More than 600 "failing" schools were told to improve their results or face possible closure, under a Government crackdown announced this week. Ministers published plans to speed up work on its hit list of schools where fewer than 30 per cent of pupils get five good GCSEs including English and maths. Any that do not reach the benchmark by 2011 could be turned into academies or told to join "super trusts" with high-performing schools and businesses, they said. Pages 6-7
More children are to be taught in the same school from age five to 18 to try to cut the performance dip suffered when pupils transfer from primary to secondary school.
Lord Adonis, the junior schools minister, said he hoped to expand the number of "all-through" academies as it would also help more young children receive language and music lessons, which some primary schools struggle to deliver.
Pupils would be given specialist lessons in English and maths, too, to get basic literacy and numeracy established at an early age, he said.
Parents are being denied choice over where they send their children to school, despite government promises, said a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies. It said the education system was not flexible enough to allow new schools to open or existing schools to compete for parents. The institute also warned that councils were failing to pass on extra money intended to help teach children from the poorest homes. About half the cash earmarked to help disadvantaged pupils was being redistributed around local authority areas.
A hard-hitting report by the UK's four children's commissioners said the quality of children's lives was worsening. Their research, presented to a United Nations committee in Geneva yesterday, said the media and many members of the public were demonising young people. It also raised concerns about the number of children living in poverty, their rates of depression and the fact that one in four children live in fear of crime.
Indian drums and the chanting of 10,000-year-old Sanskrit prayers marked the launch of building work on Britain's first Hindu state school. The Bhumi Puja ceremony asked the permission of Mother Earth before construction work could begin on Krishna-Avanti Primary in Edgware, north London.
The school has attracted criticism for admission rules that were seen to favour followers of the Hare Krishna movement, although these have now been dropped. Naina Parmar, the headteacher, said the school would work to promote religious harmony.