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In brief

In bother over books

Michael Rosen, children's laureate, has slammed schools that teach "literacy without books". Speaking at the Bookstart conference in London, Mr Rosen said he was incensed when his daughter brought home a worksheet from school asking her to read an extract from the Greek myth Perseus and the Gorgon, and then answer 20 questions on it. He said in many schools, after learning to read as young children, pupils are not reading whole books.

Stars turn the pages

A new children's show will feature Meatloaf reading a book about dinner and Alesha Dixon telling children about pants. Bookaboo, which started this week on CITV, aims to promote reading for pleasure. The show features celebrities reading a story to a rockstar puppy who is too nervous to play the drums until he has heard a story. As well as Meatloaf reading The Lamb Who Came for Dinner by Steve Smallman and Joelle Dreidemy, and Alesha Dixon reading More Pants by Giles Andreae and illustrated by Nick Sharratt, other books featured include That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown by Cressida Cowell and Neal Layton and Whatever by William Bee.

'Let's free teachers'

Schools today are like "boot camps" drilling children to pass exams, Nicholas Dorey, chairman of the Society of Heads of Independent Schools, said this week. Speaking at the society's annual conference in Lincolnshire, he said that education in England was too obsessed with statistics, targets and league tales. Mr Dorey, who is headmaster of Bethany School in Kent, said: "Teachers in our schools have never been better trained or more talented. They are desperate to be creative. Let's lead a campaign to free teachers from the shackles of endless exam preparation, so they can inspire children and nurture in them a sense of curiosity."

Friends are the key

Popular schoolchildren earn more as adults, research from the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex has suggested. A study, which used data from a school in Wisconsin, in the United States, showed that pupils with the most friends earned 10 per cent more than those with the fewest. It found that for each extra friend they had, their salary was 2 per cent higher after 35 years. Professor Steve Pudney, who helped analyse the findings, said: "The work emphasises the critical importance of the early development of social skills alongside learning as a basis for economic success in adult life."

Building for success

Funding for thousands of school modernisation projects has been brought forward a year to boost the construction industry, Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, and Jim Knight, the schools minister, announced today. In total, Pounds 919 million has been brought forward. More than 100 local authorities in England will share Pounds 499m after bidding for capital investment. A further Pounds 390m of capital funding will be devolved to every school head in England to invest in smaller projects as they see fit - from building new classrooms or science laboratories to fitting up new gyms or ICT facilities.

A force for good

Prince William has become Royal Patron of the charity Skill Force, which utilises the skills of former members of the armed forces to run life skills courses for disadvantaged young people. Skill Force works with more than 260 schools across England, Scotland and Wales and with more than 9,500 young people each year to deliver alternative learning programmes. Annually, Skill Force manages to reduce from a predicted 23 per cent to between 3 and 6 per cent the number of "difficult to reach" pupils who are not in education, employment or training.

Rich reward

Nominations for the Primary Language Teacher Award are being welcomed. The award, in its second year, is open to full and part-time teachers, freelance or independent language teachers and any modern foreign languages co-ordinator with a teaching qualification. It includes those working in early years. The prizes include an all-expenses- paid two-day trip to Northern France for up to 30 children and five teachers, and resources from Scholastic and La Jolie Ronde.

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