A Week in Education

18th May 2007 at 01:00
IT'S THE same old story. His foot is not even through the front door and already he's whipped out the carnations, uncorked the Pinot Grigio and declared that education is his "personal passion".

This week Gordon Brown set about romancing teachers with promises of pound;35 million extra funding for maths and one-on-one tuition for struggling pupils in his bid to become party leader. The prime minister-in-waiting even had a pop at his long-time rival, Tony Blair, dismissing the education system he's delivered as far from "world class".

Luckily, Mr Blair was out of earshot, helicoptering between classrooms on an education farewell tour that involved reminding everyone repeatedly about the 1,100 schools he has built.

Meanwhile, David Willetts, the shadow education secretary, was busy trying to build on the Blairite legacy. He backed Labour's academy programme, while confirming Tory opposition, first announced last year, to grammar school selection.

And where was Alan Johnson? The Education Secretary was too busy campaigning for the deputy leadership to worry about policy. He told reporters Mr Brown and himself were a "dream ticket".

He did, however, find time to announce a "must-read" list of 160 books recommended for boys, with Philip Pullman, Anthony Horowitz and Terry Pratchett making the list but Dickens and JK Rowling missing out.

Secondaries will have the chance to choose 20 of these books for free.

Knowsley council, Merseyside, unveiled plans to close all of its 11 secondary schools and reopen them as "learning centres". The state-of-the-art units, open from 7am until 10pm, promise to be a handful for teachers. But don't panic: apparently these pupils won't need teaching.

They'll be given their day's assignment at an assembly before dispersing to internet cafe-style "zones" to complete projects in hairdressing, tourism or more traditional academic subjects.

But if all this talk of "zones" and "centres" sounds more like Reiki massage, why not opt for something a bit more traditional? According to the Cambridge School Classics Project, Latin is making a big comeback in state schools.

Nearly 500 are offering the subject, revealed the study, whipping classicists into a monacle-popping frenzy of elation.

Or perhaps it wasn't Latin, but the sight of Myleene Klass posing with some heavenly orbs in a bid to boost the profile of science teaching. The star-gazing former Hear'Say singer begged more graduates to enter the profession, adding: "Astronomy has long been a subject close to my heart."

they said...

'Grammar schools should be re-introduced to rectify the national disgrace of half the country's young people leaving school without decent qualifications.'

Brian Wills Pope, chairman of the Grammar Schools' Association we say...

It is true that last year just under half of pupils (46 per cent) gained five good GCSE grades including English and maths.

But if this is a national disgrace, it was even worse in previous decades.

These include the years when grammar schools thrived, suggesting they may not be an automatic solution, despite their benefits.

O-level and GCSE results have steadily climbed since fixed quotas of top grades were abandoned in the mid-1980s.

In 1990, just one in three pupils left school with five good GCSE grades of any kind. In 1965, in the days of grammar schools and O-levels, only one in five did so.

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