The Week

8th May 2009 at 01:00

It spread rapidly from school to school. Not swine flu, but the game it inspired - The Guardian described it as a version of "It" in which caught pupils said "Oink", then played dead. Meanwhile the real swine flu caused at least five schools and a nursery to shut, while exam boards worked on emergency contingency plans for this year's Sats and GCSEs. The Government urged headteachers not to panic, yet simultaneously advised private schools to prepare to set up "quarantine areas".

Two groups passed each other on Brighton's pavements on Bank Holiday Monday. The younger brigade were anti-capitalists and anarchists, arriving for an anti-war protest that saw clashes with mounted police and a few shops vandalised. The older, smarter group were headteachers. So who were the greatest rebels, and upset ministers most with their plans to paralyse the system? The National Association of Head Teachers members, of course. They voted on Saturday to ballot for a key stage test boycott next year, ignoring a bold, last-ditch speech by Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary.

The beleaguered Prime Minister announced plans to let parents report under-performing schools to their local authorities. As if complaining parents could not already contact them or trigger Ofsted inspections. Christine Blower, who was elected general secretary of the NUT this week, dismissed the initiative as "simply another piece of populist spin".

The Sutton Trust charity published research showing that the brightest pupils in the most deprived schools got GCSEs two-and-a-half grades lower than those in the most advantaged. The Daily Express concluded this was a "shameful" betrayal of talent and proved the need to introduce academic selection. Except the report wanted the precise opposite - it called for banding by ability to ensure mixed intakes.

Chris Woodhead, the former chief schools inspector, revealed he had motor neurone disease. Despite his being the profession's bete noire, several teachers wrote on The TES website that, although they disagreed with his views, the education world had too few such provocative characters. But Mr Woodhead is not going quietly: he will shortly be publishing a book criticising the British schools system. He told The Sunday Times he would rather commit suicide by riding his wheelchair off a cliff than succumb to paralysis. "In the past, plenty of people might have volunteered to push," the newspaper noted.

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