Another week, another round of moans about schools. Sir Terry Leahy, the chief executive of Tesco, made the front page of the London Evening Standard and the Daily Mail after telling a grocery-industry conference that "sadly, despite all the money that has been spent, standards are still woefully low in too many schools". The supermarket boss was quick to stress it was not necessarily teachers who were to blame, criticising agencies that issue "reams of instruction to teachers, who then get distracted from the task in hand". Teachers on the TES forums were divided over whether Tesco could criticise school standards. "This would be the same Tesco who for over a year had a product in their freezer section entitled Mini Pavlova's," one said.
The state of schools was also criticised by the Daily Mail columnist Melanie Phillips. Only she blamed the "education establishment", a sinister, "unbreakable cartel" of academics and civil servants who deliberately foist "anti-education" ideas into classrooms rather than the basics parents want taught. So what would she make of the final report from the independent Cambridge Primary Review, published today? It argues, forcibly, that her view is a myth and that anyone who claims schools have been deliberately neglecting the 3Rs is "either careless with the facts or knowingly fostering a calumny". But she would just point out it was written by an education professor.
One of the few groups targeted for more public criticism than teachers remain MPs, who started their new term with letters informing them how much of their expenses they need to pay back. This included Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, and his wife and fellow Cabinet minister, Yvette Cooper. Scandal had surrounded the decision to designate their London house as their second home for mortgage payments, despite the fact it is where they spend most of their time. So what whopping fine did Mr Balls face for his mortgage-interest claims? #163;13.50.
The Plymouth Herald has uncovered what may be this term's new pupil craze. It reported how children egged on a motorist to soak them by driving at speed through a puddle as they stood by a bus stop. On a video of the incident, which shows the pupils being drenched by a wave, the car's passenger can be heard exclaiming, "Here we go, ready to drench the kids!" Happy-splashing, anyone?