15th May 2009 at 01:00

Northern Ireland

Consorting with royalty

the queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were given a rousing welcome last week as they began a trip to Northern Ireland with a visit to Lisneal College, Derry, where she was met by primary pupils from the surrounding area.

During their tour of the Pounds 17 million complex, the royal couple were shown state-of-the-art facilities, including a dental surgery and a fingerprint biometric payment system in the canteen.

Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson and Northern Ireland Secretary of State Shaun Woodward were among the dignitaries who greeted the visitors.

Principal David Funston accompanied the Queen on the tour of the school, where she met Lisneal's 1,000 pupils, including 14-year-old Hannah Boyd, a regional winner of the Young Cook of the Year contest. Hannah showed the royal visitors her award-winning recipe for strawberry mousse. "I'm really shocked to think I spoke to the Queen and shook her hand," said Hannah. "It hasn't really sunk in yet." ED


Key reform 'collapse' warning

A curriculum for Excellence will "collapse on itself" unless urgent action is taken, say the authors of a survey which makes alarming reading for the Scottish Government.

The first Scotland-wide poll of teachers' opinions on the reform, by the Educational Institute of Scotland, warns that many schools risk failing to meet deadlines.

And, despite reliance on continuing professional development to deliver the reform, the survey shows that the vast majority of teachers have not attended CPD events.

The union stresses that some progress is being made, but general secretary Ronnie Smith finds it "extremely worrying" that important areas remain unfamiliar to teachers.

Funding must be made available, CPD must be delivered and there must be meaningful engagement on a regular and continuing basis with every teacher and lecturer if A Curriculum for Excellence is to succeed, he said.

The alternative, after many people had provided support, did not bear thinking about, he added. The EIS sent questionnaires to 1,000 teachers, and received 417 valid replies, a "remarkably high" response attributed to strength of feeling within the profession. HH


One-day strike over academies

Teachers in Durham staged a one-day strike last week in protest at plans to close six schools and replace them with academies.

NASUWT teachers from Belmont School set up a picket line, leaving only to help pupils preparing for GCSEs.

Durham County Council is backing the plans, claiming it will provide better schools and generate Pounds 10 million of investment.

NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: "These plans would remove good schools from the local community and undermine local democracy and accountability." RV


Daffodil leaves 12 in the soup

Twelve schoolchildren were taken to hospital after eating a daffodil bulb in a cookery lesson.

The pupils, from Gorseland Primary School, in Martlesham Heath, Suffolk, were sick after adding the bulb to soup. Daffodil bulbs are poisonous and can be fatal if eaten in large quantities.

A Suffolk County Council spokesman said that 30 children were making soup using onions from their kitchen garden. "Unfortunately, a daffodil bulb was used by mistake. The school called NHS Direct (helpline) and the children's parents," the spokesman said. The children were taken to Ipswich Hospital but were allowed home later. DM


FE funding U-turn can't save jobs

The assembly government has admitted that sixth-form teachers and college lecturers could still lose their jobs despite pumping extra cash into the post-16 sector.

John Griffiths, the skills minister, made the admission when challenged on his recent funding U-turn.

In January, the Government caused uproar when it imposed a blanket 7.43 per cent cut on the sector, only to backtrack and announce an extra Pounds 8.9 million of funding last month.

But, as TES Cymru has revealed, most of the cash is going to FE colleges, not sixth forms, and many schools will get thousands of pounds less than they were expecting before the cut.

The government has stuck to the line that budgets are higher than they were last year, but heads are still warning of job losses. Mr Griffiths told Assembly Members last week: "The extra funding is very valuable indeed; it will help FE colleges and sixth forms go forward and retain staffing levels."

But when pressed, he added: "Of course we can't say there will be no compulsory redundancies."

Kirsty Williams, the Welsh Liberal Democrat leader, said schools and colleges must not face the same "farce" next year, and Gareth Jones, Plaid AM for Aberconwy, said changes to their budgets must not come "out of the blue" again.

Dr Philip Dixon, director of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers Cymru, said the ongoing confusion in schools over their sixth-form funding was the fault of the Assembly government.

"They made it seem as if there was going to be lots more money, but there isn't and what was given is way down on what schools expected." DE


County now in line for new builds

Half of Cornwall's schools could be rebuilt after a dramatic reversal in the county's fortunes in the Building Schools for the Future programme.

Cornwall County Council has moved from the back of the BSF queue to second place.

A previous request for money, submitted in 2003, was unsuccessful because of the lack of failing schools in the county and the Government's view that the area does not suffer from deprivation.

But Cornwall's successful handling of a new BSF build in Penryn and other new school developments have impressed ministers.

The council will form a BSF programme board.

However, a report, ordered by corporate director of children, schools and families Dean Ashton, says there will be "significant financial" implications for council budgets in the future.

The start-up costs will be between Pounds 4 million and Pounds 7 million. The potential total BSF investment in Cornwall is around Pounds 580m.

BSF provides an opportunity to plan and deliver educational provision to reflect the population and skill needs for the 21st century. The infrastructure would make it possible to drive up standards as well as raising the aspirations of students and families, the report said.

"However, BSF is not just about educational outcomes. Such a large-scale investment in public sector plant also has the potential to contribute to the renaissance of Cornwall's economy, as well as environmental sustainability," the report adds. KM


Five schools get Pounds 80m facelift

Five secondaries in Southampton are to be rebuilt under the Building Schools for the Future scheme.

The Government will invest Pounds 80 million in Bitterne Park School, Chamberlayne College for the Arts, St George Catholic College, the Sholing Technology College and Upper Shirley High School.

The council will help schools to develop plans to improve teaching and learning before design work starts later this year. Construction could start in 2012.

The city's other five mainstream secondaries and three special schools are due to be refurbished in a future building programme.

Councillor Peter Baillie, cabinet member for children's services, said neighbourhoods would be enhanced by the community facilities. HW.

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