A Week in Education

11th April 2008 at 01:00
Steve Sinnott, National Union of Teachers general secretary, died suddenly, aged 56. He suffered a suspected heart attack at home on Saturday morning, days after his union voted to stage its first national strike for 21 years. Mr Sinnott, who was elected general secretary in 2004, was the first NUT leader to be educated at a comprehensive. He has been credited with restoring greater unity to the union.

Obituary, page 12

Most GCSEs are to become modular. The OCR board announced that all 43 of its new GCSEs, launched next year, would be broken down into units. Pupils can take them all at the end of the course, or in stages during it. AQA and Edexcel are expected to follow suit. The changes would bring most GCSEs in line with A-levels, which are also modular.

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A report by an influential think-tank accused schools of "recycling" weak teachers. The Institute of Public Policy Research claims weak teachers were escaping competency procedures by resigning and getting jobs elsewhere. Headteachers, it said, often did not warn future employers as they were glad to get rid of them. The report suggested this cycle led to pockets of poor teachers in the most difficult schools, which could not afford to be picky about staff.

Gordon Brown has backed plans to expand cadet corps in comprehensives. Around 60 state schools, mostly grammars, and 200 fee-paying schools already have such schemes. A review of the military's role in society, led by the Labour MP Quentin Davies, found that encouraging teenagers to become cadets would improve school discipline and fitness. Anti-gun campaigners warned that teaching pupils shooting skills could exacerbate the problem of youth gun crime.

Higher education admissions figures showed that Cambridge University was losing the fight to boost its intake of state school students. They showed the numbers dropped to 55 per cent last October, 1 per cent lower than the previous year. Applications from state school pupils had also dropped by 5 per cent. The university is to scrap the separate Cambridge application form and its pound;10 fee.

Britain may have to find an extra 18,000 primary school teachers over the next seven years if class sizes are to be kept under control, a report from right-wing think-tank Policy Exchange warned. More than 14 per cent of primary children are already being taught in classes of more than 31.

An exam board has introduced ice-dancing to its GCSE PE syllabus, following the success of a television series. Teenagers will be able to study figure-skating as part of the new OCR GCSE, along with surfing, snowboarding and karate. The new option follows the success of the most recent series of ITV's Dancing on Ice, in which celebrities learn to skate.

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