Today's news

January 2, 2003

Tories attack £14m fast track for teachers
A £14 million scheme to attract the brightest graduates into teaching has so far resulted in just 110 new teachers in classrooms. The Tories called for the "Fast Track" scheme to be scrapped, branding it a "ludicrously expensive gimmick". But the Department for Education and Skills said the programme would offer better value for money over the long term. The £14 million figure, which includes a £4.5 million promotion campaign, is equivalent to £130,000 for every new recruit - 10 times the average cost of training a teacher.
(Daily Telegraph)

Schools need independent ombudsman
Parents need an independent ombudsman, if their faith in exams and the schools system is to be restored, according to the man who led the official inquiry into last summer's A-level fiasco. Mike Tomlinson, the former head of Ofsted, the government's schools watchdog, said he had been inundated with letters from parents, teachers and students mistrustful of the framework for appeals relating to admissions, exclusions and exams.

Pricing out the poor student
The government's proposal for extra student fees could ruin the dreams of many, argues an article in The Times . The unpopularity of any attempt to charge more for a university education was evidenced by the 23,000-strong protest march organised by the National Union of Students in London last month. Both students and parents took part. If the government continues to pursue its goal of steering 50 per cent of 18 to 30-year-olds into higher education, the problem can only get worse.

Cheer up, spring gets earlier every year
Spring is arriving five days earlier each decade, according to a study of the impact of global warming on more than 1,400 plant and animal species around the world. The study found mammals are emerging from hibernation earlier than usual, birds are laying eggs prematurely and plants are bursting into flower sooner. The findings are published today in the journal Nature .
(Daily Telegraph)

University chimp amazes scientists
A chimpanzee has challenged the widely held view that animals do not have language by making up its own words from scratch. Kanzi, an adult bonobo kept at Georgia State University, Atlanta, has come up with four distinct sounds for the things closest to his heart - banana, juice, grapes and yes. Although the choice of words may be a little predictable, it is the first report of an ape making sounds that seem to have the same meaning across different situations. The findings are reported today in New Scientist .
(Daily Telegraph)

Lobsters chart course for home
Scientists from the University of North Carolina have discovered that lobsters have homing instincts comparable with those of racing pigeons. The latest issue of Nature suggests lobsters are born with an evolved ability to home - a skill humans only acquired with the help of technology like chronometers and satellites.

Police artist draws Jane Austen
A new portrait of Jane Austen, described as the most realistic likeness yet of the novelist, has been painted by a forensic police artist who trained with the FBI. Although much has been written about Austen there is no definitive portrait of her. The only authentic image is a tiny pencil and watercolour sketch by her elder sister Cassandra that is in the National Portrait Gallery in London.
(Daily Telegraph)

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