A Week in Education

5th December 2008 at 00:00

The furore over Baby P's death reached its climax after the suspension of key Haringey council staff. "Will they learn this time?" asked the Daily Mirror, saying staff had failed to heed the 2003 inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbie. Most newspapers attacked Sharon Shoesmith, some wondering how Haringey could have a children's services director who was an expert on schools but less experienced on social care. Of course, all England's authorities were forced to combine education and social care in a single children's services department under one director by this year. Why? As a response to the Climbie inquiry.

An academic warned that state school teachers were moving to the private sector "in droves". Francis Green, professor of economics at Kent University, said the numbers switching sectors had risen from 400 in 1993 to 1,500 last year. John Bangs, of the National Union of Teachers, added there was an "issue of poaching". But if all the warnings about private schools closing because of the recession come true, the traffic may flow both ways.

Results from a Royal Society of Chemistry test mixing O-level and GCSE chemistry exam questions were greeted as further proof of dumbing down. The Independent's headline simply read "0%", adding below that this was "what this year's top science pupils would have got in 1965". A few pupils did fail all the 1965 questions. But only six of the 40 questions were from that year. On average, pupils correctly answered 15 per cent of the 1965 questions and 35 per cent of the 2005 ones. So how would pupils from 1965 have fared? A spokesman for the society admitted to The TES that one of the 2005 questions about radioactive isotopes involved material that had not been on the chemistry syllabus in the 1960s, although he insisted pupils should still have got the answer right from their physics knowledge.

The author of the ghost story The Woman in Black was spooked. Susan Hill told The Daily Telegraph she was alarmed by emails she had received from pupils that displayed "ignorance of any sort of ability to look beyond Google" and demanded that she give them help with their essays. Miss Hill added that emails from teachers showed "an ignorance and laziness that is almost as great".

Blizzards caused more than 200 schools in England to send pupils and staff home. Lancashire, Cumbria and Greater Manchester, which had four inches of snow, were particularly affected. One Peak District teacher complained on the TES website that her head always made staff come in, whatever the weather, "but he has a 4x4, so he's OK".

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