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ROUNDUP OF LOCAL AUTHORITY STORIES IN THE NATIONAL PRESS - UPDATED 10:20HRS

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IN DEPTH: DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER IN SCHOOL REFORMS U-TURN...
IN DEPTH: DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER IN SCHOOL REFORMS U-TURN

John Prescott is expected to drop his opposition to Tony Blair's flagship school reforms - a month after publicly attacking them. Mr Prescott is set to make clear his change of heart in a speech on 'education in the community' in his Hull constituency, which No. 10 believes could be vital in persuading rebel MPs to back the plans, reports The Daily Telegraph. It is believed he senses he has received assurances about future powers of councils to oversee schools and protect the interests of the wider community, reports The Guardian. Mr Prescott's speech is available here.

REVIEW REVEALS FURTHER SUICIDE BOMBINGS 'A REAL DANGER'

Britain faces a 'real and present danger' of further shocking attacks by suicide bombers, a government watchdog said yesterday. Lord Carlile, who regularly reviews the working of anti-terrorism laws, said in a report that the danger of attacks remained substantial, reports The Daily Telegraph.

LIB DEM ACTIVISTS BEGIN TO CONSIDER CHRIS HUHNE A POSSIBLE LEADER

As the Liberal Democrat leadership contest hots up, supporters of outsider Chris Huhne's rival Menzies Campbell have attacked Mr Huhne's strong stance on fuel taxes; his call for troops to withdraw from Iraq by December; and even his decision to stand, reports The Guardian.

ENGLISH 'INCOMERS' ON SKYE WANT SCHOOL TO BE GAELIC-ONLY

English outsiders are among a group of parents being accused of tearing apart a small Isle of Skye community by calling for a ban on teaching in English at Sleat primary school. Although the proposal has only just been put forward for consultation by the Highland Council, at a meeting ten days ago, about 100 people, not the 15 expected, turned up to express their disapproval. Transport, environmental and community services committee depute chairman Bill Fulton (pictured) told The Times: 'I've had more than a few phone calls on the issue using words like 'fascist' and 'mafia'.'

'ELDERLY PAIR SEPARATED BY COUNCIL ARE REUNITED AT CARE HOME'

Under the above headline, The Guardian reports a spokesman for Gloucestershire CC as saying that a place is now available for Beryll Driscoll at the same care home as her husband, Richard. He said: 'Mrs Driscoll's needs and wishes have changed since social services initially assessed her six months ago. In line with her and her family's wishes, we have carried out a reassessment of her needs which has identified she is now eligible for support within a residential home.'

PRISONERS MAY SOON BE GIVEN THE RIGHT TO VOTE IN ELECTIONS

Prisoners may soon get the right to vote, constitutional affairs minister Harriet Harman said yesterday, after announcing that the Department for Constitutional Affairs is to hold a public consultation on lifting the ban. The European Court of Human Rights ruled in October that the British law banning prisoners from taking part in the democratic process was a human rights violation, reports The Daily Telegraph.

IN DEPTH: BRITISH NATIONAL PARTY LEADER TO FACE RETRIAL

The Crown Prosecution Service's high-risk strategy of bringing race hate charges against the BNP 'appeared to have backfired' yesterday as its leader walked free from court and vowed that he would not tone down his language, reports The Independent. Nick Griffin was cleared of two charges relating to speeches filmed by a BBC undercover documentary team, and the jury failed to reach verdicts on two others. His co-defendant, Mark Collett, was cleared of four similar charges, and the jury failed to reach verdicts on a further four counts in his case. The men will be retried on the unresolved indictments, the CPS later disclosed.

'BRITAIN'S GREENEST SCHOOL'

Not so long ago, the site of Liverpool's newest secondary school was a disused rubbish tip - strewn with syringes, condoms and junk.

Now it has become the country's first state-aided 'green' academy for 11- to 16-year-olds, dedicated to improving young people's understanding of the environment, reported The Independent (2/2/06), under the above headline. The St Francis of Assisi Academy, which is to be officially opened next week in one of the city's most deprived areas, is the epitome of urban regeneration. It is also the first of Tony Blair's flagship academies to specialise in the environment - and set to be a prototype for others. A second is planned in nearby Knowsley.

CBI WARNS CHILDCARE PLANS 'COULD BACKFIRE'

Government plans to provide more free childcare places could backfire and force nurseries to close, according to a report by the Confederation of British Industry (available here), reports The Times. It criticised the 'well meaning but poorly executed' proposals to fund an extra 3,500 children's centres by 2010. The CBI said that heavily subsidised state provision could make it 'uneconomic' for private and voluntary groups to offer childcare.

COMPREHENSIVE TRIBUTE TO 'THE BEST FRIEND EDUCATION EVER HAD'

This week,The Times Educational Supplement publishes a 16-page tribute to Ted Wragg, in which family and friends, past and present TES editors, former education secretaries, teachers and educationists, reflect on the life of the man who towered over the education world for more than a quarter century.

RETURN TO TRADITION AS PHONICS TEACHING IS FAVOURED

Primary teachers across England are to be trained in using synthetic phonics to help children to read, in a return to traditional literacy teaching, reports The Times Educational Supplement. Each reception class teacher in a school could be given coaching in the technique, in which children build up words from letter sounds. Teacher training is also to be changed to place more emphasis on synthetic phonics. The changes are expected in an update of the national literacy strategy's teaching framework, to go out to consultation in April for implementation from September.

'GREAT DROUGHT DIVIDE' POURS WATER ON DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER'S PLANS

The great divide in water supplies was brought into sharp focus yesterday by bushfires and empty reservoirs in the south and swollen rivers in the north, reports the Daily Mail. The Campaign to Protect Rural England warned that the drought demonstrated that John Prescott's development plans for the south-east were 'ill-advised and unsuitable'.

AND FINALLY ...

A fire brigade has drawn up a four-page safety manual to instruct crews on how to sit in a reclining chair. Firemen hoping for a rest between call-outs are banned from doing so until they have been trained to use the£400 device. This may take some time, however, since Greater Manchester Fire Service employs 2,200 personnel in 41 stations, reported The Daily Telegraph.

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