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Help disadvantaged pupils SHINE

Teachers with a winning idea on how to improve the literacy or numeracy of disadvantaged pupils have the chance to win up to #163;15,000 to make it a reality. A competition, launched today by education charity SHINE (Support and Help in Education) and TES, will fund pilot schemes of up to 10 teachers' projects for a year. If any of the projects proves successful, it may then receive further, long-term funding to help it expand to other schools. SHINE funds and develops educational programmes for underachieving 4- to 18-year-olds from disadvantaged areas. Paul Carbury, the charity's chief executive, said: "This is the first in what will become an annual competition for innovative ideas to raise attainment among disadvantaged students, and we're starting off by focusing on the most essential skills - literacy and numeracy." The competition is open to any qualified teacher working in England with pupils and students aged up to 18. A panel of judges from SHINE and TES will choose up to 10 winners, who will then receive the funding to start their project this September. The deadline for entries is 3 June. Application forms are available on

Ombudsman takes Hillingdon to task

Hillingdon Council in London has been criticised by the Local Government Ombudsman for being slow to find a new place for a boy out of school. In a report published on 13 April, Jane Martin said the situation meant that the 14-year-old lost almost two-and-a-half terms of education and that this "could have been substantially reduced if the council had dealt with the matter properly". The child's mother was persuaded by his secondary school to remove him from its roll, leaving him without a school place. She applied to other schools but was unsuccessful. The council was ordered to review procedures and pay the boy's mother #163;2,500 to be used for his educational benefit.

Support for support staff

School support staff such as teaching assistants will be able to get government funding for degree-level and specialist training in helping children with special educational needs. An annual scholarship programme will provide up to #163;2,000 each for those who work with children with SEN and disabilities. It will fund half the cost of "rigorous specialist courses", children's minister Sarah Teather announced this week. The money will be given to support staff who have A levels or equivalent qualifications after a competitive application process that opens on 30 April and closes on 17 May.

Drip-feeding information to primaries

Primary school pupils are being taught how to save water as the country faces its worst drought since 1976. Half of Britain is now officially in drought, and more than 35 million people are being affected by water shortages, following two winters of below-average rainfall. The crisis has prompted Thames Water, the country's biggest water company, to send volunteers into schools to give children lessons on conserving water - such as that by turning off the taps while brushing their teeth they can save up to 6l of water per minute. The volunteers are also telling children to make sure there is enough water for "essential use" such as drinking. Experts have warned that households could have their water rationed and there could be standpipes in the street.

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