Skip to Content


Spectator letters: In defence of celebrity head teachers

Plus: John Paul II’s loving friendships; US and EU; the fall of Rhodesia; Eddie the Eagle; and shooting thrush

27 February 2016

9:00 AM

27 February 2016

9:00 AM

In defence of the heads

Sir: It is fair for Ysenda Maxtone Graham to criticise heads who garner publicity but neglect the core business of good teaching, if such people exist (‘Big heads’, 20 February). However, targeting Anthony Seldon and Richard Cairns was a mistake.

Although both may be what my wife calls ‘media tarts’, Seldon saved two schools which were in great financial difficulties by hugely increasing the number of applicants and Brighton College under Cairns has maintained its trajectory to the upper reaches of the league tables, becoming one of the largest independent schools in the country in the process. Both heads have been outstandingly successful, creating secure and dynamic schools. Both, incidentally, are great classroom teachers.
Barnaby Lenon

Brighton College shines

Sir: I am one of those ‘loyal teachers in their fifties’ whom Ysenda Maxtone Graham refers to in her article and, personally, I am far from being ‘demoralised’, as she suggests. I have taught at Brighton College for over 20 years under the leadership of three headmasters and seen the school blossom into becoming one of the leading co-educational schools in the country.

The changes that I have experienced at the school have made for a much more stimulating, enjoyable and rewarding environment. I can focus on the business of teaching and not give a moment’s thought to classroom discipline, because all of the pupils have a genuine thirst for learning. The whole culture is much better, and the pupils are much kinder to each other than used to be the case. I have no desire to turn the clock back to some mythical golden age of teaching, and much prefer to work in a dynamic school than in an organisation that lacks clear direction.
David Crichton
Deputy Head of Middle School, Brighton College

Silence about women

Sir: Charles Moore seems to have been perplexed by Pope John Paul II’s amitiés amoureuses (if such they were) with two women. He should take heart from one of his predecessors. In 1948, in his Journal of a Soul, Pope John XXIII tenderly recalled Monsignor Giacomo Radini-Tedeschi, the Bishop of Bergamo, who had never spoken without ‘reverence, affection or respect’ about any ‘Vatican official, from the Holy Father downwards’. ‘As for women, and everything to do with them, never a word, never; it was as if there were no women in the world. This absolute silence, even between close friends, about everything to do with women was one of the most profound and lasting lessons of my early years in the priesthood.’
Geoffrey Wheatcroft

The American superstate

Sir: Matt Ridley tells us (‘For EU but not for US’, 20 February) why the US would never join its neighbours in an EU-style union. Surely the US itself is such a union of 50 states which are effectively 50 different countries? They have a common currency despite average wages varying between $750 a week in Mississippi and $1,300 in New York, and GDP growth varying between minus 1.2 per cent in Wyoming and plus 5.1 per cent in West Virginia. They have free movement between states despite significant illegal immigration problems. I would suggest that the US is the EU of the North and Central Americas, and those countries not part of it are all the poorer for that.
Tom Roberts

The downfall of Rhodesia

Sir: The throwaway comment at the conclusion of Matthew Parris’s article (‘From Rhexit to Brexit’, 20 February) leaves a sour taste in the mouth. While he correctly identifies the negative arguments (as well as some positives) in the build‑up to UDI, no reasons were proffered for the justifiable fear of the way things were headed in southern Africa.

Rhodesia was a beacon of stability and order in a rapidly decaying post-colonial Africa and Ian Smith understood that. The Brexit campaign may at times be negative but I feel the vibe is justified. The downfall of Rhodesia was not caused by its decision to secede from the UK; it was caused by the spineless, shortsighted masses that viewed Mugabe as the mandated alternative. And look how that ended.
Andrew Watson
London SW1

Britain’s real skiing hero

Sir: It needs a Dad’s Army kind of ignorance of sport to admire the Chaplinesque Eddie Edwards falling off Calgary’s Olympic ski jump in 1988 (Status anxiety, 13 February). Media hype elevated this pseudo-celebrity to the Johnny Carson Show when the genuine British hero was Martin Bell. He came in eighth place among the downhill elite, most of whom could ski almost before they could walk. Few now remember Bell.

The often-injured Eddie Edwards, on the other hand, properly belongs in Channel 4’s risk-prone The Jump.
David Miller
GB Olympic training squad 1956
Weybourne, North Norfolk

Parting shot

Sir: Perhaps someone might remind Bruce Anderson that it is illegal to shoot a thrush (Drink, 13 February)? Maybe he could tell his young charge Charlie, too. In this particular instance, Bruce, no, they do not order things better in France.
Hew Pike
Bentley, Hampshire


Show comments