Moments of mellow tunefulness

13th December 1996 at 00:00
Last Christmas my wife gave me a pocket radio and it was not long before it gained would-not-be-without-it status. All summer I played with the kids outside without missing the Tom Morton show. But it can occasionally get knocked off tune when the hand goes into the pocket for cash or a hanky.

Imagine my horror when one day I retuned to an unknown station, found myself saying: "This is a bit of all right," and then discovered it was Radio 2. I can accept baldness as a natural stage of ageing, but not becoming fond of the channel whose Derek and Ellen show used to be used by Mrs Steele to put herself asleep until Scottie McClue and Wee Fat Bob redefined night-time broadcasting.

Fortunately it was a speech programme I found myself warming to. Had it been music I would have given up and bought the cardigan and tartan slippers.

Not that I'm Radio 1 or 1FM as they like to be known. In my teens I recall a moment of supreme joy when the Sweet were reported to have knocked Little Jimmy Osmond's "Long-Haired Lover from Liverpool" from its overlong occupancy of the top slot. But 1FM have offended me and I refuse to listen anymore.

It is their attitude to Status Quo I don't like. In May I bought the group's latest album, "Don't Stop". Every song is a cover version, including "Fun, Fun, Fun" done with the Beach Boys. It's a stoatir and gets more play on the Favorit's stereo than anything else. 1FM, however, won't have the group on their playlist - not innovative enough, you see. This philosophy ignores the fact that most of the Indie Britpoppers are derivative of the likes of the Beatles and, frankly, it smacks of ageism.

In the end, though, who cares? It is only when this way of thinking begins to intrude into real life that things get unpleasant. Take teachers over 50. Do they get fair airplay? When was the last time someone who was greying at the temples got a promoted post in your place?

Common prejudice has it that anyone over 50 is probably too busy filling in early retirement application forms to have much time to look at career advancement. Speaking personally, I would be very suspicious of anybody who did not try for early retirement if it was on offer and proved to be financially tempting. I think again of our recently retired assistant head (guidance), Uncle Bob. He's got a motorbike, a part-time job and fingers in as many pies as he has fingers. But he was a good teacher until he stopped. He just smiled a lot more in his last few weeks.

I mention all of this because there is a fair bit of talk about getting rid of incompetent teachers. What's the Labour party's phrase? Something like "assisting those who have been misguided in their choice of teaching as a career"? A lot of teachers would agree quietly that this is fair enough, while expressing reservations about who would decide which teachers are incompetent.

What I find unpalatable is the sometimes-expressed view that the dead wood lies at the top of the age heap. It may well be true that older teachers are not as innovative as their younger colleagues though most seem to do pretty good cover versions of modern courses and methods. What they often do have in their favour is a better rapport with the pupils.

When I was starting out, for every pupil who responded favourably to the convertible-driving Big Country fan who watched all the cult TV shows there were another two or three who got on better with colleagues twice my age. It was enough - almost - to make me tune in to Jimmy Young.

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