Chalk Talk: Why Michael Gove had better start minding his language

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The Independent Online

The law of unintended consequences has struck again. One aspect of Education Secretary Michael Gove's national curriculum review that was greeted with well nigh unanimous acclaim was the decision to make the learning of a language compulsory for children from the age of seven.

Almost unanimous, but not quite. Pupils should choose from a list of seven languages (French, German, Spanish, Italian, Mandarin, Latin and Ancient Greek), which has upset the Jewish Board of Deputies. It points out that many of its schools are already teaching Modern and Ancient Hebrew – paid for in many cases from contributions from the Jewish community itself.

The argument, therefore, that it would not be cost effective to step outside the seven prescribed languages should not apply, it says. Forcing the schools to teach one of the seven options, they add, would lead to Hebrew being abandoned because there would not be time to include it in the curriculum.

It is a tricky problem. The Board of Deputies has suggested giving its schools exemption from the proposed mandatory list. That, I fear, though, could lead to unintended consequences emerging.

Another name in the list of those people who would appear to have appropriate names for their job crops up. The person in charge of the unit that tackles under-performing schools in the Department for Education is a Ms Cane. Why do thoughts of Michael Gove and a return to traditional values come to mind?

A blast from the past at a reception in the House of Commons to launch a new book – Nigel de Gruchy, former general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, pops up to publicise his new book, History of the NASUWT 1919 to 2002: The story of a battling minority. Nigel was renowned for his pithy comments on current education issues, as a certain Richard Garner and former BBC education correspondent (now sadly deceased) Mike Baker point out in a foreword to the book. It would have been good to have him around now commenting on the endless education revolution.