An unsuitable Job...

18th September 1998 at 01:00
As the National Year of Reading is launched, we learn that Richard Branson was a dunce, Julie Burchill was too bright to go to school and students' literacy is still declining.

The flamboyant entrepreneur confessed in his autobiography that his head at Stowe School predicted he would go to prison or become a millionaire - he did both. The outrageous columnist recalled "the five-day hell we call formal education" and suggested that the top and bottom 10 per cent should leave early. The former to be left alone to read all day and "the second lot to get the jobs somebody has to do. Because you certainly don't need an A-level in sociology to stack shelves in a supermarket - and you'd eliminate a lot of the trouble that currently plagues schools."

Ms Burchill was singing from a similar hymn-sheet to a lecturer who resigned recently from a Warrington college, saying that at one time a third of his students had to attend remedial classes and he criticised declining standards. "Thousands are being churned out into the world of work with worthless media degrees. Some of them cannot even construct very good sentences."

Although the likes of Louis de Berni res and Will Self are famous for their sentence structures, their contributions to a new Bible series, the Pocket Cannon, were condemned as blasphemous by a Christian bookseller.

Paul Slennett from Essex claimed that Louis de Berni res' introduction to the Book of Job was "scurrilous and irreverent". The author of Captain Corelli's Mandolin thought God was shown as an "unpleasantly sarcastic megalomaniac" and a "frivolous trickster". Will Self described the Book of Revelations as a "sick textI a portentous horror film".

Horror too for Katherine Rainwood, the Oxford student and president of the Union, who was besieged by the media after being sent down for cheating in her finals. She apologised, Clinton-like, via at least two Sunday papers for the hurt she had caused to her friends and family.

The high-flying student might have been driven to download an essay she'd written earlier on her computer because of pressures of combining student politics with exams. But others speculated it could be down to efforts to rival her older sister's achievement of a first at Cambridge.

It's the parents, if not the poor, wot get the blame. A single mother on a Cheltenham estate will lose her house if her 16-year-old son, who terrorised neighbours for two years, returns home in the next six months. And the British Psychological Society warned that youngsters from affluent homes could turn into tearaways if their parents allow the pressures of daily life to get on top of them.

Sociologists have decided to turn us into even more of a class-ridden society, creating some 15 categories of occupation rather than six for the next census in 2001. The rapid growth of the middle class - up from a third of the population in the 1970s to a half today - has forced the change, said David Rose, professor of sociology at Essex university. Emblems of class have changed. Instead of status of family and school, its now more to do with money, property and what you do. Teachers - Branson and Burchill please note - are now on a par with doctors and lawyers.

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