A week in education

29th August 2008 at 01:00

Gordon Brown used the finale of the Olympics in Beijing to announce that schools should bring back competitive sports. This left schools perplexed as they had never got rid of them in the first place. But it delighted papers such as The Daily Telegraph, which said teachers' "liberal mindset" was to blame for the fact that two-thirds of 15- and 16- year-olds played no competitive sport. This statistic was plucked from a two-year-old report and only referred to involvement in house matches or inter-class leagues. The same report concluded that "competitive sports remain popular, with almost all schools offering them".

The Prime Minister's claim that schools had been fostering a tragic "medals for all" culture will also have surprised the 1,500 pupils who travelled to Bristol yesterday for the start of the UK Schools Games. The event was due to be opened by double Olympic gold-winning swimmer Rebecca Adlington, and will see fierce competition in nine sports, including athletics, hockey, gymnastics, swimming, judo, fencing and volleyball. The PM should know - as he launched the first of these events in 2006 - that only successful pupils will win medals.

Pupils are giving A-level essay answers that bear no relevance to the questions, The Times reported. It cited examiners from the Edexcel board who said answers in its English paper on Hamlet had suffered from this cut-and-paste approach. The Sunday Telegraph said students were adopting text-speak in A-levels, a problem previously more common at GCSE, with some history candidates referring to the Treaty of Versailles as "ToV".

Schools minister Andrew Adonis said he wanted academies to take over primary schools. He told The Guardian he wanted "matrix academies", with the schools running a handful of feeder primaries on separate sites. The first of these is due to open in Northumberland in 2010. He then told The Financial Times that he backed stand-alone primary academies. But the idea that the semi-independent schools should teach primary pupils is old hat to the eight existing "all-through academies" which already teach 3- to 19-year-olds.

In a bid to increase language learning, the Department for Children, Schools and Families promoted a survey which found that nearly seven out of 10 secondary pupils in England wanted to work abroad. It suggested their dreams were naive as less than half of them had any foreign language skills. But the press release only mentioned the European countries pupils had considered. The full results suggested pupils' plans were not so unrealistic: the only countries where most said they hoped to work were the United States and Australia, where monoglots need not fear to tread.

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