The week

1st July 2011 at 01:00

Peer out the window, carefully. Has the nation survived yesterday's one-day teachers' strike over pensions, or is it a smouldering Mad Max-style wasteland? When talks to avert the action failed, and school closures appeared inevitable, The Express's headline began "CHAOS LOOMS". It was not the only voice of hysteria. A Conservative party press officer said the leader of the ATL - normally one of the most moderate unions - had "come across as mad" by defending public-sector pensions. Another official accused the NUT of "bullying" because it issued a reminder to heads that health and safety rules trumped any pressure they might face from governors or officials to remain open.

To be fair, the phrases "bullying" and "coming across as mad" were also used by some teachers this week to describe education secretary Michael Gove. His suggestion that parents should break the strike and fill in for teachers themselves was met with incredulity and giggles. However, some could see an upside. "I would LOVE one or two of my parents to spend a whole day in class with their delightful offspring," one teacher wrote.

The Government somehow also found time this week to unveil reforms to higher education. These included a scheme to give popular universities that charge fees of #163;7,500 or less a year the chance to expand their places. It would be cynical to dismiss this plan as a desperate bolt-on to compensate for the fact that ministers failed to predict that nearly every university was going to try to charge the full #163;9,000 in order to look like elite institutions. Cynical, but probably right.

For a more uplifting tale, we turn to a south London primary where a staff member was struck by lightning. Tom Langham, a 25-year-old teaching assistant, was hit by the bolt on Tuesday lunchtime in the grounds of Hackbridge Primary in Sutton. "The bolt knocked him to the ground, but he didn't lose consciousness and was able to make his way back inside," head Jacquie Fairhurst said. "Afterwards he said he was fine, but felt like he had been in a round with Mike Tyson." Mr Langham was due to return to work yesterday - unless his school was closed by the strike. Perhaps unions can cause more chaos than acts of God, after all.

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