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While you were away

It's been a surprisingly busy summer in the world of education, even if teachers were enjoying a well-earned break. The TES brings everyone up to date on what you need to know for the start of the new school year

TES, July 24 Chancellor Gordon Brown unveils an extra Pounds 19 billion for education in the Comprehensive Spending Review. The money will be used to: introduce a maximum class size of 30 for all infant schools by 2001, 18 months early; provide an extra 2,000 classrooms and employ 6,000 more teachers; fund 500,000 extra places in further and higher education and pilot maintenance allowances for 16-18 year-olds; provide an extra 190,000 nursery places for three-year-olds and more early-excellence centres.

Education Secretary David Blunkett reveals plans to restructure schoolteachers' contracts, which could mean performance-related salaries for class teachers of up to Pounds 40,000. Details to be announced in an autumn Green Paper. Mr Blunkett promises there will be no crude "payment by results".

The first 12 advanced skills teachers are appointed.

The Government's education legislation competes its passage through Parliament, opening the way for a new schools framework, education action zones, a general teaching council, nutrition standards for schools, student tuition fees, and parental ballots to abolish grammar schools. It also establishes an induction year for school teachers.

A report on educational research by James Tooley, funded by the Office for Standards in Education, complains too many studies are partisan and based on flawed methodology and biased samples. Researchers are too ready to work "largely in a vacuum, unnoticed and unhindered by anyone else," it says.

Plans to cut down the number of cars on the road raise fears that teachers could be charged parking fees. A White Paper from Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, now unlikely to make it to the statute book this Parliament, also sets out proposals to encourage children to cycle to school and cut the number of parents using cars.

TES, July 31 Estelle Morris is promoted to school standards minister in the Cabinet reshuffle. Stephen Byers is promoted to the Cabinet, becoming Chief Secretary to the Treasury, responsible for government spending plans. Charles Clarke becomes junior schools minister; George Mudie junior minister for lifelong learning; and Margaret Hodge - previously chair of the Commons education select committee - becomes junior employment minister with responsibility for equal opportunities and childcare.

Further signs of a deepening recruitment crisis emerge, with the first drop for five years in the number of graduates applying to train to be primary teachers.

Blunkett warns teachers must cut their sick days.

TES, August 7 Welsh primaries are told they need not follow the national literacy strategy - unlike their English counterparts.

Calderdale is given just six weeks to produce an action plan and prevent a Government hit-squad taking over, after OFSTED says it has failed to address weaknesses in its management identified more than a year ago.

TES, August 21 Schools are to be entitled to see exam scripts and results appeals speeded up under reforms announced by Government. A-level results show their smallest improvement since 1982.

Draft guidance on home-school agreements says schools should avoid making unreasonable demands. Signing or not cannot be a condition of admission or a reason for exclusion.

TES, August 28 A report commissioned by the Department for Education and Employment finds that the Pounds 65 million spent annually on educational research often provides little of practical use for either teachers or policymakers (underlining criticisms made earlier by Dr Tooley). It suggests establishing an independent educational research forum to develop a national strategy.

Graham Lane, chairman of the Local Government Association's education committee, says teachers should get only inflation-linked pay increases, unless they can show improved performance or take on extra duties, He also calls for a revised main scale attractive enough to recruit enough good teachers.

Welsh education minister Peter Hain announces plans to employ long-term unemployed people as classroom assistants. The pilot scheme could be extended to England, but not before 2000.

The GCSE failure rate rises, leading to accusations that schools are targeting high-flyers at the expense of weaker pupils.

Susan Young

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