Today's news

October 4, 2002

Minister fudges pledge to pay for victims of A-level fiasco
Estelle Morris was plunged into a new fight for her political future last night as she was accused of backing away from her promise to help students wrongly graded in the A-level fiasco to get into their chosen universities this summer. The Conservative's education spokesman, Damian Green, accused Ms Morris of making a meaningless promise that had cruelly raised the hopes of thousands of teenagers after the Department for Education and Skills said that action by the secretary of state would "depend on the precise number of students affected." But universities have insisted that courses are full and that it will be too late by the time the revised grades are issued on October 15 for students to switch courses this year.
( Times )

Blair apologises for exam fiasco


Tony Blair yesterday offered the government's apology for the exam-marking fiasco that may have affected 100,000 A-level students. But he offered little hope of radical reform of either student grants or the charitable status of independent schools.
( Guardian, Financial Times, Daily Telegraph, Independent )

A-level review set to cost millions in compensation


Examination boards face compensation claims running into millions of pounds if a large number of students are upgraded in the wake of the A-level marking scandal. Lawyers said yesterday that dozens of potential victims were prepared to take action if a review of their grades showed that they were cheated out of their first-choice university. Some could claim up to £50,000 for lost earning power.
( Times )

University fees review delayed to spare Morris


The government review of university fees and loans has slipped back to the end of the year as ministers seek to avoid another damaging education controversy blowing up after the A-level debacle. An overhaul of undergraduate financing was announced by Tony Blair at the Labour Party conference last year, but he admitted yesterday that the results were still a few months away.
( Times )

Bristol students warned to respect Euan's privacy


The university attended by Tony Blair's son, Euan, has warned its students that they face being thrown off their courses if they divulge information about him to the media. The statement, published in the university's newsletter, followed a similar warning given at St Andrew's University, where Prince William is a student.
( Independent )

Call to privatise state schools


State schools should be turned into private companies and parents given up to £5,000 a year to choose between them and fee-paying rivals, according to a report published yesterday by the Centre for Policy Studies, a right-wing think-tank.
( Times, Daily Mail )

Young Britons top EU drug league


Cocaine use among young Britons is rising faster than anywhere else in the European Union, a survey showed yesterday. Just over 3 per cent of Britons between the age of 16 and 34 claimed to have tried the drug in a 12-month period, according to a report from the EU drugs agency in Lisbon. Some 2.7 per cent of Spaniards make the same claim.
( Guardian, Financial Times, Independent )

Girl smokers link to breast tumours


Teenage girls who smoke increase their risk of breast cancer in later life by 70 per cent, according to the results of a study by Canadian researchers published in The Lancet . But the same research shows that women who start smoking after their first pregnancy may significantly reduce the chances of breast cancer.
( Times, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, Independent )

Water quality of urban rivers improves


Urban rivers are starting to catch up with their cleaner rural counterparts in terms of water quality, according to the Environment Agency's latest annual survey, published yesterday. In 2001, almost 87 per cent of urban rivers had good or fair water quality, against 80 per cent in 2000 and 57 per cent in 1990.
( Financial Times, Times, Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Independent )

Puppy love brings out best in insecure kids


Children who are slow learners and those whose parents have divorced cope better with life if they have a pet than those who do not, a psychologist from the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands has found. A five-year study into the behaviour and feelings of 600 children aged 3 to 18 found that children who were poor readers and those suffering high levels of stress had higher levels of self-esteem and functioned better emotionally if they had a pet.
( Times )

Scientists solve zee mystery of Clouseau disease


To the layman, it is Inspector Clouseau disease - and scientists have finally discovered what causes it. The bizarre condition - official name: foreign language syndrome - causes sufferers to speak their own language like a native of another country. A multidisciplinary team of researchers from Oxford University has discovered that the syndrome, usually triggered by a stroke or head injuries caused by traffic accidents, is the result of tiny injuries in several parts of the brain that lead to subtle changes in the length of syllables, altered pitch and mispronounced sounds. ( Financial Times )

Female allure is all about proportion


Body mass is the most important thing in making a woman alluring, say psychologists at Newcastle University. All that matters is for a woman to look the right weight for her height.
( Guardian, Daily Mail )

A hungry dog is a healthy dog

A dog's best friend is an owner who doesn't overfeed it, say researchers. Obese dogs live almost two years less than those placed on a sensible diet, according to a 14-year study of labrador retrievers in Pennsylvania, USA.
( Daily Mail )

Scottish social historian dies


Rosalind Mitchison, distinguished social historian whose research and writings threw new light on the history of Scotland and its people, has died aged 83.
( Guardian )

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