The Week

24th December 2010 at 00:00

A jovial figure hoves into view, plucking a surprise Christmas present from his sack. Santa? No, education secretary Michael Gove, with #163;112 million for school sport. The announcement was an apparent U-turn on his decision to axe school sports partnerships to save #163;162 million. But only #163;47 million of the money in the announcement was new, the rest just shuffled around from the school budgets, and that will only give the partnerships a stay of execution until the summer. Whether you think Mr Gove is Santa or Scrooge, the announcement tasted strongly of humbug.

And now there's another bearded figure appearing from the snow, dressed in his trademark red. Oh, this one isn't Santa, either. It's Virgin founder Richard Branson, who popped up in a Wikileaks cable discussing the British school system. A previous document revealed Prince Andrew opining that Britain had "the best geography teachers in the world". Mr Branson's comments were less flattering. A US ambassador reported that, at a gathering in Beijing, the businessman had complained that British "schooling does not prepare one for entering the business world". That's the problem with Wikileaks: like Father Christmas, it knows if you've been bad or good.

While not Christmassy, it was easy to be filled with cheer by the actions of Ginger Littleton, the world's bravest school governor. When a gunman stormed into her school in Florida, intent on shooting her fellow governors, the mother of three snuck out, then managed to creep up on the attacker and floor him - with her handbag. "My bag was what I had, so that's what I did," she said.

Meanwhile, the BBC broadcasts a Grinch-like report implying that parents were trying to bribe teachers with overly generous Christmas presents such as jewellery or holidays. "The question is: is this all about the Christmas spirit or a rather shrewd move by some parents to curry favour with teachers?" the reporter asked. Unfortunately for the BBC, none of the teachers it interviewed had received such gifts; their most extravagant present turned out to be a pig's head from a dad who was a butcher. Scented candles suddenly seem more appealing.

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