If Obama defeats Clinton, he will emerge as a battle-hardened candidate who has survived the worst that one of the most formidable political machines ever assembled could throw at himis the purest fantasy. Forsyth can hardly believe that Bill's remarks about Jesse Jackson fall into Willie Horton territory. Bill's remarks were unwise, but Obama's tetchiness in the face of any criticism has been one of his least attractive traits; against real opposition from the formidable Republican machine, it could be his undoing. The truth is, however, that either candidate would be immeasurably better than the dismal John Kerry in 2004 (I'd keep quiet about that endorsement if I were Obama). But Obamaphiles shouldn't exaggerate their guy's strengths or underestimate those of his opponent for the Democratic nomination.
Thursday 31 January 2008
Wednesday 30 January 2008
Monday 28 January 2008
Sunday 27 January 2008
But their closure is not inevitable. One of the big problems for village schools has been the assumption that each should exist as an independent entity. While such independence is clearly desirable for large secondary schools and many larger primaries, it is less so for small schools. So, for example, there is no good reason why a cluster of village schools should not form a trust to share a headteacher, a governing body and their specialist after-hours activities; that would improve efficiency while ensuring a school within walking distance of villagers' homes. Of course, there will always be schools where their viability is impossible, but a trust school model with several schools could preserve the village school, cost less and improve the choices and facilities for children.
Saturday 26 January 2008
- Today's ICM poll for the Guardian has the Tory lead down at a mere two points (although another poll suggests a larger if falling lead).
- In London, Ken has actually extended his lead over Boris. And today we learn that Boris is not exactly whiter than white when it comes to potential conflicts of interest.
Friday 25 January 2008
Thursday 24 January 2008
Wednesday 23 January 2008
Tuesday 22 January 2008
Monday 21 January 2008
Sunday 20 January 2008
Saturday 19 January 2008
Thursday 17 January 2008
Wednesday 16 January 2008
Tuesday 15 January 2008
Monday 14 January 2008
Sunday 13 January 2008
But then Dissembling Dave also had to concede that there would not, in fact, be a referendum on the EU Treaty if he was elected, assuming (as is likely, unless my fellow countrymen try again to prevent poorer Eastern European countries from enjoying the benefits that Ireland gained from EU membership) that all the other EU states had ratified it by that stage. Quite right too, but I'm not sure all his MPs will agree. So, to be clearer than Dave was to the likes of John Redwood and his fellow Eurosceptics, there will not be a referendum on the EU in the still unlikely event that the Tories win the next election.
Saturday 12 January 2008
In Ofsted reports of all primary schools between 2003 and 2005, 60% of Catholic primary schools were judged to have an excellent or very good ethos, compared to
45% of other schools, while 49% of Catholic secondary schools were judged to have an excellent or very good ethos, compared to 32% of other schools.
They were a great vehicle for social mobility and helped many young people to escape the relative poverty of their parents. It is for that reason that I support faith schools for other communities, such as Sikhs, Jews and Muslims, and provided the right safeguards are in place to guard against extremists and ensure a balanced curriculum, I favour their expansion where there is genuine parental demand. But it is not for government to create this demand - which is why Ed Balls was right to answer as he did at the Select Committee (whose chairman is not a fan of faith schools) - but is for government to respond to that demand where it can reasonably be met. A Labour government should be proud that it created the first state schools for faiths other than Christians and Jews. It should not be unwilling to continue to do so.
Friday 11 January 2008
Thursday 10 January 2008
Since their introduction in the early Nineties, the teaching unions have bemoaned the ‘damaging impact’ of school league tables. But, as the clamour for their abolition grows again, the unions’ case is weaker than ever.
They initially complained that an absence of context made the tables unreliable. Yet, as the Government added improvement indices, average point scores and an assessment of the value added by individual schools, they were not appeased.
All of which suggests that the real reason they don’t want parents and the public to have comparative information about schools is that they have something to hide.
Yet, tables have been a force for good. They have helped to drive up standards, alongside inspections and national testing. When the first primary results were
published school-by-school in 1995 they exposed those that were coasting, encouraging real improvement in the 3Rs.
The sophistication of today’s data now means that schools’ performance is compared with the achievement of similar schools. Fischer family trust and value added data enable teachers to set challenging but realistic goals for every pupil in all their subjects. The best schools involve parents in this process.
Tables encourage scrutiny and openness. If this information were not public, the pressure to succeed would be weakened. Failings would not only be hidden from parents and the wider community, but from many school governors.
Tables can also support public policy goals with minimal bureaucracy. Last week, Lord Adonis announced that information on pupils achieving level 6 and 7 in the Key Stage 3 tests would be published to encourage attention for gifted and talented students. Ruth Kelly’s decision as education secretary to include English and Maths scores in the preferred GCSE measure has rightly focused more attention to the basics.
And tables are also important in a culture of increasing freedom of information. Teachers, who are public servants, should be so accountable. We rightly expect government and its agencies to publish increasing amounts of information about their workings. It would be intolerable to hold publicly-funded schools to a lower
Equally, it is unrealistic to expect that newspapers should not publish the results. Most now celebrate fast improvers as much as they highlight the lowest achievers. Rather than trying to abolish the tables, their union critics should be encouraging their members to make the most of the wealth of information they contain to improve standards for every child.
And, for those, including the BBC, who report that a fifth of schools are still failing to meet Gordon Brown's challenging target that 30% of pupils in every school should get five good GCSEs, including English and Maths, two points.
1. Given that the target was set after pupils sat the exams on which schools are being judged for today's league tables, how can they still be failing to meet a target that they didn't then have?
2. By the same token, half of schools missed this target in 1997. Why is that not reported?
Wednesday 9 January 2008
Tuesday 8 January 2008
Monday 7 January 2008
Sunday 6 January 2008
Friday 4 January 2008
UPDATE: Andrew Stephen has a characteristically sharp analysis on the situation on the New Statesman website, not least on the foreign policy nous of the two Iowa victors.
Thursday 3 January 2008
We are told that Terminal 5 will be the answer to all our prayers. I'll believe it when I see it (though where possible I shall use non-BAA run Bristol instead). Meanwhile, is this really the great welcome that our visitors are promised?
Wednesday 2 January 2008
Our horse-drawn sleigh brought us through the snow-covered roofs of Garmisch Partenkirchen, past the ski jump slope that would be seen around the world the next day, and through snow-fringed streets that evoked the Christmas of a hundred idealised winter holiday movies. We spent the Christmas and New Year in this Bavarian Winter Olympic resort, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, from sipping gluwein at the Christmas market on Christmas eve to seeing in Christmas day with a splendidly sung mass at the Martinskirche, as the snow clung not only to Germany's highest mountain, the Zugspitze, but surrounded the eponymous family-run hotel where we spent ten days. The resort is large enough to embrace dozens of restaurants - the best is Isi's Goldener Engel on Bankgasse; but there are several great pizzerias including Pizzeria Max on Griesstrasse. Our hotel, the Zugspitze, laid on excellent meals (and itself has a great restaurant) and good Christmas and New Year entertainment. Visiting the town, it is also essential to take the cogwheel train up the Zugspitze mountain, and having a meal on top (as non-skiers, there is still plenty to entertain; for skiers, the facilities are excellent) and to visit the Partnachklamm glacier. The town is really two towns merged, and the Partenkirchen side is full of splendid examples of houses and shops decorated with wall paintings in the Luftmalerei style; it is also worth visiting the excellent local Werdenfelser museum with plenty of local artefacts and recreated merchants' rooms. Garmisch is nearer to Innsbruck than Munich; we found it easier to get a Munich flight, but were pleased to be met late evening by a charming Garmisch taxi driver, Klaus Weisbrich, though there is a regular rail service available. Garmisch is the place for an excellent white Christmas.