The week

28th August 2009 at 01:00

Remember the press grumblings last week about A-levels - standards slipping, pupils going for "softer subjects" and so on? Well, replace "A-levels" with "GCSEs" and that's much of this week's education news covered. Even the scramble to ensure students get on their courses of choice has been replicated. The Guardian reported that the comparatively late publication of GCSE results would cause problems for schools and colleges, as some would only have a few days to assign sixth-form places. Turns out the delay was a knock-on effect of the late Easter this year - so the fault lies with a group of 4th-century bishops.

Concerns grew over the increased number of students missing out on university places. The numbers applying were up by 56,000 on last year, and by the middle of the week an average of 32 prospective students were competing for each remaining place. The Conservatives accused Labour of "blocking the path to university for A-level students" - a bizarre thing to claim, since, up to a recent U-turn, the main ones opposing the target for raising participation in higher education were ... the Tories.

The Express summed up key stage 1 results with the headline: "Blow as more seven-year-olds fail at maths". Optimists might point out that the one percentage point drop in those getting level 2 in maths was balanced by a one percentage point rise in those hitting the writing target. Overall, though, the results were much the same as those for the last two years. That's potentially embarrassing for those who saw synthetic phonics as a magic bullet; it has been compulsory for two years now and the reading results haven't changed at all.

Liberal Democrat economics guru Vince Cable had a pop at fat kids and school sport in The Daily Mail. He complained that "one in three children leaves primary school obese" (actually, it's 18.3 per cent) and that "a third of children do no sport at all outside compulsory games in school" (a more accurate figure would be 7 per cent). So it's his statistics that are, well, bloated.

The week's most staggering revelation? That the journalist Toby Young is hoping to open a "comprehensive grammar" school in London in 2011. Given some of his exploits on Vanity Fair - smuggling cocaine into the Groucho club, hiring a strip-o-gram to visit the office on bring-your-daughter-to-work-day - we can't wait to see what the behaviour policy looks like.

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