The week

6th March 2009 at 00:00

One of the most misunderstood ideas in education recently has been school place lotteries. And this week it was reported that Ed Balls was planning to scrap the things. As parents anxiously waited to find out if they had got their first choice of school, the Schools Secretary told The Observer he wanted a review of lotteries because they could be "pretty arbitrary, pretty unfair and very destabilising". Except his quote referred specifically to systems where authorities allocate "all places" by lottery, or all places within set social bands - a curious thing to complain about given that the Government can't name anywhere where this is happening yet. It would also be bizarre if the school adjudicator's review killed off the best-known, and most-criticised, lottery - the one in Brighton. Random allocation was used only as a final tie-breaker at two of the city's schools last year, causing just 5 per cent of pupils to miss out on their school choice. And Brighton's approach has already been given the official thumbs-up by Mr Balls and, erm, a schools adjudicator.

A rise in the number of teenage pregnancies led to teachers being blamed - again - for forcing children to learn about sex. Amanda Platell moaned in the Daily Mail: "Under Labour, more sex education at an even younger age has led to more teenage pregnancies. It's a simple enough equation." Except it's not a simple equation and there isn't a causal link, as any pupil doing a GCSE in critical thinking could tell her. The proportion of teenagers becoming pregnant has, generally, fallen over the past decade. And, as Madeleine Bunting pointed out in The Guardian, the areas with the biggest decreases are the ones that have spent a great deal of money and effort on... sex education.

What with the global financial meltdown and international terrorism, you might not expect newspapers to devote any space to simple breaches of school uniform policy. Even the PTA newsletter might think that "Pupil told off for wearing non-approved clothes" was a bit of a non-story. But that didn't stop the Sunday Mirror reporting that a boy at St Edmund's Catholic School in Portsmouth had been sent home for wearing an ear stud ("Boy, 14, in earring rule row"). Meanwhile The Daily Telegraph reported that St Laurence School in Wiltshire had asked a girl to refrain from wearing a thermal vest as it was visible under her uniform ("School's vest ban"). Expect to see "Child insists trainers really are school shoes" on next week's front pages.

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