A Week in Education

23rd November 2007 at 00:00
The conservatives announced that schools would ensure every six-year-old could read if they came to power. This would be achieved through compulsory synthetic phonics lessons and by replacing key stage 1 assessments with standard reading tests. David Cameron, the Tory leader, launched a barrage of other education policies, including compulsory setting, and said that sloppy dress was a root cause of poor discipline. Teachers' unions criticised the new policies, saying six was too early an age for all children to be expected to read.

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Pupils rallied in support of a PE teacher who resigned after striking a teenager who had pushed him and sworn at him. Bob MacKenzie was suspended by Knutsford Highin Cheshire and investigated by police for giving the 15-year-old a slap on the back of the head. More than 1,000 people joined a Facebook group backing the teacher. The Daily Express criticised the school in an editorial column, saying that "as usual, school staff over-reacted".

A report claimed that grammar schools were "ghettos" for the well-off and doing little to provide a "ladder of opportunity" for disadvantaged pupils. The study, led by Professor David Jesson of York University and published by Bristol University, found that only 2 per cent of the selective schools' pupils were entitled to free school meals while the national average was 13 per cent. Some 15 per cent of pupils in grammars previously attended fee-paying schools.

Families who buy children four-packs of beer so they can get drunk were criticised by Ed Balls, the Children, Schools and Families Secretary. Mr Balls launched a wide-ranging report on childhood, which found that fighting and alcohol consumption had increased but that most children regarded themselves as happy. The report will inform the Government's proposed Children's Plan.

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School inspectors warned that many children were struggling at swimming despite a government scheme to help them. Ofsted said two-thirds of children in primary schools it visited could achieve the 25-metre target, but many others, particularly those from ethnic minority groups, had difficulty.

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The girl guides called for primary pupils to be taught how the media manipulate photographs of women. A study by Girl Guiding UK says lessons on techniques such as airbrushing and digital enhancement should be paid for by advertisers and media companies. The report, Self-esteem: girls shout out, shows that girls as young as seven believe that those who are slim and pretty are more likely to be well-liked, happy and clever than their overweight classmates.

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