Staff at McDonald's will be able to gain the equivalent of A-levels in how to run a burger restaurant. The fast-food giant, along with Network Rail and the airline Flybe, won government approval to become an exam board.
It is the first time commercial companies have been allowed to award nationally recognised qualifications based on their own work-place training schemes. But it will still be up to universities to decide whether a "McA-level" is adequate preparation for their degree courses.
A campaign group warned that hundreds of small village schools face closure. The National Association for Small Schools said that between 100 and 300 schools across the UK could shut their doors, despite a government pledge in 1998 to have a "presumption against closure" of small schools.
The organisation said more than a dozen counties were planning closures in an attempt to cut costs. Jim Knight, schools minister, said he would write to local authorities to remind them of their duty to preserve small schools.
Schools have been encouraged to use virtual sport games to get pupils exercising. The Department of Health has endorsed a scheme from the Droitwich and Worcester City School Sport Partnership involving Nintendo Wii consoles.
The project, which won an award last month, found that pupils' heart rates increased as they waved around the hand-held controls. But Nick Seaton, of the Campaign for Real Education, said it was a gimmick which pandered to lazy pupils.
England's biggest exam board, AQA, warned that introducing functional skills tests could mean more children will fail GCSEs. From 2010, candidates will not be able to gain a C grade or above in English or maths unless they pass the new tests.
The board told the Commons education select committee that the reforms would change the standard of GCSE and "suppress" the pass rate - implying that pupils are currently gaining Cs without having the basic skills the Government believes are necessary.
The previously blameless banana has been in the news, charged with causing loutish behaviour among primary pupils in Sheffield.
The Sunday Times reported that a study by the School Food Trust had discovered that children filling up on healthy food were three times more likely to be boisterous than their crisp-munching classmates - but only when their teachers weren't looking. When watched, the children turned on their best behaviour and were more alert and attentive than their classmates.