The week

26th November 2010 at 00:00

The week was dominated by a grand vision. Like a giant of the Renaissance, Michael Gove towered over English education as Leonardo da Vinci would a blank canvas. What would our political overlord - whose references range from early Socratic thought to the lyrics of the Pet Shop Boys - produce? Would the white paper be a masterpiece, in the style of Canaletto, perhaps? Or more a Year 8-style take on Cubism? One thing that's crystal clear is that it will take a genius of political science to square his authoritarian and libertarian streaks. He seems to be saying that schools should be given many more freedoms as long as they follow a strict regime of phonics and linear history. Mmm, philosophical paradoxes. Our favourite.

Just as Mr Gove's Massive Brain(TM) was kicking into fifth gear, Ofsted pottered into the educational debate by having a pop at "boring teachers". Introducing her final annual report on schools, chief inspector Christine Gilbert said there was "too much teaching that is dull and uninspiring". You had to dig a bit into the report to find how much teaching was actually rated inadequate: just 4 per cent in primary schools and 5 per cent in secondaries. But it was the boring teacher bit that stuck. The report contained examples of weak teaching, including lessons focusing on "basic revision of a skill or technique" - which sounds rather like the kind of test preparation that schools are under pressure to make, because if their exam scores are low they'll be criticised by, erm, inspectors.

Boring teachers were also the bad guys in a new film that hit UK cinemas this week. Not the new Harry Potter (which features no scenes in Hogwarts at all), but Waiting for "Superman", a documentary examining problems in the US education system made by the director of climate change blockbuster An Inconvenient Truth. The film's main villains are the American teaching unions and sluggish local authorities, while the heroes are the founders of charter schools. So it will be welcomed with open arms by those to the right of the education debate in the UK, though they will probably stick their fingers in their ears during a section which suggests mixed-ability teaching is great after all. Over to you, Mr Gove - can you square this one, too?

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