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A lovely idea but utterly impracticable. You can lead a horse to water...

Mark Wadsworth

YES (or more "Oh, go on then"). Of course it will never take off, but suggesting a policy like this is a roundabout way of staying how things have slipped (which they have). As somebody who would have benefitted from this enormously (and I don't know many who wouldn't) how can I say no?


Dear God!

Plato via Aldous Huxley...

and on my taxes.


Er, what about those of won't actually need those lessons? Why should they be forced to do it too?

Furthermore having finished GCSEs children deserve a nice long break. If anyone had suggested to me us when we were at school that we were going to have our summer holiday abolished for the sake of educating the ignorant (of which most of us were not) there would have been a mutiny.

"By the end of the week, they will have been forced into meeting people from many different backgrounds, in most cases for the first time, and they will have a far greater understanding of the world outside their home town and school."

Or maybe we could just allow people to associate with whom they wish?

matt wright

Oh dear. I do think we need something after school and before work but it should be a modern form of national service. Perhaps it might include some aspects of the education mentioned in this policy idea.

As to eating food. I was brought up proper but choose to use my fork in my right hand.



Political direction of social etiquette sounds like the 'thin end of the wedge' to me.

Will this lead to 'safety' cameras with penalties for inappropriate cutlery management or perhaps 'electronic tagging' to enforce annual dancing targets?

Would passing the port in the wrong direction result in a GCSE failure?

Seriously though, social skills are very important but we don't need politicians to impose standards in this area.

Perhaps it would be more-sensible to gear the whole educational process towards sensible 'real-world' requirements.

Father Brian

My giddy aunt! And this guy's supposed to be a Conservative. A pity he can't do something more useful, such as selling timeshare.

Oliver Henry Cooper

Thank goodness somebody suggested something like this, because it's exactly what we need! Not the country, but 100 Policies; far too many proposals have been waved through, and an absurd suggestion like this is perfect rejection fodder to even out the proportions.

Government forcing left-handed children to hold cutlery right-handed, indeed! That's not conservatism; that's not liberalism; that's just socialism of the highest order.


Objectives are much more easily achieved by moving this into PSHE, Citizenship, and Religious Studies in the school year.

The idea of trying to get all of the nation's teachers to stay for the entirity of the summer break is madness - and would require a far bigger carrot than a 15% pay rise. Besides, once you have them teaching full time during the summer, when are they supposed to mark GCSEs, AS levels and A2 levels and when on earth are they actually supposed to plan the lessons for the coming year?

Gareth Knight

OK, the comments are gradually getting more critical!

Firstly, it won't cost anything directly so there's no tax implication, I thought that was all quite clear.

Secondly, there have already been certain elements of this policy adopted since it was submitted - mostly the Tories have adopted the voluntary work element and the self-management stuff. This has been labelled as both 'national service' and 'finishing school' in the last few months.

Thirdly, there does seem to be an element of 'well we have good social skills as we're better people so we don't want the plebs to have them'. Basic things like table manners are hardly the imposition of dangerous brain-washing techniques so let's calm down on that one!

Fourthly, I seem to have invented a new prejudice - left-handedism. Perhaps we should have a quota of left-handed people on the A List to compensate?!

Finally, the reason it is separate is mostly because everyone seems to want to fill the school timetable with other things - GCSE History being one example that was actully voted through by readers of this site! On the teacher pay aspect, there would only be one school year going through so 15% is incredibly generous when they may only be teaching an extra 2-3 lessons at the end of the year!

A few people have e-mailed me directly to tell me I'm mad but I have a had quite a few supporters who don't want to post here so keep 'em coming!


No, Gareth, you really are mad!

£2 billion to teach our kids etiquette - not on my taxes you don't.

But no, you are going to charge the kids until they have paid off their etiquette tax and create a whole Etiquette Tax bureaucracy to administer it.

Of course we will need to train Etiquette teachers too.

No, no, NO!

Simon Chapman

Isn't this an idea ahead of its time? 93 days ahead?

I have never seen the way in which people (fail to) hold their cutlery properly as being a step on the conveyer belt to crime. Although I suppose that teaching potential young offenders how to wield a knife more effectively might have a different effect to that desired.

More seriously for a moment, aren't many of the gaps Gareth identifies here ("political citizenship, the media, self-management (finances, taxes, credit, benefits, job applications), religious citizenship, first aid and culture") things that ought to be picked up and got right rather earlier than 16?

Voluntary national community service is a pretty good idea. But this is not that.

Dan Wade

I totally agree with what Gareth is proposing. If something is not done in the next few years then the chav's will be running the asylum and all school uniforms will be in Burberry check!!!
Only change i would like to see in Gareths policy is for the etiquette side to be taught from day 1 of early years schooling.

Matthew Dear

Stone the crows, is the man mad???

As much as I agree with the underlying sentiment – that manners and etiquette are all but extinct, and that this is something which cheapens our society and is to be lamented, teaching Kevin-the-teenager to dance the foxtrot is just going to make him wet his Calvin Kleins laughing, and isn’t going to make him any more employable.

I agree with Aristedes – you can take a horse to water… But Kevin would never touch it, that’s for sure. (Apologies to any Kevins – take it up with Harry Enfield!)

Matthew Dear

By the way - the "spokes" of a fork are of course properly know as "tines".

Caroline Hunt

I think the problem with this policy is more the reasoning behind it than the idea itself. I have no problem with some sort of compulsory school residential course to prepare teenagers for the outside world. However Mr Knight seems to be trying to enforce some sort of Orwellian conformity on them because not all young people behave the way he feels is right. They should be taught to respect others, to present themselves in a friendly and polite manner etc. etc. However as many have commented - forcing left handers like myself to conform to victorian ideals of how to use your knife and fork is hardly a worthwhile way for teenagers to spend their time.


Gareth, citizenship, RS, and PHSE are already in the timetable. Simply use them to achieve your means. Much cheaper, and I suggest, more effective spread over 6 years than rammed into 6 weeks.


There nothing wrong with wanting to see an improvement in manners - well done Gareth!

Jack Bains

Bonkers - no need to say more.

David Edda

I think this is an excellent idea and it's about time we had an idea that was basic and would benefit all people rather than some of the overly-complex ideas we've seen before. I agree that it sounds mad at first but basic manners and etiquette have slipped and this policy would change that.

I like the dance lessons part, as a dance teacher I think dance can channel energy and could teach children a lot and could decrease crime, anti-social behaviour and disrespect. There are some youth groups that actively encourage young offenders to take part in such activities so whatever some critics say, that part is not new at all.

Yes Yes Yes

Father Brian

This could only come from the marketing types who seem to dominate today's political scene. I never thought I'd live to see a control freak wing of the Conservative Party.

All the social skills children need and more could be taught at a fraction of the cost by returning power to those responsible for them - their parents. This would, however, mean a reversal of 60 years of liberal orthodoxy that "the government knows best".

Seamus Donovan

Is this for real? Seriously, I have never laughed so much.

There are far too many critiques of this proposition, but let me suggest a few:

- the etiquette proposal? which century does this man live in? I know many people who he would deem as socially adept who use their cutlery in a less formal manner than he demands. And in no way are they more likely to commit crimes. That sentence is simply preposterous.

no matter what his defence- this is complete snobbery. not many people operate in the exulted circles of drinks receptions and the such like that he speaks of- in fact, those that do the are in the minority. If it really bugs you that the guy you're sharing your bollinger with in some gentleman's club is not holding his glass properly, don't start banging on about the decline of etiquette, start thinking what the hell is going wrong in your life.

one thing he is right on. we do need to encourage people to mix with those from backgrounds different to their own. for example, the guy who wrote this needs to mix with normal people and realise that life is not one big drinks reception followed by foie gras.

- he suggests a 'finishing school levy'. this is basically another tax to burden everyone with as the course is compulsory- without which you do not get your GCSEs and hence qualifications. if you want to increase our tax by a penny in the pound- join the lib dems.

- his line on 'paedophiles paradise is interesting. i thought all pupils who did their GSCEs were over-16?

- what on earth does religious citizenship? not sure, but i am sure the taliban had something similar. what of those of us who have no religious belief?

- how on earth will this encourage mobility? you can use a knife and fork so now you can eat at pizza express rather than pizza hut? welcome to the middle class...


I am left-handed, my friends say that I dance like Red Adair and I have even ventured into El Vino's without a tie -- so I probably won't make the A-list.

In my school, they taught us that a 'gentleman' was somebody who gets out of the bath to have a pee.

Seriously though, I don't think that it is any part of the Government's role to impose or even influence standards of social etiquette.

Tim Worrall

There is a lot of well meaning stuff here. It's actually surprising how much of it is going on in schools already. Many schools spend a lot of time trying their best to prepare their students for the outside world they are about to meet (when all the students want to do is get out into it).

Many schools do residential, outward bound-style courses at some point in the year (alas, not enough qualified people to lead 750,000 in six weeks around the country!) and these can make an impact.

All the topics you suggested (except knife and fork ettiquette) are covered in PSHCE (more letters in the acronym each year), although many teachers and students see it as a propaganda lesson (which it is mostly) and pay it no heed.

Yes amusing, yes loopy but yes well-meaning.

But No. Sorry!

Gareth Knight

Thanks for the further comments and good to see the odd positive one.

I have never been labelled a 'marketing type' or 'snobbish' before! A new experience!


Dan - whilst I agree that etiquette should be taught throughout schooling the reaction of many on here would suggest that it's better to have no etiquette that to teach it at all. One person did e-mail me directly to say that if they had their way TVs would turn themselves off as soon as food was in the same room - and some say my policy goes too far!

Matthew - Kevin grew up as soon as he lost his virginity so who knows what the foxtrot could do!

All the left-handed people - OK, OK already! At this rate the only thing my policy will have inspired is for the Equal Opportunities Commission to open a new left-handed department!

Laura - thank you, at its most basic, good manners are a good thing.

David - good to know that soemone with experience in the field doesn't think it's quite such a 'mad' idea and that it's already happening in practice.

Father Brian - I completely agree that parents should be teachings their kids the basics but this does not happen and we cannot fool ourselves into thinking it does, a point that is addressed in the proposal.

Seamus - your post is hilarious! Too much to reply to really - feel free to e-mail me directly.

I have noticed that girls seem to support it and guys seem to oppose it. There also seems to be an age thing - those under 18 oppose and those over 40 oppose. Interesting.

It seems to have livened up a few Mondays anyway.

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