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Latest education news, comment and analysis on schools, colleges, universities, further and higher education and teaching from the Guardian, the world's leading liberal voice

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    Outdoor nurseries are sweeping the UK, their focus on fresh air and child-centred learning rather than testing. But can they prepare children for our technology-obsessed world?

    Golden leaves are falling, wood smoke is rising, and my daughter Milly finds a dressing-up box incongruously placed in a small paddock, puts on a silky pink top and sunhat and climbs a tree.

    Below her, one boy waves a toy plastic chainsaw at another. “I’m going to chop you,” he says. “It’s a tool, not a weapon,” says his mum, making sure he is safe. Parents are shivering in the cold but no children are complaining.

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    Postgrads rely on their supervisors for help and support. But what happens when the relationship turns sour?

    Emma Baker* felt like a failure when she quit her PhD after 18 months and started again from scratch. But the previously high-achieving student, who has a first-class bachelor’s degree in science, says she felt she had no choice when the relationship with her supervisor became toxic.

    “My experiments weren’t working, which is fairly common,” she says. But, rather than sort it out with a bit of guidance, she was left to “bumble through” while her supervisor never showed up to the lab. After reaching breaking point, she pleaded with him for help, and it didn’t go well.

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    Death of Justin Cheng, third-year law student, adds to toll over past 18 months

    A third-year student at Bristol university is believed to have killed himself – the seventh to have taken his own life in less than 18 months.

    Justin Cheng, a law student from Canada, was found dead on the evening of 12 January, the university confirmed.

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    Exeter University students who say they were subject to racist abuse call for systemic change in handling of prejudice

    Students at the University of Exeter are calling for urgent changes after a spate of racist incidents, which they say are happening on campus and within student societies.

    Chris Omanyondo, Arsalan Motavali and Roman Ibra, all 21, have come forward to the Guardian to describe incidents of racism, including one in which they allege Ibra was called a “nigger” by a group of fellow students, who also allegedly used the word “Paki” and made offensive comments about burqas and 9/11.

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    I built a school that goes even further than Gonski 2.0, and it’s a success. There’s only one flaw in his suggestions

    I can tell you what a school that subscribed to Gonski’s 2.0 report would look like, because I built one. Templestowe College, or TC as it is known, is a government secondary school in Melbourne’s south-east. It has no year levels, every student is on an individualised learning plan and students are genuine partners in their own learning.

    In fact, TC goes further than Gonski. There are no compulsory subjects once students develop literacy and numeracy skills that enable them to function effectively in society. Students choose what they want to study from more than 150 electives or can even develop their own course. Students run 50 of their own businesses and the school employs 10% of the students to help run the school. Just like in the real world there are no bells, no compulsory uniforms, no detention, and people call each other by their first names. Students can start school at 7.15am, 9am or 10.30am. They can graduate in four years or eight years depending on their chosen pathway.

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    Scientists says blood test could avoid costly, stressful, food tests for confirming allergy

    A new blood test could make it much easier and cheaper to identify children with peanut allergies, say scientists.

    The test, which looks for biomarkers released by mast cells, or white blood cells forming part of the immune system, made a correct diagnosis 98% of the time in a study involving 174 children.

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    Sam Gyimah says rules now let ‘bureaucrats or wreckers on campus’ stop discussion

    The UK’s complex tangle of regulations governing free speech on university campuses should be replaced by one clear set of guidelines for both students and institutions, according to the universities minister.

    In a speech at a closed-door seminar on free speech on campus, the minister, Sam Gyimah, will suggest the Department for Education oversees the creation of the first new set of guidelines – since the free speech duty was first introduced in 1986– to “provide clarity”.

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    Mandy Manning, who works with refugees and immigrants, wears Women’s March and trans equality pins at White House

    A teacher who leads a classroom for teenage refugees staged a silent protest by wearing several overtly political badges while receiving an award from Donald Trump at the White House.

    Mandy Manning works at the Newcomer Center at Joel E Ferris high school in Spokane, Washington, which specializes in English language development for new refugees and immigrant students.

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    In Britain, social segregation starts early, with a few given the tools to succeed while the rest are abandoned

    What price can you put on a child’s education? It depends on who that child is. New figures show the average fee for attending a top private school has now risen above £17,000 a year for the first time. In contrast, a child attending a state school in England can expect to have £4,000 to £6,000 spent on them, depending on location and additional allowances. This would be worrying in any circumstances but when we have crumbling and cramped state schools, it feels almost grotesque. While some children enjoy drama halls and swimming pools, others are trying to learn surrounded by leaks, mould and vermin.

    Inequality in education is not a new phenomenon. Even before vast underfunding set in, we had one of the most unequal school systems in the developed world. Private schools, remarkably, still retain charitable status, a gift from the taxpayer for retaining privilege. (The chair of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, which represents most of Britain’s leading public schools, once compared making greater links between private and state schools as a condition of their tax break to the ordeal of forced marriage.) There is also rampant inequality even within the state sector, with middle-class offspring more likely to get a better deal from a comprehensive.

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    I failed twice to get a nursing degree, but I’ve seen how my experience of mental health problems can help others

    Working as a nurse was not something I ever saw myself doing while I was growing up. The possibilities seemed endless and I dreamed of being everything from an archaeologist to a vet. However, at the age of 15 I received a life-changing diagnosis and the world I knew fell apart. Overnight my life changed from that of a normal teenager to one punctuated with unrelenting rounds of in-patient psychiatric treatment and a near-fatal battle with anorexia.

    My own journey, and the healthcare professionals who had influenced it – both good and not so good – had a profound effect on me and I began to consider nursing as a career. I wondered if I would be able to use my experience to help others in similar positions, and felt a strong desire to give something back.

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    Spokesman confirms death of fourth-year engineering student Alex Elsmore

    A fourth-year engineering student at the University of Bristol has died suddenly, the university has said.

    University authorities said they had been informed of the death of Alex Elsmore, which reportedly took place on 21 April, and urged students and staff affected by the news to seek support.

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    Education secretary Michael Gove has written a letter to an old teacher, expressing regret for his behaviour at school. We asked some writers who they would apologise to and why

    Brien McMahon High School, Norwalk, Connecticut

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    From sorting out practical arrangements to avoiding faux pas, follow our guide to graduation day

    “At my first graduation I got my boyfriend and best friend to pretend to be my parents,” says doctorate student Lindsay Jordan. “My friend dressed up like Jackie Onassis. It was pretty funny, but I’d rather my real parents had been there.”

    Jordan’s parents didn’t attend either her undergraduate or master’s graduation ceremonies, as “they hate travelling and formal occasions”. While they may not be for everyone, graduation ceremonies are a chance for parents to celebrate their child’s achievements – and mark the end of university life. But they can also be expensive, stressful and the cause of family arguments. Here’s how to make your student child’s graduation day a happy one.

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    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.

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    Some universities in England could be at risk as figures show drop in student numbers – but the Office for Students has no remit to help

    Some English universities may be in danger of collapse, experts warn, as numbers of young students enrolling at several institutions have dropped alarmingly in the new competitive education “market”.

    Figures released by Ucas, the universities admissions service, last week reveal that the number of 18-year-olds enrolling at London Metropolitan University, the University of Cumbria, Kingston University and the University of Wolverhampton have shrunk every year, with major losses over the past five years.

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    Academic institutions sometimes have different interpretations of their role in the ‘hostile environment’

    Peter Scott (Universities are not border guards, 1 May) inadvertently highlights another problem arising from the imposition of ill-considered government diktats: local variation in interpreting and applying them. In contrast to his case, I have been permitted to examine a doctoral thesis without exhibiting a passport or birth certificate since the university concerned ruled that this activity was not subject to “right to work” requirements (unlike, it seems, everything else). Both institutions cannot be correct in their interpretations. Another question for the new home secretary to consider? Or should his predecessor-but-one and her successor already have worked this one out rather than leaving it to burden his overloaded in-tray?
    Professor David Hook
    Bristol

    • A decade ago a now deceased senior Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development colleague was quizzed at the US border about the detailed content of what he would say to an OECD-US government-sponsored seminar. He chose not to visit the US again while this practice persisted. Those of long  memory will recall living under the Stasi’s eye in East Germany. If not, revisit Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Corruption of community is not restricted to higher (or lower) education. Nor is it what David David Cameron had in mind as the “big society”.
    Professor Chris Duke
    Centre for European Studies, RMIT University, Australia

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    Education secretary Damian Hinds to unveil £5m scheme in address to school leaders in Liverpool on Friday

    Teachers in England are to be offered up to a year’s paid sabbatical after 10 years of service, in an attempt by the government to retain experienced staff in classrooms.

    In an address on Friday to more than 350 school leaders in Liverpool, education secretary Damian Hinds will announce a £5m pilot scheme designed to ensure teaching remains “an attractive, fulfilling profession”.

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    Many postgraduates who teach are paid less than the minimum wage, are on insecure contracts and have no representation

    In universities, it’s common for teaching, demonstrating, marking and other academic work to be done by postgraduate students studying towards their research degree. It’s a win-win: vital career experience and extra cash for students, and an important source of labour for universities. But what should be a mutually beneficial role too often takes the form of exploitative, casual and poorly paid work.

    As an associate lecturer and PhD student, I have personally experienced some of these problems at my university, and heard worse from fellow students. Late or non-existent payment for teaching, delays in getting proper contracts, inadequate office facilities and a lack of formal training, induction and support for new staff are just some of the problems faced by PhD students teaching at my institution.

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    Instead of taking a lesson-by-lesson approach, teachers should be thinking about building understanding of a topic over time

    In my first few years of teaching I spent a lot of time trying to create an “outstanding” lesson. I used up hours planning individual classes and painstakingly making resources for every child. But I had no idea how to plan for learning over time.

    It wasn’t something anyone had talked about during my training. Instead of looking at memory or how to help students build on skills incrementally, they threw around words like engagement, collaboration and learning styles.

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    Weighing pupils and measuring their girth could push them into eating disorders. As a former anorexic, I know the dangers

    In an attempt to fight obesity, the government could force schools across England to weigh and measure their students. Under a suggested policy from No 10, children would jump on the scales and have their middles taped once a year. If they qualified as overweight, they’d be subjected to extra gym classes and a school-imposed programme of weight loss.

    Related: Jamie Oliver is wrong – obesity is not just about diet | Tanni Grey-Thompson

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