A Week in Education

You can buy an awful lot of exercise books and Turkey Twizzlers with pound;4.2 billion. That was the increase in annual education spending announced this week by Gordon Brown, in what was widely seen as his last Budget as the Chancellor.

Whether the extra money will seem generous to schools, after larger percentage increases in previous years, remains to be seen.

But Mr Brown was clearly desperate to show he will take education seriously if (or when) he becomes Prime Minister. Earlier in the week, he appeared on stage at Mossbourne academy in London alongside Tony Blair, praising the privately sponsored schools.

Thirty London children had been roped into the glitzy event and newspaper commentators mused that they had been tranquillised by government spin doctors: not one stifled a yawn or made "bunny ears" gestures behind the politicians' heads.

Perhaps the children had fallen under the spell of a white witch, like Sommer de la Rosa from Brighton. The teaching assistant is claiming at an employment tribunal that she was sacked for her pagan religion.

Her employers insist that her beliefs had nothing to do with the move. It is not known whether she wore robes to lessons that could have violated new school dress codes.

Education ministers published guidance this week allowing schools to ban certain types of religious clothing, such as full-face veils, but only if they pose a threat to education, safety or security and the local community has been consulted.

A unique dress rule at Bramhall high in Manchester also caused upset. John Peckham, the headteacher, wrote to parents saying that pupils must wear clip-on ties from September. He insisted that the move was only partly a result of health and safety and mainly to make students appear smarter.

"This is in line with places like Marks Spencer, the police and the armed forces," he said.

Pupils at Eton are unlikely to forfeit their Windsor knots and white cravats, but they will soon be sharing some of their lessons with state schools over the internet. Pure altruism? Possibly, but the web lessons could help the school to keep its charitable status and its many tax breaks.

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