A Week in Education

21st September 2007 at 01:00
The tabloids went apoplectic this week at the prospect of state school children marking each other's tests or setting their own homework.

"Labour's endless classroom revolution spews out another hare-brained idea," fumed The Sun. Michael Gove, Tory schools secretary, accused the Government of nonsense that betrayed pupils.

But it seems the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, which sparked the outrage, was doing little more than restating existing national strategies on assessment.

Pupil voice, page 6

Class sizes also caused alarm this week, after the publication of international education statistics by the Organisation of Economic Co operation and Development.

The figures showed that the average size of a state primary class in England is now almost 26, higher than in most other developed countries. In contrast, the average at private primaries was only 10.7 pupils per class, making the size gap in England the highest in the world.

But Andreas Schleicher, of OECD, said the Government was wise to spend money on teachers' salaries and early years education, rather than on cutting class sizes.

Canny spending, p16

Private schools were back in the headlines, accused of shooting themselves in the foot by charging too much. Their intake could drop by 5 per cent over the next 10 years if they keep driving up fees, a survey by MTM Consulting found.

According to The Times, schools were involved in a "facilities arms race", competing to build the most lavish sports and arts complexes.

In a link with fears about the credit crunch on home-owners, it emerged that nearly one in 10 private school parents had remortgaged their homes to help fund their children's education.

Independents feel pinch, page 15

Research by Oxbridge Applications, which advises those applying to the two universities, found that children from private schools or grammars were more likely to benefit from interviews than those from comprehensives.

The research gave some revealing examples of the kind of lateral thinking expected from interviewees. One physics candidate was quizzed on how far up a mountain you could get on only a Mars bar.

100 dominate Oxbridge, page 14

And finally, schools can never be too careful when it comes to security. Thefts of computing equipment led Batley Girls' High School in Yorkshire to install an electric fence. Janet Eames, headteacher, told The Mail on Sunday that the fence met health and safety requirements, and was only a hazard to anyone trying to climb over it.

One positive use of electric fences might be to deter traders from trying to sell food to junk-starved pupils. There would be no need for police to become involved, as happened at Standish Community High School in Wigan, where a man was accused of selling chicken wraps through the railings.

THEY SAID...

'A long line of barmy ideas have made a mockery of education'

The Sun

WE SAY...

The problem with The Sun's list of potty school schemes was that most were simply untrue.

First was the claim that Churchill was being axed from key stage 3 history. The new secondary curriculum may not make explicit mention of him, but nor does it mention Hitler. And there is no suggestion that staff will stop mentioning either in Second World War lessons.

Second was the claim that the Government had suggested staff should not get children to put up their hands to answer questions. It had merely mentioned that staff sometimes did this to ensure their less keen pupils spoke as they have for decades.

Such claims are dangerous. The more they are repeated, the more parents believe them. And there are real ideas that are less defensible such as KS3 tests that should concern them instead.

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