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News at a glance

Government backs regional and performance pay

The government this week called for the introduction of both regional and performance-related pay. The current pay structure "is rigid, complex and difficult to navigate", according to education secretary Michael Gove. In its submission to the School Teachers' Review Body, the Department for Education said: "The current arrangements ... limit a school's ability to use its pay bill effectively and creatively to raise standards." NUT general secretary Christine Blower warned that the proposals would "demotivate teachers, damage teamworking in schools and worsen recruitment and retention problems".

Parental consent must be sought on biometrics

Official advice is to be issued to schools that says they will no longer be able to use pupils' biometric data without parental consent. The legal change is part of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012. The advice will seek to make the change more manageable by offering optional templates for parental notification and consent. Critics had warned that the requirement to notify both parents of a pupil could cost all schools #163;2 million to #163;8 million. A consultation on the advice, which comes into effect in September 2013, began this week.

Warning over A levels as university entrance exams

Ministers should rethink plans to allow universities to set A-level content, an independent schools leader was due to tell a conference. John Wood, chair of the Independent Schools Association (ISA), believes that the move could give universities too much influence over A levels and effectively turn the qualification into a university entrance exam. "As competition for university places increases, there is a real risk that schools will feel forced to select certain exam boards, based on their links to higher education institutions," Mr Wood was due to tell the ISA's annual conference in Harrogate on Thursday.

Starting school at 5 may harm long-term chances

Children should be able to start school at the age of 6 because starting too young may cause long-term damage, an academic warned this week. Dr Richard House, senior lecturer at the University of Roehampton's Research Centre for Therapeutic Education, said the government should commission an inquiry into the starting age in England (currently 5) and called for the statutory curriculum for preschool children, the early years foundation stage, to be made voluntary. He quoted US research on gifted children, which found that early school entry was generally associated with worse long-term outcomes for how well people coped with life in their forties and fifties.

Science books shortlisted for Royal Society prize

Richard Dawkins' popular science book for children The Magic of Reality has been shortlisted for the Royal Society Young People's Book Prize. The final judging for the best children's book on science will be carried out by young people from 100 schools. The other contenders are: How the Weather Works by Christiane Dorion; Science Experiments by Robert Winston and Ian Graham; Out of This World: all the cool bits about space by Clive Gifford; Plagues, Pox and Pestilence by Richard Platt; and See Inside Inventions by Alex Frith. The winner will be announced in November.

Have your say on the teaching of reading

Teachers are being asked for their views on the teaching of reading in a survey organised by the National Association for the Teaching of English and the United Kingdom Literacy Association. They are particularly interested in the phonics method. Take part anonymously at www.surveymonkey.comsNATE_phonics.

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