A week in education

22nd August 2008 at 01:00

Even before the GCSE results were published, it was a safe bet that grades would rise. The Daily Telegraph predicted more "top GCSE grades as pupils take soft options", while The Observer said a "results row looms as A grades soar".

Conversely, schools were also criticised for allowing too many pupils to fail the supposedly unfailable exam. Conservative figures of the number of teenagers who had not gained any GCSE over the past decade led The Sun to announce there had been "2m school flops".

The sacking of ETS Europe, the company responsible for this year's Sats marking mess, put the future of key stage tests in doubt. The US-owned company had been just a year into its Pounds 156 million five-year contract to mark the tests for 11- and 14-year-olds, and agreed to repay pound;19.5m of the pound;35m it had received. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority said the contract had been terminated through mutual agreement. But Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, summed up the situation better when she said that "sacking ETS was a no- brainer".

Great Britain's Olympic triumphs were used as a stick to beat state schools by no less than four columnists, including Boris Johnson, London's mayor. Why were so many of the medal-winners from private schools, they asked?

Rather than comparing independent and state schools' rowing, sailing and horse-riding facilities, or the provision of PE, they decided comprehensives were to blame as they were anti-elitist.

The Daily Mail wrote that it was time "the state education sector put its house in order", while Mr Johnson urged Daily Telegraph readers to imagine what Team GB's glorious medal tally would be "if we stamped out the last vestige of the politically correct nonsense that for so long dominated the education establishment".

Last week's A-level results were hit by "sibling inflation", The Guardian said, as "the number of photogenic twins gaining top grades and places at the same university rose again".

Grades had also risen for celebrity teenagers. Emma Watson, who plays Hermione in the Harry Potter films, achieved three As. Alex Griffiths, who was kidnapped as a baby, got an A and two Bs. The Press Association noted the two As and a B gained by Princess Eugenie were unusual as members of the Royal Family are "not known for their academic prowess and excel more in sporting activities".

The most curious prediction of the week came from The People, which exclusively reported that diet lessons were set to "become as common on school timetables as English and maths". Really?

Its source was a "top nutritionist" named Oliver Cookson, who does not appear to have any links to the Department for Children, Schools and Families, but does run a website selling protein shake powder.

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