Reforming Education in the UK Part 1: A Confession

Michael Gove

Michael Gove, the British Education Minister is planning on overhauling the education system for Primary school children (Age 5-11)

His plans are:

  • Children as young as 5 should be able to recite poetry.
  • Foreign Language should be studied from age 7.
  • Focus on grammar.
  • Use of Phonetics to master reading and spelling.

With many businesses saying that school leavers are coming into the workplace unable to write a simple letter, any focus on teaching children English has to be applauded.

Children at the age of 5-11 are sponges, love to learn languages and will happily learn things that they can use to “show off” to their parents.

I wanted to have a look at each aspect, checking to see if it would have improved my education standard.

But before I start, I have some confessions to make.


In GCSE(High School Diploma, Leaving Certificate Standard) I got a B for English language and a B for English Literature, which is pretty good. It puts me higher up the ladder than the minimum requirements for jobs (C is minimum required).

I got a raft of other B’s, went to college, got a business diploma, then onto to University, where I completed a Masters degree, focusing on Psychology and Modern History, I have Financial Planning and Mortgage Exams under my belt and an Open University Diploma.

So I would like to think I have a pretty good level of intelligence. I am quite well versed in international politics, I love facts, having an unusual memory to be able to remember what most would consider useless information.

But there are certain things I simply did not learn, or at least my brain did not let me learn.

If you gave me a primary 5 paragraph and asked me to circle the nouns, adjectives, adverbs etc., I can not do it.

It’s not that I don’t know how to use them, I do (or at least think I do). I just can’t remember what they are, to be able to recognize them.

Already my son’s English homework can be tricky for me, when he is learning homophones and homonyms. I have to ask him to explain each time what they are. Once he does, I then can help him.


Its the same with maths(Another B, also university statistics).

I have a really good maths brain, being able to rattle off my tables quicker than any of my children, but when it comes to 6,7 and 8, multiplied by 6,7 and 8 (except the squared version i.e. 6X6, 7X7 etc.) I don’t know them, and just guess. Usually 42.

I would say the standard of education I had at primary school was pretty good. So why can I not learn this stuff?

Left or Right?

I can’t tell my left from my right.

It amazes me, when instinctively people know which was is left. For me, I have to start to use my hand to sign my name, work out which one looks correct, then I know which direction is right.

But even then, if I start with my left hand, the only way I know it is wrong, is my signature looks funny.

In the car, I have to point and say “Go that way!”

My wife has learnt that when I guess, I usually get it wrong.

Spatial Awareness

I score relatively well in IQ tests, but when it comes to spatial questions, I simply cannot do them. More than one variable, and I get confused.

Like the example in the picture, there are just too many variables for my brain to compute, I get lost in the images, leaving me little solution but to guess.

Sudoku, which is a puzzler’s favourite is my worst nightmare. I have managed to complete one.

It was a “coffee break” Sudoku, which is supposed to take 15 minutes. I refused to give up, keeping going, until, over 4 hours later, I managed to finish it (with a lot of mistakes!)

North, South, East and West

I have no sense of direction, only remembering where I am visually(i.e. If I am in a new town, I remember how to get around by remembering certain buildings, shops or oddity’s, rather then knowing which direction I went)


I struggle to remember things which I hear, but usually remember things I have read or seen.

To give an example, when I am in an exam, I cannot remember the study notes, however I can visualise the page and then re-read it again.

So I am storing the information, but I then have to re-learn it in the exam, to be able to utilize it.

One time, I read a page of facts online and was being tested by my wife. I was able to recite them, almost word for word, by visualising the page. I can still remember some of them, but as I am remembering them, I am reading the page. I can see the colours of the font, the background images etc.

When I was working and one of my clients called and I got a phone message, I would store the image of the message in my brain, rather than the content, re-reading it mentally later when I needed to deal with it.

While I have been writing this blog piece, I have been baking some bread. But I do not know what ingredients to add. What I am doing, is re-reading my original recipe, which I got around 5 or 6 years ago.

I don’t have the recipe anymore but I can still see it, the amendments I made and even the fact it was a US recipe, so I had to convert it to grams. I can visualise where I scored out the US measurements, writing how many grams required (I used a blue pen in case you are wondering and it had a tea stain on it).

Does that make me unusual in some way?

Is this a common thing?

How do you remember things?

Part 2 to follow

I had intended to write the entire blog post as one entry, but I have rambled on too much, taking a tangent I had no intended, so will write a part 2….

UPDATE: Part 2 can be found here



Filed under General

2 responses to “Reforming Education in the UK Part 1: A Confession

  1. Pingback: Reforming Education in the UK: Part 2: An Analysis | Looking Over My Shoulder

  2. Pingback: An Ode to a Father | Looking Over My Shoulder

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