MR PENDLE: I just want to speak to a human on the phone - not ‘The Voice’

MR Pendle was interested to read of Education Secretary Michael Gove’s suggestion that students taking English literature GCSE exams should study more than one set novel.

His interest stems from the fact that when he sat the GCE equivalent in the subject many moons ago, he studied at least three different books - “Wuthering Heights” and “Lord of the Flies” were the novels and there was a poetry anthology as well he remembers.

And Mr Pendle’s English literature A-level course saw him have to read a wide range of books - “The Spire” (William Golding), “Far From the Madding Crowd” (Thomas Hardy) were two of the novels, “Antony and Cleopatra” and “Henry II” were two of the plays and there were also the poems of Wilfred Owen which he remembers from the class of 1973 at Nelson and Colne College before he was lured away from his studies to take up his pen and begin his journalistic career.

Now if today’s GCSE students read only one novel, what does the rest of the course consist of?

And how does today’s A-level syllabus compare with that of Mr Pendle and his contemporaries?

Does the lack of reading material not support the claims made every year that school exams are getting easier and easier?

And does Mr Gove deserve 10 out of 10 when he says 21st Century students should be expected to study more than one set book?

IS Mr Pendle alone in feeling frustrated at what seems to be the increasingly impossible task of finding anyone to speak to when telephoning banks, schools and public services?

He asks the question after two cases recently where he needed to speak to a person to handle a matter which a machine was incapable of - but found the range of options offered to him by an automated Voice which answered his call did not include one allowing him to talk to someone.

This meant Mr Pendle had to find another number to call from elsewhere - only to be answered by The Voice again offering another list of options when he rang.

Having searched for and found a third number, he was relieved to hear The Voice now giving him the chance to speak to “an operator” - but he was so annoyed at the length of time it had taken to find her that the unfortunate woman got the sharp end of Mr Pendle’s tongue.

What is the thinking behind this lack of personal contact?

It is not all that long ago it was possible to ring up a company, a receptionist would answer the call and be able to put your query through to the relevant department.

Not any more, it would seem.

The Voice has taken over.