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More council houses

It’s great to celebrate 100 years of council housing as the council has been doing this year, as long as we remember some of the disturbing facts of recent years.

The post-war explosion in council building after the Second World War lasted for some time – and then what happened?

1980: 42 per cent of the population lived in council homes. Right to Buy introduced by Mrs Thatcher.

1996: 2.2 million homes had been transferred to private ownership

2017: Less than 8 per cent of the population lived in council houses.

The council homes were sold at a large discount and could not be replaced by local councils.

The result was the major housing crisis we have today – a shortage of truly affordable housing either to buy or rent, extortionate landlords, young people forced to live at home or sleep on friends’ couches, young families in substandard B&Bs, and new levels of homelessness on the streets.

Are these years a cause for celebration?

Our family moved to Swindon in 1965 from a shared, overcrowded house in East London. It was heaven! A house of our own, a nice little town, and lovely countryside on the doorstep.

I still live in the same council house and am still very happy to be a council tenant.

There may be some people who don’t know how lucky we are to have Swindon’s housing department as our landlord. I know they sometimes fail, but on the whole they do a good job under difficult circumstances, especially in the last ten years of government cuts to councils.

For some reason which I find difficult to understand, council housing has been vilified and looked down upon. It is for ordinary people who desperately need a home and can’t find one.

Now it seems that some politicians are waking up to the fact that the housing crisis could be mainly solved by building more council houses.

Ordinary people could have told them that years ago!

Sherry Waldon, Kingswood Avenue, Park North

Too much testing

Saturday’s Advertiser carried a report of an excellent initiative by 11-year-old Jack Coates.

Jack shows a firm grasp of what is needed in education that has long been sadly lacking in education secretaries. Jack’s criticism of the UK education system is completely in line with the thinking of the vast majority of teachers and just about everybody involved in education research.

All education research and all experience of the best education systems internationally shows that forcing too much testing on children when they are too young is not only counterproductive educationally but also psychologically damaging.

Yet the government is determined to push on in the opposite direction to that shown by evidence. Indeed, the government now wants to actually increase the testing and we must assume that those directing education policy are either terminally stupid or that they are operating to an agenda which has nothing to do with education, or maybe both.

On top of this continual cuts means that the curriculum has been pushed into depressingly narrower channels, only mitigated by the imaginative interventions of teachers.

I think Jack comes close to explaining the problem when he writes: “During the Industrial Revolution school was designed to train children to follow orders and be quiet …”.

I fear this notion of education in the minds of the rich and powerful and their bought and paid for politicians remains with us today.

Peter Smith, Woodside Avenue, Swindon

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