The week

2nd September 2011 at 01:00

Have you heard about the free schools? Have you heard? Michael Gove's pet project is about to take off, with 26 of the little beauties opening this week and next. Over the last few days the nationals have been going to town on this "news", rolling out any number of old stories on the subject. A special award must go to the Grauniad for splashing on a story on Tuesday that included exactly nothing new except a lot of emails that illustrate just how keen on free schools a bunch of Govean advisers were upon coming to power. Surprise.

A special commendation must go to Monday's edition of The Times, which ran a big sit-down with, um, Toby Young to mark the occasion of the opening of the West London Free School, for which he has long campaigned. What this illustrated, in truth, was just how staggeringly good at self-publicity the author and journalist is. One or two of these institutions are doing some quite interesting things (think the Norwich Free School), but there is literally zero left to say about Young's school. Until, of course, we at TES Towers decide to write something about it - at which point it will be nothing short of insightful.

Another highlight of the week was the publication of Department-funded research forecasting the change in GCSE uptake in the aftermath of the EBac bombshell. Of course, ministers were cock-a-hoop - projections suggest that traditional subjects are on the rise, with a big increase expected in 2012 and an even larger spike the following year. Setting aside 2013 for a minute, one has to question why Gove and Co are so pleased about the 2012 numbers when the EBac policy wasn't announced until January 2011. Surely they can't be sanctioning pupils swapping courses they have already started, motivated by ad-hoc Government decision-making?

And finally, bad news for Sir Jamie of Thirty-minute-meals-shire. School dinner prices are set to rocket, according to new research - a finding that has experts warning that the most deprived families might be priced out of the market. The big question seems to be whether it's worth considering economies of scale if it gets more bums on seats. Deep-fried reconstituted turkey snack, anyone?

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