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News at a glance

England failing to keep up in global race

Standards of education in England are improving, but the country is falling behind its international competitors owing to "mediocre teaching" and "weak leadership" in too many schools, the schools inspectorate has claimed. In its latest annual report, published this week, Ofsted says that England is struggling to compete with other nations because of regional variation in the quality of education and the "significant underachievement" of white children from poor families. Overall, almost a quarter of a million students attend schools rated as inadequate by inspectors, the report states. "Serious challenges remain, and all the while many of our international competitors are improving at a faster rate than we are," said Her Majesty's Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw.

Fears of anti-Semitism prompt faith school boom

Jewish parents in France are increasingly sending their children to religious schools because of growing concerns over anti-Semitism. The head of the country's representative council of Jewish institutions said that communities were feeling high levels of anxiety about anti-Semitism. Roger Cukierman, president of Crif, told The Jewish Chronicle: "Many parents are sending their children to Jewish schools and other private schools, and not to public schools as it used to be in my youth." According to a European Union survey published last month, Jews in France are experiencing the highest levels of anti-Semitism-related anxiety in Europe, along with those in Hungary.

Dispute may close majority of Ireland's secondaries

Around 70 per cent of all secondary schools in the Republic of Ireland could close from mid-January because of a dispute involving one of the country's main trade unions. Secondary teachers' association the ASTI is locked in a row with the Department of Education and Skills after it rejected planned changes to working conditions. The Irish government is now threatening to remove the 17,000 teachers who are ASTI members from the payroll on 17 January, unless they accept proposals that would involve them taking on substitution and supervision duties as well as their core work.

Cemetery discovered under Philadelphia school

Philadelphia's school officials have called an emergency meeting after a cemetery was discovered under the playground of one of the US city's high schools. Caskets containing human remains were found when construction workers began clearing the site to build a new sports complex. It is believed that the area was home to two cemeteries, dating back 150 years or more, and became the final resting place for many civil war veterans. School officials will meet next week to discuss how best to reinter the remains.

Your chance to train teachers in Sierra Leone

Teachers all around the world are being invited to visit Sierra Leone in the Easter or summer holidays next year to help train educators in the West African country. Teachers of all levels are welcome. They will help to run workshops on basic teaching practice and will observe and mentor teachers working with children. Participants must speak English. The trip will cost #163;1,000 for UK residents, including flights, and is organised by the charity Street Child, which works to create educational opportunities for out-of-school children in West Africa. For more information, email or go to

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