Firstly, it seems all is not rosy in the world of educational policy:
In an extraordinary outburst, Prof Smith, the second highest-ranked official at the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, said plans for new diploma qualifications to replace A-levels were "slightly schizophrenic".Not a great choice of phrase, mind you – the disability lobby are probably planning a mass letter writing campaign over that!
But the points he made are pretty damning:
He also said:Ouch!
*School science lessons had been undermined by "insidious" health and safety legislation.
*The Government may have exaggerated the success of a drive to get more teenagers to study science seriously.
*Universities "won't touch" a new elite A* grade at A-level for fear of recruiting too many sixth-formers from independent schools.
*So-called "golden hellos" to attract teachers would be better spent on higher salaries for staff.
Prof Smith also said a refusal to complete a review of student tuition fees could lead to universities going bankrupt.
In comments quoted in the Times Educational Supplement, he said the Government should focus on "getting GCSEs and A-levels right first".I’m guessing all those questions were rhetorical?
"In core subjects like maths and physics we already have a shortage of qualified teacher cover," he said. "Are we wise in adding different bits of curricular offerings, each of which will require additional teacher input?
"Are we thinking in a joined-up way when we plan curriculum developments and new programmes, whether we have the teacher power, planning and recruitment? Might we not be better getting GCSEs and A-levels right first?"
Even the spin doctors couldn’t put a gloss on this one:
A DCSF spokesperson said: "The idea in this day and age that education policy should not focus on "the masses" and instead only on an elite minority is out of date and wrong-headed.I’m sure they have, in Westminster and by the people feathering their own nests as a result. But it seems they aren’t so popular everywhere else….
"We were surprised to read and totally disagree with the comments about diplomas, golden hellos for science teachers and on our reforms to the new A-level, all of which have been widely welcomed."
And not content with that, an official report put the lie to the ‘immigration is a positive benefit’ bunch:
Eastern European immigrants living in shocking poverty have put a major strain on a city's health services, an official report said yesterday.Oh, there’s a nasty outbreak of ‘home truths’ too, it seems….
Families living in desperately overcrowded conditions have led to the spread of diseases including Hepatitis A and thread worm among children causing 'enormous' problems for health workers in Sheffield.
The report by city's council and Primary Care Trust painted an image of Dickensian life among the136 Slovakian families who have settled in the Yorkshire city since 2007, in search of work and building a better life for their families.Hurrah for EU open movement laws!
Many of the migrants barely earn enough to buy food and their children are so poorly nourished that they are losing their hair.
Destitute youngsters wander the streets 'inadequately-clothed and dishevelled' with their poverty 'apparent for all to see', the report said.
Health visitors were 'currently struggling' with resources and 'unable to take on additional work generated by the families', the report said.So it could be much worse…?
But it found the full extent of health problems was difficult to assess because many families had not registered with GP practices while others are 'defensive and suspicious of visitors'.
Mind you, there was one surprise in the report, or at least, it would be a surprise if you believed the image of Britain as reported in the likes of the ‘Guardian’:
There is also 'ongoing conflict' between Eastern European and Pakistani residents which it said led to 'severe violence, with cars burnt out, bricks thrown and verbal and physical abuse.Harassing EU immigrants - I guess that’s yet another job the white English are ‘too lazy’ to do themselves these days, preferring to leave it to downtrodden ethnic minorities instead…?
And then the chief executive of the Royal Free decided to lay into the NHS supercomputer:
A new NHS computerised medical records system on trial at a London hospital has been criticised by a hospital boss for causing "heartache and hard work".If Gordon wasn’t superstitious before, I bet he is now...
Andrew Way, chief executive of London's Royal Free Hospital, said technical problems had cost the trust £10m and meant fewer patients could be seen.
The Department of Health said lessons had been learnt from the trial.
The England scheme, part of a £12bn IT upgrade, aims to put 50 million patient records on a secure database by 2014.
The Royal Free, one of a number of early adopters of e-records, has been using the system since last summer.
The project, restricted to England, has been one of the most controversial aspects of the overall 10-year IT programme, which also involves an online booking system, digital imaging for X-rays and electronic prescriptions.
Mr Way said the cost of the problems had meant it was be unable to invest in new equipment.