A Week in Education

In the olden days, it was all very simple: marry in haste, repent at leisure, but receive some nice tax breaks in compensation.

Now, if Alan Johnson has his way, marital bliss will have to be reward enough. The Education Secretary has spoken out in support of single parents, arguing that Ms Parent should be as entitled to tax breaks as Mr and Mrs.

Mr Johnson, who was raised by his sister, argued that good parenting is more important for children than whether or not their mother and father are married. He also recommended dads-only parent evenings, to ensure that errant fathers are more involved in their offspring's education.

The Mirror compared little "Orphan Johnson" with Tory leader David Cameron, renowned for his heavy emphasis on family values. Meanwhile, the values Mr Cameron has chosen for his own family continued to face attack. Last week, he announced his decision to send his three-year-old daughter, Nancy, to a faith school two miles from his home. Mr Cameron was still burning in the hellfires of newspaper damnation when the Institute for Public Policy Research published a report revealing that church schools are creaming off the brightest pupils. Faith schools are 10 times more likely to be unrepresentative of the neighbourhoods they serve than non-denominational schools, IPPR said. The think tank also claimed that faith schools are covertly selecting their pupils. But for some parents, even highly selective faith schools are not good enough. A study, commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills, revealed that at least 16,000 pupils in England are now being home-schooled. This is a threefold increase since 1999, reflecting growing dissatisfaction with the quality of state schools.

For a start, far too many pupils test positive for drugs. Newspapers reported that Colne community school, in Essex, had to suspend its random screening, after two pupils tested positive because of their toothpaste.

Apparently their twice-a-day habit produced results similar to those given by amphetamines or methamphetamines. The school said it was caused by malfunctioning equipment.

But dissatisfied parents should be careful what they demand. Tabloids spent the week fulminating, after the Muslim Council of Britain suggested that there might be some ways in which British schools could make Muslim pupils feel more at home. "One wonders why the Muslims who agree with these demands bother to live in this country at all," the Sunday Mirror fumed.

"Why don't they shove off somewhere that suits them better - like Afghanistan."

Still, the tabloids and the Taliban have more in common than they may know.

Both are equally quick to condemn the pernicious effects of sex education.

Newspapers pounced on Sherwell Valley primary, in Torbay, after five-year-old pupils were shown a sex-education DVD including images of a naked man and woman, and asked to label the penis and vagina. The school said that the aim of the scheme was to reduce teenage pregnancy; some called it "liberal claptrap".

But Sherwell Valley parents can take comfort in the fact that, if their sexually aware infants are now condemned to a life of debauched promiscuity and premature parenthood, at least they will not lose out on any tax breaks.

they said...

New alarm at lack of vetting for school staffs; post-Soham checks still not in place - The Guardian

we say...

The real alarm bell is the use of the word "still" in the headline - the sign of a quiet Sunday when the Guardian's editors were struggling to find a front page story. The article cites "new advice" from the Department for Education and Skills that schools need not conduct criminal record checks on staff who have been continuously employed for more than five years. But in fact that advice has not changed.

And it complains that new comprehensive checks, providing "soft intelligence" about past arrests and police allegations against school job applicants, will not be implemented until next year.

The real concern is around newspaper fact-checking: the enhanced criminal record checks on school staff, providing that soft intelligence, were introduced in 2002. Oops.

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