Yes, we have no expensive energy drinks

24th October 1997 at 01:00
In a week which focused on proposals to help less fortunate children with a Green Paper on special educational needs, much entertainment was provided by scientists - especially to children from a London primary school who tested a theory that they shrank during the day, but grew again at night. By 3pm some recorded a two centimetre loss. "Terrifying," was one 10-year old's verdict. "It's like something out of a fairy tale," said another. Alice in Wonderland, perhaps?

Post-natal depression research could scupper Home Secretary Jack Straw's theory that feckless parents largely contribute to juvenile crime, as a study by Reading university showed that disruptive and anti-social behaviour in very young boys might be linked to maternal depression. And a team of behavioural geneticists at London's Institute of Psychiatry has discovered the first gene linked with high intellectual ability which could herald the development of genetic tests to identify high flyers, or future Mensa members.

One high-flyer, said to be keeping her considerable brains under wraps, is Mary McAleese,the leading contender for the Irish presidency. The pro-vice-chancellor of Queen's University has put her intellect on a "work to rule", according to commentators, as she conducts her campaign to succeed the equally impressive Mary Robinson, also a lawyer.

The courts were occupied as usual with people busy suing each other. A Kent independent school head is suing two couples who took their sons away from his establishment because of alleged bullying. He is attempting to recover fees of Pounds 940 each which the parents are refusing to pay.

The mother of a teenager allegedly bullied at a Harrogate school is suing education officials for not protecting her son.

And in the most bizarre case, a son is suing his mother, with the help of legal aid, for living expenses to complete his law degree at Aberdeen University. This caused The Times to thunder: "That a son should sue his mother in this way is more than just an offence to filial piety, it is a grotesque misuse of the legal system." The Sheriff, however, said his mum should make an interim payment of Pounds 60 a month and siad the lad should take a part-time job.

Kent schools and the council's budget is said to be in a state of crisis following a flood of gypsies from Slovakia. The refugees had fled to the White Cliffs in their attempt either to escape the spectre of pogrom, or to take advantage of our state benefits system - depending on which newspaper you read. But it's heartening to find they want to come here because they see Britain as a multiracial, tolerant haven. Thankfully, most can't read the tabloid headlines.

If they are allowed to stay, the refugees will be pleased to know they will have the opportunity to learn English, which the British Council described as the language of youth culture, claiming it will be the subject of "a global rush" to learn in the next 50 years. On the other hand, parents and academics are questioning the supremacy of French as the second language taught in schools and decrying the paucity of others, including Spanish, offered at degree level. A businesswoman tipped Mandarin as the best bet for aspiring entrepreneurs.

For those of a more sporty than academic bent, it should be comforting to know that those expensive energy drinks to put the fizz back into fagged out athletes are fakes. Better to eat a banana and drink a mixture of fruit juice, water and a pinch of salt, said the Food Commission. And cheaper.

Even better for youngsters' health is milk. Save the Children and the Child Poverty Action Group have joined the School Milk Campaign to persuade local authorities to take advantage of EU subsidies.

Parents can take some cheer from a survey showing that football-mad teenagers are not that daft: only one in 20 Manchester United fans think that their team's kit is worth the money. But, with Christmas looming, other parents will groan at the thought of forking out up to Pounds 100 for a set of Spice Girl dolls.

Just after Tony Blair's attempt to revamp teachers' image, we learn of David Wood, an art teacher at Allerton Grange comprehensive, Leeds, who confessed to inspiring Damien Hirst and Marcus Harvey, the "gruesome twosome" of Britart, whose pickled sharks, coloured spots and controversial children's hand-print painting of Myra Hindley now grace the galleries of the Royal Academy in the Sensation exhibition.

A final farewell, then, to the British Library Reading Room which closes its doors, along with its famous echo, until 2001 when it will reopen, not just for scholars, but for everyone.

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