News at a glance

3rd February 2012 at 00:00

Pensions truce still distant as unions sign up to deal

ATL and the Association of School and College Leaders this week became the first two teaching unions to sign up to the government's final pensions deal. However, heads' union the NAHT announced that it would not be signing up to the "poor deal" until it had seen the full details, including contribution rates. Last week, the NUT's executive voted to coordinate a formal response with the other unions that have not signed up to the offer, but they also vowed to consult members before planning further strikes. The University and College Union is the only union to have announced definite strike plans so far. Meanwhile, the Institute for Fiscal Studies reported that the latest negotiated offer would save the government very little compared with the current pensions structure, with lower-paid public sector staff expected to receive more generous pensions than they do at present.

Sixth-form strike to take place within a month

Sixth-form colleges are to be hit by a one-day strike within a month after members of teaching union the NUT voted to take industrial action following the decision by the Sixth Form Colleges' Forum not to offer an annual pay rise. While 76.4 per cent of members backed action against the secretary of state, 71.9 per cent called for action against colleges in a separate ballot. Deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney said that the industrial action would be staged over several days in different parts of the country, but the final dates have not yet been finalised. ATL announced it will also ballot its members, while the NASUWT is in talks about coordinating action with the other unions.

'Accessible' is unacceptable for qualifications

Exam boards "must stop" marketing qualifications as "accessible", the government's former director general for education standards said this week. The tactic promoted "a culture in which it is seen to be acceptable to say to schools, 'Do this (exam) because it is easier'," Jon Coles told a Cambridge Assessment conference. "Even if you do not use those words, that is what schools are hearing." Mr Coles, who left the Department for Education in December, also accused the boards of developing exams that "barely meet" Ofqual's minimum requirements.

All new schools to have 'academy' or 'free' status

All new schools must have either free school or academy status from this week, after legislation forming part of the Education Act came into effect. The law means that all local authorities must seek proposals for an academy in the first instance when a new school is needed. The act was heralded by Rachel Wolf, director of the New Schools Network, a charity that supports groups wanting to set up schools, as being the start of an era where parents "are put in the driving seat" when it comes to opening new schools.

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