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Cup fever spreads without penalty

As World Cup mania grips the nation, schools and colleges are all going out of their way to accommodate football fans.

We will not know until August whether the nation's increased interest in metatarsals and knee ligaments will help students of biology to gain better grades in this year's exams. But some schools clearly feel it is in their interest to bow to the inevitable and go along with pupils' interest in the World Cup.

All Saints middle school in Northampton will open early next week to allow pupils to watch the soccer action. The breakfast clubs will certainly make it difficult for pupils to claim they were late because matches overran.

World Cup fever has also spread to the unions. David Hart, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers and an Arsenal fan, has wisely decided against trying to compete for attention with England vs Argentina today.

He has pledged to finish his speech to the union's annual conference in Torquay in good time so that delegates can find a TV set.

"I am very sensitive to the need to finish my speech before kick-off, otherwise there will be a mass exodus when the match starts," he said.

If the pundits who have put Argentina among the tournament's favourites are to be believed, many delegates may end up wishing he had spoken at record length.

Michael Barber, formerly head of the Government's schools standards and effectiveness unit, who claims to be a Liverpool fan, seems somewhat less concerned.

He is due to speak at a business breakfast on the future of public services during England's final group clash against Nigeria. Matthew Davis, of DLA Upstream, who organised the event, had bad news for soccer devotees.

"There won't be a TV in the room," he said. "But we'll do our best to put alerts through on the score."

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