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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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    Universities say they are taking steps to promote BAME staff and address the attainment gap, but progress is far too slow

    When I was appointed director of Soas University of London in 2015, I was astounded to discover that I was the first person of African-Caribbean descent to head a UK university. Ever since, I find myself frequently asked why there is such a lack of black, Asian and minority ethnic representation in senior management in higher education.

    I don’t have a simple answer to that question. But I do know that many BAME staff in higher education have expressed anger, frustration and disbelief at their lack of representation in senior roles. Not even 1% of UK professors are black and across the sector there is a 16% pay gap between BAME and white staff working in senior management for academic and professional services. Moreover, black students are more likely to drop out, and make up the lowest proportion of students graduating with a first or upper second class degree.

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    For too long, institutions have swept racist incidents under the carpet for fear of bad PR. Now black students are speaking out

    • Shakira Martin is the president of the NUS

    Racism is rarely seen as “our problem” in the UK – in contrast to, say, the US where laws, states and legislation were used to exclude African-Americans from public spaces. The very word and its connotations are unsettling. People would rather not talk about it. Nowhere is this more evident than in universities. Brochures, websites and the Department for Education would have you believe that our institutions are beacons of equality and diversity. And while some may appear to be on paper, the reality is very different. The past year alone has seen a string of cases involving black students faced with abuse and vile treatment at their universities. The media may be slowly waking up to the fact we have a race problem, but it has been a huge problem in educational environments for decades.

    A product of widening participation has been that more than 40% of young people now go on to university. So if our institutions are the most diverse they have ever been why are black students having such a tough time? It’s not just physical, overt forms of racism that plight the lives of black students, a recent poll found that half of students have witnessed racism during their studies, the majority being verbal, offhand or “casually” racist comments.

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    Key stage 2 pupils in England are taking crucial maths exams this week. Try our sample questions to see how you would fare

    On Wednesday and Thursday year 6 children in England’s primary schools will take their Sats maths test.

    If you haven’t had children in the English education system for a while, or even at all, you might be curious about what 11-year-olds are expected to know about maths. So below is a sample of the types of questions they will face.

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    Exam board AQA says mistake that gave solution to earlier question had been identified but decision was made to leave it in

    After a GCSE maths question involving a bag of sweets which was labelled as too difficult, students are now praising their exam board saying a chemistry paper they sat on Tuesday was too easy.

    AQA has apologised after the phrasing of one GCSE chemistry question gave away the answer to a previous one.

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    Watchdog says some boards awarding better results despite not finding errors in the original marking

    Exam boards were accused of creating a “massive muddle” this summer over students appealing against their GCSE results, following revelations in an official report by Ofqual.

    The exams watchdog’s investigation showed that some boards had awarded extra marks despite not finding errors in the original marking and that re-marking rules imposed by England’s exam regulator had been ignored.

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    Master of Birkbeck, University of London, Prof David Latchman to be investigated despite being cleared by similar inquiry last year

    A London university’s most senior academic is to be reinvestigated for alleged research misconduct after being cleared by a similar inquiry last year, the Guardian has learned.

    Prof David Latchman, a prominent geneticist and master of Birkbeck, University of London, was found to have “no case to answer” by an inquiry in 2015, but a new investigation has been ordered following fresh claims of potential wrongdoing.

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    Some secondary schools have ‘lost’ up to 46% of their pupils without causing any alarm to Ofsted inspectors

    When Ofsted inspectors published a report on Hewens College in Hillingdon, west London, in January 2016, they gave it a clean bill of health. Leadership and management were impressive, teachers had high expectations of their charges and the education provided overall was adjudged “good”. Any school would be proud of such a report.

    However, one striking fact was not mentioned. The year group that had taken GCSEs the previous summer, and on whom much of the school’s latest achievement data was based, was only just over half the size it had been when these pupils joined the school in 2010.

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    Ex-Harrow head Barnaby Lenon says 100 hours over fortnight ideal for GCSE and A-levels

    An expert recommendation that GCSE and A-level students should study for seven hours a day throughout the Easter holidays has been greeted with a variety of scepticism, concern and mild horror by psychologists, teachers and pupils.

    Barnaby Lenon, a former headteacher of Harrow, the prestigious independent boarding school that educated the likes of Winston Churchill, Benedict Cumberbatch, the singer James Blunt and the rugby player Billy Vunipola, suggests in a much discussed list of revision tips, a total of 100 hours study over the fortnight long holiday.

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    Five cheap and charitable ways to spend the summer holidays

    Festivals and travel aren’t always an option for students who have to work during their summer break. But through volunteering, there are ways to get around ticket and accommodation costs:

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    Classes across the state were cancelled as teachers and their supporters protested low salaries and poorly funded schools

    “It’s personal,” said the 48-year-old African American teacher Michelle Burton, a librarian in the Durham county school system, as she stood next to a marching band playing the Star Wars theme under a banner that said Education Strikes Back.

    Burton was far from alone. She was one of some 20,000 teachers and their supporters who used personal days on Wednesday to call out of work, forcing 40 North Carolina school districts to cancel classes for more than 1 million students.

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    The GCSE is 30 – and it’s suddenly much tougher, causing extraordinary anxiety for teachers and pupils. So should it be scrapped?

    On Monday morning, what may be the most dreaded and feared set of public exams England’s teenagers have ever sat began in school assembly halls up and down the country.

    It is 30 years since GCSEs (General Certificate for Secondary Education) were first introduced under Margaret Thatcher, replacing O-levels and CSEs. The new exam was designed to cover a broad spectrum of ability rather than dividing pupils between high achievers, who sat O-levels, and lower-ability students, who took CSEs. Now, three decades later, following claims of grade inflation and dumbing down, GCSEs have been revised and re-formed and a brand new set of exams is being rolled out.

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    There is growing evidence that feeling isolated can affect our health and even job prospects. But help is available

    University can be a lonely place, with the move away from home, deadlines and the pressure to go out every night. This can affect your mental health and even future job prospects, according to a recent study. And the problem of young people feeling lonely “may well be getting worse”, says Kate Jopling, loneliness expert and former director of the Campaign to End Loneliness. Getting out of the rut isn’t always easy, but there are ways students can help themselves. Experts and students share their advice.

    Related: Loneliness linked to major life setbacks for millennials, study says

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    From lack of analysis to regurgitating lecture material, don't let these 10 common mistakes scupper your chances of exam success

    Not many students would admit to enjoying taking exams or writing essays, but if you want to get a degree, they're an ordeal you have to survive.

    So we've worked out how to make the whole thing a little less stressful. We've persuaded four academics from a range of subject areas to tell us the top 10 things students get wrong in exams and coursework. This is what they've told us:

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    Even at exam time, eating well is easy and can have a real effect on your concentration levels, nutrition experts say

    It’s heads-down revision time for exams and dissertations. The pressure’s on, so you’ll want all the help you can get to aid your memory and raise your grades (without smart drugs or cheating). Nutrition experts say that eating well can make a real difference to your revision regime – so what brain-boosting food and drink do they recommend?

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    When it comes to revising, how do you know which techniques work? We chat to students and experts to find out what methods really help you remember

    With so many different revision guides, it can be hard to know what's good practice and what's not. We talked to a brain expert, as well as students and lecturers from universities across Britain, to get the best advice on how to revise effectively and remember what you've learned.

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    As a deaf person I know the value of these teachers. If the government took education seriously it wouldn’t allow numbers to fall

    How much is a child’s education worth? If they’re deaf, not even £4m it seems. Or at least that’s how much will be cut by English councils from their deaf educational support budgets this year, according to analysis by the National Deaf Children’s Society. It follows massive reductions that have already occurred in the number of specialist teachers employed by councils to support deaf children and their families. The charity estimates that one in 10 have been axed over the past four years.

    I’m deaf in both ears. I wear hearing aids and rely heavily on lip-reading. I had a specialist teacher in my mainstream primary and secondary schools, and the support was crucial to me succeeding. The picture for deaf and hard-of-hearing children in education today is bleak. They fall behind their peers at every stage in school, and Department for Education statistics show around 60% don’t achieve government GCSE targets.

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    From excessive highlighting to cramming, it’s easy to get into bad revision habits. Here, experts point a better way forward

    If you’re one to put hours into revising for an exam only to be disappointed with the results, then you may need to rethink your revision methods. You could be wasting time on inefficient techniques, says Bradley Busch, a registered psychologist and director of InnerDrive. “You get people putting in lots of effort, but not in a directed way,” he says. Here are some of the common ways students unwittingly waste study time, and what experts recommend you do instead.

    Related: The revision diet: what's the best food and drink to help students focus?

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    What did I find when I joined a university? Poor mental health, huge workloads, ego-driven professors and rampant plagiarism

    Not for the first time, I watched as one of our PhD students was loaded into an ambulance and taken to hospital. He had collapsed in one of the university research labs about 20 minutes earlier.

    A few hours later we received word from the hospital that the student was now alert and all tests were normal. Just as I had seen previously, the student had fainted as a result of stress, anxiety and fatigue.

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    The all-consuming new system is causing stress-induced illnesses and has little relevance outside of school

    Reading teachers’ and students’ accounts of the immense stress and mental health issues caused by the introduction of the new GCSE exams this year is heartbreaking. “The new GCSEs have broken my best students, left some with serious stress-induced illnesses, and isolated the majority, leaving them completely apathetic towards their own learning,” said one teacher. A student reports: “I have seen the mentally toughest people crack and it’s painful to watch. People crying over being unable to do a maths question. Is this what we want as a nation, to be put under this mental stress?”

    Exams are not exactly known for making teenagers happy, but the misery should at least lead to something useful at the end of it. GCSEs as they previously stood were so forgiving that their usefulness was often called into question – but instead of reforming them, former secretary of state for education Michael Gove decided to take them back to the days of the O-level. The new GCSEs emphasise tough, stressful end-of-year examinations over coursework and regular testing: teacher friends tell me that even in subjects where the content of the syllabus hasn’t changed enormously, the way that students are tested on it has become much more stressful.

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    The NUS is calling for stricter policies on the relationships that staff can have with students. What was your experience?

    A third of universities have no policy on relationships between staff and students, according to a recent survey.

    The National Union of Students and campaigners the 1752 group, which conducted the survey, are now calling for universities to introduce policies on appropriate teaching relationships that reflect the power imbalance between staff and students. These professional boundaries might emulate NHS rules, which prevent doctors from entering into romantic relationships with patients, the authors suggest.

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