News at a glance

End 'profoundly toxic' target culture, thinktank says

High-stakes school inspections should be dropped to end the target-driven culture in schools, a thinktank said this week. Schools in England are held to account by inspectorate Ofsted and by league tables, which, according to Demos, is a "profoundly toxic" system that fails to raise standards. Instead, parents, teachers and students - as well as inspectors - should be responsible for drawing up annual school reports. "International evidence shows that an education system which trusts professionals is more likely to succeed," the thinktank said.

Downturn curbed pay of majority of US teachers

The vast majority of teachers in the US took a pay cut or had their salaries frozen for at least one of the school years between 2008 and 2012, new research has shown. A report published by the National Council on Teacher Quality showed that, in 80 per cent of the school districts examined, teachers' pay packets were affected in the years after the global downturn in 2007-08. Teacher salary data from 41 out of 50 school districts also revealed that average teacher pay rises fell from 3.6 per cent in 2008-09 to 1.3 per cent in 2011-12.

Exams watchdog calls for floor standards overhaul

England's exams watchdog Ofqual has suggested a radical change in the crucial "floor standards" used by the government to identify and target low-performing 11-18 schools. The regulator is calling on ministers to consider putting the progress students make in English and mathematics - instead of their raw exam results - at the centre of the standards, which can lead to schools being closed and principals being sacked. The body has also suggested that there may be a need for closer regulation of qualifications "equivalent" to the GCSEs taken at the age of 16, such as IGCSEs and BTECs, to ensure that school accountability measures "stay meaningful". It wants the government to consider giving greater prominence to English and mathematics in such measures.

'Flying squads' will tackle violent attacks on staff

Education ministers will fund two "flying squads" to deal with violent attacks on teachers in remote Australian communities. The Australian government is to spend AU$100,000 (#163;65,000) on the task forces, after a series of incidents in which students attacked teachers. The teams will include psychologists and a police officer, and will be flown to schools at the request of principals and the education department. "I don't think that the sole responsibility for handling issues like this remains with the education department and it doesn't just rest with the school involved," education minister Peter Chandler said. "It does rest with the community, to work with the school so that we can find some better solutions to some of the issues that are occurring."

Shorten school holidays, Welsh politicians demand

Schools' six-week summer holidays are too long, Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru has said. The party is demanding shorter, more frequent breaks for students, claiming that this will boost their concentration levels as well as benefit parents and teachers. Its education spokesman, Simon Thomas, said that discussions are needed about the more even distribution of school holidays throughout the year. "The current structure was set up in the Victorian times and is not the most beneficial structure for children," he said. The suggestion comes after England's education secretary, Michael Gove, also called for a rethink of school holidays.

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