The week

12th March 2010 at 00:00

If only all weeks started like this one. Heaven would reign on earth. Peace and love. John Lennon would gently emanate from every lift speaker. Yes, if only every week could splutter into life with an ASCL conference and a keynote address by soon-to-be-ex-gen-sec John Dunford (Lord Dunford, anyone?). Indeed, the conference hall was further electrified by last week's revelation that Ofsted's new framework had resulted in, gasp, a doubling of inadequate schools and a halving of outstanding schools. The anger was palpable. If Christine Gilbert had made an appearance she would have been torn limb from limb.

While Gilbert was holed up in Ofsted Towers, Ed Balls braved the glamorous Hammersmith venue, doing an unlikely impression of This is Your Life's Michael Aspel. It doesn't take a huge leap to picture the secretary of state behind the scenes, whispering into an imaginary camera as he prepared to shock Dunford with the Red Book. When the surprise moment came, and the politician burst on stage, there wasn't a Red Book in sight. In its place was a framed letter from the Prime Minister thanking Dunford for his contribution to education. The gen sec sported a grin from ear to ear.

Sadly, the uber-Brownite didn't just come bearing missives of peace and love. He also came to remind heads that they would soon be faced with a brutal choice. His message to the collected heads was clear: "Help me shave #163;1 billion off the schools budget or I will make you fire teachers, teaching assistants and any other staff you spot sauntering by your office door." Time to start reviewing photocopier usage, it seems.

Perhaps the weirdest story of the week wasn't, however, belched from the ASCL conference belly at all - it was the publication of a "new" report from the Association of Graduate Employers calling for an end of the Government's 50 per cent target for higher education participation. That the Beeb and the Grauniad chose to lead their education coverage with this was bizarre. Even the casual observer would know that ministers had quietly shelved this well over a year ago. And even if the policy was in place, the chance of it ever happening would have been undermined by Lord Mandelson's recent trigger-happy attitude to HE funding. At least our secretary of state chose a more subtle approach to the fast approaching national debt crisis, eh?

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