News at a glance

Genetics does not explain reading gap, study finds

Genetic differences are not the reason for lower-level reading skills among children from disadvantaged homes, an international study has concluded. Previous research suggested that such differences could help to explain the performance gaps between children from disparate social classes. But a study led by the University of London's Institute of Education, which looked at the reading scores of more than 5,000 children, discounts the link. "The influence of these genes on children's reading ability is limited and their role in producing socio-economic gaps even more limited still," the report says.

Contest launched to find young cyber-defenders

The UK government has launched a code-breaking competition in schools to find teenagers who could help to defend the country from hackers and computer viruses. Students aged 15 to 16 from about 2,000 schools will compete to become national champion in the Cyber Security Challenge UK. The aim of the programme is to identify and hone the talents of UK students in order to address the growing skills gap in the country's cyber-defences.

Move to free US schools from federal interference

A new version of former president George W. Bush's signature education law, No Child Left Behind, was unveiled in the US this week. Tom Harkin, Democratic senator for Iowa, put forward the bill in an attempt to lessen federal government interference and to allow schools to demonstrate how they are improving in more flexible ways. Centralised tests for eight- to 13-year-olds will remain.

Call for culture change in England's careers advice

Students should be given face-to-face careers advice from the age of 12 in order to broaden their horizons, according to a report released in the UK this week. The National Careers Council publication says that a "major culture change" is needed in careers services in England to show students the wide variety of jobs that are available. It is particularly important for the millions of disadvantaged students who do not have the social or family networks that can lead to certain jobs, the report adds.

New Zealand paves the way for charter schools

New Zealand passed a law this week that will allow charter schools - which operate independently of local government - to open for the first time. The legislation was pushed through despite opposition by many leading education figures, who believe that the schools will fail less privileged Maori and Pasifika students. The so-called partnership schools will operate under a sponsor, in a similar way to England's academies, but providers can be profit-making companies.

Campaigners push for end to faith-based selection

A new campaign group calling for an end to registration at schools based on religious belief was launched in the UK this week. The Fair Admissions Campaign wants all state-funded schools in England and Wales to be open to every student, regardless of their faith. The campaign is supported by a wide range of secular and religious groups.

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