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Public school head warns of apartheid drift

The head of City of London Boys' School has said independents should sponsor academies to help prevent London turning into apartheid-era South Africa. Speaking at this week's annual gathering of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference in St Andrews, David Levin, who grew up in South Africa, said: "I'm alarmed the way London is being divided into ghettos. It's becoming a silo society. London is sleepwalking towards Johannesburg." He said independents sponsoring academies in deprived London boroughs would mean poor children from ethnic minority backgrounds would be able to mix better with children from other faiths, races and socio-economic backgrounds.

See cover story, pages 30-35

NASUWT sets date for November strike ballot

Teaching union the NASUWT has announced the dates of its ballot for strike action. Citing issues over workload, pensions, pay, conditions of service and job losses, the union's ballot - for a full strike, as well as action short of a strike - opens on 4 November and closes on 17 November. "Despite all our best efforts to engage constructively with this Coalition, in 16 months in office they have conducted a campaign of denigration of the teaching profession, encouraged schools to ignore contractual entitlements, attacked pension provision, undermined professional status and put in place plans to put the whole of the teaching workforce on a permanent competency procedure," general secretary Chris Keates said. A survey published by the union found 97 per cent of its members did not believe Government policies would improve standards of education, while half of teachers said they were considering quitting the profession.

KS1 results prompt focus on attainment gap

The Government has said that closing the attainment gap between children from poor and wealthier backgrounds is its overriding objective after test results showed one in three boys eligible for free school meals did not reach the expected level in reading at seven. The key stage 1 results revealed that 85 per cent of seven-year-olds reached the expected level 2 in reading and 81 per cent did so in writing. The results are the same as in 2010, but maths has risen by one percentage point to 90 per cent. The gap between children on free school meals and those who aren't has been closing. In 2007, 69 per cent of pupils on free school meals achieved the expected level in reading compared to 73 per cent in 2011.

Opponents rally against new phonics test

Opponents of the proposed Year 1 phonics screening test have written to schools minister Nick Gibb asking for more research on why children who fall behind need more phonics intervention, information on the costs and what is to be done to ensure the curriculum isn't narrowed by the new test. The letter from the UK Literacy Association, the National Association for the Teaching of English and signed by primary expert Professor Robin Alexander, all the unions, NASEN and BESA, comes after the official evaluation of the test found it would take an average of 15.5 hours for schools to prepare and administer. The evaluation also found that while 90 per cent said the check was suitable for pupils working at the expected level, just 61 per cent thought it was suitable for those who were weak at phonics. The 40-word test is due to be rolled out to all schools in summer 2012.

Concern over the effectiveness of pupil voice

The children's commissioner for Wales has questioned whether schools are really using pupil voice to drive up standards. Delivering the annual Wales education lecture in Cardiff on Monday, Keith Towler called for more analysis of the effectiveness of school councils, which he claimed are not working properly in some schools.

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