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ROUNDUP OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT NEWS IN THE NATIONAL NEWSPAPERS

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PRESSURE ON BLAIR TO AVERT LOCAL ELECTIONS 'DISASTER' NEXT MAY...
PRESSURE ON BLAIR TO AVERT LOCAL ELECTIONS 'DISASTER' NEXT MAY

Labour officials and MPs fear that the party faces a 'wipe-out' in the next local elections if Tony Blair is still in place, reports The Independent (pg4).

Sources privately believe that Labour would be ousted from power in Edinburgh and Cardiff and lose hundreds of seats elsewhere if Mr Blair leads the party into the elections next May.

Labour MPs are believed to be collecting signatures for three separate letters calling on the PM to quit soon.

TORIES MAY DISMANTLE SCHOOL CATCHMENT AREAS

The Conservatives are considering plans to dismantle school catchment areas, reports The Times (pg11).

Such a move would aim to stop the current scenario whereby more well-off families can secure a place for their children at top state schools by purchasing nearby homes, often at inflated prices.

Under the plans, the party would explore ways of selecting children that did not rely solely on academic ability. Poorer families would also have access to free school buses to send their children to better schools further away.

HEADTEACHER CRISIS REVEALED BY SURVEY

More than one-third of headteachers are planning to retire by 2011 - with some citing stress, excessive paperwork and poor pupil behaviour, reports The Guardian (pg4).

The findings were uncovered by the General Teaching Council in England, which canvassed more than 10,000 teachers.

Only four per cent of teachers want to become heads within the next five years, the survey shows. Teachers also remain 'deeply hostile' to city academies, according to the findings.

The DfES said headteacher vacancy rates had fallen significantly and it made no apology for introducing academies.

COOKING LESSONS WON'T BE COMPULSORY

Nutrition experts are disappointed that the government has rejected calls for cooking lessons in schools to be compulsory, reports The Daily Telegraph (pg1).

The government yesterday confirmed that it will be up to headteachers to decide whether to incorporate cooking into existing food technology lessons or offer it as an optional extra or after-school club. This is despite the School Meals Review Panel last year calling for no child to leave school unable to cook for themselves.

However school dinners must be healthier from this week - containing no fewer than two servings a day of fruit and vegetables per day and no more than two portions of deep-fried food per week (see LGCnet).

NEW BREED OF SCHOOLS OPEN ACROSS THE UK

City academies linked to football clubs are opening this week, reports The Independent (pg8).

Reading chairman John Madjeski is sponsoring an academy that will have a specialist sports focus, while West Bromwich Albion are co-sponsoring another academy in Sandwell.

England's first bilingual state primary school opens today in Battersea, south London, reports The Times (pg4), offering all lessons in English and French.

Two new integrated Northern Ireland schools, takingProtestant and Catholic pupils are also opening, reports the Financial Times (pg2). But they have been set up with private donations after the government refused to provide funding.

HOMELESS SHELTERS SOUND WARNING ON IMMIGRANTS

Eastern European immigrants are placing a strain on homeless shelters, reports The Times (pg8).

Homeless Link said 15 per cent of people turning up at night to shelters in London were from the EU accession states. Most are Polish.

This is despite ministers' claims that EU immigrants are working and contributing to the UK economy.

Shelters said they were not equipped to provide advice to immigrants about working in the UK.

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