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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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    Exhibition to reveal truth about books hidden in 17-storey tower said to include pornography

    To avoid disappointment, an exhibition opening this week at the Cambridge University library should carry the warning sign: “These books contain no pornography”.

    Despite undergraduate folklore there is no secret stash of pornography among the almost a million books in the 17 floors of the tower, which rises 157 feet above the library. The building, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, was completed in 1934 to mixed reviews, with the former prime minister Neville Chamberlain calling it “a magnificent erection”.

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    Adult education professor John Holford, Cambridge vice-chancellor Stephen Toope, Colin Fraser and former Southampton Solent vice-chancellor Roger Brown respond to reports on the £21bn wealth of the two universities

    David Lammy rightly asks why Oxford and Cambridge don’t put their “vast wealth … to better use” by “funding sophisticated access and outreach programmes” (Revealed: the £21bn wealth built up by Oxford and Cambridge, 29 May). He will, I hope, be flattered to learn that his critique of Oxbridge is almost identical to that made by RH Tawney over a century ago. Writing in 1906, Tawney argued that the ancient universities were wasting their wealth (typically originally donated for the education of the poor) on scholarships for the wealthy. They should, he said, spread their “roots into the subsoil of society”: a system that “locks up the culture of our older Universities within the four walls of expensive Colleges is … a very mischievous anachronism”. His critique led to Oxford producing the report Oxford and Working-Class Education (1908), which pointed out that colleges – not just the central university – had a duty to support outreach work. Oxford and Cambridge then developed programmes for working-class adults across the industrial cities of England. Tawney himself taught several, famously in Stoke and Rochdale.

    Mr Lammy is not only a prominent advocate of equality in higher education; he is also a steadfast supporter of adult education. Could I suggest these enthusiasms should be brought together? Over time, Oxford and Cambridge gradually transferred their outreach programmes for adults to the civic and “Robbins” universities: this made sense as part of a national system of higher education. But from the 1980s governments – of all political persuasions – told universities such “roots into the subsoil of society” would not be funded. And as few universities thought working-class adults a worthy cause for their own resources, the work withered on the vine.

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    Some dismiss students as snowflakes. But the pressure they are under is real – and anything that helps is important

    The guinea pigs weren’t even my idea. And initially, I was sceptical. A little earlier in the spring, as the pressure began to mount ahead of final exams, our senior tutor at the Cambridge college where I am president decided to help relieve the stress for some students by acquiring four guinea pigs to be fed, petted and generally adored. Since our college is proudly feminist, three were given appropriate names – Virguinea Woolf, Emmeline Squeakhurst and Ruth Bader Guineasburg, after Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a US supreme court justice. Since we are also deeply committed to biscuits, the fourth guinea pig was called Oreo.

    Related: Our children are over-stressed. This is how we can protect them | Gaby Hinsliff

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    Claims of ‘witch hunt’ as Facebook page publishes tales of sexual harassment, racism and snobbery

    From bikini-clad female students wrestling in pools of jelly to binge-drinking, extreme-eating contests and regurgitating live goldfish, the exploits of Cambridge University’s drinking societies have long provoked tabloid headlines.

    Now the future of these groups is under review after a Facebook page dedicated to shutting them down posted hundreds of accounts of inappropriate behaviour allegedly perpetrated by drinking society members, including sexual misconduct, bullying and classism.

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    With many children struggling with reading in some way, there’s a wealth of evidence to help teachers support students

    Reading disorders are among the most prevalent learning difficulties children have. In a mixed ability classroom, an estimated one in 10 children will have dyslexia and up to 20% need training to develop the ability to isolate sounds in words.

    In 2016, an OECD report found English teenagers are the most illiterate in the developed world, with many between the ages of 16 and 19 only having a “basic” grasp of maths and English. Children at risk of reading failure can easily become vulnerable learners, and lose their self-esteem, motivation and confidence without support. These children see reading as a barrier rather than a tool for learning. It’s no wonder, then, that teaching reading is one of the highest priorities in schools.

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    New US research suggests a drop in performance with rises in average yearly temperature. Bad news for the UK’s sweltering students? Discuss

    Soggy May bank holidays are not celebrated by most people, but young people revising for school exams may benefit from them, after US researchers discovered that hotter temperatures lead to worse grades.

    The data is extensive. Academics at Harvard, UCLA and Georgia State University used the scores of more than 10 million secondary students over 13 years, and compared temperature changes in hot southern and colder northern states. In every case, a half-degree rise in the average temperature over the year equalled a 1% drop in average exam scores.

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    Free schools increasingly opened by trusts as ‘way to meet rising pupil numbers’

    Just one in five of the Conservatives’ flagship free schools have been set up by parents, despite promises of a parent-led approach to education, a report has found.

    When the policy was launched in 2010 by then education secretary Michael Gove, he said it would allow parents to set up state schools shaped by their own preferences, introducing choice and innovation into the education system.

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    Labour MP David Lammy calls for greater transparency in university admissions process

    The university admissions service Ucas is under pressure after an investigation revealed that more than half of all applications flagged for possible fraud are from black students.

    Ucas researchers found that over a five-year period 52% of applications investigated for potential fraudulent activity were from black candidates, even though they only make up 9% of total applications.

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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 study of - and training in - drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking and other media

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    A Bradford primary school wants the world to know its newfound Sats success is down to giving all children up to six hours of music a week

    Abiha Nasir, aged nine, walks quietly into the small classroom, takes a seat, adjusts her hijab and picks up the drumsticks. A shy smile spreads across her face as she begins to play.

    She was just five when she turned up at Feversham primary academy’s after-school clubs, leaving teachers astounded by her musical ability and how her confidence grew with an instrument in hand. Last year, Abiha successfully auditioned for Bradford’s gifted and talented music programme for primary school children, the first Muslim girl to do so. The assessor recorded only one word in her notes: “Wow!”

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  • 05/31/18--08:27: Robin Smith obituary
  • Robin Smith, who has died aged 76, was an industrial relations academic and arbitrator who used his negotiation and conciliation skills in many walks of life. He was also the long-serving chairman of the Friends of Beamish Museum in County Durham, which tells the story of life in north-east England between the 1820s and 1940s.

    Robin was born in Leigh, Lancashire. His father, Ronald, was a technical draughtsman, and his mother, Kathleen (nee Hocken), a medical secretary. After leaving Bolton school, at first Robin worked for Barclays Bank, where he became active in the National Union of Bank Employees, but after taking evening classes he gained a degree in sociology from Rutherford College in Newcastle. There he met Monica MacRow, a fellow student, and they married in 1967.

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    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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    Phrase made out of toilet paper found arranged on floor of bathroom in hall of residence

    Nottingham University has launched an investigation after a message saying “uni girls love rape” was left in a bathroom at a hall of residence on campus.

    It was made out of toilet paper and arranged on the floor of a shared bathroom in Florence Boot hall.

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    The Scripps National Spelling Bee reaches its climax this week. Can you spell the words that won the competition in years past? Spellings are from Webster’s Third New International Dictionary

    A stupidly easy effort was the key back in 1930. How do you spell this word, meaning a noisy disturbance or quarrel?

    Fracas

    Fracah

    Frackas

    Phracar

    In 1967 this dog breed clinched the competition for Jennifer Reinke ...

    Chiuawawah

    Chiuahua

    Chihuahua

    Chiwawa

    From 1965, this word is a common skin condition

    Eczema

    Ecszema

    Eczsema

    Exema

    The thing about skin conditions is that they're pretty hard to spell. Here's another one, which Molly Dieveney won with in 1982 ...

    Psoeriasis

    Psoriasis

    Soriasis

    Psoriaesis

    Go on, another skin one for you. This word from the 1962 edition means not scaly - or smooth skinned

    Esquamuulos

    Esquamulose

    Esquamulouse

    Esquamulos

    "A tendency to extreme wordiness". Spell this zinger from the 1999 Spelling Bee

    Logorhea

    Logorrhea

    Logorrhhea

    Loggarhea

    Anamika Veeramani won in 2010 after getting this one, a type of medical instrument ...

    Strommuhr

    Stromour

    Strohmuhr

    Stromuhr

    This is from the 2011 edition. Having wavy hair is spelled ...

    Cymotrichous

    Khaemotrichous

    Caehmotrichous

    Cymortrichous

    1942's winner means profane or unholy ...

    Sacreligous

    Sacreligious

    Sacrilegious

    Sacralegious

    Jody-Anne Maxwell from Jamaica was the first non-American winner, in 1998. Her word, a type of painter, was ...

    Chiaroscurist

    Chiaroscourist

    Chiaeroscourist

    Chiarosccurist

    This word, derived from an ancient city in Greek Asia Minor won Kavya Shivashankar the prize in 2009

    Laodiceaen

    Loadicaean

    Laodaecian

    Laodicean

    And to wrap things up, a gimme from 2005. San Diego's Anurag Kashyap knew how to spell this musical term ...

    Apoggiatura

    Appoggiatura

    Apoggiattura

    Apogiaturra

    0 and above.

    If you're going to be bad, it's best to be really bad. Well done

    1 and above.

    If you're going to be bad, it's best to be really bad. Well done

    2 and above.

    If you're going to be bad, it's best to be really bad. Well done

    3 and above.

    An octopus picking answers at random would have done better than you

    4 and above.

    Distinctly mediocor... mediocur... average

    5 and above.

    Distinctly mediocor... mediocur... average

    6 and above.

    Distinctly mediocor... mediocur... average

    7 and above.

    Not bad, but nothing a few years perched over a dictionary wouldn't solve

    8 and above.

    Not bad, but nothing a few years perched over a dictionary wouldn't solve

    9 and above.

    Excellent stuff. You know your Succedaneum from your Succedanneum

    10 and above.

    Excellent stuff. You know your Succedaneum from your Succedanneum

    11 and above.

    Excellent stuff. You know your Succedaneum from your Succedanneum

    12 and above.

    Perfect! Get your entry in for next year's competition. Provided you're a kid

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    As more teens come out as trans, experts clash over how schools should help

    Miles Everitt, 18, thinks himself lucky to have been well supported by his school when he came out as transgender. Growing up female, he’d always preferred to wear boys’ clothes and play the male character in online games; at secondary school, after he cut his hair short, many teachers assumed he was a boy. It was seeing a trans character on Hollyoaks and then reading blogs by young trans people on Tumblr that made him realise he could be transgender.

    Three years ago he came out in a video he posted on Facebook. His mother’s response was to go into his school at Wadebridge, Cornwall, to talk to Miles’s “awesome” headteacher, Tina Yardley: “She went in, and said, ‘My child wants to be called Miles,’ and she [Yardley] was like, ‘That’s fine. We’ll make sure all teachers call him that from now on’.”

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    All you need to know about studying at the University of Cambridge

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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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    All you need to know about studying at Loughborough University

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    Research suggests offspring of highly educated mothers benefit from extended parental leave

    Longer paid maternity and paternity leave offers parents the chance to spend more time with their babies – but the educational benefits for the child vary greatly, depending on their background and the parents’ qualifications, according to new research.

    The research found that the children of highly educated, middle-class parents gained “large and significantly positive effects” in later exam results if their parents took longer periods of paid leave after they were born.

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