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Why make childhood more stressful?

In the “What you said” section of Tuesday’s Advertiser, you published comments on the English exam obsessed school system, prompted by the excellent letter by Jack Coates which rightly criticised it.

A number of those comments demonstrated some understanding of the arguments and were broadly in agreement with Jack’s letter.

It is notable that none of the three comments posing the opposite, pro exam obsession view, could muster any argument to support themselves.

Instead we got “exams are stressful”. That would only be relevant here if it were important to education to make children sit exams repeatedly from the youngest of ages. But as research and experience shows this is not only useless educationally but is also shown to have psychologically damaging consequences.

The best education systems internationally simply don’t make this error.

But maybe Chelle White actually thinks the stress is useful in itself and young children should be subject to stress just for the sake of it.

That seems to be the view of Ben Engstrom. As life is stressful, he seems to argue, then it is our duty to make childhood stressful just to prepare them.

Presumably the more misery we can pile on the better. At least no-one can accuse Ben of knowing that much about child development or psychology.

Finally, much stress in adult life is also unnecessary and its causes should be challenged not slavishly bowed down to.

Peter Smith, Woodside Avenue, Swindon

Isolation of having a rare cancer

Imagine being diagnosed with a cancer that no-one has heard of, that even your doctor might never have seen before.

This is the case for over 5,300 people in the UK diagnosed with sarcoma every year.

This is a tenth of those found with breast cancer, meaning that those diagnosed with sarcoma might never meet someone who shares the same type as them; in many ways, sarcoma is the loneliest cancer.

Sarcomas are tumours that develop in the body’s soft tissue or bones and they can appear in almost any part of the body.

I am all too aware of the devastating impact of sarcoma as my close friend and mentor Simon Mellows tragically died of the disease.

He was a constant inspiration to me and was instrumental in my journey from running my first marathon to becoming the world record-holder for leg amputees and 200m Paralympic champion.

As patron of Sarcoma UK, I am supporting the launch of a new report which I hope goes some way to raising awareness among the general public and healthcare professionals of the condition and silent symptoms which can lead to late or misdiagnosis, often with heart-breaking consequences.

Indeed, only 55 per cent sarcoma patients survive for five or more years after diagnosis.

With greater general awareness, diagnosis could be quicker, treatment could be more effective and funding for pioneering research could be increased.

Lives in the UK could genuinely be saved and at the very least cut the suffering caused by this rare, aggressive and often cruel cancer.

If you want more information on our new report or symptoms of sarcoma visit: sarcoma.org.uk.

Richard Whitehead MBE, Paralympian

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