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Unfair choice for parents whose roots are overseas

I write in response to the article "Long visits abroad could cost pupils their places" (TES, January 16). The suggestions that the Government is going to fine parents who take their children on extended visits abroad and that in Tower Hamlets such children may be punished through the loss of their school place, filled me with dismay.

The emotional and cultural factors which make parents like myself spend vast amounts of money they can ill afford on these trips are far stronger than the threat of the loss of a school place.

Of those quoted in the article, only Avril Newman seemed to show any understanding of the real and painful dilemma which parents face having their children grow up without close contact with aunts, uncles, grandparents.

There are now more creative solutions which the teachers in affected schools can explore. I refer to the use of video conferencing using PCs. The cost of video conferencing via a PC and phone line in the UK to a PC abroad is low. Where a local UK Bangladeshi community has close links with a particular area in Bangladesh, it may be possible to find a host institution in that area who can support the venture. For example, the British Council has an office in Sylhet, they could be approached with a proposal. Such a service could be self funding through charges made to users.

TeacherNet UK, a project of which I am chair, is exploring the use of the Internet to support teachers in their career development. Perhaps we also need a project where the use of the Internet to support local communities is explored. The possibilities are exciting. Schools interested in setting up a project in this area are invited to contact me.

MARILYN LEASK

Principal lecturer in education De Montfort University Polhill Avenue Bedford

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