The week

8th October 2010 at 01:00

They're not the Nasty Party any more, apparently. Nor, following certain policy announcements this week, do they appear to be the Party of the Family. And, despite being back in power for the first time in a gazillion years, they're not the Champagne Party either. So just what is the Conservative Party these days if all these traditional nicknames are dead in the water? Well, if Tuesday's education session was anything to go by, it does remain the Party of School Discipline. Michael Gove devoted a good deal of his speech to it and then rolled out his new teacher of choice. Out with Mossborne Academy's Sir Michael Wilshaw, in with tough-talking south London deputy head Katharine Birbalsingh. She certainly pressed the right buttons. How the ever-lovely Tory crowd swooned as she told them how decades of liberal incompetence was to blame for black underachievement and that coursework was undermining qualifications. In amongst it all, she also attacked grade-chasing caused by league tables, but no one seemed to notice. This is not the last we'll see of Ms Birbalsingh. Of that you can be sure.

One of the main reasons the Tories were banned from supping vintage Pol Roger and then tearing up central Birmingham was, of course, that we are less than two short weeks away from the end of time: the comprehensive spending review. Boy George, holed up in No 11, is holding his cards firmly to his chest when it comes to schools. The wonderful world of education does seem to be holding its breath as it waits to discover just how bad it will be. It will certainly be interesting to find out, however, what politicians mean when they say they're looking to protect "the front line".

The beginning of the week also featured a couple of paradoxical stories. First came news that several local authorities, led by Nottingham, were launching legal action to force Mr Gove to hand over the previously promised Building Schools for the Future cash. It was swiftly followed by research which surprisingly concluded that brand spanking new school buildings have no impact on pupil performance, and in some cases make it worse. Perhaps it would be sensible for the angry councils to sit back, pour themselves a drink and delight in the fact that they never had the bother.

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