Tale of Ricky and Bianca usurps classics

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The Independent Online
ROS WYNNE-JONES

Sandringham School, St Albans, is one of the schools inspectors commended last week as outstanding. A comprehensive, Sandringham teaches Shakespeare, a code of ethics and evening classes in Latin. But what do the Government's model pupils make of the curriculum adviser's "big ideas"?

"They're not changing it again, are they?" asks Vitina Guagenti who, at 17, has been schooled against a backdrop of educational change. "We've only just got used to the last lot."

Paul Getley, a 15-year-old rap fan, is not impressed by the back-to-classics approach which would make Schubert intrinsically better than Blur. "Why would we want to learn about people who are dead?" He'd rather be discussing EastEnders or Neighbours, or listening to his Walkman. But his friend, Matthew Bristow, explains that it is the mix that is important. Some old stuff is good, he says - "like that story about Icarus" - while his favourite authors are H G Wells and Stephen King.

A straw poll of eight pupils aged 13 to 17 reveals that Matthew's view is more common. A list of their favourite music and literature includes Elgar, Coolio, Thomas Nashe, The Levellers and Phil Collins.

Obviously, none of the pupils would prefer to wade through Chaucer than to watch Brad Pitt in Seven. Quentin Tarantino is a "god", and beats the Bard hands down. None of the pupils know any of the words to Jerusalem although most can sing Oasis' Wonderwall.

The eight have nothing against the old, but they want to study the new as well. And this is where they clash with Dr Tate and his campaign against cultural relativity. "Romeo and Juliet, Ricky and Bianca - it's just the same," says one boy.

Getting these children to accept the ruling that Schubert is artistically superior to Blur will not be easy.

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