The Week

22nd October 2010 at 01:00

It will surely be an enormous release when the repercussions of the comprehensive spending review are truly understood. Whether good or bad, all will at least know where they stand. An end to rampant speculation will be another positive feature - the kind of speculation which one day tells you that schools' budgets are to be saved and the next predicts decimation of frontline education staff. That the Training and Development Agency for Schools is for the bin in one breath and set for salvation in the next. The full repercussions will take a while to figure out, but surely we can all be relieved that we now have the raw data with which to do the maths ...

With all this talk of cuts, savings, redundancies and pupil premiums, it was easy this week to forget that the wonderful world of education didn't just stand still. Schools opened, teachers taught and pupils learnt. Except, of course, for those that were bunking off. New statistics sneaked out by the cheeky little monkeys at the Department showed a record number of primary pupils skipping school. The fact that the year-on-year increase was beyond miniscule didn't stop our friends in Fleet Street working themselves into an outraged frenzy. Nor did the fact that the overall number actually dropped, when secondaries were included. Ah well.

Next to the massive in-tray on Michael Gove's desk with the huge flashing "negotiating budget cuts" sign, there will have been another pile steadily growing, the one labelled "other stuff". Among the most prominent items in it will be the new Ofsted chief inspector. But who will it be? Who will take on the mantle of Christine Gilbert once she has departed next year for non-executive directorship heaven? While technically the post is the responsibility of Parliament, it is also a deeply party-political appointment (ask Chris Woodhead) and no one will get the gig without Mr Gove's nod. Just one name so far has risen out of the speculative firmament, and that name is Bernice McCabe. Top traditionalist head (at North London Collegiate, but with a state school career), public mourner of the loss of subject knowledge, and director of the Prince's Teaching Institute, she certainly presses all of Mr Gove's edu-buttons. Watch this space.

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