17th April 2009 at 01:00

Gateshead - School links seek to teach diversity

Schools throughout Gateshead have been linked to one another in an attempt to educate pupils about diversity within their community.

According to Gateshead Council, schools have been paired to promote empathy, understanding and a sense of community.

Groups of pupils meet one another from other schools to form relationships and forge links with different parts of Gateshead.

The pupils are then asked to record their experiences in class while looking at the identity of the area and "where they fit in the cultural landscape".

The project was adapted from the Schools Linking Network, which was started by Bradford in 2001 following riots in the city in a bid to diffuse tension between black, ethnic minority and white communities.

Council cabinet member for children and young people Catherine Donovan said: "It's wonderful that such a positive scheme was borne out of such a difficult time.

"I'm sure the pupils will form great friendships with their peers across the borough as a result of this scheme, and will be proud to be involved in celebrating the diversity that exists across Gateshead."

Fourteen schools are taking part in the project, with another eight waiting to participate from September this year. rv

Wales - More post-16 learners move on to FE

New figures show that more pupils in Wales are staying in full-time education after the age of 16 - and further education is the destination for a growing number of them.

Assembly government statistics on pupil destinations released this week show that 79 per cent of Year 11s continued in education in 2008, compared with 77 per cent the previous year.

There has been a steady increase in the number of pupils involved in post-16 learning since 2002. The majority study in school sixth-forms, but an increasing number are entering further education.

The percentage of young people who continued in education after Year 13, the second year of sixth form, remained at 79 per cent for the third year running, with the vast majority of those - 81 per cent - going to university.

But the statistics also show a rise in the percentage of young people classed as Neet (not in education, employment or training) after both Year 11 and Year 13.

There are wide variations in the number of Neets between local authorities. More than 10 per cent of Year 11 pupils in Cardiff, Newport and Torfaen become Neets in 2008, compared with just 3 per cent in rural Powys.

Last month, the Assembly government launched an action plan to tackle the problem, urging schools to identify pupils who are at risk of dropping out.

Officials are also pinning their hopes on the extra choice offered by the vocationally led 14-19 learning pathways as a way of keeping young people in education. de

Warwickshire - Council bows to admission protest

Parents have won concessions in their battle to stop a new admissions policy for Rugby grammar schools from being implemented.

The new policy will allow half the places at Lawrence Sheriff and Rugby High grammars, as well as at part-selective Ashlawn School, to go to pupils living within the current catchment area of Coventry, Northamptonshire and Leicestershire.

The TES previously reported that parents had set up an action group to contest the decision to give pupils from east Warwickshire priority for all places at the three schools. This followed concerns raised in neighbouring Northamptonshire that all the best pupils were defecting to Rugby, upheld by the Office of the Schools Adjudicator at the end of last year.

The new policy has been drawn up in response to the large number of complaints received by Warwickshire council from parents.

From September next year, half the places at the grammars will be offered to pupils living in east Warwickshire and half to those in the current catchment area.

Izzi Seccombe, Warwickshire cabinet member for children, young people and families, is confident that the new plans will meet with parental approval.

"We are delighted that the grammar schools in Rugby are so popular with parents across such a vast area," she said. "We believe that we have found the best available solution." ab

Devon - Rural changes spark school-size rethink

Plans for new housing and concerns about changes in population have prompted Devon education bosses to order a major review of school sizes.

The number of children in some of the county's rural areas is set to fall, but it will rise in some places, such as Exeter, Barnstable and south Devon, where thousands of new homes are set to be built.

Anne Whiteley, director of children and young people's services, has ordered an examination of secondary schools, particularly in the east of Exeter and east Devon, where there is already a shortage of spaces and plans for two new towns to be built.

Currently, 91 per cent of Devon children get into their first-choice secondary school - often because there is only one serving their home in rural areas.

"The anticipated reduction in secondary-age pupils will allow for greater parental preference if the number of places is unchanged," Mrs Whiteley said.

"However, alongside the duty to meet preference, the local authority must also minimise surplus places."

The options to manage the changing need for places are to change a school's designated feeder area, expand some schools or build a new school.

Councillors will start the review in Exeter, where there is also a rising birth rate. km

Sheffield - Blunkett apes PM's Monkeys blunder

Two years after Gordon Brown invited ridicule for suggesting he rated the Arctic Monkeys, a former education secretary has risked making the same mistake in an interview with Sheffield school pupils.

The scoop comes courtesy of Firth Park Community Arts College, which invited David Blunkett for an interview on its new radio station.

The local MP was asked to select his favourite records for Dessert Highland Discs, the Sheffield school's version of BBC Radio Four's famous programme.

Surprisingly for anyone who witnessed the derision heaped on the Prime Minister for making the unlikely claim that he had the Arctic Monkeys on his iPod, Mr Blunkett also picked the Sheffield band.

Perhaps aware of how incongruous the abrasive band looked beside his other choices - The Hollies, Delius and Katie Melua - he explained the selection was all about north Sheffield pride.

"Let me confess I have heard them, but I can't say I am a great fan," Mr Blunkett admitted.

The pupil-run radio station is available on the internet and broadcast in the Sheffield secondary before lessons and during breaktimes.

Mo Laycock, Firth Park's head, said: "The pupils think it is marvellous because it is their own station. They also benefit because we have been able to link it to literacy.

"In an inner-city school where literacy is an issue, it really helps because they have to write scripts, research their interviews and conduct discussions."

Ms Laycock was the first guest to feature on Dessert Highland Discs. As well as being asked to pick music to take to a remote Scottish mountain, the interviewee is allocated a pudding that reflects their life, which is picked for them by pupils.

Mr Blunkett was told he deserved a trifle because the sponge represented his strong Sheffield roots, the fruit his "healthy nutritional" working life and the cream - having achieved it all despite being blind.

A flapjack was Ms Laycock's dessert because the head was "hard and gritty but soft inside". ws

Norfolk - Nine come out of special measures

Nine schools in Norfolk have been removed from Ofsted's special measures list just over a year after being named.

In February 2008, the county had the most schools in special measures, but the removal of Attleborough Junior School from the list means the figure has now dropped from 13 to four.

The county council said a number of its policies, such as increased training for teachers, controlling bad behaviour, teacher mentoring by senior staff and improving teachers' and pupils' understanding of exam syllabuses, had helped get the rate down.

Chris Read, headteacher of Attleborough Junior, said: "The county council were invaluable. They provided additional staff at various times and gave us a lot of advisory support. We are very pleased to have got it out of the way, but it was not easy."

The council admitted some of the problems began when three primary school advisers were made redundant in 2005.

Rosalie Monbiot, the cabinet member for children's services, said: "We cut ourselves too thin. But that has now been rectified."

The four schools still in special measures are Aslacton Primary, Costessey High, Mundford Primary and Morley Primary.

The head of Costessey High, Philip May, said he hoped the school would be taken off the list this summer after its next inspection.

"We have been making sure teachers have a much clearer understanding of how the exams work and improved the English department a great deal," he added. dr

Surrey - Space tourist takes pupils to final frontier

British-born space tourist Richard Garriott (pictured) has visitedschools in Surrey to talk about how his experiences have changed his outlook.

Mr Garriott, 47, who was brought up in America, travelled to the International Space Station aboard the Russian Soyuz capsule last year. He paid $30 million (Pounds 20.5 million) for the 10-day trip, which took him a year to train for. He made his money as a computer-game designer, developing the Ultima series of fantasy games.

He is the son of Nasa astronaut Owen Garriott, who flew on one of the last Apollo missions to Skylab.

Peter Martin, Surrey County Council's executive member for schools, children and youth services, said: "This was a very exciting day for pupils and teachers alike, giving them the once-in-a-lifetime chance to ask an astronaut questions about what it's like to travel in space."

Mr Garriott visited pupils at Howard of Effingham School, Polesden Lacey Infant and St Lawrence Primary, all near Leatherhead.

Mr Garriott has been speaking at schools around the world about the impact humans are having on the Earth's environment.

He told his local newspaper in Austin, Texas, that seeing the Earth from space had altered him in ways he had not anticipated. "It changes your perspective on the incredibly complete footprint of humanity on Earth," he said. hw.

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