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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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    Students replace poem If by ‘well-known racist’ with Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise

    Students at the University of Manchester have painted over a mural of a poem by Rudyard Kipling, arguing that the writer “dehumanised people of colour”.

    The poem If, which was written around 1895, had been painted on the wall of the university’s newly refurbished students’ union. But students painted over the verses, replacing them with the 1978 poem Still I Rise by theUS poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou.

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    About 130 parents queued from early hours to secure places for their children at school’s free breakfast club

    Scores of parents and grandparents queued up from the early hours outside a Cardiff primary school to try to secure places for their children in a free breakfast club.

    About 130 parents, armed with folding chairs, flasks and snacks, lined the pavement outside the school, Ysgol Y Berllan Deg, to grab a spot.

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    In a world where religion seems more alien to many and different belief systems are in closer proximity, we need a new way to teach children about it

    In modern secular societies such as Britain, there is a tendency to think “religion” is something that other people do. When we do not understand what it means in the lives of believers, we are unable to understand either them or ourselves properly; and in a world where globalisation has shoved communities with wildly different values into close proximity, this is dangerous.

    The obvious answer is to teach religion properly in schools – rather than haphazardly, as in England at present. The legal framework was set out 75 years ago, when this was a very different and uncontroversially Christian country. The assumption was that Christianity should be taught and practised in all state schools. The main means of practice would be a daily assembly that would include an explicitly Christian act of worship, something which has since been modified to suggest that it be of a mainly Christian character.

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    Watchdog highly critical of Treasury calculations that differ from DfE forecasts

    A clash between the Department for Education and the Treasury over how to value the government’s student loans portfolio may have led to more than £600m in income from future loan repayments being overlooked, the National Audit Office (NAO) has warned.

    The watchdog also advised that the government should take “a comprehensive view” and carefully consider the potential impact on the government’s finances of future loan sales.

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    Children need to learn just 100 words and 61 phonic skills to read the English language - not the 150 and 108 respectively suggested by the national literacy strategy, researchers from Warwick University said today.

    Their study, seeking a theoretical basis for teaching reading, found that words beyond the key 100 are used so rarely that the benefits of learning them are minimal. The research is currently being submitted for publication.

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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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    Scholarships at private schools might be highly sought after, but they cause otherwise progressive people to support institutions that maintain structural inequality in society

    I can’t remember why or when I set my pre-adolescent sights on a fancy private high school. I certainly don’t recall being pushed into applying for scholarships when my time was winding up at the local state primary school. If anything, I was the one marching my slightly bewildered and sheepish parents around to open days, on a quest to fulfil my burning desire to make it among the Toorak set. I was an upwardly mobile 12-year-old.

    I vividly remember their horror when, while touring us around her sprawling utopia for girls, one principal proudly proclaimed, “When our girls leave they’re shocked by what they find in the real world, because everything is so perfect here”. I turned down a scholarship in her promised land to take up another at a co-ed equivalent widely considered progressive ... on the spectrum of uppity private institutions anyway.

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    Shouting at your kids can damage their brains, as well as hurting their ears, according to US child psychiatrists. Ouch, says Anne Karpf

    I thought I was impervious to those "research shows . . ." scare stories, but this one got to me. Shouting at children, according to a recent study by psychiatrists at a hospital affiliated to Harvard Medical School, can significantly and permanently alter the structure of their brains. It was only inordinate self-restraint - of the kind I never display towards my kids - that stopped me marching them straight off for a brain scan.

    Ours is a Sturm und Drang household, with shouting matches, screaming fits, and temper tantrums - and that's just the parents. The neighbours have been warned, even the kids have been warned. At two, my first-born could do a passable imitation of me yelling (and she did, to all-comers). And one of her sibling's early sentences was: "You're a lovely Mummy, but a shouty one."

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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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    Journal editors share their advice on how to structure a paper, write a cover letter - and deal with awkward feedback from reviewers

    Writing for academic journals is highly competitive. Even if you overcome the first hurdle and generate a valuable idea or piece of research - how do you then sum it up in a way that will capture the interest of reviewers?

    There’s no simple formula for getting published - editors’ expectations can vary both between and within subject areas. But there are some challenges that will confront all academic writers regardless of their discipline. How should you respond to reviewer feedback? Is there a correct way to structure a paper? And should you always bother revising and resubmitting? We asked journal editors from a range of backgrounds for their tips on getting published.

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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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    I receive more scrutiny and fewer opportunities than peers working in university administration. It doesn’t feel fair

    I recently voted in yet another ballot on the possibility of industrial action over my university’s staff pay offer. This time around, I can’t believe that I am having to prepare to fight for recognition of the value of my work again. It feels doubly unfair since I’m surrounded by colleagues who don’t have to prove their worth over and over. It strikes me that we need to start asking serious questions about why academics are subject to so much more scrutiny and surveillance than their administrative peers.

    When I joined my current university, I was appointed at a similar time and to a similar pay grade as an acquaintance. But there was one crucial difference: my role was academic, his was not.

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    Manchester university students defacing a Kipling poem draws mixed responses from readers

    I read the article about how at the University of Manchester the students painted over the Kipling mural and replaced it with a Maya Angelou poem (Report, 20 July). How disappointing. It seems England is following the same path as the US where our 19th- and early 20th-century racist past is concerned. We cannot go back and undo what was done but we can learn from them. Whitewashing the past, pretending it did not happen is not how we learn.

    In the US we are also selective in what monuments etc we tear down. Statues of Robert E Lee and other southerners must be torn down immediately, but the golden statue of a northern general in New York’s Central Park must not be touched, even though William T Sherman turned to the same scorched-earth policies against the Native Americans after the civil war in one of our most shameful periods of racism. Then I ask the question why Maya Angelou? Was there not an English poet who would better represent England, or maybe an Indian poet from the same generation as Kipling?
    Sonia Romaih
    San Diego, California, USA

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    The little girl who once hugged me at the gates has moved on, and the change to secondary school has come as a shock

    My first day in the school playground was terrifying. Everyone else seemed to know each other. Chatting, laughing clusters of comfortable, relaxed people made connections and bonded. I decided – out of sheer defensiveness – that was not for me. I would instead enter and leave the playground untouched by human contact. No chatting, no laughing, and definitely no PTA meetings or arranging the summer fair.

    The parent-teacher association​ was all the cliches: middle class, do-gooding, ravenous for women’s free time

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    Poor employee mental health is not treated with the humanity it requires – instead, it’s seen as a risk, or a barrier to profit

    The student mental health crisis shows no sign of abating: in the year to July 2017 alone, 95 students killed themselves, and many report impossibly threadbare services and overworked staff unable to help. One recent study also found that the UK student suicide rate had risen by 56% in 10 years – a clear sign that something needs to be done.

    It’s therefore shocking news that universities including Hull, Wolverhampton and Essex are outsourcing mental health services, referring students not to trained, on-campus mental health professionals but to (already comically stretched) NHS pathways. Most noticeable in this shift is the total rebrand of mental health services – which are now, in many universities, simply referred to as “wellbeing services”. Counsellors are being asked to reapply for their jobs, now titled “wellbeing practitioners”, and a focus is being placed on “healthy eating, mindfulness, and stress-relieving activities such as yoga, meditation and campus walks”.

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    Education secretary says more will be done to tackle stress that is driving qualified staff away

    The education secretary, Damian Hinds, has admitted too many teachers in England are being overwhelmed by excessive workloads and has pledged to do more to relieve the causes of stress that have been pushing qualified staff out of the classroom.

    The move came as Hinds argued that schools were on a par with the NHS as a “special case” for extra government spending, as behind the scenes negotiations over funding continued to delay any announcement on a pay rise for teachers.

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  • 10/06/09--03:35: Top ten nursery rhymes
  • Booktrust asked 2,500 poeple to name their favourite nursery rhyme. All together now ... here are the top 10 Continue reading...

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    ‘I won’t be able to focus if you turn that off,’ a gazillion teenagers have whined at their parents. Is it possible that they’re right?

    Many people listen to music while they’re carrying out a task, whether they’re studying for an exam, driving a vehicle or even reading a book. Many of these people argue that background music helps them focus.

    Why, though? When you think about it, that doesn’t make much sense. Why would having two things to concentrate on make you more focused, not less? Some people even go so far as to say that not having music on is more distracting. So what’s going on there?

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  • 12/12/02--08:47: Discipline in schools speech
  • Full text of Charles Clarke's Discipline in Schools speech

    Why discipline matters
    Every day around 50,000 pupils miss school without permission. Bad behaviour disrupts education at one in twelve secondary schools, according to Ofsted. And four out of five secondary pupils say some of their classmates regularly try to disrupt lessons.

    The mission of this government is to raise educational standards. But you can't raise standards if pupils miss school and behave badly when they are there. Attendance and good behaviour are preconditions for effective learning. Tackling poor behaviour is as much part of improving pupil performance as good teaching. There are two other reasons why we must tackle the behaviour problem.

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    If you were ever bored enough in a maths class to turn a number on your calculator into a word you may have only been scraping the surface. There is much more to this art than meets the eye

    I own a Casio fx-85gt plus. It can perform 260 functions in less than a second, it can tell me when I've got a recurring decimal and it has a slide-on protective cover so that the buttons don't get pressed when it's in my bag. And even if the buttons do get pressed, I've got two-way power – solar and battery – so I'm sorted.

    But as soon as I bought it I was disappointed. If I happened to be bored in a maths class, typed out 0.1134, turned my calculator upside down and slid it across to a friend I wouldn't get so much as a smile. The numbers look too much like normal typeface. 

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