RUTH KELLY: HOW refreshing it was to hear senior politicians agree this week that parents should ultimately make the choices in regard to their children's education.

As a home educating parent, we have known for some time that a "one-size-fits-all" approach doesn't work for all children and I applaud Government minister Ruth Kelly's decision to send her son to a private school for help with his learning difficulties as she must have known the comeback would have brought her and her family under fire.

Yet many home educators have to put up with similar criticisms and prejudice every day for the equally valid in law, educational choice they have made.

As a community we are awaiting the start of a major DfES (Department for Education and Skills) consultation on Elective Home Education.

Perhaps the very large sums of taxpayers' money that will be needed to fund this consultation and the resulting legislation and legal challenges could go towards helping bridge some of those gaps in the state system that have meant Ruth Kelly's son wasn't getting the "personalised" education he needed. - Denise McCallum, Northallerton, North Yorkshire.

I CANNOT understand the fuss over Cabinet minister Ruth Kelly sending her son to a private school.

Most parents, if they were financially able, would have sent their child to a school that offers better tuition and care for children with a disability.

Ruth Kelly has done nothing wrong. She has just proved that she is a loving parent who can afford to offer her son the education and treatment that he deserves. - Christopher Wardell, Darlington.


THE latest desperate bid to improve educational standards, giving private tutors to children who are failing at school (Echo, Jan 4) overlooks the problem of the children's attitude to learning.

Some, for a variety of reasons, have "turned off" as far as school and learning are concerned. If they "don't want to know", no amount of private tuition will help.

The report also suggests giving parents the teachers' lesson plans as well as the latest information on their children's progress. I fear many parents wouldn't bother to read or follow up on the plans. Rather, the plan would swiftly be consigned to the recycling bag. As for regular reports, that's even more clerical work for the teachers.

Another suggestion is that children be asked what they think of their teachers and (ominously) the information should be used by head teachers. The mind boggles.

Poor schools; teachers and pupils alike. It seems as though they're in for yet another upheaval which they could well do without. - EA Moralee, Billingham.


ITALIAN premier Romano Prodi has joined others in condemning the manner of the execution of Saddam Hussein.

He is going to various places, such as Russia, calling for a worldwide moratorium on capital punishment. This is not fit behaviour for civilised countries and humane societies, he is saying.

He should be reminded that, within living memory, Benito Mussolini, the former Italian dictator, together with his unfortunate mistress, Clara Petacci, hardly a war criminal, and other members of his entourage were shot by Italian partisans without the benefit of a trial, let alone a public one, or defence lawyers.

Their still-bloody bodies were then filmed hung upside down in a public square in Milan from meat hooks. Not the behaviour of a civilised country.

Perhaps the Italian premier, in the style of modern politics, should apologise for his nation's own historic judicial misdeed before continuing his self-righteous campaign. - Peter Troy, Sedgefield, Co Durham.


IT is sickening hypocrisy of the first order to hear politicians who have supported the barbaric and unjustified war in Iraq protest against the barbaric execution of Saddam Hussein.

The methods used in the execution pale into insignificance when compared with the terrible deaths and casualties suffered on both sides of the conflict.

When the arguments for the war, such as weapons of mass destruction and threats to Western interests collapsed, politicians who supported the war said that Saddam was such a tyrant and barbarian that it justified going to war. - Peter J Brown, Middlesbrough.


THE story in which the North-East was branded as "one of the dirty men of Europe" was little more than an attention grabbing attempt by the World Development Movement (WDM) to gain publicity, containing as it does unsubstantiated and misleading statements (Echo, Jan 8).

If these organisations wish such information to be taken seriously, they must first address the following points:

1) since carbon dioxide (CO2) is a gas, what form does a tonne of it take?

2) how, and by whom, is the data used to produce the figures collected?

3) can this data be proved beyond doubt to be correct?

If they are unable to answer these questions they should be more circumspect in making such statements and branding regions wrongly.

Will any answers be forthcoming? Over to you, WDM. - John Routledge, Witton Gilbert, Durham.


HAVING been a "recycler" for many years, I get annoyed with the recent attention and blame on residents over the amount of rubbish which we're not recycling.

While I detest litter louts and fly-tippers, much of this "blaming" is quite hypocritical. Just another stealth tax in the offing?

I've pursued Wear Valley District Council for many years regarding the recycling of plastic, all to no avail. Yet, when I visit friends in other parts of the country, all recyclable items, including plastics, are collected.

Perhaps it's time local councils were pursued, not just residents. - Joan Thompson, Bishop Auckland, Co Durham.


RE your story about Michael Rees who was banned from paying a South Wales court debt in pennies, but who has agreed to pay in silver coins following a disputed careless driving conviction (Echo, Jan 5).

He appears to be making difficulties for ordinary working people simply trying to earn their living.

This behaviour will not overturn his driving conviction, nor help him to redress an injustice, if such is the case.

I hope it will not endear him to the public. There is something fundamentally flawed about someone deliberately intending to cause frustration to court staff or, indeed, any abuse of our public services.

Why can't Pontypridd magistrates hold him in contempt. His fine and costs was £650, not 6,500 pennies, and while the court was gracious enough to allow payment in instalments he has publicly announced his intent to cause them frustration. This is contemptible. - Gerard Wild, Richmond, North Yorkshire.