The week

3rd July 2009 at 01:00

Prepare to let someone rummage under your bonnet. Teachers could now face MOT-style tests every five years to make sure they are up to scratch in the classroom, under plans announced by Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary. As The Sun reported: "The licence - similar to those for doctors and lawyers - will help weed out rotten teachers and make it impossible for those who have been sacked to walk into a job at another school." The re-registration scheme, which will be overseen by the General Teaching Council, was first proposed two years ago in The TES by the GTC's chief executive Keith Bartley. But the Conservatives don't support it so it may still never happen. Welcome to the limbo period.

The "licence to teach" was just one of the proposals in the 21st-century schools white paper, published on Tuesday. Key announcements included the scrapping of the National Strategies - spun by Ed Balls as a chance to give greater autonomy to teachers (rather than, say, saving millions of pounds on consultants and Capita fees). Mr Balls said the Government wanted to "move away from a central view of school improvement" before announcing a set of proposals based on... a central view of school improvement. These included introducing a standard school report card and pushing schools to join federations.

Prince Charles' teaching institute launched another attack in the knowledge versus skills war. Bernice McCabe, the institute's director and headteacher of North London Collegiate School, blasted the Government's skills agenda, accusing it of demoting subjects. She also took a shot at Mick Waters, the QCA's former curriculum director, saying that the "personal learning and thinking skills" he promoted were "a wholly inadequate prescription for education". Let's hope both sides recognise that knowledge-versus-skills is a false dichotomy and reach a truce before anyone gets hurt.

This week's shock-thing-banned-by-schools was swimming goggles. Parents complained after St Sidwell's CofE Primary in Exeter told them goggles could only be worn by children with an adverse reaction to chemicals in the water. The Daily Telegraph quoted one outraged parent saying the decision was evidence that we are "breeding a generation of namby pambies". Forget the fact that's been the guidance for Devon schools for, oh, 15 years. Surely letting children wear goggles in a chlorine-filled pool would be the namby-pamby approach?

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