1st May 2009 at 01:00

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Exam performance 'stagnant'

The Scottish Parliament has failed education. This is the stark conclusion reached by a former Scottish ministerial adviser, a leading educationist and a right-leaning think tank.

John McLaren, an economist still closely associated with the Labour party, suggests that on the evidence of exam results in the final year of schooling, participation rates in higher education and international surveys, "England has continued to progress while Scotland has stood still since 1999".

Lindsay Paterson, professor of education policy at Edinburgh University, agrees and argues: "English policy really has made a difference, and Scotland's lack of structure and lack of central direction of practice is, at best, allowing performance to stagnate."

Along with the Reform Scotland think tank, they draw attention to the 2008 results, showing 45 per cent of S4 pupils achieved five good results at Standard grade, Intermediate 2 or Intermediate 1, including English and maths, almost the same as in 1999 when the Parliament was established and Scotland ranked top of the four home countries in exam results.

In England over that time, there was a 10 per cent increase in pupils achieving the equivalent at GCSE. Their performance surpassed that of Scottish pupils in 2007 and last year stood at 48 per cent. NM


Stars shine at soccer stadium

Sunderland FC's stadium of Light has been transformed into a planetarium to help 10 to 12-year-olds learn about astronomy. The Premiership football club has given up its ground to celebrate the International Year of Astronomy, marking the 400th anniversary of the first use of an astronomical telescope by Galileo.

The astronomy sessions let pupils explore space, including different star constellations, solar systems and planets. It is part of Sunderland's Playing for Success initiative, a 10-week study programme that is hosted at the stadium each year, using sport to motivate learning. RV


Di's school in Thai deal

Princess Diana's former prep school has established a partnership with a leading private school in Thailand to accept up to 24 Thai pupils a year from September.

Riddlesworth Hall Preparatory School in Diss, Norfolk, hopes the arrangement will benefit its pupils and provide extra income.

In addition, a further 24 Thai pupils will be able to go to its sister prep school, Barnardiston Hall, near Haverhill in Suffolk.

The Regent's School, with campuses in Bangkok and Pattaya, will use the offer of guaranteed places in a British prep school to attract students.

Keith Boulter, the principal, said the school would administer entrance tests to Thai pupils who would attend for up to a year. DM


Counselling for secondary pupils

Northern Ireland's Department of Education plans to bring counsellors into the province's post-11 schools.

Many of the region's primary schools already enjoy the benefits of the Independent Counselling Service for Schools, but Caitriona Ruane, the education minister, has announced a tender to broaden this service.

Schools will be grouped into 11 regions with a counselling team based in each. Counsellors will go into schools, and pupils will have access to their services.

Ms Ruane said: "Schools have a key role to play in offering help to young people who may be experiencing a difficult time in their lives.

"Children may experience a range of problems, both in school and their personal lives. It is therefore vital that professional counselling services remain available in schools with easy access to all." ED


Sporting chance of a career

A scheme to help school-leavers into sports coaching has been launched by Milton Keynes' youth services and Connexions. The free six-week leadership course for 16-19s started last week. It runs for two days a week and covers fitness training, competitive organisation, risk assessments, first aid and practical group sessions.

The qualification can lead to the higher-level community sports leadership award, voluntary work with sports clubs, or other training.

As well as an insight into sports coaching, Connexions careers advisers help the young people on the scheme learn how to write a CV, improve interview their skills and conduct job searches. Guest speakers will offer insights into local training opportunities. HW


School damaged after lead theft

A primary school has sustained thousands of pounds worth of damage after thieves stole the lead from its roof over the Easter break.

Thieves cut the lining from a gulley on Gobowen Primary in Oswestry. In heavy rainfall, water seeped straight into the 102-year-old building, flooding one of its corridors and damaging ceilings, walls, wooden floors, paintwork and electrical circuits. Steve Conroy, the headteacher, was alerted to the problem after the school alarm system was set off by the collapse of a ceiling in a corridor.

"It's very frustrating and upsetting," he said. "The pupils are furious over it. We're a village school and their parents went here, their grandparents went here. They feel very proprietorial."

As the water has not yet dried out, some repairs will not be done until the summer holidays.

"The annoying thing is that the scrap value of the lead is about Pounds 20," Mr Conroy said. "But the replacement cost, without labour, is Pounds 800. A theft for Pounds 20 has caused umpteen problems."

But, he added, such crimes are unusual in the area: there has been only one break-in in 30 years. AB


Welsh put own spin on the globe

A blow-up globe has been created in Welsh, about 2,160 years after one of the earliest models was created by the Greek scholar Crates of Mallus, and two years after the first Welsh language atlas was produced.

Robert Batement, a former teacher, was given the job of translating countries and places into Welsh by the Assembly government. The makers said it had been difficult to find translations for obscure places.

Jane Hutt, the education minister, launched the blow-up globe last week.

Lowri Sidgwick, schools officer for the Assembly's Welsh language development unit, said the globe was the pupils' idea.

"It's all about fun," she said. NP


Recruiting the modern way

The county council is thinking of using Facebook and other non-traditional methods of recruiting school governors to boost school leadership and improve standards.

Governors will be expected to challenge targets set by headteachers - especially if they are too low - and work more closely with other schools.

Councillors want more diverse governing bodies that reflect the local community. "To get the message of the importance of being a governor out to people not directly involved with a school and who may not be in the traditional loops, non-traditional methods should be considered; for example, social network sites such as Facebook, to recruit younger governors," a report says.

It wants governors to become involved in staff professional development, and wants senior and middle managers to take advantage of training opportunities. KM.

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