A week in education

12th September 2008 at 01:00

"Why bovva wiv spelin?" asked the Daily Mail after a professor of phonetics said simplifying English spelling could make teaching literacy easier. John Wells, from University College London, suggested that pupils would struggle less with literacy if our irregular system was made more phonetic, like those in Finland or Italy. Professor Wells, also president of the Spelling Society, proposed the abolition of that sacred cow of pedants everywhere, the apostrophe, and the removal of silent letters. Nick Seaton, from the Campaign for Real Education, said such a move would represent a "surrender to youthful fashions". Page 11

Ken Livingstone's former race adviser, Lee Jasper, insisted he was not arguing for a "BNP-style apartheid education system", after calling for the establishment of "all black" schools. Mr Jasper said the schools should be open to all races, but run by black people, with black teachers and a specially designed curriculum. He said it would help tackle gang culture, pointing to the fact that Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela went to all-black schools. He failed to note that neither of these two remained wildly keen on the idea later in life.

Not fancying double maths on a Wednesday morning is an affliction as old as school itself, but the Observer reported that around one in 20 pupils now suffers from "school phobia". Psychologist Dr Nigel Blagg said the medically recognised condition was likely to develop at the start of the school year, and could be exacerbated by the trend towards bigger schools.

A report from the country's leading sports university has claimed that competitive team sports put children off PE. Researchers at Loughborough suggest that forcing them to play rugby may not be the best tactic. Writing in the Sunday Express, Julia Hartley-Brewer attacked the "idiot academics" who suggested pupils may enjoy individual activities such as pilates. "Loughborough alumni Seb Coe and Paula Radcliffe must be writhing in horror," she fumed, forgetting they are both famous for running - an individual sport. Page 12

The annual outcry over the so-called dumbing down of A-levels was followed up this week with an alarming survey in the Sunday Express. Readers were asked whether the fact that 10,000 sixth-formers failed to turn up for their exams "proved A-levels were worthless"? It is unclear how many respondents there were, or what qualifications they themselves had gained in school, but 96 per cent responded Yes. It would also be interesting to find out what proportion of Sunday Express readers understand the concept of a leading question.

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