13th March 2009 at 00:00

Northern Ireland Post-55 working ousts young

Young teachers across Northern Ireland are facing redundancy because experienced staff are continuing to work past 55.

Speaking at the conference of the Irish National Teachers Association (INTO), senior official Brendan Harron said that there had been an average of 600 annual premature redundancies in schools in the north in the past four years which had left room for new teachers.

But from this year, pensions will be taken from existing school budgets, not the separate Teachers Pensions Scheme, and early retirement will no longer be so financially beneficial.

Catriona Ruane, the Education Minister, told delegates that the premature retirement compensation scheme had not been withdrawn, but that "the circumstances under which premature retirement is granted or severance payments are made - and the level of such payments - will be a matter of policy on the part of the employer."

Mr Harron said: "The Department of Education will seek to introduce regulations through the Northern Ireland Assembly, before the end of the school year, which will prevent teachers under the age of 55 from taking premature retirement.

"They will also severely financially penalise teachers over the age of 55 if they opt to take their pension benefits early."

Lancashire Maths studies reach for the sky

The Royal Air Force paid a visit to five schools in Lancashire in a bid to help pupils with their maths studies.

The RAF Maths Challenge Workshop began its tour of England last week by giving 14 to 16-year-old students real-life RAF scenarios.

Classrooms in Chorley, Rossendale, Preston, Lytham St Annes and Poulton-le-Fylde were transformed into temporary RAF bases.

The programme has been developed to support the maths curriculum by providing interactive lessons, which include pupils plotting a flight plan for fighter jet on an important mission.

Group Captain Gordon Bruce, head of recruiting for the RAF, said: "With maths widely regarded as one of the most difficult subjects, and often considered by pupils to be irrelevant in everyday life, the RAF workshops are in high demand from teachers seeking help to engage students.

"They provide examples of real problems that pupils could face, whether they choose a career with us or elsewhere, and this helps to bring the subject to life."

The tour has now moved across the Pennines into Yorkshire to visit another five schools. rv

Wales Neet plan to stop school drop-outs

Children as young as 11 will be targeted in new schemes to stop them dropping out of school early.

The Pounds 49 million Reach the Heights projects, funded with EU and Assembly government cash, aim to stop 11 to 19-year-olds in west Wales and the valleys from becoming Neets (not in education, employment or training).

One scheme will focus on disadvantaged young people to stop them dropping out of school, while a second will target funding to improve basic skills and confidence. The project aims to help 30,000 young people.

A similar strategy targeting pupils of 11 was launched last month in five south Wales authorities.

The Pounds 7 million PreVent scheme will help around 7,000 youngsters in 44 secondary schools.

Last week, the Assembly government launched its long-awaited Neet strategy to tackle the 10 per cent of 16 to 18-year-olds in Wales who are out of school and not in work.

But the action plan was attacked by opposition parties, who said it contained nothing new and was little more than rhetoric.

Although the latest scheme was welcomed by unions and politicians, they warned that the recent 7.4 per cent funding cut for further education could affect its chances of success.

Dr Philip Dixon, director of education Union ATL, said: "If the Assembly Government presses ahead with this reckless course of action it will create the very problems these new schemes are trying to tackle." de

Edinburgh Tesco's promotes Mandarin fruits

The number of schools, universities and colleges offering Mandarin must increase if the UK is to play a part in a world dominated by China, Tesco's chairman David Reid said in a speech to young people in Edinburgh last week.

Mr Reid told them that if they wanted to make themselves "highly employable" they should increase their understanding of China. "As China continues to grow, so will our mutual interests," he said.

"The mistake would be to imagine that we in Britain - and Scotland - don't have a stake in China's future.

"We all have the biggest stake imaginable."

Mr Reid lamented the fact that only 10 per cent of schools offered courses in Mandarin, with just 196 Chinese courses available at UK universities. In comparison, he continued, there were 1,711 university courses for French language or French combined with other subjects; 1,468 for Spanish; 1,358 for German and 768 for Italian.

Mr Reid made his comments in a speech entitled "China - Why Care?" to the 48 Group Club Young Icebreakers, the junior arm of the 48 Group Club, which works to improve relations with China. es

Shropshire All-singing and dancing youth centres

Two state-of-the-art youth centres are to be built in Shropshire to provide leisure and training activities for teenagers.

The TeenSpace centres, in Shrewsbury and Oswestry, will offer a range of activities, including drama, dance (such as ballroom and bhangra), and arts and crafts. They will also provide facilities for multimedia work.

The Shrewsbury centre will include a chill-out room with coffee bar and internet cafe. It will also have a performance space for dance or theatre productions.

In Oswestry, an existing youth centre will be completely rebuilt. Teenagers will be provided with a new IT multimedia suite, a kitchen, and practice and dance rooms.

Both youth centres will offer education and careers guidance for members. These include regular sessions with Connexions advisers.

Ann Hartley, Shropshire councillor for children's services, said the new centres would allow young people to take part in a range of creative activities, and access information and advice.

Sixteen-year-old Adrienne Piers, who attends the current Oswestry youth centre, said: "I can't wait to see the new centre opened."

Both TeenSpace centres will be funded with a Pounds 3.9 million grant from the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

The council will draw up a more detailed plan for the centres within six months, after which building work will begin. af

Kent Second quake leaves secondary standing

Pupils were evacuated from a Folkestone secondary school after an earthquake tremor last week which measured 2.8 on the Richter scale.

The 940 pupils at Harvey Grammar School, a boys' school in the coastal town, were sent outside after the quake, which took place at 2.30pm, while an inspection of the school took place.

Scott Norman, the senior vice-principal, said: "We did notice a proper jolt.

"I heard it described as a lorry going past, but it wasn't like that. It was big enough to make you think there had been an explosion.

"We have a 1920s main building. There was an earthquake in 2007 and the building was quite badly affected then.

"It caused some cracks in the gable. We had remedial work done and we were reopened after a few days.

He added: "This time we reopened the next day and there was a Year 11 science exam in the morning."

The initial inspection revealed no problems, but as the school day ends at 3.25pm pupils were sent home.

A survey was subsequently carried out and this confirmed that there was no damage. hw

Dorset Community wants special school to stay

Plans to move staff and students at a Dorset special school to the site of a local secondary as part of rebuilding plans have sparked public anger.

Mountjoy School will move to Beaminster Technology College and become the county's second "co-located" special school.

Council officers were unable to find a suitable site in Bridport, upsetting residents who do not want to lose the school's connection to the town.

Staff at Beaminster Technology College are worried that the loss of their school field for the new building will disadvantage pupils.

The council says the redevelopment is to improve special educational needs provision in West Dorset and to help Mountjoy pupils become better integrated locally. It will have specialist sports facilities.

Three successive Ofsted inspections have said teachers need more space for activities to improve the curriculum.

Mountjoy's current buildings are in a poor state of repair and pupils have to use facilities at nearby secondaries for a number of subjects, including design and technology.

Dorset County Council is consulting on whether the school should share the secondary site. It has set aside Pounds 8m for the new school for 48 children, aged three to 19. km.

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