While you were away...

3rd September 1999 at 01:00
Summer's lease, unfortunately, hath all too short a date and a new year is upon us. Diane Spencer lists highlights from The TES of a silly season that, at times, turned very serious indeed.

JULY 9. Ministers received a record 41,000 res-onses to performance-related pay proposals, to be introduced in autumn 2000. Only a third supported the system.

Teachers were told by the Health Education Authority to give up smoking at school to set a good example to pupils and help cut the growing number of teenagers who light up. Research showed that 63 per cent of English schools allow smoking somewhere on the premises.

Chris Woodhead, chief inspector of schools, gave primaries their highest praise yet in a review of four years of inspections.

JULY 16. The TES launched a campaign to keep public libraries "Open all Hours". An investigation revealed that the number of libraries open at least 60 hours a week has fallen from 173 in 1976 to just six.

Schools in Lambeth, south London, were much improved while those in the affluent suburb of Bromley had been allowed to coast, said the Office for Standards in Education.

Ministers issued guidelines on performance-related salaries for heads, and linked pay to school size and key stage.

An inquiry found no evidence that the Government had tried to boost this year's English test results for 11-year-olds by lowering the pass mark.

Maureen Davies from St Sebastian's RC primary, Liverpool, scooped the lifetime achievement award at the Teaching Awards (the Platos) ceremony at London's Alexandra Palace. David Almond won the Carnegie Medal for his children's book, Skellig.

JULY 23. West of England University research found 30 per cent of students training to teach languages come from abroad. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority considered allowing gifted pupils to drop GCSE courses to focus on languages, performing arts, sport or technology in specialist schools.

The Government attacked critics of its tests, targets and homework policy, calling them "middle-class elitists" who ignore the needs of working-class children.

MPs on the education and employment select committee called for a new cadre of experienced "super-governors" to help poverty-stricken schools. Culture Secretary Chris Smith welcomed the TES library campaign.

JULY 30. A study by the London School of Economics found teenagers in England and Wales spend more time preparing for exams than pupils in any other European country.

The Professional Association of Teachers annual conference was told that exams were akin to child abuse - but the anti-testing motion was defeated.

The Government risked MPs' fury by backing chief inspector Chris Woodhead in the face of calls from the education select committee to curb his "intemperate and arrogant" style.

Teachers and further education lecturers can retire at 55, but the price will be a smaller pension, announced the then schools minister Charles Clarke.

Unions feared that some teachers would lose more than pound;2,000 a year.

The US state of Louisiana passed a law to make students address teachers as "Sir" or "Ma'am".

AUGUST 6. Dictionaries are to be banned from foreign language GCSE and A-levels after a Birmingham University study found that they give able pupils an unfair advantage.

The Government's admissions watchdog struck a blow against academic selection, ordering two grant-maintained schools in Croydon to abandon the practice and three Wandsworth schools to select a smaller portion of their intake.

George Mudie was replaced as minister for lifelong learning by Malcolm Wicks, chair of the education select committee. Jacqui Smith, MP for Redditch, took over the bulk of Charles Clarke's schools brief as he was promoted to the Home Office, and Michael Wills, MP for Swindon North,took a new post for technology issues. Chris Woodhead will take over inspection of all child-care facilities, replacing monitoring by local authority social services.

AUGUST 13. Ministers plan to boost GCSE results by delaying exams in two big-entry subjects - English literature and geography - to give pupils up to two weeks extra to prepare. Revision time for less popular subjects, such as economics or music, may be cut.

Parents in Bury, Blackpool, and the London boroughs of Enfield and Westminster are 10 times more likely to appeal over secondary-school allocation decisions than those in Hartlepool, Cheshire or Cumbria, The TES revealed.

Secondaries marked the National Year of Reading by spending even less on books, said the Publishers' Association, despite the Government giving each school pound;3,000 extra for books.

AUGUST 20. The A-level pass rate reached a record high. This marked the 17th successive year of improving results, but examiners said the rise may be levelling off as this year's was the second smallest increase of the decade. Cambridge University considered dropping its entrance exams in favour of the Government's new "world-class" tests as part of its drive to recruit more state-school pupils.

The performance of the nation's 11-year-olds in key stage 2 maths tests had vastly improved, a TES survey found. Local authorities reported a 10 percentage-point improvement in the proportion of pupils reaching expected standards in maths and science and a 6 point improvement in English.

The National Association of Headteachers said homework should not prevent children from taking part in sport, music or other activities and should not generate vast amounts of marking. From September, governing bodies will be required to publish a homework policy.

AUGUST 27. GCSE candidates celebrated record results, but the rise in top grades prompted accusations that some schools neglected lower-ability pupils to boost their league-table position. Ministers were warned by consultants PriceWaterhouseCoopers that some firms bidding to run education services for failing councils are too small and naive for the task.

Carol Adams, new head of the General Teaching Council, was warned by unions that she would have to win over the profession, not least because her membership of the standards task force puts her in the Government's camp.

Cornwall campaigned for its own university to keep school-leavers in the county.

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