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A Week in Education

The scrum for votes in May's Assembly elections was as hot this week as mounting anticipation over Wales's form for the opening Six Nations clash with Ireland at the Millennium Stadium on Sunday.

Tudor Jones, the Welsh Liberal Democrat deputy education spokesperson and North Wales candidate, kicked off the week with pre-election promises of more specialist secondary and peripatetic teachers for Welsh primary schools in languages, music and science.

Last week, the party was all for re-directing cash from the free breakfast scheme to providing - also free - nutritional school dinners packed with vitamins instead. Will this beat Plaid Cymru's offer of free laptops at the ballot box?

But for the National Union of Teachers Cymru it is all doom and gloom. Its warnings of hard times ahead came after Jane Davidson, minister for education, lifelong learning and skills, sent out a letter to local authorities politely warning them not to go over the 0.3 per cent figure in efficiency savings when setting budgets at the chalkface for 2007-8.

But the NUT Cymru reckons the letter "lacked teeth", claiming guidelines had been ignored in the past. Could this be down to the January blues? Experts said earlier this week that the third week of this month is the most depressing of the year.

But all primary pupils would be cheering if they knew that academics this week claimed that setting homework for young children is a bad idea.

Apparently it turns them off and causes family rows. Instead, their report says, parents should spend quality leisure time with their youngsters in the evenings.

However, homework may be the only answer after a study by the Institute of Education found that a pound;50 million scheme to replace chalk blackboards with interactive whiteboards had failed to improve results.

And technology was also at the centre of another row at a primary school in Doncaster. Parents of a five-year-old boy claim that he was left with an eye infection after his teacher photocopied his face during a lesson. The bright idea left the boy with headaches, itchy eyes and requiring hospital treatment, say his parents.

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