20th March 2009 at 00:00


The education Minister has confirmed that she will not implement a temporary exam to ease post-primary selection.

Speaking at the Northern Ireland Assembly's education committee meeting last week, Caitriona Ruane said she was disappointed that the committee had failed to agree on a legal procedure.

"To make a test available and not have a legal framework to define its use would be highly irresponsible," she said.

Ms Ruane had commissioned the Council for Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment to develop a test for use over the next three years, but this has now been cancelled.

Instead, she has issued guidelines for the 2010 transfer which advise schools not to use academic selection, to select a proportion of pupils entitled to free school meals and take pupils' catchment area into consideration. But schools are not under any legal obligation to follow them.

Mervyn Storey, chair of the committee and the DUP's education spokesman, said the majority supported a provisional test. He accused Ms Ruane of "bringing about confusion, division and further segregation".

More than 30 grammar schools are planning to set their own entrance exams for transfer in 2010 until agreement is reached on a replacement. MR


A senior councillor in St Helens is being investigated over her role in the sacking of a popular primary school head.

The TES reported the dismissal of Kevin Cooney, head of Garswood Primary, two weeks ago. He was fired while in hospital with a suspected heart attack.

An investigation is being carried out into claims that councillor Susan Murphy put pressure on two of the school's governors to sign transcripts of interviews given to the local authority's human resources department.

It is understood the two governors refused to sign them because they felt they misrepresented their stance.

Mr Cooney was sacked after building work, commissioned by the board of governors but signed off by him, went wrong and cost a further Pounds 20,000 to rectify.

The council is now looking into allegations made by Mr Cooney that Ms Murphy "intimidated" her colleagues, failed to register her interests and brought her office into disrepute.

In a statement, St Helens Council said: "We can confirm that an investigation is being carried out by the monitoring officer, Peter Blackburn." RV


Teachers at Rhyl High School in Denbighshire went on strike last week in protest against plans to shut the town's sixth forms.

The school was closed to most pupils as 41 NASUWT members manned a picket line outside.

A consultation is being held on the proposals of the Assembly government and the county council to close Rhyl's two sixth forms: all post-16 education would move to one site administered by Llandrillo College.

Teachers at Rhyl's other high school, Blessed Edward Jones RC, were balloted last week on strike action. The head, Catherine Britton, opposes the closures and fears they will mean the end of post-16 faith education in the town.

Suzanne Nantcurvis, NASUWT executive member for north Wales, said there had been public support for strike.

"It was about the whole issue of choice in Rhyl for post-16 education," she said. "We have also had support from parents."

Denbighshire Council has reaffirmed its commitment to the plans and described Llandrillo College as "outstanding". IK


A partnership between school governors and council officers has been set up to improve the county's schools. Working Together for Better Schools formalises links between the county council and the Devon Association of Governors, which represents 5,000 in the county.

It will ensure the association is represented on key committees and working parties and sets out how governors can be more involved in planning.

It was launched at Newton Abbot College, where John Smith, Devon's executive councillor for children's services, Judith Johnson, director of learning and schools, and Don Paterson, chair of the association and Newton Abbot College's governors, signed a formal memorandum of understanding.

Mr Smith said: "This will strengthen the partnership between the county council and Devon's governors, who play a fundamental role in promoting continuous and sustained improvement in all our schools." KM


Pupils at St Margaret's Academy in Livingston have helped to smash the world record for the number of mental arithmetic questions answered in one day.

Some 370 St Margaret's pupils contributed to a global number-crunch of 452,682,682 questions answered, breaking the record of 182 million.

The pupils managed 117,084 correct answers, 15,000 of which were achieved at home after school. Almost 9,500 minutes were devoted to the task.

In practice sessions, Erin Curle managed 3,660 correct answers, while Daniel Morris amassed 2,076 right answers on the day of the challenge.

Maths teacher Jamie McIntyre paid tribute to colleagues. He said: "We couldn't have been so successful without the great support of the whole maths department and departments across the school who supported and encouraged the pupils."

The improvement in pupils' mental arithmetic skills from the start of practice to the final results was about 117 per cent. ES


Parents are being encouraged to do everything from car-spotting to cooking with their children as part of a drive to boost standards in schools serving some of the most disadvantaged areas in England.

Bradford Council is calling the campaign Be Someone and has declared 2009 a year of education. Local teachers' leaders have given the initiative a cautious welcome.

Jane Rendle, of Bradford NUT, said: "In all areas of deprivation, parents are less able to access the system and support their children within it. Therefore they need more help and encouragement."

Michael Kelly, Bradford's member for children and young people, said: "Parents, grandparents and other adults can have a massive influence on a child's life, especially when it comes to learning and developing skills. This can be achieved through involving your child in simple daily activities such as counting red cars on the walk to school and cooking together." WS


A 13-year-old boy has been arrested after he brought a stun-gun into his school and attacked his classmates.

The boy smuggled the weapon, capable of releasing 150,000 volts, into Trinity Catholic School in Leamington Spa.

Police were called in after three pupils were stung by the device; the pupil was taken to the police station. He has since been released on bail.

Possession of a stun-gun is illegal in Britain, but the boy bought the weapon while on holiday overseas.

Pat Groome, assistant head at Trinity, said: "At lunchtime on the fields, what can best be described as an electric-shock free-for-all took place.

"The school has taken action by applying a lengthy exclusion. We will take strong action against students who behave in such potentially dangerous ways."

Warwickshire police are working with local youth offending teams to manage the case. Officers plan to visit the school to talk to staff and pupils about the incident. The boy will be called in for questioning later this month. AB


Secondaries in the county are to be sent guidance on teaching about creationism alongside evolution in joint scienceRE lessons.

The county's standing advisory council for religious education (Sacre) made the move in response to members' concerns about the topic's high profile in the wake of books and TV programmes marking the bicentenary of Darwin's birth.

The non-statutory advice is designed to alert teachers to issues in the debate and provide a framework to allow students to analyse tensions between religious and scientific views of the world.

Councillor Anna McNair Scott, chair of Sacre, said: "There is no suggestion in the report that creationism is a science, still less that it should be taught as one. Nor is there a proposal for a change in the Hampshire syllabus for religious education.

"The report is intended simply to advise schools about resources they can use to encourage reasoned enquiry and open discussion about creation and evolution, and suggests how the debate can be carried out across the curriculum." HW

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