Watch out for whizz kids

18th July 1997 at 01:00
The White Paper Excellence in Schools seems to have stunned the educational world into silence -it was a week of sex, drugs and whizz kids.

The Government is contemplating making homosexual relations legal at 16, but New Labour might also decree that you can't enjoy a post-coital cigarette - not until you're 18.

Pregnant women were warned by researchers at the University of Chicago that they were four times as likely to produce delinquent sons if they smoked 10 cigarettes a day.

Tim Dunton, 16, a computer whizzkid, was hailed as the new Bill Gates for setting up a software company in his Hertford bedroom where he designs Web sites. He denies he is a nerd. "I like to do ordinary teenage things, like going to the cinema."

Ten-year-old Jacob Connors from Bradford, who has a reading age of five, wrote The Queberry. His book about fantasy underworld creatures - unprepossessingly described as fat with banana-shaped arms and having the unpleasant habit of flicking pebbles and half-eaten sausages at people - looks like becoming a bestseller.

In tragic contrast, James Lambeth, a clever 16-year-old from Rochester, Kent, who suffered from Asperger Syndrome, a form of autism, killed himself because he was tormented by the world's troubles and his own intellect. He could only relate to adults, and suffered taunting from other children.

Millfield School, the Somerset independent school noted for its sporting success, is in the grips of an eating disorder epidemic and has taken on a full-time counsellor to help girls overcome bulimia and anorexia.

Nevertheless, research shows that teenagers can take diseases such as cancer in their stride. Those who are told they have cancer show surprising mental resilience and cope better than adults.They are no more anxious or depressed than fellow teenagers, the Cancer Research Campaign revealed.

It was a poignant week for Linda Goss, 44, a dance teacher who was deemed to have been wrongly dismissed by the Royal Ballet School and won the maximum sum of Pounds 11,300 from an industrial tribunal. Ms Goss, who at the age of 13 was the first English child to be accepted by the Bolshoi Ballet, was sacked after she claimed that pupils were bullied by other teachers. However,she will not get her job back.

The Pounds 12,000-a-year West Heath School in Sevenoaks, Kent, the alma mater of Princess Diana, has called in the liquidators after governors rejected a rescue package devised by parents.

Wath Upon Dearne comprehensive in south Yorkshire, where William Hague, the Conservative party leader, learned his first politics lessons, is appealing to the Government to save its playing fields, which Labour-controlled Rotherham council has agreed to sell.

Cambridge is awarding a record number of first-class and upper-seconds arousing fears of "grade inflation".

The press also carried titillating court reports of the trial of John Cottingham, 53, a philosopher professor at Reading University, who denies two charges of indecent assault.

The London School of Economics has rejected suggestions that New Labour had taken over its Court of Governors with the news that four Blairites had been appointed. Sir David Puttnam, the film producer, Melvyn Bragg, author and broadcaster, Bryan Sanderson, managing director of BP, and Lord Hollick, the media magnate, have joined the 96 members of the court.

It was a busy week for Sir David - he was also invited to join a task force modernising the former Department of National Heritage, renamed by Labouras the Department for Culture, Mediaand Sport, in addition to his duties on the school standards task force.

A week which began with the National Union of Teachers appealing for more "magic moments" for pupils to put the fun back in learning, also saw Chris Woodhead, the chief inspector, announcing more stringent criteria for grading teachers' performance. And , mercifully, the end of term is nigh.

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