Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

Chalk Talk: It's best to check your spelling before making war on failing schools


A word in your ear, Education Secretary Michael Gove. You might like to get your speech-writer to check whether his or her spellchecker is functioning properly.

It is the sort of error that anybody could make but the word "blazers" was spelt "blasers" in the speech he delivered at an academy last week accusing his opponents of being "happy with failure".

Not the sort of mistake that the self-proclaimed champion of standards should make. He is lucky the tabloids are in such a forgiving mood as a result of the Leveson inquiry into media standards.

He did hit the nail on the head, though, when he referred to a local newspaper report that put the headline "Hands Off Our Failing School" on a story about opposition to a primary school in Haringey, north London, being forced to adopt academy status.

Surely it should be all hands to the pump if a school is failing?

To a windswept Leeds and a nice touch at the North of England education conference.

Normally, its annual dinner is a shindig that allows the bigwigs from the world of education and the local authorities to get together.

However, under its new president Mick Waters – former director of the national curriculum at the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, one pupil in care from every secondary school in the city was invited to the dinner. It meant that those bigwigs that were there could listen to the authentic voice of the child.

My thanks, too, to Professor Dylan Wiliam, emeritus professor of education at London University's Institute for Education, for a wry take on some of the current educational developments.

He pointed out that perhaps no-one should have been surprised that focussing on stretching gifted and talented children in state schools was followed by evidence of a growing social mobility gap in performance.

The answer, though, he thought, was not to ignore the needs of the gifted. A better way of improving performance, he argued – tongue ever so slightly in cheek – might have been to offer every pupil a bribe of £1,000 to improve their test scores. It might even have worked out cheaper in the long run.