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Chalk Talk: Back to the 1950s - when some were more equal than others

Richard Garner
Thursday 27 January 2011 01:00 GMT

Just a thought: members of the National Association of Head Teachers gathered together last week for their annual shindig for the media in the Churchill War Rooms off Whitehall.

Could it be they are preparing to adopt a bunker mentality as the impact of the cuts becomes closer and closer? It also happened to be the day that the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, had chosen to launch his much-awaited review of the national curriculum.

That's the one that takes us back to the days of academic rigour – commonly thought to be the 1950s in the eyes of his critics.

Actually, there is a point to be made here. Gove wants every child who has the talent to be able to access an academic curriculum. In the 1950s, that would not have been the case.Some 25 per cent of youngsters at that time had an academic curriculum through their grammar schools. The rest were written off as 11-plus failures.

It was interesting, also, to hear the views of heads on the curriculum review. One asked me why Gove was planning it, in view of the fact that, by the time it came into force in schools, it would be 2013 and the Government was hoping all schools would become academies – which, of course, can exempt themselves from offering the national curriculum.

* The Association of Teachers and Lecturers is often described as the traditionally moderate teachers' union. After reading its press release on taking industrial action over an increase in teachers' pension contributions, I can begin to see why. It says the last time it took national action was in 1979 – and its action committee, which had to sanction the call to arms, had not met for nine years.

* Cute, these "free school" people. Cuckoo Hall, the primary school in Enfield that has become one of the first outstanding schools to opt for academy status, has decided it wants to open a new free school in the neighbourhood – which can tap into some of the innovative ideas that have made its parent school such a success. It is to be named the Woodpecker Hall Academy.

Michael Gove has talked about his vision of chains of academies one day running schools, so I am prepared to take advanced bets on what the third school in this chain could be named. Any advance on the Pied Wagtail Academy? Or, given their rescuing from becoming extinct, the Great Bustard Academy?

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