Chalk Talk: On science and languages, maybe Gove has point after all

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The Independent Online

Kevin Brennan, Labour's shadow schools spokesman, gave an interesting insight into the Government's motives for introducing its English Baccalaureate at a Labour party seminar last week.

It was, he said, "an inevitable success story" for ministers. Schools always followed the Government's urging when it came to league tables. "They will steer resources and children into the selected subjects whether or not it is appropriate to study them," he said.

The result will be that more pupils will be studying languages, sciences and history and geography, three areas to be included in the baccalaureate, by the end of this Parliament than are at present. He argued that Labour should tap into unhappiness on the government backbenches about the effect all this was having on subjects such as arts, drama and religious education – where teachers are facing the sack as their subjects suffer a demotion in importance.

Of course, it is sad that these subjects are being axed from the curriculum in some schools and I believe the net should be cast wider in terms of the subjects that qualify for the baccalaureate. But Education Secretary Michael Gove could even cite research from the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers in his defence.

While it showed that almost half the schools had narrowed the curriculum in some subject areas, it also revealed that 26 per cent had increased science provision and 29 per cent had increased language provision. It proves Brennan's point, but Mr Gove would argue that cannot be bad. And, you know, he has a point.

A lot of talk this week about Rupert Murdoch's history-making appearance before a Commons select committee, to be grilled on the News International hacking fiasco.

It is not the first time, though, that the tycoon has been summoned to appear before a select committee.

When he acquired The Times and Sunday Times way back in the early 1980s, he readily gave pledges of editorial independence for the two titles. He omitted to mention the other titles that he acquired alongside them, including the Times Education Supplement and Times Higher Education Supplement.

Christopher Price, a Labour MP with a sharp eye for making the news, was chairing the Commons select committee on education and summoned Murdoch to appear before his members.

Murdoch's response can be summed up as follows: "I don't care what they write about so long as schoolmasters continue to buy them." Fait accompli, then?

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