The Week

25th February 2011 at 00:00

Swoosh! There it goes. Blink and you've missed it. Half-term's more or less over again. Less a full-scale battery recharge, more a take-the-back-off-the-remote-and-give-the-triple-As-a-rub. Better than a poke in the eye with a whiteboard marker though, eh?

One teacher who's not had a quiet few days is The TES's old friend, Katharine Birbalsingh. The scion of Woodhead - and the darling of the Tory party conference - seemingly spent most of last week doing a round of interviews with broadsheet journalists to publicise her forthcoming book and explain the "failings of English schools". We read the words, so you don't have to. In summary: the Sunday Times loves her, and the Grauniad doesn't. Nothing earth-shattering there. Nor was there anything surprising in the news that Ms Birbalsingh is thinking about taking up a leadership position in a free school (Michael Gove would love this if it came to pass). Much more interesting was an insight into her love-life. Or lack of. "Friends always say my private life has suffered because I am always working," she told the Sunday Times. "And probably a bit scary. Who wants to date the leader of a revolution." That'll be it, then.

That pesky free-school policy of Mr Gove still doesn't seem to be going away. Even over half-term, when most self-respecting educationalists have their feet on their desks, the issue bubbles away. There are, it seems, hundreds in the pipeline. Indeed, news this week emerged that some local authorities could be facing proposals for up to 10. Why anyone is in any way surprised that most of these schools are being promoted by religious groups is another matter, however. Surely one would need the patience of a Buddhist monk to deal with the paperwork.

While hundreds of schools appear to be opening here in Blighty, this is not the case Stateside. So spare a thought, this week, for your professional brethren in the post-credit crunch wasteland of Detroit. Council leaders in the "city that's dying" announced plans on Tuesday to shut down half its schools. Yes, half. Makes Mr Gove's so-called transformational policies look like little more than a mild irritant, doesn't it?

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