The week

24th September 2010 at 01:00

Is there a more predictable news story than the one about the secondary that bans school skirts? It comes along with extraordinary frequency, including last weekend at Whitecross High in Hereford, and is always treated by mainstream journalists as if it's never happened before. The really depressing thing is the predictability of the coverage. Right-wing newspapers wind up the moral outrage to such a level that only dogs can hear it, while picture editors dust down the sort of snaps of short-skirted schoolgirls that, if found on your laptop, would see you in front of a professional conduct committee faster than you can say "autobiographical research".

Talking of predictable, on to John Humphrys' BBC2 documentary (part of the Beeb's school season) on how education is letting down the most deprived kids. Who am I kidding? Surely ratings must have been nearly non-existent due to a scheduling decision that saw it pitched against the first episode of the new series of Spooks over on BBC1. High-paced, adrenalin-filled, spy-based escapism or gritty edu-investigation? Hmmm. Assuming you plumped for the former, you'll be fascinated to hear that Ol' Humph explored the reasons behind the success of - you've guessed it - both Mossbourne Academy in east London and Phoenix School on the other side of town. I wonder how long it took the programme's researchers to come up with those names.

Rather more unexpected were the findings of a Wellcome Trust report published on Tuesday which found that Year 6 kids rather like being tested and are rather partial to a bit of Sats. They say, apparently, that they help them learn and improve. The only downside is that they are a little "stressful". Not as bad, one can only imagine, as the stress levels these findings must have produced among certain union general secretaries.

Meanwhile, over in Liverpool, the Lib Dems were winding themselves up into a frenzy of reasonableness about free schools. Can the majority of members be persuaded that winning a decent wodge of cash for their long-promised pupil premium is sufficient compensation for selling their educational soul? Only time - and the size of the wodge - will tell.

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