Week in perspective

PEACE finally broke out in Scotland this week, when a compromise was reached over Section 2a - its version of England's Section 28 - banning the "promotion" of homosexuality in schools.

The teaching of marriage will be included in new guidance after Scottish education minister, Sam Galbraith, accepted the recommendations of a committee set up to review the issue.

Although officials insisted that the executive was happy with the compromise, in Scotland it is being seen as a victory for the "keep the clause" campaign led by Brian Souter, the Stagecoach tycoon.

Mr Souter hit the headlines by funding a private "referendum" on whether section 2a should be kept. Although two thirds of voters ignored it, the fact that more than a million backed the campaign increased pressure on ministers.

"After a long hard battle I am relieved that common sense has finally prevailed," said Mr Souter.

Meanwhile, teachers and others in education took one in 10 of the gongs in the Queen's birthday honours.

Two headteachers were made Dames, with a further 58 teachers, governors and other school staff honoured.

Those receiving honours included Anthea Millett, recently departed head of the Teacher Training Agency, who received a CBE.

Ministers in England came under fire for spending pound;4 million on a report to find out what makes a good teacher. The findings of the report published last week by consultants Hay McBer, were almost drowned out by the protests of union leaders and the Conservatives over its cost.

"We could have told the Government exactly the same at nil cost. Is it worthwhile spending millions describing the same old truths in different, albeit tredier language?" asked Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of NASUWT union.

Tory education spokeswomen Theresa May agreed. She said ministers had paid "to discover what they could have learnt from any staffroom in the country; pound;4 million just to discover that teachers should plan their lessons well. Brilliant".

The research comes a week after the deadline for applications for performance-related pay. The Government yesterday said 197,000 teachers had applied to cross the threshold and get an immediate pound;2,000 pay rise - 79 per cent of the total eligible.

More popular was the Government's announcement that it will invest pound;4.5 million in an attempt to recruit an extra 13,000 childminders in the next year.

Ministers are reported to be worried by a fall of almost 20 per cent in the number of women choosing to become childminders over the last three years.

The money will be offered as grants of up to pound;600 for new childminders to help them pay for start-up costs such as safety equipment, toys and insurance.

The row over elitism staggered into another week with the news that Newcastle University is lowering its entry requirements for students who live in deprived areas.

The university has created 70 extra places under its 'Partners' programme to attract students who under-achieve at A-level because of their background. The programme involves 40 schools and six colleges in the Tyneside area and provides a programme of seminars, student-shadowing and summer schools.

Critics argued that the move would lead to students in the same class needing different grades to get to university and was patronising to pupils from disadvantaged families.

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