The week

6th February 2009 at 00:00

The anger started as light flurries, then blanketed the front pages: why had thousands of schools been closed by snow? "Teachers must show grit", stormed the Telegraph, while the Daily Mail suggested school staff were "bed-wetters". Parent groups complained to The Times that the closures would make pupils think it was "OK to give in to adversity".

Of course, the decisions were made by heads rather than teachers - and often on entirely valid grounds, such as the iciness of local roads. Although some local authorities overacted, it was only in response to weather forecasts warning of worse conditions - warnings repeated, with a growing sense of panic by TV news. And, after the worst snow in 18 years, how many schools in England actually shut? At the most, a fifth on Monday and a third on Tuesday. No one pointed out the comparative number of, say, closed estate agents - but then they are not treated as a national babysitting service.

Still, this week's most bizarre accusation came from columnist Simon Heffer. He wrote in the Telegraph that Britain's schools failed to help the brightest because of a conspiracy involving the "underbelly of teachers who enter the profession to assist in the socialist project of making everyone so stupid as to deny them the intellectual tools to question the evils of the state".

The Guardian revealed the shock news that the Government will "nationalise failing private schools". Or, to be precise, that ministers will carry on letting independent schools apply for academy status, if they feel like it. As the paper mentioned, this has already happened five times.

A report on childhood by the Children's Society was interpreted by right-wing columnists as proof that working mothers had destroyed families. Which wasn't quite what it said. The report did, however, recommend scrapping exam league tables.

The Conservatives appointed the former Countdown presenter Carol Vorderman to a taskforce on numeracy teaching. David Cameron moaned that England had slipped down international tables for maths, failing to mention that the most recent one showed its global ranking had, erm, improved from 18th to seventh place. Miss Vorderman, meanwhile, said better maths teaching was vital "if Britain is to emerge stronger from the recession" - though presumably a ban on celebrities advertising unsecured loans would help, too.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today