Hi all – been away for a few days and just back in time to catch the screaming headline from the BBC that…. a BBC survey shows that Universities would like to be able to charge students more in tuition fees. In what way is this news beyond the stating of the bleeding obvious? I would be surprised if any University refused the chance for a higher income stream! What would be interesting would be a BBC survey to show us how well the crop of graduates under Labour have been faring in the job market with their shiny bright new degrees from our State backed universities. Then again the Education debate is always framed in a particular way, isn’t it, with radical egalitarianism at the heart of all the BBC offer us up on this topic.


My but wasn’t the Today programme in cracking form this morning? Did you catch the class warrior Martin Narey from poverty-industry giant Barnardos declaring that “investment” in Education has helped mostly the middle-classes whilst the “poor” have seen little benefit. Yes, right-on, Comrade and pass the sick-bucket. This then segued into a report featuring a Gazan doctor and the death of hundreds of babies at the hands of those evil Israelis. The question was asked of the not so good doctor where the greatest risk to babies in Gaza comes from, the answer, Hamas, was never even considered! Next, Prince Harry and that alleged “racist” comment three years ago. The oleaginous Keith Vaz was given time to slime on and give his opinion. The BBC loves nothing better than attacking a Royal and this non-story, spun by the circulation-deprived News of the World, is perfect for the BBC since it allows them to set the attack dogs on the Royal Family but using the veneer of “racism.”


I noticed the BBC has given great prominence to the report by the Institute for Public Policy Research claiming that training days for England’s teachers should be quadrupled to 20 a year, costing £75m. The Institute for Public Policy Research says the difference between excellent and bad teachers means pupils achieve more than a GCSE grade extra. However the IPPR is not just any old think-tank – it is a LEFT WING think tank which has acted as cheerleader for Labour’s more controversial policies, including road pricing, rubbish taxes, ID cards and justifying hospital closures. It has also been the recipient of over £1 million of lucrative grants from Labour. So when the BBC reports the latest IPPR advocacy I think it has a duty to put the character of the IPPR in context so that we realise that what we are actually hearing is government thinking – a lit like the BBC itself I guess.


It’s good to know that old communists don’t fade away, they just join the National Union of Teachers! Did you read the BBC’s report on the annual NUT conference in Manchester and the onslaught that the comrades have launched on the Armed Forced “preying” on schoolchildren? The BBC provides plenty of space for such illuminating comments as..”Join the Army and we will send you to bomb, shoot and possibly torture fellow human beings in other countries. Join the Army and we will send you probably poorly equipped into situations where people will try to shoot or kill you because you are occupying other people’s countries.
Join the Army, and if you survive and come home, possibly injured or mentally damaged, you and your family will be shabbily treated.”

It’s full on Dave Spartism – sixth form student grant political analysis from the National Union of Whingers yet the BBC gives the Ministry of Defence a mere two sentences to rebuff this hysteria. That’s not balanced! The NUT is of course entitled to its vicious anti-British Armed Forces rhetoric – what else would we expect from them?- but surely the MOD should have been given rather more space to take apart the ranting from the comrades?

Take a trip with me.

Let’s take a morning trip through some of the propaganda pumped out by the BBC this morning as I think it is offers some fine pickings. First we read that our wise and knowing government is promising 5 hours of “high culture” to schoolchildren each week. Children will be given the chance to attend “top quality theatre and dance performances, world class exhibitions, galleries, museums and heritage sites”Pupils will also be encouraged to take part themselves. (That should make Covent Garden Opera more interesting) More will have the chance to learn a musical instrument, play and sing in groups and choirs, perform drama or make films. This is particularly aimed at those children from “poorer” families, apparently. It’s my view that our left wing government views schools as laboratories in which they can conduct their peverse social engineering and this latest distraction from providing a decent education is to be expected – a headline generating diversion. Listening to John Humphry’s take apart Culture Commissar Andy Burnham just after 8am on “Today” was, however, quite excellent and credit where it is due. We need all BBC coverage to follow this example by rigorously challenging whoever is putting forward the viewpoint.

Next up, we discover that we need MORE immigration into the UK because….Britain’s curry houses can’t get the “cultural sensitivity” from the hordes of eastern Europeans now resident in this country! You cannot be serious! Why was no one interviewed who might have felt that Britain does not exist to provide Bangladeshis with employment?

And finally, as they say, let’s finish with an apology. No, not from me to our resident Beeboids – but from Australian PM Kevin Rudd to the Aborigines. Naturally the BBC are delighted at this liberal guilt trip. There’s nothing like a pointless apology to a minority group, be it from Bill Clinton, from Tony Blair and now from Mr Rudd, for real or imagined historical wrongs, to create a warm glow in leftist land. The fact that many Australian’s DON’T see the need to apologise to the Aborigines is swept aside in the BBC reports. And so it goes folks, drip drip drip!

Curb your enthusiasm.

This article by the BBC’s education correspondent, Mike Baker, was published in November: “A way all children can be readers.” The article is one long exhalation of praise for a reading scheme called Reading Recovery aimed at children who are failing to learn to read. Mr Baker writes:

Is this the biggest missed opportunity in education?

Imagine if virtually no child left primary school unable to read.

Or if no teenager bunked off school and ended up in trouble with the law because their reading skills meant they could not cope.

If these things could be changed, how much might be saved?

The article talks as if all that stopped heaven on earth being established in 1995 was John Major’s Conservative government pulling the plug on funding. Later, confounding hopes placed in it by supporters of the scheme, Tony Blair’s Labour government did much the same.

Not everyone thinks Reading Recovery is wonderful. Most of the critics don’t think the programme is bad in itself. They just think it costs a fortune for the effect it has, and the money could be better spent.

Here are a few links pro and con.

An oft-quoted paper attacking it is Reading Recovery: An evaluation of Benefits and Costs by Grossen, Coulter and Ruggles.

Here is a response from Gay Su Pinnell supporting Reading Recovery.

Reading Recovery: distinguishing Myth from Reality by Tunmer and Chapman. Critical.

Reading Recovery: Anatomy of Folly by Martin Kozloff. Very critical.

Evaluation of Reading Recovery in London Schools by Sue Burroughs-Lange. Supportive.

Every child a reader: Results of the first year. This report is not pretending to be anything other than advocacy in favour of Reading Recovery. That does not make it wrong, of course, and there is plenty of information there. I think this is the document upon which Mr Baker’s article was based.

Although there is evidence that Reading Recovery is helpful it does not justify Mr Baker’s uncritical enthusiasm.

For instance, the paper by Sue Burroughs-Lange compares the results for 234 of the lowest achieving children at several primary schools. It says the group getting RR did better than the control group “who received a range of other interventions.” So the control group was really several very different groups with small numbers of children in each. Furthermore, so far as I could see from the information on page 21 onwards none of the alternatives were anything like as intense as Reading Recovery, so it is hardly surprising that they were less effective. A similar criticism was made on page 7 of this paper by Jonathan Solity of the control groups for Slyva and Hurry’s 1995 favourable evaluation of Reading Recovery.

Although Mr Baker writes,

It [Reading Recovery] is not an alternative to the general teaching methods for whole classes but is, instead, a highly structured intervention strategy for rescuing children who are struggling to take even the first steps towards reading.

True, but in the real world any one use of money excludes other uses of the same money. The strategy of taking children out of class for one-to-one instruction by people specifically trained in Reading Recovery is very expensive. It also (and in the context of teachers’ interests the expense may not be a bug, but a feature) can be used as an alternative to having general teaching methods for whole classes that might gain better results with the use of fewer trained personnel.

(My personal opinion is that the history of the teaching of reading over the last century could be described as one long epic struggle by educators of every clime and tongue to avoid admitting that progressive methods don’t work. A century of toil has almost sufficed to bring us back to the standard reached by the Victorians.)

In the US, Reading Recovery is more politicised than in the UK, there having been a big bust-up over its inclusion or exclusion from a government programme called Reading First. It is seen there as being on the anti-phonics side of the Reading Wars. This is not quite fair. The founder, Marie Clay, sought to minimize the explicit teaching of phonics, but the phonics component has been increased since.

One wouldn’t necessarily expect all that detail to be discussed in this one BBC article, and one certainly wouldn’t expect the state broadcaster to rant away like a common blogger. But the BBC could have done better than just “For the last 10 years there has been no shortage of research evidence showing its effectiveness.”