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News in brief

Peak performance

Touching the Void, the true-life account of mountaineers in the Peruvian Andes, is to be included as a set text in English literature GCSE from 2010. Joe Simpson's 1988 book, which was recently made into an award-winning documentary, appears alongside classics such as Lord of the Flies and An Inspector Calls in the AQA's new draft GCSE specifications, announced this week. The exam board has said that it wants to allow candidates to read a range of contemporary and classic texts.

HE wants creativity

Independent thinking is being squeezed out of A-levels by a constant focus on boosting league table scores, research suggests. Almost eight out of 10 university admissions tutors believe that the quality of teaching for 16 to 19-year-olds has been threatened by a need to teach to the test. Two-thirds added that the school curriculum is inflexible. The survey, commissioned by ACS International Schools, found that tutors wanted teachers to be free to take a more creative approach in the classroom.

Funding awareness

Schemes to help teachers tackle issues such as immigration, global poverty and climate change have received a share of an Pounds 8.2 million government grant this week. The Development Awareness Fund provides grants of between Pounds 10,000 and Pounds 100,000 to projects designed to help increase pupils' understanding of issues. This year, beneficiaries include a scheme to use school gardens to teach pupils about sustainable development, one encouraging Kent teachers to discuss immigration with pupils, and a plan to incorporate global issues into teacher-training courses at the University of London's Institute of Education. www.dfid.gov.uk

Parents' holiday worry

More than half of parents are unaware of the summer-holiday activities offered by their local schools, according to a survey conducted by the Training and Development Agency for Schools. The survey also reveals that 55 per cent are concerned that their children will do nothing more than watch TV and play computer games over the summer. The agency is calling on schools to offer more summer activities, and to ensure they promote the services they do offer.

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