We believe it is one of the cruellest twists of fate that, just as the outside world is looking at its most splendid, the nation’s youth is incarcerated indoors taking exams. But with the future in flux and the prospects for further education so uncertain, will the school leavers of today really be properly prepared for what life has to throw at them tomorrow?

Vital though a formal academic education is, we feel that there is much more that a young person should know to see them through their twenties and life beyond. They are skills that we believe will contribute to a fulfilling life, as well as increasing their sociability and all-roundedness. We are assuming certain talents as almost automatic for a child of the 21st century, such as familiarity with the internet and how to get into a nightclub, but many of the things we suggest will not require £9,000 a year in tuition fees; they can be achieved through dedication, curiosity, hard work and, if the Deputy Prime Minister will indulge us, with a little help from friends and relations.

1. Cook three different dinner party menus
2. Say ‘Can you help me please’ in Arabic, Cantonese, Urdu, Spanish and Russian
3. Play a musical instrument, even if it’s just the tom-toms or a mouth organ
4. Ride a horse to jackaroo standard
5. Be a ‘tech whisperer’, able to fix and set up the latest technogadgets
6. Talk about five classics of English literature with authority and passion
7. Perform resuscitation on someone who has stopped breathing
8. Know how to grow carrots from seed, distinguish five native trees, identify 20 flowers and arrange a bunch
9. Handle a shotgun, skin a rabbit, gut a fish and pluck a pigeon
10. Repair a bicycle puncture and fix the chain
11. Dance the eightsome reel, waltz to Strauss and bop to Lady Gaga
12. Taste the difference between Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay and know how to mix a mojito or margarita
13. Write a memorable thank-you letter
14. Recognise music by Mozart, Elgar and Handel
15. Put up a shelf and change a plug
16. Tie a bow tie, bowline and Bloody Butcher
17. Sail a boat across the Solent
18. Carve a joint of meat
19. Tell the difference between Gothic, Baroque and Palladian architecture
20. Make a speech, entertain an audience with a joke or an anecdote, and sing at least two songs by heart
21. Drive a tractor, reverse a trailer, renew engine oil and change a wheel
22. Find their way round five capital cities
23. Host a party and put others at their ease
24. Sustain a 10-shot rally at tennis
25. Build a bonfire and lay a fire
26. Perform three good card tricks
27. Identify five constellations and find the North Star
28. Score a cricket match
29. Talk knowledgeably about five British landmarks
30. Uncork and pour a bottle of Champagne
31. Iron a shirt, sew on a button and sew up a hem
32. Amuse small children for at least an hour with magic tricks and storytelling
33. Read a map, pitch a tent and pack a rucksack
34. Be authoritatively acquainted with at least one work by
da Vinci, Constable, Degas, Turner and Canaletto
35. Manage a bank account
36. Slip away from a football riot
37. Address a member of the Royal Family
38. Complain effectively but politely in a restaurant
39. Deliver a lamb

  • TP

    The nation’s youth? Not sure any of these skills would be much use on a housing estate in Peckham.

  • Dave

    Surprised to find that I’ve done 29 ‘skills’; but then, I am 65! Interesting list nevertheless and one which I would like to test my friends with.

  • Milly Burton Brown

    This made me giggle: I’m going to send it to my graduating class. Especially Ian, who should have probably spent more time on this than in Klute!!

  • Becky

    Hmmm… how many non-youth in Britain could actually do all these things?? How many Country Life readers for that matter?? I’m assuming this article is just a joke…

  • Ross

    40. Learn to spell “Anecdote”

  • Susan Wade Weeks

    Brilliant: I love this and am going to send it to all the young I know.