A Week in Education

31st October 2008 at 00:00

Parents must have been alarmed by news in The Daily Telegraph that a "loophole may see banned teachers return to schools". Really? The newspaper reported that a new system for listing those adults who are banned from working with children would be weaker than the old one, List 99, because it would not automatically include teachers found guilty of professional misconduct. But heads of state schools will still be legally required to check that staff are registered with the General Teaching Council. So they should discover very quickly if an applicant has been banned, suspended, or even just made to do extra training because of misconduct or incompetence. Phew. Panic over.

Almost half of teachers believe pupil behaviour has deteriorated, a poll for the Government showed. Contradictorily, the same survey of 1,479 teachers showed that 70 per cent felt behaviour in their school was good or very good, with only 7 per cent rating it as poor. The Department for Children, Schools and Families told The Independent that the findings demonstrated "a perception gap" between teachers' positive experiences of their own school and how they imagined it was elsewhere. Although another explanation is that some teachers work in schools where behaviour is generally good, yet are still hacked-off by the low-level disruption in their classrooms.

Commentators' moans about plans for sex education in primary schools grew nastier, with Peter Hitchens suggesting in The Mail on Sunday that any teacher who taught such a class was guilty of "paedophile grooming". Over in The Daily Telegraph, another right-wing standard-bearer, Simon Heffer, objected to the idea that pupils should be taught about such a horrible thing as relationships: "I can already hear the Marxist nutters who draw up the curriculum at teacher training colleges salivating as they compile the blueprint for this most intimate act of social engineering."

Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, announced he would back secondary heads who wanted to keep pupils in school at lunchtime to stop them eating fast food. A nice gesture, but one that suggests he never read the book One out of 10, about Peter Hyman's career switch from advising Tony Blair to working as a teaching assistant in a London school. Mr Hyman said the experience made him question ministers' speeches attacking "tipping out" at lunchtimes. "The first implication is that schools are releasing children out of stupidity," he said. "Now that I'm seeing it from the school's perspective, I'm wondering why ministers even bother to mention such micro issues other than to show they are 'in touch' with voters."

Weirdest sight of the week: television presenter Adrian Chiles getting caned on the backside by a teacher in a mortar board. The incident occurred on BBC's The One Show, which broadcasts a special report on corporal punishment, inspired by The TES' survey results of a few weeks ago that found one in five teachers wanted it made legal in schools again. Mr Chiles deserves admiration for his willingness to investigate caning first-hand. His yelps of pain as he received six of the best from education commentator Simon Warr, a Latin and French teacher, made The TES poll entirely worthwhile.

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