop this war and deal with the cause of war, which is imperialism, in this case US imperialism. You cannot ask people to die for oil.
RON ACOCK, Ilkeston
IT IS crucial that we do everything we can to stop the war. But the US and Britain have already started bombing Iraq, or rather they never stopped. Bombing of the 'no-fly zones' over Iraq has increased by 300 percent in the last few weeks.
There is absolutely no UN authorisation for this destructive, murderous and almost secret war. Bush and Blair aren't waiting for UN backing before they start the killing.
JULIE TOMMS, Loughborough
A YORK council meeting ended in uproar as scores of angry York City Football Club fans demanded it compulsorily purchases the club's ground. Persimmon Homes' plans to build luxury homes could force the closure of York City and net a £2 million fortune for stadium owner Douglas Craig. The New Labour council refused point blank to consider compulsory purchase.
A VERY successful launch meeting was held on Friday of last week to campaign against any 'arm's length' proposals for Nottingham City Council housing stock. Over 30 people came to the meeting called by Nottingham City Unison, with a number of shop stewards and local tenants present. The City Unison branch has already organised one bus to the lobby of parliament on 29 January.
LOTS OF people enjoyed the Bremner, Bird and Fortune special programme on Iraq. If you missed it, you can download the script by visiting www.channel4.com and typing 'Bremner' into the search box.
PETE ELLIS, Retford
REGARDING Martin Smith's review of Gangs of New York, why glorify non-historical, blockbuster, profit making, capitalist middle class voyeurism of inner city violence and deprivation?
Current 'entertainments' are even more brain scrambling diversions than religion ever was or is. In the absence of truly socialist film-makers, truly socialist reviews are vital.
H HASTON, by e-mail