Erotic boost for book-shy boys?

30th March 2007 at 01:00
in today's "new Labour" management culture, nothing helps you climb the ladder faster than a new scheme or wacky idea. If you can get to present it at a heads' conference or a National College for School Leadership event, your career rise will be even speedier.

The main problem for the career-obsessed is this: are there any new ideas left? Brain Gym might once have seemed like pseudo-scientific nonsense, but now that half the primaries in the country start the day with a five-minute body-popping session, it's just not original any more.

You could try radically altering your curriculum so that the whole school is based around a city theme, but you may have to abandon it when it becomes too real and reception children start shoplifting and the Year 5s take to "tagging" the tuck shop wall with spray cans.

Unfortunately, my idea of V-desking (stacking desks vertically to save room and keep problem children too scared to leave their seat in case they plummet to their death) has failed to catch on. I now have a better scheme that will tackle the twin problem of boys' low literacy standards and the UK's poor record on sex education. Two words: dirty books.

Let me explain. I don't mean anything with pictures. Nor am I talking about Lady Chatterley's Lover. I think it is a rite of passage for all teenagers to read that novel in its turgid entirety before discovering that they'll find more sex in an episode of Heartbeat. I'm referring to the books often stored on the shelf of Waterstone's marked "women's erotic fiction" - the section of the shop invariably filled with sweating, lurking men in long macs.

My scheme has two main benefits. Boys will become obsessed with reading and learn the facts of life at the same time. But schools will need to make a few changes: red-lit curtained areas in the reading corner and the addition of such words as "throbbing" and "moist" to the literacy strategy's key-word list.

I can see this pilot scheme being extended into key stage 3 and beyond.

Imagine the benefits for 13 to 14-year-olds. In the evenings, when many parents might expect their offspring to be "chilling" outside Costcutter, texting mates, they'll be up in their bedrooms "doing homework". ("No, mum, go away! I'll be down for tea in five minutes!") Maybe World Book Day tokens could be extended to secondary schools, but the pound;1 vouchers would have to come with a pack of complimentary tissues.

So that's my idea. It shouldn't take me long to rush off a PowerPoint with some slick-looking graphs (reading age on the Y axis, "story breast count"

on the X axis). The title? How about "Inside the Black Mac: a new approach to boys' literacy"?

More from Henry in a fortnight

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