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A Week in Education

Britain's secondary pupils rank 14th in the world in science, 17th in reading and 24th in maths, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development said. According to the daily papers, Britain is nosediving, sliding and tumbling down the international league tables.

But The Financial Times took a more considered approach, pointing out that our previous ranking had been artificially inflated: we were never the "stars" that the Government once claimed.

Page 16

"Now free the bear", demanded a Sun headline after the freeing of Gillian Gibbons, the English teacher jailed in Sudan.

Muhammed, the teddy bear, still languishes in a Khartoum police evidence locker, but Mrs Gibbons flew home to Liverpool. Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir pardoned her for insulting Islam by allowing her primary pupils to call the bear by the Prophet's name.

"I wouldn't like to put anyone off going to Sudan," said Mrs Gibbons. "I know of a lovely school that needs a new Year 2 teacher."

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Teenagers' school sex education is so bad that many have no idea how to avoid sexually-transmitted infections, children's organisations and sexual health experts said.

Members of the Commons health committee, television presenter Davina McCall and teachers' unions called for all schools, including primaries and faith schools, to be required to teach children about sex and relationships.

A Youth Parliament study found that half the 20,000 teenagers surveyed had not been taught about teen pregnancy or condoms.

A special school in Wirral has topped the first ever contextual value-added primary league tables, published yesterday.

Each primary school now has a contextual value-added score, taking into account gender, ethnicity and deprivation, and the existing measure of prior performance.

Orrets Meadow special school came first in the value-added table, while the Deans Primary in Salford had the highest proportion of level 5 scores.

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Schools are creating a cultural "apartheid" by denying millions of children access to high culture, according to the former director of the National Theatre.

Sir Richard Eyre said schoolchildren were disenfranchised from the arts because schools and television no longer instilled them with a love of theatre, art and classical music.

Estelle Morris, the former education secretary, said Government investment in arts in schools had reduced the problem.

Only one five schools will perform a traditional nativity play this year, as headteachers say "bah, humbug" to Christmas.

According to canvassing by the Sunday Telegraph, secular characters like Scrooge and Snow White will replace shepherds and wise men.

At one predominantly Muslim school in Birmingham, the three wise men will bear peace and co-operation, not gold, frankincense or myrrh.

Meanwhile, a Roman Catholic primary in Devon has decreed that its nativity angels will have no wings this year, lest they brush against a candle and catch fire.

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