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A Week in Education

THE CONSERVATIVES promised to help teachers organise more adventurous school trips by only making them liable for accidents if they showed intent or reckless behaviour.

Michael Gove, shadow education spokesman, also used his speech at the party's conference in Blackpool to announce plans for a campaign titled Comprehensively Excellent, which would spread teaching methods used by successful state schools.

But despite expectations that a general election date will be announced shortly, most of the education policies the Conservatives discussed were not new. These included their plans to stop exclusions of troublemaking pupils being overturned by appeals panels.

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THE CHAIRMAN of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference warned the Government to keep its "hands off" independent schools this week. Bernard Trafford told the HMC's annual conference in Bournemouth that he was concerned by ministers' drive to involve fee-charging schools in its academies programme and to make them register with Ofsted.

Lord Adonis, education minister, attended to encourage independent schools to work more closely with the state sector. But he angered teachers' unions by criticising the 800 secondaries where less than 30 per cent of pupils are achieving five A-star to C grades at GCSE.

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INSPECTORS WARNED that take-up of school meals had plummeted since healthier menus were introduced after a campaign by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. Ofsted surveyed 27 schools and found that in 19 of them the numbers eating school lunches had dropped by up to a quarter. Higher costs and long queues contributed to the decline, the inspectors said.

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JAMES PORTER, head of private Hillgrove School in Bangor, Wales, was ordered to pay pound;20,000 in fines and costs after being found guilty of breaches of the Health and Safety Act linked to the death of a three-year-old boy. Kian Williams fell at school three years ago while pretending to be Batman. He was treated in hospital for head injuries and died of an MRSA- related infection.

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FINALLY, THE Daily Mail was horrified by the homework of Maria Woodward, 11. She had been asked to illustrate the darkly humorous poem "The Lesson" by Roger McGough so drew a teacher stabbing a pupil and holding a gun to the head of another. The drawing impressed her teacher but her father complained to the school and to the press, saying 11 was too young for a poem that descrribes a teacher using various techniques to dispatch unruly pupils.

Andy Clarke, head of Polesworth International Language College, said he had received two complaints about the poem this year. He apologised for any upset caused, but added that most pupils had thoroughly enjoyed it.

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