The week

12th August 2011 at 01:00

How odd to go to bed on a Sunday evening in 2011 and wake up the following morning in 1981. How very Ashes to Ashes. How much odder must it have been for teachers around the country to flick on the tellybox that evening to see Little Jon from Year 10 relieving JD Sports of a pair of tracky bottoms before heading next door to burn down JD Wetherspoon's. While most teachers should be relaxed in the knowledge that this did not occur on their watch, one or two will have been more directly affected - at least one FE college was firebombed, while there were also reports of some petty arson at a north London primary. All a little close to home.

Social commentators penning reaction pieces to the riots managed, of course, to shoe-horn in a reference to "what's wrong with our schools". This time they blamed the long summer holidays. If those pesky youths were only in the classroom, they opined, then none of this would have happened. But these observers skirt over the fact that teachers are neither social workers nor babysitters. And, anyway, very many members of the profession go way beyond the call of duty with inner-city pupils, and without them there would almost certainly be more of This Kind Of Thing. A little appreciation wouldn't go amiss.

The other "education angle" repeatedly wheeled out was that this looting, rioting and arson was in some way a political reaction to the abolition of the education maintenance allowance. This argument was repeatedly peddled by Ken Livingstone, who is campaigning for a return to City Hall next May. The issue is undoubtedly a major one and could have long-term consequences for social mobility, but it seems a bit of a stretch to suggest that it was a direct cause of the carnage. That #163;30 a week didn't go very far when it came to box-fresh trainers, anyway.

Similar issues were centre stage on Tuesday evening when our very own Michael Gove was rolled out on Newsnight to debate with Harriet Harman whether the street violence could be directly linked to Government cuts. It is worth digging out on t'internet if you can - it's a rare opportunity to witness the normally charming and urbane education secretary come close to losing his cool. Strange days, eh?

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