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Observer Ethical Awards 2015 winners: Anna Watson

Thu, 02/07/2015 - 22:00

Anna Watson, winner of the Green Briton of the Year award sponsored by Ecotricity, on her ‘Run on Sun’ campaign to get solar panels into schools

Anna Watson’s Run on Sun campaign lets schools across the UK harness the clean, renewable energy beaming down on their roofs. “Every school should be able to go solar if they want to,” she says. “Children understand these issues so easily, and they say: ‘Of course we need to look after our environment.’”

In fact it was her own biology teacher’s lessons on climate change that inspired Watson to join Greenpeace as a teenager, starting a lifetime of campaigning. She then became involved in action against genetically modified food and other green issues while studying ecology at university in Lancaster.

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Observer Ethical Awards 2015 winners: Andover Trees United

Thu, 02/07/2015 - 22:00

Some of the students who have helped Andover Trees United become this year’s Young Green Champions, sponsored by Ecover

“Mighty oaks from little acorns grow” is a phrase nobody understands better than Andover Trees United. Established in 2011 by teacher Wendy Davis, the project’s aim was to ensure that every young person in the Hampshire town and surrounding area planted a tree in their school nursery bed, later moving it to a dedicated woodland space. “We wanted it to be something that would bring together the community,” says Oonagh Pope, 63, a retired teacher who helped Davis plant the very first batch of saplings at Portway Junior School. Since then 4,000 trees have been planted in Andover’s seven-acre Harmony Wood, and things show no sign of slowing down.

More than 25 Andover schools are currently involved in the scheme, with children ranging from primary to sixth-form level. Although nothing would have been possible without a strong team of school support gardeners, the children have been an essential part of the process, mucking in on everything from logo design to seeking out the newest planting spots. Sebastian Duff, 11, regularly gives presentations and attends meetings to engage more children in the project. “I know how much impact it has on the climate,” he says. “This is a project for kids, and we’re very motivated by it.”

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How to get poor pupils into the best state schools? Smash the glass floor | Gaby Hinsliff

Thu, 02/07/2015 - 20:19
Heads of selective schools, like Adams’ Grammar in Shropshire, know that professional parents often raise their kids higher than their talents deserve – so keeping other kids out

Every year, at the beginning of July, hundreds of boys converge on Gary Hickey’s school to sit an exam that only about one in six will pass. And every year the headmaster gets a somewhat disturbing insight into the things some parents will do to ensure their child gets the golden ticket.

It’s not at all unusual, apparently, when the bigger cars roll up to the gate, to spot personal tutors in the back, pushing their 10-year-old charges through one last 11-plus test paper. Parents whose children fail to get into this popular state grammar despite such cramming will often ring Hickey in tears; once a mother demanded that he write a formal letter berating her child for having failed, and expressing his disappointment that the child had not worked harder. (Thankfully, she got short shrift).

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Russian university fires US academic accused of harming national interests

Thu, 02/07/2015 - 18:35

Lobachevsky University’s former vice-rector Kendrick White leaves country after state TV accuses him of being part of western fifth column

A United States citizen has been fired as vice-rector of a Russian university and has left the country after state television suggested he was harming national interests, joining a growing number of foreign specialists to face pressure amid anti-western rhetoric.

Lobachevsky State University of Nizhny Novgorod said in a statement that its vice-rector for innovation, Kendrick White, had been relieved of his duties as part of a “restructuring of the management system”. Colleagues quoted by the Kommersant newspaper said White, who is also the chief executive of the Russia-focused investment consultancy Marchmont Capital Partners, had flown to Florida.

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Universities leader rejects Jo Johnson criticism of standards

Thu, 02/07/2015 - 16:47

Russel Group chair Sir David Eastwood says minister’s claims are not borne out by student surveys, and predicts tuition fees will have to rise

Today’s students work hard and demand top-quality teaching rather than “coasting” through soft degree courses as suggested by ministers, according to the UK’s most senior university leader.

Sir David Eastwood, the vice-chancellor of Birmingham University and chair of the Russell Group of leading research institutions, rejected criticism from the higher education minister, Jo Johnson, who said British universities were guilty of grade inflation and failed to offer value for money.

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Girls' education will only make the grade when intuition gives way to information | Julia Bunting

Thu, 02/07/2015 - 14:26

With education increasingly in the global spotlight, research must be undertaken to pinpoint the factors that cause girls to struggle or drop out


Schools have the potential to transform girls’ lives, unlocking the door to future opportunities, better health and greater autonomy. But in many places, schooling falls short of that aspiration.

In May, global educators gathered at the World Education Forum in Korea to agree on a post-2015 global education agenda. In June, the US first lady Michelle Obama visited the UK to help launch a UK/US partnership that will invest nearly $200m (£128m) in supporting girls’ education in countries affected by conflict, starting with the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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Higher Education in Africa: Our continent needs science, not aid

Thu, 02/07/2015 - 10:47

The founder of Africa’s first drug discovery and development centre explains why scientific research is key to unlocking the continent’s potential

The continent of Africa suffers a crippling disease burden, which continues to choke economic growth in addition to causing high morbidity and mortality. It is therefore vital for Africans to contribute to finding solutions to their health problems. The discovery and development of new medicines in Africa led by Africans is essential to that.

Long-term sustainable provision of new affordable medicines in Africa can only be ensured through committed investments in research and development (R&D) through African-led local and international public-private partnerships so that risks, and not just benefits, are shared. Africa needs science, not aid.

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Get a job or get out: the tough reality for international students

Thu, 02/07/2015 - 10:21

Visa controls make life difficult for international students who want to stay in the UK after graduation

International students account for almost a fifth (18%) of those in higher education, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa). However, unlike their British and EU-national peers, non-EU students have only four months after the end of their course to find a job, or they face deportation.

Most non-EU graduates go home after their studies, but of those who want to work in the UK, many apply for a Tier 2 visa. To be eligible for a Tier 2 visa:

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Microsoft launches site for teachers taking Minecraft into the classroom

Thu, 02/07/2015 - 09:31

Minecraft in Education portal aims to get educators sharing tips on how Mojang’s popular game can be used to teach children

Millions of children are already playing Minecraft at home, whether on computers, consoles or mobile devices. Now the game’s parent company Microsoft wants to encourage more teachers to use it in the classroom.

Microsoft, which bought the game’s developer Mojang for $2.5bn in 2014, has launched a new site aimed at teachers, aiming to foster a community of educators swapping lesson plans and other tips based on Minecraft.

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Apprenticeships: it's quality, not numbers that matter

Thu, 02/07/2015 - 07:35

Limited funding and an arbitrary target to recruit 3,000,000 apprentices could undermine attempts to raise the reputation of professional education

Apprenticeships have been thrust centre stage by the new government. In May, it was revealed in the Queen’s speech that – much like the title “university” – the word apprenticeship will become a protected term. The aim is to prevent low-quality schemes being described as apprenticeships when they are really just short-term training rebadged.

Many people still struggle to understand the difference between training and education

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Teachers share their top 10 summer reads

Thu, 02/07/2015 - 07:00

With July finally upon us it’s time to plan what books you want to devour in the school holidays. Our teachers recommend their favourites

  • Add your suggestions in the comments thread or via @GuardianTeach

As we usher in the start of July, the summer holidays feel palpably close. With the promise of escape from school just around the corner, it’s time to start planning how to spend the new-found freedom – and there’s no better way of doing this than by getting stuck into a good book.

To help you decide what to read over the holidays we’ve asked teachers to recommend their favourite fact, fiction, tomes and novels. Here’s what was suggested. Keep ideas coming by adding your favourites in the comments thread below or recommend a title via @GuardianTeach using #summerreads.

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Degree classifications must change to stop students 'coasting', says minister

Wed, 01/07/2015 - 18:42

With more than 70% of graduates now leaving university with a first or upper second, Jo Johnson says additional grade point average is needed

The universities minister, Jo Johnson, has called for changes to degree classifications, claiming that 2:1s are now so common that they allow some students to “coast” and still get one.

The minister said the facts were startling, with a 300% increase in firsts since the 1990s. More than 70% of all graduates now leave university with a first or 2:1, compared with 47% in the 90s and up by 7% in the past five years alone.

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Universities must prove they are excellent at teaching, minister says

Wed, 01/07/2015 - 16:11

An national audit of the teaching offered at universities will provide more information to future students and help drive up standards

Universities will have to show they are providing high quality teaching and giving value for money under plans outlined by the new science and universities minister, Jo Johnson.

A national audit of the teaching offered at universities – based on “outcome-focused criteria and metrics” such as graduate earnings – will provide more information to future students, the minister said on Wednesday.

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Students Express: share your spoken word videos

Wed, 01/07/2015 - 14:22

Young people and students: we’d like to see your spoken word videos on the theme of heat

Here at Guardian Students, we aim to provide a platform for a wide range of student and young voices. Students use our Blogging Students section to talk about everything from school feminist societies to spiked drinks.

But we know that not all young people are writers by nature. While you may have plenty to say, you might not want to express it through carefully crafted blogs. That’s why we’ve launched Students Express – a new way for you to showcase your work on the Guardian. We’ll be inviting submissions around a variety of themes and plan to compile some of the best ones into galleries and articles on the Guardian site.

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Ofsted inspectors rate two more free schools as inadequate

Wed, 01/07/2015 - 12:17

Latest reports mean a quarter of the 93 mainstream free schools inspected so far have been found to be inadequate or requiring improvement

Two of the government’s new free schools have been classed as inadequate by Ofsted inspectors, highlighting flaws in the quality of teaching and learning as well as failings in the schools’ leadership and pupil behaviour.

The Ofsted reports for Robert Owen Academy, a secondary school in Hereford and St Anthony’s primary school in Gloucestershire came as the education secretary, Nicky Morgan, told a conference in London: “The soft bigotry of low expectation has no place in today’s schooling.”

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10 ways social science research has changed our lives – interactive

Wed, 01/07/2015 - 11:17

As the Economic and Social Research Council celebrates its 50th anniversary, we pick out 10 pivotal moments in the social sciences over the past five decades that have had an impact on society and the way we think. Click on the research to scroll through the timeline

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Meet the man who has trained more British journalists than anyone else

Wed, 01/07/2015 - 10:11

After 38 years, David English is about to step down from his role at Cardiff’s School of Journalism. Here he takes a look back at journalism over the last four decades

As he retires from his role as newspaper director at Cardiff University’s School of Journalism, David English, reflects on his 38-year career which has seen him teach more British newspaper journalists than any other person. Here he’s interviewed by by the head of Cardiff’s School of Journalism and former director of news at BBC Global, Richard Sambrook, (also one of his first students) about his career, his observations, and his outlook for the future of print journalism.

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Student social workers: 'I'm deeply concerned about the future'

Wed, 01/07/2015 - 08:30

Five students share their thoughts and concerns on entering the challenging profession as the Tory government threatens those within it with prison

On the MA social work course at the University of Sussex we train dedicated young people to join a profession often in the forefront of political change and never far from the headlines. In the aftermath of the recent election, one of the very first comments made to me by a student was “Are we all going to be sent to prison now?

Our students are concerned by how the profession they are entering will be challenged in the next few years and what the personal toll will be for them. Nevertheless, they remain passionately committed and ready to face the trials which becoming social workers may bring. Most of all, they want a voice – a way of speaking back to the many accounts of social work which flourish in the media and politics. In this piece, five students give personal accounts of their motivations to become social workers and their apprehensions for the future.

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Government policy will seal the mouths of Muslim pupils | Owen Jones

Wed, 01/07/2015 - 08:00

Legislation to tackle radicalisation runs the risk of silencing and alienating children in our classrooms

If you care about children’s development and combating extremism, this is a story that should alarm you. A teacher at a London state school largely catering for Muslim girls runs an activity each week: pupils suggest items in the news to talk about, and the class has a discussion. But a week after the Charlie Hebdo atrocity, nobody brought it up. When the teacher spoke to students, she found out why: “Our mothers told us, ‘Don’t talk about that – they’ll put us on a register.’”

The teacher in the story didn’t think any of her students would have said they supported the terrorists, but thought some students might have said drawing the prophet Muhammad should be illegal; others might have felt less strongly. But the opportunity to have the discussion was lost because these pupils thought they would be criminalised.

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Five useful ways teachers can help pupils transition to secondary school

Wed, 01/07/2015 - 07:00

Assistant headteacher Vicky Horne shares her tips on how to make the move from primary to secondary education seamless for nervous young students

There it sits in pride of place on every mantelpiece: the perennial snapshot of a nervous 11-year-old in an oversized uniform, smiling for the camera but not quite ready for their first day at secondary school.

It’s a huge responsibility for primary and secondary teachers, who must make sure the transition is as smooth as possible. As an assistant head in a secondary school and lead on transition, I’ve seen a lot of students go through it. So, as the new school year approaches and with many primary teachers getting their young charges ready for the next step, here are a few reflections on what works well:

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