The Week

9th September 2011 at 01:00

By the time you read this, the summer holidays will probably feel like a distant memory. Little Shane is back causing havoc in the playground and Big Dianna is still putting the fear of God into her form tutor. While layfolk - parents, partners, office-bound friends - whinge about the length of teachers' holidays, they have little idea how quickly the benefits of the summer break can wear off when one is faced with a gang of marauding Year 9s, do they?

It will have been a relief to all who tramped back into the staffroom this week that Nick Clegg (remember him? Once saviour of British politics, now sidelined deputy prime minister) marked the beginning of term with a "wide-ranging" speech on education policy. It was me, he told an audience made up of parents, pupils and political hacks, who blocked profit-making companies running free schools. Well done, said his party members, but that really ain't enough, is it? It is worth remembering that the Lib Dems, who next week gather for their conference, were once so protective of local community comprehensives that they even voted to oppose specialist school status.

A day later a conference similar in its way to the Lib Dem shindig gathered in London. Yes, that's right - don't faint with excitement - it was the British Educational Research Association's annual get-together. Among any number of "niche interest" papers published were a handful that genuinely added to the debate, including three that came to the same conclusion: that when faced by the pressure to report improved results, teachers are all too often tempted into tampering with results. Campaigners, of course, jumped on these findings as highlighting the evil consequences of league tables, while those on the other side suggested that the research proved the failings of teacher assessment compared to externally marked Sats. As clear as mud, then.

Anyway, why look back over the last week when you could be looking forward? It is, after all, just seven short days until you will be flicking through your brand spanking new TES. It's coming, and it's going to be bigger and better than ever.

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