The Sketch: Labour's new mantra is to shout, loudly, at teachers

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The Independent Online

With the terror threat level going up like the mercury in a malarial thermometer, with helicopters hovering, bobbies scratching their itchy triggers, pressmen clattering the keys of their computers, suicide bombers clapping their foreheads and wishing they'd been more organised – all eyes are on Chilcot today.

But what has been going on at the other end of the spectrum? Attention is elsewhere today so you may not want to know.

However, there's a Bill going through committee which sums up the spirit of the age just as well.

It's the thing that makes a lot of guarantees to parents and pupils. It's going to be the law now that schools will have to provide a "balanced and flexible curriculum".

As state schools were set up by statute, Labour is passing a law telling teachers to obey the law.

They're "sending a message" to the profession that they should do what they're paid to do.

They're using the legislature to instruct teachers when they should teach, what they should teach, how they should teach and for how long at each "key stage".

If parents feel their guarantee has not been honoured they can complain to six or seven layers of bureaucracy. I don't think anything particular need come out of the complaints procedure.

And anyway, what is a balanced and flexible curriculum? Is shariah on it? Weapons training, as we had in the Corps? Obesity and diversity? Latin?

It's Balls and Gordon Brown at the end of their thought. Considering it positively, these guarantees are their substitute for market pressure. Private schools prosper because they behave in a way which pleases parents; state schools have to be told to please parents.

Teachers are going to be required by law to spend perhaps four million hours a year writing and rewriting agreements to be signed by parents. If the parents refuse to sign the child will be expelled.

Labour has discerned that the way to get teachers to do the right thing is by shouting at them.

That's the positive gloss. The negative analysis has Balls adding this clause to Labour's living will. Its purpose is to embarrass for an incoming Tory government. Personally, I suspect the incoming Tories won't need any help in that regard.

PS: Chilcot today. The committee should know by now that six hours is less than it seems and they need very concise lines of questioning.

There are new answers Blair might give. What was said at the Crawford, a year before the war? What raw intelligence showed a growing threat in August 2002? And how could he not have known the 45-minute weapons were guns and not missiles?

Tune in, it's live.

simoncarr@sketch.sc

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