The week

4th September 2009 at 01:00

Remember the fears early in the summer that swine flu would force schools across Britain to remain shut in September? Well - touching wood - it didn't happen. Teachers were preparing for a normal start to term this week, with such matters as the new "rarely cover" rule to worry about instead. Of course, with the possibility of a bigger swine flu outbreak in the autumn, and a new government in the spring, this school year may still prove a strange one. So welcome back ...

The row over exam standards rumbled on. "A-levels still tough: headmistress" was the headline in The Daily Express, while on the very same day The Daily Mail opted for "Meddling with A-levels has hit standards, says top head". In the optimistic corner was Cynthia Hall, headmistress of Wycombe Abbey in Buckinghamshire, who said that the exams were "still an appropriate challenge". Bernice McCabe, head of the North London Collegiate School, was more critical, warning of "inappropriate political interference" in the curriculum.

Heroine of the week prize goes to AS pupil Imogen Steinberg, who used a stint on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square to ask passers-by A-level exam questions. As The Guardian reported, the teenager hoped to show that the questions were not all easy: "Could you come up with three characteristics of an oligopolistic market?"

Meanwhile the diplomas took a double kicking. The Sunday Telegraph revealed that most of the first batch of teenagers to try doing the higher diploma in one year had dropped out, or realised it would take longer. Then Reading University published a study of Year 11 students that found they saw A-levels as a safer, more academic option, and feared a diploma could be career-limiting. "If you did one in PE then broke your leg you wouldn't be able to do anything," one teenager mused.

"Fags and Peperami - the 21st century breakfast for British schoolchildren". With that title, it's no wonder a report on pupils' eating habits gained media coverage. The study found that a quarter of children bought junk food before school, with Walkers crisps, Hula Hoops, Kit Kat, Starburst sweets, Diet Coke and Haribo the most popular. The authors suggested cereal as a healthier option. Not surprising, as the report was produced by ... Kellogg's, purveyors of such breakfast treats as Coco Pop Straws (beloved of Coco the monkey, criticised by consumer groups for their fat and sugar content).

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