Schools 'don't do boring' but the vital stuff often is – we can't fail another generation of kids

DO you still cling to the cheery notion that our education system is the best in the world?

It’s something we always used to tell ourselves, back in the day. Maybe it was true once.

It certainly isn’t true now. Dame Sharon White is the boss of John Lewis, the place where middle-class people buy their curtains.

She’s just delivered a damning verdict on our schools. Kids taken on by her firm need lessons in basic literacy and numeracy before they’re allowed loose anywhere near the produce or the customers.

They can’t write, they’re not too hot at reading and they can’t count. Dame Shazza says the schools have “failed” a generation of school-leavers. She’s not wrong.

Our schools have been slipping down the international education league tables for quite a while. A report back in 2016 by the OECD found we had the WORST schools for literacy in the developed world.

By the end of primary school, 43 per cent of pupils have “inadequate” reading and writing skills. And frankly, it doesn’t get much better later on.

WANT CHILDREN ENTERTAINED

When the kids emerge from secondary school at the age of 18, still almost 20 per cent of them are “functionally illiterate”. And so they turn up at Sharon White’s gaff scarcely able to spell their own names.

Let alone measure out a length of damask for James and Olivia’s new curtains. The obvious question is: What the hell, then, have they been doing in school for 11 years?

And more to the point, what have the teachers been doing? It’s not much to ask — basic literacy and numeracy.

There’s no evidence that kids are thicker than they used to be. So what’s going wrong?

The problem is that learning to read properly can be arduous and boring.

Learning the basics of maths is also boring. So is getting to grips with punctuation, syntax and grammar.

And schools don’t do boring any more. The idea of getting a six-year-old kid to memorise his twelve-times table is a complete anathema to today’s teachers. They don’t like learning by rote. They want the children to be entertained.

You’re probably aware that exams have got a lot, lot easier over the last 40 years, to the extent that the level of learning for an O level in 1981 would probably get you an A level now.

Difficulty has been excised from the lives of our children. So has accumulation of knowledge. Increasingly, kids are asked what they “feel” about something, rather than asked to regurgitate stuff they’ve learned.

But regurgitation can be useful. I was taught the times tables, from 2 x 2 to 12 x 12. I’m no hotshot at maths but knowing those tables gives me a rough approximation of the size of numbers.

DIFFICULTY EXCISED

I know immediately, for instance, that if I buy four packs of cigarettes at 11 quid each and the shopkeeper charges me £60, he’s a wrong ’un.

Basic maths is VITAL to navigate this world. So is knowing how to spell so that you can be understood.

I’ve just read that schools will soon be teaching young pupils about “white privilege”. An odious concept.

I would much prefer they learned how to spell “privilege”. And “white”, for that matter.

Our teachers, and the curriculum, each need to sort out the basics first. So that we don’t fail another generation of children.

Ronaldo fizz rap

HEARING that weirdly thick-necked footballer Cristiano Ronaldo seemingly hates Coca-Cola has only made me like the stuff more.

It’s a brilliant invention, almost as good as Baked Beans and Toast Toppers.

Ronaldo removed two bottles of Coca-Cola from his press conference. He’s opposed to fizzy drinks and would rather we all drank water.

But bottled water is probably the greatest environmental crime there is.

Party curbs rock

THE Government is relaxing rules on weddings from June 21 – but not relaxing them very much.

That’s great news for miserable bastards like me who really hate going to weddings. It’s the one bit of lockdown I would like to keep for ever.

After June 21 there is no limit on the number of people you can have at a wedding.

But, and here’s the crucial bit, social-distancing rules mean that in practice wedding parties will be much smaller than usual.

Great, that means I have less chance of being invited. People are also being told not to mingle too much.

Well, much as I would like to go and talk to Mad Aunt Violet, sadly the Government would rather I didn’t. So I will just sit here with my Jack Daniel’s, thank you.

Also, the Government is advising people against dancing. Yes, even when Lady In Red comes on. What a tragedy.

A better and safer idea would be to ban all men from weddings, except for the groom, best man and father of the bride.

The only people who enjoy weddings are women, so let them fill the available spaces while we men stay home watching the Euros.

Putin-Biden summit under way

THE Putin-Biden summit meeting is under way.

It’s not really a fair contest, is it? A giant, snarling bear versus a bag of mashed potato.

It’ll be a miracle if US Pres Joe Biden manages to stay awake.

But he should go in hard – on Ukraine, on Russian cyber-attacks and on the unlawful imprisonment of opposition politicians.

One day we will have to stand up to Putin. Will Biden do it? Ha.

Stats breed fear

I WOULDN’T pin too many hopes on July 19 being the new Freedom Day.

There will always be a new variant along to terrify the scientists.

The I-Can’t-Believe-It-Is-Not-Covid Covid, for example.

It’s incredible. We have one of the best vaccination rates – and yet stringent restrictions.

Meanwhile, the public is bombarded with frightening statistics, such as that Covid hospital admissions have risen by 48 per cent.

That sounds scary but is close on meaningless, unless you know what it’s 48 per cent OF.

So here’s another stat for you. The number of patients who have been admitted to hospital with Covid is just over one per cent of the entire number of patients in the country. Just over 1,000 people.

And our lives remain on hold.

Welcome GB News

A BIG welcome to GB News, the new network launched by Andrew Neil.

It had a rocky start, but all those glitches should get ironed out soon.

The reason it will be popular is that people are sick of the biased coverage they get from the BBC.

Give them an alternative and they will flock to it – as TalkRadio and Times Radio are proving right now.

Diana interview blame game

TWO former Director-Generals of the BBC appeared before a committee of MPs investigating the Bashir affair.

This was all about the reporter Martin Bashir using fraudulent methods to get an interview with Princess Diana.

The DG at the time was John Birt. And the head of news a deeply unimpressive chap called Tony Hall.

You will be astonished to discover that neither of them accepted very much blame for the whole business. Not me, Guv, was the general attitude.

That’s the problem with the BBC. A behemoth staffed with far too many executives. All of whom refuse to take blame. All of whom are risk-averse.

That makes for boring programmes. And the sort of crisis which occurred with Bashir.


ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS, ABSOLUTELY NOT

COMEDIAN Jennifer Saunders is right.

Absolutely Fabulous, the show which she wrote and starred in, would never get on screen today.

Far too risky. Imagine all the people who would be offended. Sexist, ageist and displaying irresponsible behaviour.

Of course, that’s what made it so brilliant. Truth is, none of the really funny shows from the past would make it.

I doubt that Ricky Gervais’s Extras would be shown, given the disabled jokes, the gay jokes and the race jokes.

The fact that Gervais was lampooning bigoted attitudes wouldn’t matter one jot. It would be cancelled.

And those earlier shows, such as Til Death Us Do Part or even Monty Python?

Not a chance. And so instead we are left with comedies which aren’t really comedies at all, because they’re not funny.

Humour needs a little bit of edge to be funny, but edges are no longer allowed and nobody is allowed to be offended.

It’s a bit as if we’re all being ruled by Ab Fab’s Saffy.

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