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News at a glance

Quarter of students let down by drugs information

More than a quarter of students think their schools do not give them enough information about the risks of drugs, alcohol or smoking, according to a new survey. Only 66 per cent of the 5,187 secondary students in England questioned said they had been given enough information about drugs by their teachers. Thirty per cent felt inadequately educated about the risks of alcohol and 28 per cent wanted more information about the dangers of smoking. But the Survey of Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use Among Young People in England, carried out by social research agency NatCen and the National Foundation for Educational Research, also finds that 69 per cent of students believe their teachers could offer useful advice.

Virgin boss calls for leniency on term-time holidays

Entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson has backed a campaign to allow parents to take their children on holiday during term-time. In a blog post, he writes that parents who are unable to afford travel during school holidays should not be punished for taking their children out of class. The petition was started by Janice Skelcher. She and her husband were prosecuted, given a 12-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay pound;400 costs after they took their two children out of primary school to visit family in Australia.

Book paints a rosy picture of gun ownership

A new picture book in the US aims to show children the advantages of having parents who openly carry handguns. The Michigan-based authors of My Parents Open Carry say their goal is to provide a "wholesome children's book that reflects the views of the majority of the American people, ie, that self-defence is a basic natural right and that firearms provide the most efficient means for that defence". Brian Jeffs, president of pressure group Michigan Open Carry, co-authored the book with one of the organisation's founders, Nathan Nephew. Children's book publisher Elizabeth Laws said that it was the first time in 25 years that "a children's book leaves me speechless".

Free schools not reaching the poorest, study says

Free schools are failing to serve the poorest children in their local areas, according to a study from the University of London's Institute of Education. The research reveals that although the schools are opening in disadvantaged neighbourhoods, they are enrolling fewer poor children than nearby schools. An average of 18 per cent of primary children are eligible for free school meals in the areas where free schools open, but only 13.5 per cent of those attending primary free schools are receiving free meals. The report is based on the social composition of all primary and secondary free schools over three years.

Why playtime is a plus for fitness and learning

Improving school playtimes is one of the most promising ways to boost physical fitness, mental well-being and academic performance, a new study finds. Play improves children's language skills, problem-solving abilities and builds confidence, according to the report commissioned by the Children's Play Policy Forum. It comes after TES revealed that one in three expanding schools (35 per cent) will build on playgrounds and a further 54 per cent will admit more pupils without increasing outside space ("Where the walls are closing in on playtime", 25 July).

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