Blunkett's funky numeracy number

26th May 2000 at 01:00
MAYBE it's a side-effect of three years controlling everything that moves in our schools, but Education Secretary David Blunkett seems to be taking his responsibilities rather too seriously.

Parents of seven-year-olds joining the clamour against the national curriculum tests (the most vocal campaign, according to BBC's Today programme, since a furious debate about the virtues of domestic cats) have been startled to get reassuring phone calls from the Department for Education and Employment - not from a faceless minion, but the big cheese himself. Apparently Mr B is claiming "considerable success" in converting parents to his point of view.

In between calls - you couldn't make this up - he's signed up pop band S Club 7 for a numeracy campaign. Teenagers will be asked to write maths-related pop songs which the band will judge.

The prize? Meeting the band and recording the ditty at Abbey Road studios. Leaving aside the quesion of how many teenagers will stop sneering long enough to find a rhyme for "algebra", you suspect a far more educational prize would be an hour with

S Club's svengali, ex-Spice Girls' manager Simon Fuller.

What with all this, Mr B harbours no ambitions to be a godparent of the First Baby. He said: "Any godfather would be on baby-sitting duties. I don't want to be changing nappies at my time of life."

More deprivations await the infant Blair. Within days of nurseries ruling that toy guns are OK, a new threat to western civilisation is identified: musical chairs. Too violent, apparently.

And the final entrant in the you-couldn't-make-it-up corner? The school that doles out multi-

vitamin pills and "100 per cent attender" T-shirts to discourage staff illness. Pray Mr B ( on a crusade to cut teacher sick leave) doesn't hear of it, or ailing teachers could join bolshy parents on his personal phone list.

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