On the naughty step - Conduct that deserves a ticking off

10th February 2012 at 00:00

This week: just about everyone

Today we welcome just about everyone to the naughty step: the pub ranter, the right-wing MP, the Daily Mail commentator, the chief executive of a major multinational and many members of the general public. Their crime is criticising schools and teachers without having the first idea about them.

Who sent us over the edge? Susan Calman (pictured), the guest comedian on Radio 4's The News Quiz is who. Last Friday, in the middle of a jokey answer, Ms Calman went on a rant, to enthusiastic applause. "We in the United Kingdom have some of the worst rates of literacy we've ever had, particularly among young women, and Michael Gove ... should make sure everyone leaves school able to read or write. At that point we might have better rates of employment and respect among young people."

Helpful, eh? Not really. What would have been helpful is some research. If Ms Calman had bothered, she would have found that children leaving primary schools last year had better results for literacy than ever before (81 per cent hit level 4). And in the 2009 Pisa rankings for reading, England performed above average (25th) for Western industrialised countries.

The problem is that just about everyone would agree with Ms Calman. They would, of course, be wrong.

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