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Faith school decision faces unprecedented review

Campaigners have been granted what is believed to be an unprecedented judicial review of a decision to open two voluntary-aided Catholic schools. The case, brought by the British Humanist Association (BHA) and Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign, will be the first legal challenge against a faith school on the grounds of religious discrimination. The BHA argues that Richmond council's decision to allow the schools to open goes against laws which mean that local authorities wanting to establish a new school must seek proposals for academies or free schools. Free schools are allowed to select a maximum of only 50 per cent of pupils on religious grounds, while voluntary-aided ones can select as many as they want.

Co-ed physics is a closed door to girls, report finds

Nearly half of all co-educational state schools in England did not enter any girls for physics A-level exams in 2011, according to new research. A report from the Institute of Physics has found that girls are almost two-and-a-half times more likely to take physics A level if they attend a single-sex school. The publication said that schools fail to ensure equal opportunities in the subject for male and female students. Professor Sir Peter Knight, president of the Institute of Physics, said that schools are keeping "doors firmly shut to girls".

MP issues 'slow down' warning on Gove's reforms

An influential Conservative MP called on ministers to "slow down" their exam reforms this week, as fears emerged that English Bacca-laureate Certificates (EBCs) will not be properly piloted. Graham Stuart, chairman of the Commons Education Select Committee, warned that a "lack of coherent thinking" and impossible timetables would result in a "mess". Meanwhile Ofqual reportedly said that "piloting is not the answer" for EBCs. It emerged that the regulator has abandoned a requirement for compulsory piloting of all new national qualifications.

NUT begins joint action - one week late

The NUT's industrial action got under way on Wednesday after being delayed for one week. The action on working conditions, pay and pensions is being taken in conjunction with the NASUWT teaching union and includes restrictions on lesson observations, covering lessons, report writing and lesson planning. NUT general secretary Christine Blower said it would be "pupil, parent and public friendly". "The action we are taking will have a positive benefit on children's education and restore a balance to the working lives of teachers," she said.

No-frills new buildings will be 15 per cent smaller

All new secondary schools will be 15 per cent smaller than those built under the previous government, as the coalition attempts to rebuild the crumbling school estate at a fraction of the cost. New designs published by the Department for Education this week will mean that every new primary and secondary school will be built to standardised designs delivering 30 per cent cost reductions. The new standards call for a no-frills approach to building, which rules out the use of curves, glazed walls and translucent plastic roofs in all new schools.

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