The Week

4th February 2011 at 00:00

And they say that kids don't follow the news any more. That they don't like current affairs. Try telling that to pupils at St Benedict's Catholic College in Essex, who launched an unlikely bout of Egyptian-inspired protesting on Monday. One minute a teacher is having an innocent word with two girls in the playground; the next, Facebook and the internet are being used to organise a school-wide protest against rules that pupils claimed would ban any pupil contact. One internet user posted, "From now on, every year on January the 27th, we have to have a riot." One wonders whether head John O'Hara was tempted to phone Google and ask them to turn off the Colchester internet?

This is, of course, the kind of pupil behaviour that has inspired many a parent to consider setting up a free school so that little Tarquin and Rufus don't have to mix with such oiks. Many of these groups (400 to be precise) had an outing to London last Saturday where they enjoyed an eccentric performance from Michael Gove. It was apt, given that so many of those behind plans for free schools are of the Christian persuasion, that the secretary of state described his almost Damascene conversion to free schools as "cynic to evangelist". Strange, however, that omnipresent campaigner and right-wing columnist Toby Young was not rolled out to lead the choir. Indeed the public (baby) face of the free school movement was oddly absent from the whole event. Perhaps he was up north advising Barry Chuckle - one half of the iconic 1980s children's telly double act - on his plans to establish one in Rotherham. To me, to you?

In a crowded field, one of the Government's weirder free school policies has long been that they won't have to employ registered teachers and can, instead, pluck anyone off the street and chuck them into a classroom. And pluck they might well have to do, following the announcement this week of figures on the future training of teachers. If these numbers (a cut of more than 5,000 secondary trainee places from September) are to be believed, it might not be only free school heads trying to persuade Pete the neighbourhood plumber to take on KS3 physics. Time, perhaps, to dust down the Yellow Pages.

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