Number block in communication

20th January 2006 at 00:00
Professor John Howson, number-cruncher supreme, got an anguished telephone call from Ruth Kelly's private office. Why, they wanted to know, was the National Audit Office reporting that 28 per cent of primary schools and 20 per cent of secondaries had no permanent head last year? Had this alarming picture come from him?

No no, he replied. Someone in the National Audit Office had simply misread his figures. The figures related to the proportions of schools that had advertised for a head, not of all schools. The DfES quickly rushed out a press release to correct the offending claim. What with one thing and another, the department is having to issue a lot of corrections at the moment.

There is, for instance, the little matter of the order giving effect to the changes in teachers' pay and conditions. Made on December 17, it was laid before Parliament on December 29 and came into force on January 1. But you can't lay something before Parliament when it isn't sitting. So a correction was issued saying it had been laid before Parliament on January 3. As an afterthought, you might say.

The department is looking for a new director of communications at the moment. Don't all rush.

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