The week

14th August 2009 at 01:00

It's all the fault of those anti-elitist teachers again. The Sutton Trust gained prominent press coverage after claiming that teachers' "inverse snobbery" was putting state school pupils off top universities. Dominic Lawson wrote in The Independent that many comprehensive teachers felt antipathy towards Oxbridge. "Perhaps some of them had tried and failed to get in themselves, and their disappointment or chippiness over this leads them to discourage their own pupils from making a similar attempt," he said. "Or perhaps they are simply unambitious on their pupils' behalf; either way, it is pathetic."

The Sutton Trust's research found that pupils at independent schools were more likely than others to apply to prestigious universities and get places as a result. Students with ABB grades at A-level stood a 79 per cent chance of getting on to one of the top 500 courses if they were at fee-charging schools and a 70 per cent chance at state schools. But the report concluded that one student was generally as likely to attend higher education as another if they had the same A-level grades, "regardless of their school type". So where were the biased teachers mentioned? Erm, nowhere. The report said it was "not able to identify whether decisions not to apply to such institutions are due to poor advice and information or low aspirations, or whether they are simply the result of well-informed choices to apply elsewhere in the higher education sector".

The Express columnist Leo McKinstry had a spectacular rant, arguing that pupils "have never been more badly taught". Evidence he gave included functional literacy statistics (which he got wrong) and a Newsweek article which McKinstry suggested warned Britain was in decline "not least because of the shambles of our education system". This is odd as Mr Maguire's report didn't mention education once. Oops.

Meanwhile The Daily Mail was horrified by Tess the Traveller, DCSF-approved children's books about single mother Tess and her son Toby who live in a truck with their dog Tea-bag. The Mail complained the series was a far cry from the "childhood innocence" of past reading books such as Topsy and Tim. The Tess series also "romanticised" the traveller lifestyle (because Enid Blyton and E Nesbit never did that). Obviously it was better in 1961 when Topsy and Tim simply dressed up as gypsies - getting their mother to black them up with cocoa powder first.

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