Education Illiteracy And Bad Teachers

Jan Leeming

Shoreham 2007

Shoreham Airshow 2007
Me looking brave before taking to the air (and the wing) of the plane. Wow, it was cold !! But the whole experience was totally exhilarating.



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Jan's Blog

Computers and the internet are amazing things. One of my concerns with putting together this site was that it could remain current, yet with all my travelling I've often much to say, but little time to say it. Years ago when reading the news it would take me days on end to reply to the kind letters people sent. Now, with the magic of the modern age, I can keep you up to date with what I'm doing and other events in my life.


Date: 4th July 2010


Sorry I've been off the radar for a while but had a small operation and have been hors de combat for over a week.  Anyway here goes -

Catching up on the weekend papers (last weekend 26/27th June)  I was interested but not surprised to read that Sir Mike Rake, Chairman of Bt, called much of British schooling a disgrace.  BT had to discard nearly a quarter of job applications because the applicants were unable to fill in the forms correctly.  Why has it taken almost half a century to realise that the basis of any good education is literacy and the ability to perform the three R's (Reading, Writing and arithmetic).

When my son attended university, one of the first tasks was a 'Module' to be completed by three boys and two girls.  Having chastised me and regarded me as 'old fashioned'  for my insistence on correct punctuation and spelling, he phoned me and expressed his absolute dismay that the other students needing to contribute to the module were barely literate and it was left to him to collate and write down the information they had gathered.

What is the point of Mr. Blair's target of 50% of young people attending University when literacy standards are so woeful, and many degrees useless?

Today - July 5th I read an article by the excellent journalist Melanie Phillips.  The  gist of the article was the fact that we've probably got as many as 17,000 sub- standard teachers in our schools - instead of being sacked for incompetence, they are often given falsely glowing references so that they are able to seek employment elsewhere and their incompetence does not reflect badly on the school.  I suggest you read her article - Daily Mail July 5th -  for me to précis it accurately would take time and I could not express the points as succinctly as she has done.

Why is it that ordinary folk with a modicom of Common Sense recognized the problem years ago - yet nothing was done about it.  Illiteracy can blight a life forever.

I was extremely fortunate to be born when I was.  So much of what was best in England was also the best in the world - Education, Law, Hospitals and as it developed we had the best Television on offer.  My father was born and brought up in India and received a superb education.  When he returned to this country (his forbears went out to India at the time of Clive in 1750) he was determined that I should have the best education he could afford - and on an ordinary soldier's pay he managed £4 a term to send me to a Convent School from which, at the age of 11, I won a scholarship to a Girls' Public School - Christ's Hospital.  We lived in Woolwich which was a LCC (Labour controlled) borough and it was deemed that as my father had paid for my education, I could have no help with the fees at the Bluecoat School.  So I went to a Convent Grammar instead.  I cannot say that School Days were the happiest of my life but by heaven the teaching was superb and the teachers so dedicated.  About ten years ago I went to one of the very few school reunions - just before our Convent was turned into Flats - and met some of the girls who still talk about the fact that they all passed their O level English because of the wonderful nun we had teaching us.  Mother Mary David did eventually leave the order - reverted to her name of Evelyn Magold and lived a very ordinary life in Canterbury - but she went on helping people and cats right up until her death.

I would like to have gone to University but my parents simply couldn't afford it - back in the late 50's only about 3% of girls went to University.  So instead of having a life in which I probably would have become a teacher of English and Drama, I went on to have a Dramatic life of my own - meant to be a pun!

In my day we had three tiers of education - Grammar School, Technical School and Secondary Modern.  But they all equipped us  with regard to our best ability and played on our strengths - why push people into University to come out with a useless degree in order to say you've been to 'Uni' and become part of Mr. Blair's favoured Target.  (I must tell you that at my school, St. Joseph's we girls came from all walks of life - I remember a girl whose father had a market stall and another whose father was a docker - it wasn't an elitist school - didn't have grand facilities, but we were definitely taught the 3 R's superbly.  We also had sessions on Public Speaking - I suppose today it might be seen as elitist but you had to write a piece and then get up in front of your peers and deliver it - how often today do I meet young people who are bubbling over with ideas and enthusiasm but do not have the means to express themselves) ( My thanks to Andrew Sinclair who wrote a letter pointing out that I'd made an error - a total aberration on my part - I'd put who's father instead of whose - and I should have known better.)

I hope that the new Government will realise the value of Apprenticeships and give them the respect which is their due.  Frankly, I bet there are many plumbers, electricians and builders who are earning far more than those who attended University and came out with a half-baked degree.

When I was young we all aspired to rise to the Highest Common Denominator and not to dumb down to the Lowest.  I find the sloppy speech and even sloppier grammar of today's youth quite unacceptable.  Speech is 'communication'.  Accents add colour to speech but if an accent is virtually incomprehensible to the majority then there's no excuse for majoring in that direction. 

THIS IS AN ADDITION ON 6TH JULY.  Honestly I had not read the article by Roger Moore in the Daily Mail when I wrote my few words above.  I have to be careful what I say in case I get accused of elitism but Mr. Moore can get away with it and he wrote an excellent article - putting matters more lengthily and succinctly than I had.  Now that he's opened up the subject, I will stick my neck out and say that when it is acceptable for our young royals to speak ungramatically, what can you expect from the rest of the population.     And just about everyone gets it wrong with 'We was .....' which makes my toes curl.  The -correct  declension is   -I was, you were, he/she/it was, we were, you were, they were. If you have the time, look up both Melanie Phillips and Roger Moore's articles in the Daily Mail for 5th July (alright, I know you will say it is a right wing paper but to my mind proper speech and grammar should not be a hostage to politics).              

I don't watch much television but being housebound I watched more than usual.  Recently there was a change to the advertised programme and the film made in 1982 on 'Bloody Sunday'  was shown.  In view of the Enquiry, I felt it encumbent upon me to watch it.  I so wish there had been sub-titles as I must have missed out on at least 50% of what was being said because of the extremely strong Northern Ireland Accent. I don't know if it was hugely biased but it was very interesting.  However, as there has been such an extensive and expensive enquiry into the roll of the Military who were found guilty, why oh why has there been no reciprocal enquiry into the role of the IRA - how many people did they maim and murder?

Mind you, if you look at history, many terrorists end up in positions of power and as heads of Government - look at Begin in Israel, Mandela in South Africa and Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams to mention but a few.

Well I'd better climb down off my soapbox because I've got so much more about which to tell you and these Blogs take me so much longer to write than I ever anticipate.

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