THE Grand Old Duke of York has had his marching orders. Little Miss Muffet 0 Spider 1. Baa baa black sheep is mutton chops.

And did Humpty Dumpty jump? Or was he pushed?

Nursery rhymes have had it. Ofsted Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman said this week that ever fewer children are starting school knowing nursery rhymes. Rather than singing to their children, more parents are apparently happy to let the little ones play with Peppa Pig on their i-Pads.

Respect to Peppa - but surely there’s room for both?

Most nursery rhymes are nonsense – a cow jumps over the moon, you gather nuts in May, and as for Wee Willie Winkie…

Yes we know that many rhymes have their origins in real events and scandals, from the plague (Ring a ring of roses) to the dissolution of the monasteries (Little Jack Horner) but that’s neither here nor there. What’s matter is they’re silly and singable. Perfect for tinies.

There is a simple joy in playing singing games with a baby on your lap, that magic moment when they try triumphantly, to beat you to the punch line. It’s wonderful interaction between parent (or grandparent or big brother or childminder) and child.

You’re not just keeping them entertained but you’re developing all sorts of stuff in their brains. Amanda Spilman said that the child who can sing songs or tell a story off by heart is much better prepared for school.

When we lose the nursery rhyme habit, she says, “It is ancient women’s wisdom that’s being lost.”

Which sounds a bit scary really.

Altogether now: “Jack and Jill went up the hill…”

Your children’s future depends on it.

ONE of the great defences of the very rich is that their taxes pay for the rest of us.

Or not.

After the likes of Google and Amazon have been revealed to be paying precious little to HM Revenue and Customs, we now learn that all sort so people including the Queen and sanctimonious Bono (an unlikely pairing) keep huge wodges of their dosh in some remote tax havens. If HM doesn’t give tax to HMRC than who will?

Morally questionable, no doubt, especially if you’re being especially priggish. But when did any of us pay more tax than we have to? We all do our best to ensure we pay no more tax than absolutely necessary.

I’ve never known anyone tip in an extra tenner with their tax return, just for the national good.

The rich, of course, have more scope to manoeuvre. More money, more options, teams of tax specialists toiling away on their behalf to send their money off on wonderful tax-free holidays in far flung corners of the world.

It’s all absolutely legal – just on a bigger scale than the rest of us.

And because it’s all legal, we shouldn’t be wasting our energy on criticising those who make the most of such opportunities. Instead, we should be trying to persuade the government to change the laws. Money earned in this country should be taxed in this country. Simple enough, you'd think.

The trouble is that if any government is brave enough to bring that in, they might find they lose a great many of their big money donors. Self-interest always rules.

Which is why nothing much is going to change soon.

MEANWHILE in another part of the parliamentary jungle, there are moves afoot after the various sex scandals, to introduce a code of conduct for Westminster.

You mean they NEED to be told? To have it written down so they know exactly what they can and can’t do and show simple respect for other people

And these are the people in charge of running the country?

Mind you, they had rules about what they could for expenses, and we know what happened there.

So good luck with the Code of Conduct – and mind where you put your hands.

NEVER ever try to joke with US airport security. They even have signs in airports warning against it. They have no sense of humour. But they have guns.

When the boys were small, we did a house swap in Texas. Coming back through San Antonio airport we marched silently past boot-faced officials. Except for smaller son…

Just as he trotted past, his back pack made a strange noise. Ribbet…ribbett…ribbett.

We all froze. The security man called him over and made him unpack his backpack, only to reveal a big plastic frog whose voice was set off by movement. Smaller Son and I had a fit of the giggles. The security men looked bigger, fiercer and even more boot-faced and never cracked a smile once as they eventually let us through, the boy still clutching the croaking frog.

Twenty years later, this week Smaller Son flew back into San Antonio on his way to cover the Texas chapel shootings for the BBC.

I just hope the security men had forgotten the frog…

PARENTS who keep their children off school with every sniffle and minor headache have been told to “get a grip” by authorities in Sussex.

Fair enough, but you can take it too far.

I once told Smaller Son, then eight years old, to stop making a fuss and get himself to school. Nothing wrong with him, I said.

He turned out to have a particularly nasty bug and spent the next two days in an isolation ward in the Friarage Hospital.

Hey ho. Ah well, a mother’s place is in the wrong. And at least he’s not a wimp.

THE Duchess of Cornwall is a style icon says shoe designer Jimmy Choo, who met the Duchess during her 11-day tour of Asia with Prince Charles.

In one day alone the couple visited three countries. Temperatures have been hot, humid and smog-ridden. Yet the Duchess, who hates the heat, has managed to look cool and elegant in clothes that mixed east and west, even when weighed down with garlands, headdresses and all the other daft stuff visiting royals get lumbered with.

She’s also joined in cooking demonstrations, puppet shows and painting, isn’t afraid to make a fool of herself yet also makes sure her husband is never upstaged. Clever woman.

Don’t know about style icon, but she’s definitely a trouper.