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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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    We need a society to encourage dissent so that individuals can resist the challenge of undemocratic thought. This means giving people a voice as well as a vote

    It was Michael Gove who before the Brexit referendum said “people in this country have had enough of experts”. The highly educated Mr Gove was mining a rich seam of voters fed up with, and disregarding of, expert opinion. Brexiters have continued in this pejorative style. Only last week the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, reportedly gave a terse and pungent imprecation to diplomats who raised the issue of companies doubting his wisdom about the UK leaving the EU without a trade deal. “Fuck business,” Britain’s top diplomat replied undiplomatically.

    In fact both rabble-rousing Brexiters and experts have more in common than either would admit. Populists claim to have a special insight into the will of the people, able to dispense with debate and discussion. Hence Mr Johnson warning prime minister Theresa May against a “bog-roll Brexit” that was “soft, yielding and seemingly infinitely long”. Technocrats also argue it’s necessary to insulate policies from political challenge. They want more independent agencies to take over arms of the state. This unfortunately has captured thinking in the UK, where the last few decades have seen a steady growth in the number of agencies, commissions and regulators which draft legally binding rules. These bodies provide a way for politicians to look as if they are doing something while allowing them to duck tough decisions until they cannot. Just look at public sector pay, which could only apparently be raised via independent pay review bodies– until politicians under pressure decided they were unnecessary.

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    The study of criminal legal systems – includes criminology and jurisprudence

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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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    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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    From 'apples and pears' to 'weep and wail', an A to Z of Cockney rhyming slang and the meanings behind the east end's most famous linguistic export

    Many of us know that "brown bread" is Cockney rhyming slang for dead, "china plate" for mate, and "bubble bath" for laugh. But how many know the meaning of the phrases? The historic native wit of this east end community (and its followers from around the world) often has an interesting logic to its phrases. Rather than simply a rhyming association, the slang reflects meaning in the expressions themselves. Here's a guide to the most commonly-used Cockney rhyming slang:

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  • 06/25/18--09:28: Peter Gordon obituary
  • My father, Peter Gordon, who has died aged 90, left school at 16 but became an author and a professor of history and humanities at the Institute of Education, UCL. A popular head of department in his nearly 30 years at the IOE, he pursued his twin fields of expertise, political history and the history of education, and wrote or edited more than 30 books as well as numerous papers.

    He was a meticulous researcher, and his biographical work was also characterised by narrative talent. Written with warmth and respect, his monographs on the 5th Earl Spencer (The Red Earl), the Wake family (tracing 30 generations of the Northamptonshire family), and his history of royal education reached popular as well as academic readerships. Co-authoring one of his later works, Musical Visitors to Britain (2005), I had first-hand experience of his outstanding skills as teacher and mentor.

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    If someone you know is finding the going tough, here’s what you can do to help them

    Bristol University students and representatives have spokenup about the student mental health crisis and the state of provisions at the university. While student activists continue to push for better support, there are things we can do on the ground to support our friends who are struggling.

    As Cambridge University Students’ Unions’ welfare and rights officer, a big part of my job is training students not only on mental health and wellbeing, but also on peer support. Alongside services, friends are well placed to help. We know each other better than service providers. We can be easier to open up to, serving as a bridge to getting more formal support.

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    Parents and teachers respond to the Guardian’s report detailing the mental stress suffered by pupils taking the new GCSEs

    What are we doing to our children (Pupils tell of new GCSEs’ toll on their mental health, 23 June)? My daughter is part of this year’s GCSE cohort, the first guinea pig year of the government’s new “hostile environment” for secondary students. Having revised her socks off, she is now thoroughly demoralised. Questions in every subject paper taken so far seemed designed not to allow her to shine, but to frustrate; to highlight what students couldn’t know rather than what they have covered in depth. In their pursuit of a statistical drop in higher grades, examiners seem to have intentionally set questions that either fall outside the expected material or are so ambiguously worded that it becomes a lottery how many will interpret them correctly. This “Lady or the Tiger” trial by ordeal, certainly in the case of my daughter, is a loss of love for the subjects she was looking forward to at A-level. The instilling of passion is the most important role of an educator. The examination system now seems intent on doing quite the reverse.
    Tom Hardy
    London

    • Reading pupils’ comments, I found I was weeping by the time I got to the end because I know the stories are completely true and not down to teenage hysteria. My granddaughter worked so hard throughout this long exam period, shutting herself away and suffering from migraines and stress-related withdrawal. To think that this experience was multiplied in families across the country is heartbreaking. My son and daughter-in-law became anxious to the point that their own lives became difficult. Should we be subjecting our 16-year-olds to this torture? Might we weed more gently? I note at the end of the article you give a contact number for the Samaritans. Shame on you, Michael Gove, I will never forgive you!
    Diana Sutherland
    Leeds

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    The Guardian’s science editor on elixirs of life, questions of ethics, and meeting some extraordinary minds

    There are people who will tell you that the elixir of life is to be found in the blood of youngsters. It’s a vampiric belief, but not unfounded. One day in February 2015, I watched Joe Castellano pull a tray of frosted vials full of human plasma from a freezer at Stanford University. The yellowy contents were bound for old mice. Infusions of the fluid have a striking effect: feeble animals perk up; they learn faster; their cognitive skills are sharpened. It seems that both bodies and brains are rejuvenated.

    What gives rise to these intriguing changes is a major research question. Young plasma, it seems, may be suffused with compounds that keep tissues youthful, and lack certain factors that age us. Find these potent ingredients, and show that they can stave off ageing, and your name will go down in history. Or so the story goes.

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    Efforts to improve the training and resources available to childminders in Nairobi’s Kibera settlement are bearing fruit – to the benefit of all concerned

    Three-year-old Joy and her sister Lavine, four, are surrounded by kitchen pots, soft toys and an old wellington boot. It’s mid-morning at Kidogo’s nursery and preschool, and the sisters are playing in the dramatic centre, a place set aside for children to invent their own games. Each corner of the room is dedicated to a different activity: music, stories, art or a quiet space for reading.

    The centre is one of the few quality childcare facilities in Kibera, an overcrowded informal settlement in Nairobi that houses 170,070 people, according to a 2009 national census (although other estimates have put the number significantly higher). Most centres are found in cramped rooms or homes, with one woman responsible for 20 or so children. Ventilation is poor and there are reports of babies being given sleeping pills to knock them out for the day, or children being locked in dark rooms. There’s rarely space to play.

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    Suicide rates among university students show slight rise but a significant gender difference

    Suicide rates among university students in England and Wales have gone up slightly over the last decade, according to official statistics, which reveal that young male students are significantly more likely to kill themselves than female students.

    In the 12 months to July 2017, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that 95 students killed themselves, which equates to 4.7 suicides per 100,000 students.

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    DfE finds rise in underperforming schools, yet some are rated outstanding by Ofsted

    A growing number of secondary schools in England have been labelled as underperforming, with one in eight falling below the government’s new minimum standard, according to official data.

    Statistics from the Department for Education (DfE) show that 365 mainstream secondary schools (12%) fell below the floor standard last year, up from 282 (9.3%) in 2016. The north-east of England has the highest proportion of below-standard schools.

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    Yesodey Hatorah girls’ school in London also censored images of women socialising with men

    A state-funded Orthodox Jewish girls’ school in north London has admitted censoring sections of GCSE textbooks to remove mentions of homosexuals and examples of women socialising with men, saying it did so to protect girls from sexualisation.

    Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls’ school in Stamford Hill, which serves the strictly Orthodox Haredi community, covered text and images including Fred Astaire dancing with Ginger Rogers.

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    DfE’s latest tables, ranked using new Progress 8 measure, show schools that made greatest advances in pupils’ grades

    The government’s new performance measure has upended the traditional pecking order of England’s secondary schools, knocking grammar schools out of the top spots and boosting schools that dramatically improved results among their pupils.

    The Department for Education’s latest performance tables, published on Thursday — including 2016’s GCSE exams and ranked by its new Progress 8 measure— reveals that the best schools in England are those which make the greatest advances in their pupils’ grades.

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    Headteachers are cutting staff, courses and trips – so it doesn’t add up that their budgets have increased

    Are you a fan of BBC’s Question Time? I always look forward to seeing education ministers trying to justify policies on that show. I saw you on there a short while ago and found myself wondering if you had watched your predecessors facing the questions before you.

    I have a feeling that the programme has proved something of a graveyard for you folks. Michael Gove waved his hands at Emily Thornberry while saying at her, “Yadda, yadda, yadda”, and he was removed from office for being “toxic”. Nicky Morgan, usually a confident and fluent person, seemed to freeze and was dropped not long after. And then Justine Greening seemed unwilling or unable to justify what she had been asked to say, and sure enough, she was soon gone too. Is it that you think the live audience is a sort of proxy parents’ evening, and trying to persuade us is much harder than chatting on the sofa with Andrew Marr?

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    More universities are developing courses to help refugees and asylum seekers prepare for UK higher education

    When volunteers at the Calais “Jungle” camp in Northern France asked Omer AKA Dream, how they could help refugees like him, he was clear. “We need a library,” he told them. “Bring books.”

    It was while working in the new Jungle Books Library that Dream, 32, from Sudan, came across two academics from the University of East London, Corinne Squire and Aura Lounasmaa. The women were travelling to France every couple of weeks as volunteers with other students and academics to deliver a short, accredited, undergraduate course on life stories for inhabitants of the camp. Dream signed up.

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    A Victorian charity is awarding more grants to homeless and hungry teachers than in its entire 141-year history

    Natalie Goodman, a teaching assistant, had been struggling to buy food for more than a month by the time someone at her school noticed. “I couldn’t afford to eat. I didn’t have money for food. I would come home from school and sit in my flat and worry about paying my rent.”

    It was her sudden weight loss – more than a stone in four weeks – that prompted a colleague to ask whether she was OK. Her landlord had sent her an eviction letter to leave the flat that had been her home for 19 years.

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    Despite what the government thinks, higher education should be so much more than a ticket to a well-paid job

    According to the universities minister, Sam Gyimah, the most important thing about higher education is that it represents good value for money. The formula for this is clear: a research-intensive university, plus a degree in a science or business subject, equals cash for life. Of course, if you come from a background underrepresented in higher education, that formula works slightly less profitably, but that’s a minor detail.

    What a grim way to talk about education. What a picture to show to young people about their future. Trying to use a hard base of evidence for informing choices and shaping parental attitudes ignores what many young people feel and think. It lacks any spark of excitement or affinity.

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    The experiences of the academic Priyamvada Gopal are all too familiar. Universities must listen to minority staff and students

    A Cambridge University academic has said she will no longer teach at one of its colleges because, she says, its porters have mistreated her. Dr Priyamvada Gopal said the King’s College porters treat her differently because of her race, and that ethnic minority students have also been discriminated against.

    Predictably, Gopal’s act of protest has been met with backlash. Virginia Blackburn, in the Daily Express, said: “What is really going on here is an almighty case of ego and self-importance, which is what usually lies behind the spurious claims of offence.” (Gopal had asked that the porters address her as “Dr Gopal” instead of “madam”.) Rod Liddle, in the Sun, labelled her “Little Miss Victimhood”, and added, “She’s not a proper doctor, of course. She got her PhD in post-colonial literature. So all she’s done is read some really crap books. Cambridge should kick her out.” A King’s College spokesperson said: “We have investigated the incident and found no wrongdoing on the part of our staff.”

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    Andria Zafirakou recruits musicians, art historians and actors to her cause

    After winning a $1m global teaching prize, Andria Zafirakou could have paid off her mortgage, bought a Ferrari and put her feet up for the rest of her life.

    Instead, the north London teacher has announced she is using the money she won in March with the Varkey Foundation global teacher prize – a kind of Nobel prize for teaching – to set up a campaigning charity to get more artists and arts organisations into Britain’s schools.

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