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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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    Hopes rise that Mackintosh facade can be saved amid questions over why sprinkler system was not prioritised

    Hopes have been raised that Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh building, which was gutted by fire on Friday, can be saved as it emerged a new sprinkler system had not yet been fitted as part of the restoration following an earlier blaze.

    Related: 'It's dreadful to think what Glasgow might be without it': tributes to the School of Art

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    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:

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

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

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

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    About 350 schools allowing NED Show to provide 'motivational assemblies' in exchange for allowing sale of yo-yos inside school

    About 350 primary schools across Britain have allowed a troupe of yo-yo performers from an American company to give "motivational assemblies" this academic year, agreeing also to sell premium-priced yo-yos inside the school gate for a week afterwards.

    The NED Show tour, arranged by All For KIDS Inc, a firm based near Seattle, has divided opinion among British parents, many of whom have found themselves pestered to buy yo-yos for between £6 and £12 after their children have seen the toys showcased during school hours.

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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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    The UK is home to over 4,700 doctors who trained in Nigeria, providing a substantial subsidy from the African country to the UK, says this multi-signatory letter from experts, and Parry Mitchell suggests ways to tempt back medics who have moved abroad

    The scrapping of the immigration cap is a rare victory for freedom of movement (Immigration cap on doctors to be lifted, 15 June), but the global health inequalities underlying the issue need to be part of the debate. The shortage of health workers is a global problem, particularly acute in parts of Africa and Asia, fuelled by global health inequalities. Nigeria has one doctor for every 2,660 people, compared to one doctor for every 354 in the UK. The UK is home to over 4,700 doctors who trained in Nigeria, providing a substantial subsidy from Nigeria to the UK.

    In order to meet its commitment to increase NHS England funding by £8bn, the government cut “non-NHS England” funding (which includes funding for training health workers) by £4bn – a cut of 24% in real terms. If it intends to rely on some of the world’s poorest countries to fill the gap, it must put in place a mechanism to adequately compensate them.
    Martin DrewryDirector, Health Poverty Action
    Prof David Sanders Global Co-chair, People’s Health Movement
    Dr Titilola Banjoko Co-chair, Better Health for Africa
    Thomas SchwarzExecutive secretary, Medicus Mundi International Network
    Marielle BemelmansDirector, Wemos
    David McCoyProfessor of Global Public Health, Queen Mary University of London
    Remco van de Pas Academic coordinator, Maastricht Centre for Global Health
    Dr Fran Baum Director, Southgate Institute for Health, Flinders University
    Professor Ronald LabontéSchool of Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Ottawa

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    Readers respond to Simon Jenkins’s piece on how ‘the cult of tests is ruining our schools’

    “Simon Jenkins (The cult of tests is ruining our schools, 15 June) doesn’t mention the most recent proposals from the Department for Education, to introduce “baseline tests” when children enter primary school reception classes. The stated purpose of these tests is to provide measures of “progress” between reception and year 6 when children take the key stage 2 tests. Yet the overwhelming evidence is that quick and simple tests at around four years of age are very unreliable. This makes them particularly unsuitable for use as instruments for “accountability”, which, as Jenkins points out, means league tables of schools.

    There is already ample evidence that the use of tests at secondary school level to create similar “value added” measures does not lead to scientifically meaningful distinctions between schools and is of very little use for parental choice of schools. In the case of primary schools, the fundamental measurement problem will be even more problematic because of the longer seven-year time lag between reception baseline and key stage 2 outcomes; and because of the much smaller number of children in each primary school in comparison to secondary schools. We urge the government to think again about this policy before it becomes a pointless and wasteful exercise.
    Professor Gemma Moss UCL Institute of Education, Professor Harvey Goldstein University of Bristol, Professor Pam Sammons University of Oxford, Professor Gemma Moss Director, International Literacy Centre, professor of literacy and past president of the British Educational Research Association (Bera). Members of the British Educational Research Association expert panel on assessment

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    A puzzle to reflect on

    UPDATE: The solution to the puzzle can be read here

    Hi guzzlers

    Here’s a puzzle about something we do every day: gaze at ourselves in the mirror. Who says maths is not relevant to the real world? In fact, You may have often pondered this question without realising it when trying on clothes.

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    Geraldine McCaughrean, accepting award for Where the World Ends, warned that restricting the language children read risks creating a future underclass who are ‘easy to manipulate’

    Carnegie medal winner Geraldine McCaughrean has castigated the books industry for dumbing down language in children’s literature, warning that a new focus on “accessible” prose for younger readers will lead to “an underclass of citizens with a small but functional vocabulary: easy to manipulate and lacking in the means to reason their way out of subjugation”.

    McCaughrean was named winner on Monday of this year’s CILIP Carnegie medal for her historical adventure novel Where the World Ends, 30 years after she first took the prize, the UK’s most esteemed children’s literature award. She used her winner’s speech to attack publishers’ fixation on accessible language, which she called “a euphemism for something desperate”.

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    Write out 100 times: the rise of obesity is about food poverty – a sponge pudding with custard is not the issue

    I love the restaurant Caravan, notably its jalapeño corn bread, yet the owner, Laura Harper-Hinton, has said something with which I violently disagree: “I think schools should ban puddings. We have to tackle children’s attitude to sugar and we need a joined-up approach … Giving pudding after a main course is a travesty. I don’t know why anyone would think that was a good idea.”

    It is true that one in three British children leave primary school overweight, and true that they consume too much sugar, with Public Health England announcing that, as of last Friday, they had already consumed all the sugar they ought to have eaten this year. It is true, of course, that if you were to light on one single ingredient in a child’s life that made them gain weight, it would likely be sugar. But it does not follow that you can turn sugar into a verboten substance in institutional life and that will make all the difference.

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    The solution to today’s puzzle

    Earlier today I set you a puzzle about a mirror:

    A man is facing a mirror hanging on a wall 1m in front of him.

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    Head of history of art retires after suspension over allegations he gave students prior information on two papers

    A second leading public school has been caught up in exam cheating claims, it has emerged, after the Guardian’s revelation that an Eton deputy head had resigned.

    Winchester college has suspended its head of history of art, Laurence Wolff, 56, after allegations he gave students prior information on exam questions on two papers, it has been reported.

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    Boys’ boarding school brings in policy to combat social media pressures and improve sleep

    Boys in their first year at Eton College have been ordered to hand over their mobile phones at night because of concerns about the pressures of social media.

    Simon Henderson, the headmaster at the boys’ boarding school, said the policy had also been introduced to reduce the amount of screen time pupils are exposed to and improve their sleep.

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    The children have gone to university. For some parents, the void that remains is harrowing; others see it as an opportunity

    Louise Rodgers’s two children, 25 and 24, flew the nest several years ago – but they’ve come back at various times too. “Going to university is the first part of their journey to independence, and that can go on for quite a while these days,” she says. “It’s been several years of coming and going in a really lovely, delightful way, most of the time.”

    Rodgers takes a dim view of empty nest syndrome. “I feel it’s a little bit of a hark back to when women defined themselves by their status as mothers and wives. And I feel that we all have more complex identities than that now – mother is just one of them.”

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    OCR apologises again after third mistake in exam paper, with pupils uncertain they will reach grades needed for university places

    One of England’s main examination boards has been forced to issue an apology for the third time in a little over a fortnight after students and teachers spotted yet another error on one of its papers.

    The mistake occurred on OCR’s A-level biology paper, which was sat by almost 19,000 students on Monday. A question asked students to calculate a standard deviation but failed to provide the formula needed for the calculation, as required by the syllabus.

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    Pin down their passions with an in-depth chat to get a shortlist; then it’s time to ace that application

    When Sammie Scott, 18, began the application process, she found that practical support from her parents was key. “As much as university is my own decision, it will affect the rest of my family too,” she says. “I wanted to make sure they were evaluating things in the same way I was. It was really helpful for me to be able to talk to them about everything.”

    In theory, the application process is simple. Confirm grades, choose courses and universities, write a personal statement, send the application off and wait. But in practice, the process for most students is far less cut and dried – and parents can play a big part in helping them to the right decision. “Begin discussions with your child early,” advises David Seaton, assistant director, student recruitment and admissions, University of Bedfordshire. “Be supportive, and listen to them.”

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    Vocational education in the UK has always been seen as essentially for ‘other people’s children’, writes Michael Pyke, and Bernard Godding of the Educational Centres Association reflects on its role in addressing disadvantage

    Chiding Fiona Millar for her pessimism about the new T-levels, Anne Milton MP, minister of state for skills and apprenticeships, assures us that “these exciting new qualifications ... are here to stay” (Letters, 16 June). She bases her optimism upon two factors: the care taken with the design of T-levels and the fact that they will be part of a “holistic” approach to technical education which will include the establishment of institutes of technology “that will offer ... technical training to degree standard”.

    Leaving aside that some of this looks remarkably like a case of “back to the future”, the minister completely ignores the underlying reason for the failure of every single government attempt since 1945 to provide high-quality technical and vocational education: namely, the historical role of academic qualifications in reinforcing social class hierarchy. This became quite explicit in 2004, when the government rejected wholesale the excellent Tomlinson report, because its recommendations would have given equal status in the sixth form to both academic and vocational studies by incorporating both into the same school-leaver’s diploma. As Fiona Millar points out, vocational education in the UK has always been seen as essentially for “other people’s children”. T-levels, however well designed, won’t change this.
    Michael Pyke
    Lichfield, Staffordshire

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    The Glasgow School of Art was a masterpiece, but promises to build a reproduction are premature

    The gutting by fire of Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh building is a huge loss to Scotland and the world. The highly distinctive structure, completed in 1909, was Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s masterpiece. It is also the home of one of the UK’s most important art schools and a place beloved by students, many of whom have spoken in recent days of their shock and sadness. Neither the fact that the art school has a strongly Scottish identity, nor divisions between Scottish and UK politicians over Brexit, should obscure a shared sense of deep dismay.

    That anger was also being expressed even before the fire was fully out is understandable, and right. A costly and painstaking £35m restoration was nearing completion, with timbers to match the originals sourced from a Massachusetts mill. An exhibition at Kelvingrove Museum, planned to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the architect’s birth, opened a few weeks ago. The refurbished Mackintosh-designed Willow Tea Rooms reopens in a fortnight; another tea room is one of the centrepieces of the new V&A in Dundee. Mackintosh was a one-off, his career a brilliant chapter in the story of Scottish and British art and design. Now the heart of Glasgow’s Mackintosh legacy has been ripped away.

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  • 06/19/18--09:37: Miriam Griffin obituary
  • Oxford classical scholar and expert on Seneca who offered new insights into the torrid world of Roman imperial politics

    The classical scholar and tutor Miriam Griffin, who has died aged 82, played a crucial role in getting readers to appreciate the philosophical writing of the ancient Romans in their historical context, in particular that of Seneca, the Stoic philosopher and tutor to the emperor Nero.

    Seneca’s works had generally been viewed either as the self-exculpation of a hypocrite, parading his aspirations to virtue while pocketing Nero’s largesse, or as an unreliable compilation of ideas from earlier (otherwise lost) Greek Stoics. Miriam’s intellectual biography, Seneca: A Philosopher in Politics (1992), made a case for thinking about Seneca’s writing in its specifically Roman social, intellectual and political context, illuminating the particular dilemmas with which Stoic ideas enabled him to grapple.

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    Action by universities’ regulator comes after outcry over salaries of some vice-chancellors

    University leaders are to be required to provide full details of their pay package and justification for it under new rules aimed at increasing transparency and addressing disquiet about excessive vice-chancellor pay.

    The new universities’ regulator, the Office for Students, plans to publish full details of VCs’ pay in an annual report starting next year, including basic salary, performance-related pay, pension contributions and other taxable and non-taxable benefits.

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