A week in education

16th January 2009 at 00:00

Excellent teachers were promised a Pounds 10,000 cash bonus to work for a minimum commitment of three years in secondary schools with the lowest exam results. The Government suggested up to 6,000 teachers at about 500 National Challenge schools would receive the "golden handcuffs". This act of generosity was marred only by the fact that half the cash will have to come from the struggling schools' own budgets. It is still unclear how headteachers will choose the winners, although the London Evening Standard reported that the perks would be for "tough teachers", so one answer might be arm-wrestling contests. Page 21

The Conservatives announced they would scrap exam coursework. At least, that was The Sunday Times headline. Michael Gove, the shadow education secretary, actually said the Tories would put "less emphasis" on coursework, but acknowledged that it would remain for some qualifications and he did not know yet how much of it would go.

Reducing coursework would seem a more radical idea if the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority had not started doing it already. The authority announced two years ago that, from this summer, it would vanish from GCSEs in business studies, classics, economics, English literature, geography, history, foreign languages, religious studies and social sciences and replaced by controlled assessment.

A prank by an eight-year-old girl, who hid a classmate's shoe, sparked reports that Britain was turning into a Big Brother state. The Mail on Sunday reported that Lynch Hill Primary in Slough had caught the culprit on its CCTV system, and written a letter to her mother. The parent "had been in favour of the cameras being introduced to protect children but was horrified at how they are now being used", it said. The Pounds 13 black patent ballet pumps were found in a locker.

A Labour MP accused teachers of inventing dyslexia to cover up poor methods for teaching reading. Graham Stringer, MP for Manchester Blackley, wrote that the "education establishment, rather than admit that their eclectic and incomplete methods for instruction are at fault, have invented a brain disorder called dyslexia". Mr Stringer backed up his argument by claiming that West Dunbartonshire had "eliminated illiteracy" through synthetic phonics, ignoring the crucial fact that it uses a lower measure of functional literacy than schools in England.

The prize for unsurprising research finding of the week nearly went to the Social Mobility Commission, which revealed that a child's social class has a big impact on how they do at school. Amazing. But the commission was beaten by the Girls' Schools Association, which received press coverage as far afield as India for its latest poll. Its finding? Parents think they set a better example for their daughters than footballers' wives and reality TV stars. Or, as The Daily Telegraph put it, "'Low IQ' Wags seen as a bad influence on girls". Coleen Rooney could have predicted that.

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