A Week in Education
Disaster! Two-thirds of schools are now rated outstanding or good, according to the chief school inspectors' annual report. This is an improvement on last year, and significantly better than the year before. But it was not enough to impress Christine Gilbert, the chief inspector of schools, or the Press Association, which assumed the finding meant that "More than a third of schools are failing pupils". The proportion rated as inadequate by inspectors was - erm - 9 per cent for secondaries and just 4 per cent for primaries. Pages 24-25
Headteachers were the only people willing to defend Sharon Shoesmith, Haringey's director of children's services, who became a press hate figure after the trial over Baby P's death. Sixty-one heads wrote a public letter stating Ms Shoesmith had "transformed a demoralised education service, derided by many headteachers, into one with which we are now proud to be associated". But what was their motive? Some of the heads said they were annoyed with comments by David Cameron, the Conservative leader, who told MPs that the north London council did "nothing to help struggling local schools that are failing". Page 8
Delays continued with education maintenance allowances, leaving thousands of sixth form and FE students waiting for their weekly payments. The Government sacked Liberata, the company responsible, and replaced it with the ever-so-reliable Capita.
Meanwhile, the most innovative solution was dreamed up by Blackburn College in Lancashire. It handed out Tesco vouchers worth Pounds 10 to its cash-strapped students, presumably reasoning that every little helps (sigh).
A school in Berkshire launched an overdue rebranding exercise after admitting its name had put off parents. Broadmoor Primary in Crowthorne hopes to end the association with the nearby high-security mental hospital, which has been home to the serial killers Ian Brady and Peter Sutcliffe. Pupils will vote on a new name in January.
A survey suggesting that a fifth of independent schools had fewer pupils than last year led to a series of alarming headlines in the broadsheets, including "Fears for private schools in downturn" and "Credit crunch takes toll of private schools". Curiously, most newspapers did not mention a crucial finding from the same poll: nearly half said pupils numbers in their schools had gone up. Still, most of the 2,000 teachers surveyed by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers expected budget cuts. And, admittedly, The TES reported the closure of two prep schools last week under a similarly alarming headline: "Private schools closing as the credit crunch bites".