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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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    DfE tells teachers in England not to request information from parents or retain data

    Schools in England will no longer be asked by the government to collect information on pupils’ nationality and place of birth, the latest significant climbdown in the suite of “hostile environment” policies targeted at immigrants living in the UK.

    The low-key announcement, confirming earlier reports, came in the form of a technical document for schools from the Department for Education (DfE) regarding its school census for 2018-19.

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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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    Many of those doing revamped exams report mental health problems and extreme stress

    Pupils have delivered a damning verdict on the revamped GCSEs, saying they have caused mental exhaustion, panic attacks, crying, nosebleeds, sleepless nights, hair loss and outbreaks of acne.

    About half a million 16-year-olds sat the tougher exams, which were initiated by the former education secretaryMichael Gove and tested for the first time this summer, with grades ranging from 9-1 rather than A*-G.

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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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    Readers respond to the fire that destroyed Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s masterpiece

    The Glasgow School of Art should be reconstructed as it was (Editorial, 20 June). Mackintosh did not, after all, physically build it himself – his genius resides in the design and a faithful rebuild is no less a Mackintosh building than the original. Unrealised buildings by Mies van der Rohe and Frank Lloyd Wright have been constructed long after their deaths from original plans. The only difference is that Mackintosh’s art school had a previous existence. If there is an opportunity to return this marvellous building to three-dimensional life, so it can be physically experienced by future generations rather than only surviving as plans and photos, it should be taken.
    Ian Simmon
    Monkseaton, Tyne and Wear

    • I agree with Ian Jack (Brick by brick, Glasgow must recreate its lost masterpiece, 23 June). Glasgow without its art school would be like London without St Paul’s. In addition to the massive negative impact on students and Glaswegians, its absence would dismay the many visitors to the city who come to wonder at Mackintosh’s masterpiece.

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    Two pupils who drew a giant penis on a school lawn using weed killer two years ago can still admire their work from satellite photos now posted on the internet.

    Despite the school re-seeding the area, the penis has turned up on satellite image search engines because a photo was taken before the new grass could conceal the appendage.

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    Images by undergraduates are going on display at Free Range, which showcases an extensive selection of work from students at leading institutions. It opens on 29 June at Old Truman Brewery, London

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    A trenchant j’accuse against the old-boy chumocracy and the ‘apartheid education system’ that perpetuates social inequality in the UK

    From a 21st-century perspective, the term “public schools” is a semantic puzzle: what is “public” about a private, fee-paying school? But Winchester, Eton, St Paul’s and Westminster all started out as philanthropic institutions whose statutes expressly excluded the children of the wealthy. Moneyed interests forced their way in, and fee-paying pupils outnumbered free scholars by the 15th century; in 2017, only 1% of pupils attending independent schools paid no fees at all. In order to justify their charitable status – which confers tax advantages worth an estimated £2.5bn per year – independent schools are legally required to do a modicum of work “for the public benefit”, but a 2011 court ruling held that it is up to their own trustees, not the government, to determine whether they have met this criterion.

    “The public schools were founded to educate the poor and ended up serving the interests of the rich,” Robert Verkaik writes in Posh Boys, a trenchant j’accuse against what he calls the “apartheid education system” that perpetuates social inequality in modern Britain. Research suggests the standard of teaching in the private sector is not significantly higher than in the state sector: parents “are really paying for smaller classes … and a place in the privilege network”. Public schools are steeped in an oppressive culture of hierarchy and domination – the now obsolete practice of “fagging”, whereby senior pupils used younger ones as servants, persists in attenuated form in the prefect system – but the pay-off is substantial. As Evelyn Waugh’s Grimes puts it in Decline and Fall: “One goes through four or five years of perfect hell at an age when life is bound to be hell anyway, and after that the social system never lets one down.”

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    A groundbreaking London college that guides disadvantaged youths into music careers may be forced to close after council funding cuts – and its students face a bleak future

    “I’m heartbroken,” says Simon Gordon, founder and CEO of SoundSkool, a music industry college in Enfield, north London. “Our education system doesn’t work for everyone, so we step in to give our kids what they need. Where will they go now?”

    Last month, Gordon and his team were told their partnership with the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL), which hosts and funds their programme, would be terminated this summer. Unless it sources funding from elsewhere, the college will close in September after 10 years of service. To stay afloat, the college has had to rely on short-term contracts to deliver its work. Now, as the summer wears on and youth violence continues to spike in the capital, SoundSkool has become yet another casualty in the suffocation of public life, and more specifically state education, in austerity Britain.

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    LSE finds parents want to help offspring returning home after university, despite tensions

    Boomerang children who return to live with their parents after university can be good for families, leading to closer, more supportive relationships and increased contact between the generations, a study has found.

    The findings contradict research published earlier this year showing that returning adult children trigger a significant decline in their parents’ quality of life and wellbeing.

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    The council claims that we students are selfish and isolated. But the real problem is the university’s relentless expansion

    Students are selfish, annoying and isolated. That’s what the county council in Durham, where I study, proclaimed at a meeting this week. I can’t help conceding that they’re right.

    Durham is home to about 60,000 people, and the university campus to about 18,000. Nearly one-third of that latter group attended private schools before starting at the university. It’s not hard to see how an air of entitlement and privilege has become part and parcel of the “Durham student” stereotype – I must say, I am no exception.

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    Theresa May’s resurrecting grammar schools so how would you fare in a test to get in one?

    Theresa May has proposed a shakeup of the education system that could lead to an expansion of grammar schools across England. Many people object to the categorisation of pupils at age 11 on the basis of an exam. But how would you fare in such a test? Here’s a selection of 11-plus questions from sample tests produced by the educational publisher CGP. (To complete all the questions please view on desktop or mobile browsers rather than the app.)

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    Britain's half-million pill-poppers could face after-effects that last a lifetime. Anthony Browne reports

    Staring intently in the dim light, the music rocking his body, James snapped the little white tablet in two. Pressed against the wall, his back sheltering them from the dancing crowds, he took half for himself and gave half to his girlfriend. They swallowed, and the weekend's clubbing started.

    'It makes you feel so positive about everyone and everything. You feel so open - you can talk to strangers like they are your closest friends. You feel so sensual, so tactile. I want to touch people's skin, stroke their clothes. And I want to dance, dance, dance,' gushed James. 'It's the best, the most positive experience in my life. It's life-enhancing.'

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    Abrupt U-turn is welcomed by Tory-led local authorities critical of original plan to force blanket conversion by 2022

    Controversial plans to force all state schools in England to become academies have been dropped only days after the education secretary, Nicky Morgan, insisted they would go ahead.

    On the day of election declarations across the UK, the Department for Education (DfE) said that plans to force through the policy by 2022 would not now be included in the forthcoming Queen’s speech, arguing: “It is not necessary to bring legislation to bring about blanket conversion of all schools to achieve this goal.”

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    Jean Else, made a dame for services to education, is first woman to have title annulled

    One of Labour's first school "super-heads" has become what is thought to be the first woman to have her damehood revoked.

    Jean Else was made a dame in 2001 for transforming a failing Manchester comprehensive into a flourishing school.

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    Leaders can feel obliged to put the market position of a school above all else, even if it contradicts their professional values

    The economic and regulatory incentives facing state schools in England are increasingly in tension with an inclusive, broad and balanced education for pupils.

    Since 2010 the government has used the language of a “self-improving school-led system” to characterise its reforms, arguing that these are “moving control to the frontline”. Our research shows that this is a partial and idealised account: while some higher-performing schools are benefiting, the system as a whole is becoming more fragmented and less equitable.

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    Study of coalition reforms shows they handed central government more authority and failed to raise standards

    Carolyn Roberts, the head of Thomas Tallis school, a comprehensive in south-east London, is facing an agonising decision. The school has always prided itself on embracing the creativity of its students and the arts, but now it is grappling with whether the curriculum should be overhauled to meet targets designed to ensure that the majority of pupils complete a core of maths, English and science GCSEs.

    “We are consulting staff and parents about whether we follow the accountability measure to entirely shift our curriculum,” Roberts explains. “If we took a decision that the measure was the most important thing, that would mean fewer choices for students. Things that weren’t compulsory might sink or die. While it’s unlikely that the arts in our school would be a casualty of that, that is why the take-up of arts at GCSE is falling year-on-year.”

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    The government would face a tough battle with middle-class parents, but reform is vital to help the most disadvantaged

    Britain’s poor social mobility can be summed up in one unfortunate dynamic: from the moment a child is born, disadvantage begets further disadvantage. We like to think of education as the great leveller that works against this. But a report from the Institute of Education at UCL, reported in the Observer today, shows the opposite: our school system itself amplifies social advantage.

    So much of the focus of education policy in the past two decades has been on school improvement, with hugely varying results. But what this study highlights is that when schools become better, their intakes also become more affluent. Conversely, when school quality has declined, children from disadvantaged backgrounds tend to pool in those schools.

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    Study shows best schools take fewer children from deprived backgrounds as a result

    Sweeping education reforms appear to be fuelling inequality in the schools system, according to a major analysis that shows high-performing and improving schools are accepting fewer children from poor backgrounds.

    In a stark assessment of the impact of controversial measures introduced since 2010, the study warns that an original pledge to set schools free and give them more power has actually led to a system that is causing high levels of stress among teachers.

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    You might hate your school uniform, but I think it's there for good reason, says 15-year-old Chloe Spencer

    A shirt, tie and blazer may not be the ingredients for my favourite outfit, but if I were given the choice, I wouldn’t throw away the idea of school uniform. Wearing a uniform is a badge of pride, creates an identity for a school and is an important part of being a school student.

    “Uniforms show that you are part of an organisation. Wearing it says we’re all in this together,” Jason Wing, head teacher at the Neale-Wade academy in Cambridgeshire, says.

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