Education Diary: Calling all young dancers

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The Independent Online

When Ed Balls visited Argyle Primary in Camden last week, the pupils proudly showed off the story they had been working on – complete with wonderful artwork. The Minister for Schools and other things stopped at one of the illustrations, pointed, and asked, "Is that a little boy or a little girl?" When the riposte came it was curt: "It's the teacher." Another case of the Government treating teachers like little children?

Calling all young dancers: are you a budding Alesha Dixon or a bit of a Kate Garraway? Either way, you should know that a new competition is being launched with the support of the stars of the BBC show Strictly Come Dancing. Get Kids Dancing offers children the chance of winning professional dance lessons, thanks to Taylor Woodrow de España. Children are invited to put together an entry saying why they think their class should win the lessons (tip: mention the word obese and you're a dead cert). Dance is one of the fastest growing areas at GCSE and A-level, one reason why the Government announced this week that it is ploughing £5.5m into the subject. The question is: will the celebs of Strictly Come Dancing be held up as examples of elegance, or cautionary tales? The deadline for entries is 4 April. Call 0121 362 4070 for an information pack.

The London Network, a group of supporters of Human Rights Watch, has launched "Right Words", a writing competition for secondary pupils that enables pupils to learn about vital issues, such as Darfur, and fulfil the requirements of GCSE citizenship and English. Anthony Horowitz and Jacqueline Wilson are lending support to the competition, which is open to 14- to 16-year-olds. Entrants are asked to think about life as a young person in another part of the world that is different to their own, and to bring their thoughts to life through writing. Send your submissions in three categories: a poem, a story, or an essay. The closing date for entries is 31 March. Visit www.rightwords.org.uk for entrance forms and teaching materials.

Here's the latest on last week's cover story about the almighty tussle taking place on the Isle of Wight. Residents have voted 58 per cent in favour of option three, which would create a two-tier system of primary and secondary schools. This involves ditching all middle schools, and closing many primaries. It also means very large secondaries. Some parents are objecting that the questionnaire gave a choice between options one, two and three, but only "no preference", rather than "none of the above". A full page ad was taken out in the Isle of Wight County Press, and a large protest held last Saturday in Newport, as part of the run-up to the final decision. www.saveiowschools.co.uk

When we announced the RSPB Big Schools' Birdwatch, the question on everyone's lips was: "Which birds love school the most?" The answer is: starlings. A record number of twitchers in 1,500 schools spotted an average of 5.05 of the birds (above) between 21 January and 1 February. The starling fought off competition from the black-headed gull, the blackbird and the woodpigeon. With 64,427 birds spotted in total, the week gave pupils a fascinating introduction to nature. Maybe next year the humble chaffinch will knock the starling off its perch. www.rspb.org.uk/schoolswatch

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