‘OMG, how embarrassing to have a dad like that!’ That’s a possible view of one Joseph Reynolds, a 45–year-old marine engineer who has gone into battle with his teenage daughter’s secondary school over the fact that she is studying Heat magazine as part of her Edexcel English language GCSE syllabus.
Reynolds, who was schooled in America, is campaigning for the magazine to be dropped from lessons at Kingsmead community school in Wiveliscombe and replaced by literary classics. “I don’t think Heat magazine is an appropriate or academic subject of study when there is so much else in the canon of English literature she could be studying,” he told me last week, when I interviewed him for the Sunday Times.
Reynolds’s argument is that his 14 year old’s education is being dumbed down by the exam board’s syllabus (study of Heat magazine counts for 10 per cent of all marks) and by the school’s decision to choose the course. Compared to his high school education in the States his daughter’s is far less rigorous and demanding, he claims.
It’s not the first time the feisty American has crossed swords with the school. In 2010 he started a petition after his daughter spent six weeks studying the TV cartoon The Simpsons in English lessons. Back then he stood in the Somerset town’s square and collected more than 300 signatures to support his protest.
Sometimes, Reynolds says, he feels as though he is on a lone crusade. “I have spoken to other parents who feel the same about the dumbing down of the curriculum but culturally the British are not ready to put their foot forward. Parents and the press must pick up the baton and say enough is enough.”
So is he right? And what on earth does his daughter make of her dad’s crusade? “She has mixed opinions. She’s a teen. She’d prefer I didn’t open my mouth,” he admits. “But she hasn’t jumped up and down and said ‘Dad, you’re wrong'”…