A Week in Education

25th July 2008 at 01:00

Fifteen state schools said they would be joining 35 independents planning to offer some of the new Cambridge Pre-U qualifications, a tougher alternative to A-levels. The first pupils will begin the two-year courses in September and will answer lengthy essay-style questions at the end. King Edward VI Grammar in Warwickshire is one of those planning to teach the English Pre-U. Tim Moore-Bridger, its head, said he no longer believed A-levels were a good preparation for university.

The problems with national test marking worsened, as calls grew for ministers to sack ETS, the US firm responsible. Some 200,000 key stage 2 and 3 pupils were still awaiting their results this week. The Mail on Sunday reported that ETS had been so desperate that it had offered jobs to bar staff at a Manchester hotel used as a base for an emergency marking team. Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, refused to apologise or end the contract, saying negotiations with the company were continuing.

The chief inspector of schools warned that the emphasis on tests meant pupils were not receiving a well-rounded education. Christine Gilbert, head of Ofsted, wrote to the Commons' schools select committee to say the best schools could focus on exams without narrowing the curriculum, but this was not always the case. The problem was particularly acute in Years 6 and 9, when pupils prepared for key stage tests, but "teaching to the test" could also be seen at GCSE and A-level. Pages 10-11

A primary school that gives pupils chocolate for good behaviour said its scheme had been vindicated. Redcastle Furze Primary in Thetford, Norfolk, was criticised by health groups, including the British Dental Association, when it began offering sweets to pupils in 2005. But the school has not suspended any pupils since it offered them each a 40p chocolate bar on the condition that no child was excluded. Andrew Sheppard, the head, said: "A 40p bar of chocolate is not going to make children obese or rot their teeth."

Eight out of 10 of the new secondary school buildings planned under the amp;#163;45 billion Building Schools for the Future programme are "mediocre" or "not yet good enough", according to a report by the Government's architecture watchdog.

Problems with the 40 designs examined include noisy, open-plan areas and secluded corners that could become bullying hot-spots. The Guardian obtained the findings from the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment through a Freedom of Information request. Page 6

Baines School in Lancashire launched a crackdown on fake tans to stop girls looking "orange". Carol Robinson, the head, wrote to parents at the self-styled "traditional" comprehensive saying the celebrity-led trend did little for pupils' appearance as they arrived with streaks of spray-on tan on their hands and legs. "We ask for your support in ensuring girls do not come to school looking varying shades of orange," she wrote. "This is not in keeping with the uniform."

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