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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: Sun, 18 Feb 2018 23:02:01 GMT2018-02-18T23:02:01Z

Copyright: Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. 2018

May warns universities over high cost of tuition fees

Sun, 18 Feb 2018 22:32:47 GMT2018-02-18T22:32:47Z

PM’s proposal to cut charges for courses including humanities is branded unworkable by critics

Theresa May is to press ahead with attempts to force universities to charge less for some courses based on their costs and potential graduate earnings, despite critics within her own party and the higher education sector branding the move incoherent and unworkable.

Announcing a long-awaited review of education funding for over-18s in England, the prime minister will say that reserving university for the middle class and vocational training “for other people’s children” is outdated.

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Tuition fees: May's overhaul is 'clear, simple and wrong' answer

Sun, 18 Feb 2018 22:31:56 GMT2018-02-18T22:31:56Z

Charging variable fees will not solve the problem of making university more affordable

There’s a saying that for every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong. On tuition fees and student debt in England, both Theresa May and her new education secretary, Damian Hinds, are going for the “clear, simple and wrong” option.

May’s intuition is: why should students at Oxbridge and a former polytech have to pay the same £9,250 a year to study as undergraduates?

Why should someone taking an English course pay the same as someone doing engineering, when the complete works of Shakespeare are a fraction of the cost of a laser cutter? And why should someone who goes on to earn bucketloads in the City pay the same as a nurse or teacher?

Related: May warns universities over high cost of tuition fees

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Most Indigenous students consigned to schools with least capacity to help | Chris Bonnor

Sun, 18 Feb 2018 17:00:49 GMT2018-02-18T17:00:49Z

Layers are being created within and between Indigenous communities, making closing the gap ever more difficult

We are now into the tenth anniversary of the strategy to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia. Last week saw a report on progress, a subdued celebration on scattered achievements and copious hand-wringing over endemic failures.

It seems that amongst the Closing the Gap target areas it is school education where some celebration is justified – with some gains in numeracy, reading and school retention. There is still a long way to go but any progress will be a welcome boost for schools more used to wearing all the blame for low levels of student achievement.

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Cutting university tuition fees ‘would be a subsidy to Tory voters’

Sun, 18 Feb 2018 00:05:29 GMT2018-02-18T00:05:29Z

Prime minister urged to focus on better access to education for poorer students as she prepares to release funding review

Theresa May has been warned against damaging disadvantaged students’ access to university in order to fund a tuition fees cut that has been described as “a sop to classic Tory voters”.

The prime minister is under pressure to rule out allowing universities to loosen their obligations to widen participation as part of a long-awaited review of higher education funding to be unveiled on Monday.

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May I have a word about…… job titles | Jonathan Bouquet

Sun, 18 Feb 2018 00:05:29 GMT2018-02-18T00:05:29Z

If you pay attention when you’re a learning receptor unit you may grow up to become a couranteer

If you thought that pretentious job titles were a modern phenomenon, the creation of HR department staff with too much time on their hands, think again.

Dr Alun Withey, a historian at the University of Exeter, has shown that the Victorians can take the credit for beginning the trend of creating outlandish titles. For example, “a delineator of natatorial science” was a swimming instructor, a “couranteer” was a journalist, an “antigropelos maker” made waterproof trousers (always useful, given our climate), while a “tripocoptontic perruquier” conjured up washable wigs.

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The Observer view on Britain’s shameful social division | Observer editorial

Sun, 18 Feb 2018 00:04:29 GMT2018-02-18T00:04:29Z

Government is not only failing to heal the education and property rift separating the millennials from the rest of Britain. It is making it wider

Social and demographic changes are usually, by their nature, gradual. Wars and conscription aside, it is very rare that being born 10 years earlier or later will make a profound difference to where someone ends up in life. But new research published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies last week shows that levels of homeownership have changed so rapidly that big differences have occurred even within a generation.

Just one in four young people born in the late 1980s owned their own home by the time they were 27, compared with almost one in two of those born 10 years earlier.

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The article that changed my view … of how bilingualism can improve society

Sat, 17 Feb 2018 14:48:26 GMT2018-02-17T14:48:26Z

Guardian supporter Emilio Battaglia explains how an opinion piece by Tobias Jones clarified his view of bilingualism’s power to build bridges

Emilio Battaglia, 72, is a teacher and translator from Milan, Italy. He has been living and working in Toronto, Canada, since 1995.

As someone who has dedicated so much of his life to the study and exploration of languages, Tobias Jones’s article “The joys and benefits of bilingualism” immediately caught my eye. The Guardian is not a paper I know well but it is quite popular in Toronto, and becoming increasingly so. And this piece, written with a huge amount of research and an openness of spirit, seems to sum up so much of what the publication stands for. It made me gain a better understanding of how bilingualism can effect positive change, but it also sparked my appreciation of the Guardian’s journalism more widely.

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'It's given the children a love of wildlife': the schools letting nature in

Sat, 17 Feb 2018 09:00:11 GMT2018-02-17T09:00:11Z

In school fields and communities, pupils are learning about the fragility of nature – and restoring depleted environments

After the long slog of winter, pupils at Evelyn Community primary school in Merseyside are getting outside with a mission in mind: to count and record the number of different bird species in the school grounds. The challenge is part of the Big School’s Bird Watch, an event which last year involved 73,000 school children and their teachers.

But the children have been taking an active interest in the wildlife at their school for a while. Since creating a garden in an unused corner of their field more than two years ago, the pupils have attracted a variety of birds. They’ve planted wildflower seeds, created a vegetable plot, made bird nests, and learned about biodiversity. The school has a wicker bird hide and has bought binoculars to encourage bird spotting all year round.

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Secret Teacher: I'm faced with the realities of child poverty every day

Sat, 17 Feb 2018 07:30:09 GMT2018-02-17T07:30:09Z

My pupils are resilient, loving and appreciative of what little support I can give them. But they deserve more

I’ve spent more than a decade working in primary schools in a deprived area of the UK. Some of the children we teach come from families living on the breadline, and they often miss out on things that some of us might take for granted. I’ve seen a pupil eat five packed lunches provided for free by the school because he was so hungry, and families scrape together handfuls of coppers and loose change to pay for school trips. In winter, I’ve taken a child to the supermarket to buy them a coat and shoes.

Related: Most children in UK's poorest areas now growing up in poverty

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Theresa May to reveal details of tuition fee overhaul on Monday

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 14:54:34 GMT2018-02-16T14:54:34Z

Options being considered include cutting fees to £6,000 and changing interest rate

Theresa May is to set out details of her government’s long-promised major review of higher education funding in England – with the current structure of £9,000 undergraduate tuition fees up for scrutiny.

In her speech on Monday, May will outline the delayed review of university funding, with vice-chancellors nervously awaiting the small print of the overhaul that is expected to take up to a year to complete.

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Council plans free school meals all year to tackle 'holiday hunger'

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 10:45:37 GMT2018-02-16T10:45:37Z

North Lanarkshire proposal comes as teachers report seeing more malnourished pupils

A Scottish council plans to provide free meals to children who need them 365 days a year, in a scheme that will be the first of its kind in the UK if approved at a council meeting next Tuesday.

Labour-controlled North Lanarkshire council will pilot the “Food 365” programme in Coatbridge during the Easter break, with the expectation of expanding it to cover the whole of the council area in time for the summer holidays.

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Majority of university leaders involved in setting their own pay

Thu, 15 Feb 2018 16:52:26 GMT2018-02-15T16:52:26Z

Union discovers that 95% of vice-chancellors are on remuneration committees or entitled to attend

The majority of university vice-chancellors are either members of the committee that decides their salary or are allowed to attend its meetings, according to research which will stoke concerns about the fairness of executive pay in higher education.

A freedom of information (FOI) request by the University and College Union (UCU), which represents university staff, found that 95% of university leaders are either members of their remuneration committee or entitled to attend meetings.

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Schools minister Nick Gibb refuses to answer 'what is 8 x 9?' on TV

Wed, 14 Feb 2018 17:30:08 GMT2018-02-14T17:30:08Z

Hosts of Good Morning Britain quiz minister overseeing new numeracy tests for children

The minister responsible for new times table tests for primary pupils in England has refused on television to answer a multiplication question.

Nick Gibb was asked by the Good Morning Britain presenter Jeremy Kyle: “What is eight times nine?”

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Times table tests to be trialled in primary schools in March

Wed, 14 Feb 2018 00:01:03 GMT2018-02-14T00:01:03Z

Teachers’ leaders express concern about test that becomes mandatory in England in 2020

Tests to check whether eight- and nine-year-olds know their times tables will be trialled in some primary schools in England next month before being rolled out nationally.

The test, which ministers hope will improve pupils’ numeracy, will become mandatory in 2020 for all year 4 students.

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For and against students getting the crops in | Letters

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 16:25:37 GMT2018-02-16T16:25:37Z

Readers respond to an earlier letter suggesting that students should replace migrant farm workers after Brexit

In the agricultural sector there is a shortfall of 4,300 jobs with a tiny proportion of the population working on farms. Yet Aileen Hammond (Letters, 15 February) demands that 2.28 million students in higher education descend on to the farms of this country every summer and winter. I’m afraid a few second homes she wants to be made available isn’t going to be quite enough to house these students.

I spent my vacations from university volunteering, getting work experience, writing dissertations – all of which has allowed me to contribute to the common good. There are also lots of other important and meaningful seasonal jobs that depend on the student vacation workforce. Forced labour of students on to farms would play havoc with these sectors and merely shift the labour problem elsewhere.

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Fewer murders in Midsomer Norton | Brief letters

Thu, 15 Feb 2018 18:24:01 GMT2018-02-15T18:24:01Z

Midsomer Norton | Students and crop-picking | Whitechapel fatberg | The pill | Dental care

Midsomer Norton, mentioned in your review of BBC One’s drama Shetland (G2, 14 February), is in North East Somerset (Jacob Rees-Mogg’s constituency). Its murder rate is in no way comparable to that of the fictional Shetland as your review suggests. That of the fictional county of Midsomer (located notionally somewhere between Hampshire and Berkshire but filmed around Oxfordshire) – 231 in 89 episodes – is perhaps comparable.
Ruth Eversley
Paulton, Somerset

• Why stop at driving gangs of students into the fields, like a re-enactment of Mao’s Cultural Revolution (Letters, 15 February)? Isn’t it about time all those eight-year-olds who don’t know their times tables (Report, 15 February) became productive members of society too?
Allison Neal
Abergavenny, Monmouthshire

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Lady Hale: 'Studying law? Make sure you have the stomach for it'

Thu, 15 Feb 2018 16:56:04 GMT2018-02-15T16:56:04Z

The first female head of the supreme court shares her advice for would-be lawyers, and remembers her rise to the top

After graduating from the University of Cambridge in 1966, Lady Hale taught law at Manchester University until 1984, during which time she also qualified as a barrister. She has also served as a high court judge, a lady justice of appeal, a lord of appeal in ordinary, and was appointed the first female president of the supreme court in October 2017.

What are your tips for students looking for their first job in law?

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It's scary and unfair: why I'm striking over university pensions | Alice Evans

Thu, 15 Feb 2018 07:30:09 GMT2018-02-15T07:30:09Z

I do not want to deprive my students of teaching, but if we don’t cause disruption, our universities won’t listen

As members of the University and College Union, including myself, gear up for the upcoming wave of strikes, I find myself wondering how we should communicate to students and the wider public what we’re doing and why.

I find this a very difficult subject to broach. I love teaching and care deeply about my students. We’ve had such wonderfully productive sessions, so many fascinating ideas and critical questions.

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In Sweden, Noor went straight to school; in Britain, Ammar waited six months

Tue, 13 Feb 2018 07:00:08 GMT2018-02-13T07:00:08Z

A new study contrasts the radically different education offered to young refugees arriving alone in Britain and Sweden

Noor and Ammar are two teenage boys with a lot in common. They’ve never met, but both made perilous journeys to Europe, arriving unaccompanied at the age of 16. Both are bright, ambitious and determined to make a contribution.

Noor – sharp, confident; looks you straight in the eye when he speaks – hasn’t met Ammar, but he could be talking for both of them: “It took me six months to get here and we had a lot of problems on the way,” he says. “I didn’t know anybody, I couldn’t speak the language.”

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The Archers academic conference: hot ticket for Radio 4 fans and insurgency experts

Tue, 13 Feb 2018 07:00:08 GMT2018-02-13T07:00:08Z

At this year’s event a Nato adviser talks about terrorism in Ambridge. Plus: papers on public lying and the housing crisis

Britain in 2026. A minority government is struggling to maintain control as a radical insurgent movement led by a charismatic fanatic with links to terror groups is wreaking havoc. Intelligence reports suggest a small village in the English countryside has become the hub of this revolutionary activity.

The scenario will be discussed earnestly on Saturday by, among others, James Armstrong, a political adviser to Nato in Afghanistan, who will give a talk that seeks, he says, to “unite the unfashionable disciplines of Archers studies and counter-insurgency doctrine”.

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Ofsted head: ‘The last thing a chief inspector should be is a crusader’. Oh really?

Tue, 06 Feb 2018 07:15:02 GMT2018-02-06T07:15:02Z

A year into her job Amanda Spielman is riding into battle on the subject of hijabs – but she doesn’t relish the limelight, she says
Should you be afraid of Ofsted?

No chief inspector of schools got off to a stickier start than Amanda Spielman. The education select committee unsuccessfully opposed her appointment in 2016 because, it thought, she lacked not just teaching experience but “passion”.

“It is not a job where you simply throw opinions around,” she told the MPs. When one committee member said the chief inspector should be “a crusader for high aspirations and standards”, she replied that “when you start crusading you can often lose track of … objectivity, honesty and integrity”. She does not regret that comment. “The last thing a chief inspector should be is a crusader,” she tells me when we meet at Ofsted’s headquarters in London. “I think the sector is pretty exhausted by an awful lot of crusader language.”

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Performance-driven culture is ruining science | Anonymous Academic

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 07:30:38 GMT2018-02-16T07:30:38Z

I was told impact metrics could make or break careers. Instead, they broke my faith in scientific research

The first time I heard about the impact factor I was a few weeks into my PhD. A candidate due to finish in a couple of months warned me emphatically: “It makes or breaks careers.” In my innocence, I didn’t think much about it and returned to concentrating on my research. A decade later, metrics such as these came to dominate my work and ultimately drove me to give up my permanent academic post and move into industry.

Since leaving academia, I have found myself wondering about the effect of these metrics on the profession and practice of science.

Related: Pressure to publish in journals drives too much cookie-cutter research

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We cannot let London outstrip other regions on social mobility | Iain Martin

Wed, 14 Feb 2018 07:30:12 GMT2018-02-14T07:30:12Z

The capital sends more pupils receiving free school meals to university than anywhere else. We need to redress the balance

With more than 45% of school leavers now attending university it would be easy to assume that we have a system that is meeting need and providing equity of opportunity for students of equal ability. Yet earlier in February figures were published showing that attempts to widen participation have stalled.

Part of the problem lies in how uneven university participation is across the UK. A recent Social Mobility Commission report [pdf] illustrated the different outcomes among pupils eligible for free school meals depending on where they live.

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There is only so much uncertainty universities can take | Alistair Jarvis

Mon, 12 Feb 2018 07:30:50 GMT2018-02-12T07:30:50Z

An extended period of political and financial unpredictability risks eroding our positive impact. What we need is stability

At a time of deep economic and political uncertainty, it comes as no surprise that some university leaders are worried about the future. According to research by the Guardian and HSBC, 63% feel more pessimistic than they did a year ago. But despite the unpredictability ahead, we can continue to be confident in the resilience and adaptability of our universities – provided they get the right support.

Changes to government policy and funding arrangements have become the biggest concerns for university leaders. That’s why it’s important that, in making decisions about future policy, the government is guided by the strong public interest in ensuring universities’ long-term sustainability, not by immediate political concerns.

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Generous maternity leave has made me a better academic | Anonymous Academic

Fri, 09 Feb 2018 07:30:50 GMT2018-02-09T07:30:50Z

Universities with the best provision employ more women professors. This doesn’t surprise me at all

I always had the sense I was lucky with my maternity leave provision. When I read reports of just how wildly provisions vary at other universities, I knew it. Six months at full pay has been hugely beneficial for me – what a shame it is far from guaranteed for others.

Some colleagues see it as an extended holiday; in reality it is anything but - looking after a child is hard work. In a job like academia, where you’re personally invested in your work, it can be hard to let go. I’ve revised and publicised several papers, corrected proofs, written a book review and submitted a grant application. I have also signed a book contract and started work on the manuscript. It was approved at an editorial meeting after my baby was born. I’ve also lightly worked on two more co-authored publications, although my colleagues have done the bulk of the work after I laid the groundwork last year.

Related: There's some way to go before universities are truly parent-friendly

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Students demand compensation from universities over lecturer strikes

Wed, 07 Feb 2018 18:52:22 GMT2018-02-07T18:52:22Z

Academics in 61 universities are gearing up to strike over proposed changes to their pensions

Students whose studies will be hit by what unions claim will be “the most extensive strike action ever seen” on UK campuses are planning to demand compensation from their universities for disruption to their degrees.

Academics and lecturers in 61 universities across the country will strike over 14 days starting later this month in protest over proposed changes to their pensions which they claim will leave a typical lecturer almost £10,000 worse off each year in retirement – or around £200,000 in total.

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Opportunity and risk: universities prepare for an uncertain future

Wed, 07 Feb 2018 07:30:02 GMT2018-02-07T07:30:02Z

Brexit, funding changes and a tarnished reputation are some of the issues facing the sector. But it is ready for the challenge

The past few months have not been easy for universities. Political volatility surrounding the general election and Brexit, pensions disputes, attacks on vice-chancellor pay, and major policy changes brought in by the Higher Education and Research Act have come on top of day-to-day efforts to maintain solvency and student numbers.

So the glimmers of optimism found by the authors of new research, commissioned by the Guardian, into how universities can plot a course through these uncertain times were unexpected.

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Struggling universities will be shut down, not saved – it's not fair for students

Mon, 05 Feb 2018 07:30:49 GMT2018-02-05T07:30:49Z

The new university watchdog will no longer help institutions through tough times. Students have the most to lose

Putting university tuition fees up for review is confirmation that high graduate debt has become politically toxic. But if fees aren’t replaced by extra funding from the government, some universities could go bust.

In the eyes of the new regulator, the Office for Students (OfS), this is no bad thing: in a competition for survival, the strong win, while the weak fail. But is that fair for students, who will be forced to move institution – or for graduates, who will find their degrees are from a university that no longer exists?

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Nagging university students for feedback is like pestering for TripAdvisor reviews

Fri, 02 Feb 2018 07:30:23 GMT2018-02-02T07:30:23Z

Universities are manipulating their students into providing positive NSS scores to boost their reputations. This has to stop

Final year undergraduates at most UK universities are probably starting to get the distinct feeling their university really, really wants them to fill in the National Student Survey (NSS). Students will be seeing posters, social media campaigns and IT rooms specially reserved for filling in the survey on campus – and generous rewards for completion: iPads, Amazon vouchers, free printing credits and the like.

What they may not realise is that the university’s obsession with the NSS carries on long after they graduate. Hours of staff time will continue to be devoted to scrutinising what they wrote in that survey. This is because the stakes are high. The NSS determines universities’ place in league tables, helps establish their standing against the competition and provides facts and statistics for open day brochures and marketing campaigns – think “ranked second highest for student experience in the lower half of the south west!”

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'She changed my world': how a teacher saved me after my mum died

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 07:30:38 GMT2018-02-16T07:30:38Z

My world was rocked at the age of 12 – but my extraordinary English teacher helped me through it. Now we’re reconnecting

I was 12 years old, and my mum had just died from cancer. It was horrific to watch that happen to someone. My dad had an alcohol problem that mum had been managing all these years – suddenly he had a good reason to drink, and no one to stop him any more. He hit the bottle hard.

I went from being quite a high achieving student to being in the bottom quarter for English. But among all this, there was my English teacher, Miss Ward, who was so supportive. She wasn’t trained in mental health: she just saw someone who was distressed and unhappy, but who also had potential. She changed my world.

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To foster a love of art in children, we must teach it at primary school

Wed, 14 Feb 2018 11:29:11 GMT2018-02-14T11:29:11Z

If we want children to value art, we must give them access to it early on in life. Here’s how primary schools can make space for creativity

It’s no secret that arts subjects are increasingly being deprioritised in many schools, and that there’s a fall in the number of pupils taking arts subjects at GCSE. Yet the arts matter, not only to individual learning but to the UK as a whole: the creative industries currently contribute £84.1bn a year to the economy.

Enthusiasm for art should really start at primary school – by the time students reach year seven, attitudes about what matters in education will have already been established. The national curriculum for art and design is sparse and leaves a lot open to interpretation, meaning that provision varies greatly between schools. With pressures on pupil progress for reading, writing and maths, it’s not uncommon for a whole term to pass without one art lesson.

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The art of reflection: how to become a more thoughtful educator

Sat, 10 Feb 2018 08:30:54 GMT2018-02-10T08:30:54Z

Reflecting on how you’re doing in the classroom can help you take ownership of your teaching and identify areas for improvement

In an effort to improve my teaching practice, I’ve made some pretty unattainable teaching resolutions in the past. I’ve told myself I’ll conquer all behaviour management issues; work-life balance will be my new middle name; and the marking pile will be seamlessly controlled. But such resolutions are usually made during the holidays, and it doesn’t take long for them to dissipate once I’ve returned to the classroom.

Most teachers are passionate about what they do. But research suggests that after the first few years of teaching they can begin to stagnate in their practice. It’s easy for frustrations about making the same mistakes to creep in, and we often look for quick fixes. As Dylan William suggests: “Teachers are like magpies. They love picking up shiny little ideas from one classroom; taking it back to their classroom; trying it once, and then moving on to the next shiny idea.”

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Secret Teacher: supply agencies are giving us a raw deal

Sat, 10 Feb 2018 07:30:53 GMT2018-02-10T07:30:53Z

I thought being a supply teacher would give me flexibility, but the pay and conditions I’ve had to agree to make the situation unsustainable

Becoming a supply teacher initially seemed to make sense. I liked the idea of being in different classrooms while avoiding bureaucracy and the excessive workload driving so many out of the profession. I hoped to be able to balance teaching with other work in the arts. But the reality has left me struggling with long periods of unemployment, job insecurity and low pay.

Related: 'There are tremendous levels of anger': why supply teachers need a better deal

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Research every teacher should know: self-control and learning

Thu, 08 Feb 2018 10:31:00 GMT2018-02-08T10:31:00Z

In his series of articles on how psychology research can inform teaching, Bradley Busch picks an academic study and makes sense of it for the classroom. This time: research looking at self-control

There is a wealth of psychology research that can help teachers to improve how they work with students, but academic studies of this kind aren’t always easy to access or translate into the realities of classroom practice. This series seeks to redress that by taking a selection of studies and making sense of the important information for teachers, as we all seek to answer the question: how can we help our students do better at school? This time, we consider a well-known study looking at self-control.

If I offered a child a marshmallow and told them that if they could refrain from eating it for 15 minutes they would get two marshmallows instead, would they be able to do it? In the early 1970s, Stanford researcher Walter Mischel and colleagues put the challenge to 92 children aged three to five, and the follow-up studies and results 20 years later have had a significant impact on how we view self-control.

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Secret Teacher: I feel stuck in a profession that's making me ill

Sat, 03 Feb 2018 07:00:51 GMT2018-02-03T07:00:51Z

I should be prioritising my pupils. Instead, I have become desperately stressed chasing marking and assessment deadlines

It’s 7am on a Friday morning just after Christmas, and I’m returning to school following three days of sick leave off work.

I’d been to see the GP before the holidays, who confirmed I was suffering from stress. I was reluctant to go to the doctor, but my family and colleagues had commented that I wasn’t myself. My GP suggested I rest over the break and return for another appointment after Christmas to see if things had improved. Unfortunately, that was unlikely to happen.

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Every school needs a staff wellbeing team – here’s how to start one

Thu, 01 Feb 2018 16:34:30 GMT2018-02-01T16:34:30Z

Prioritising staff happiness at work has led to a marked improvement in our school’s Ofsted grade – and a new harmony in the staffroom

I started as headteacher at Brimsdown primary school in Enfield, north London, during a troubling time for the school. There had been two requires improvement Ofsted inspections, and it was judged to be in the lowest 10% for year 6 reading progress.

Related: 'I feel completely in control': stress-busting teaching strategies for 2018

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'It captures their imagination': teaching sustainability through the arts

Sat, 27 Jan 2018 07:30:44 GMT2018-01-27T07:30:44Z

At a time when arts are squeezed in some schools, teachers are embracing them as a tool to teach the environment

At Fleet primary school in north London, children between the ages of three and 11 are learning songs about climate change and the environment. Tunes featuring fossil fuels, composting, growing vegetables and the impact of transport have all become popular in class, despite the somewhat serious messages at their heart.

For the teachers, music is proving to be a useful tool in explaining subjects that may otherwise be considered complex or inaccessible for young children. “The kids love singing about green issues,” says Beth Cleine, head of science and arts at the school. “They learn simple, catchy songs and sing them in the classroom or all together in assembly. It’s a fun way to learn.” The children performed some of the songs at last year’s Camden Music Festival at the Royal Albert Hall.

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Some are more equal than others in Finland | Letters

Sun, 18 Feb 2018 17:19:41 GMT2018-02-18T17:19:41Z

Enrique Tessieri says social inequality, racism and discrimination are on the rise in Finland. Plus Elo Allik-Schünemann on the great moral and material help given to Estonia by Finland after the end of the Soviet Union

While Finland has achieved a lot of progress in creating a Nordic welfare state based on social equality (Letters, 16 February), we have to ask which groups are entitled to such values. With the Sami, Roma, migrants and other minorities, this is, unfortunately, not the case. As the government of Prime Minister Juha Sipilä scales back funds to the education system and social welfare state, we see a problem arising that has not been readily acknowledged by white Finland: social inequality, racism and discrimination. The mass deportation of Iraqis and Afghans, who came to Finland from 2015, is a sad case in point.

It wasn’t too long ago when foreigners – never mind minorities like the Sami – didn’t have equal civil rights never mind the right to speak their language at schools. It was only after EU membership in 1995 that Finland started, at least in the law, to be more open to difference and to the outside world. The parliamentary election victory of the populist anti-immigrant True Finns party in 2011 was a stark reminder that many want to turn back the clock to more harrowing times for minorities and migrants.
Enrique Tessieri
Mikkeli, Finland

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Finland’s egalitarian Eden has a dark side | Letters

Thu, 15 Feb 2018 18:24:36 GMT2018-02-15T18:24:36Z

Robert Lee and Julian Wells say Finnish history is far from perfect, while Mary Fawcett says the country should be proud of its education system and David Rainbird says it is right to not squander its resources on pursuit of great-power status

Finland is a highly egalitarian country in terms of income distribution, but to assume it was never hierarchical is problematic (Free and fair: How Finland came up with the answers, 13 February).

The 19th-century aristocracy, many of Swedish origin, held extensive estates; the profitability of timber exports enabled ship owners to accumulate very considerable fortunes; and by the 1850s Finlayson’s cotton factory in Tampere was the largest in the Nordic area. Even within the peasantry there was a huge disparity between the owners of reasonably sized holdings and “houseless” day labourers.

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Yoga for South African school children – in pictures

Mon, 12 Feb 2018 07:00:50 GMT2018-02-12T07:00:50Z

Yoga4Alex is an initiative offering free yoga classes to schoolchildren living in the Johannesburg township of Alexandra, with the goal of giving students the tools to cope with stress and anxiety, and to help them achieve focus in their schoolwork and everyday life

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Art’s removal prompted debate | Letters

Mon, 05 Feb 2018 18:03:48 GMT2018-02-05T18:03:48Z

Guardian readers respond to the debate over the painting Hylas and the Nymphs’ portrayal of what appears to be underage girls and its removal from and reinstatement to the Manchester Art Gallery

What, so many letters about the Manchester Art Gallery’s temporary removal of Hylas and the Nymphs, and none in favour (Letters, 3 February)? It must be valid to discuss whether male painters of female nudes are always respectful of their subjects, and how far our modern sensibility still gives the benefit of the doubt to the artist when asking is it pornography or is it art? (if indeed we even allow ourselves to ask that question). So, well done Manchester Art Gallery for laying these issues, er, bare.
Tim Shelton-Jones

• Visiting Manchester Art Gallery recently, I stood in gallery 10 uncomfortably aware that the paintings all around me portrayed women and girls as helpless prey or temptresses. The name of gallery 10 is “The Pursuit of Love” but these paintings are not about love at all. They are about sex and power.

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Inequality makes poverty even worse | Letters

Sun, 18 Feb 2018 00:02:29 GMT2018-02-18T00:02:29Z

Steven Pinker dismisses our unequal society too easily – the poorest are being left further behind than ever before

Steven Pinker certainly provides much food for thought (“Enlighten me…”, the New Review).

He is right to emphasise “the extraordinary progress that humankind has made in the past couple of hundred years”. And one may – reluctantly – agree that in some respects “humankind was becoming progressively less violent”.

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I’ve never known my times tables. Frankly, who needs them? | Peter Bradshaw

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 17:41:23 GMT2018-02-16T17:41:23Z

The ministerial diktat to make children learn multiplication by rote is silly. Surely there are more important things

What’s nine sevens? Quick, quick! Nine sevens. Now, some people can answer that straight away, with a querulous little singsong intonation in their voice, as if to say: “Sixty-three, of course, how dare you insinuate that my basic education is somehow lacking?” And then they will often – in a jokey but deadly serious way – challenge you to one in return. Twelve sixes! Come on, times-table tough guy, let’s go! Right now, you and me. Come and have a go if you think you’re times-table-y enough!

Twelve sixes! It’s a live issue now, after the education secretary, Damian Hinds, announced that mandatory times tables tests are back on the agenda for primary school kids for the first time in 75 years. This after the school standards minister, Nick Gibb, refused in a television interview this week to answer a simple times-tables question.

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The Guardian view on religious education: teach humanism too | Editorial

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 16:59:20 GMT2018-02-16T16:59:20Z

Religion is growing in importance, for good and ill. Studying it teaches us about ourselves – even if we don’t believe

Why should anyone wish to learn about religion? Religion is, in the phrase of the sociologist Linda Woodhead, “a toxic brand”. In the public imagination the word summons up images of violence, patriarchy and irrationalism. The facile confidence of the “New Atheist” movement in the early years of this century was pushing at an open door. Religious studies nevertheless remains a surprisingly popular A-level subject, although this may owe something to its reputation as an easy one. A recent YouGov poll found that the British public thinks that RE is a subject scarcely more important than Latin, which the public, wrongly, does not care about at all. The National Association of Teachers of Religious Education has just launched an appeal for more teachers.

The association is quite right: religious education matters a great deal. At the very least it can function as a kind of ethnography, teaching people about the customs and beliefs of different religious cultures – something that is obviously desirable in a multicultural society. To know that Muslims and Jews won’t eat pork, or that Hindus regard cows as sacred, is really just a part of civics. There is nothing specifically religious about such teaching, even if it is by convention part of religious education. It could just as well be taught under geography or history, subjects profoundly influenced by the beliefs and actions of religious people. The real task of RE is much more ambitious.

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Heartbreak isn't enough. Shootings will continue until laws are changed | Shannon Watts

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 14:10:03 GMT2018-02-16T14:10:03Z

We deserve to have lawmakers who understand that prioritizing public safety is not a political issue – it is a matter of common sense

There is no such thing as “too soon” to talk about gun violence; there is only too late. On Wednesday, a gunman shot and killed 17 students and teachers and wounded many more at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida.

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Taking delight in times tables | Letters

Sun, 18 Feb 2018 17:20:03 GMT2018-02-18T17:20:03Z

Mathematically mature readers respond to a recent Guardian article by Peter Bradshaw

The usefulness of multiplication tables lies not in their practical application – though they can help one to avoid being bamboozled by supermarket offers – but in the beauty and symmetry revealed once they have been learned (I can’t do my times tables, and I don’t care, 17 February). Each table has its own character, but 9-times, which gave Peter Bradshaw so much difficulty, is especially lovely, the first digit ascending stepwise as the second descends, so that pairs of digits in the upper half are mirror images of those in the lower. Then there is the delight in finding that the sum of the digits in each product is 9 (except for 11 times 9, where 9 is reached by summing a second time). I am sorry that a generation of children were denied this joy, but delighted that it is to be restored to their successors. Facts are not understanding, but human intelligence is adept at teasing out the patterns that turn mere knowledge into appreciation, leading on to synthesis and the creation of new ideas.
J Robin Hughes

• Peter Bradshaw gives a tedious method of finding 7x9. He could have noted that the numbers 7 and 9 are immediately adjacent to 8. The answer is therefore 8 squared (64) minus 1 squared (1) giving 63. This is a simple example of a wider method known to the Babylonians over 4,000 years ago and can be very easily demonstrated with simple materials in a primary school. In our enlightened times, however, we obviously prefer the “character forming” slog of rote memorisation without any exploration of the fascinating and valuable mathematics inherent in these tables.
John Porter

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How to write better essays: 'nobody does introductions properly'

Tue, 07 Mar 2017 12:45:32 GMT2017-03-07T12:45:32Z

Is Wikipedia really a no-go? Should you bother with the whole reading list? And how do you make a convincing argument? We ask the experts

As the government begins its crackdown on essay mill websites, it’s easy to see just how much pressure students are under to get top grades for their coursework these days. But writing a high-scoring paper doesn’t need to be complicated. We spoke to experts to get some simple techniques that will raise your writing game.

Tim Squirrell is a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh, and is teaching for the first time this year. When he was asked to deliver sessions on the art of essay-writing, he decided to publish a comprehensive (and brilliant) blog on the topic, offering wisdom gleaned from turning out two or three essays a week for his own undergraduate degree.

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Stefan Petrusewicz obituary

Sun, 18 Feb 2018 17:40:59 GMT2018-02-18T17:40:59Z

My grandfather, Stefan Petrusewicz, who has died aged 87, came to Britain as a refugee during the second world war. He went on to become the youngest apprentice to serve at the RAF cadet training centre at Halton, Buckinghamshire, and later a lecturer in engineering at Bath University.

Stefan was born in Wilno, Poland, now Vilnius, Lithuania, the son of Stanisław, a post office clerk, and his wife, Helena (nee Liksza). He talked of an idyllic childhood in a vibrant, multicultural city, marred only by the death of his mother when he was five. When Wilno was occupied by the Soviet Union in 1939, thousands of Polish citizens were judged as enemies of the people and sent by cattle wagon to Soviet locations.

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10 things teachers want to say to parents, but can't

Tue, 10 Jun 2014 06:20:00 GMT2014-06-10T06:20:00Z

The long school year is coming to an end and one primary teacher has a few things to share

• 10 things parents want to say to teachers

1 Your kids are not your mates

Something I'm starting to hear with worrying frequency within the primary school setting is "my daughter's my best friend". Often, this rings alarm bells. Your kids aren't your mates. You're their parent, and your responsibility is to provide them with guidance and boundaries, not to drag them into your own disputes. Your nine-year-old doesn't need to know about your bitter feud with his friend's mother, or which dad you've got the  hots for at the school gate. In the years to come he or she may realise that some of  their own problems (social alienation, in its various forms, being a prime example) might have something to do with exposure to that sort of talk at an early age. Continue at your own risk.

Continue reading...Clockwise, from top left: let them get their own breakfast, John Terry's not such a good role model, be careful with video game age ratings and PE is compulsory.Clockwise, from top left: let them get their own breakfast, John Terry's not such a good role model, be careful with video game age ratings and PE is compulsory.

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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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Tuition fee repayment earnings threshold to rise to £25,000

Sun, 01 Oct 2017 10:29:43 GMT2017-10-01T10:29:43Z

Theresa May announced change, along with a freeze in fee levels and review of student funding, at Tory party conference

Low-earning graduates will benefit from a delay in their student loan repayments under a Conservative scheme designed to defuse the political damage over tuition fees and attempt to woo younger voters.

Speaking at the start of the Conservative party conference in Manchester, Theresa May announced plans to raise the income level that triggers student loan repayments for recent graduates in England from £21,000 to £25,000 a year.

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Top 10 podcasts to help you learn a language

Mon, 09 Feb 2015 12:45:01 GMT2015-02-09T12:45:01Z

From videos in Japanese to news in German, language blogger Lindsay Dow recommends her favourite podcasts to keep you motivated and inspired while improving your skills

I became a language addict way back in the early noughties thanks to Shakira. Since then I’ve gone on to pursue a degree in French and Spanish with the Open University, and I’ve also studied Mandarin, Italian, German and various other languages along the way. With formal studying never quite being enough, I’m always looking for other methods to engage my language learning brain, podcasts being one of them. Here’s a few of my favourites:

Continue reading..."I’m always looking for other methods to engage my language learning brain," says Lindsay Dow. Photograph: Katherine Anne Rose"I’m always looking for other methods to engage my language learning brain," says Lindsay Dow. Photograph: Katherine Anne Rose

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Lord Sutherland of Houndwood obituary

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 16:47:41 GMT2018-02-16T16:47:41Z

Academic who addressed the politically sensitive challenges of school standards and affordable care

During a glittering academic career, in which he became vice-chancellor of two universities, London and then Edinburgh, Stewart Sutherland, Lord Sutherland of Houndwood, who has died aged 76, acquired two further distinctions. He was the first head of Ofsted, the schools regulator established in 1992, and the last person to chair a UK royal commission. Both were politically sensitive roles.

Ofsted was set up as the guardian of quality in the Conservative government’s quasi-market for schools, involving more parental choice, wider school autonomy and league tables of exam and test results. It was required to discharge this function not through the central team of inspectors (known as HMIs) that had existed for more than 150 years, but through supervising a market in which independent teams would, rather like jobbing builders, bid for inspection contracts.

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University guide 2018: league table for medicine

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

The study of pre-clinical medicine and clinical medicine to maintain health, diagnose and treat disease in order to become a doctor

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University students failed by rip-off fees, says watchdog

Fri, 08 Dec 2017 00:00:27 GMT2017-12-08T00:00:27Z

National Audit Office says if English universities were banks, they would be investigated for mis-selling, as students say they do not get value for money

Students taking out huge loans to pay for higher education are being failed by universities in England, with only one in three saying they receive value for money according to a stinging new report by the government’s spending watchdog.

Amyas Morse, the head of the National Audit Office (NAO), said that if universities were banks they would be investigated for mis-selling.

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How to get into university without any A-levels

Mon, 19 Aug 2013 08:53:00 GMT2013-08-19T08:53:00Z

Reached the end of school with no qualifications? You can still go to university if you play your cards right

This September, Robbie Wojciechowski will be starting at Goldmsiths University as an undergraduate, despite having no A-level qualifications. Sound unlikely? Well it's not as uncommon as you'd think.

Universities are changing the way they think about candidates with alternative qualifications. Not only are they beginning to accept applications from them, they're offering courses specifically tailored towards non-traditional students.

Continue reading...Robbie Wojciechowski is going to study at Goldsmiths without any A-levels. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the GuardianRobbie Wojciechowski is going to study at Goldsmiths without any A-levels. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

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