A belated sighting. My spies report that the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations has gone into the sponsorship business with some signs around the ground at the AFL match between the Western Bulldogs and the Sydney Swans played recently at Canberra’s Manuka Oval. The departmental logo was also on display at the official luncheon where the department’s Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, delivered a few words about Aussie rules and aboriginal education. Ms Gillard describes herself as a Bulldogs supporter and, as it was officially a Bulldogs home game, presumably the club pocketed the sponsorship money.

The second Rudd sacking. Clearly Kevin Rudd was not happy about having to preside over a sacking from his ministry last week, but when he decided that Joel Fitzgibbon just had to go as Defence Minister he decided to do two for the price of one. Also put to the Prime Ministerial sword was the parliamentary secretary for health and ageing Senator Jan McLucas although quite surprisingly her departure was largely overlooked by the media reporting. The words used were that the Queensland Senator, who earned the Rudd displeasure by spending so much of her time in Canberra, had chosen to spend more time in her role as a Queenslander and thus stepped down from her position of power. If you believed that you would believe anything.

Not alone in liking a leadership contest. Oh the thrill of a leader being executed. For political journalists there is nothing like it. The press at Westminster this last week has shown every bit the same enthusiasm in the hunt for Gordon Brown as their peers here in Canberra have in speculating about the intentions of Peter Costello. When it looked like the pursuit failed, it was the opinion pollsters who come to the rescue to keep the story alive.

It did not take long for The Independent to find that way of overlooking the support that members of the House of Commons gave Gordon Brown last night in their bid to keep a leadership contest alive.

Some cautionary thoughts on education. At a time when Julia Gillard is getting all gung ho about rankings and ratings for schools and students it is perhaps worth noting one of the key findings of the Nuffield Review, a major British study on secondary education, just completed by Professor Richard Pring and Dr Geoff Hayward, from Oxford. Language matters, the Review argues in a report published this week by Routledge.

The words we use shape our thinking. The Orwellian language (seeping through government documents) of ‘performance management and control’ has come to dominate educational deliberation and planning — the language of measurable ‘inputs’ and ‘outputs’, ‘performance indicators’ and ‘audits’, ‘targets’ and ‘curriculum delivery’, ‘customers’ and ‘deliverers’, ‘efficiency gains’ and ‘bottom lines’. There needs to be a return to an educational language.

Social and economic conditions inevitably impact upon the attempts of schools, colleges and work-based training providers to raise standards, to develop citizens and to mitigate the ill-effects of disadvantaged circumstances. History shows, however, the limits of educational reform in attempting to solve problems which have a deeper social and economic source.

Those social and economic conditions make many schools, colleges and work-based trainers the main providers of that care for the well-being, resilience and self-esteem of young people. This broader responsibility of educational institutions, though recognized in theory and though pursued by countless teachers1, too often goes unrecognized in the narrow ‘performance indicators’ by which schools, colleges and work-based training providers are made accountable by government.

No kissing at Warrington. I’ve had a soft spot for Warrington, that drab UK Merseyside town, since the advertising agency for Vladivar Vodka years ago took the mickey out of it with some wonderful mock Russian style ads in Private Eye for “Vladivar Vodka from Warrington” offering a competition first prize of one week in Warrington and a second prize of two weeks. Now I notice that the place has gone all puritan with this sign prominently displayed at the local railway station:

Perhaps the vodka is causing the very un-British public displays of emotion.