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News at a glance

One week for Bill Gates to read your pupils' letters

Secondary students across the country are being asked to emulate one of the world's most powerful men, Bill Gates, by writing an annual letter setting out their hopes for the year ahead. Mr Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, publishes an annual letter every year, stating his priorities for next 12 months and highlighting opportunities for progress in health and development. This year, the foundation is calling for students to pen their own letter of between 300 and 500 words, describing what they believe will create a better world and how it could be achieved. Letters received before 25 January could be included on the Gates Foundation website, while Mr Gates will select the best letters to be published in next week's edition of TES. Please submit your entries to

Barclays gets behind free schools with cash pledge

Barclays Bank has pledged #163;1.25 million to groups wanting to start free schools, it was announced this week. Free schools groups will be eligible to apply for #163;5,000 grants from the pot to help them pay for research and plan a bid. The bank has also offered 3,000 work experience placements to pupils from academies, free schools and university technical colleges. Free banking will be offered to academies and free schools to "help them get off the ground".

Forced academy conversion on hold for inspection

Education secretary Michael Gove has asked Ofsted to carry out an inspection of Downhills Primary in Haringey, north London, the school whose governors threatened him with legal action if it was forced to become an academy. Downhills is currently under a notice to improve and a monitoring inspection last term was largely positive. But in December, the Department for Education told the governors that the school's repeated underperformance meant it had to start the process of becoming an academy. The governors rejected this, saying that they were already implementing measures to bring the school up to scratch and were awaiting an Ofsted inspection. They argued that a switch to academy status on the grounds of failure before Ofsted's verdict was premature. The deadline for the school to begin the academy process has now been lifted until the outcome of the inspection is known.

Review emphasises importance of film in schools

Pupils should have access to quality international and British films in schools, an influential report released this week said. As part of a number of recommendations contained within Lord Smith's Film Policy Review is the assertion that every school should offer its pupils access to a well-curated catalogue of quality films. Filmclub, a group that promotes engagement with film in school, said that it was excited by the recommendations in the report. "Filmclub is nurturing a new generation of passionate, film-hungry young people who will act as vital consumers and audiences, contributing to the positive health of the UK film industry and exhibition sector," said chief executive Mark Higham. "We look forward to working with the British Film Institute and other industry partners to deliver the goals of the review."

'Outstanding achievement' prize for ex-TES writer

A former TES journalist has been given a prestigious award for his contribution to ICT education. Merlin John received the 2012 Outstanding Achievement Award at the BETT Awards, held annually by the technology trade show, in London last week. The judges highlighted Mr John's journalism at TES - where he edited the online magazine about technology, which appeared until 2006 - and his continuing work on his blog Merlin John Online.

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