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Week in perspective

This week...OFSTED reaches across the Atlantic...St Andrews' royal attraction...More cash for music lessons...

NEARLY a quarter of a million pupils have benefited from their schools being labelled as failing, boasted Office for Standards in Education chiefs at an international conference last week.

The watchdog told a meeting of US and UK education officials in Washington that 600 of the 1,000 schools which failed their inspections in 1992-3 had been turned around.

In 10 secondary schools subject to particular scrutiny by the inspectorate, one third of lessons had been unsatisfactory when the schools failed. When the schools emerged from special measures, there were no unsatisfactory lessons.

Mike Tomlinson, head of inspections at OFSTED, told American policy-makers that they should consider a similar regime.

"The special measures policy is working because it has enabled us to expose the weaknesses in schools and tackle them," he said.

Michael Bell, head of Liverpool's Blue Coat school, one of the country's top state grammars, will be hoping all this augurs well for his new job at one of the country's worst-performing schools.

Mr Bell, who has never taught in a failing school, is returning to his home town of Carlisle to take over Morton school, which has been on the casualty list for two years. "Cumbria gave me the start I needed to go to university and I would like to feel I could put some of that back," he said.

Of course, getting a significant number of Mr Bell's new students into university will rely on more than a hike in their exam grades.

A league table from the Higher Education Funding Council made clear the extent of discrimination in university admissions this eek and named the most socially select.

They included the former polytechnics Oxford Brookes and the University of the West of England in Bristol as well as Reading, Bristol, Exeter and St Andrews universities. Oxford and Cambridge were further down the table but still had fewer than one in 10 students from the lowest social classes.

Prince William's arrival at St Andrews University will have done nothing to even the balance, but is boosting the university's international profile.

The British Council in Washington said the Scottish university appeared to be enjoying a surge in popularity among female American students since the prince decided to study there. Thanks to all those budding Wallis Simpsons, it is now the most popular destination for them in Britain, ahead of traditional favourites Oxbridge, Edinburgh and London.

Meanwhile, the Government is to put more money into music lessons despite evidence that pupils get less out of them than other creative subjects.

While dance and drama are seen as of great benefit, most children see music as a boring, elitist option, according to a survey by the National Foundation for Educational Research.

Its findings emerged as schools minister Jacqui Smith announced that total funding for music lessons will rise pound;10 million to pound;60m in 2001.

Finally, the Government's teacher recruitment strategy was called into question by figures showing that admissions to one-year teacher training courses had risen by just 3.8 per cent. Education Secretary David Blunkett told the Labour party conference last month that applications for teacher training had increased by 50 per cent because of the introduction of trainee salaries of up to pound;10,000.

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