A Week in Education

10th August 2007 at 01:00
THEY WERE hailed by Government as the "best ever", but the right-wing press was unconvinced and there was widespread condemnation of this week's test results for 11-year-olds. Unimpressed by one percentage point rises in the proportion of pupils reaching expected levels in each of maths, English and science, the critics focused instead on a single negative figure.

Only 60 per cent of pupils had managed a level 4 in all three Rs reading, writing and mathematics. The resulting headlines ranged from a "Fifth of primary leavers illiterate," in the Evening Standard's London Lite, to a Daily Telegraph editorial declaring the results "a national scandal".

Sats results, page 3

official figures show the bill for teachers' pensions soared by more than a quarter last year to a staggering pound;181.3 billion. Higher teacher numbers, bigger salaries and rising life expectancy were blamed for the pound;38bn rise in liability for the pension fund, dwarfing last year's entire pound;25bn education budget.

Philip Hammond, the Conservative shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, claimed every family in Britain would have to pay pound;1,500 to fund the pensions teachers had been promised.

But statisticians put the figure into perspective, pointing out that the cost would be spread over 40 to 50 years.

history a-levels are in danger of becoming history, Kathleen Tattersall, chair of the Institute of Educational Assessors, claimed this week.

She told The Independent the subject was losing a battle against "so-called soft subjects", such as media studies and photography, which pupils felt offered more direct routes to employment.

Ms Tattersall, representing the country's markers, said the subject was also "disappearing into the new citizenship, which is being promoted by the Government".

an artificially high number of pupils are labelled as gifted and talented, Brunel university research has claimed.

The Government asks schools to identify 10 per cent of their pupils who fit the tag. But Dr Thomas Balchin, who questioned 800 school gifted and talented co-ordinators, concluded only between 2 and 5 per cent deserved the label.

In many schools, typically in disadvantaged areas, co-ordinators said between 2 and 4 per cent should qualify. But in some other schools, they felt nearer 30 per cent could be called gifted and talented.

the government announced pound;4bn towards providing children's centres, training early years workers and providing outreach work for the most disadvantaged families.

The money will be spread over three years. It comes after criticism that the Sure Start programme is not helping the hardest-to-reach families. It will also go towards meeting the government's target of setting up 3,500 children's centres one in every community by 2010.

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