The sharpe end

10th January 2003 at 00:00
But is it art?

Bizarrely, The Independent has likened Education Secretary Charles Clarke to a piece of "conceptual artwork". The paper goes on to explain: "He's like Tracey Emin's bed but untidier. And probably not as valuable."

Virtual schools

The latest thing in teacher training is the "virtual school". Using an onlinere-creation of a school, students get to see the impact of their decisions on both staff and pupils. There's even a handy "hindsight" button that lets you undo your actions. So far, 82 scenarios have been added to the game, which is still in development. The full version is likely to be reserved for teachers taking part in the National College for School Leadership training programme, but a cut-down version could be available at www.ncsl.org.uk .

Threat to summer holidays

Your school year could take on a whole new form if Mike Tomlinson's A-level recommendations go through. Tomlinson suggested that the year be changed to allow students to apply for university after they'd got their A-level results? Teachers' unions fear it will disrupt the school year and - horror of horrors - end those much-needed recuperative long summer holidays.

Leave early

It's a controversial view, but Chris Woodhead reckons the school leaving age should be cut to 14. The former schools inspector thinks many pupils would be better off getting placements in Modern Apprenticeships. "Give them more experience in the workplace. That may actually do something for their self esteem and abilities," said Woodhead, sounding not unlike a Dickensian factory owner.

China fright

If you're thinking about applying for a teaching job in China, you might want to reconsider. Chinese police recently arrested the head of a nursery school on suspicion of poisoning 70 children and two teachers at a rival school. It's thought that the head, Huang Hu, was madly jealous of the other school's success.

Class overspill

Aspiring primary teachers should take note of a recent report on class sizes. The study reveals that the number of children in England being taught in classes over the legal limit of 30 has risen by almost a third in a year. And that's despite a government pledge to outlaw classes of more than 30 for children aged 5-7.

Record number

It's official - teaching is popular again. A record number of trainees entered the profession in 2002. The only trouble is targets for shortage subjects are still not being met. These less popular subjects include design and technology, religious education, music, science, maths and modern foreign languages. Research conducted by Leeds University suggests that physicists and mathematicians were the least interested in pursuing a teaching career.

Cut the junk

If you've found the kids more hyperactive than usual in your teaching placements it could be they're high on junk food. Teachers from New End Primary in Hampstead implemented a trial ban on junk foods and fizzy pop from the school. Now the only drink available at lunchtime is water. Headteacher Pam Fitzpatrick says the children have been noticeably better behaved and she's thinking of making the ban permanent.

Weak leadership

If your headteacher fails to impress it could be that they might find themselves on the list of 5,000 primary school heads who are going to be trained to improve their leadership skills. A report by Ofsted placed much of the blame for the failure to improve literacy and numeracy skills on "weak leadership". The report estimates that "one in 10 heads was delivering literacy and numeracy strategies poorly".

Check dis out

In an attempt to communicate with the "yoof of today" in what can only be described as an Ali-G-esque fashion, the Government has launched a video for schools that describes Prime Minister Tony Blair as "The Guv'nor". Meanwhile, Home Office minister John Denham is called "the main man for children"'. The video is called "Colour Blind", and has the laudable, albeit ambitious aim, of overcoming religious and cultural intolerance.

Fag break

We always knew it wasn't just the teachers that sneak out for a crafty fag at break time, but the latest stats show that a frightening one in five schoolchildren smoke. The study, published in the British Medical Association journal, goes on to disclose that one third of children who try smoking start in primary school.

Pay-off your debts

Make sure you check out a new scheme to help NQTs pay-off their student debts. The Repayment of Teacher Loans (RTL) scheme is paying off some debts in an attempt to woo students into the profession. Watch out for the small print though. There are lots of conditions that have to be met.

For starters you have to have qualified after February 1 2002 and you need to teach shortage subjects for at least half your timetable. You can get an application form from the Student Loans Company on 0870 240 6298.

Hogwarts high jinks casts spell on kids

Apparently the Harry Potter movies (left) are fuelling an increase in the number of children wanting to attend independent boarding schools. According to 'The Independent', kids have seen the movie and are now in search of the "camaraderie and parent-free high jinks enjoyed by the young wizard and his pals at Hogwarts". For the first time in 15 years, there's been a rise in the number of pupils at boarding schools.

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