Teaching pre-school children to write short sentences and use punctuation has limited impact on literacy skills in later life, research suggested. Encouraging children to talk has a more positive effect, academics from London's Institute of Education said. The Liberal Democrats, who obtained the research, said the findings call into question the need for "highly prescriptive" literacy goals for the under-fives, which will begin in September. The Department for Children, Schools and Families said more comprehensive studies backed its policy.
All schools, including faith schools, should be forced to give pupils lessons on contraception, abortion and homosexuality in a non-judgmental manner, said government advisers. The annual report of the Teenage Pregnancy Independent Advisory Group, whose members include teachers, parents and leaders of sexual-health charities, also calls for television adverts for condoms to be screened before the 9pm watershed.
The fiasco of delayed key stage test results continued, with the marking company facing the prospect of fines of tens of millions of pounds. Ken Boston, chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, admitted to MPs that the testing system needed reform and that there may be more problems next year. Some pupils will not receive results until September, following delays by ETS Europe, the company responsible for marking the test papers.
Middle-class professionals are being priced out of the private school market following an inflation-busting increase in fees. The cost of independent education rose by 6 per cent last year and by 40 per cent over the past five years, according to figures released by Halifax Financial Services. Such an increase puts private education out of reach for many professionals including teachers and engineers.
Too little time doing practical subjects such as woodwork and metalwork is threatening children's intellectual development. Hands-on play allows children to understand how the world works in a way not developed by hours spent on computers, said a study by Ruskin Mill Educational Trust. "Using their hands simply makes children more intelligent," author Aric Sigman told The Daily Telegraph.
A school has banned sack and three-legged races from sports day, fearing that children could fall over and hurt themselves. Simon Wolley, head of education at Beamish Open Air Museum in County Durham, told The Daily Mail he wanted to "minimise the risk to the children" at John F Kennedy Primary in Washington, Tyne and Wear who were to use his facilities. But Laura Midgely, founder of the Campaign Against Political Correctness, said: "It's health and safety gone mad."
The number of applicants to UK universities and colleges is up 9.1 per cent on the same point last year. Data released on Wednesday by Ucas shows that 540,108 people have applied compared with 494,842 last year.