MR PENDLE: What would you include in the new citizen test?

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THE Government is planning to give the citizen test for people wishing to become British citizens a makeover. But, if what Mr Pendle hears is correct, he is worried.

Worried because thousands, if not millions, of people born and bred in the UK would not be able to answer some of the questions said to be on the minds of those revising the test.

There will be questions about Dickens, Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen, the Beatles and Brunel.

Now, apart from the names of Dickens’s books, Mr Pendle knows little about him or the plots of his books.

Similarly with Shakespeare.

Mr Pendle studied the odd play for school exams, he came from Stratford-upon-Avon and was married to Ann Hathaway, but that’s about it.

Thomas Hardy? Again, “Far from the Madding Crowd” was a school exam book, but Mr Pendle cannot remember what it was all about.

Jane Austen? Wasn’t she the one who wrote a book that was adapted for television and some actor wore wet trousers?

The new test will, we are told, “focus on the essentials of Britishness”.

But only a small minority of existing Brits have any interest in the subjects in it.

First and foremost, wannabe Brits should have a job qualification and be able to speak English.

Then, and only then, should they be considered as candidates for an entrance test.

Anyone thinking of coming here for an easy ride on the benefits train should be told that door remains firmly closed.

AND while we are on the subject of being able to speak English, Mr Pendle notes with concern that the National Association for the Teaching of English says plans for new primary school grammar tests will hold a gun to the heads of teachers.

The Government, quite rightly, wants higher standards in the subject.

Such a move, far from being radical, is long overdue.

The existing levels for a supposedly advanced country are really quite appalling.

The NATE - surely a quango ripe for plucking and throwing in the bin - says the Government’s proposals are a throwback to 1950s formal grammar teaching.

But isn’t that what is needed?

Isn’t it right that children should leave primary school with high levels of literacy and a strong command of written and spoken English?

The NATE might say there is very little evidence of benefits to teaching grammar in the old-fashioned way.

But if it compared the standards of grammar of people of Mr Pendle’s generation and many of today’s 20 and 30-somethings, it might want to think again.

Formal grammar teaching was perfectly good enough for Mr Pendle, and it should be re-introduced at the earliest opportunity.