News at a glance

17th January 2014 at 00:00

Blockbuster books remain firm favourites

The Harry Potter novels are still the best loved children's books in the UK, a survey shows. Two of JK Rowling's books about the boy wizard - Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - came joint first in a poll of children's favourite books alongside Catching Fire, the second instalment of the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. The What Kids Are Reading survey of almost 500,000 students in UK schools found that the majority of the most popular books had been made into films with associated apps and games. The report, published by Renaissance Learning, argues that many children end up reading a book after seeing a film version on the big screen.

US talks the talk - now it must walk the walk

Low expectations for students are the main reason behind the poor performance of the US in the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) league tables, the country's education secretary Arne Duncan has claimed. After the US was ranked 36th in the world for maths, he warned that the country suffered from a sense of complacency regarding education. "Both South Korean and US citizens believe that the calibre of teachers matters tremendously, and the great teachers make a huge difference in children's lives," he said. "The difference is: they act on their belief. We don't. We talk the talk, and they walk the walk."

School starting age may fall to 6 in Sweden

Swedish children should be made to start school a year earlier, the country's education minister has said. Jan Bjrklund has announced plans to lower the school starting age from 7 to 6, which would mean that students spent a decade in compulsory education, he said, allowing them to make more academic progress than the current system allows. At present, most Swedish six-year-olds attend preschool, but this is not compulsory. The government has also proposed compelling students to complete an extra year of school if they fail to achieve the "adequate" grades necessary for them to progress to upper secondary school.

`Sexual diversity' lessons opposed in Germany

Proposals to teach lessons about homosexuality have prompted a huge backlash from campaigners in a German state. An online petition opposing plans to include "sexual diversity" in the new syllabus for Baden- Wurttemberg has been signed by more than 100,000 people. The petition claims that the proposals fail to "reflect the negative side effects of an LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) lifestyle". The regional government believes that the curriculum should include the "acceptance of sexual diversity" by teaching children about different kinds of relationships and lifestyles.

Careers advice `crisis' exposed by poll

Careers advice for UK students is in a state of "crisis", with a "dangerous" lack of support for those interested in apprenticeships, according to a new report. A survey of 600 apprentices reveals that fewer than one in 10 found out about their course from a teacher or careers adviser. Four in 10 respondents to the Industry Apprentice Council poll said the careers advice they received in school or college was poor, with 7 per cent revealing that they had no guidance at all.

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