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Boards may tweak English GCSE to help students

Ofqual is proposing to make it easier for students to gain good grades in English GCSE from 2014 to compensate for the removal of a section of the qualification. The exams regulator has calculated that its plan to take out speaking and listening - which had contributed to a fifth of the marks in the GCSE - would lead to the proportion of candidates achieving A*-C grades dropping by between 4 and 10 percentage points. Exam boards say that compensating for this may involve setting the A and C grade boundaries for the qualification, which was at the centre of last year's grading controversy, "one or two marks lower".

Illegal exclusions are a 'source of shame', commissioner says

Schools should be fined thousands of pounds for illegally excluding students, the Children's Commissioner for England has suggested. In a report released this week, Dr Maggie Atkinson said thousands of children were being sent home from lessons without proper records being kept. The report estimates that illegal exclusions are affecting thousands of children in hundreds of schools, and condemns the practice as a "source of shame to the education system".

Under half of us think achievement gap can close

Fewer than two in five British people think it will be possible for children from poorer and wealthier backgrounds to ever perform equally well at school, according to research by the Teach First charity. Half of the 2,069 adults surveyed believed parents in poorer areas were less likely to help their children to learn outside school, while 50 per cent thought poorer children were more likely to have problems at home that distract them from learning. The charity, which puts top graduates in schools in deprived areas to train as teachers, has launched a campaign called Every Child Can to "break the cycle of educational disadvantage".

Academies spending is #163;1bn over budget

The academies programme has cost #163;1 billion more than expected and had to draw on money that was intended to improve underperforming schools, the Commons Public Accounts Committee said this week. The group of MPs criticised the Department for Education for the "complex and inefficient" system it used to fund the programme and said its funding agency needed to "increase their grip on the risks to public money". The DfE spent #163;8 billion on academies in the two years from April 2010 to March 2012, including #163;95 million that had been intended for underperforming schools.

Gawain is good for poetry champion

A college student from Nottingham has won the inaugural Poetry by Heart competition after reciting part of medieval poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Kaiti Soultana, 18, from Bilborough College, also recited Elizabeth Bishop's The Fish during the finals of the nationwide contest, held at the National Portrait Gallery in London last weekend. Judges, including former poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion, said her performance was "simply extraordinary". Young people from across England entered the competition and 41 of them, aged 14-18, took part in the finals across two days. The contest was launched last year and is funded by the Department for Education.

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