An idea cert-ain to improve schools?

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THAT Michael Gove doesn’t care overmuch for being a popular Percy, does he?

Everyone involved in education who I speak to about their ultimate boss regards him as a mad-eyed meddler intent on turning the block back to the days of mortar boards, Latin prep and roasting small boys over open fires for their own good.

And judging by announcements about plans to replace GCSE exams with something that sounds suspiciously like the 0-Levels that were considered unfair and outmoded 30 years ago, they may have a point.

But if you ask me, tinkering around the edges isn’t going to get us anywhere – what we need is a wholesale return to the past. Here’s what I say: Bring back the school leaving certificate!

For those of you, or indeed us, not yet of pension age, the school cert was a sort of portmanteau qualification that bore testament to the fact that you had learned something during your time at school.

But it was only ever given out at the end of your statutory school days, and I believe that it now has to be staged.

So there would be a school cert in primary education, which would cover the basics we’d all expect kids to have a handle on by the time they were 11 – literacy, numeracy, tolerance, respect, citizenship, sufficient confidence and interest in the world around them to have a half-decent stab at a conversation with a stranger.

Achieving that qualification should be the fundamental aim of the primary years – forget the Tudors, the Egyptians, poems about how they feel and other extraneous stuff. If there’s spare time in the day to add in little luxuries, fair enough, but they’re not really important.

Without a primary school cert, you couldn’t leave primary school. And if you had to stay on, you’d have to go to a special crammer at the expense of you and yours until hit the mark.

The same system would apply to the secondary school cert, which I would see being awarded at the age of 15.

This would develop those tedious old themes of literacy and numeracy, and add in all those little things that come in rather useful in later life but are sadly ignored for the most part in today’s curriculumn – money management, health and nutrition, basic first aid, community involvement, civics and the like.

Again, you couldn’t progress to any further education without a secondary school cert, and if you missed out at your free first go you’d be expected to chip in to the cost of getting you up to standard. After that, you’d be welcome to take courses in expressive dance, media studies, philosophy or any other daft subject to your heart’s content. It probably wouldn’t be free, but it’s a tough world out there at the moment.

And by then, if you’d learned anything from your days at school – which I think we would all agree if pretty much the point, and we’re the ones who are ultimately paying for the whole system – you’d have the sense to avoid such time-wasting qualifications like the plague and get on with living a useful life.

If Mr Gove wishes me to supply more details, I promise not to spit in his face, and that’s probably the best invitation he’;s had this week.