High-flyer's high standards: The Government is aiming to stretch brighter pupils as curriculum chief says majority of teachers are doing a good job

David Pascall was not surprised to find himself the target of teachers' protests last week, when he announced that the National Curriculum Council intended to reinforce grammar, spelling, and classic literature in the teaching of English.

But as the council's chairman, he is plainly disappointed that English teachers are so offended. In his view, 70 or 80 per cent of them are already doing a good job, delivering exactly what the council wants.

It is 'the 20 or 30 per cent of classrooms where the standards are not rising, where that's not happening', at which the council is directing its curriculum review.

Mr Pascall bridles at the teaching unions' allegation that the council, appointed by ministers, is no more than a right-wing poodle to the Secretary of State.

Its members include six head teachers, five education professionals and four industrialists, representing a mix of views. They agreed unanimously on last week's review proposals.

The only group he seems to want to attack outright is children's television presenters, whose diction and grammar he thinks 'appalling'.

Mr Pascall, 43, a BP industrialist, father of children aged three, five and seven, and the governor of a Church of England primary school in north London, has set himself the task of simplifying and tightening the national curriculum and is confident that high standards of speaking, listening, writing and reading are the prerequisite for improving quality.

He is BP's highest-flying young executive, taken on by the oil company during his first year at Birmingham University. With a first-class degree in chemical engineering, he became the blue- eyed boy of Bob Horton, the recently deposed company chairman, who seconded the young Pascall to Margaret Thatcher's Downing Street policy unit and then invited him to plan BP's global restructuring.

He now runs the council part- time: the desk in his BP office at Blackfriars BP office has two in- trays, one for his job as manager of exploration control and business simplification, and another for the NCC.

He is 'very grateful' that he enjoyed a traditional grammar school education at Queen Mary's in Basingstoke. But he insists that teachers should not imagine he wants to drive them back to traditional methods.

'I'm not the professional, and we are not, as a council, trying to tell teachers how best to teach. We are trying to define a framework. It's for the teaching profession to decide how they teach.'

In other words, the council's business is to advise ministers on what it believes children should learn; teacher training must then enable them to deliver.

His own schooling certainly succeeded in developing a love of literature and language. 'I feel it served me well in my professional career. Certainly, when I was sent by BP to Germany, not having learnt German at school, it was very helpful to be able to understand the structure of a language.'

He believes the tools of language are more important than ever. Partly 'for the sake of it, because education is about the sake of it, as well as the end' but also 'because it leads on to future education, and on into adult life'.

One of the most controversial proposals is that the national curriculum should emphasise the need for children to speak standard English. But as Mr Pascall well knows, the argument over how to define standard English is not confined to senior common rooms.

Yet he is willing to stick his neck out: 'It's grammatically correct English, spoken in any accent. I accept the integrity of dialects. I accept that, over time, grammar changes. But, at the same time, for the vast majority of contexts, there is a standard English and a standard grammar.

'What we're trying to get to is the standard approach, so that you can be understood clearly, so that you don't speak sloppily, you use tenses and prepositions properly, you don't say 'He done it' and you don't split infinitives.

'At the level I'm talking about, it isn't subjective. Grammar isn't a matter of opinion. There is a clearly understood range of standard English. I don't think that most people would dispute what standard English is. 'He done it' is speaking English incorrectly. That's bad grammar. We think it important that our children speak correctly.'

Mr Pascall's schooling failed to provide him with an enthusiasm for art and music - university life gave him Bob Dylan and the Beatles but nothing classical.

'I'm always reading something. At the moment I'm re- reading Solzhenitsyn's 1914 because I haven't read the expanded version, and David Lodge's Paradise News, and I'm reading the Gore Vidal series of American history novels. On holiday I read Tom Clancy.'

Leading article, page 22

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
Life and Style
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn