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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: 18 hours 28 min ago

Education quality in English schools 'at risk from new funding formula'

20 hours 27 min ago

Scathing report of MPs’ committee finds children’s academic progress at risk as school heads work to attain £3bn saving

School funding cuts are threatening to undermine the quality of education in England’s classrooms, putting children’s academic progress at risk as head teachers struggle to find savings, finds a highly critical report.

MPs on the Commons public accounts committee (PAC) say schools in England are facing the most significant financial pressure since the mid-1990s, with school leaders having to find £3bn in savings by 2020.

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Nerd-shamers and perverts: why University Challenge is going viral

Tue, 28/03/2017 - 15:35

With his emphatic answering style, Eric Monkman is the latest contestant on the show to light up Twitter. But too often, the contestants are mocked for their eccentric brilliance – or worse, leched over

Eric Monkman – answering fast and fiercely to win a semi-final last night for Wolfson, Cambridge – has become the latest University Challenge contestant to go viral. Sharers were drawn to the Canadian economics student’s furrowed concentration-face from which he machine-guns answers at a pitch suggesting a fear that Jeremy Paxman, at 66, may be struggling to hear the answers.

Monkman joins previous fabled Cambridge reply-machines including Ralph Morley of Trinity, who correctly answered a question before Paxo had asked it; Ted Loveday of Caius, who won 10 opening 10-pointers in a single round; and Oscar Powell of Peterhouse, who, while trying to identify the singers on the hit song Je T’aime, performed a curious charade of a someone trying to remove gobbets of something from between his teeth and hide them in his ear or hair. Plus, there was Gail Trimble of Corpus Christi, Oxford, who got 15 starters for 10 in one show.

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Zander Wedderburn obituary

Tue, 28/03/2017 - 14:11

My mentor, the psychologist Zander Wedderburn, who has died aged 81, was an international authority on shiftwork who helped to overturn the conventional wisdom that workers should rotate shifts on a weekly basis. Instead he found that rapidly rotating shifts – say, two early, two late, two nights and three days off – were more acceptable because of the social flexibility they offer.

Zander was born Alexander Wedderburn in Edinburgh. His father, Innes, was auditor to the Court of Session, and his mother, also Innes (nee Jeans), was a housewife. After being the top pupil at Edinburgh Academy, Zander studied for an MA in psychology, philosophy and classics at Exeter College, Oxford in 1959. He gained a PhD from Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, after much of his research on night-work had already been published.

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Exam boards drop Israel-Palestine from syllabus as schools fight shy of conflict

Tue, 28/03/2017 - 08:09

Few schools now teach the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. A new project aims to persuade teachers of its importance and show there are two sides to every story

In 2014 history teacher Michael Davies took a group of his GCSE and A-level students on a field trip to Israel and Palestine. For the first half of the week they immersed themselves in the story of Israel and the tragedy of the Holocaust; for the second they visited the West Bank and played football with boys in a refugee camp. The trip was transformative for the students: “Their minds were wrenched round,” Davies says. “Suddenly they saw that there are two completely different ways of looking at things. That history is constructed and it’s often constructed with a purpose.”

For the students of Lancaster Royal Grammar school their study of the history of the Israel-Palestine conflict has been eye-opening and life-changing. But given trends in exam syllabuses, it’s not an experience many others are likely to share, as the subject quietly slips down the agenda of exam boards.

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Please, Sir – sit! The tale of a learning support dog

Tue, 28/03/2017 - 08:00
More and more schools now employ waggy-tailed staff to soothe students and even help teach them to read aloud

When litter at Huntington school in York got out of control recently, staff managed to sort it out pretty much overnight – not by replacing detentions with a mass litter pick, but by deploying their newest, cuddliest colleague: Rolo, the school dog.

They made a short video for assembly, showing what a state the playground was in. “Rubbish, isn’t it?” ran the caption, followed swiftly by: “Do you know what would be really rubbish? If Rolo had to leave because of rubbish.” This masterstroke of emotional blackmail showed the five-month old chocolate labrador chomping innocently on a fizzy drink bottle lid and sniffing a discarded foil wrapper, looking up to the camera with big brown eyes.

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Private fat cats have got rich on the sale of our schools | Michael Rosen

Tue, 28/03/2017 - 07:45

Councils have ‘maximised their assets’ by selling what is not theirs to dispose of

In the mid-1970s I worked at Vauxhall Manor school, a girls’ comprehensive in south London. Of the many special things going on, one sticks out in my mind: a group of teachers working across different subjects developed a “talk workshop”. They would come together to talk about the language the pupils used, the language they used in lessons, the language of text books and how these different ways of talking and writing met. One of the outcomes of this project was a book, Becoming Our Own Experts.

The sentimentalist in me loves it when the important things we say and do can be tied to buildings and landscape. I get a buzz when there is a flow between that “important thing” and now, in the very same place.

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Serota sets up commission to explore benefit of arts for children

Tue, 28/03/2017 - 00:01

Arts Council England chair seeks proposals to ensure pupils across UK get ‘opportunities currently only available in the best schools’

A major investigation into the best ways of nurturing creativity in young people is to be announced by the new chairman of Arts Council England, Sir Nicholas Serota.

Serota will use his first speech since beginning the job in February to announce the Durham commission on creativity and education.

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Children missing out on education at risk of abuse and exploitation

Tue, 28/03/2017 - 00:01

National Children’s Bureau calls on government to support ‘hidden’ young people who have dropped out of the schooling system

The government is being urged to identify and support thousands of “hidden” children and young people who drop out of school and disappear off the radar, leaving them at increased risk of abuse and exploitation.

The National Children’s Bureau (NCB), a leading children’s charity, says problems such as bullying, special educational needs, neglect and domestic violence at home, can cause a child to disappear from school for months, even years.

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New GCSEs: 'Only two pupils in England will get all top marks'

Mon, 27/03/2017 - 19:31

Senior education adviser’s tweeted prediction dismissed as unhelpful as schools prepare for tougher grading system

The chief analyst at the Department for Education (DfE) has estimated that just two pupils in England are likely to get all top grades in the new GCSEs being phased in from this summer.

In recent years, parents, pupils and teachers have become accustomed to a sizeable number of the highest-achieving students in the most academically successful schools gaining all straight A*s in their GCSE examinations.

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Could kindness, not lateness, be the key to improving pupils’ behaviour? | Letters

Mon, 27/03/2017 - 19:23

It is astonishing that Tom Bennett’s independent review of behaviour in English schools, commissioned by the government, refers only in passing to restorative practices (Headteachers accused of trying to cover up pupils’ bad behaviour, 25 March).

We need our schools to foster respect for others and this involves getting people – children, teachers and parents – to take responsibility for their actions and make amends for any harm caused. Such a restorative approach has been shown to be far more powerful in creating a positive school ethos than dishing out punishments.

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Will robolawyers price humans out of the game?

Mon, 27/03/2017 - 15:45

Interview: DoNotPay chatbot creator Joshua Browder, 20, says lawyers are charging too much for simple copy-and-paste jobs

Joshua Browder first made headlines last year with the success of his chatbot DoNotPay, designed to challenge parking fines as the “world’s first robot lawyer”.

Inspired by a brush with London traffic cops after he passed his driving test, Browder thought only a handful of his friends and others would use it. Three years since DoNotPay’s launch, it’s been used to challenge $5m worth of tickets in London and New York, and help more than 250,000 people. “I can’t believe it,” he says.

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Teachers: what do your students bring in for lunch?

Mon, 27/03/2017 - 12:30

A headteacher has exposed the awful packed lunches students get, including cold takeaways. We want to hear from parents and teachers about this

A school has written to parents advising them on what to bring in for lunch. It comes after their headteacher expressed concern over young people bringing in items such as cold McDonald’s takeaways and crisp sandwiches.

Jon Carthy the headteacher at Byron Primary School in Gillingham, Kent, wrote: “While extreme and funny to read on paper, I must make this clear THESE ARE NOT ACCEPTABLE examples of a balanced packed lunches.”

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Music education is now only for the white and the wealthy | Charlotte C Gill

Mon, 27/03/2017 - 08:40

Music lessons have become increasingly hard to access in schools. To enable more children to learn, we must stop teaching in such an academic way

Music education is deteriorating around the country. Despite the enormous contribution of the music industry to the UK economy, with the creative industries overall estimated to generate £85bn net a year to GDP, the government remains placid about its importance in schools. The Conservatives are too focused on the English baccalaureate, introduced to boost the number of students studying science and languages, to care.

This is a great shame, as research has shown the huge benefits that music brings to children’s happiness and learning. Interestingly, the government does care about psychological development in schools, and recently announced plans to trial mental health training for pupils, but it has not dawned on politicians that this, and more, can be achieved through the arts.

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Educating a nation of careless tea-drinkers: archive, 27 March 1958

Mon, 27/03/2017 - 05:30

27 March 1958: Concerned by falling standards, the Tea Bureau is introducing school lessons in how to make the perfect brew

Still far ahead of coffee, its nearest rival, the ritual of tea-drinking remains a firm and hallowed part of the English scene. In places it has degenerated into the tea-break and often it comes out of an urn.

If the ceremonial has occasionally been relaxed, however, the rate of consumption has shown no signs of falling off since the war. Last year we drank, or at any rate brewed (a word sanctioned by the Tea Bureau) the equivalent of 10 pounds of tea per head of the population. That is, 500 million pounds; and Lancashire drank at the highest rate.

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Women make up less than a quarter of UK boardrooms

Mon, 27/03/2017 - 05:00

The number of female boards members is on the rise but still a long way from achieving equality with men

Despite the fears of Tesco chair John Allan that men are becoming an “endangered species” in boardrooms, the majority of UK company directors are still male and pale.

And while women’s presence in the boardroom has grown over the past four years, according to our research at the Directory of Social Change, their positions tend to be non-executive and it’s still a rare company that has a female chair or CEO.

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Apprenticeship levy will deepen north-south divide, IPPR says

Mon, 27/03/2017 - 00:01

Thinktank’s analysis suggests new £3bn levy on larger employers will raise less money and have smaller impact on areas that need it most

The government’s new £3bn apprenticeship levy threatens to deepen Britain’s north-south divide, according to a new analysis, with London and the south-east benefiting most from the government’s shakeup of staff training.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has warned that the apprenticeship levy, which comes into force next month, will raise less money and have a smaller impact in the areas that need it most. These areas are those that have been hit by deindustrialisation and suffer from low levels of qualifications, low productivity and low pay.

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Mental health problems rife among teenagers but teachers lack skills to help

Sun, 26/03/2017 - 01:05
Four in five 12- to 16-year-olds experience ‘emotional distress’

The vast majority of teenagers say they experience “emotional distress” after starting secondary school but claim teachers don’t have the skills to help them, research has found.

Four in every five 12- to 16-year-olds in the survey said they felt they had mental health problems but just one in 20 would turn to a teacher for help if they felt depressed, anxious, stressed or emotionally unable to cope.

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Secret Teacher: we're afraid to use unions, but we must stand together

Sat, 25/03/2017 - 08:00

Colleagues accept workplace bullying and excessive workloads. We need to pluck up the courage to ask for support

I grew up surrounded by political and union activism. My grandparents passed down the ideal that I had an unspoken right to be part of a movement that would defend me as a worker and as a human. But when I joined my current school, I was wooed by a conviction that we “do not need the union here”.

Now I have come to feel that speaking to or involving a trade union in any school matter is sealing the deal on your marching orders. There is no union representative at my school, and in my naivety I felt that this was proof that they were truly not needed here. I was told that if any issues were raised, they were better dealt with internally by management.

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Behaviour is a national problem in schools in England, review finds

Fri, 24/03/2017 - 17:15

Headteachers have ‘perverse incentives’ to hold back on poor conduct in their schools for better Ofsted ratings, government adviser says in his report

Schools have a national behaviour problem and there are “perverse incentives” for headteachers to paint their school in the best light, according to the government’s behaviour tsar.

Poor conduct remains a significant issue for many schools in England, and there needs to be better ways available to help tackle the problem, Tom Bennett, who advises the government on behaviour issues, said in a report.

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Segregated schools persist because parents maintain the divide | Lola Okolosie

Fri, 24/03/2017 - 13:30
Integration is presented as an obligation for others, mainly Muslims. No wonder many parents choose not to send their children to ethnically mixed schools

In the wake of Wednesday’s horrific terrorist attack, the prevailing sentiment is that we defeat such hatred by emphasising our unity. It is a heartening response to such a catastrophe, but how do we realise such cohesion when so many communities are divided along race, class and religious lines?

That people from different backgrounds are leading “parallel lives” has been a recurring concern for successive governments. This may not be the term used by authors of a new report on segregation in schools in England, but it is, nevertheless, what comes to mind as we read their stark findings. More than a quarter of primary schools are ethnically segregated with the figure jumping to a depressing 40% when we look to secondary schools. When it comes to class, the report, carried out by iCoCo Foundation, SchoolDash and The Challenge, finds that nearly a third of all primary schools are segregated along socio-economic lines.

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