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A Week in Education

Anti-bullying week opened with a statistic that won headlines, and no doubt much-needed attention, for the campaign: every day, 20,000 pupils are so scared about intimidation from their classmates that they play truant.

The Beatbullying charity, which released the figures, said one in three 11 to 17-year-olds have skipped school at least once after being victimised.

The revelations were backed with calls for action on several fronts. Sir Al Aynsley-Green, the Children's Commissioner, said that some heads responded to parental concerns by merely denying the problem. He wanted parents to be given the right to complain to independent panels, while councils should appoint anti-bullying advisers.

Meanwhile, Alan Johnson, Education Secretary, announced plans to increase the number of pupils acting as "bully monitors" and Sara Cox fronted an advert.

Another form of bullying was going on elsewhere as London's Evening Standard attempted to beat up Baroness Perry, the former chief inspector, over Tory plans to scrap school catchment areas.

The peer said that the move would give children in poor areas the chance to attend better schools elsewhere. But would this not mean that some middle class children would lose out on entry to their good local school, she was asked? "That certainly might be something in the early stages we just have to live with," she replied.

Oakwood technology college, Rotherham, was also subjected to a bashing after it was revealed that it planned to replace a traditional Christmas dinner with a Muslim halal chicken alternative.

The school backed down after complaints from parents and Denis MacShane, the local MP.

Traditional turkey will now be offered alongside halal chicken and a vegetarian option. Finally, several papers reported that Eton College is among schools considering abandoning A-levels for an alternative: the Cambridge Pre-U, as revealed in the TES in September. A slow news week, perhaps? You read it here first.


Targets to focus on less able pupils ('Financial Times' and others)


Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, is to consult on a new statistical measure to be used in league tables and target-setting.

Although details are scarce, the indicator will seek to assess the progress pupils make between one key stage and the next, as measured, presumably, by test and exam performance.

Mr Johnson said that the current central league table rankings, which focus on pupils' "raw" results, are "too narrow". This is a hint that they give schools incentives to concentrate on middle-ability pupils at the expense of others. Many will take that as a welcome admission. But it seems that the "raw" rankings will continue alongside the new measures in the league tables.

The plans won a few national headlines for Mr Johnson. However, teachers will now be entitled to question whether this is yet another stick with which to beat them.

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