Car mechanics should be taught at school | BBC Radio Solent's Alun Newman

Should children be taught about mortgages, savings and investments as part of the school curriculum?

By Alun Newman
Tuesday, 14th September 2021, 8:46 am
The Old Alligator Sat On His Cornflakes and Hiccupped... Image: Deborah Croker
The Old Alligator Sat On His Cornflakes and Hiccupped... Image: Deborah Croker

This was the topic of debate at the dinner table the other day as younger members of the family complained that they have never had to use the skills of trigonometry, logarithms and geometry.

They claimed years of their lives had been dominated with information that simply gets forgotten immediately.

Of course, they can’t see that they’ve learned to process, understand and reason their way through a topic.

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They have no interest in how bridges, houses and lifts are made; they just assume they won’t fall over.

What they’re after is instant application and meaning. And, yes, I can understand that.

But perhaps there is a place to explain to schoolchildren that if they’ve got some savings then they could put it in a high street ISA account and over the next few years get next to nothing in interest.

Pitch that against inflation and your savings are actually losing money.

They could learn about the never-ending mortgage that travels with you like an albatross around your neck.

Maybe maths teachers don’t want to depress them so it’s easier to teach them that ‘The Old Alligator Sat On His Cornflakes and Hiccupped’ (that was my school's mnemonic for remembering sines, cosines, and tangents).

It didn’t help me. I had to retake maths three times before I got the O-level.

My dad insisted that without maths and English, my life would be over.

I think it might be unfair to demand that schools teach subjects that have real-world relevance.

There’s little chance you’re going to need to throw a javelin, deploy the high jump’s Fosbury Flop or run in a straight line while jumping over 10 well-spaced hurdles.

I certainly have never had to let someone know in French that there’s a wasp stuck in a lift, nor am I ever likely to.

I’ve never had a job interview at which I’ve been asked about the hidden underwater structure of an iceberg, and so on…

So much of school is simply about learning, sparking interest, seeing potential.

I would add though that car maintenance should be mandatory for this is skill most people need and would find useful.

The reason for my enthusiasm for this subject is that recently my wife was out in our ‘old’ mini when the starter jammed.

She had jumped in the car, turned the key and it did nothing but click. No turning of the starter, just a simple clicking noise.

As this had happened before, I had already explained what to do in emergencies.

If the starter jams, place the car in first or second gear and rock it backwards and forwards and that can release it. It doesn’t always work but it's worth a punt.

I got a phone call saying that it hadn’t worked. I arrived like the 10th emergency service to lend a hand.

I saw my wife and daughter were pushing the back of the mini attempting to rock the car.

As I approached the two tired and irritated ladies who were claiming that nothing had worked, I peered into the car through the window only to see that the handbrake was still on.

We try again and the car starts. I’m not handbrake-shaming those involved. I’m certainly not starter-shaming. We can’t all be knowledgeable about everything.

I'm merely making a compelling case that schools can’t teach every life skill but I think car maintenance, changing a spark plug and quick troubleshooting could be fun.

It could encourage a new generation into a trade that I loved.

It might also mean you don’t have to get rescued by a super manly, knight in shining armour, offensively smug husband who writes all about it in a newspaper.

Fancy a chegg for lunch?

I think I’ve invented a new food and who better to share it with than you.

I’m a massive fan of the poached egg. When offered the Full English at a decent truck stop and asked how I like my eggs, I go poached every time.

The poached egg is not easy to pull off but over the years I’ve become a dark lord, twelfth dan, ninja master in them.

I crack individual eggs into a small piece of cling film (naughty). Create a poaching bag. Drop them into boiling water. Five minutes twenty-five seconds later. Lift and serve. No messy pan to clean (saving the planet, carbon-neutral).

But that’s not the new food. In a moment of brilliance, I realised I could combine two of my favourite things. Eggs and cheddar cheese. I simply grate some cheese into the cling film first, then crack the egg, then a little more cheese. Make the bag shape. Drop into boiling water and simmer for six minutes twenty-five seconds.

I’ve had to run some clinical Mary Berry- style trials to get the timing right. The first few were, let's say, a little loose. I still ate them but no one in the house could either believe it or indeed watch. People have eaten raw eggs for years.

Anyway, give it a go. I’ve paved the way for something new but you could add to it. Black pepper? Paprika? Ham? (that’s an idea, although that’s more an omelette in a bag). My new food is referred to in my home as ‘chegg’. I shout up the stairs ‘does anyone fancy a chegg for lunch?’ Take-up has been slow. I’m not ready yet for the franchise roll-out.

A message from the editor, Mark Waldron.

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