News at a glance

Honours abound for educators across the country

Two outstanding school leaders have been appointed Dames in the New Year's Honours List. Kate Dethridge, headteacher of Churchend School in Reading, and Oremi Evans, headteacher of Brookfield School in Herefordshire, were honoured for services to education. John Townsley, executive principal of the Gorse Academies Trust in Leeds, and Theodore Agnew, chair of the Department for Education's Academies Board and founder of the Inspiration Trust academy chain, were both knighted. Dozens more school leaders, teachers and educators were honoured with CBEs, OBEs and MBEs for their work. Fred Jarvis, former general secretary of the NUT and recipient of the Services to Education Award at the 2013 TES Schools Awards, was appointed CBE for parliamentary and political services.

Scrap GCSEs and reinvent qualifications, CBI urges

GCSEs should be abolished and education reformed to help young people fulfil their potential, a top employers' organisation claims. John Cridland, director general of the CBI, believes young people are "streetwise and impressive" but that the education system "doesn't always serve them well". He argued that the current structure should be revamped to offer academic and vocational A-levels to 14- to 18-year-olds. It was also revealed this week that Margaret Thatcher voiced severe doubts in the 1980s about the introduction of GCSEs to replace O-levels and CSEs. The prime minister at the time warned that GCSEs would lead to lower standards in schools, according to official files newly released by the National Archives.

Hunt promises mandatory Magna Carta lessons

Every pupil in England will be taught about Magna Carta if Labour wins the next election, shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt pledged this week. But critics have been quick to point out that the medieval document is already included in the national curriculum. They have also questioned whether Labour would impose the policy on the thousands of academies that are free to choose what pupils are taught. Mr Hunt, a historian, said: "If I am education secretary after the general election, I am determined every child is taught the medieval past and modern power of this heroic charter."

Education conference cancelled over poor turnout

The annual North of England Education Conference, which began more than 100 years ago, has been cancelled because of a lack of bookings. Organisers of the 2015 event, which was due to take place in Manchester on 14-16 January, said it would instead be "developed into a virtual conference". The conference was once a key event for local authority education officials, but their resources were cut back as the academies programme grew. Chris Waterman, formerly of the event's national executive, said: "There has never been a more important time to hold government's feet to the fire. We need some benefactor to set up a trust to make sure the event continues."

Consign class war to past, private school head says

Referring to the independent education sector as "elitist and privileged" invokes images of 1970s "class war", according to the new president of the Girls' Schools Association. Alun Jones, principal of St Gabriel's School in Newbury and the first man to hold the GSA post, said it was time to banish "stereotypical, out-of-date" references to the independent sector. "It's going back to the old 1970s class war; it's so outdated," he argued. Most "social apartheid" in the UK was down to parents being able to buy expensive houses in the catchment areas of exclusive state schools, he added.

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