A Week in Education

19th January 2007 at 00:00
what do you know? Only a mere fortnight into the new term and already schools are embroiled in a row over religious symbols. This time it is Robert Napier school in Gillingham which has found itself in a sticky position after banning 13-year-old Samantha Devine from wearing a crucifix in class.

Tory matron-at-large Ann Widdecombe even waded in, stating: "It is heavy-handed and asking for trouble." Some would say the same of her recent decision to star in the documentary Ann Widdecombe v The Hoodies.

But if the former Tory frontbencher can get down with the council estate massive, and even refuse a joint without batting an eyelid, then surely a bunch of hardened south London youngsters can perform the opposite trick, and go straight.

That's the aim at Stockwell Park school, which has introduced Sixties-style teaching methods, and almost quadrupled the number of pupils getting good grades in the process.

"We're not politically correct. We do what works," insisted deputy head Mike Rush, pointing to the strict uniform policy and house system.

Meanwhile, the Tories in Wales were quick to respond to a pre-manifesto proposal by Plaid Cymru to provide free school meals for every primary pupil, if it wins the Welsh Assembly elections in May.

"There's no such thing as a free lunch," sniped education spokesperson William Graham.

But political games were far from the minds of staff and pupils at Grango school in Rhos, north Wales, this week.

Trained counsellors were drafted in to help pupils shocked by the death of 14-year-old Victoria Swift. The teenager died after being hit by a train on track in Johnstown, south of Wrexham, on Monday evening. Headteacher Karen Evans paid tribute to Victoria, describing her as a "happy and popular pupil."

But, as police investigate her death, no doubt questions over the dangers of children trespassing on railways will be in the spotlight again. It just remains to be seen what exactly anything can be done about it.

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