A Week in Education

14th November 2008 at 00:00

The time and millions of pounds spent restructuring education authorities, introducing databases, training teachers and other staff and setting up children's trusts seemed tragically pointless this week. The trial over the death of Baby P heard that the 17-month-old boy was seen by health and social workers more than 60 times, yet was still repeatedly used "as a punchbag".

Lord Laming's investigation into eight-year-old Victoria Climbie's murder eight years ago in the same London borough sparked the Every Child Matters drive. Schools were among the agencies affected, even though - as in the Baby P case - teachers had no contact with Climbie. Lord Laming warned in The TES earlier this year that implementation of his recommendations had been "patchy". He has now been asked to review them.

The exam board AQA suffered a particularly embarrassing week. Bernice McCabe, head of North London Collegiate School, began it by pointing out that text from a tram guide was being included in one of its English language and literature A-levels. Then came Monday's Sun front page: "Glitter GCSE Outrage: music kids to study pervert." The board had included "I'm the Leader of the Gang" by Gary Glitter among listening suggestions for GCSE music coursework. It swiftly removed the song after a deluge of complaints from children's charities and teacher unions.

Pages 24-25

The BBC gave prominent coverage to the Government's plans to rebuild primary schools across England at a cost of more than Pounds 7 billion. Ministers had announced the scheme more than - erm - two years ago but officially "green lit" it on Wednesday. The Primary Capital Programme aims to rebuild or refurbish half of all primary schools by 2022. However, its sister programme, Building Schools for the Future, was supposed to open 100 secondaries by last December and finished only one. So don't hold your breath.

A headteacher who suspended a quarter of her pupils in one year was praised by the press for her zero-tolerance approach. Caroline Hayne's crackdown at Tendring Technology College in Thorpe le Soken, Essex had "dramatically improved" its GCSE pass rate, according to The Independent, which had "soared to 74 per cent" in three years, said the Daily Express.

But Mrs Haynes said improvements had been a result of many measures including changes to the curriculum and expectations - not just the suspensions. "It wasn't that simple," she told The TES. "As a scientist, I would never draw the conclusion that it's cause and effect".

Unfortunately, schools are now judged on the numbers achieving five good grades, including English and maths. On that, Tendring's improvement was only seven percentage points and it remains below the national average. But that says more about the daftness of league tables than it does about the school.

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