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A Week in Education

The National Union of Teachers has announced it will stage the first national strike by teachers in 21 years. A ballot of its members in England and Wales revealed that three-quarters backed industrial action on April 24, although only around one-third voted. The union is pushing for an above-inflation pay rise of at least 4 per cent, while the Government proposes 2.45 per cent this year and further rises of 2.3 per cent in 2009 and 2010. Page 6

Vocational qualifications taken by thousands each year are to be dropped or subsumed into the new work-related diplomas. The Government has published a package of reforms to 14-19 education, including abolishing Btecs, City Guilds, OCR Nationals and Applied A-levels. Some courses - including nail art and body massage - are to be axed due to low take-up. The Government also backed down on a pledge that every local authority would offer the International Baccalaureate. Pages 12 13

The headteacher at Ed Balls' children's school has resigned amid reports that Ofsted is to publish a critical review of standards at the school. Two of the Children, Schools and Families Secretary's children attend Grazebrook Primary in north London. The Daily Mail reported that the school, which was rated "good" in an inspection five years ago, may be placed in special measures.

The number of pupils who do not speak English as a first language has risen by a quarter in four years as a result of mass immigration, according to a parliamentary report. There are now almost 800,000 pupils who speak English as an additional language. Schools have had to set up specialist centres to deal with the immigrants, and many have employed translators.

One in four children aged between eight and 10 has never played outside unsupervised, the Government acknowledged this week. Ministers pledged to spend pound;225 million on providing safe places for children to play. Local authorities will be urged to create 3,500 new playgrounds and 30 adventure play areas with trained supervisors. The Government was accused of exacerbating the lack of opportunities for play by selling off at least 187 playing fields since 1998.

The death of a beloved pet is one of the sob stories increasingly used by pupils to gain additional marks in their GCSEs and A-levels. A candidate can qualify for an extra 1 per cent if a family pet dies or if they have a headache on the day of the exam, 2 per cent for hay fever, and 3 per cent for a trauma, serious illness or organ disease. Qualifications and Curriculum Authority figures show that of the 300,000-plus pupils who applied for special consideration last year, only 3 per cent were rejected.

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