The schools system shouldn’t be all about putting children on a conveyor belt to pass exams - Sarah Todd

With Christmas behind us and the New Year around the corner it’s that traditional time for reflection. One of this correspondent’s resolutions is to catch up on the fictional happenings in the long-running Radio 4 tale of rural life that is The Archers.

Somehow, our house is always in the throes of feeding both humans and terriers at 7pm, which isn’t conducive to a relaxing listen.

Then, catching the repeat at 2pm the next day seems somehow indulgent. It’s too late for a lunch break, but not enough has been done to warrant the reward of tuning in and taking some ‘me time’ as all the experts tell us we should give ourselves.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The upshot is that every now and again, at sporadic quiet times, the BBC’s IPlayer is logged into on the old computer and the goings-on of the residents of Ambridge, in the fictional county of Borsetshire, are caught up on.

Jamie Oliver at his local independent bookshop. PIC: PAJamie Oliver at his local independent bookshop. PIC: PA
Jamie Oliver at his local independent bookshop. PIC: PA

The other day, once the last episode in November had been completed, an advert for Kirsty Young’s new programme popped up.

She was always a favourite; her dulcet tones are woven through some of the finest interviews on the radio classic that is Desert Island Discs. Apparently Young Again isn’t a programme, it’s a podcast. Don’t ask this ignoramus what the difference is, the bottom line is that it is easy to listen to and very thought provoking.

A brief synopsis is that Kirsty asks famous guests to reflect on their younger selves. Essentially, what nugget of advice would they give themselves back in the day if they were given the chance?

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Having never really been a big fan of the chef Jamie Oliver he would probably have been scrolled past, but the wrong button was hit and what a joy he was to listen to.

He concluded that he would probably have been happier running a pub, under the celebrity radar, like his parents used to do.

School hadn’t really been his cup of tea (maybe that should be bowl of risotto?) and he left at 16 with just two GCSE qualifications under his belt.

What he said next, really struck a chord, advising that “school’s just a way, but not the only way.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He has lived with dyslexia all his life and spent much of his youth standing outside the headmaster’s office, having trouble focusing because of being unable to recognise words on a page.

If he could be time-transported back, the advice he would give himself would be: “Talk to the quiet people in the class because they will probably be the most interesting.”

Like lots of lads, he was always impressed with the noisy troublemakers and, just as important as his various healthy eating campaigns for school children, this is a lesson that should be spread far and wide.

If we could all encourage one school-age child to not write-off the quiet ones in the class - to take the time to talk and listen to them - the world would be a much better place. Also, if education ‘experts’ could get it into their thick heads that the school system should be about so much more than simply putting children on a conveyer belt to pass exams we would have a much more rounded next generation.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Like all that rot Rishi Sunak has spouted about wanting children to keep learning maths until the age of 18. It’s a national disgrace if they haven’t been given the wherewithal to handle money by the age of 16; those older teenage years are a time to follow subjects they feel passionate about.

If we’re not careful we’ll end up living in a world where nobody treads the boards, paints pictures or plays a musical instrument. We will be populated by identikit personalities - that’s the wrong word as they won’t have any - who probably still won’t know their times tables.

There are quite a few other interviews to play and time has only allowed for one other so far, the comedian and actor Steve Coogan. Like a lot of funny people, he actually came across as a deep thinker and really rather serious, saying he wished he had applied the same diligence and scrutiny to his own private life as he had done with work.

His meaning that he made sure the Is were dotted and the Ts crossed in his business dealings, but wished he had invested the same time in his own personal life.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Now that’s a sentiment that plenty of us would be able to agree with.

So, apart from keeping more up-to-date with the Archer family of Brookfield Farm, what other resolutions will be taken into 2024? Never stop listening seems like a good place to start.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.