Thank God it's Friday

2nd April 1999 at 01:00
Monday I think it was the use of the phrase "joined-up thinking" at the national literacynumeracy conference that helped me to make the connection between the Government's education and health policies. Clearly the title literacy consultant was deliberate - they intend us to adopt a medical model for the National Literacy Strategy. I share this insight with our consultant, who says that I'm a hopeless case. I tell her I intend to seek a second opinion.

Tuesday Undeterred, I start to put my plan into operation. My first appointment is a triage nurse, Sister Morpheme, who quickly sorts our schools into those that need intensive care, the walking illiterate and the terminally incoherent. Next, I recruit a crack team of paralinguists to deal with sudden emergencies. Equipped with high-speed motorcycles, they can reach schools within minutes and administer intravenous phonemes until the specialist teacher is available.

Wednesday We start a comprehensive screening programme at our literacy centre. Our laboratory analyses specimens of writing and we issue schools with guidelines of symptoms to look out for, such as painful vowel movements and irregular calligrams. We also make a linguistic breakthrough by identifying two new ailments - over-enthusiastic users of kenning, who can no longer refer to anything directly, and palindrome fans, who no longer know if they are coming or going.

Thursday We also start drop-in surgeries, which prove to be very popular. I spend a great deal of time trying to convince one reactionary parent that homophones are nothing to do with Gay Switchboard. Next I perform apostrophectomies on three local greengrocers. We also offer semi-colonic irrigation and plaster of Paris poetry as an alternative to the concrete.

Friday Reading that phono-graphics is the latest whizzo idea, I rescue my old wind-up phonograph from the cellar and install it in the waiting room. Few of the old 78s are still intact, but I do find one of my favourite novelty numbers from the 1920s - "No F in Phonics" by Skim and Scan. And that second opinion? Merely confirmed the first, I'm afraid. Me, I'm off to do some joined-up drinking.

David Meaden is an education adviser in an outer London borough

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