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History GCSE to cover Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts

The recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are be included in a history GCSE offered by England's biggest school exam board for the first time. Pupils taking the new AQA qualification will be able to study the conflicts and the "War on Terror" as part of an optional in-depth international study on "Conflict and tension, 1990-2009". Michael Charman, AQA's head of history, said: "History should help young people understand the world we live in today as well as the past. Topics like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have a huge impact on today's news agenda and will continue to influence our lives for years to come." The GCSE, which is being introduced from 2016, will also cover Elizabethan England, the First and Second World Wars, and 20th-century America. British history will make up at least 40 per cent of the course.

Pupil premium stars celebrated at pound;4m awards

Charter Academy in Portsmouth, which employs former members of the Royal Navy to manage classroom discipline, won the pound;250,000 national secondary prize at this week's Pupil Premium Awards. Meanwhile, Parkfield Community School in Birmingham, which has tackled punctuality problems by sending a "walking bus" to pick children up, received the pound;100,000 national primary prize. The annual awards, sponsored by TES, recognise the schools that have made the best use of money allocated to them under the government's pupil premium policy. Some 500 schools received a share of the pound;4 million prize money.

Grammar school equality drive starts to bear fruit

Birmingham's five state grammar schools have doubled their intake of disadvantaged pupils in a single year to 20 per cent by setting them a lower pass mark in the 11-plus exam. The initiative by the Schools of King Edward VI is part of a wider push by grammar schools, first revealed by TES last year, to achieve more socially balanced intakes. In total, 88 grammars - more than half the overall number in England - are seriously considering similar moves, according to the Grammar School Heads Association. The Birmingham schools set their 11-plus qualifying scores 7 per cent lower for children entitled to the pupil premium.

Finland denies it is scrapping subjects in overhaul

Finland has hit back at claims that it is scrapping school subjects in favour of topic teaching, after its curriculum redesign attracted interest across the globe. The country, seen as an exemplar owing to its high performance in international rankings, is introducing a new core curriculum in 2016 that will include a focus on generic competencies and a move towards multi-disciplinary projects, which pupils will help to plan. But the Finnish National Board of Education said that the law still required certain subjects to be taught.

Catholic school admissions row goes to High Court

The High Court has been told that an official ruling against the London Oratory School's controversial admissions policy will damage the school's "strongly Catholic ethos". The state-funded boys' secondary - whose pupils have included the sons of ex-prime minister Tony Blair and current deputy prime minister Nick Clegg - was found by the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA) to have breached the school admissions code in several ways in 2014 and 2015. This week, the school's lawyers applied for a judicial review, disputing the claim that less well-off Catholic families were "unfairly disadvantaged" by its admissions policy. But lawyers for the OSA told the court that its verdict had been "clear, fair and logical".

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