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Preview: Latest education news, including the university guide 2010, RAE results, higher and schools news, schools tables and further edu

Education | The Guardian

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

Published: Wed, 24 May 2017 19:34:19 GMT2017-05-24T19:34:19Z

Copyright: Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. 2017

We abandon free school dinners at our peril | Comment

Wed, 24 May 2017 16:49:44 GMT2017-05-24T16:49:44Z

Free school meals are not just about providing basic nutrition – though too many children are relying on them for that reason – they are also a vital step in learning about food and wellbeing

In 1908, at tables laid with fresh cloths, more than 3,000 of the poorest school children of Bradford sat down to eat a two-course lunch every weekday. In the centre of each table was a vase of flowers. These were the ideas of Ralph Crowley, a pioneering medical officer in Bradford who first helped revolutionise school food in the UK.

Often, it feels as if we have made no progress in a century. On hearing that Theresa May was planning to “save” £650m by scrapping free school lunches for infants and replacing them with cheaper breakfasts, my first thought was: what would Crowley say? But since he died in 1953, I waited instead for Jamie Oliver’s response. A tearful Jamie gave an interview to Channel 4 attacking the proposal as “short-sighted” and “awful”. He pointed out that the short-term savings of scrapping the free lunches would be eclipsed by the long-term costs to the public purse of childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes caused by bad diets.

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May's manifesto pledge on free school breakfasts 'undercosted'

Wed, 24 May 2017 16:25:17 GMT2017-05-24T16:25:17Z

Costs would far exceed Tory estimate of £60m a year, with a 20% takeup costing more than £170m, analysis finds

Conservative promises to plug the hole in school budgets could be ruined by its manifesto offer of free breakfasts for primary school pupils, after researchers found the policy would cost far more than the party claimed.

Figures compiled by the Education Datalab thinktank showed that even if only one in five of England’s 3.6 million primary school pupils ate just 25p worth of food, the costs for the daily breakfast clubs would cost £100m a year more than the Conservatives’ estimate.

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Which language would ease our way in the post-Brexit world?

Wed, 24 May 2017 09:38:15 GMT2017-05-24T09:38:15Z

European leaders tell us: ‘English is losing importance.’ So which language should students learn to give themselves the best chance of success?

We Brits are pretty settled in our role as monoglots. Our default tactic of “speak English slowly and loudly so others can understand you” served us well enough – and then Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European commission, put the boot in by claiming recently that “English is losing importance.”

Is this really the case? Experts are divided.

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Nurse job interview tips: top nine questions and answers

Wed, 24 May 2017 08:58:49 GMT2017-05-24T08:58:49Z

Recruiters reveal what they ask when hiring new staff – and the answers they hope to hear

Compassion and communication, respect and resilience, accountability and adaptability – a good nurse possesses a daunting set of qualities. If you’re newly qualified, how can you convince employers you have what it takes?

We asked those responsible for hiring band five nurses to tell us how they identify the right candidates. Here, they reveal some of the most common interview questions, as well as tips on how to answer them.

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Ayshah Tull: Guardian visit made me realise I wanted to do journalism

Wed, 24 May 2017 07:24:57 GMT2017-05-24T07:24:57Z

To celebrate the Education Centre’s 15th anniversary, Grace Holliday meets Ayshah Tull, whose visit to the Guardian at the age of 15 set her on the path to BBC Newsround

One of Ayshah Tull’s earliest memories is learning a play for an English class – all of it. Later, her teacher watched as she mouthed along with her classmates.

“Every single word. Looking back, my habit of narrating and miming was really helpful. I’m just really good at talking!”

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Number of university dropouts due to mental health problems trebles

Tue, 23 May 2017 11:06:22 GMT2017-05-23T11:06:22Z

Data shows record 1,180 students who experienced mental ill health left courses early in 2014-15, up 210% from 2009-10

The number of students to drop out of university with mental health problems has more than trebled in recent years, official figures show.

Data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa) revealed that a record 1,180 students who experienced mental health problems left university early in 2014-15, the most recent year in which data was available. It represents a 210% increase from 380 in 2009-10.

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For young people, Labour’s tuition fees pledge is a real game-changer | Eli Aldridge

Tue, 23 May 2017 07:30:46 GMT2017-05-23T07:30:46Z

As an 18-year-old Labour candidate, I know our policy to lift the debt burden off students has politicised my generation, and electrified the campaign

It can sometimes be hard as an 18-year-old trying to get your friends interested in politics. It’s an occupational hazard for me, an A-level student standing as a Labour candidate in this election. But our brilliant manifesto has made my job a lot easier, and I have lost count of the number of people who have stopped me to talk about our pledge to scrap tuition fees.

Related: Labour pledges to abolish tuition fees as early as autumn 2017

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How do international students shape UK towns and cities?

Tue, 23 May 2017 06:30:45 GMT2017-05-23T06:30:45Z

Universities need to start shouting about the mutual benefits that overseas students bring to their local communities

International students are the lifeblood of the places in which they live in many ways. They live and learn cheek by jowl, providing universities with unprecedented opportunities to mobilise the expertise of people from diverse backgrounds. This allows them to open new research and policy dialogues that spread knowledge across their local area. But how much do people living in UK towns and cities really know about the ways in which overseas students engage with the local community beyond their studies?

Through international students, each city across Britain shares in an estimated £25bn in direct and indirect economic benefit and the support for 200,000 jobs, according to recent research by Universities UK. And on average, UK universities host students from over 90 different countries – and the figure is closer to 130 in Russell Group research-led institutions.

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Homeless teachers: ‘I wouldn’t talk about it, I was so ashamed’

Tue, 23 May 2017 06:15:45 GMT2017-05-23T06:15:45Z

Three teachers reveal their terror at facing a hostel – or the streets – as the housing crisis hits professionals

Secondary English teacher Tara Diamond discovered she was going to be made homeless a week before Christmas. Without warning, her landlord decided to sell the three-bed house in Bath she’d been renting for £1,000 a month for the past three years. Diamond, a single mother of a teenage daughter and son, quickly found that on her salary of £28,000, she could not afford to rent another home locally.

“My pay has been frozen while rents have rocketed in Bath. I was already spending all my spare time working as a tutor and marking exams just to pay for groceries and avoid getting into debt. Another three-bed place would have cost me £1,300 a month – 80% of my take home pay – leaving my children and me with just £320 a month to live on. Even landlords of two-bed properties were turning me down because I didn’t earn enough.” She needed £4,000 to move home, including the deposit. “I just didn’t have the money.”

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Dear Justine Greening, how are you going to clean up Michael Gove’s little messes? | Michael Rosen

Tue, 23 May 2017 06:00:45 GMT2017-05-23T06:00:45Z

The former education secretary made diktats that still badly need to be unmade

Before you broke up, I was watching a parliamentary session on TV and noticed a lonely, much-reduced-looking figure on your backbenches. What outsider, knowing nothing of recent history, would have guessed that the MP in question had once ruled his area of government with absolute power, making decisions that have affected the lives of hundreds of thousands of people since?

You will know this better than me, Ms Greening; the remains of his rule reach deep into your sphere of work. As a parent, trying to explain our parliamentary system, I admit I’ve found it difficult to do justice to the way a secretary of state for education can one day make a decision single-handedly, on his sole say-so, that all children will study X, and in the blink of an eye that very same person can be off doing something completely different – or in the case of Michael Gove, not much at all.

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Labour pledges to abolish tuition fees as early as autumn 2017

Sun, 21 May 2017 21:30:05 GMT2017-05-21T21:30:05Z

Jeremy Corbyn to say party will seek to provide free tuition for EU students in UK, with reciprocal arrangements in Europe

New university students will be freed from paying £9,000 in tuition fees as early as this autumn if Labour wins the election, Jeremy Corbyn will say on Monday.

The Labour leader and Angela Rayner, his shadow education secretary, will say tuition fees will be completely abolished through legislation from 2018 onwards.

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‘Isolated’ poorer students more likely to drop out, study shows

Sat, 20 May 2017 23:03:38 GMT2017-05-20T23:03:38Z

Survey finds that students from poorer backgrounds feel less well integrated

Less affluent students in higher education are significantly more likely to experience problems with socialising and integrating than their peers from well-off families, says a major new study.

Only 33% of the students from D and E socioeconomic groups said they were well integrated with the students they lived with, compared with 50% of students from A and B socioeconomic groups. Only 34% of the group said they had friends at university whom they socialised with at least twice a week, compared with 48% of AB students.

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Jamie Oliver: 'Theresa May will regret scrapping free school lunches' – video

Sat, 20 May 2017 10:09:45 GMT2017-05-20T10:09:45Z

Jamie Oliver speaks to Channel 4’s Matt Frei on Friday after the Conservative manifesto revealed the party will end universal free school lunches for primary school children in their first three years if it returns to power. Oliver says the move is awful and shortsighted

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Alarm raised over modern language cuts at Manchester University

Fri, 19 May 2017 23:21:05 GMT2017-05-19T23:21:05Z

Senior academics warn about impact of cuts to the numbers of linguists and cross-cultural experts employed at Britain’s largest university

Planned staffing cuts that will hit modern languages teaching and research at Britain’s largest university should be scrapped, a group of senior academics have warned in a letter to the Guardian.

The plan to shed as many as 35 jobs from the University of Manchester’s school of arts – a third of its strength – would do harm to the UK in the long run, they said. It is part of a move to cut more than 100 academic and professional support roles.

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Jamie Oliver condemns Theresa May for scrapping free lunches

Fri, 19 May 2017 20:57:18 GMT2017-05-19T20:57:18Z

Prime minister will regret move to slash number of primary school children eligible for free meals, says chef

The celebrity chef and healthy eating campaigner, Jamie Oliver, has attacked the Conservatives over their plans to end free lunches for some of the youngest primary school children.

Oliver said the “short-sighted” move would prove a mistake in the long run because it would harm children’s health and end up costing the country.

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Student who stabbed ex-boyfriend deletes Facebook page after abuse

Fri, 19 May 2017 16:21:16 GMT2017-05-19T16:21:16Z

Lavinia Woodward is perceived to have been treated leniently by the judge because she is so bright, even though she has yet to be sentenced

The Oxford medical student at the centre of a public outcry over allegedly lenient sentencing after she wounded her ex-boyfriend with a knife has been forced to deactivate her Facebook account because she and her lawyer have received abusive threats.

Lavinia Woodward, 24, has been told that if she stays off drugs and does not reoffend, she may avoid a prison sentence – immediate or suspended – when she returns to court in September.

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Students warned against using 'essay mill' sites to write dissertations

Fri, 19 May 2017 15:02:18 GMT2017-05-19T15:02:18Z

Sites offering written-to-order essays may deliver poor work or none at all, say experts – and students risk failing their degrees

Students are being warned that using quick-fix “essay mill” websites puts them at risk of being scammed out of hundreds of pounds, as well as failing their degree if they are caught cheating.

Experts have warned of a spike in websites taking students’ money in exchange for bespoke essays and then disappearing, not delivering work on time, or providing poor quality papers. The National Union of Students (NUS) said they prey on the vulnerabilities and anxieties of students to make money.

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Unauthorised term-time holidays soar in England after legal challenge

Thu, 18 May 2017 17:09:38 GMT2017-05-18T17:09:38Z

Sharp increase revealed in DfE figures follows parent’s successful challenge against a fine for his daughter’s absence

The number of children taken out of school for unauthorised holidays soared at the end of last year, after high-profile legal challenges called into doubt the government’s ability to punish parents for absences.

Figures from the Department for Education (DfE) revealed a sharp increase in pupils missing school for unauthorised family holidays at the start of the school year in England last September.

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Confusion over new GCSEs causing widespread anxiety, say teachers

Wed, 17 May 2017 15:48:56 GMT2017-05-17T15:48:56Z

Government curbs on civil servants in runup to polling day has led to lack of information on grading system

The government is failing to provide sufficient information about the new GCSEs because of an “overzealous” interpretation of rules governing what civil servants can say in the runup to the election, senior teachers say.

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

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Cambridge digs in at the top of university league table

Tue, 16 May 2017 06:00:07 GMT2017-05-16T06:00:07Z

Liverpool Hope leapfrogs over University of Liverpool for the first time in Guardian University Guide for 2018

Cambridge has topped the Guardian University Guide league table for the seventh year running, while Oxford remains in second place and St Andrews in third.

There’s little change among the top 10 universities: Durham University, which ranked sixth last year, is in fourth place, while Bath University has climbed from 10th to fifth position. Imperial College London, Loughborough, Warwick, Lancaster, Surrey and UCL make up the rest of the top 10. Coventry remains the highest-ranked former polytechnic in the guide, moving up from 15th to 12th place.

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It’s time to give London students more money | Nick Hillman

Tue, 23 May 2017 05:45:44 GMT2017-05-23T05:45:44Z

A new official ranking of universities will soon reveal how badly off London students are. They need more help with rent and travel

In higher education, general elections generally mean endless discussion of tuition fees and little of anything else. One area being overlooked is the relatively poor student experience in London.

Before the election was called, this issue was about to hit the headlines. The first results from the Teaching Excellence Framework – the government’s new gold, silver and bronze ranking system for universities – were expected to show London’s institutions struggling to match their provincial competitors. The results have been delayed until the middle of next month but we know what they are likely to show. When Times Higher Education produced a mock set of TEF results last year, the top London institution was Imperial, placed at 37 out of 120. Most other London institutions were in the bottom half of the list.

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When grades aren't enough: how to sell your academic brilliance

Mon, 22 May 2017 13:01:05 GMT2017-05-22T13:01:05Z

For postgraduates already looking ahead to an academic career, it’s worth learning how to hold your nose and sell yourself

Academia is nice work, if you can get it. It quickly became clear to me, as a PhD student, that completing the PhD was just the beginning. Unless you publish open access, most scholars won’t read your work – more than half of published papers are never cited – and that means you’ve got to be more creative about displaying your expertise. Master’s and PhD students eyeing up an academic career need to accept that self-promotion is a major part of academia: that’s obviously the case when grant writing, but is no less relevant when talking about job applications, conference papers and publishing proposals.

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Theresa May's social care wobble - Election Daily podcast

Mon, 22 May 2017 12:49:16 GMT2017-05-22T12:49:16Z

Jonathan Freedland and Owen Jones are joined by Zoe Williams in the first of our daily podcasts in the run-up to election day. As the Conservatives rethink their unpopular social care plans, the polls are narrowing.

Do you have a question about the election for our panel? Please fill out our form

Subscribe and review: iTunes, Soundcloud, Audioboom, Mixcloud, Acast&Stitcher and join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter

In the first of our daily election podcasts, Jonathan Freedland and Owen Jones are joined by columnist Zoe Williams.

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Green party outlines plan for 'caring Britain' in manifesto launch

Mon, 22 May 2017 11:45:43 GMT2017-05-22T11:45:43Z

‘Green Guarantee’ centres on opposition to hard Brexit and aims to woo young voters with pledge to axe university tuition fees

The Green party has launched an election manifesto for what it calls a “confident and caring Britain”, centred on proposals including a universal basic income, opposition to a hard Brexit and an appeal to young voters.

Introducing the 23-page document, the party’s co-leader, Caroline Lucas, said young people had been betrayed by politicians.

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Labour’s scrapping of tuition fees isn’t the progressive measure it appears | Frances Ryan

Mon, 22 May 2017 11:24:50 GMT2017-05-22T11:24:50Z

The best way for Jeremy Corbyn to help disadvantaged children would be to boost early-years education. Inequality takes root young

With the threat of a hard Tory Brexit and crumbling public services, to be distracted by Labour’s internal divisions this election is to focus squarely on the wrong thing. But there’s one dispute that’s worth paying attention to – not as gossip but because it’s a snapshot of one of the biggest debates facing the left.

Related: Labour pledges to abolish tuition fees as early as autumn 2017

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Applying to university: top tips from today's students to tomorrow's

Tue, 16 May 2017 06:15:06 GMT2017-05-16T06:15:06Z

As the Guardian reveals its 2018 university league table, five first-year undergraduates share things they wish they’d known as sixth-formers

Maya Parchment, 20, from Didcot, Oxfordshire, studies media and communications at Bournemouth University. A-levels in English literature (C), sociology (C), media studies (B) at Wallingford sixth form. Her mum is a teaching assistant; her dad is a retired postman.

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Cut down carbs and go big on spinach: how to order a healthy student takeaway

Mon, 15 May 2017 15:32:28 GMT2017-05-15T15:32:28Z

It’s exam season – which means the bad eating habits of our best young minds get worse. But they can still eat well even if they choose to take out

Students are not a breed known for their gastronomic discernment – the voyage of intellectual discovery often rides the waves of suspiciously cheap pizzas and late-night kebabs. After three years at university, I emerged knowing only that the correct response to: “Garlic sauce?” is: “Yes, please.”

However, with exam season looming, one might hope that these keen, young minds would be bright enough to adopt a more sensible diet: brain- and pocket-friendly tinned sardines on brown toast, perhaps, or wholesome broccoli soup. Yet, as any student will tell you, when you have been panicking in the library all day and mainlining double espressos, you don’t tend to fancy something sensible.

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Can split digraphs help children learn to read and write?

Sat, 13 May 2017 07:30:41 GMT2017-05-13T07:30:41Z

It’s SAT season again, when many parents find themselves bewildered by the obscure grammatical devices their children must understand — thanks to Michael Gove

What is a split digraph?
The words “bit” and “bite” differ both in the way they are spelled and the way they are said. The letter “e” indicates a way of saying the vowel between the “b” and the “t”. Advertisers make them up: “lite”. This tells us there’s a pattern here. Educationists say that drawing children’s attention to this helps them with reading and spelling.

Otherwise known as the “magic e”?

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Battle on the adverbials front: grammar advisers raise worries about Sats tests and teaching

Tue, 09 May 2017 06:30:54 GMT2017-05-09T06:30:54Z

The panel of four who advised Michael Gove on the primary spelling and grammar test now have reservations

This morning, more than half a million primary children will take a test that may ask them to identify the grammatical label for the two-word phrase at the start of this paragraph. Could you do it? If you are unable to recognise this as a “fronted adverbial” then you will have fallen short on knowledge expected of 10- and 11-year-olds in the controversial spelling, punctuation and grammar (Spag) tests.

Related: Dear Ms Morgan: Sats tests are putting young children through hell

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Roll up! Universities embark on big push to boost student vote

Tue, 09 May 2017 05:59:53 GMT2017-05-09T05:59:53Z

Campuses are on a voter registration drive as a new survey indicates the student vote could be significant

Students will be bombarded with a single message over the next few weeks: vote. In the run-up to the general election, Universities UK, the vice-chancellors’ organisation, is encouraging lecturers and staff to remind students to get their names on the electoral register, and is supporting institutions to do the same via Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat. Students’ union officers will, meanwhile, be milling around campuses with iPads, helping students to register on the spot.

“We want to remind students of what they need to do, when they need to do it by and what date,” says Nicky Old, Universities UK’s communication director.

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Jeremy Corbyn’s plan to end student tuition fees is far from barmy

Tue, 02 May 2017 06:29:20 GMT2017-05-02T06:29:20Z

A return to free higher education in England would make economic as well as social sense

A Conservative victory in the general election could put the final nail in the coffin of hopes for the restoration of free higher education in England. This would be a shame, because it is not such a barmy plan.

Like many of Jeremy Corbyn’s ideas, it is more soft than hard left. Scotland has maintained free higher education, as of course have the great majority of other European countries. It is England that is out of step, even if – in our arrogant insularity, now reinforced by Brexit fantasies – some people assume everyone else will have to follow us down the poisoned path to high-fee, market-mad higher education.

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Catholic archbishop: grammars and free schools now on the hymn sheet

Tue, 02 May 2017 06:15:20 GMT2017-05-02T06:15:20Z

Malcolm McMahon, archbishop of Liverpool, on segregation, sex education and why he has no problem with the taxpayer funding Catholic schools

I am talking to Malcolm McMahon, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Liverpool, in his grand house in Cressington Park, a private estate built for wealthy Liverpool merchants in the 19th century. The archbishop chairs the Catholic Education Service (CES), which oversees the church’s 2,230 schools in England and Wales, of which 2,101, educating 811,917 pupils, are financed by the taxpayer.

I want to discuss the schools’ admissions policies because the church insists, and Theresa May’s government has agreed, that its schools must be free to admit only children from Catholic families. Critics argue this increases the risks of both social and racial segregation.

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There is hope for universities in the Tory manifesto

Sun, 21 May 2017 12:00:04 GMT2017-05-21T12:00:04Z

If universities can convince Theresa May they are the solution to problems set out in the manifesto, they could play a key role in delivering her agenda

It would have been easy for me to write a piece on why the Conservative manifesto spells doom and gloom for universities. Attacking the prime minister might even have gained me a headline or two (and some new friends in the sector). But this approach would have been a crude and unconstructive response. It would have underplayed the impressive ability of universities to adapt, innovate and have a lasting impact on individuals, local communities and the economy.

Related: How do we show international students they're still welcome in the UK?

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The trouble with the sisterhood in academia

Fri, 19 May 2017 06:00:48 GMT2017-05-19T06:00:48Z

Female academics can be just as aggressively competitive with other colleagues as men, but it slips under the radar

I’ve wanted to write this for some time, but never found the words. If I’m honest, I’m certain that some fellow women academics will not be pleased to hear what I have to say. Luckily, I’m currently on a flight, 12km above the ground, where I feel safe from the judgments that would confront me were I to exorcise this academic grievance at the coffee station. But we need to start talking about the way women hold back other women’s careers.

At my institute I’ve recently joined a lively discussion on equality in academia that was initiated by the Athena Swan programme. I’ve taken part in several earnest official conversations during lunches, and several unofficial conversations after work in the pub. Much of this has focused on gender inequality, and the problems that male – and predominantly white male – academics create for early career women in particular.

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2VCs: How worried should universities be about the general election?

Thu, 18 May 2017 07:00:19 GMT2017-05-18T07:00:19Z

Labour has pledged to abolish tuition fees and the Conservatives are threatening a hard Brexit and a tighter visa regime for international students. How will universities face the prevailing headwinds?

When Labour pledged to abolish university tuition fees in its general election manifesto, it put higher education firmly on the campaign agenda. The party’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, formally launched his campaign for election from Manchester. As part of our 2VCs series, Anna Fazackerley visits the city to talk to Dame Nancy Rothwell, vice-chancellor of research-intensive Manchester University, and Prof Malcolm Press, vice-chancellor of its modern university neighbour, Manchester Metropolitan, about what the general election means for them.

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How do we show international students they're still welcome in the UK?

Wed, 17 May 2017 06:00:01 GMT2017-05-17T06:00:01Z

If the government won’t do it, the higher education sector needs to convince overseas students that the door is open

When the government decided against excluding international students from immigration targets through the Higher Education and Research Act, the higher education sector reacted with dismay. Now we are hearing that the Conservative manifesto commitment to cut net migration to tens of thousands is to be repeated. Responsibility for making international students and staff feel welcome in the UK must therefore fall to universities themselves.

Government decisions are sending out the wrong message to the rest of the world. This is a shame, since international students and academics who come to study or work in the UK have greatly enhanced the higher education sector, British society and our economy. They also help make the UK a world leader in innovation, scientific research and collaboration.

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Campus politics get dirty: a security guard reveals all

Fri, 12 May 2017 06:00:10 GMT2017-05-12T06:00:10Z

The general election isn’t the only political battle that matters in universities – student union candidates resort to extra-judicial tactics to secure their votes

Election fever hit our campus a month before it started spreading to the rest of the country. A lot of student union officer posts open up in April, and every year the campus goes into overdrive. Maybe it’s something in the Easter eggs, but when the student union campaign trail is in full swing, we guards see things that would drive an ordinary person to superstition. The sanitary bin contractor finds a gram of coke on someone’s doormat. A first-year has gnomes thrown through his kitchen window. It seems devilry is afoot, and I’m not just talking about the spoof campaign posters that appear with horns photoshopped in.

The ways student candidates try to secure their nomination range from the laddish to the suicidal. The outgoing student union president motioned for the removal of the silent study pods and the bringing in of Time Crisis 3 arcade machines. He was successful: module averages dipped, but now everyone knows how to draw and shoot a pistol with a shower cable attached. And as nominations are secured, the squabbles and trash-talking begin. Cross-candidate tensions can boil over into attacks, which we try to mop up as best we can.

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Digital learning: how to keep your students switched on

Thu, 11 May 2017 06:00:41 GMT2017-05-11T06:00:41Z

Delivering teaching online is increasingly important for academics, but it needs to be more than a content dump

Universities will be busy this year adapting to the changes introduced by the government’s higher education reforms. But they mustn’t forget that there is more to the future of higher education than the teaching excellence framework ratings exercise: digital learning will also take centre stage.

Digital learning is growing in sophistication. It can be developed for fully online remote learning courses, or added to traditional classroom-based courses as blended learning. But how do you ensure it adds value, and avoid the risk of miscommunication?

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University staff: VCs are too 'far away from the day-to-day reality'

Wed, 10 May 2017 14:00:22 GMT2017-05-10T14:00:22Z

Guardian survey respondents say a lack of communication in universities is reinforcing institutional hierarchies

Nearly half of university staff do not think their vice-chancellor is an effective leader, a Guardian survey has found.

More than 1,000 academics and administrative staff responded to the survey about working life. Many felt that their vice-chancellors were too focused on lobbying and external relations, with not enough time spent on understanding how the institution runs on the ground.

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No one told me about the hidden costs of maternity leave

Fri, 05 May 2017 06:00:31 GMT2017-05-05T06:00:31Z

Research needs funding to keep it running even when we’re on leave. So although I have a job to go back to, there may be no money to do it

When I got my job as a post-doctoral research associate, funded by a prestigious grant for medical research, I was in my 30s and trying for a baby.

Related: Conferences are intellectual lifelines - but as a single parent I often miss out

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I work in a university. Here's what I secretly want to tell senior management

Wed, 03 May 2017 10:59:07 GMT2017-05-03T10:59:07Z

A range of university staff speak out about how their leaders take decisions and communicate with the campus

The relationship between senior managers and university staff can be tricky, especially when academic and staff priorities clash with budgetary and policy requirements.

Related: Why universities can't see women as leaders

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Secret Teacher: we're not reading – so why do we assume children will?

Sat, 20 May 2017 06:00:17 GMT2017-05-20T06:00:17Z

English teachers at my school don’t have time to read whole books, and are told to rely on extracts in class. This is no way to inspire a love of literature

On the rare occasion that the staff in our English department surface from their marking pile long enough to enjoy a cup of tea together, I’ll ask everybody what they’re reading. The answer is usually the same: nothing.

Teachers only read the bits of books they have to teach – and even then it’s often one chapter ahead of their students. If there’s a bit of a text they don’t understand or think is boring, they just remove it from the photocopied version before class. It means that teachers are effectively editing texts, and some are not familiar with reading entire books.

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Why are black children missing from the grammar school debate?

Fri, 19 May 2017 06:00:48 GMT2017-05-19T06:00:48Z

Expanding grammar schools will only deepen racial inequalities in our society – and leave more black students behind

Theresa May’s plans for a new generation of grammar schools have been met with staunch cross-party opposition. Criticism has even come from senior members of her own party. But there is one important point that has been largely ignored: how the plans will affect racial inequality in education, and indeed society.

The argument for the reintroduction of grammar schools hinges on the idea of meritocracy, but this denies the ways race and other social factors such as class impact education and grammar school admissions. Black students are already at a disadvantage in our education system, and May’s plans will worsen this.

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How can schools engage young people in democracy?

Wed, 17 May 2017 11:00:07 GMT2017-05-17T11:00:07Z

From running your own referendum to talking to your local MP, here’s how to use Brexit and the general election to inform students about politics and voting

Comments such as “What’s the point in voting?” and “I don’t understand what I’m voting for” are commonplace in my further education college. Engaging young people in politics and democracy is hard, and getting through these negative barriers is the first hurdle.

As a government and politics teacher, it is my role to promote such discussions. Democracy is also a topic that schools in England are required to teach, as part of government guidance on promoting British values in the education system.

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Secret Teacher: we need a reality check on private tuition for exams

Sat, 13 May 2017 06:00:39 GMT2017-05-13T06:00:39Z

Children at my grammar school are tutored intensively from the 11-plus to GCSE. It devalues our teaching, skews the playing field and denies them a childhood

In the grammar school where I teach, the vast majority of pupils are tutored – not just for the highly competitive 11-plus entrance exam, but often throughout their school career and sometimes even beyond.

Places at my school are seen as the golden ticket to success. Primary pupils are ferried back and forth to tuition centres several times a week, years before the 11-plus. Some of these centres run intensive holiday courses in years 4 and 5, asking for all-day attendance for a whole week at a time. Children are entered for numerous mock exams. When we hold open evenings, 11-plus tutors tout for business outside the school gates.

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Can peer-led teaching help improve sex education in schools?

Fri, 12 May 2017 06:15:11 GMT2017-05-12T06:15:11Z

With sexting and online abuse on the rise, UK schools are turning to young people to create an environment where pupils can speak candidly about sex

“Sexting is probably one of the biggest issues in my year,” says Elise*, a 14-year-old student from London. “Everyone has had issues with it. We’ve had girls leave my year because of nude photos [being shared] – it’s really damaging for people’s education.”

Sexting – where someone shares sexual, naked or semi-naked images or videos of themselves or others, or sexually explicit messages – is on the rise in schools according to teaching union NASUWT, the Labour party and the government’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre.

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How can parents help students survive the exam season?

Thu, 11 May 2017 13:41:11 GMT2017-05-11T13:41:11Z

With the right support from teachers, parents can make a real difference to how a child deals with exams. Here’s what they need to know

With Sats taking place this week and GCSEs and A-levels round the corner, exam season is in full flow. This is usually a time of doubt and worries – for both children and their parents.

Families often look to schools for guidance on how to cope, and it is important that teachers communicate the latest research on what does and doesn’t work. So what advice can schools give to parents wanting to help their students survive exam season?

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Secret Teacher: my headteacher has handed control to the students

Sat, 06 May 2017 06:00:56 GMT2017-05-06T06:00:56Z

Pupils are encouraged to leave class when they choose and take complaints about teachers straight to the head. It’s undermining our authority

There is a low-level rumble of discontent in my school. It’s the sound of teachers’ concerns falling on deaf ears. Because our headteacher is listening to students, not us.

I believe in inclusion, but at my school this idea is taken to the extreme. My head takes on the most challenging students as a personal project, operates an open-door policy, and bends over backwards to keep them on the school roll.

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Love trumps hate: five ways teachers can build solidarity and inclusion

Tue, 02 May 2017 11:21:18 GMT2017-05-02T11:21:18Z

Recent political events have fuelled an increase in hate crime and created division. This needs to be discussed and challenged in the classroom

How can teachers make classrooms places of inclusion and belonging? That’s the question we should ask in light of Trump’s victory, which has legitimised misogyny, Islamophobia and racism, and the rise in hate crime in the UK following the EU referendum.

We work with young women of colour from low-income backgrounds, many of whom are Muslim. In recent months, our participants have spoken about the growing fear they feel as a consequence of the current political rhetoric, and the hate crimes that have followed.

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Secret Teacher: Fidget cubes need kicking out of class

Sat, 29 Apr 2017 06:00:22 GMT2017-04-29T06:00:22Z

The popular fidget aids are supposed to help individual pupils concentrate, but instead they are distracting my entire class

I was relieved to find the bottle-flipping phenomenon had passed when I returned to school in January. Having already endured many teenage fads (I still find the “let’s try to stab in between our fingers with a compass” trend the most traumatising to reminisce about) we were beginning to hope that we could make it to the end of the academic year without another craze. Then came the fidget cube and its malignant spawn: the fidget spinner.

The brainchild of Kickstarter go-getters Matthew and Mark McLachlan, the fidget cube has graced many classrooms across the country since February. It is a small plastic device around two cubed-inches which features a variety of clickable, twistable, rub-able and flick-able surfaces. The makers claim the cube channels disruptive fidgeting such as biros being irreparably deconstructed and rulers being wobbled (and snapped) on the edge of tables. They also claim it increases memory capacity and boosts creativity.

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Pupil power: how students are turning schools green

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 07:00:04 GMT2017-04-28T07:00:04Z

A scheme encouraging young people to take the lead on environmental projects is changing habits, growing leaders – and saving schools money

At the Manchester Creative and Media Academy, six year 10 students have just done an environmental audit of their school. They conducted interviews with staff and other pupils, inspected what was already being done, and examined energy policies. From this they have planned campaigns on recycling and litter – with specific targets – to make their school greener, all while studying for their GCSEs.

Related: The best books about green living for children of all ages

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Educational disparity in the playground | Brief letters

Tue, 23 May 2017 17:47:41 GMT2017-05-23T17:47:41Z

Private schools | Basque refugees | Sexism | Raw meat | Older Guardian readers

I saw the “privileged few” on Monday. Picture the scene: a beautiful sunny day in a village, near Northampton, all the primary school children ran the Race for Life for Cancer Research. Having only a small playground, they were allowed to run on the extensive playing fields of the private school opposite, while their children played cricket and rounders. I am afraid that my afternoon was somewhat spoilt by the contrast. No losing of valuable teachers and school lunches for them! Well done, everyone.
Marilyn Turner
Crewe, Cheshire

In 1937 Worthing accepted about 60 Basque refugees from the Spanish civil war (Letters, 23 May). A number of local businesses, such as bakeries and dairies, provided support as public money could not be used. In commemoration there is a blue plaque on the front of Beach House, and a beautiful coloured glass window on Worthing pier designed by local artist Siobhan Jones.
Geraldine Blake
Worthing, West Sussex

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Taliban teachers: how militants are infiltrating Afghan schools

Tue, 09 May 2017 04:45:52 GMT2017-05-09T04:45:52Z

Educators face pressure to give good marks to young fighters while others are swapping chalk for Kalashnikovs after lessons

When Afghan teachers are lobbied to give good marks to mediocre students, the pressure does not necessarily come from disgruntled parents. Often it comes from the Taliban.

In areas of eastern Afghanistan, militants intimidate teachers to let older boys who fight with the Taliban pass exams despite lacklustre performances, according to education experts working in the region.

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UK researchers lead effort to design climate-proof refugee housing

Sun, 30 Apr 2017 23:01:13 GMT2017-04-30T23:01:13Z

Bath University staff head an international team working on shelters capable of withstanding extremes of temperature

Researchers will today begin a three-year project to design housing for refugee camps in extreme climates where temperatures range from 45C to -10C. The international team behind the Healthy Housing for the Displaced project, led by Bath University, aim to improve living conditions for refugees by creating low-cost and easy-to-construct housing.

Their 20 shelter designs will moderate extremes of temperature and ensure the privacy, comfort and dignity of residents. The research will be the largest global study into thermal, social and air-quality conditions in camps housing displaced people.

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University chief appeals for EU help to fight Hungarian clampdown

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 16:33:25 GMT2017-04-25T16:33:25Z

Rector of Central European University hopeful EU will launch infringement proceedings against Orbán government

The head of a leading university threatened with closure in Hungary has made an emotional plea for help from the EU and accused the country’s rightwing, authoritarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, of effectively putting a gun to his head.

Michael Ignatieff, rector of the US-linked Central European University (CEU), said he was “cautiously optimistic” that the EU would launch infringement proceedings against the Hungarian government for its “outrageous” attack on academic freedoms.

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The role of interpreter is lost in translation | Letters

Tue, 11 Apr 2017 17:51:20 GMT2017-04-11T17:51:20Z

The big picture (5 April) was good and the numbered captions helpful. It was a boost for our profession to have the man below the late King Abdullah’s portrait described as “perhaps the most important person in the room”. However, translators are not normally people who listen and speak (sometimes simultaneously) in meetings: that is the job of interpreters. Some translators are trained to interpret, but they usually excel at writing, keyboard skills and carefully honing text. Speech is not writing; transfer of meaning between languages and cultures requires not only accuracy, speed and clarity, but impartiality. Interpreters should have no vested interest in the outcome of a meeting. It would be useful to know whether Theresa May had a British Arabic-English interpreter in her delegation.
Jane Straker

• Join the debate – email

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Thousands protest in Hungary over threat to Soros university

Sun, 09 Apr 2017 17:55:40 GMT2017-04-09T17:55:40Z

Demonstrators call for president to veto legislation passed by parliament targeting Central European University

Tens of thousands of people have protested in Budapest against legislation that could force the Central European University, founded by the financier George Soros, to move out of Hungary.

A bill passed in parliament by the ruling rightwing Fidesz party of the prime minister, Viktor Orbán, a critic of liberal civil organisations funded by Soros, targeted CEU by setting out numerous conditions under which it must operate.

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Bhutan solves the ultimate school maths problem – and the answer is 108

Tue, 04 Apr 2017 06:15:44 GMT2017-04-04T06:15:44Z

Oxford mathematician Marcus du Sautoy visits the mountain kingdom, which is successfully taking on the challenge of inspiring children to love maths

Every country around the world is trying to crack one of the toughest mathematical conundrums on the books. Not the Riemann hypothesis or the Navier-Stokes equations but the challenge of how to get schoolchildren to fall in love with mathematics.

One country trying an innovative approach to the challenge is the tiny kingdom of Bhutan, tucked away at the top of the Himalayas. Famous for its decision to measure its wealth not just economically but also via the idea of gross national happiness, Bhutan is trying to find a way to get its children to be happier in mathematics lessons. Having long been inspired by the Indian curriculum, which favours rules and rote learning, the emphasis is shifting to giving students an understanding of why and how these rules work.

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Ode to the joy of Je t’aime franglais | Letters

Thu, 30 Mar 2017 17:46:03 GMT2017-03-30T17:46:03Z

The quote from Schiller’s poem Ode to Joy (Letters, 30 March) should read “der stehle weinend sich aus diesem Bund” and not “der stehe weinend aus diesen Bund”. Apart from being grammatically incorrect, this version messes up the rhythm. The meaning becomes starker, too. It would not merely be “remain weeping outside” but “those who have been unable to establish such a bond, should sneak/steal away weeping”.
Daisy Hammerbacher-Shaw

• You show the front page of Libération with its headline “Vous nous manquez déjà!”, and caption this as saying Britain is missing the EU already (30 March). Non! It is the other way around – “we miss you already”. A less than perfect basis for opening Brexit negotiations. As a nation, our understanding of French language and culture has never really progressed beyond “Michelle, ma belle …” by the Beatles and Jane Birkin’s “Je t’aime” – iconic gems of the 1960s, but we appear to have learnt nothing new over the intervening half century.
Tim Sanderson

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US-linked top university fears new rules will force it out of Hungary

Wed, 29 Mar 2017 16:00:43 GMT2017-03-29T16:00:43Z

Central European University, which was founded by financier George Soros, says it is being targeted by Hungarian government

One of the top universities in central and eastern Europe may be forced out of Hungary under a draft law being prepared by the hard-right government, which has also accused eight British institutions of “operating unlawfully” in the country.

The US-linked Central European University (CEU), founded in 1991 to support the region’s transition from communist dictatorship to democracy, has cultivated a generation of statesmen and women, academics, and leaders in the arts. But the institution and its alumni are alarmed by new rules that it says are targeted at CEU directly and would “make it impossible … to continue its operations” in Budapest.

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Boston public schools map switch aims to amend 500 years of distortion

Thu, 23 Mar 2017 16:19:22 GMT2017-03-23T16:19:22Z

A district will drop the Mercator projection, which physically diminished Africa and South America, for the Peters, which cut the developed world down to size

When Boston public schools introduced a new standard map of the world this week, some young students’ felt their jaws drop. In an instant, their view of the world had changed.

The USA was small. Europe too had suddenly shrunk. Africa and South America appeared narrower but also much larger than usual. And what had happened to Alaska?

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When schools can’t afford toilet rolls let alone teachers, we must fight | Julie Ferry

Mon, 22 May 2017 14:56:01 GMT2017-05-22T14:56:01Z

With funding cuts hitting hard, I understand the begging letters from schools. But the answer for parents has to be: reach for our placards, not our wallets

On Saturday I attended my first protest march. The weather was grey and drizzly, my banner, saying “No more cuts” was hastily made the night before and I really wished I had brought a whistle. But along with many other march virgins, I joined a crowd of about 6,000 people walking through Bristol, shouting “No ifs, no buts, no education cuts” at the top of my voice, in protest at cuts to the education budget.

Related: Headteachers write to parents over school funding and job cuts

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Fidget spinners are not just a fad – ask any ballpoint-pen clicker | Katherine Isbister

Fri, 19 May 2017 04:06:31 GMT2017-05-19T04:06:31Z

Despite sometimes being an annoying distraction for others, such items can have practical uses for adults, and perhaps even children

The fidget spinner craze has been sweeping elementary and middle schools. As of May 17 every one of the top 10 best-selling toys on Amazon was a form of the hand-held toy people can spin and do tricks with. Kids and parents are even making them for themselves using 3D printers and other more homespun crafting techniques.

But some teachers are banning them from classrooms. And experts challenge the idea that spinners are good for conditions like ADHD and anxiety. Meanwhile, the Kickstarter online fundraising campaign for the Fidget Cube – another popular fidget toy in 2017 – raised an astounding US$6.4 million, and can be seen on the desks of hipsters and techies across the globe.

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Scrapping free school lunches is an attack on struggling families | Nick Clegg

Thu, 18 May 2017 14:34:26 GMT2017-05-18T14:34:26Z

The Liberal Democrats pushed for the introduction of free infant school lunches in 2014. This Conservative U-turn cynically targets the vulnerable

So much for compassionate Conservatism. So much for helping the “just about managing”. During my time as deputy prime minister, I repeatedly blocked the Conservatives from proceeding with tax, welfare, education and pensions policies that did not cater for the neediest in society. I became wearily familiar with the Conservative party’s habit of placing greater priority on the needs of “their” voters than those of society at large.

Related: Tory manifesto: more elderly people will have to pay for own social care

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Jeremy Deller behind 'strong and stable my arse' posters in London

Mon, 22 May 2017 15:26:30 GMT2017-05-22T15:26:30Z

Turner prize-winning artist says he hopes posters are self-explanatory – especially after Theresa May’s social care U-turn

Posters bearing the words “strong and stable my arse” which were spotted across London over the weekend are the work of the artist Jeremy Deller.

Passersby began tweeting pictures of the posters from Peckham to Soho to Kentish Town on Friday, but the question was: who was behind them?

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What's the point of school uniform?

Thu, 03 Oct 2013 08:50:00 GMT2013-10-03T08:50:00Z

You might hate your school uniform, but I think it's there for good reason, says 15-year-old Chloe Spencer

A shirt, tie and blazer may not be the ingredients for my favourite outfit, but if I were given the choice, I wouldn't throw away the idea of school uniform. Wearing a uniform is a badge of pride, creates an identity for a school and is an important part of being a school student.

"Uniforms show that you are part of an organisation. Wearing it says we're all in this together," Jason Wing, head teacher at the Neale-Wade academy in Cambridgeshire, says.

Continue reading...Why wear a school uniform? Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the GuardianWhy wear a school uniform? Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

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Parents: not happy about something at school? Here’s how to complain

Tue, 24 Feb 2015 07:30:02 GMT2015-02-24T07:30:02Z

Your daughter’s homework isn’t being marked. Your son’s been put in detention for no real reason. What’s the best course of action? A teacher writes …

One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given was from a friend in the restaurant business. If I were planning to complain about any part of my meal or service, he said, I should wait until I had eaten all I was going to eat that night. He illustrated this warning with examples of what can happen to food prepared for awkward customers, and so I’ve followed this advice ever since. It’s a good principle: don’t complain to people on whom you’re relying – unless there’s no way they can wipe your steak on their bum or drop a bogey in your soup.

As with restaurants, so with schools. The difference with schools is that you’re likely to be stuck with them for a lot longer than one meal. So think carefully before putting on your Mr Angry face and marching into the school for a spot of ranting.

Continue reading...Don’t lose sight of your objective. You’re trying to get something to change. That requires a little more reason and a little less shouting. Photograph: DNY59/Getty ImagesDon’t lose sight of your objective. You’re trying to get something to change. That requires a little more reason and a little less shouting. Photograph: DNY59/Getty Images

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Britain's most powerful students: 10 universities that could swing the election

Thu, 05 Feb 2015 09:48:27 GMT2015-02-05T09:48:27Z

The influence of students is likely to be felt across the country at the May elections, but where will their votes be most important?

How important will the student vote be at the 2015 election? According to a recent report by the NUS, 191 constituencies have a student population large enough to overthrow the majority that the current MP gained in 2010.

But some student votes could be more important to the election result than others. Those living in closely-fought marginal seats are likely to hold the most sway over the 2015 result.

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UEA course cut a blow for mental health work | Letters

Tue, 23 May 2017 17:46:08 GMT2017-05-23T17:46:08Z

Students and former students protest at the end to counselling training at the University of East Anglia

All the parties in the general election have adopted mental health as a key issue. But this enthusiasm is not reflected on the ground and the electorate should not be fooled. We are students and former students on the internationally renowned counselling programme at the University of East Anglia. We trained to be counsellors, or “shrinks”, to quote Prince Harry in his recent interview. But now the university has closed the course and even made it impossible for some students to complete their professional qualification. As part of this draconian process, in which consultation was at a minimum, responsibility to students, staff and the wider local community has been completely deprioritised. This is exactly the opposite of what the princes, applauded by the government, were calling for.

The impact is not only on the course itself, but also on those therapy organisations where students have for many years worked as volunteers on placement and beyond, and on the availability of the kind of in-depth listening relationship – described as so crucial by the princes – in the university’s own counselling service. The management-speak reason given by the university for this closure is “a need for greater alignment of courses and a more coherent portfolio of activity centred on the teaching of education theory and practice”. What is the point of accenting mental health if there won’t be any counsellors to deliver it?
Sara Bradly, Dr Rachel Freeth, Bridget Garrard, Nikki Rowntree

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New rules on retaking GCSEs likely to bring down overall pass rate

Wed, 24 Aug 2016 17:15:59 GMT2016-08-24T17:15:59Z

For the first time 17-year-olds in England who gained a D grade in English or maths last year will have had to resit GCSEs in those subjects

Pass rates in GCSE exams could take a tumble this year because of new government rules that force older teenagers to retake core subjects if they fail to get good grades.

For the first time, 17-year-olds in England who gained a D grade in English or maths last year will have had to resit GCSEs in those subjects – and their performance is likely to pull down the average pass rate both for England and the UK.

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Surviving a volcanic eruption

Mon, 04 Jun 2001 09:11:40 GMT2001-06-04T09:11:40Z

In 1993, volcanologist Stanley Williams led 16 people up a Colombian volcano. It erupted and nine of them died. Having survived with terrible injuries, Williams presented himself to the world as a plucky hero, but now he is being blamed for the tragedy. He tells James Meek why it was not his fault

Stanley Williams likes the taste of guinea pig. In the city of Pasto in south-western Colombia, where the dish is common, they grill a few of the animals on a single skewer and serve them sizzling hot, roughly chopped into several pieces. It's not the kind of fare you'd get at a restaurant in Williams' native Arizona. In America, in western Europe, guinea pigs are pets. Eating pets is wrong, right? Eating pets is weird.

Even before the volcano Galeras, near Pasto, erupted while he was on it, smashing Williams' skull and vapourising some of his friends, the volcanologist was coming to the conclusion that it was his country, rather than the rest of the world, which was weird. Local scientists can't afford the equipment and training they need to monitor it as volcanoes in Europe, the US or Japan are monitored.

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Malcolm Swan obituary

Sun, 21 May 2017 16:52:58 GMT2017-05-21T16:52:58Z

My friend and colleague Malcolm Swan, who has died aged 64 of a brain tumour, was a driving force in the international movement to improve the teaching of mathematics.

Malcolm’s exceptional skill lay in the design of materials that enable maths teachers to turn research insights into happy learning in their classrooms. He did this through a combination of deep understanding, creative ideas and a genius for design. His lessons contained surprise and delight, humanity and humour – qualities not always associated with lessons in mathematics. Teachers around the world enthuse about his work.

Continue reading...Malcolm Swan’s exceptional skill lay in the design of materials that enable maths teachers to turn research insights into happy learning in their classroomsMalcolm Swan’s exceptional skill lay in the design of materials that enable maths teachers to turn research insights into happy learning in their classrooms

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Never go on Twitter after an exam – here's why

Tue, 10 Jun 2014 13:28:00 GMT2014-06-10T13:28:00Z

Post-exam discussions about what answers you gave have been replaced by social media frenzies, writes a student blogger

Do you want to write for Blogging Students? Find out how here

A few weeks ago, I took my GCSE English literature exam. Everything seemed to go well – the questions were predictably similar to past papers and the unseen poem, (Long Distance II by Tony Harrison,) was easy to understand and empathise with – or so I thought. But logging onto my Twitter account I found a completely different story.

Twitter unintentionally allowed everyone doing AQA English to link into one huge spider's web. A quick search revealed one very worrying tweet: "Wait, what. The dad in Long Distance II was dead too?" Wait, what? This was not something I had picked up on.

Continue reading...Sometimes it's best not to discuss answers after an exam – you might just end up stressed. Photograph: AlamySometimes it's best not to discuss answers after an exam – you might just end up stressed. Photograph: Alamy

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John Weavers obituary

Wed, 24 May 2017 16:53:47 GMT2017-05-24T16:53:47Z

My friend John Weavers, who has died aged 69 of a brain tumour, enjoyed being outdoors and spent much of his time walking, sailing, skiing, birdwatching or playing sports. He was commodore of the Kent Schools Sailing Association, a senior instructor for the Royal Yachting Association and inspector for sailing clubs in east Kent. With the Invicta Sailing Club, he sailed the length of the Thames and round to Dover and from Dover to the Netherlands.

John became known to many people as a leader of natural history walks in Kent, initially through Hilderstone adult education centre in Thanet, later for Canterbury Adult Education and Canterbury University School of Continuing Education. Starting in 1981, he led up to three groups per week in the summer months, and two groups throughout the year for over 25 years. When he retired, the groups continued and invited John as their guest.

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Get kids telling stories to speak truth to power | Brief letters

Mon, 22 May 2017 18:49:54 GMT2017-05-22T18:49:54Z

Oral skills in schools | The Trial and The Law Machine | Alan Titchmarsh’s gravitas | Loose canon | Grannies

As a storyteller and speech and language therapist I was delighted to see Tim Lott’s article (Ditch the grammar and teach storytelling instead, 20 May). However, his emphasis turns out to be on story writing, not storytelling. Oracy has been fatally sidelined by government policies, yet we know that oral skills must be in place to ensure the development of literacy. So please, by all means teach the writing of stories, but get kids telling stories – not just myths, legends and fiction but the events and experiences of their own lives, which is the way we build empathy, resilience and the confidence to speak truth to power.
Nicola Grove
Horningsham, Wiltshire

• Channel 4’s The Trial (Last night’s TV, 22 May) is far from being the first television series to show a trial using real barristers, a real judge and a jury chosen by the same process as real ones. In 1983 I presented The Law Machine, a 10-part series transmitted by London Weekend Television, which did exactly the same. Moreover, it featured both a criminal trial and – with a different judge and barristers, and, of course, no jury – the civil proceedings for damages that arose as a result.
Marcel Berlins

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