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Vote for a school to win an #163;80,000 building

Teachers and parents have three weeks left to vote on which school they believe deserves to win a free building in a competition run by TES and Clearspace Buildings. The six finalist schools have posted videos explaining why they deserve the fully constructed timber classroom, worth at least #163;80,000. The finalists are Bearwood Primary School in the West Midlands, Hawkshead Esthwaite Primary School in Cumbria, Chamberlayne College for the Arts in Hampshire, Samuel Whitbread Academy in Bedfordshire, Thomas Becket Catholic School in Northamptonshire and Varndean School in East Sussex. View the schools' videos, read their entries and register your vote before 7 February at www.tesconnect.combuilding

GCSE reform is a backward step, says Twigg

Ministers' plans to bring in new exams at 16 will usher in a "decade of economic decline", the shadow education secretary said this week. In a speech at the North of England Education Conference in Sheffield, Stephen Twigg said that government plans to replace GCSEs with English Baccalaureate Certificates would return the country to the 19th century. Mr Twigg said the exams, expected to be introduced in 2015, could do "serious long-term damage to our economy by downgrading skills that have powered Britain, such as engineering, computing and construction, and neglecting the creative subjects".

Education is not being served by DfE, claims MP

Former children's minister Tim Loughton tore into education secretary Michael Gove this week, delivering a withering assessment of the Department for Education to a panel of MPs. The Conservative MP branded the DfE as inefficient and bureaucratic, and said it had an "upstairs downstairs mentality". Mr Loughton, who was highly regarded as a minister, even likened his former boss to Mr Grace from TV sitcom Are You Being Served?. "Most officials have never met the Secretary of State, other than when he will troop out a few chosen people for the new year party, Mr Grace-like from Grace Brothers, and tell us we've all done terribly well and then disappear," Mr Loughton said.

Focus on word root and meaning is key, finds study

Children would find it easier to learn to read and write if they were first taught how the English language worked and what words meant, according to new research. Dr Victoria Devonshire, from the University of Portsmouth, trialled the effects of teaching morphology, the meaning and sources of words, to 120 children aged 5-7 and found that the average reading age increased by 14 months after just six months. "I'm not saying abandon phonics, I'm saying give the other elements the attention they need from the beginning of their formal literacy education, at the age of 5 years, to make sense of how our language works," Dr Devonshire said.

Private schools face inspection overhaul

Ofsted has announced plans to overhaul inspections for more than 1,000 private schools amid concerns that teaching is "seldom inspiring". Under the changes, inspectors will be looking more closely at a school's leadership and the quality of teaching. The move will also cut the amount of notice a private school is given of an inspection from two days to half a day. The overhaul comes after concerns over the quality of teaching in smaller private schools, which are not represented by the Independent Schools Council.

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