Fact: pupils in for Hard Times

27th April 2007 at 01:00
"now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts.

Facts alone are wanted in life." Yes, Mr Gradgrind.

The monstrous schoolmaster from Hard Times, is back - only this time he is teaching at a theme park in Kent and he has a modern classroom next to his old one.

Kevin Jasper, a former state school English teacher, will most definitely be in charge when Dickens World opens next month. The pound;62 million indoor attraction near Rochester aims to convey something of the sights and smells of Victorian London. Mr Jasper has already had primary school children bowing and curtsying on preview visits before being allowed to wear their dunces' caps.

"Students knew their place in those days," he said. "They knew how to sit in front of a teacher without wriggling and picking their noses. Children now are more worldly wise and we encourage them to be vocal. In those days, they were taught to be seen and not heard and to obey their elders. It was easier to be a child."

Mr Jasper, formerly head of English at Oldborough Manor secondary in Maidstone, Kent, said his Victorian classroom had desks with inkwells and a lectern for the teacher, and he promised that when the theme park opened it would smell realistically rank.

Children will be welcomed with a menacing glare by a teacher who will be quick to lay down the law, he said. However, in a departure from Dickensian conditions, each desk will be fitted with a computer screen so that visitors can be quizzed on their knowledge of the author.

Next door, Mr Jasper plans to teach 21st-century lessons to children aged 5 to 18 using an interactive whiteboard.

Twenty state schools have already booked their visits to Dickens World, including a local primary determined to be there at the opening on May 25.

Mr Jasper said he could not wait for the doors to open. "It's going to be a magical experience for the children." All very well, but do they deserve it?

* Group bookings, tel 08702 411415

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