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Arts organisations attack 'narrow' EBC curriculum

The National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) have joined the Tate in calling for the arts to be given a prominent place in the key stage 4 curriculum. Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota has said that proposals to replace GCSEs with English Baccalaureate Certificates (EBCs), which do not include arts as a core subject, could deprive an entire generation of cultural skills. Now other high-profile organisations have also spoken up. Alice King-Farlow, director of learning at the National Theatre, said: "It is totally unclear from the announcement about EBCs what position the subjects which are not in the English Baccalaureate will have. We are concerned that the narrow range of subjects presented for examination means that the other subjects, which are a valuable and important part of a balanced and broad curriculum, are going to miss out." And Jacqui O'Hanlon, director of education at the RSC, said: "We are particularly concerned about the long-term impact of a key stage 4 system that doesn't enable or validate arts subjects like drama, dance or art."

Private sector should prosper where the state fails

Coasting schools should be given over to private providers operating under a "payment by results" system, a former No 10 policy chief has recommended in a new report. James O'Shaughnessy, who worked for the prime minister as director of policy until January, released his first major study since quitting his post via right-wing thinktank Policy Exchange. It suggests that struggling schools should be turned into academies if they receive a "requirement to improve" judgement from Ofsted. If there is no improvement after a second inspection, the school should be obliged to join a successful academy chain. After a third poor rating, it should be handed over to an education management organisation that could run it for profit. "Any objections to the private sector attempting to succeed where the state and voluntary sectors have failed should be dismissed for what they are - ideological prejudice," Mr O'Shaughnessy said.

Early years success is on the up, figures show

The proportion of five-year-olds at a "good level of development" has risen from 59 per cent to 64 per cent this year, according to the Department for Education. These pupils have met the standard expected for their age in seven different areas of language and social skills. Children were assessed on 13 different measures. In physical development and dispositions and attitudes, 92 per cent reached the expected level. The goal that fewest children reached was writing: 71 per cent of children - 80 per cent of girls and 63 per cent of boys - were able to write simple words.

Persistent absence hits lowest level in recent years

The number of children persistently absent from school has fallen to its lowest level in recent years, according to government statistics. The proportion of pupils absent for 15 per cent of all possible sessions fell from 7.2 per cent in the autumn term of 2010 and spring term of 2011 to 4.9 per cent in the same period of 2012. The overall absence rate across state-funded primary and secondary schools decreased from 5.8 per cent to 5.0 per cent.

Asbestos scare closes Welsh secondary

Welsh education minister Leighton Andrews has ordered an urgent review of asbestos in school buildings following the closure of a secondary school. The 937-pupil Cwmcarn High School, near Caerphilly, was shut last Friday after a structural report found high levels of the material. Parts of the school are expected to reopen today, but Caerphilly council is unsure when the situation will be fully resolved. Mr Andrews wants Wales' local authorities to report back to him by the end of next week.

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