News at a glance

11th April 2014 at 01:00

Further exam reforms add to `enormous pressure'

The UK government announced yet another round of exam reforms this week, unveiling changes to further subject areas including the arts, technology and physical education. Education secretary Michael Gove revealed plans for nine new GCSEs and six new A-levels, all with "more demanding content" and all to be introduced in 2016, alongside previously announced changes in other subjects. Critics have warned that the crammed timetable for reform will put "enormous pressure" on headteachers and teachers, who are also responsible for delivering a new national curriculum this year. For more coverage, go to

Earthquake precautions urged in Italy's schools

Italy must strengthen its schools against earthquakes or risk disaster, leading geologists have said. The comments were made ahead of the fifth anniversary of the 2009 earthquake that killed more than 300 people in the university town of L'Aquila. The National Council of Geologists warned that buildings continued to be constructed without adhering to anti-earthquake regulations. Speaking outside a L'Aquila residence where seven students were killed, the council's president Gian Vito Graziano said that casualties could have been much higher if the earthquake had not struck at night. "It's hard to imagine you are unsafe in your school or university, but unfortunately in Italy this is the case," he added.

France's Front National vetoes halal school lunches

Schools will be prevented from offering halal and kosher lunches to Muslim students in the 11 French towns where the country's far-right Front National won local elections last week. Party leader Marine Le Pen said that providing pork-free meals was contrary to France's secular values. The country's education system is staunchly secular, but faith-based demands have risen over the years, particularly among its 5 million-strong Muslim population. Speaking to French broadcaster RTL radio, Ms Le Pen said: "We will not accept any religious demands in school menus. There is no reason for religion to enter the public sphere, that's the law."

Charter results no better than in public schools

A study of every single student test score in Chicago, US, has shown that charter schools perform no better than their traditional public school rivals. The research, undertaken by the Medill Data Project at Northwestern University on behalf of local newspaper the Chicago Sun-Times, revealed no difference in attainment. City mayor Rahm Emanuel, former chief of staff to US president Barack Obama, has increased the number of publicly funded but independent charter schools in Chicago, while shutting down nearly 50 public schools in the largest mass school closure in US history.

Kitchen revelations endanger free meal plan

More than 2,700 schools in England will have to upgrade their kitchen facilities if they are to provide free school meals for all infants, according to figures revealed this week. Around a third of the schools assessed so far will need to improve their kitchens by September. When the free meals policy was announced by the Liberal Democrats last year it was condemned by education secretary Michael Gove's special advisers, who said that the upgrades would cost an extra pound;150 million, which would have to come out of existing school budgets. The figures were obtained by the BBC through a freedom of information request. More than 1,700 schools had no kitchen at all.


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