The Week

28th January 2011 at 00:00

Just as the phone-tapping scandal at the News of the World became "the story that wouldn't die", Michael Gove must feel his decision more than six months ago to scrap Building Schools for the Future suffers from a similar longevity. There he was, probably relaxing in the after-glow of the birth of the EBac when six nasty local authorities popped their heads above the parapet and took him to the High Court for binning their BSF schemes at a very late stage. In the same way that allegations of NoW reporters hacking into people's private phone accounts was never going to play well for Andy "soon to be a PR millionaire" Coulson, images of children in leaking Fifties prefab classrooms surrounded by buckets are never going to reflect well on Mr Gove.

More positive press for the Department's ministers and their policy slate came in the form of the latest from Mossbourne Academy and its omnipresent head Sir Michael Wilshaw (who, incidentally, is advising Mr Gove on the new curriculum). Some ten pupils at this, frankly, remarkable school have been offered places at Cambridge, while many of the others are off to red bricks. Say what you like about the academies programme and Sir Michael's distinctive approach to discipline, but no one can deny that for a relatively new school in deepest Hackney, these results are astonishing.

Another of the secretary of state's favourite teachers made it back into the spotlight this week, too. Katharine Birbalsingh, darling of the Conservative conference, ex-deputy head and now Telegraph blogger, was given another run-out in the national press when it emerged that her former school - the one that felt the heat after her speech to the Tory faithful - is to shut its doors. The decision comes following all the bad publicity and a collapse in applications. It is worth highlighting, at this juncture, that its results were very much on an upward curve. Interesting, too, that it is Ark, the academy chain of which Sir Michael is educational director, that is going to be in charge of its replacement. Let's hope he sprinkles some of his magic edu-dust about the place to sort out this sorry mess - or there may be more awkward headlines just around the corner.

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