The 12 days of educational comment

A summary of ed-press reporting over the Christmas period, retitled from The 12 days of educational news.  You’ll see why.

25th December: NHS chief calls on parents to show some ‘tough love’ in obesity battle

Not a lot being published on Christmas Day, understandably, though the Telegraph saw fit to rain on our festive spirit with this delightful piece on why British kids are all fat and it’s their stupid parents’ fault, according to NHS boss Simon Stevens (inexplicably filed in its Education section).  I wouldn’t bother, if I were you.

26th December: Rise in primary school pupils suspended for racist abuse

The Guardian reflects on some DfE data that at first glance reveals either: a rise in infant racism; a rise in awareness of infant racism; a tougher response from schools to infant racism; or a rise in suspensions generally.  We learn a few paragraphs in that the reality is the last and least glamorous scenario, and the title therefore somewhat sensational, or at least well-pitched to the paper’s readership.

27th December: ‘Under the radar’ young carers denied support, says study

A huge discrepancy between numbers of census-reported young carers versus those known and supported by their local authority is a reminder of the weighty responsibilities front-line educators have in getting to know the young people in their care.  Not much information here about the ‘study’, which can’t be longer than a tweet in its entirety, but an anecdote easily proves that this is something worth caring about.  Also, readers beware that you will have to suffer the BBC’s ridiculous one-sentence-per-paragraph policy.

28th December: Egypt ‘poised for future of world education competition’

THE reports on an interview with Egypt’s most senior education advisor.  Although the piece starts with fairly generic, if sound, rhetoric about future economies being based on ‘innovation and ideas’, it’s worth following to the end.  Ultimately, Professor Tarek Shawki gets close to some intriguing talk of combining the idea of education providers nurturing life-long skill development with our entrenched obsession for certification.  A refreshingly un-ideological approach to educational reform, I thought.

29th December: Racism in primary schools only reflects the society the Tories have created

The Guardian goes to town in this classic comment-on-comment piece where it responds to the article I summarised on 26th and applies amplification factor 1000 to the anti-Tory spin.  No mention in this one of the previously couched admission that there has in fact been no proportional increase in primary suspensions resultant from racist behavior, just several hundred words of “told you so”.  Now, I’m at least as far left-leaning as your average whiney teacher but this is a bit silly.

30th December: ‘No excuses’: inside Britain’s strictest school

This isn’t exactly news, but the second best offering was a piece about some newly released Maggie memos that were neither consequential nor surprising, and this is much more fun.  There’s been a lot of chat about super-strict-free-school Michaela School in north London recently.  Most of it, like this article, has focussed largely on the personality of its nutty headteacher Katharine Birbalsingh (oh come on, whatever you think of the ideology, she’s clearly bonkers) but this has got to be the best report yet, if only for that photo of the kids with their hands up.  Man, that’s a good one.  If you want to feel really strongly about something that you can’t quite articulate, read this.

31st December: Lords revolt over plans for ‘free-market’ universities

As it’s been going so well with free-schools, time try to the same with universities, I guess.  Hmmm.  Apparently interference is required from the House of Lords to ensure any kind of profit cap for such businesses.  Just skip to last paragraph for an official line from the DfE that sums the whole thing up with gruesomely honest accuracy.

1st January: Children ‘at risk’ in Christian fundamentalist schools in the UK, warns government watchdog

Lengthy, challenging, and a little one-sided, but nonetheless recommended reading.  There may be some hyperbole in the Independent’s coverage; the schools are very small and probably serve already insular communities whose extreme beliefs would survive educational reform.  But that’s as far as anyone can defend the insane.

2nd January: Book explaining gender diversity to primary school children sparks furore

Sorry it’s the Guardian again, but the alternative from the Mail will only upset sane readers.  The newsworthy thing about this is surely that it is newsworthy.  Or commentworthy.  As a publication, the book seems promotionworthy, at least, and nothing else seems to be happening today so here it is.  What educator doesn’t need more help tackling gender issues with children, after all?

3rd January: ‘Just about managing’ children hardest hit by proposed education funding cuts, warn unions

Two teaching unions express dissatisfaction with figures in last month’s government consultation, which seem to have been carefully aimed just below the unions’ already pessimistic (‘scaremongering’, to quote DfE) expectations.  But never mind that, I just learned a new acronym: JAM.  Thanks to TES, ATL and NUT for the CPD.

4th January: Grammar schools ‘endanger social cohesion’ without improving results, researchers argue

Ground-breaking research reveals that grammar students “live in less deprived areas, are older in their year group, and have lived in poverty for substantially less time” than other state-educated children, concluding that we really ought to close the remaining ones rather than open more.  Good luck with that.  The most useful anti-grammar-debate-ammunition is the finding that “overall, [grammars] are simply no better or worse than other schools in England once their selected and privileged intake is accounted for”, at least according to the judgement criteria of the researchers (grades, mostly).

5th January: Grammar schools ‘endanger social cohesion’ without improving results, researchers argue

Somewhat sensational coverage (by ES…) but of an admittedly shocking ploy by a scientology group to legitimise L. Ron Hubbard’s views by citing him as a humanitarian in drugs talks.  It seems appropriate to end the Christmas period with a piece that provokes thought on the issue of the extent to which we ought to expose students to religious perspectives in schools.  Even in light of such uncomfortable news as this, I’m still convinced we’d be wrong to ban visiting religious evangelists altogether.  It probably would help if they were honest about who they are, though.

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