A Week in Education

11th January 2008 at 00:00
Almost two-thirds of pupils gained five A*-C grades in their GCSEs, the annual league tables revealed. And 46.7 per cent of pupils achieved five top grades, including English and maths.

It meant more than half did not reach that standard, prompting the Telegraph's front-page headline: "Majority of pupils failing to master three Rs." Girls continue to outperform boys significantly, and for the first time league tables include results in science.

Pages 16-17

Parents were urged to keep sick children away from school this week in case they were harbouring the rampant norovirus.

The virus leads to bouts of vomiting and diarrhoea and lasts up to four days.

Fearing pupils could infect teachers, leading to school closures, the Government suggested parents keep their children at home for two days after symptoms have passed.

But teachers say many pupils are using minor illnesses as an excuse for extended time off school.

A string of GCSEs helps schools climb the league tables, but Richard Cairns, head of Brighton College, believes it does not equip pupils to dance a waltz or give up their seats for a pensioner.

So Mr Cairns has launched a year-long "How to" course, during which he will instruct pupils on the finer points of social etiquette. It will include instruction in formal letter-writing, as well as the correct way to knot a bow tie and to lay the table for a dinner party. Pupils at the pound;8,026-a-term school will also be taught to boil an egg, iron a shirt and dance a waltz.

"Punish our kids," the People exhorted teachers, reporting that almost half of all parents would like to see corporal punishment reinstated in schools.

A poll by the paper found that 44 per cent of parents would be happy for their children to be smacked in the classroom, but 37 per cent objected to the use of physical punishment. Almost half of parents questioned said they believed standards had fallen since they were at school.

Almost a third of pupils are given the wrong grades due to systemic flaws in school testing. In a report to MPs, education professors from three universities said that key stage tests, 11-plus entrance exams, GCSEs and A-levels were not accurate measures of pupils' ability.

They said the exams provided only a limited picture of children's achievement over two or three years. As a result, as many as 30 per cent of pupils could receive the wrong grade. The academics recommend more emphasis be placed on assessment by teachers.

More underage teenagers in Britain are having sex than in any other European country, according to figures from the World Health Organisation. Girls are more likely than boys to have sex before the age of 15: four in 10 girls in England have underage sex, marginally more than in Wales. More than a third of Scottish 15-year-old girls have had sex. About a third of boys the same age are sexually active - more than in any other country except the Ukraine. An average of 20 English girls under the age of 16 fall pregnant every day.

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