Education Diary: Bureaucracy rules OK in exams

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The Independent Online

Scandal, as the weird worlds of exams and pharmaceuticals collide! We reported here last week that two of the biggest exam boards, AQA and Edexcel, had approved the use of an allergy reliever in exams. The tool, created by Lloydspharmacy, works by using light-emitting nasal probes, and was said to improve exam performance by avoiding the drowsiness of traditional hay-fever medication.

Now we hear from said exam boards that the pharmacy jumped the gun. Neither AQA nor Edexcel can endorse a product. Moreover, hay-fever blitzing machines require adult supervision, which affects child-protection policies. And there might be other complications if the product were to be inadvertently misused in these circumstances. So, bureaucracy rules OK?

An interesting contribution from Fiona Mactaggart, Labour MP for Slough, at the Education Select Committee. Discussing the Early Years' curriculum last week, she couldn't see what the problem was with numeracy and literacy targets. After all, every four- or five-year-old can read the word "McDonald's", she said. And they would all recognise its logo as a capital M. Well, maybe not that it's a capital letter, but you get the picture.

A survey carried out by the Department for curtains and soft furnishings (DCSF) has revealed what young people see as talent. Nearly half see it in terms of being able to sing, dance or play football, rather than of having a well-rounded skill set. Just as interesting is the accompanying Top 10 list of the characters most admired by young people. It's a victory for parents, as Dad and Mum clock in at No 1 and 2, above the soccer stars Cristiano Ronaldo (above) and David Beckham. "My Friend", whoever he or she may be, is doing well at No 5. But check out "My Teacher" at No 8, no less, bumping Wayne Rooney into 10th place.

More tales of academe rubbing shoulders with celebrity. Euan Blair graduated from Yale University in the USA with a Masters in international relations on Monday, while Sir Paul McCartney (right) received an honorary degree, and Bette Midler's daughter also graduated. But the big news was that Euan's father Tony, International Middle East Peace Envoy, was greeted by students wielding "Peace Now!" and "No War!" placards when he spoke at the ceremony.

We guess that, come September when the ex-PM begins to lecture at Yale (on faith and globalisation, dontcha know), the Grade Point Average will become more important to students than hippie protests. Leave that to Berkeley!

The Samaritans have told us that they are on hand to offer support to stressed-out students. But to prevent things getting to that stage, they have asked the agony aunt Susan Quilliam to compile her four steps to exam survival. Firstly, keep healthy: "Eating sensibly, taking exercise, getting a good night's sleep and limiting alcohol and coffee can all help you to stay physically on top of your game," says Quilliam.

Her next tip is a corker: "Study effectively". Work through structured revision topics steadily and take regular short breaks. Thirdly, put the expectations of those around you – your parents – into context, so that they know that pressure isn't really helpful.

And finally, concentrate on simply doing your best. No one can ask any more than that.