The Week

11th December 2009 at 00:00

Prepare to be gobsmacked. On Tuesday the Daily Mail published a long, reasoned article in praise of a normal hard-working primary. Is the editor away? Has the provisional wing of the NAHT occupied its office? Whatever the reason, this headline was beyond staggering: "Ice-skating. Circus skills. Karaoke. Oh, and the odd lesson, too. Why can't EVERY school be like this?" Nottingham's Blue Bell Hill Primary, which finished top of the CVA rankings in last week's KS2 tables, can do no wrong, it would seem. The paper - scourge of progressive education and chief cheerleader for Chris Woodhead - approvingly quoted head Jo Bradley saying boys don't always benefit from "sitting-in-rows learning" because they are "turned off by education". The article even remarked admirably that the school celebrates Eid and Diwali, not just Christmas. The least probable article of the year, by a long, long way.

Mock police investigations are the rage in schools as inspirational exercises for creative writing. Unfortunately, the press has been less impressed. When Foxhill Primary in Sheffield faked a burglary last month, the Yorkshire Post reported that "children as young as five were terrified to find blood on the floor, police tapes and an apparently injured teacher". In the summer Southway Junior in West Sussex went further, mocking up an alien abduction - an event that led to the Daily Mail headline: "Pupils terrified as UFO stunt backfires." Yet more ambitious was St Mary the Virgin School's in Gillingham, Dorset, which enlisted dozens of police officers to guard two giant, mysterious papier-mache eggs, adding to the drama with police helicopters. So the Sunday Express story this week began: "Thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money has been wasted on two helicopters and a small army of detectives to stage a primary school project ... ".

So which politician went to which school? Did Ed Balls - Schools Secretary and Brownite bruiser - really attend Eton for a term? Does it matter? It's a long-accepted truth that the next election will focus on education like never before, but it is now becoming clear that it will focus as much on top hats and rugger as Sats or the "Swedish system". With 14 Old Etonians on the Tory front bench, Gordon Brown seems sure that he can make political headway shouting about his opponents' educational backgrounds - so sit back, relax and enjoy as all the cliches about state and independent schools are used as political hand-grenades between now and next May.

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