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A Week in Education

It is one of the great perks of the job. But might long summer holidays one day become a thing of the past for teachers? Some professionals could be excused for jumping to this conclusion, following the wide and approving coverage for one school's claim that its GCSE results improved dramatically when it cut its long vacation from six weeks to four.

David Triggs, principal of Greensward college in Essex, hailed the change as a contributor to a jump from 70 to 88 per cent in the proportion of his pupils gaining five good grades.

Another way of organising timetables may have more chance of winning a wider following. Four primaries in Plymouth, Devon, are reported to be the first in Britain to give their pupils the choice of starting lessons at different times.

Teaching runs either from 7.45am to 1pm or from 11am to 4.30pm, as the schools seek to cater for parents' varying shift patterns and pupils'

different learning needs.

Another aspect of school organisation, setting, was also in the news after the Conservatives uncovered figures showing the number of pupils grouped by ability has fallen since 2002, mainly in maths and science.

Other DfES statistics, showing that schools have more than 750,000 empty places, the highest in nearly a decade, were reported in outraged tones by several newspapers. Some would say that government attempts to give parents more choice over where to educate their children will not work without spare school capacity.

Children as young as four will be expected to fill in questionnaires assessing their happiness under plans by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence to promote wellbeing.

Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, made teachers unhappy when he refused to re-open negotiations on teachers' pay despite an agreement to review if inflation exceeded 3.2 per cent. He has asked the issue be taken into consideration during discussions over the 2008 to 2011 pay award. The National Union of Teachers accused him of a breach of honour.

Many TES readers might agree with an editorial in the Sun which argued "decent teachers don't need tests to pinpoint, and help, unhappy children".

A new US-style scholastic aptitude test being mooted for university applications may help admissions tutors choose between incoming students with strings of A grades. But their choices may not be to the Government's taste.

First results from trials of a British version found that private-school pupils did better than expected, potentially scuppering ministers' hopes that it would help comprehensive students.

They said...

Children may be banned from raising their hands to answer questions The Sun et al

we say ...

The claim that the Government is against letting pupils put hands up was attributed by several newspapers to a report the Department for Education and Skills published on helping "invisible children".

Yet the report not only did not say that, it did not mention holding hands up at all.

The approach was merely mentioned in a DfES press release as one example of a tried and tested technique some schools use.

Indeed, thousands of teachers prefer picking pupils to answer questions to ensure louder ones do not dominate class discussions. But there are no plans for a ban.

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