The week

25th September 2009 at 01:00

Two education-related matters attracted the most press attention this week. One was the shock announcement of Labour plans to cut #163;2 billion from the schools budget, a move that could involve sacking thousands of heads and deputies. The other was the sentencing of Helen Goddard, a 26-year-old music teacher who was jailed for having a sexual affair with a 15-year-old pupil at a girls' school. Needless to say, more than twice as many articles were written about the pretty lesbian teacher, whose photograph appeared on the front page of The Times.

Ed Balls, Schools Secretary, revealed the #163;2 billion cuts in a Sunday Times interview in which he explained they would not affect "teachers and teaching assistants on the frontline" - just heads, deputies and their assistants. This baffled many senior staff in schools, particularly the ones who still teach, as they had assumed their work was on the frontline. Mr Balls then wrote in The Independent that the cuts were "not about removing headteachers, but spreading great leadership". Right.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats narrowly avoided a schools spending U-turn of their own. As his party's conference started in Bournemouth, leader Nick Clegg faced a televised grilling on Daily Politics. The key question: why had he told last week's TES that he would not reduce school spending when his treasury spokesman Vince Cable had said the party would not rule out cuts on any area? Further confusion was created when Mr Clegg said Britain needed to make "savage" government spending cuts. A spokeswoman later clarified that school funding would be protected - not the overall education budget.

Ministers boasted about their National Challenge crackdown on "failing" schools, after publishing figures showing that only about 240 schools still saw fewer than 30 per cent of pupils getting five A* to C grades. So let's do some number-crunching. The number of schools that escaped that category last year before the scheme could help them was 191. The number of schools that left the category this year, after the National Challenge's "extra support", was 170.

Police sympathy for teachers may have increased this week after the court case of a 16-year-old school girl in London. Asked by police to pick up a burger wrapper in Croydon, she savagely attacked two officers, jumping on the back of one of them and biting through his body armour. The girl has told teachers she would like to be a social worker.

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