Arnold's world

9th January 1998 at 00:00
Some words of encouragement for those of you already struggling with new year resolutions. This is the worst week. I know. Trust me, I've been there.

Take booze. You probably can't look at a bottle without feeling a compelling urge to spend one evening - just one, you promise yourself - without having a drink. Resist the temptation. Remind yourself of those valiant French researchers who have shown that women who can manage four drinks a day fared far better than non-drinkers in tests for memory, logical reasoning, communication and mind-body co-ordination.

There is no corresponding evidence to suggest boozing does men any good, but that's no excuse for them to get on the wagon - no gentleman worth his salt likes to see a lady drink alone.

It's equally important to count those calories. The more the better. Psychologists at The Institute for Food Research in Reading have discovered that a craving to eat creates anxiety which, in turn, makes it difficult to complete tasks effectively. If you are a teacher eager to sustain the peak performance that pupils, parents and politicians expect of a dedicated professional, you have a duty to resist the lure of cottage cheese and celery.

While you are at it, encourage your pupils to eat plenty of iron. According to Mike Nelson, a senior lecturer at London University's Kings College, a lack of the stuff can lead to a 10-point drop in IQ. "That is roughly equivalent of one grade at GCSE," he says.

The bad news for pupils is that the best way to ensure enough iron in the diet is to eat lamb's liver. The good news is that chocolate will also do the trick. Indeed, schools eager to improve their position in the league tables might take a page from the book of the foie gras producers of Perigord and force-feed - humanely of course - Year 11 pupils with Curlie Wurlies.

If you have resolved to make 1998 the year you get rich quick, my only advice is to concentrate on your most talented pupils. Take, for example, Jacklyn Kistell, the Young Poet of the Week (see her on the facing page). She is probably more interested in her muse than in money, and won't even know that last year EMI signed up the poet Murray Lachlan Young for a staggering Pounds 1.1m.

Obviously, Jacklyn needs encouragement, guidance - and, above all else, an agent. Her teacher is ideally placed to take on the onerous task. Sadly, though, far too many in the profession subscribe to the old-fashioned view that the pupil's success is its own reward. They should be satisfied with nothing less than 10 per cent.

But if you want to be certain of long-term financial security, you must be prepared to breed your own high-flyers. Although you can't pre-determine that your own children will make it big in belles-lettres, you can play a crucial role in ensuring their academic success.

A recent study based on an analysis of 500,000 GCSE candidates confirms that the oldest pupils in a year group do best. So under our present system of school admissions, September is undoubtedly the perfect month to be born.

I know teachers are busy people who try to confine their personal lives to the long summer holidays, but you should note that September is exactly nine months away. So, if you want a nice little earner of your own, resolve not to devote all your spare time in January to eating and drinking.

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