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Pitting students against international systems

Individual schools will be able to sit international tests to see how they compare with the best school systems in the world, it was announced this week. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, which runs the increasingly influential Programme for International Student Assessment, will make it possible for single schools to take the exams for the first time, initially in the US and eventually in the UK. The new tests will allow schools to see "where they stand" against global benchmarks, said Andreas Schleicher, the man behind the tests, who was once described by education secretary Michael Gove as one of the "most important men in world education".

Hospital wards could help to resuscitate free school plans

Ministers are urging hospital managers to identify unused wards and other health buildings as potential sites for the government's flagship free school policy. A lack of suitable sites has been one of the biggest barriers to the opening of free schools, which are increasingly being seen as a major part of the coalition's attempt to provide more than 250,000 additional places by 2014. In a letter to managers last month, health minister Dan Poulter said that the Department for Education "would prefer that you send details of properties even where you feel that they do not quite fit into the ... criteria".

Unexpected absence among special needs students

Absence rates in special schools are at more than double the level of mainstream primaries, official figures have revealed. While overall levels of pupil absence dropped to 4.4 per cent in primary schools and 5.9 per cent in secondaries in 2011-12, the figure was 9.6 per cent among special school pupils. Kate Fallon, general secretary of the Association of Educational Psychologists, said there were also higher levels of unauthorised and unexplained absences in special schools than in mainstream education. Ms Fallon called on schools to "have the facilities in place to help these pupils get the education they need in spite of their increased absence".

Teach First begins recruiting for Wales

Education charity Teach First has expanded into Wales, with a mission to recruit graduates to work in schools in some of the country's most disadvantaged communities. The programme will recruit 40 graduates to be placed in secondary schools in the lowest two bands of the Welsh government's banding system from this September. It has a contract with the government to run for three academic years from 2013-14 and recruit around 150 trainee teachers.

Merger creates new hub for teacher development

The merged National College and Teaching Agency has been renamed as the National College for Teaching and Leadership, the government announced this week. The organisation will focus on promoting high-quality teaching and school leadership, while also overseeing continuing professional development. According to the Department for Education, the reason behind the merger was to "bring together the key building blocks for the creation of the school-led system".

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