The week

19th June 2009 at 01:00

A right-of-centre think tank concluded that A-levels aren't what they used to be. Which is what it would say. But Reform's report was better than the usual moans, as it asked academics to analyse how the exams for their subjects had changed. Rosemary Bailey, statistics professor at Queen Mary College, University of London, was the most outspoken. Maths A-level had become a "satnav" exam, giving pupils too much guidance, Professor Bailey said, and its questions on pure maths were "mind-numbingly boring, apart from those which are mind-numbingly stupid". Ouch.

More unexpected was the Conservatives' announcement they would scrap key stage tests for 11-year-olds. Yup, the same tests they introduced. The Tories proposed making secondary schools set the exams instead when pupils join them. Not a crazy idea, as many secondaries already re-test new pupils. But primary schools would still be rated on their pupils' results - so Year 6 teachers could end up spending their summer holidays trailing their former class around to ensure they keep revising.

The Sunday Times reported that the head of a state primary in south London was doubling his earnings to more than Pounds 155,000 by managing a private gym complex on the school's site. But in a stroke of PR brilliance, Greg Martin, head of Durand Primary in Stockwell, then transformed his image from fat cat to socially responsible pioneer. He told The Daily Telegraph that much of the gym's profits were going towards an innovative project: to set up a secondary outside London where local teenagers could board, safe from "stabbings and the constant threat of trouble". (Personal confession: as a member of Durand's gym, I can reveal that it is, indeed, well managed, with a nice swimming pool.)

This week's thing-banned-from-schools story appeared in the Daily Mail, which reported on "The school that's banned bananas". Stoke Damerel Primary in Plymouth has been advising pupils against bringing bananas in for two years because contact with them could cause one of its teachers to go into anaphylactic shock and die. Some families are still unconvinced: grandparent Mary Williams grumbled that the banana ban was "ridiculous" and "a massive overreaction". Of course. Who cares if a teacher drops dead if it means pupils can chomp on a banana at lunchtime?

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