Hope of the new towns lives on

6th July 2001 at 01:00
The article on Stevenage (TES, June 22) was a distortion of post-war social history and the successful growth of the new towns. Stevenage may share some of the social problems common to many UK urban areas but also has excellent parks, leisure and cultural facilities with a vibrant voluntary sector and a population eager to share in the prosperity of Hertfordshire.

The linking of historically inaccurate statements to justify sociological conclusions is a discredit to the normally high standards of The TES. The implied assertion that working-class families and children have no aspirations is as wrong as it is condescending. I could not believe that in the 21st century I would read that a secondary school head judged pupils' and families' aspirations on the basis of their owning four-bedroom houses and the fathers wearing suits.

Let's get real. Stevenage was built on the post-war aspiration of a better future, with families determined to make it a pleasant and prosperous town. This they clearly achieved through the 1950s, '60s, and into the '70s. Then, the economic mismanagement of the Thatcher government, and a policy promoting exclusion by denying resources, sent unemployment soaring and temporarily stifled hope.

Since 1997, Stevenage has returned to near full employment and the Government has increased school funding. The challenge for the county council is in resourcing education, youth and social services to match our aspirations.

John Gardner 21 Fellowes Way Stevenage, Hertfordshire

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