A Week in Education

26th January 2007 at 00:00
With Tony and Gordon firmly aboard the Jade bandwagon, it was only a matter of time before Alan jumped on too. The Education Secretary used Ms Goody's racist outbursts on Celebrity Big Brother to call on schools to teach "core British values".

Jade's continued fame over the past five years might suggest that the British value mindless celebrity, cheap perfume and stunningly poor general knowledge. (She famously thought "East Angular" was a foreign country.) However, Mr Johnson had far loftier ideals in mind.

The racism and bullying directed at Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty prompted him to call for the teaching of those other values of tolerance and understanding.

"We want the world to be talking about the respect we give all cultures, not the ignorance and bigotry shown on our TV screens," he said.J Aled Edwards, theJCommission for Racial Equality'sJcommissioner in Wales, chipped in to the debate, calling on S4C to restore people'sJconfidence in British broadcasting.

Teaching core British values is something Mr Brown has also called for in the teaching of citizenship lessons as he positions himself to be the next Prime Minister. However, Sir Keith Ajegbo, commissioned by the Westminster Government to write a report into how diversity and citizenship should be taught, appears to have deviated from the script by calling for pupils to come up with their own definitions of Britishness.

And Sir Cyril Taylor, chair of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, has called for schools with a majority of Muslim pupils to be replaced by multi-faith academies.

Back in Wales, Jane Davidson, minister for education, lifelong learning and skills,Jthis week congratulated Welsh baccalaureateJstudentsJfrom Cardiff's St David's CatholicJCollege who have receivedJfantasticJoffers from Oxford and other leadingJuniversities over the border.

It is just a pity that the press noticeJcame a day before Wales's chief inspector Susan Lewis commented on the number ofJbacJdrop-outs in 2006. Oh well, she did say the diploma wasn't meant to be an easy option.

They said...

"The more that has been spent on British secondary education, the worse the outcomes have been."

Niall Ferguson,Sunday Telegraph

We say...

This is a curious statement given the trajectory of recent national tests, GCSE and A-level results. Education spending has doubled in real terms since 1980.

Over the same period, the proportion of pupils achieving five or more C grades or better has increased from 24 per cent (at O-level) to 59 per cent at GCSE. The proportion of A-level A grades has nearly trebled since 1980, while key stage 3 results have also risen sharply since the mid-1990s.

International comparisons of English pupils' performance paint a less favourable picture. But they do not point to a dramatic falling away in our schools. Perhaps the professor should do his homework properly.

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