The week

17th December 2010 at 00:00

It's that time of year again. Deck the school hall with boughs of holly, the longest term of the year finally comes to an end. Thank Christ, it's Christmas! This week featured one massive Becher's Brook of an obstacle to clear, however, before teachers could happily lock the school gates for the last time in 2010. That's right, it was the publication of the primary school league tables. Don't all burst into festive song at once.

The league tables, of course, triggered the usual panicky headlines about English education and the way it lets down "the children". Some 1,000 schools, apparently, failed to reach the basic target of getting 60 per cent of their pupils to levels 4 or 5 for both literacy and numeracy. This is, of course, SHOCKING and, if you believe certain "thoughtful" commentators, illustrates what useless so-and-sos teachers and heads are. Alternatively, one might tactfully suggest that some 95 per cent of primaries are, in fact, hitting a very high - and arbitrary - floor target that was first outlined to them only after their pupils had taken the test. But that would be too much to hope for from the mainstream media, wouldn't it?

To make matters even more "amusing", these were the first key stage 2 league tables since the Coalition came to power, so heads and teachers could not even expect the usual supportive words from the Department for Education. Instead, Michael Gove saw it as an ideal opportunity to point out that those primaries that fail to meet his special benchmark can expect to have their heads fired, and then be federated or shut. Happy Christmas to you too, Mr G.

The Gove Big Brain(TM) was not only focused on an imminent cull of heads this week, oh no! He also busied himself with some very large mirrors (possibly the wacky ones you find in a funfair) and a smoke machine as he released further "details" of the post-comprehensive spending review funding settlement for schools. The only thing one can take from this announcement is that no individual school will have a full grasp for at least a couple of months of how poor it will be come March. That will be something to look forward to in the new year, then.

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