The hoary old chestnut of the five-term year was put on the fire again with East Sussex considering introducing it next year. New Labour bared its teeth as Education Secretary David Blunkett threatened to privatise failing education authorities at the North of England conference in Sunderland. And the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, said we're all middle class now. Chris Woodhead, ebullient as ever, accused teachers of demonising his Office for Standards in Education, citing a survey which showed that the overwhelming majority of primary schools were satisfied with inspections. School music got a pound;180 million boost with pound;150m from the Department for Education and Employment and pound;30m from the National Lottery to set up a youth music trust.
The Government's pay reforms, giving an average rise of 3.5 per cent, and setting out proposals for a higher performance-related pay scale, drew widespread criticism from teacher unions. Chris Woodhead's remarks at an Exeter university seminar that affairs between pupils and teachers could be "educative" prompted the press to rake up his affair during the 1970s with a former pupil, Amanda Johnston. His comment coincided with the Government's plans to outlaw relationships between adults and under-18s in their charge. The chief inspector denied the affair began while he was still a teacher and Mr Blunkett decided he had no case to answer.
The chief inspector weathered criticism from education select committee MPs about his style and the lack of accountability of the inspection service. He said in his annual report that there were still 15,000 incompetent teachers. Sir William Macpherson's report on the murder of Stephen Lawrence said many schools failed to tackle racism. Citizenship is to be a compulsory part of the national curriculum.
Press coverage on Chris Woodhead's past relationship continued, together with calls in some quarters for his resignation: but he remained defiant. Tim Brighouse, director of education in Birmingham, quit the Government's standards task force as joint vice chair with the chief inspector, saying he wished to devote all his energies to Birmingham schools. Sir Claus Moser's report on basic skills found that a fifth of 19-year-olds struggle to read, write and add up.
The teacher union conference season got under way with strike threats over performance-related pay by the National Union of Teachers in Brighton, followed by a Government climbdown in Eastbourne at the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers conference. Estelle Morris, schools standards minister, announced a year-long delay on compulsory appraisal. Cathy Woodhead accused the Prime Minister of protecting her former husband amid calls from 16 MPs for his resignation and an appeal to the Director of Public Prosecutions from the National Association of Head Teachers to investigate sworn affidavits by Ms Johnston and Mr Woodhead that their affair began after she left school. No further action has been taken so far. Doug McAvoy of the NUT and Peter Smith of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers survived challenges to their leadership, and it was farewell to the grant-maintained schools.
As Labour marked two years in power, Sheffield, the city council once led by Mr Blunkett, lost control to the Liberal Democrats in the local government elections; Labour narrowly gained control of the Welsh National Assembly and had a more comfortable lead in Scotland. The Teacher Training Agency just about survived its five-yearly government review, though some of its functions were clawed back by the DFEE. On the arts front, Professor Ken Robinson's wide-ranging and hefty report on culture and creativity, commissioned by the education and culture departments in 1997, was published. It recommended a re-working of the national curriculum to give the arts parity with science. Quentin Blake, author and illustrator, was named as the Children's Laureate by the Princess Royal. Kosovan refugees began to arrive, but the bombing continued.
The Prime Minister addressed the NAHT's annual conference in Cardiff where David Hart, its general secretary, awarded the Government seven out of 10 for its half-term report. The chief inspector was told he should curb his "intemperate approach and rely on evidence, not conjecture," in the Commons education select committee's report - which added that Chris Woodhead's statements appeared to be more about ego than education. Theresa May replaced David Willetts as the Conservative shadow education secretary; he moved sideways to social security. David Blunkett ordered an inquiry into this year's national tests for 11-year-olds after accusations that government advisers had deliberately lowered the pass mark.
An upbeat month for the teaching profession as British film-maker David Puttnam feted the winners of the teaching awards, dubbed the "Platos" on prime time television. A White Paper on post-16 reforms was published, with sixth forms retained. The TES campaign, Open all Hours, launched to save public libraries gained almost immediate success with a pledge from Culture Secretary Chris Smith to provide more funding and make local authorities more accountable. Chris Woodhead received a bonus of pound;10,500 on his annual salary of pound;115,000 for meeting targets. London School of Economic research revealed that teenagers in the UK spend more time on exams than in any other European country.
The nation awaited the eclipse as the Government reshuffled without a shake up: there was no change at the top of the DFEE, but Charles Clarke, junior minister, moved to the Home Office to be replaced by Jacqui Smith, MP for Redditch. George Mudie lost his job as lifelong learning minister and was replaced by education select committee chair Malcolm Wicks. OFSTED's remit was widened to encompass the inspection of childcare in nurseries and playgroups run by social service departments. A-level results reached a record high, the 17th successive rise, but examiners thought the increase might be levelling off. GCSE candidates also celebrated success, but the rise in top grades prompted accusations that schools are neglecting lower-ability pupils to boost league tables.
The final version of the national curriculum for 2000 was announced. Anti-selection campaigners in Kent, Barnet and Ripon geared up to launch a battle over the future of the remaining 164 grammar schools. Schools and local authorities took a tough line with failing teachers, a survey by the National Employers' Organisation for School Teachers showed; more than 3,000 are under investigation. World-class tests for bright sixth formers were mooted as an extension to A-levels. Leading soccer clubs planned to invest pound;50m in schools to nurture home-grown talent. The party conference season began with Liberal Democrats in Harrogate calling for trainee teachers to be paid pound;8,000 to lure graduates into the profession and Paddy Ashdown bowed out as leader.
William Hague told The TES a future Conservative government would set schools free by sweeping away regulation and give parents more decision-making powers. The Tory leader told The TES he wants to woo teachers and parents in his conference address, Labour began a charm offensive in Bournemouth to sell performance-related pay. David Blunkett announced tough measures to stop truancy with parents facing fines of up to pound;5,000. The Blairs were embarrassed by a letter from their sons' school, the London Oratory, asking for a monthly contribution to plug a pound;250,000 deficit. Theresa May made her debut as shadow education secretary in Blackpool at the Tory party conference pledging to make schools free from bureaucracy. QCA chief Nick Tate was recruited as head of Winchester College. Carol Adams, chief education officer of Shropshire, took over as chief executive of the General Teaching Council. Nottingham University's Jubilee campus will house the National College for School Leadership.
Schools were urged to take precautions against the millennium bug, even if they are not very hi-tech. A report by UNICEF, the United Nations' children's fund, concluded that millions of children's lives have been blighted by war and economic hardship in the 10 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the disintegration of the Soviet Union. A second wave of education action zones was announced by Estelle Morris. A Bill to reduce the number of statements for special needs children was one of the measures announced in the Queen's speech. Computer tycoon Peter Ogden pledged pound;25m to help bright children from poor families to go to leading private schools. A survey by the NAHT revealed huge variations in the amount of money schools get under the new Fair Funding arrangements.
Lord Puttnam, the Oscar-winning film producer, was announced as the surprise chair of the new General Teaching Council. Home Secretary Jack Straw opened Guru Nanak, the first state-funded Sikh school, in Hayes, Middlesex. Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness was appointed education minister in the new Northern Ireland Assembly. Liverpool hung onto its education service in spite of its bad OFSTED report. Primary school test results showed remarkable improvements but an inspectors' report found that poverty does have an effect on results.
Glad tidings: School music received a pound;180 million boost from the DFEE and the National
Bad timing: Chris
Woodhead's comment on 'educative'
relationships coincided with plans to outlaw relationships between adults and under-18s in their charge MARCH
Bowing out: Tim Brighouse said he wanted to spend more time working with schools in Birmingham APRIL
Pressure mounts: Cathy Woodhead accused
Tony Blair of protecting
Honoured: Quentin Blake was named as the Children's Laureate JUNE
Half-term report: David Hart gave the
Government seven out of 10
Gong time: teachers received their Plato awards from Gaby Roslin at a glitzy ceremony
Promotion: Redditch MP Jacqui Smith became an education minister SEPTEMBER
delegates said goodbye Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown at the conference in Harrogate
Power to parents:
William Hague gave The TES a preview of the Conservative plans for education
Taking stock: East and West surveyed the past on the 10th anniversary of the destruction of the Berlin Wall
Shock of the new: Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness was made minister for education for Northern Ireland.