Hotspots in a silly season...

Diane Spencer

IT was not all fun and sun; but teachers who sacrificed holidays to work in summer schools were rewarded as youth crime fell locally by 18 per cent and burglary by 36 per cent because youngsters were kept out of mischief.

Crime itself featured in one summer school as 24 talented Sheffield pupils cracked a mock murder case with the help of police and forensic scientists.

But for the rest of us it was business as usual with exam results and teacher shortages widely reported.

August began with news of another exams fiasco as ministers were accused of rushing in vocational GCSEs. David Hargreaves, Qualifications and Curriculum Authority chief executive, who has launched an inquiry into AS-levels, expressed worries about the speed of the change.

Some schools discovered how to boost their league-table performance, with the Government's blessing, by encouraging pupils to take a vocational qualification worth four GCSEs. The qualification is already taken by pupils at Thomas Telford, in Shropshire, the first comprehensive where 100 per cent of students gained five GCSEs at A-C grades.

AS-levels were deemed a success, despite a third of entrants failing maths - the subject of another inquiry; the GCSE gender gap is at last closing; and Professor Susan Greenfield, star of BBC2's Brain Story, is wooing teenagers to study a new "sexy" subject - neuroscience - at AS-level.

White Hart Lane secondary in Wood Green, north London, tackled the teacher shortage by recruiting 12 graduate trainees from Asia, Africa and Europe. Elsewhere The TES reported teachers cashing in on rising house prices, and moving to France to live la belle vie.

Ralph Tabberer, head of the Teacher Training Agency, gained a pound;9,000 bonus after presiding over the first annual increase in recruitment to teacher training since 199293. But his agency's budget slipped into the red by nearly pound;3 million.

Ministers have decided that new teachers who failed their basic skills tests will be allowed to carry on teaching for up to five years and get the same pay as their colleagues who passed; but it was too late for those opting to teach in private schools. "What's the point of carrying on testing?" they asked.

And finally. Mike Tomlinson, the chief inspector of schools, told Tony Blair he should treat his public servants, including teachers, with more respect. Welcome back.

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Diane Spencer

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