News at a glance

Gordon Brown to lead Nigeria school safety project

Former UK prime minister Gordon Brown will play a "lead role" in a project to improve safety in Nigerian schools after the kidnapping of more than 200 girls. The pupils were seized last month from a school dormitory in the north-east of the country by Islamist group Boko Haram, triggering the #BringBackOurGirls social media campaign. Mr Brown, now a United Nations special envoy for education, was invited by Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan to work on the school safety scheme, which has received more than pound;12 million in funding from Britain and will target 500 schools in the northern states plagued by the terrorist group. "The education system that has the potential to transform Nigeria cannot be undermined by threats of violence," Mr Brown said.

Study probes impact of mobile phones on brain

Scientists have launched the world's biggest investigation into the effects of mobile phones on the developing brains of children. The study, commissioned by the Department of Health, will focus on how cognitive functions such as memory and attention develop through the teenage years. Around 2,500 schoolchildren will be tested at the ages of 11 and 12, and will undergo a further assessment two years later. An estimated 70 per cent of 11- to 12-year-olds in the UK now own a mobile phone, rising to 90 per cent by age 14. The project's principal investigator, Dr Mireille Toledano of Imperial College London, said it would help parents and children to "make informed life choices".

New history A-level much broader in scope

The rise of Islam and pre-colonial African kingdoms are among the topics students could study in a reformed history A-level. The planned qualification by exam board OCR is one of a raft of new A-levels due to be introduced from 2015, as part of education secretary Michael Gove's drive to make the exams "more rigorous". Rather than focusing on British history, the syllabus instead covers subjects such as the Arab Spring, Genghis Khan and the Ottoman and Mogul empires. It is designed to better prepare students for university by helping them to "develop greater understanding of how different parts of the world relate to each other", OCR said.

Enshrine school libraries in law, writers' group says

School libraries should be made a legal requirement, according to the Society of Authors. The organisation for professional writers has called for all schools to be required by law to have a library and a trained librarian. The quality of library provision and literacy strategies should also be scrutinised by Ofsted, according to the society's chief executive, Nicola Solomon. Whereas prisons have a statutory obligation to provide a library, "absurdly there is no such obligation in relation to schools", she said.

Join Gove and Hunt to discuss post-2015 education

Education secretary Michael Gove and his Labour shadow Tristram Hunt have confirmed that they will be among the speakers at thinktank Policy Exchange's pre general election conference, entitled "What should the political parties promise on education in 2015?" TES and its sister title Times Higher Education are media partners for the event, which will be held on Saturday 7 June in south-west London. For more information, visit or email to request a place.

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