Janet Street-Porter: Charles should shut up or step aside

If the monarchy is to survive, then drastic measures are needed

I've spent the past few weeks writing a documentary about the future of the Royal Family - and, no sooner than I'd left the editing room, Prince Charles announced another one of those "initiatives" we've come to dread. Not content with pontificating about architecture, wind farms, technology and genetically modified foods, HRH has decided to add teaching to the list of subjects he now feels sufficiently passionate about to make a weighty statement.

This week he announced his plans to set up a teacher training college, where students would focus on the "timeless principles which form the bedrock of teaching" and "strengthen the essence of good classroom practice". He went on to complain that school-children were being taught thinking and social skills before they had a grounding in English literature and the classics - in short, that we are putting the cart before the horse.

He deplored the debate proposed on the future of English teaching by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, moaning that demanding texts were being dropped in favour of work that educationalists found more "relevant". He was particularly cross that pupils were being asked to discuss texting and it's impact on the language. The Prince claimed that learning needed to be "organic" and not a "genetically modified hybrid" - he obviously only has one speech writer who has to turn his or her skills to farming one week and education the next.

As usual, he's way off the mark. Unlike Prince Charles I have spent time working in a classroom teaching English and History. OK, it was a total of two weeks, but long enough to see that the only thing wrong with the way we teach English is lack of resources for books, lack of classroom assistants to give every child a lot of attention.

I was thoroughly impressed with my eight and nine-year-olds' reading skills and their love of story-telling. When I read aloud to them, far from fidgeting, nearly every single child sat and paid attention. This despair over English teaching is like the current debate about hoodies and yobs - there is an undeniable tendency by those over 40 to imagine that acceptable standards are falling by the wayside and, in the process, young people are becoming illiterate, badly educated, uncouth and foul-mouthed, because they are not wearing cardigans knitted by granny or reading Charles Dickens. If they send endless text messages while listening to iPods they must be rotting their brains. The breathtaking arrogance displayed by the Prince insults not only pupils, but also the teaching profession.

My brief time in the staffroom proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that these days teachers are far more committed and display a far wider ability to deal with a whole range of subjects than a couple of decades ago. Teachers have assumed many of the tasks parents once undertook, from sex education to teaching about relationships, manners, social skills and even how to hold a conversation. Many children are never spoken to at home, the television is permanently on, and meals are not eaten together. In the circumstances most young people are no more inarticulate than I was at their age. They have different skills, different ways of expressing themselves. We can't exist in a time warp.

The Prince had a very unhappy experience as a schoolboy at Gordonstoun, and only achieved a second-rate university degree. His two sons attendedEton and are no better scholars for all the time and effort lavished on them in the fee-paying environment. Prince Charles is a master of hindsight, having educated himself since he left college (like many of us) by dabbling in whatever has caught his fancy. Nothing wrong in that, or having hobbies you feel passionately about, but it doesn't qualify you to issue edicts on some perceived breakdown in education policy.

What the Prince really objects to, as with all his other pronouncements about art, modern architecture, and science, is progress. In his rarefied world, mobile phones, computers and digital television channels don't offer opportunities, they represent a threat.

Of course the Prince is wrong, and now we get to the crux of the problem. This is a man unelected by anyone, who lives a life of unbelievable luxury and privilege, a man who never gets told the truth about anything, who is surrounded by fawning courtiers, who is part of a dysfunctional family with severe communication problems. A man who couldn't even manage his own relationships in and out of marriage, who still has epic tantrums if he doesn't get his way.

The Queen was 26 when she inherited the throne, and the Prince is now 56. He has spent all his adult life in waiting for a real job. He's talked endlessly to experts in a whole variety of fields, but ultimately he's an interested amateur, with no more right to criticise teachers or scientists than you or I. And he misuses his position to try to influence political decisions in a way that is totally unacceptable. When did his mother ever do this? Never - the Queen is a brilliant example of a monarch who has retained an aura of mystery and charisma - all necessary to the future of the Crown. Charles has stripped it bare.

Yes, the Prince's Trust is a worthwhile cause, and he has raised millions for charity - but it's not his own money. He hangs out with the country set, hunts, shoots and accepts free holidays on millionaires' boats. The rules of succession, that the Crown must pass to the first born, are totally inappropriate in the 21st century, in a country bound by a whole raft of EU human rights and equal opportunities legislation. The Prince is an adulterer who is going to be Defender of the Faith, leader of the Church of England - and yet he could not have married a Catholic, a Jew or a Muslim! Clearly, these antiquated laws need to change.

Prince Charles is an embarrassment who should step aside and let his eldest son prepare to take the throne after he has attended business school and had a more rounded preparation for the throne than his father. If the monarchy is to survive beyond the current incumbent, then drastic measures are needed.

Charles has so little respect that his relationship with the British public cannot be repaired. Like the Duke of Windsor, he should sacrifice it all for the woman he loves, get on with his watercolours and if he feels the need to set up a college to train teachers, architects, organic farmers or sporran manufacturers, then none of us would begrudge him the chance. In the meantime, if he has any aspirations to follow his mother, he should take some lessons in charm, and keep silent. But I don't see that happening.

'Janet Saves the Monarchy' is shown on Sky 1 on Monday

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