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Sharing in our successes
We are extremely grateful to the Bucks Free Press for publishing two fantastic stories from The Highcrest Academy in April highlighting the excellence of our students and staff.

First, your paper told how Mrs Hashmet Nathekar, a long-serving staff member at our school in High Wycombe, had won a prestigious award at The House of Commons. 

She was crowned outstanding educational leader by the Inspiring Indian Women organisation at an event hosted in Parliament.

Mrs Nathekar, a specialist teacher in English as an Additional Language who is in her 20th year at the school, is one of the unsung heroes of the local education community.

You can well imagine how thrilled she has been to have her name in lights – a just reward for her brilliant efforts over two decades. Thank you for running her story, because it meant so much to her and legions of grateful students.

On the subject of our students, we were very proud to read in the Bucks Free Press the following week the story of another huge achievement.

Our sixth form triumphed after a head-to-head final with schools from across the county in the 2019 Big Bucks Sales Challenge at Pinewood Studios.

We were among seven participating schools who teamed up with entrepreneurial businesses to develop essential employability skills in the competition organised by Buckinghamshire Thames Valley Local Enterprise Partnership’s Skills Hub. 

As the new Chair of Governors, I can see how activities like this make a real difference for our students. Seeing a group of students forming a supportive team and developing their skills is a very rewarding experience – and it was equally rewarding to see them win the contest. 

On May 15, Highcrest steps in to a new era with the official completion of our £3.3m refurbishment scheme at the school.

The Mayor of High Wycombe will be opening our new sixth form centre and dining area, and we are very excited about it.

There’s often a generic complaint that newspapers only report on bad news.

Well, that’s not the case as we see it – and we are enormously thankful to the BFP for continuing to highlight all the very good things happening at our academy.
Susan Jollands, chair of governors, The Highcrest Academy, High Wycombe​

Tip closures will affect fly-tipping
I have read with interest several items re the closure of tips and fly tipping. Firstly residents’ fury at mountain of bank holiday waste at tip (BFP April 26, page 6). Bucks County Council supposedly had a consultation with 6,000 people before closing the Bledlow tip.

Now I may not be that intelligent but they did not actually say what the outcome was and I cannot believe that 6,000 people would have said “yes a good idea to close one tip completely and shut the Aylesbury, Rabans Lane tip two days a week. Oh yes and then charge for things that you are going to tip”.

As you said 2,000 people signed a petition to stop the closure at Bledlow. Houses are being built all around us and generating more and more rubbish.

There will be huge queues at all of the tips, whilst the staff assess the price that people are going to pay. My husband was told that there was going to be no problem with fly-tipping as there was CCTV everywhere. Everywhere indeed, every roadside, ditch and field does not and cannot have CCTV, so fly-tipping will be endemic.

Ex-mayor’s fly-tipping fears (BFP April 26, page 11). Most people have in the past been prepared to take their rubbish to a tip, but I think that is short-sighted as people will be fed up with having to wait at tips, finding them closed when they visit and being charged to do so.

Either things will go in to the dustbins or dumped at the side of roads. To enrage everyone the council tax bills have increased significantly.

Maybe some of the people who dump things are running a business and charging for collecting, but I think this is a small percentage.
Mrs L.A. Charnock, Long Crendon

EU membership helps us with a lot
What do English native oaks, olives and lavender have in common? There's a disease of olive trees that can be spread in lavender bushes. The disease is not yet known to be in the UK. It's thought it could affect English oak trees.

Lavender bushes have to be checked before they are moved, to help stop the spread of the disease. Xylella fastidiosa. It's been seen in Italy. So European Union rules help to look after English oak trees. English oak trees have a lot of wildlife linked to them.

The rules were first set up in 2000. By national government ministers. With the opinion of the European Parliament. And the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee. After a proposal from the European Commission. All published in the sight of the world.

Based on treaties signed voluntarily by national leaders and approved by their parliaments or by referendum. All published.

What else does EU membership help with? Quite a lot. But only the things that are cross-border, or can only be best done together. Everything is the job of each country - unless it's covered in the treaties. See EU Publications Office (

Even though the budget is small compared to most national budgets. The EU budget 2017 financial report is easy to find online.

Citizens of other EU countries in the UK could not vote in the 2016 referendum. But they can vote in local elections. And in European Parliament elections. They need to send in a European Parliament voter registration form by 7 May.

So would you like to vote for pro-European parties in the European Parliament election on 23 May?

I feel that Keith Taylor in the Green Party, Catherine Bearder in the Lib Dems, and Richard Ashworth in the Independents, are good.
Phil Jones, member, European Movement UK, High Wycombe

Next generation facing challenges
With the focus on the huge political swings in local elections last week, little attention was given to the Social Mobility Commission’s report on April 30. Its message is every bit as stark as the election results. It is clear that class privilege remains entrenched: social mobility has been virtually stagnant since 2014.

Five years ago only 32 per cent of those from working class backgrounds got professional jobs, rising marginally to 34 per cent last year. Even when they get a professional job, they earn 17 per cent less than their privileged colleagues. Forty nine per cent of the poorest adults have received no training since leaving school, compared to 20 per cent of the richest.

Most disadvantaged families are least likely to know about or benefit from the offer of 30 hours of free childcare, when one parent works for 16 hours or more per week. This pattern is perpetuated throughout education. At age seven the gap is 18 per cent in reading, 20 per cent in writing and 18 per cent in maths. While disadvantaged pupils can catch up with good schooling, the attainment gap is 14 per cent at age 11, rising to 22.5 per cent at 19.

In June 2016 Local Equal Excellent, a local group supporting fair access to quality schools for all children in Buckinghamshire, reported that data from 2014-2015 showed unequivocally that the selective system in Buckinghamshire is underpinned by clear and substantial bias against children from certain ethnic groups. The commission’s report raises the question as to whether any progress has been made to combat this inequality.

The commission’s key recommendations seek to tackle this pernicious pattern. Crucially, these include extending the eligibility for the childcare offer to those earning the equivalent of eight hours per week, as well measures to support disadvantaged students, with greater funding. Universities need to better promote the financial support available to undergraduates along with their eligibility criteria. Government departments should become accredited voluntary living wage employers.

While central government remains paralysed by the Brexit debate, local government and institutions can and should do more to tackle the issues that hold back disadvantaged children, in particular. The next generation face plenty of challenges that pervade all classes of society. We must not add to their burden by a failure to act to improve their prospects from the start.
Rachel Dineley, diversity officer, Chiltern Liberal Democrats

Former MP acted quickly and honourably
In response to Lawrence Linehan's letter (BFP, May 3), may I make three specific comments. He says "then perhaps BCCA should have allowed the press to attend" the AGM. When my husband, John Strafford, was chairman of Beaconsfield Constituency Conservative Association from 1985-1990 the press were always invited to the AGMs and encouraged to attend.

Secondly there were many BCCA members present at this year's AGM who normally just pay their subscription to the party but take little other role. However this year a record attendance was achieved (28 per cent of the membership) because ordinary members were unhappy with the action of their MP Dominic Grieve.

Thirdly about Tim Smith's departure. The BFP midweek edition of Tuesday, March 25, 1997, carries the lead story on its front page ‘Top Tory Won't Back MP Smith’ - and that Tory was myself (I had just completed five years as political committee chairman of BCCA). BFP front page lead story on Friday, March 28, 1997, was ‘Why Smith Had to Quit by Top Tory’. Tim Smith had resigned on Wednesday, March 26, 1997. So I think by resigning within two days of the BFP report (aided by The Times front page story on Wednesday, March 26, 1997) it is fair to say Tim Smith acted quickly and honourably.

Dominic Grieve lost the vote of confidence at this year's AGM but has still not said he will stand down at the next General Election.
Caroline Strafford, Beaconsfield

Wastage in the NHS is rampant
I am continually encountering incidences where loaned items from hospital occupational therapy departments are being refused to be taken back by NHS Trusts.

These items are lingering unused in people’s homes. They are many and varied ranging from walking frames, crutches, raised toilet seats and splints which are offered to assist people with sports injuries or the hundreds of people who have replacement joint operations every year.

This issue varies from region to region where hospitals do not accept them for whatever reason. There must be thousands of people who do not have the benefit of a bureaucratic NHS system (who are scared of being sued because of cross infection) who would be very grateful to receive these items. Could the public be informed where these items should be sent?
Margaret Pike, Bovingdon Green, Marlow