Chalk Talk: Lies, damn lies, and gently massaged statistics
Richard Garner has been Education Editor of The Independent for 12 years and writing about the subject for 34 years. Before becoming a journalist, he worked as a disc jockey in London pubs and clubs and for a hospital radio station. His main hobbies are cricket (watching these days) and theatre. On his days off, he is most likelt to be found at Lord’s or the King’s Head Theatre Club.
Wednesday 21 November 2012
Time for confessions – former Labour Schools Minister Andrew Adonis admitted that Labour had "massaged" the teacher-trainee recruitment figures when in office to make them look good. "You would always be given options and we always went for the lower ones because it wouldn't look so bad when we didn't meet them," he said in his presidential address to the Independent Academies Association last week. Times have changed, though, and now there are two recruits for every one place, he said, although the figures could still do with improving.
"We could do with 10, 15 or 20 applicants like they have in Singapore, Finland and China [three of the world's most successful education systems]," he added.
To do that, though, he argued, the best universities should devote places to teaching and three of our top five – Imperial College, University College London and the London School of Economics – do not train a single one between them. He didn't go quite so far as to say they should get their fingers out - but you get the message.
He had some thoughtful advice for Education Secretary Michael Gove, one of his biggest fans despite being a Conservative: don't get tied up devoting too much time to changes that will prove to be inconsequential.
An example of that from the Coalition Government, perhaps, Lord Adonis? The plan "to replace GCSEs with something that looks similar to GCSEs," he said.
Finally, a huge three cheers for Music for Youth's annual "schools proms" concerts, which packed the Royal Albert Hall out for three nights last week.
It was a celebration of the fantastic musical talent that thrives in our state schools despite the gloomy economic times. You name it – rock, jazz, brass band, folk ensembles, orchestras, choirs – they can supply it.
One performance stood out on the night I went: Jake Boulter of the rock group Double Helix from the de Ferrers Academy in Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, could just be the next generation's Mick Jagger (although I hope he never charges £400 for concert tickets!).
It was a case of eat your heart out Britain's Got Talent and The X Factor!
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