Pay close attention to who our children are – not who we want them to be | Lucy Clark

The Guardian Unlimited - Mon, 27/06/2016 - 06:37

My daughter’s unexpected struggle with one-size-fits-all schooling became an article and then a book on our vanishingly narrow concept of success

I never really went in for the concept of learning from one’s children. Every time a celebrity with a freshly baked newborn would gush about how much the little bundle had taught them I would roll my eyes and think oh, come on! Not only did this half-blind creature not ask to be brought into the world, they have to provide you, the parent, with all the answers too? What a burden.

It’s supposed to be the other way round, right? Fill the empty vessels with your hard-won wisdom, teach them well, watch them tick off their milestones at the mandated moments, mould them into strictly regulated versions of oneself, and look forward to a life of martyrdom and smug pride in your supreme parental efficacy. This is the program.

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Indian police arrest schoolgirl in exam cheating scandal

The Guardian Unlimited - Mon, 27/06/2016 - 03:10

Seventeen-year-old who got best mark in the state detained by authorities after it emerged she couldn’t spell ‘political science’

Police have arrested a schoolgirl in north-east India for allegedly cheating during exams that saw her come top in the state.

Authorities in the impoverished state of Bihar have come under intense pressure to crack down on cheating this year during crucial school-leaving exams sat by hundreds of thousands of students.

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York University pays student £1,000 over antisemitic abuse

The Guardian Unlimited - Sun, 26/06/2016 - 16:48

Zachary Confino will also receive a public apology after two years of abuse that he says ruined his university experience

A student at York University is to receive a public apology and £1,000 from the student union for antisemitic abuse he was subjected to during his studies.

Zachary Confino, a law student and former treasurer of the student union, said the university had done very little over two years when he was called a “Jewish prick”, an “Israeli twat” and subjected to an anonymous social media comment that Hitler was “on to something”. The payment is believed to be the first of its kind by a UK university.

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On the frontline of integration: how Swedish schools are helping refugees

The Guardian Unlimited - Sun, 26/06/2016 - 08:00

Educators are trialling a range of initiatives to ensure newly arrived children do not fall through the gaps and all schools bear the pressure equally

Botkyrka, a municipality just south of Sweden’s capital, Stockholm, is full of contrasts. The massive apartment complexes in the area’s northern suburbs, where most refugees and migrants settle, are a far cry from the airy wooden villas just 15 minutes away. The area’s schools are similarly divided; while some teach large numbers of children from non-Swedish backgrounds, others have few or none in their classes.

This contrast is becoming more stark. Of roughly 163,000 migrants who applied for asylum in Sweden in 2015, more than 70,000 of them were children. Half of those children arrived in the country alone. Swedish law stipulates that refugee children should be offered a school placement within a month of arriving – so far just 4% of schools have taken a third of the newly arrived pupils. It is feared that with some schools taking more of the strain than others, young people in the country are becoming segregated.

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Nostalgic elderly Brexiters have stolen my future | Sara Abbasi

The Guardian Unlimited - Sun, 26/06/2016 - 00:08

The strong connection I have with the EU is a result of my academic choices, predominantly due to the opportunities offered to UK students like me

The future of the younger generation in the UK has been decided against their wishes. A nostalgic older generation has shaken my identity and I no longer fully understand what it means to be British. The number of students wanting to pursue opportunities in another EU country is likely to decline; it remains unclear whether or not future generations will even have the opportunities that were made available to me, which moulded me into an outward-looking, inquisitive and ambitious British citizen.

During my undergraduate studies, I was one of the only students who belonged to a BAME background on my languages course. I would often be asked why I chose to study a languages degree and I’d always proudly explain that the UK was a part of the EU and that we needed to learn to work closely with our neighbours and maintain friendly relations – by studying about their history, their cultures, their languages.

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Stand up for the arts in schools, say children’s laureates

The Guardian Unlimited - Sun, 26/06/2016 - 00:07
Observer cartoonist explains the need for action by writers and illustrators for children

Children’s fiction sections of bookshelves are stalked by imaginary giants and superheroes. But these books have also given Britain a succession of real-life literary giants, from Lewis Carroll to Roald Dahl.

Now a group of leading modern-day titans of the field, the eight former children’s laureates, have joined forces with the current holder of the post, Chris Riddell, to create one formidable force.

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Despite the lack of resources we need a commitment to the arts in schools that reflects their value | Stephanie Merritt

The Guardian Unlimited - Sun, 26/06/2016 - 00:05
Despite the lack of resources we need a commitment to creativity in schools that reflects its value

In 2006, the 84-year-old Kurt Vonnegut wrote a letter to a class of schoolchildren who had asked him to visit. He was too ill to travel, but offered them instead the following lesson for life: “Practise any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.”

Beautiful advice, certainly; there’s no question that access to art and literature, and the opportunity to explore creative expression, can broaden young people’s outlook, boost their confidence and encourage empathy and curiosity about the wider world. Middle-class parents have always known this; it’s why their children are signed up for MiniMozart groups and pre-school Mandarin classes before they can walk. Being “cultured” opens doors even if you don’t pursue a career in the arts; private schools know this and usually offer a rich and varied extracurricular programme of artistic activities. But Vonnegut’s exhortation is not so easy to follow for young people who have little opportunity or guidance when it comes to the arts.

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'I don't like where the UK is going' – students share their feelings about Brexit

The Guardian Unlimited - Sat, 25/06/2016 - 07:00

Young people – especially students – overwhelmingly voted to remain in the European Union. So how do they feel now that the country has opted to leave?

Britain’s exit from the European Union raises lots of questions for students. How will the vote affect their chances of getting a decent job after graduation? What will happen to the funding that’s available to EU undergraduates? Will UK students still be able to take part in study abroad programmes? And what does all this mean for research funding and postgraduates? The mood is one of uncertainty.

Most university students are aged 18-24, a cohort that polling data suggests was firmly in the remain camp, with 75% preferring to stay in the EU. So how do they feel about today’s result?

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Secret Teacher: restraining pupils is humiliating – for everyone

The Guardian Unlimited - Sat, 25/06/2016 - 07:00

Physical restraint is degrading and ineffective: the techniques are inept, and guidance on when to use them is ambiguous

I have been summoned from my classroom to relieve a colleague. When I come across the incident in the corridor, I see two teachers restraining a pupil on the floor. One of them is tiring and needs to be swapped, by me. We go through the procedure of disentangling limbs until I slide into the classic “figure four” restraint – my right arm threaded under the pupil’s, with my left hand clasping my own forearm and my right leg crossed over his at the ankle.

Pleased I have managed to remember the complicated human origami, I now look at the teenage boy who needs to be controlled in such a humiliating manner. I know him well – I have taught him for a while in our specialist autism unit. He has learning and communication difficulties and a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome. There have also been problems at home.

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The student experience — then and now

The Guardian Unlimited - Fri, 24/06/2016 - 14:51

Has university life changed beyond recognition for a new generation of undergraduates or is it the same as it ever was? Five parents compare their own experiences with their children’s

Long gone but not forgotten are those carefree student days of shared showers, derelict rental properties and parties where the booze always ran out before midnight. Being a student was quite a privilege in the good old days when local authorities and the government footed the bill and there was almost certainly a job at the end of it.

In the early 1960s, only 4% of school leavers went to university, rising to around 14% by the end of the 1970s. Nowadays, more than 40% of young people start undergraduate degrees – but it comes at a cost. Today’s students leave with debts of £40,000 and upwards to pay back over their working lives.

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The plus points of work placements

The Guardian Unlimited - Fri, 24/06/2016 - 14:51

Courses with a placement year offer valuable experience and a better chance of getting full-time work following graduation. No wonder they are proving popular

You’re two-thirds of the way through your degree, ready for the final push, so what do you do? Go and work for a year, of course. Sandwich courses, a year in industry, or a placement year come under different names and guises but are basically the same thing: a chance to gain valuable, practical and often paid experience with the opportunity to make contacts that could lead to full-time employment. The vast majority of placements start immediately after the second year.

Such courses are proving popular, and universities have now broadened their offering to include time in work not just for business degrees but engineering, science subjects, languages and some humanities. They are made all the more attractive as employers will pay up to around £17,000 for the right person.

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Can a relationship survive when university calls?

The Guardian Unlimited - Fri, 24/06/2016 - 14:50

Students in relationships heading off to different universities may find it hard to strike an easy balance between studying and seeing their partner

Life’s big decisions don’t always come easy. And matters of the heart can play heavy when it comes to choosing a university. Having struck up a relationship in the sixth form, it’s not surprising some students are hesitant to break ties and head in different directions.

For parents, there’s also a fine line between head and heart. Jan Waller, from Birmingham, wanted her son to be happy, but thought his travelling home every weekend would impede his studies. “Jim was having doubts about his relationship,” she says, “but it was important he made up his own mind, so although I stayed supportive and talked the situation through with him, I tried hard not to tell him what to do. In the end they agreed to part and see how it goes. That seemed to satisfy them both. They can always get back together if things are meant to be.”

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Applications welcome from disabled and special needs students

The Guardian Unlimited - Fri, 24/06/2016 - 14:49

All are judged on academic merit, and universities have a duty to meet their needs, so disabled or special needs applicants should not be discouraged

Students with disabilities or special educational needs should not be afraid to follow their dream of a university degree. Disabled students are entitled to be judged on academic merit in the same way as others, and given extra support.

No one says it is easy to live independently, study and take a part in student life if you need walking aids, breathing equipment or machines to help you decipher the material. But each year in the UK, hundreds of disabled students attend graduation ceremonies and are planning the next step in their lives.

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Ways to stretch a student budget

The Guardian Unlimited - Fri, 24/06/2016 - 14:48

Living on a tight budget can be tricky, but with student union advisers on hand to help and hardship funds to tide you over, most financial hiccups can be avoided

Budget blues can affect the best-prepared student. Loans may not arrive on time, a parent may lose their job or be unable to work, or a landlord can raise the rent unexpectedly. And, of course, first-years can spend well beyond their limit early on and leave themselves with little to eke out the rest of the term.

Most, if not all, universities and student unions provide student advisers and hardship funds to tide students over until they can sort out their finances. But it’s important to approach the right person for help. Andrea Simpson, a money adviser at a northern university, says students should see their student union (SU) adviser first rather than the university finance officer, whose priority is getting in income, not student welfare.

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How much will university cost?

The Guardian Unlimited - Fri, 24/06/2016 - 14:47

Putting a child through university is expensive, which is why it makes sense to know all the costs involved, the funding available and the money-saving deals

University is a large, long-term investment for both students and parents. Good reason, then, for some judicious shopping around universities, courses and accommodations to obtain best value for money.

Annual tuition fees up to £9,000 for state-funded institutions get paid direct to universities in the form of a loan, which students start to repay monthly after graduation once they earn over £21,000.

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Dealing with empty nest syndrome

The Guardian Unlimited - Fri, 24/06/2016 - 14:47

It’s a difficult adjustment for most parents once their children have left home. Here we offer advice on how to cope with the feeling of loss

You’ve looked after them for 18 years through the good times and the bad. You’ve been a teacher, mentor, confidant, taxi service, chief cook and bottle washer and now they have gone. There’s a strange stillness around the home as you take down the to-do list.

You miss them, of course, but university terms are short and the holidays long so, you can get the best of both worlds. There’s more time to spend on yourself, your partner and friends and, before long, the children are back for reading week or Christmas as young adults with a new appreciation of home comforts.

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Choosing student accommodation

The Guardian Unlimited - Fri, 24/06/2016 - 14:46

First-year students face a choice of where to live: the parental home, a hall of residence or a privately rented flat. We consider the pros and cons

The bright lights of London may seem appealing, but students soon notice they’re paying a price for the privilege. The cost of accommodation in the capital can seriously dent any loan, so it’s no wonder – according to 2014-15 figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency – almost a quarter of students choose to live at home with mum and dad.

The benefits of living in the parental home include a full fridge, dirty washing sorted, the comfort and support of your family, and debts increasing more slowly. Living in halls or a flat is a luxury some students simply can’t afford.

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Leaving home and starting university

The Guardian Unlimited - Fri, 24/06/2016 - 14:45

Moving away from home and living and studying independently can be a big step for young people – and their parents. Here we offer some guidance on adapting to university life

Almost half a million first-year students will be packing their bags this September and waving goodbye. While university is now seen as a rite of passage for many sixth-formers, it’s not just seeing them off safely that concerns parents.

It’s natural to want young adults to cope well with the changes and demands of a new independent life; after the comforts of home and the structure of school, university can be unnerving even for the most confident.

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Making best use of university open days

The Guardian Unlimited - Fri, 24/06/2016 - 14:45

A visit is essential for you to scope out the campus and meet current students, so you can base your decision on more than just the university’s prospectus

Open days are your chance to get behind the cleverly angled photos on university websites and get a feel for the place. They are usually tightly structured, so it helps to work out in advance what you want to see and the sessions you plan to attend.

Parents and friends are welcome to accompany applicants and most universities put on separate sessions for parents while their children take part in other activities, such as mock lectures and subject talks. Accommodation tours are always very popular, so book one in advance or as soon as you get there. Subject talks are very important and provide a chance to find out such things as the number of teaching hours, seminar sizes and the weighting of marks given to exams, project work, timed essays or presentations.

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How to write your personal statement

The Guardian Unlimited - Fri, 24/06/2016 - 14:44

University applicants will need to write a personal statement. But what should you write and how do you strike the right note? Here we offer some advice on what tutors like to see

The personal statement is the part of the application form where students can “sell” themselves to admission tutors. Applicants must write up to 4,000 characters, or 47 lines, to convince universities to offer them a place. But finding the right tone is tricky. Boasting is out, modesty is self-defeating and trying to be funny can be dangerous. No wonder that applicants turn to family and teachers for advice. But are they getting the right guidance?

A study by the Sutton Trust found that the academic focus of the personal statement is not always understood by teachers, who tended to praise general passages about subjects. The tutors liked to see more detailed discussion and analysis of particular aspects of the subject that had caught the student’s interest and made them think.

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