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'Crafty' China played Pisa, says chief inspector

China was "pretty crafty" in including only its top-performing regions in international league tables, England's chief inspector of schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, has claimed. Addressing the Commons Education Select Committee, he stressed the importance of England improving its performance in the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) league tables. In the most recent tables published in December, the UK was placed 26th out of 65 territories for maths, 21st for science and 23rd for reading. Sir Michael told MPs that the main factor holding the country back was regional variation and he praised London as one of the highest performing cities in the world. "If we'd put in London (independently), we'd have been right up there," he said.

Polar vortex creates learning void in US

Schools in the US could be forced to shorten the spring holiday or extend the school year to make up for time lost when snow caused school closures. The east coast of the country is braced for yet another snowstorm and school districts are now considering adding to the school day to make up for lost time. While the UK is being battered by rain causing serious flooding, the US has been bearing the brunt of snow and ice storms, with much of the country experiencing record-breaking low temperatures earlier in the year because of a so-called polar vortex.

Teach students 'grit and determination'

Schools should instil "character and creativity" in their students, as well as offering them academic tuition, according to England's shadow education secretary. But the Labour Party's Tristram Hunt rejects the traditional notion that character is best taught through adversity, arguing that the latest research has identified techniques that allow it to be taught in the classroom. In a speech to exam board AQA in London, he called for teacher training to include methods for encouraging children to develop "grit, determination and the ability to work in teams in challenging circumstances". His comments follow a report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility, which said schoolchildren should be taught the resilience to overcome setbacks in life.

Smoking at last banned in Chinese schools

Smoking has been banned in schools in China as part of a government-led drive to convince the public to quit its heavy tobacco addiction. The country is the largest consumer of cigarettes in the world, with smoking commonplace in schools and even hospitals. Under the new rules, schools will no longer be able to gain sponsorship from cigarette brands or put up tobacco advertisements on site. School leaders will be compelled to install smoke alarms and school canteens will no longer be permitted to sell tobacco.

Teachers hit campaign trail in Australia

Australia's teachers are climbing into minibuses and setting out across the country in a bid to persuade the new Abbott administration to invest more in schools. One of the country's main classroom unions, the Australian Education Union, is embarking on a national "Gonski" tour that will last five weeks. The Gonski reform proposals were put forward under the previous Labor government and would have handed schools billions in extra cash, but they were scrapped after the election of prime minister Tony Abbott last year. The union wants to convince parents, teachers and school leaders that the government should commit to the full six-year, $10 billion plan.

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