News at a glance

4th April 2014 at 01:00

Revealed: plans for overhaul of GCSE grading

Radical plans for reformed GCSEs, with a harder "pass" grade that is internationally benchmarked to top-performing systems and a new top grade, were unveiled this week. The qualifications will be introduced in England next year, with the first exams in maths, English language and English literature to be sat in 2017. Grades A*-G will be replaced with grades 9-1. It is proposed that grade 9, the top grade, would be achieved by just half the percentage of students currently awarded an A*. Grade 4 would be pegged to the existing C grade. But the "pass" grade - previously used for official judgements on schools - is expected to be a tougher grade 5 and will be set according to standards in high-performing countries. The new system will be accompanied by an annual "national reference test" sat by a representative sample of Year 11 students to help ensure that genuine improvements in performance are reflected in GCSE grades. For more detail and analysis, go to

Safety checks after wall collapse kills student

Authorities in Edinburgh this week began carrying out safety checks in all schools, after a 12-year-old girl died when a "modesty wall" in a physical education changing room collapsed. Keane Wallis-Bennett was killed by the free-standing wall at Liberton High School in the city on Tuesday. A council spokesman said that a survey in 2012-13 had raised no concerns about the wall, but that a full examination of the school would be carried out before it reopened to students. In February, Edinburgh City Council was fined pound;8,000 after a Liberton High student suffered serious injuries when she fell down a lift shaft in December 2011.

Parents warned of `Eraser Challenge' harm

A US school has sent letters to parents warning of a craze in which students inflict injuries on themselves using erasers. Bethel Middle School in Connecticut asked parents to talk to their children about the Eraser Challenge, in which students rub their arms hard with erasers while saying the letters of the alphabet. They then compare their wounds. Principal Derek Muharem said: "What I found out was that kids were sharing erasers, so as they broke the skin they were passing the eraser off to somebody else, body fluids being shared, and that's a concern of mine." Numerous gory videos of children taking part in the Eraser Challenge have appeared on YouTube over the past 12 months.

`Clock in' move opposed by South African teachers

Officials in South Africa have been criticised for "deprofessionalising" teachers after plans to make them "clock in" at school like factory workers were proposed. The Department of Basic Education is reported to be introducing an electronic clocking-in system to put a stop to teacher absenteeism. Last year, education minister Angie Motshekga said that teachers in South Africa were absent for 19 days a year on average. However, the South African Democratic Teachers Union has said that the real average is eight days a year.

Tightrope-walking academic wins fiction award

A University of Oxford academic and amateur tightrope walker has won a prestigious award for children's fiction. Katherine Rundell scooped the 2014 Waterstones Children's Book Prize for her book Rooftoppers, about a girl's race over the rooftops of Paris to find her missing mother. It was inspired by the author's own night-time trespassing on the roof of All Souls College, Oxford.


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