While you were away...

THE holidays got off to a cheery start with the Chancellor making education the chief beneficiary of his three-year spending review. A typical secondary school can expect an extra pound;50,000 a year in direct funding and a primary an extra pound;10,000.

While school coffers may have been boosted, the same is not necessarily true of teachers' pay. Extending its "sing for your supper" stance, the Government said that it wanted to introduce performance-related pay for an extra 200,000 teachers.

But if salaries are linked to exam results then teachers may grow rich after all. The 20th successive improvement in A-level results led to predictions that the pass rate could soon hit 100 per cent. The results once again sparked the perennial debate about grade inflation and "dumbing down".

The response to GCSE results also had a familiar ring, with the gap between boys and girls grabbing the headlines. The proportion of GCSE scripts graded C or better rose to 57.9 per cent, but the gender gap widened. Girls got a C or better in 62.4 per cent of entries compared to 53.4 per cent of boys.

The education Bill finally completed its stormy journey on to the statute book at the end of July. It will allow top-performing schools to change teachers' pay and conditions and opt out of the national curriculum.

The new Act also allows schools to join together in federations to assist failing schools. It gives the Education Secretary new powers (see box, opposite page) including being able to to force a local authority to increase its schools budget.

The Prince of Wales joined calls for better vocational education in August after discovering that re-flooring at Buckingham Palace was being done almost entirely by Aussie workers because of a lack of British joiners.

The new Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, curried favour with teachers by criticising exam league tables for creating a "spiral of failure" by allowing the most successful schools to attract the best resources and the brightest children.

Less saintly were the string of teachers who found themselves at the centre of scandals over the summer. Deputy head Paul Packer was sacked for saying that pupils with special needs should be left to rot. Farzana Akbar could face a prison sentence after admitting stealing GCSE papers and showing them to pupils the night before their exams. And headteacher Hilary Mynott and her deputy Chris Webb were suspended over claims they taped a 10-year-old boy's mouth shut during a school trip to Wales.

Finally, this year's silly season contributions include: a study that showed introducing cats into the classroom can improve pupils' maths skills and research that concludes that encouraging children to spin on the spot can boost their academic learning.

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