A Week in Education

4th May 2007 at 01:00
WHEN IS a pupil like a baked bean can? When a school is a "results factory", according to the government adviser, Professor Alan Smithers, who attacked Labour's production-line approach to education at a union conference last week. Targets and league tables were scaring prospective head teachers into staffroom obscurity, he said, because they were terrified of failing to hit results.

Rather less intimidated by the limelight, Jack Straw, leader of the commons, called for the creation of a shared "British story" to educate children about our past.

His green and pleasant curriculum included the Magna Carta, the Civil War and the fight for votes. But historians branded the notion "too little, too late".

It's a case of too much too soon for girls at co-ed boarding schools, according to Frances King, headmistress at Heathfield St Mary's school, Ascot. She worried that steamy cloakroom tensions were putting gals off their algebra and called for a return to the single-sex school.

It wasn't so much single as multiple at Lutterworth grammar, Leicestershire, where staff were criticised for dishing out 345 morning-after pills in the last four years. Family values campaigners dismissed the initiative as "wicked" and "disgusting". Edwin de Middelaer, headteacher, countered he thought it was "the right thing for the school to do".

Meanwhile the controversy over ethnic segregation continued with Nick Johnson, a director at the Commission for Racial Equality, calling for an end to ghettoisation in British schools, arguing the UK was in danger of turning into a "mini-America".

One in eight British pupils now speak another language at home, and one in five are from an ethnic minority, almost double the figure a decade ago, according to the latest annual school census.

But there's more to life than number-crunching. Hence the Government is introducing lessons in manners. That, at least, is according to the Sunday papers. In fact, the social and emotional aspects of learning programme has been up and running in some secondaries for over a year.

And if kids don't respond to the subtle approach? There's always the internet Asbo. The novel measure has been proposed by the Serious Organised Crime Agency to deter cyber-bullies.

Alas, it comes too late for staff at Emmanuel College in Gateshead, who suffered the indignity of finding their heads pasted onto the bodies of monkeys and bears on a pupil-run website that has already clocked up 18,000 hits.

they said...

National tests represent 'just 0.14 per cent of the available teaching time' during key stage 2.

DfES spokesman

we say...

Critics of the Government's testing regime will see this as completely missing the point.

Secret Government figures revealed in TES journalist Warwick Mansell's new book on testing show that schools are devoting nearly half the week to coaching Year 6 pupils for the tests, from Christmas onwards.

They also show how non-tested subjects such as physical education and art can be marginalised by schools in their desperation to raise test scores.

Schools also routinely set pupils several mock tests.

The time children spend being formally examined, then, is just the small tip of a large iceberg.

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