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Workload Challenge branded `missed opportunity'

The leaders of five teaching unions have written to education secretary Nicky Morgan and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, branding the government's response to the profession's workload crisis as a "missed opportunity". The general secretaries of the ATL, the NUT, Voice, the NAHT headteachers' union and the Association of School and College Leaders argue that government plans to ease teachers' burden in light of the Workload Challenge survey do not "get close to the root cause" of the problem. As TES exclusively revealed last week, the ministers have put together what they call a "new deal" for teachers, which promises no major changes to Ofsted inspections or government policy during the academic year, "except when absolutely necessary".

`Outstanding' grade is misleading, top head says

The "outstanding" grade used by Ofsted creates a "false impression" about the quality of schools and carries too much influence in the education system, according to a high-performing school leader. Gary Phillips, headteacher of Lilian Baylis Technology School in South London, which was rated outstanding across the board in its most recent inspection two years ago, said the judgement carried too much weight and suggested it was time for an overhaul of inspection grades. Speaking at a Westminster Education Forum event on school inspection, Mr Phillips also argued that it was time to consider dropping the "inadequate" rating because it could cause schools to go into "free fall".

Poorer pupils deprived of `difficult' subjects

Pupils may be missing out on the opportunity to attend top universities and gain good jobs because of limited exam options in their local area, a study suggests. The research, published by the Open Public Services Network at the Royal Society of Arts, finds that schools in deprived communities often prevent pupils from taking GCSE subjects deemed "difficult", such as science or languages, in order to boost their position in annual league tables. For example, only 24.4 per cent of pupils in the disadvantaged borough of Middlesbrough were entered for a modern foreign language GCSE in 2013, compared with 69 per cent in wealthy Kingston upon Thames.

Education staff fear job jeopardises their health

Almost half of education workers fear that the pressure of the job is putting their health at risk, according to a new survey. The poll, conducted by the British Heart Foundation, finds that 47 per cent of people working in education believe their job has had a negative impact on their health over the past five years; 62 per cent report that their general stress levels have increased. Among respondents, 47 per cent say their job has caused them to eat more unhealthily and 19 per cent say it has driven them to drink more alcohol. Nine per cent began to drink alcohol only when they started working in education.

Term-time holidays still popular despite fines

More than a third of parents have taken their children out of school during term time since stricter holiday-absence rules were introduced. Research conducted by the Halifax bank finds that 36 per cent of parents with children aged 5-16 have gone on holiday during term time. On average, families holidaying out of peak times save pound;237.10 per person, the researchers say. Since fines of pound;60 per pupil for term-time absence were introduced in September 2013, only 14 per cent of parents who have taken their children out of school have actually been fined, they add.

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