The Week

11th September 2009 at 01:00

NASUWT officials probably didn't envisage that their campaign against the new General Teaching Council code of conduct would fast be billed as a demand for the "right of teachers to get drunk at weekends". Rarely has a story about an education quango snowballed to such an extent. The coverage climaxed with many newspapers using the cliche of school staff as the fun-loving characters in the TV show Teachers. This is something unions have also campaigned against. It must feel like banging your head against a brick wall.

Another mile of column inches about the Tories' proposed education reforms - this time in The Daily Telegraph. Sitting Tory MP Paul Goodman wrote about the plan to replicate the Swedish schools system. He claimed the idea would prove as popular as Margaret Thatcher's right-to-buy policy. Or will it be as popular as closing the mines? The poll tax? It is just possible that the Govian initiative may turn out to be transformational, but surely it's a bit early to be making such claims.

A scheme to revive cricket in state schools has improved children's self-discipline while reducing antisocial behaviour in class. Shocker. Sometimes national newspapers' ability to re-hash the same story is staggering. Earlier this week, the Daily Mail tucked into the tale of how bringing the game back into state schools - through a scheme called Chance to Shine - had solved just about every problem under the sun. Only it won't. It may be a great game that teaches children all sorts of life skills, but the saviour of education in England's inner cities? Probably not.

"We are above the international average in many areas," said schools minister Diana Johnson, responding to a new report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. It's a shame Ms Johnson's optimistic view wasn't shared in the actual report, which said England's secondaries are among the worst in the world when it comes to time spent teaching reading and writing.

Andreas Schleicher, the report's author, said despite increases in spending in early years, the UK now risks being overtaken by other countries. Despite this, Ms Johnson takes comfort in the fact that teachers' starting salaries are growing fast in England, science achievement is good and public spending is rising. As with most international reports, there is both good news and bad, leaving their value open to debate.

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