Carol Cadwalladr argues that electing Oxbridge graduates does not guarantee we get the most able politicians because of a selection process that is biased towards a privately educated elite (Whatever the party, our political elite is an Oxbridge club, 25 August). She is implying that we need the most academically successful to rule us. Criteria for access to higher education focus mainly on academic ability and do not usually require evidence of good communication skills, empathy, openness, holding principled beliefs, etc. These latter skills are usually honed by life experience after education and in particular by the experience of managing others in wider society. So those going straight from double-firsts to parliamentary research or special adviserships don’t get the chance to develop the skills I would consider essential in the people who lead us.
• Congratulations for publishing Carole Cadwalladr’s excellent piece admitting that an out-of-touch Oxbridge, private-school elite runs our country. I have a suggestion to start making parliament more representative. Anyone wanting to be an MP should have to have been “ordinarily resident” (live and work) in the constituency they wish to represent for at least five years before the date of the election, or “ordinarily resident” in the constituency for at least 10 years at some earlier stage. Those attending boarding schools, such as Eton, would count as ordinarily resident at school. At a stroke our parliamentarians would not be so dominated by Oxbridge and the private schools and would be more representative of the communities they are supposed to speak for.
North Shields, North Tyneside
Department of Education statistics show great disparity between different school types, with mainstream free schools far behind other state institutions
Children finished primary school in England this summer better equipped than ever before, after official figures showed a further improvement in the results of national tests in literacy and mathematics taken by 11-year-olds.
Some 81% of pupils at mainstream state primary schools passed key stage two tests and assessments in reading, writing and mathematics, reaching the government’s benchmark of level four, indicating they are ready to start secondary school.Continue reading...
With her bullet-repelling bracelets and unbreakable golden lasso which forces villains to tell the truth, she has been a force for good for over 70 years.
University staff and students share their advice – from flexible timetables to meet-up groups
Mature students often prove to be highly motivated learners but returning to education a few years after leaving school is fraught with pressures. Older students often take on part-time work to pay for their studies, while balancing university work with family responsibilities. Others may have given up a career to go back to study and can’t commit to a carefree undergraduate lifestyle. Are universities doing enough then to support these a-typical students?
Mature learners remain a significant part of the student body, with more than 100,000 accepting a university places across the UK this year, but the numbers have taken a hit since the introduction of the higher tuition fees. The latest Ucas figures showed a 1% drop in older students taking up places this year in England – a continuing downward trend.Continue reading...
In 2005 the city enacted radical education reform, turning its worst-performing public schools into an educational marketplace of sorts run by charter operators – but locals remain wary of its aims even as performance has improved
To Ashana Bigard, a mother of three, the New Orleans public school system seems built on instability. Her 22-year-old daughter switched high schools three times before passing the GED exam and going to college. Bigard’s eight-year-old, meanwhile, has already attended three different elementary schools – one run directly by the local school board, another a charter school under that same board’s umbrella, and a third overseen by the Recovery School District (RSD), the state construct that has come to govern most public education in post-Katrina New Orleans.
“They just got beaten down,” Bigard said of her children. “Whether [the school system] is better or not, I don’t know … I’ve seen too many fishy things. I don’t trust the current numbers.”Continue reading...
My friend Richard Callanan, who has died aged 70 after a fall, made important contributions to two great educational endeavours: making TV programmes for the Open University and co-ordinating groups for the University of the Third Age (U3A).
He was a maker of arts programmes for the Open University between 1969 and 1979; and among those he recruited to appear in OU productions were Patrick Stewart and Ben Kingsley. Richard was largely responsible for the famous appearance of Max Wall as Vladimir opposite Leo McKern as Estragon in Waiting for Godot in 1977. He went on to become well known too as a producer and director of children’s programmes: in 1990 he won a Bafta as producer of the BBC series Maid Marian and Her Merry Men; and in 1993 a second for Archer’s Goon.Continue reading...
Shakira Martin learned her business skills from dealing drugs, broke free from an abusive relationship, and found her feet at Lewisham College. Now she’s vice-president of the NUS
“I don’t do facts and figures,” Shakira Martin warns me from across the boardroom table of her new offices at the National Union of Students (NUS). “I am the facts and the figures. When I talk I just say it as it is.”
Martin’s straight-talking swagger might go some way to explaining her unlikely rise through the ranks of the NUS – where she was recently elected vice-president of further education. The antidote to the white, middle-class, aspiring Labour MPs who traditionally lead the organisation, 27-year-old Martin was one of nine siblings raised in Lewisham by Jamaican parents, and admits that the first time she ran in an election, she didn’t even know what one was.
Spa days, TV marathons and denial. Here’s how our teaching community cope with the end of the summer holidays
The all-to-brief respite of the summer holidays is almost over and, whether you spent your vacation lounging in beer gardens or finding yourself in India, we hope you’ve enjoyed the much-needed escape.
Summer is, after all, the only chance teachers get to press the reset button and try to get back to their old selves. But after six weeks off you could be forgiven for feeling a bit like a stroppy teenager, thinking “I don’t want to go back to school”.Continue reading...
From beekeeping to working as a River Cottage chef, here are some of the best schemes for apprentices that want to make a difference in their careerContinue reading...
It said I had cleared my loan but now claims I owe it £83 plus interest
I took out a student loan in 2002 and early in 2009 the Student Loans Company informed me that I had made all payments and stopped deducting money from my wages.
Suddenly this year I got a call from a man saying he worked at SLC. He told me I had underpaid by £80 and asked if he could take the payment. It seemed a bit fishy so I declined. Last month, I got an email from SLC saying that in 2009 the debt was miscalculated and I owed £83, to which it has added £6 interest.Continue reading...
If you’ve already got an impending sense of doom about going back to school, check out neurologist Judy Willis’ tips on beating stress and boosting optimism
If you’ve ever experienced a rush of achievement from vigorous exercise, or the deep pleasure of falling in love, you have endorphins, oxytocin, neuroproteins and hormones to thank.
But you should get to know an even more powerful brain chemical: dopamine. It can bring you feelings of deep satisfaction, reduced stress, increased motivation and even exuberant alertness. As a new academic year gets under way, it could also help you improve your outlook – and sustain that positivity.