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A week in education

FAITH SCHOOLS, "amateur" school governors and a 1970s detective all came in for criticism as the second-largest teaching union completed its annual conference in Bournemouth. Gene Hunt, the celebrated politically incorrect DCI from retro TV drama Life on Mars, was criticised for using the term "fairy boy".

It was language that could encourage homophobic bullying in schools, warned Chris Keates, NASUWT general secretary.

Ms Keates also had harsh words for governing bodies "filled with well-meaning amateurs who struggle with the complexities of what takes place in schools".

And her members hit out at faith schools, voting for no more to be set up because they lead to social conflict.

Elsewhere, David Frost, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, set out his remedy for an education system - the return of the grammar school. Repeating Daily Mail reports, he said comprehensive schools meant pupils "being bullied or picked on because they were bright".

The Department for Education and Skills added to concerns, releasing statistics that revealed a 29 per cent rise in the number of pupils temporarily excluded for racial abuse in England. But the Government pledged to tackle persistent truants over the border by allowing 400 schools to send them automated texts, asking why they had not turned up within a few minutes of the first school bell going.

Once again, the appearance of Alan Johnson, Education Secretary, in the papers had more to do with the Labour party leadership and deputy leadership contests rather than anything his department was up to.

But it came with a warning that David Miliband, the former schools minister for England, should not stand.

Meanwhile, all has gone quiet in Wales as the countdown to the May 3 Assembly government elections begins. Spin doctors say the pre-election period, during which no political party is allowed to promote itself, has meant more work, not less.

But this week they were keeping up appearances by inviting the press to join AMs for a pre-election chat over a cup of coffee and a bun. There's living for you.

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