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Peppering of the silly season;The week in view;Opinion

THE week brought another White Paper, a victory for the moderates of the National Union of Teachers, a rash of health scares and a scary head.

Hard-up schools, colleges and councils have been accepting up to pound;10,000 a time from mobile phone firms to allow transmitting masts to be set up on their premises. Education Secretary David Blunkett has ordered sites to be monitored after scientists said the risks to children from radiation from the masts had been grossly underestimated.

A Lancashire head is not taking any chances with a potential danger to one of his pupils: Peter Parker has made Greenmount county primary in Bury a peanut-free zone by writing to parents explaining that the boy is so allergic to the nuts that the slightest contact could kill him.

Some kids have not heeded warnings on the dangers of sniffing lighter fuel so trading standards officers have been given additional powers to prosecute retailers who sell the substance to under-18s.

On a brighter note, there are signs that schools might be winning the battle to stop kids experimenting with drugs. Exeter University researchers recorded a drop by one-fifth since 1996 in drug-taking among 14 and 15-year-olds.

But eating disorders are still with us. Girls who constantly count calories are in danger of developing anorexia later, Arthur Crisp, professor at St George's Hospital Medical School in south-west London, has found.

A healthy obsession with food led a group of A-level biology students in Belfast to invent a device, resembling a pregnancy test, for detecting genetically-modified material in foods. The project is in the running for a prize to find the province's top young scientists, but they might have missed a chance to patent the idea, said Dr Seamus Quinn, their teacher.

Proud parents were given a hard time by Gwen Randall, head of Framlingham College, the mixed independent in Suffolk with fees of pound;12,000-plus. She accused some on speech day of aiding their children to breach uniform rules, even sanctioning boys' ear-piercing. A new uniform of style and quality would be introduced soon. "Any old shirt or blouse in vaguely the right colour will not longer be acceptable," she said. One father admitted "some parents were squirming in their seats a little".

Two tales to start the silly season: Beenie the Otter has sold pound;400 worth of paintings and made an honorary member of the Wildlife Art Society. She uses her paws and tail to produce abstract paintings at her Gloucestershire home. Meanwhile, the National Museum of Film, Photography and Television in Bradford is appealing to kidnappers to return Hamble, the doll that starred in the BBC's Play School. Her companions were sent back to the Beeb after a ransom stunt in 1976, but she never returned.

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