A week in education
An historic event occurred for parent-teacher relations. A father in Huddersfield became the first parent to be given an Asbo for hurling abuse at school staff.
Wayne Edmund, 35, had been involved in seven incidents at Holmfirth Junior, Infant and Nursery School, including one in which he threatened to kill his child's teacher. District Judge Gary Garland told him: "To put it bluntly, if you have a problem with your kids at school, don't go round there, steamrolling in, wanting to have a row with the headmaster or teachers." The judge's quote may soon appear in some school prospectuses.
Chancellor Alistair Darling announced plans in his pre-budget report to accelerate school rebuilding projects to help bail out the construction industry. Good news for teachers in those areas that will now get Pounds 800 million to refurbish primaries and secondaries in 2009-10, a year early. Not so much fun for the local authority officials who now have just three weeks to submit their proposals, adding to concerns that the building projects could end up rushed and poorly designed. Page 10
The Bugle, a satirical podcast for The Times, proposed a simpler solution to the credit crunch: stop paying teachers. "Teachers occupy a similar position to our Armed Forces - they operate in difficult conditions, with little support from the Government, lack adequate equipment and funding, and often face hostile resistance, leaving many mentally scarred for life," it said. "If the Armed Forces can cope with their disparagingly minimal wages, is it not too much to ask teachers to manage with no wages at all?"
The Guardian reported that groups such as the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child (Spuc) were using "shock tactics" in schools to frighten girls off abortions. The Daily Telegraph took the reverse position, writing with equal horror about a Family Planning Association (FPA) project that dares to shows girls "a film that teaches them that they have the right to choose an abortion". By a happy coincidence, the critics of the FPA scheme quoted by the Telegraph were none other than Spuc. So it's great material for GCSE media studies.
And lo, the new schools minister did finally speak. Sarah McCarthy-Fry, who has replaced Lord Adonis, revealed that she backed single-sex lessons as a way to get girls more interested in subjects such as science and engineering. She told The Independent that girls "sometimes feel intimidated in mixed-sex classes with the boys hogging the limelight and putting their hands up to answer all the questions".
The idea is not exactly original, and single-sex classes can sometimes disadvantage boys. But there is better evidence for it than some of her predecessor's pet projects (like, say, putting millionaire businessmen in charge of schools).