'Rabbit ears' in the headlines

23rd May 2003 at 01:00
The first briefings about the primary strategy at the beginning of the week gave little clue about what was to come.

The Sunday papers were spun a tale about parents of young yobs being forced to take behaviour lessons. The Sunday People dealt with this "crackdown on unruly pupils" in a three-paragraph slot.

But by Tuesday, both The Mirror and The Times had been tipped off about Charles Clarke's U-turn on Sats. The Mirror gave the "brave and far-sighted" Clarke top marks. But The Times feared he risked surrendering control in schools to those "whose prime concern may be disguising their own failings."

Those not privy to the early briefings rolled up to the London launch of the strategy where ministers talked of putting the "magic" into primaries.

But heads had other things on their minds. During questions up popped Cornish head Debbie Snookes. She wanted to talk about the funding crisis and the four redundancies in her school. She was soon surrounded by press - and officials telling her not to give out her telephone number.

Next for Mr Clarke, an unexpected summons to the Commons, where the Tories wanted him to justify the strategy - an event described by Guardian sketchwriter Simon Hoggart as "not so much speaking as downloading".

So to Wednesday's papers: and what was the verdict? A welcome turning point towards making the primary school timetable more enjoyable for children (Independent); a dramatic climbdown as a sop to classroom lefties (Sun); and classic Labour spin which successfully hoodwinked the media (Daily Telegraph).

But the enduring image of the day was the picture gleefully used by all of Mr Clarke falling victim to the old schoolboy "rabbit ears" trick (see above). DfES pleas not to use it merely added to the merriment.

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