Young and old grin and bare it

10th July 1998 at 01:00
IT WAS not all bad: England cricketers, Houdini-like, escaped yet another humiliating defeat at the hands of the South Africans; politicians got their come-uppance from the young; and there was Royal approbation for baring pregnant midriffs. But a teacher who bared all found his school was not amused.

The week, however, was overshadowed by the conviction of Sion Jenkins, the head-designate of a Hastings school, for the murder of his foster daughter, Billie-Jo. Acres of print were devoted to her tragic story and the life of her killer who, among worse deeds, forged his qualifications to further his teaching career.

The British Youth Council's survey of 16 to 24-year-olds found that one in 10 could not name the Prime Minister, nearly nine out of 10 failed to identify David Blunkett as Education Secretary and only three in 100 could name the Health Secretary. Hands up - how many of you know it is Frank Dobson? Politicians were rated as less worthy of respect than pop stars, sports and TV celebrities and religious leaders. The report, The State of the Young Nation, paints a picture of an increasingly lost generation, believing itself ignored by politicians, alienated from the political process, and ill-prepared for citizenship.

Our leaders, though, also turn out to be dunces when it comes to computer technology. Mr Blair is a self-confessed illiterate and promises to do better, but the rest of his team, apart from Chris Smith, the Culture Secretary, show little interest or knowledge, much to the despair of Barry Fox, editor of New Scientist.

"There's this glossy veneer of interest. But every time Mr Blair makes a pronouncement, you scratch the surface and find complete and total ignorance, " he fumed. The PM should be ashamed, as the Queen and princes Philip and Andrew are keen Net surfers and e-mail users.

A royal link was severed when the Royal Naval College at Greenwich passed from the Navy's control after almost 130 years. The elegant baroque complex designed by Sir Christopher Wren was handed over to its new trustees, the Greenwich Foundation. Seafaring links will be maintained as Greenwich University, the new tenant, is setting up a maritime institute. At least Wren's masterpiece will not suffer the same indignity as London's County Hall and be turned into a giant aquarium.

An undignified end to a teaching career for Robert Fraser, who taught religious education at Oakmead College of Technology in Bournemouth. He was caught doing his "Full Monty" stripping act by a former pupil in a local pub. After resigning, Mr Fraser confessed: "I enjoy doing my act and, in a relatively joyless existence set against the background of teaching, it provided moments of happiness." Ponder that, Mr Byers and Mr Blunkett.

And so to All Saints singer Melanie Blatt, who exposed her five-month bulge on stage at Sunday's Party in the Park and snuggled up to the Prince of Wales. Immodest exhibition, or, asked The Daily Telegraph, "a courageous act of defiance against the flat-stomached orthodoxy of childless showbusiness?".

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