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Peter Rhodes on a TV disappointment, scrapping "hard" lessons and is it the end of the road for caravans?

By Peter Rhodes | Peter Rhodes | Published:

Read today's Peter Rhodes column.

Steve Coogan who plays Alan Partridge

NO surprises in this week's report showing a decline in foreign-language classes in state schools. The reason seem to be that both pupils and schools regard languages as "hard" subjects, unlikely to produce the good grades that kids need and schools pursue. There is some truth in that. As far as I know, there is no easy way to learn French irregular verbs, no painless path toward understanding das, der and that other thing in German.

FOREIGN languages can be taught to a high standard but it requires good teachers working with dedicated pupils, free from disruption by the class clowns. And how many schools fit that bill? If Year Eleven is going to erupt in hysteria every time a pupil adopts a proper French accent, you may as well pack it in and sign the kids up for "easy" subjects such as Media Studies.

MEANWHILE, consider that fine old English term "less than the sum of its parts." It is used to describe something that has all the right ingredients and yet turns out to be disappointing. In theory, if you take the acting brilliance of Steve Coogan, the comedy brilliance of two young writers, the supporting brilliance of some fine co-stars and that utterly brilliant comic creation Alan Partridge, the result should be, well, sort of brilliant. This Time with Alan Partridge (BBC1), despite the puzzlingly fawning reviews from many hacks, was not.

MUCH hand-wringing over at Sky News where a Sky Data poll has discovered that more than half of Britons believe the UK is racist and xenophobic. I'm not convinced that is such a bad result. A country which agonises about its own bigotry is probably a better place to live than a country where they don't even recognise it. Wouldn't you be wary of settling in a country where all the residents cheerfully assured you: "We have absolutely no bigotry here"?

FREDDY Leo was hailed as the Ronaldo of University Challenge thanks to his amazing speed at hitting the buzzer. And I bet future contestants are eagerly studying his technique. If you analyse Leo's performance online, you'll see he was not only quick on the buzz but had also sussed out question master Jeremy Paxman's weak point. Ideally, Paxman should stop speaking at the instant the buzzer sounds. In reality, he tends to let slip one or two more words from the question such as "academy awards" or "his successor." Leo, having stopped the other contestants answering by buzzing, thus had a tiny advantage. It's a high-risk strategy, especially if Paxo, too, has been studying the recordings.

ALL over Britain about half a million caravanners are getting their rigs ready for the road. Enjoy it while ye may. A reader asks, what will become of caravans if electric vehicles, with virtually no towing capacity, replace powerful, long-ranged petrol and diesel-powered cars? Having trawled through some gloom-laden online accounts, the answer may be five little words. The end of the road. Any words of cheer from Westminster?

Peter Rhodes

By Peter Rhodes

Award-winning columnist and blogger. Keeping an eye on the tribulations and trivia of a fast-changing world

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