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Professor Robert Coe, from Durham University:  “This seems to underline the view that improvements in GCSEs and some other examinations have had more to do with grade inflation than real sustained improvements over time.”

Alan Smithers: Back to the future for an educational transfusion

That was education in 2008 that was. A tests fiasco, curriculum change and more on the way, and Ofsted stretched to breaking point by an over-extended remit. Add to that funding fears, and all four of the main planks of the great Education Reform Act of 20 years ago look as though they will need to be revisited yet again in 2009.

Ameobi commits to Newcastle

Newcastle striker Shola Ameobi handed manager Joe Kinnear a welcome boost today by signing a three-year contract extension.

Kinnear mulls all-out attack as solution to midfield woes

The Newcastle manager, Joe Kinnear, is having to think creatively as he tries to put together a patched-up midfield for the Premier League trip to Portsmouth. The injury-hit Magpies head for Fratton Park on Sunday on the back of four successive draws, hovering just above the relegation zone.

Alan Smithers: School admissions is the real issue

Andrew Adonis's switch from education to transport leaves the Government's schools policy even more confused. Almost single-handedly, Adonis has conceived and driven forward academies, the independent schools within the state sector that seemed to be the future. Yet, just as the programme is gathering momentum, he moves on or is moved on.

Dozens more GCSE courses approved

More than 180 GCSEs have been approved by England's new exams regulator for teaching from next year, it was announced today.

Milner request for move adds to intrigue at St James’ Park

Evidence of the sometimes conflicting agendas at the top at Newcastle United came yesterday when James Milner's written transfer request was made public by the club, one week after it was actually delivered to the hierarchy at St James' Park by the 22-year-old. The outcome may be that Milner joins Aston Villa for £9m, though Milner is unhappy with his pay at Newcastle, not the overall situation.

Grades slashed to fill science courses

Some of Britain's most prestigious universities have been forced to slash A-level requirements for science degrees by up to four grades as they struggle to fill unpopular courses.

Keegan cannot hide in numbers game

A small and expensive squad is now being reinforced but Ashley's backers are already thinking of deserting him. By Michael Walker

Another record year for A-level students

Teenagers achieved record results in their A-levels again this year as the national pass rate soared above 97 per cent for the first time.

Owen and Martins set to miss Old Trafford opener

As Manchester United moved for Berbatov, there was increasing belief on Tyneside that Michael Owen will not be fit for Sunday's season opener at Old Trafford. At a Newcastle open training session at St James' Park yesterday morning, Owen merely jogged around the pitch as he recovers from a calf strain and, having not kicked a ball in pre-season, is almost certainly out of Sunday's match.

Alan Smithers: Heads must roll over the SATs debacle

This year's SATs fiasco was an accident waiting to happen. It's not as if we weren't warned. There was a near collapse in 2004 when the English tests for 14-year-olds were delayed. An inquiry chaired by Mike Beasley, the former managing director of Jaguar, roundly criticised all those involved, and singled out "the poor leadership and inadequate project management". David Miliband, as school standards minister, said 'it must never happen again'; Ken Boston, chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority apologised profusely, and the little known head of its assessment arm was prevailed upon to fall on his sword. AQA, the exams body, stood down.

Education Diary: Marital issues on the agenda at the Commons select committee

A gaggle of ministers was asked to give evidence last week to the Commons select committee that tracks the department for curtains and soft furnishings (dcfs). The reason that Barry Sheerman, the chairman, wanted them all together is that they all have responsibility for child poverty – so up rocked Stephen Timms, Beverley Hughes, Andy Purnell, Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper. The latter two are partners in real life, the first husband and wife team to appear before Sheerman. Being more important than anyone else, the Schools Secretary, Ed Balls, was asked to open the batting and captain the team. No one demurred. When Yvette wanted to say something, Sheerman declared: "I think Yvette just winked at me that she wanted to come in. Is that all right?" So Ed gave way, and Yvette put her oar in. Maybe she would like a Sheerman figure at home in the kitchen, saying: "I think Yvette just winked at me that she would like you to do the washing up/children's baths/make the pasta/put the light out now."

Diploma plan 'risks disaster'

The Government's new diploma programme threatens to be a disaster that will leave teenagers badly prepared for university or work, a report by the University of Buckingham claims.

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