News at a glance

Majority of children think reading is `uncool'

Almost two-thirds of children in England do not think reading is cool and one in five would be embarrassed if their friends saw them reading, a study shows. New research, conducted by the National Literacy Trust, reveals that 53.3 per cent of children between the ages of 8 and 16 enjoy reading either "very much" or "quite a lot". Only 10 per cent of children do not enjoy it at all. However, 61 per cent of the 30,000 children surveyed did not agree that reading was cool. In addition, 31.6 per cent said they struggled to find books that interested them.

Healthy meals plan loses backing

New rules that ensure healthier school meals in the US are being opposed by the organisation that pushed for them to be implemented. The School Nutrition Association spent years lobbying the Obama administration to force schools to provide more fruit and vegetables and reduce sugar and salt in government-subsidised meals. But two years after the campaign was successful, the association is calling for schools to be able to opt out of the rules, describing them as "overly prescriptive" and too costly.

School buildings are `crumbling', architects warn

Ministers must address an estimated pound;8.5 billion backlog of repairs to replace "crumbling" schools and ease overcrowding for pupils, the Royal Institute of British Architects says. In a report setting out its demands for the next UK government, the body warns that more than three-quarters of schools contain asbestos and criticises the construction and refurbishment programme that replaced Labour's Building Schools for the Future. "Of the 29,000 schools in Britain, 80 per cent of the stock is beyond its shelf life, and a significant part of the school estate is in poor condition and insufficiently maintained," the report says.

`Instrument amnesty' aims to boost music lessons

Concert pianist James Rhodes has launched an "instrument amnesty", calling on the public to donate unused musical instruments to primary schools across Britain. The Great Instrument Amnesty will be linked to a three-part television documentary to be aired later this summer on Channel 4. Made by the producers of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, the programme will follow Mr Rhodes as he pilots the initiative at a primary school in Essex and then prepares to extend the campaign across the country. "The fact that music has become something of a lottery for children - excellent in some schools and simply inadequate in others - is shocking," he said.

China's Ramadan ban affects pupils and teachers

The Chinese government has banned students and teachers in the country's mainly Muslim Xinjiang region from taking part in Ramadan fasting, according to guidance on official websites. The commercial affairs bureau of Turfan city said on its website on Monday that "civil servants and students cannot take part in fasting and other religious activities", news agency Agence France-Presse reported. The state-run Bozhou Radio and TV University said on its website that officials would "enforce the ban on party members, teachers and young people from taking part in Ramadan activities".

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