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Latest education news, comment and analysis on schools, colleges, universities, further and higher education and teaching from the Guardian, the world's leading liberal voice
Updated: 13 weeks 2 days ago

Reading should be about pleasure, not points or prizes

Tue, 28/06/2016 - 19:00

Children’s books site member Eligor was outraged on receiving a letter from school announcing a reading programme based on points, rewards and competition. Not only is it unnecessary, it may actually be turning children off reading for fun

I love reading for many reasons. It can be an escape from reality; a comfort for when you feel upset or fed up; nostalgic (I frequently reread my old picture books); just to relax; to think deeply about things (I’ve read a book called the Complete Philosophy Files and reviewed it on the Guardian Children’s book site!); to identify with characters; and also to savour the very words themselves.

The physical side of reading also plays a part. The feel of books, turning the pages, and the smell of books... (If you have ever smelled the pages of an old book, you will know what I mean.)

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Councils failing to protect at-risk children, says Ofsted

Tue, 28/06/2016 - 18:42

More than a quarter judged ‘inadequate’ by social care report, and child protection system has too much mediocre provision

Too many vulnerable children face “clear and present risk of harm” because of serious failings in council child protection departments, Ofsted has said.

More than a quarter of councils were judged “inadequate” by inspectors, with three-quarters in total rated as less than “good”, according to the latest annual Ofsted social care report.

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Herschel Prins obituary

Tue, 28/06/2016 - 15:27

My colleague, Herschel Prins, who has died at the age of 87, had a long and distinguished career at the crossover between criminal justice and mental health.

He began work as a probation officer in the 1950s and spent much of his life in teaching; throughout he remained faithful to the ideals of public service and the belief that one person can influence another for the good. He knew that effective social work was a craft that required real commitment by the practitioner; noble intentions and theoretical knowledge were not enough.

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When political leaders are selected via elitism not talent, you get chaos | Ellie Mae O’Hagan

Tue, 28/06/2016 - 13:53
The EU referendum vote is just the latest disaster caused by a political class woefully out of touch with the country. Some humility now please

There’s nothing quite like a constitutional crisis to expose what can only be described as the abject crapness of our political class.

The parliamentary Labour party has largely decided it has had enough of Jeremy Corbyn and wants a new ruler, but seems categorically unable to suggest anyone. Who would fit the bill? Dan Jarvis, who promises to be “tough on inequality, tough on the causes of inequality”? What does that even mean? Or how about Hilary Benn? He gave one well-delivered speech to parliament about Syria and people seemed to decide that made him the new Winston Churchill, before forgetting about him a week later.

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Project Bloks: Google's latest effort to encourage kids to code

Tue, 28/06/2016 - 12:00

From scribbling robots to music-making devices, tech giant’s initiative hopes to spark a new wave of ‘tangible programming’ toys and kits for children

“How many robots can I control with this? In theory, up to 255 at one time. That really is a robot army.”

I’m in a room at Google’s London headquarters listening to creative technologist Zebedee Pedersen show off the company’s latest research project. Despite how it sounds, world domination isn’t on the agenda.

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Kneejerk restructures of children’s services are a recipe for disaster | Patrick Butler

Tue, 28/06/2016 - 11:00
Cornwall’s experience shows that you can turn round poorly performing services and deliver innovation without suspending children’s legal rights

The first step on the road to recovery is always the most painful, according to Andrew Wallis, the lead councillor for Cornwall’s children’s services. Six years ago those services were on the ropes, judged inadequate by Ofsted inspectors. Failure triggered a period of harsh corporate self-reflection. “You have to admit you are not very good, and that is difficult,” he says.

After the frank self-assessment came the improvement. This week Cornwall was rated “good” by Ofsted. Of the clutch of councils deemed to be failing in 2010, it has come the furthest. It is now among the top 25% of children’s services. Inspectors praised the quality of its work in key areas: children in care, adoption, care leavers and management. This is an authority, Ofsted noted, that “has enabled social work to flourish”.

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Sites for 500 free schools wanted – and it could be a field near you

Tue, 28/06/2016 - 07:15

The purchase of land for a would-be academy in south London has shone a light on the controversial work of the Education Funding Agency

When the letter arrived through Steve Barker’s door before Christmas last year, he was “flabbergasted”, the IT worker says. It was a document, from the chief executive of a proposed free school, telling him that the playing field barely eight metres from the front door of his quiet cul-de-sac home in Blackheath, south London, had been bought by the government’s Education Funding Agency (EFA).

This purchase had happened so that a “small” secondary school could be placed on the site, the letter said. Its building would probably loom over the houses of Barker and his neighbours. The proposed site for this 875-pupil school – the International Academy of Greenwich (IAG) – is next to a flood plain. Regular inundations from the Quaggy river are only held back by an eight-foot wall.

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How can universities prepare for a post-Brexit world?

Tue, 28/06/2016 - 07:00

No one knows how leaving the EU will affect higher education - but rather than panicking, we should be proactive and positive

The same questions are being asked in universities and colleges across the nation this week: what’s going to happen now? What does Brexit mean for us? The simple, but unhelpful, answer is that we don’t know.

Related: Four reasons a Brexit would be bad news for UK universities

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Seven ways governors can get to know their school

Tue, 28/06/2016 - 07:00

Board members can feel very removed from classroom life. Here’s how to get a strong insight into your school using everything from Twitter to learning walks

Governors provide a school’s backbone, keeping it in check and overseeing development. But being a board member can seem far removed from the reality of classroom life. Government plans to allow schools to replace parent governors with “professionals” could further erode governors’ understanding of what goes on at the chalkface. So how can governors and trustees ensure they get beyond the confines of a board meeting? Here are our top tips for getting to know your school:

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How do you help children when death casts its shadow across a school?

Tue, 28/06/2016 - 07:00
Explaining tragedies such as the death of Jo Cox is a challenge for teachers and parents in today’s 24/7 media world

Shock, anger, disbelief and tears. Children at Whitcliffe Mount school ran through a gamut of emotions as they digested the news that their MP, a frequent visitor and supporter, had been shot and stabbed to death.

Teachers grieving over the death of Jo Cox had to pick themselves up and find a way to comfort their students, some of whom had recently enjoyed a lively classroom debate with her. “The students looked for us for answers but at a time like this there is nothing to say … All we could do was support them and give them the opportunity to talk about it and support each other,” says Matthew McKirgan, business support manager at the 1,300-pupil comprehensive in Cleckheaton, West Yorkshire.

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All-academy future: the drive continues

Tue, 28/06/2016 - 06:40

In our diary: schools commissioners carry on converting; backlash as a ‘good’ school faces takeover. And Bright Tribe: accounting questions

Schools may not just be forced to become academies, they may have to become part of a multi-academy trust (Mat) too. That’s the message seemingly being given – before last week’s referendum verdict threw the whole of politics into uncertainty – to headteachers by England’s regional schools commissioners. These are the eight super-officials who, as we reported last time, seem to have been tasked with enforcing ministers’ vision of an all-academy future.

Reports reach us of this theme being conveyed by two more RSCs in recent days. At one meeting last week, we hear, a commissioner said: “It is no longer a question of why we should be moving towards a world of wholesale academisation, but how it will be best achieved.” The official then added that this will be “the world according to Mats”.

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Michelle Obama visits Liberia to push for children to stay in school

Tue, 28/06/2016 - 02:21

US first lady travels to Africa with her daughters, Malia and Sasha, to promote education

The US first lady, Michelle Obama, has visited a leadership camp for girls in Liberia where she urged teenagers in one of the world’s poorest countries to keep fighting to stay in school.

With her own teenage daughters joining her, Obama told the girls she was “just so thrilled to be here with you”.

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Exercise helps children learn, say experts

Mon, 27/06/2016 - 23:00

Brain development and long-term health benefit from vigorous activity at a young age, according to academics from eight countries

Pupils who do sport or physical activity during school hours do not see their learning or exam results suffer, experts say.

Even one session of an activity that raises children’s heart rate is good for both their brain and their education, according to a panel of 24 specialists in exercise from eight countries, including Britain.

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School pictures what its orchestra would look like minus EU students

Mon, 27/06/2016 - 17:52

Principal of Guildhall School of Music and Drama sends message to EU students that they remain welcome despite leave vote

Higher education faces the challenge of making it clear to overseas students that the UK is still a vibrant, tolerant and open country in spite of the vote to leave the EU, the principal of one of Europe’s leading conservatoires has said.

Before the vote, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama released striking photographs of its young symphony orchestra with and without EU students. In total, 49 of its 109 orchestra members come from other European Union countries.

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In a world of fear and loathing, we need art more than ever

Mon, 27/06/2016 - 14:38

Attempts to downgrade the importance of art in education are plain wrong. Creativity is transforming lives, and always will

This has been a grisly week, and the future looks rather a mess, so as light relief I’d like to report on something uplifting and beautiful I saw in London last week – an exhibition by artists working with the charity Intoart of ceramics, prints and paintings. It included a stunning 48-piece tiled frieze by Mawuena Kattah, full of energy, colour, wit, and all about who and what she loves. I stood gazing at it and listening to how she had done it – a very complex procedure using photos, stencils, transfers, tracings, ceramic tiles, firings, paintings and slips, and all the more adventurous because she’d never done ceramics before, and has a learning disability, like all of Intoart’s artists.

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How to teach ... UFOs

Mon, 27/06/2016 - 13:53

From flying saucers to alien life on other planets, our lessons will help you explore all things extra-terrestrial from the comfort of your classroom

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? If you have to ask, then – technically – it is an unidentified flying object (UFO), although not necessarily an alien craft. Saturday 2 July is World UFO day, when residents of Earth are encouraged to look skyward in search of unexpected items whizzing around. The date was chosen in honour of the first ever reported UFO sighting: US pilot Kenneth Arnold claimed to have seen nine objects flying in tandem on 24 June 1947 in Mount Rainier national park.

This year’s World UFO day was also chosen to mark the anniversary of the supposed UFO crash in Roswell – and is commemorated as a means of encouraging the US government to declassify its files on UFOs. It’s an intriguing subject, and one that works across the curriculum. So how can you explore it with your students?

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Universities will pay a high price now our future has been voted down | Peter Scott

Mon, 27/06/2016 - 12:05

Our EU exit will endanger the UK’s scientific capability and the liberal and cosmopolitan culture on campus

The unthinkable now has to be thought. The UK is abandoning Europe, which – let’s be honest – is what leaving the EU amounts to. That is going to be particularly tough for higher education. The overwhelming majority in colleges and universities, from overpaid vice-chancellors to debt-burdened students, was pro-Europe. The remain votes in Oxford and Cambridge, Brighton and Cardiff demonstrate that clearly enough. It was probably also the higher education vote that tipped the balance in cities like Leeds and Newcastle.

The great majority of informed opinion, the “experts” derided by the leave campaign (most shamefully by Michael Gove, a former education secretary), was also clear: the only rational decision was to stay in the EU. Nobel prize-winners, distinguished economists, the world-class scientists of whom we are so proud – they were (almost) of one voice.

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Universities have survived wars and dictatorships. They will survive this too

Mon, 27/06/2016 - 12:01
Despite the vote I remain an optimist – a cross-border European community of scholars predates the EU by centuries

The referendum will be regarded as a good day for Ukip and a bad day for British universities. But it is not as simple as that. Ukip is itself the child of a UK university. Its first leader, Alan Sked, was the LSE’s head of European studies. In that role, he convinced himself the EU was “mad, undemocratic, a waste of money, profligate, [and] a bad bargain for Britain both economically and politically”. A UK university begat Ukip, which begat Nigel Farage.

Nonetheless, strongly Eurosceptic views are rare in British higher education. In the referendum campaign there was a broad consensus in favour of remain among vice-chancellors, staff and students. This unity was a strength but also a weakness. Groupthink meant the pro-EU arguments were a little lazy, typically focusing on universities’ income rather than more outward-looking points. Moreover, the limited support for Brexit on campus prevented the arguments from being sharpened in the cut and thrust of open debate. In a recent poll by the Higher Education Policy Institute, one-quarter of students said Ukip members should be barred from campuses.

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Treasury of historic clothing revealed at Westminster Abbey

Mon, 27/06/2016 - 08:00

Undressing of royal and aristocratic funeral effigies for conservation work gives costume historians the chance to examine extraordinary collection

Poor King Charles II cuts a forlorn figure in Westminster Abbey, arms and chest stripped down to scrawny straw, sacking and wood, head gone just like his father – but his lower body is still covered in magnificent blue silk stockings, and a dainty pair of cream silk underpants, tied with a bow at the back.

“I’ve never seen anything quite like them – but there is no reason to think they are not original to the figure. There’s no proof that they actually belonged to Charles himself, but it’s certainly possible,” said textile conservator Zenzie Tinker.

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Putting power in the hands of parents

Mon, 27/06/2016 - 08:00

The establishment has one view of parent power – parents have another

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