It's all English to me;The Week in View;Newsreel

13th March 1998 at 00:00
A good week for Chris Woodhead, the much reviled chief inspector of schools, as he introduced a refereeing system for disgruntled heads who feel unfairly Ofsteded: but a bad one for the Teletubbies.

Our little friends were attacked for lacking educational depth by television executives around the world at an international summit on children's television in London. Ada Haugh of Norwegian network NRK led the charge: "Children are invited into an alien-looking world with some alien-looking creatures talking in baby language. What is there for small children to aspire to grow up to?" It was nearly a good week for cash-strapped student Justin Patnicroft whose bank gave him an interest-free pound;60 million credit instead of confirming his pound;500 overdraft limit. He enjoyed the feeling of being a multi-millionaire for a few hours before telling Barclays of the error. "I was surprised they weren't more grateful," he grumbled.

Another student in search of support is Hanna Tatham, who has come up with a novel way of raising cash to get her to a top London dance school. As she doesn't qualify for a mandatory grant, she hopes to raise about pound;8,000 for tuition costs by selling signed photographs of her feet in ballet shoes at pound;20 a throw.

Morals were outraged on the Isle of Wight. Jeremy Seaward, acting head of Trinity Middle School, ordered actors to stop in mid-performance of the play, Compost, at the Anthony Mingella Theatre, as it was unsuitable for his 84 pupils. He'd been told the play was about environmental issues, but was shocked at a character who pretended to urinate, took photographs up women's skirts and walked around with his trousers unzipped. The director, Jane Emery, apologised and said the school should have been told it was unsuitable for 10 and 11-year-olds.

A Channel 4 cartoon on the life of the Prophet Mohammed aimed at seven to 11-year-olds was equally condemned by Muslim leaders for depicting two companions of the Prophet which they say contravenes Islamic law.

Such spiritual concerns don't affect the majority of British youngsters who are deemed to be more materialistic, selfish and hedonistic than their European counterparts. A pound;2 million study of 10,000 six to 16-year-olds, funded by leading media groups and carried out by the London School of Economics, found careers were more important than families. Just 26 per cent of teenagers thought a happy family life was important compared with 51 per cent of Italians, 43 per cent of Swedes and 37 per cent of French children.

That news could bode well for Tony Blair. The Prime Minister, uncannily emulating his predecessor-but-one, hosted a reception at 10 Downing Street to support Mini Enterprise projects which encourage nine-year-old entrepreneurs to become future Richard Bransons and Alan Sugars.

By the time they do, they will be able to take over German board rooms-speaking English. Top German companies have decreed executives should use English at meetings as it is less cumbersome than German (30 per cent more words to express the same idea) and more global. That should see the end of those smug Vorsprung durch Technik ads.

It is sad to see that violence among Japanese teenagers is soaring with reports of a second schoolboy stabbed to death this year. Echoing our own Home Secretary, Kanezo Muraoka, the chief cabinet secretary, said young people lacked a basic ethical sense of the importance of life. "They appear to be unable to distinguish between right and wrong."

Right prevailed in the end with the happy tale of a book which was returned to its rightful owner, Stafford Library, after 135 years. De Naturis Restrum was found in the library of Chicago university. Stafford is waiving the pound;4,000 fine. Altruism is not dead after all.

Diane Spencer

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