Education: Oddly Enough

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Incey winces: Education officials in a southern Philippine province have banned spider-wrestling, a favourite children's pastime, to discourage students from skipping classes to catch spiders. The spiders are placed on a stick where they fight ferociously to the death amid the cheers of children, who often gamble on the outcome. Children usually go to meadows or farms at dawn or dusk to catch spiders, sometimes skipping classes or coming in late. Most of the spiders are collected from trees but some children say the best fighters are found on electric power lines. A prize fighter sells for up to 100 pesos (pounds 1.50).

Deadly art: An art student prompted a health alert this week when her end-of-year project created a deadly fungus. Kelly Cumberland, 23, a student at Leeds Metropolitan University, had left jelly, gelatine and food colouring in scientific petri dishes and planned to photograph changes in colour and consistency. But when scientists at the university saw the cultures being grown in the arts studio they quickly recognised the aspergillus micro-organism. According to the fine art MA student, "The scientists said if it gets into your lungs it can grow there and kill you. They had a panicked look on their faces." The cultures were destroyed, but Kelly plans to exhibit photographs of the micro-organism for her MA at the end of the month.

Saintly Claus: A college is to set up a special Santa Claus training course where the Father Christmas hopefuls must not smoke or drink while on the job. Weston-super-Mare College, which is launching the eight-week course, is planning to set up a special national federation for qualified Santas.

"They will have to learn that children are little adults and should be treated with respect." the course tutor said. "You cannot have Father Christmases drinking or smoking - I constantly suck breath fresheners," said the tutor, who was interviewed only on condition of his anonymity. "For the sake of the children, my name must not be used - it would destroy the magic."

Spare the rod: Children who are never spanked, or hardly ever spanked, fare better on intelligence tests than children who are frequently spanked, according to a new report from the University of New Hampshire. It could be because parents who do not spank their children spend more time talking to them and reasoning with them, a researcher said.