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News at a glance

Children's authors in World Book Day webchats

TES has organised a series of webchats with children's authors to mark World Book Day on 7 March. Tony Robinson, who played Baldrick in Blackadder and now presents Channel 4's Time Team, will take part in a discussion on the day itself, with popular author Malorie Blackman and radio DJ turned children's writer Simon Mayo doing likewise in the days beforehand. Teachers and pupils will be able to ask live questions.

Academies warned over performance

Seven sponsored academies have been issued with pre-warning letters by the Department for Education over serious concerns about their performance. Ministers are demanding substantial improvements at the schools or they will consider installing new sponsors. The letters have been sent to Djanogly City Academy, Nottingham; Ipswich Academy; the Oxford Academy; Sheffield Springs Academy; South Wolverhampton and Bilston Academy; Swindon Academy; and West Grantham Academies Trust. Two of the schools - Sheffield Springs and Swindon - are run by the same sponsor, United Learning. "The majority of sponsored academies are thriving under great leadership," a DfE spokesman said. "But results in a minority of sponsored academies remain stubbornly low. We will not tolerate long-term underperformance in any school."

NUT to vote on strike action before Easter

Members of the NUT executive are to meet to decide whether to hold a national strike over pay, pensions and working conditions before Easter. The union's executive committee agreed in December to "build towards strike action in the spring term", although the prospect now appears to be fading. Last month, members narrowly voted against striking on 13 March, as members of the NASUWT teaching union would not be taking part.

'Very serious' concerns raised over Welsh councils

Two Welsh local authorities could have their education services placed in special measures after being rated unsatisfactory by Estyn. The education inspectorate found serious failings in both Merthyr Tydfil and Monmouthshire county councils. Education minister Leighton Andrews said the situation is "very serious" and that urgent action is needed. Independent recovery boards are likely to be put in place and some executive functions could be handed over to other councils. Six out of Wales' 22 local authorities have now been rated unsatisfactory by Estyn.

Grants to boost SEN teachers' subject knowledge

Special educational needs staff are being offered grants to deepen their subject knowledge and develop their skills. Teachers and support staff can make bids for National Scholarship Fund grants of up to #163;3,500. Funding for staff development for those teaching English, maths and science is also available. "These scholarships identify talented professionals and help give them the opportunity to develop their specialist knowledge further, so that they can progress in their careers and pass their knowledge on to their pupils," Charlie Taylor, chief executive of the Teaching Agency, said.

More top-flight students are interested in teaching

More people with 2:1 or first-class degrees are registering their interest in teaching, the Teaching Agency has claimed. It released figures indicating that 4,000 people in London with a 2:1 degree or above have registered their interest in teacher training since last September, a 30 per cent increase on the previous year.

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