Chalk Talk: So, children, what do you think of your new free school so far?


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The Independent Online

You might think you can be confident about what the answer will be if you ask a group of people a "feelgood" question about themselves.

However, as Education Secretary Michael Gove found out last week, the reply is not always the one you anticipated, especially when you are dealing with children.

He was attending the opening of the Woodpecker Primary academy in Enfield, north London, one of the 24 new free schools that have been launched this term, when he asked a reception class: "Is this the best school in London?"

The loudest voice in the class answered back: "No."

Undeterred, he went on to the next classroom and asked them: "What do you like about this school?"

The reply from one pupil came back: "You don't have to do well."

Not the sort of answer you really want when you are trying to push the message that the new breed of "free" schools is a key weapon in the Government armoury for raising standards.

Confessions time at the annual conference of Universities UK, the umbrella group representing British vice-chancellors.

A Freedom of Information request had asked that vice-chancellors should divulge the most expensive meal they had had in pursuit of their university duties.

A tricky one, that – especially if you had to list how much of the bill was spent on wine.

Professor Eric Thomas, the chairman of Universities UK and vice-chancellor of Bristol University, bit the bullet – £321!

It was, however, for taking ten students to a pizza restaurant.

Sighs of relief all round but – come to think of it – he still did not tell us how much was spent on wine. Did they have any pizza?

Good to see that peace and harmony has broken out amongst the brothers and sisters who run our top independent schools.

Only a few months ago the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference – which represents the top 250 traditionally boys-only schools in the UK – was threatening to break away from the Independent Schools Council. Some thought that the ISC was becoming overly inclusive and not portraying independent school education in the best light that it could.

Now, however, the threat has been withdrawn and a leading light of the HMC, the retiring headmaster of Harrow school, Barnaby Lennon, has just been given the job of chairing the ISC.