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A Week in Education

Rejoice! Rejoice! The holidays may be over, but teachers have been given a reason to celebrate the start of 2007: the possible demise of Sats tests.

The enticing prospect was dangled in front of schools over the festive season by the Government's favourite think-tank and its most sympathetic tabloid newspaper, which argued for the hated tests to be scrapped. The Blairite blue-skies thinkers of the Institute for Public Policy Research warned that too many pupils were underperforming and "national tests are part of the problem". They argued that primary teachers were being forced to teach to the test causing pupils to go on to secondary school without the necessary independent learning skills. They proposed using moderated teacher assessment instead.

So, do tests damage pupils' learning? Oh-yes-they-do, said The Sun, rather surprisingly, which warned that statistical targets were detrimental to education.

Oh-no-they-don't, hit back London's Evening Standard, arguing that tests were essential for identifying under-performing schools. However, the pantomime reached its climax when ministers cast themselves as the villains and stated that national tests were "non-negotiable".

Sir Cyril Taylor, chairman of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, could also be viewed by some as an evil stepmother after he appeared to attack schools for letting down bright working-class children. To combat this apparent problem, the Government launched a scheme to give the brightest 10 per cent of pupils "vouchers" to buy extra lessons.

Parents unimpressed by this may have been interested by plans, reported in The Times, to let parents contact their children's teachers by text message. Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, attempted to soothe professionals by promising that abusive messages would be filtered.

Teachers may also have to field some interesting questions from teenagers if new Qualifications and Curriculum Authority lesson plans on history are interpreted, as the Daily Telegraph fears.

Guidance on teaching the British Empire's impact on "Indian genders and sexualities" includes links to a website which refers to the Kama Sutra. It is hoped the site will not place teachers in a tricky position.

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