The week

17th July 2009 at 01:00
Philip Pullman, sex education and TDA pushes to get more men teaching in primary schools

A desperate struggle for school places is happening in almost a fifth of the country, the Local Government Association warned. But the LGA's survey suggests the situation might not be as grave as feared. Around 13 per cent of councils said the economic downturn might lead to higher demand, but 30 per cent "neither experienced nor anticipated" any change, while 37 per cent did not know what would happen.

The Charity Commission got tough on two independent schools for failing to offer enough bursaries as it published the results of its first public benefit tests. This prompted headlines that "middle-class" families would be priced out of private schools, if fees were raised to fund discounted places for poorer children. But worries that the two schools will be stripped of their charitable status may be premature - because they've been given a year to improve and no one seems to have figured out the process yet.

Philip Pullman led protests from children's authors who said it was "outrageous, demeaning and insulting" that they would have to be vetted before they could visit schools. The complaints featured in news reports stating that the new Independent Safeguarding Authority wants to carry out checks on all people working with children from this October. That's curious, as the Home Office insists that the vetting and barring procedures only apply to those who work "regularly" with a group of children - and not those who make occasional visits.

The Training and Development Agency for Schools launched (yet another) push to get men teaching in primary schools. Graham Holley told The Observer: "Whenever I talk about the need to get more men into primaries, the unions say I'm being anti-women, but it's not that." Cue the following day's statement from Chris Keates, NASUWT general secretary, that his claims were an "implicit criticism of women teachers".

Sex education got family groups hot under the collar, with news that pupils were being advised that "an orgasm a day keeps the doctor away". The advice is included in a health service leaflet entitled Pleasure, which pointed out the cardiovascular benefits of regular sex. Tory campaigners were horrified to learn that pupils in a south London school had listened to a recording of a brothel owner describing sexual services - though it had been for hard-hitting lessons on sex trafficking.

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