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A case of slipping standards?


STANDARDS are high but falling in The TES league table of education buzzwords. The word standard or standards was included in 2,272 articles during the year - that is in almost a quarter of all the articles in The TES in 1998.

This makes standards once again one of the most regularly-used terms this year, even allowing for the 500 times its appearance was the result of a reference to the Office for Standards in Education. But mentions of standards were 200 articles down on 1997.

Reading (1,216 articles) was clearly much to the fore in the Year of Reading along with literacy (1,004). Literacy hour, a relative newcomer, made a modest entry of 208, 160 up on 1997 and virtually unheard of in 1996.

References to boys consistently outstrip mentions of girls over the years, though both feature regularly. Assessment and achievement are strong but falling but exclusions are rising. It is just as well then that lifelong learning is increasing. References to failing schools and special measures fell slightly though there was little apparent respite from naming and shaming.

The strong showing of professional, included in one in every nine articles, befits The TES's readership, though mentions of the general teaching council declined (128 compared with 156 in 1997). So did retirement which featured in nearly five times as many articles the previous year. References to recruitment crisis almost doubled.

The change of government might be detected in the decline of governors (676 in 1998 compared with 960 in 1996), choice (709 in 1998, 967 in 1996), market (550 from 732) and selection (308 from 556). 1998 also saw the rise from nowhere of education action zones (219) and more modestly something for something (14). At 24, the early promise of taskforce seems not to have been realised.

* OFSTED won hands down among the education organisations struggling for attention, though The TES has yet to work out a reliable method for counting how many references were complimentary or otherwise. The quango's appearance in 752 articles oustripped the Department for Education and Employment's 651. The National Union of Teachers (279) and the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (272) headed the other runners-up.

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