News at a glance

27th February 2015 at 00:00

First-class classrooms boost learning, report finds

Well-designed primary schools boost children's academic performance in reading, writing and maths, a report from the University of Salford finds. The researchers conclude that differences in the physical characteristics of classrooms explain as much as 16 per cent of the variation in learning progress over a year for 3,766 pupils. The research explores factors such as natural light, temperature and air quality, as well as the teacher's ability to alter layout and colour. The report follows the government's announcement of a pound;2 billion investment to improve school buildings and classrooms across England.

Leadership talent sought for challenging schools

Outstanding middle leaders are to be parachuted into "underperforming" schools in a bid to improve the quality of teaching and raise attainment, the government has said. Up to 100 high-performing middle leaders in England will be asked to apply for a year's secondment to schools in deprived coastal and rural areas. The initiative follows the Talented Leaders scheme, which last year placed outstanding headteachers in the country's lowest-performing schools. Schools minister David Laws said: "This new programme will allow schools facing some of the greatest challenges to benefit from the skills, expertise and knowledge of an exceptional middle leader who can drive improvements and raise standards."

Teenage pregnancies fall to record low

Teenage pregnancies in England and Wales are at a 45-year low, according to new figures. There were 24.5 conceptions per thousand girls aged 15-17 during 2013, equivalent to 24,306 conceptions. This compares with 27,834 in 2012 and is the lowest number of conceptions in this age group since records began in 1969. Just over half (51 per cent) of all conceptions in women aged under 18 led to an abortion - a proportion that has remained relatively unchanged since 2006. The Office for National Statistics, which released the figures, said the conception rate for under-18s had been falling since 1998, when 47.1 conceptions occurred per thousand girls.

Outstanding schools must be creative, Labour says

Under a Labour government, schools will be judged outstanding by Ofsted only if they offer creative subjects and cultural opportunities to their students, Ed Miliband has pledged. The Labour leader wants schools to appoint a "local culture champion" who will make links with arts organisations and encourage after-school clubs in music, drama and dance. Concern has grown about creative subjects since the introduction of the English Baccalaureate performance measure, which focuses on academic qualifications. Earlier this month, the Warwick Commission launched its report on the value of the cultural and creative industries to Britain (bit.lyFutureCulture). It warned of a worrying decrease in children taking part in dance, music, drama and art.

Children's favourite books revealed

David Walliams' best-seller Demon Dentist is the most popular book among primary children and John Green's The Fault in Our Stars is the favourite in secondary schools, according to a survey of more than 580,000 children. The information has been collected by Renaissance Learning, whose Accelerated Reader literacy programme quizzes children on what they have read and asks them to confirm their favourite books. In primary schools, comedy authors Walliams and Liz Pichon take four of the top 10 spots. In secondary schools, the most popular books are largely dystopian fantasies such as Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games. Find out more at


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