The Tories’ absurd school regime can’t even set a spelling test | Simon Jenkins

The Guardian Unlimited - Fri, 22/04/2016 - 11:07

Bypassing local authorities was always going to end in trouble and, lo and behold, an exam has been published online

Anyone seeking a foretaste of David Cameron’s proposed national schools service need look no further than this week’s primary school test fiasco. The government has had to withdraw its new exam for six- and seven-year-olds because the questions on grammar, punctuation and spelling were leaked online.

So-called “academisation” is supposed to liberate schools from inefficient local bureaucracy, leaving them to decide for themselves how children should be taught. They would enter the sunny uplands of independence. Like hell.

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My secret life as a student Nightline volunteer

The Guardian Unlimited - Fri, 22/04/2016 - 10:26

Being a faceless voice for 12 hours at a time can be hard and thankless work. But making people feel safe is the most rewarding job of all

It’s easy to feel paranoid walking home alone from a club at 2am – especially in a new city, at a university three hours away from home. Your ears are ringing as you walk back to your halls. The unfamiliar streets seem especially dark and eerily quiet. Right now you’d give anything just to hear a friendly voice.

Whether it’s fresher’s week or exams week, a university nightline service can be a life-saver, sometimes literally. Nightlines are student listening services that open in the small hours, relying on student volunteers to run and publicise the service. Nightline currently provides emotional support to over 1.5 million students, with 36 branches based at over 90 universities and colleges over the UK and Ireland.

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Shakespeare's 'first classroom' on view

BBC - Fri, 22/04/2016 - 10:00
The schoolroom where William Shakespeare is believed to have studied and seen his first plays is set to open to the public for the first time.
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Mockery: the best way to open up the arts | Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett

The Guardian Unlimited - Fri, 22/04/2016 - 07:30
Creativity is being strangled in our schools, but subversive memes are inspiring young people as never before

One of the first things you learn when you study art is that there is “good art” and “bad art”. “Good art” will get you an A-grade if you copy it meticulously as part of your art class, while “bad art” will not. The people who decide the difference between these two types of art are generally long dead men in books and, if you’re especially unlucky, your teachers.

Related: Arts and culture being 'systematically removed from UK education system'

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Working as a casual? Zip your lip and do as you're told

The Guardian Unlimited - Fri, 22/04/2016 - 07:00

We have no job security, no prestige and no option but to be obliging, or face the prospect of unemployment

“Can we chat?”

“Yeah, sure. Any time.”

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DfE withdraws spelling test after it accidentally appeared online

The Guardian Unlimited - Fri, 22/04/2016 - 00:31

The controversial test, due to be sat by 500,000 seven-year-olds in England next month, had been available since January

The government has withdrawn a controversial test due to be sat by 500,000 children next month after it was accidentally published online.

It was posted on the Department for Education website as a sample of the new spelling test that seven-year-olds will sit in the first week of May.

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NUS president must address concerns over antisemitism, say Jewish students

The Guardian Unlimited - Thu, 21/04/2016 - 21:37

Societies call on National Union of Students’ newly elected Malia Bouattia to distance herself from past alleged anti-Zionist comments

Jewish student leaders have said the National Union of Students’ newly elected president must go further to address their concerns over alleged antisemitism.

Russell Langer, the campaigns director of the Union of Jewish Students (UJS), called on Malia Bouattia to distance herself from her previous comments including one where she described her former university as “something of a Zionist outpost”.

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West Sussex council opposes government’s academies plan

The Guardian Unlimited - Thu, 21/04/2016 - 19:35

Tory-led council tells education secretary it is united against proposal to turn all state schools into academies

West Sussex’s Conservative-led county council has joined the chorus of opposition to the government’s plan to turn all state schools into academies, saying it could hurt provision for vulnerable children and undermine the local economy.

In a letter to the education secretary, Nicky Morgan, West Sussex county council leader, Louise Goldsmith, said the council was united in opposing the proposals in Morgan’s education white paper, with no evidence that the county’s schools would be improved.

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Attacks on the new NUS president show the limit of free expression for Muslims | Iman Amrani

The Guardian Unlimited - Thu, 21/04/2016 - 19:15

Malia Bouattia has a track record of standing up to racism and discrimination. But once again a Muslim in a public role has come in for special criticism

Malia Bouattia was elected the first black woman president of the National Union of Students yesterday. This moment of history followed one of the most high-profile and controversial elections the NUS has had – and even after the vote, the arguments go on.

Bouattia, in her current role as black students officer, has spoken frankly on a range of issues. Last month she addressed the UN in Geneva about the harmful effects of Prevent, Britain’s anti-extremism scheme in schools; she has worked on the Why Is My Curriculum White campaign; and she has a strong network of student supporters on social media.

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The Guardian view on forced academisation: time to stop and think | Editorial

The Guardian Unlimited - Thu, 21/04/2016 - 19:11
Rushing all schools into academy status will overstretch the Whitehall bureaucrats and risk the education of a generation

The government is wavering unsteadily on the question of forced academisation of schools. Officially the plan, outlined in a white paper after the chancellor announced it in last month’s budget, will still feature in next month’s Queen’s speech. Unofficially, no one’s taking any bets. There are two big, pragmatic reasons why it would be wise for the government to think harder and take longer.

On Wednesday, Amyas Morse, who as head of the National Audit Office is guarantor of the honesty of the government’s book-keeping, ticked off the Department for Education (DfE) for the second year running. He said its accounts, which had already been delayed for nearly three months, were “not materially compliant” with its obligations, and contained “a level of misstatement and uncertainty, which [he] considered was material and pervasive”. He attributed the problem to the impact of the rapid expansion of academies. According to the Institute for Government, the DfE has lost 15% of its staff and approaching 20% of its administrative budget since 2010, and it is not a byword for executive competence in the corridors of power. On these grounds alone, how it can reasonably be expected to have the capacity to handle the huge expansion of multi-academy trusts that would follow every primary and secondary school in England becoming an academy after 2020?

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Teachers need protection from parents' brainwashing claims, union says

The Guardian Unlimited - Thu, 21/04/2016 - 18:21

National Association of Head Teachers wants personal, social, health and economic education enshrined in curriculum

Headteachers have been accused by parents of brainwashing their children after disagreements about teaching on topics such as homosexuality as part of personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE).

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) is calling on the government to make PSHE a statutory part of the curriculum to protect teachers from claims that they are following a personal agenda, which can result in a breakdown in the relationship between school and community. The situation is particularly fraught in primary schools because of disagreements about what topics should be covered at what age, though once parents are told the details of the age-appropriate material being used, they are usually reassured.

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The secret recipe for high-performing schools? Listen to teachers

The Guardian Unlimited - Thu, 21/04/2016 - 16:00

Proactive headteachers with strong interpersonal skills are the key to delivering results at a time of upheaval – and it starts with looking after staff wellbeing

Many years ago I was asked by the teachers’ union NASUWT to conduct a national study on teacher stress, given the high numbers leaving from burnout. At that time, like now, schools were political footballs, where successive governments would introduce major disruptive change, sometimes just for the sake of it.

Today we still have governments imposing their political philosophy on education and tinkering with the structure and curriculum of schools. In a parliamentary democracy, where education is primarily state funded, that is unlikely ever to end – even with the ideal academy-type structure. So how can schools perform effectively under huge pressure from central and local government, parents and the community? How do we create high-performing workplaces?

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Government urged to scrap test after it was published online

The Guardian Unlimited - Thu, 21/04/2016 - 15:04

Headteachers’ union says controversial primary tests have been seen by unknown number of pupils online

Headteachers are demanding that the government pull a controversial test that is due to be sat by half a million children in two weeks’ time after it was accidentally published online.

The NAHT school leaders’ union has written to schools minister Nick Gibb, urging him to allow primary schools to scrap this year’s tests, and condemning the blunder as a serious error that undermines confidence in primary testing.

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Uni applications should be 'personal'

BBC - Thu, 21/04/2016 - 15:03
University hopefuls are urged to keep their applications 'personal' by admissions body UCAS.
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University sorry for search tampering

BBC - Thu, 21/04/2016 - 14:33
US university UC Davis apologises for hiring a PR firm to try to bury online references to an incident in which students were pepper-sprayed.
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Students Speak: if you were head of the UN, what would you do?

The Guardian Unlimited - Thu, 21/04/2016 - 12:21

As the UN prepares to choose a new leader to replace Ban Ki-moon when he steps down this year, we want to know how you’d approach the top job

As Ban Ki-moon prepares to step down as UN secretary general at the end of the year, his potential successors are making their ambitions known. The list of declared candidates so far includes the head of the UN Development Programme, Helen Clarke, the former UN high commissioner for refugees, António Guterres, and the head of Unesco, Irina Bokova.

It is expected to be the most transparent leadership transition in the UN’s 70-year history, with candidates stating their case at the general assembly for the first time. Previous appointments to the top job were shrouded in secrecy and made largely by the five permanent members of the security council: the UK, US, France, Russia and China.

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First black Muslim woman NUS president

BBC - Thu, 21/04/2016 - 10:53
The National Union of Students has elected its first black Muslim woman president, but her previous comments have started a row about student politics and anti-Semitism.
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We're still failing to teach children to read, after all these years

The Guardian Unlimited - Thu, 21/04/2016 - 09:31

Reading programmes around the world are failing to do what they’re supposed to. We need to give children and adults the chance to learn

About 10 years ago, I was asked to assess the lessons learned in a primary school improvement programme in an Asian country. At the first school, I asked to meet their best student. An-11-year-old girl was brought forward. I asked her to read from her textbook, and was astounded to see her silently sounding out each word before she would voice it. She was reading at less than 20 words per minute – too slow to comprehend what she was reading. By comparison, the average seven-year-old in the US reads at about 60 words per minute by the end of the school year.

In one African country only 5% of 8-9 year olds were found to read at or above 60 words per minute

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EU referendum: remain campaigners seek to enlist student unions

The Guardian Unlimited - Thu, 21/04/2016 - 08:40

Labour MP Alan Johnson has written to every student union president, urging them to run voter-registration campaigns

Campaigners for Britain to remain in the EU are turning to student unions for help, asking them to attempt to mobilise their members in a turnout drive that could swing the overall result.

The Labour MP Alan Johnson has written to every student union president arguing: “You are best placed to speak directly to your peers about why this referendum matters to them.”

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Employers and universities already work together - we shouldn't put that at risk

The Guardian Unlimited - Thu, 21/04/2016 - 07:00

I welcome the government’s focus on apprenticeships, but we should not overlook the already effective model of employer-sponsored degrees

To succeed as a knowledge economy, we need people to engage in lifelong learning. And more people need the high-level skills required for personal prosperity and economic growth. It is right that some of these skills should be developed by educating people in the workplace, in collaboration with employers.

So I welcome the development of higher- and degree-level apprenticeships and would be delighted if they led to an expansion of high-quality professional and technical education. However, there is a danger that, by creating yet another range of qualifications, we will fail to build on what already exists and may even weaken some of the best bits of our current professional education provision.

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