The week

23rd July 2010 at 01:00

What do terrorists, dangerous dogs and England's schools have in common? They are the only topics of legislation to have been forced through the House of Commons with such haste. Education Secretary Michael Gove opened the second reading of the Academies Bill saying the reforms were needed urgently because England had "seen a decline in the performance of our country's education in comparison with competitors". He later cited Sweden as a model country. That's curious as the last TIMSS study showed England had overtaken key competitors in science and maths - including Sweden.

Also stressing the negative was the right-wing think-tank the Centre for Policy Studies, which published a report on children's literacy, bluntly titled "So why can't they read?" The report's so full of holes there's not room here to give it the kicking it deserves. The bit that got press coverage was its suggestion that inner-city primary teachers are breeding illiteracy because they are happy to let pupils use "street English" in written work and discussions. Apparently teachers never dare to correct grammatical errors in homework or spoken English. It also stated that Ofsted cares more about schools' environmental work than academic results and that primary teachers think "imparting knowledge is oppressive and that facts interfere with creativity".

Exam board OCR launched a new entry-level qualification in Latin in response to increased demand from secondary pupils. What attracted them? Celebrities' Latin tattoos, according to the Daily Mail, which said the inkwork on Angelina Jolie and David Beckham had "sparked a Latin craze among schoolchildren".

Any headline that begins "School bans ..." is usually codswallop, doubly so if it's in the Daily Express. This week's gem was "School bans football after pupils copy World Cup bad boys". The article stated: "Now any hope the pupils at Plymtree primary school in Devon may have of copying the sublime skills of the Spanish team have been dashed." Except, the school only decided the game was inappropriate in its small playground. Pupils now have their kick-abouts on the village playing field nearby.

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