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A third of final year primary school children are overweight or obese, figures suggest.

Last year 33.9% of year six pupils, aged 10 or 11, weighed more than they should - a slight increase from 33.4% the previous year.

The Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) said year six pupils in urban areas were more likely to be obese than those who live in towns and suburbs.

The percentage of children in reception who were overweight or obese was 22.6% in 2011/12, the same as the previous year, the figures from the National Child Measurement Programme show.

The programme, which checks more than one million children in England, measures the height and weight of children in reception, who are generally aged four and five, and Year 6 pupils.

The highest prevalence of overweight and obese children in reception was recorded in the north east of England. London recorded the highest rates in Year 6 pupils.

 

Schools or local authorities could have to foot the bill for millions of pounds in National Insurance (NI) contributions as a result of hiring supply teachers via recruitment agencies which use off-shore firms, the taxman has warned.

Such companies do not have to pay employer's NI contributions because they are based off-shore.

But according to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), this arrangement could leave "the end client or the employment businesses" liable to foot the bill.

An HMRC spokesman said: "These kinds of arrangements are not compliant with tax and National Insurance legislation and the end client, or the employment businesses, may be liable for any underpaid tax and National Insurance.

"Employers have a legal responsibility to operate PAYE and should be questioning very closely anyone offering quick-fix tax and National Insurance arrangements.

"We are actively pursuing a growing number of investigations against these types of arrangements, and have already successfully pursued a number of companies for tax, National Insurance and interest where they were not playing by the rules."

ISS, based in the Channel Islands, pays the salaries of more than 24,000 temporary agency workers in the UK, mostly supply teachers, according to an investigation by BBC Five Live.

 

Applications by English students to UK universities have risen slightly this year, official figures show.

The latest Ucas statistics show that almost 600 more students have applied to start courses in 2013, compared to 2012.

In total, 36,051 students living in England have already applied, compared to 35,455 who applied for courses starting this autumn - an increase of 1.7%.

Students have been able to submit applications for next year for all universities from early September, and those applying for medical courses and Oxford and Cambridge had to apply by October 15.

The figures give the number of people who applied for courses with an October 15 deadline.

This is the first time that Ucas has published the data this way. In previous years, the figures have included the numbers of people that have applied so far for other university courses, which have a January deadline.

 

A large number of independent schools have pledged to open their doors to talented pupils from non-privileged backgrounds if the Government agrees to pay part of their fees.

The high-performing institutions said they wanted to admit bright children regardless of family income, arguing the move would be the "single biggest policy step" towards boosting social mobility.

A total of 80 independent day schools are in support of a state-funded Open Access scheme that would see them match fee subsidies from the Government with money from their own bursary funds.

The programme, in which parents pay a sliding scale of fees according to their means, has been piloted at the Belvedere School in Liverpool over a seven-year period.

Headmasters from 44 independent schools have thrown their weight behind the scheme in a letter to The Times.

The signatories said: "As heads of some of the most successful independent day schools in the country, we would like to admit pupils on merit alone, irrespective of whether their families can afford fees.

"We have a proud history of educating a wide social-mix and we are determined to extend that opportunity.

 

The number of state schools offering international GCSEs instead of the traditional exams has jumped by more than 300% in two years, according to new figures.

So-called IGCSEs in subjects such as English, history and biology are proving particularly popular with schools, according to data published by University of Cambridge International Examinations (CIE), which offers the qualifications.

In total, 400 state schools are now teaching IGCSEs compared to 97 in 2010 and 220 last year, the figures show.

Rising numbers of private schools are also using the exams - 500 this year, up from 302 two years ago and 350 in 2011. Overall, UK schools made 50,000 IGCSE entries this year, the exam board said.

CIE said that the rise is down to the Government's decision in June 2010 to open up and fund IGCSEs in the state sector. The exams have long been favoured by many private schools, who argue that they are tougher than traditional GCSEs.

CIE said that they have seen a big increase in demand for subjects like English language and English literature, as well as history and biology. This may be due to the Government's introduction of the English Baccalaureate, which is awarded to pupils who gain at least a C at GCSE in English, maths, science, a foreign language and either history or geography, the board said.

IGCSEs in these subjects count towards the E Bacc.

Peter Monteath, UK schools manager for CIE, said that the "linear" structure of IGCSEs, which means pupils sit exams at the end, rather than throughout the course, is proving popular.

Teachers who pick texts that appeal to girls, a lack of books in the home and an expectation that they should be playing outside are all turning boys off reading, new research suggests.

Boys' lack of achievement in reading is not down to "biological differences". Instead there are key factors which lead to them lagging behind girls, according to a report by the Boys Reading Commission.

It says girls are more likely to be given books and taken to the library, while society's expectations and peer pressure can put some boys off. The report also warns that there is a danger that female teachers will unconsciously choose books that are more attractive to girls.

The commission, set up by the all-party parliamentary literacy group, investigated the reasons why boys remain behind girls in reading.

Figures show that at age seven, 7% more girls than boys are reading at the level expected of the age group, the report says. By age 11, this gap has widened to 8% and by GCSE level it has increased even further, with 14% more girls than boys achieving at least a C in their English exam.

At the same time, a study by the National Literacy Trust (NLT) for the commission has found that boys are much less likely to enjoying reading than girls. The report concludes that there are three factors which are associated with boys' under-performance.

It says that the gender gap begins in the home before children start school, with some evidence suggesting that parents encourage girls to read more.

A university tutor has won £60,000 libel damages over newspaper stories linking him to the violence which flared during an anti-education cuts demonstration through London.

Luke Cooper, who is completing a PhD in international relations at the University of Sussex, told a High Court jury and Mr Justice Eady that his reputation was "as badly trashed" as the Millbank Tower during the November 2010 march.

After a five-day trial, the 27-year-old assistant tutor was awarded £35,000 over a front page Evening Standard article, which appeared the next day, and £25,000 in relation to a follow-up in the Daily Mail.

Mr Cooper, a member of socialist youth organisation Revolution, complained that the first story meant he was a ringleader who planned with others to hijack a peaceful march while the second portrayed him as one of the "hard core" who organised the riot at the Conservative Party's headquarters.

He complained that the accompanying "out-of-context" picture, which was taken from a photo sharing website and showed him in a pub a couple of years earlier, was chosen to give the impression of a man grinning at the havoc wreaked.

Evening Standard Ltd and Associated Newspapers both denied libel and said their allegations were substantially true. The newspapers were ordered to pay the damages within 14 days plus £450,000 towards costs within 28 days.

After the unanimous verdicts in his favour, Mr Cooper, from Brighton, said: "My only wish throughout these proceedings was the public repudiation of the core allegation made against me after the Millbank occupation. Today's verdict is an important vindication for me personally and means I can draw a line under the affair. The jury's verdict demonstrates they saw through the falsehoods both papers peddled about me and the anti-cuts movement."

Hundreds of people are being prosecuted for refusing to complete the 2011 census because of its links to an arms manufacturer, campaign group Count Me Out has said.

Up to 400 are being chased up for not taking part in the nationwide survey, which the group said was believed to be due to Lockheed Martin being used as a technical consultant by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

It said 120 people have already been found guilty, a huge increase on the last census in 2001, when only 38 people were prosecuted.

Count Me Out spokeswoman Kat Hobbs said: "Ten times more prosecutions than the last census shows that people are really angry about the involvement of an arms company.

"The Office of National Statistics can no longer deny that giving the census contract to Lockheed Martin was a mistake when so many people are being prosecuted as a result of it."

She said one of those to be taken to court is conscientious objector John Voysey, 82.

 

 

Every year, the dictionaries teams at Oxford University Press in the UK and the US put their heads together and come up with a Word (or Phrase) of the Year. This year, for the first time, both the UK and US teams have agreed on a global Word of the Year: squeezed middle.

While squeezed middle is British Labour Party leader Ed Miliband's term for those seen as bearing the brunt of government tax burdens while having the least with which to relieve it, the Word of the Year committee in the US felt it had good resonance in the US, as well. Susie Dent, spokesperson for Oxford Dictionaries, said: "The speed with which squeezed middle has taken root, and the likelihood of its endurance while anxieties deepen, made it a good global candidate for Word of the Year."

This year saw a particularly strong shortlist of contenders for Word of the Year. The shortlisted words for the US and UK differ, reflecting differences between more local issues and culture. In alphabetical order, here is the US selection of shortlisted words:

Arab Spring n.: a series of anti-government uprisings in various countries in North Africa and the Middle East, beginning in Tunisia in December 2010. [After Prague Spring, denoting the 1968 reform movement in Czechoslovakia.]

Bunga bunga n.: used in reference to parties hosted by the former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, at which various illicit sexual activities were alleged to have taken place.

Clicktivism n.: the use of social media and other online methods to promote a cause. [Blend of click and activism.]

Crowdfunding n.: the practice of funding a project or venture by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via the Internet. [After crowdsourcing.]

Fracking n.: the forcing open of fissures in subterranean rocks by introducing liquid at high pressure, especially to extract oil or gas. [Shortened < hydraulic fracturing.]

Gamification n.: the application of concepts and techniques from games to other areas of activity, for instance as an online marketing technique.

Occupy n.: the name given to an international movement protesting against perceived economic injustice by occupying buildings or public places and staying there for an extended period of time. [From the imperative form of the verb occupy, as in the phrase Occupy Wall Street.]

The 99 percent: the bottom 99% of income earners, regarded collectively.

Tiger mother n.: a demanding mother who pushes her children to high achievement using methods regarded as typical of Asian childrearing. [Coined by Amy Chua in her book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.]

Sifi n.: a bank or other financial institution regarded as so vital to the functioning of the overall economy that it cannot be allowed to fail. [Acronym from systemically important financial institution.  Pronounced "SIFF-ee", rhyming with "jiffy".]

NOTES FOR EDITORS and FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:

About the Oxford Word of the Year

Among their other activities, lexicographers at Oxford University Press track how the vocabulary of the English language is changing from year to year. Every year, a 'Word of the Year' is debated and chosen, with the selection made to reflect the ethos of the year and its lasting potential as a word of cultural significance.

Why did you choose a word that is actually two words? 

From a dictionary-maker's point of view, a two-word expression is called a 'compound' and is treated as one word [a 'headword'] in the dictionary. This is not the first time that a two-word expression has been selected as our WOTY. In 2010, the UK Word of the Year was big society.

 

Universities are facing a massive slump in entrants, with overall applications down 12.9%, official figures show.

With fees set to treble to a maximum of £9,000 in 2012, applications from UK students alone are down by 15.1%, according to statistics published by Ucas.

But while fewer UK students are applying to university, the number of applicants from overseas, outside of the EU, has risen by 11.8%, the data shows.

In total, 23,427 fewer people have applied to start degree courses at UK universities next autumn than at the same point last year.

The statistics also show that 13,665 fewer women have applied so far this year, compared to 9,762 fewer men.

Shadow universities minister Shabana Mahmood said: "These latest figures show that the Tory-led Government's decision to treble tuition fees is continuing to put people off applying to university.