The Week

2nd October 2009 at 01:00

So last week Ed Balls, Schools Secretary, suggested he was planning to cut school funding by #163;2 billion, a move likely to involve axing thousands of heads and deputies. This week Prime Minister Gordon Brown stood up at the Labour conference in Brighton and said ... the opposite. "In the next five years we cannot and will not cut support to our schools," Mr Brown said. "We will not invest less, but more." Muh? Teaching unions seized on his comments as good news, with Christine Blower, NUT general secretary, expressing delight that Mr Balls' "wobble had been corrected".

Wobble over, Mr Balls took to the stage to unveil his latest plans to crack down on poor classroom behaviour. These included giving parents a leaflet explaining they were responsible if their children were disruptive. As one teacher noted on the TES online forum: "An effing leaflet? Yep, that's really going to work." Meanwhile, the Daily Mail reported that Mr Balls has refitted the offices at the Department for Children, Schools and Families at a cost of #163;3 million, to include designer Italian furniture, "a massage room and a 'contemplation suite' where staff can relax".

Remember when US-style school buses were all the rage? When politicians such as David Cameron and David Blunkett popped up calling for the yellow buses to be used here to cut school-run traffic? How times have changed. The Independent reported that Surrey Council, which has been trialling the buses since 2006, now plans to scrap them. The Tory council said it could no longer justify the cost: nearly #163;8 per pupil per day.

Not strictly education, but some teachers may have been pleased with the ire levelled at a certain watchdog after it told two WPCs they were breaking the law by caring for each other's children. One broadsheet headline began: "Ofsted has 'lost the plot' ..."

Playground crazes are often cyclical - ditto the moral panics about them. The latest to reappear involved "shag bands", one term for those popular plastic bracelets. The Sheffield Star spoke to mother Shannel Johnson, who was "horrified" to hear children associate the colourful bands with different sexual acts. Over three weeks, her quotes reappeared in The Sun, the Daily Mail and The Mirror, despite hundreds of bemused responses from those who experienced the craze in the 1980s and 1990s pointing out that then, as now, it was a smutty but harmless playground joke.

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