The Week

19th February 2010 at 00:00

Half-term. What bliss. Marking postponed. Feet on coffee table. Telly on. But what's this ruining paradise? A documentary about sub-standard teaching. Oh did they have to? Just as the nation's over-worked and under-recompensed school staff was drawing its collective breath, Channel 4's Dispatches team gave them an aggressive jab to the solar plexus. Apparently one in five kids is leaving primary school without basic numeracy (wrong) and it's all teachers' fault (even more wrong). The documentary's researchers decided, in their infinite wisdom, to set 155 teachers a primary maths exam; 45 per cent was the much-publicised average result. The fact that this test only used the hardest questions and that the show itself got one wrong (2 divided by 0 is undefined, not infinity) was, predictably, glossed over.

While most teachers were thanking some higher power for their break, the politicians - who increasingly treat schools like a medieval battleground - continued to pound the proverbial out of each other. Boo-boo of the week must surely go to the Tories for their careless use of decimal points (they too should steer clear of the primary maths test). On Monday Dave Cameron gathered the Fourth Estate to his bosom and explained (not for the first time) that Britain was broken. How did he and his Etonian chums know this? His answer? The conception rate among under-18 girls in the country's 10 most deprived wards, he said, was 54 per cent. Shocking, eh? Only there was a problem. The 54 per cent figure was wrong. By the power of 10. Actually the rate is 5.4 per cent. Red faces all round.

Ed Balls, meanwhile, tipped up at Guardian Towers to answer readers' online questions. When asked about his biggest mistake as Schools Secretary his immediate response was to highlight the famously embarrassing snaps taken of him and Andy Burnham playing on some swings a couple of years ago. Cue an opportunity to dig out the cringe-making photos again. Will they never learn? Come on chaps. Up your game. There's an election around the corner, don't you know.

Last week this column was among the first to report that Michael Gove had met with Goldie "Private Benjamin" Hawn to discuss education policy. That, it turned out, was just the half of it. Apparently the Buddhist Hollywood star is looking to take advantage of the Tory's policies and set up at least one school. God help us all.

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