"The trouble with this country is that it has developed an accident-averse culture that leaves people scared to take the kind of risks that once made Britain great. And schools are the worst. I mean, boys aren't even allowed to climb trees anymore. It's 'elf and safety gawn maaaad ...!" This was clearly the in-depth thinking behind Michael Gove's latest polemic on the state of English education, issued to The Sunday Times last weekend. What we need is a Dangerous Book for Boys culture, he explained. This stuff is meat and drink for England's right-leaning press. It's almost as if they have the stories pre-written, with an "insert name here" space for whoever is being quoted.
At the opposite end of the political spectrum are, of course, our old friends the trade unions, who dusted themselves down this week after two decades in a state of near-stasis and thumped their chests at the thought of revolution. (Careful on the ribcages chaps - bones become brittler in old age.) Among the main trouble-makers at this week's TUC conference in Manchester was Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS, a union for junior civil servants. The old journalistic cliche "left-wing firebrand" doesn't really do Mark justice. As such, it's worth pointing out that he and his union are very close to the NUT and its gen sec Christine Blower (just look back at the love-in between the pair at this year's NUT conference). Interesting times ahead, it's fair to say.
Just as national newspaper newsdesks were recovering from the excitement of the TUC, while simultaneously limbering up for the Pope's weekend break in Blighty, Ofsted threw a news hand grenade into the mix. On Tuesday, it published its long-awaited report into the state of SEN education in this country, which contained the dynamite "discovery" that half a million pupils are designated as SEN when all they need is better teaching. It's interesting that just as a Conservative returns to head the Department, Ofsted (wary of its budget) should issue a report that uses teacher-bashing language deeply reminiscent of Chris Woodhead.