Blair back in his study

29th August 1997 at 01:00
As our Prime Minister returns from his holidays to new doubts over the Millennium Dome and the rumbling row about Montserrat, most teachers will have been savouring their last week of freedom.

Staff returning to Queen Elizabeth School in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, will have to mind their ps and qs as the head reinstated Sarah Briggs, who was expelled last term for criticising the number of teacher absences and falling standards.

As usual girls did better at GCSEs than boys, with one, Nisha Santhiraraja, from Middlesex, painfully overachieving, and making history, by gaining a grade C in computer studies at the tender age of seven. She will enter The Guinness Book of Records as the youngest person to pass a GCSE.

Olympic hopeful, Jodie Swallow, was awarded 11 A grades despite training five hours a day for swimming andrunning.

In tragic contrast, bright Afghan girls in refugee camps in northern Pakistan will not be as lucky. They have little chance of getting any schooling beyond primary level as aid funding has dried up.

An apposite piece of politically incorrect research from Edinburgh University suggests that equality is bad for women: those who stayed at home and describe themselves as submissive were less likely to suffer heart attacks.

In the week of the prep schools conference, delegates were pleased to note that independent schools did twice as well as state schools in their A-levels. Meanwhile, a student (male) at Somerville College, Oxford (Lady Thatcher's alma mater), has been bailed, pending sentencing, for supplying drugs including Ecstasy.

The Police Foundation, the think-tank presided over by Prince Charles, has set up an inquiry into drugs which will examine the 26-year-old Misuse of Drugs Act and see whether it needs reform.

This news came two days after reports that Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, was planning to place greater emphasis on education and skills training for young offenders, reversing the hard line "boot camp" approach of his predecessor Michael Howard.

The National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders' new campaign to reduce crime for the millennium was well timed, since the association has long argued that the get-tough measures such as the old "short, sharp shock" treatment of the early 1980s merely produced fitter young thugs.

But it might not be their fault. Researchers at Trinity College, Dublin, have found that some badly behaved children are not only suffering from the recognised condition - attention deficithyperactive disorder - but that it is also genetically transmitted.

While Mr Blair was away, his deputy John Prescott attempted to wean the nation from its love affair with the internal combustion engine. His bid to end the two-car family could also end mum's school run, unless dad takes the bus and so liberate the couch potato kids.

With Bob Acheson, chairman of the Incorporated Association of Preparatory Schools, urging schools to raise the moral tone of our society, it was heartening to learn from the lofty Daily Telegraph that one of the Gallagher brothers is not cavorting half-naked on a yacht in the Mediterranean - as is an erstwhile Royal - but is busy writing songs for the next Oasis hit. "How can topless models and luxury yachts compare with industry and respectability? Noel has taken the right path," opined a leader writer.

England might not be much cop on the cricket ground (although we did win last weekend when it ceased to matter) but we came top in grey matter games - chess, Scrabble, backgammon, crosswords and the like. Britain won 22 gold medals at the first Mind Sports Olympiad, handsomely beating its nearest rival, Holland, with seven.

Finally, I'm pleased to say that the Teletubbies have not left the headlines: they are now being taught to speak properly. Anna Home, head of BBC children's television, said there may be some modifications "and we may hear some real speech in the programme. It may be there is the need to introduce more traditional speech." But their favourite catch phrases are likely to remain. Phew. That's a relief for Po and Co's thousands of student fans.

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