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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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    Primary schools are being turned over to academy trusts with no accountability, and against the wishes of those who know the children best

    This is a story they don’t want you to know. Much of it had to be prised from the grip of officials in Whitehall and the local town hall. Yet it demands to be told, because it shows how democracy and accountability are being drained from our schools, and how a surreal battle now rages over who knows what’s best for a child: the parents and teachers, or remote officials and financiers.

    The school in question is Waltham Holy Cross primary in Essex. Helping on a school run last week, I found an entire small world. It was the last day of term, and teachers joined hands to form a human arch. The bell rang and all those leaving to start secondary ran under their teachers’ arms. Parents whooped while staff hugged overwhelmed pupils. There was barely a dry eye in the playground.

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    Attack the block!

    Hi guzzlers,

    Skyscrapers is one of my favourite Japanese logic puzzles because it forces you to think three-dimensionally, and also because Tokyo is full of skyscrapers.

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    The solutions to today’s puzzles

    Earlier today I set you three Skyscrapers puzzles. You can read the explanation of the puzzle in that article, or print out the puzzles here.

    The solutions are below:

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    When public figures are no longer held to account for their misdeeds, it opens the door for nameless people to spew vitriol without consequences

    Harry Truman had a sign on his desk that said: “The buck stops here”. Obama slightly rephrased this in 2014 when the Democrats did not do well in the mid-terms. That may as well have been the neolithic era. Now, the buck doesn’t stop anywhere, it just goes on to make more bucks. We used to talk about the end of deference; I will believe that when Theresa May stops looking like she is playing a game of Twister every time she meets a minor royal, or when some egomaniac businessman is not treated as a deity because he has invented a see-through vacuum cleaner.

    What has actually happened is the end of accountability.The bigger you are, the less accountable you are. This is now just an accepted fact of life. Bankers caused a crash and walked away unscathed. George Osborne was the architect of austerity, which left the fabric of so many lives in tatters. Now, he has about 10 part-time jobs, one of which is editing a newspaper, and still he gives advice to his party. “If the Conservative party does not try to reconnect with modern Britain, with urban, with ethnically diverse, sexually diverse Britain it is politically screwed,” says the man who screwed the poorest people in the country. Soon, his nasty fantasy of chopping up May and putting her in bags in his freezer may come true.

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    Damian Hinds to address parents’ concerns about screen time in first major speech on social mobility

    More than a quarter of children starting primary school are unable to communicate in full sentences as concerns grow about the amount of time they are spending in front of screens, the education secretary will say in his first major speech on social mobility.

    Damian Hinds is expected to say on Tuesday that he wants to harness technology so parents can do more to help their children’s early language development.

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    When Kevin Payne quit teaching he wanted to tell pupils – and the government – that school is not just about tests and targets

    On a busy high street in Exeter, a two-metre high poster on a telephone box screams the parting words of a local teacher so angry about the way children are being taught and assessed he is quitting teaching after nearly two decades. “CHILDREN! YOU ARE NOT DATA,” it shouts in capitals: “LEARN, INSPIRE, DREAM, CREATE. THE WORLD NEEDS YOU TO BE THE BEST AT WHAT YOU LOVE.”

    The poster was created by Kevin Payne, a year 3 and 4 teacher at Landscore primary school, who left his job last week after 17 years in the profession. “I wanted to send a message to children that teachers care about them – and that they are worth more than just a piece of paper that says whether or not they are meeting an expected standard.”

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    Stop testing facts and give more time to teach children how they can apply their knowledge

    Dear Damian Hinds

    We’re easing into the holiday mood, and looking forward to six weeks without any pre-exam revision panic, morning-of-exam nerves, or post-exam depression. Of course, we have still got something to look forward to: the summer misinformation-fest, when headlines will roar that “results have improved” or “slumped”, or both at the same time. We’ll probably hear how “top schools” have done better, or not so well, and some schools are “failing”, as if these matters were unrelated to the nature of the schools’ intakes or their rates of “out-takes” – that is, their pupil exclusions, which we’ve heard a lot about lately, or their invisible “off-rolling”.

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    As more women speak up over sexual violence, universities are cracking down on ‘lad culture’

    On Katia Baudon’s very first day as a fresher at Kent University in September 2015, she says, she was raped by a fellow student. The experience was so traumatising that she ended up having to retake her first year. Baudon reported the attack to the university authorities in February 2016. They put her in touch with the police. Her case was not prosecuted as the police decided there was insufficient evidence because she had reported it four months after the event.

    Baudon, who has successfully finished her second year studying English and French law, says she felt unable to tell her university when the assault first happened. “I felt isolated and had panic attacks on a daily basis,” she explains. She was galvanised into action, though, when she heard another student had said she had been assaulted by the same person.

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    Damian Hinds says top institutions will spend £860m to support the disadvantaged

    Elite universities are not instinctively biased against disadvantaged children but must do more to improve access, the UK’s education secretary has said.

    In his first major speech on social mobility, Damian Hinds said there was a “very legitimate public interest” to ensure attempts to encourage children to attend the top higher education institutions reach “deep into the country” and to every group.

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    Unite says latest job losses are ‘act of crass stupidity’ amid construction skills shortage

    The latest redundancies at Carillion, the construction and outsourcing company that fell into administration in January, include just over 340 construction apprentices.

    The Unite union said the apprentice redundancies, which made up the bulk of the most recent round of 356 job losses, were “an act of crass stupidity” amid a shortage of skilled workers in the construction industry.

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    Few people who do not see the daily workings of the government’s immigration policy have any idea how doctors, teachers and even landlords have effectively been made to patrol a border within

    For a doctor in Birmingham, it was the pregnant patient eating less to save money to cover an NHS bill. For a primary school teacher in an inner-city school, it was the moment he sat down with new parents for an uncomfortable conversation about their child’s nationality. For a London lecturer, it was the worry that A-level students were being put off university for fear of being deported. In banks, hospitals, lettings agencies, schools and lecture theatres, the government’s current immigration policy has effectively erected a border within, along which people delivering vital services are coming to terms with unwanted new powers.

    Since the Windrush scandal erupted earlier this year, the government’s immigration policies have faced unprecedented scrutiny. For months we have learned about the effects on a generation wrongly classed as “illegal”. But if it looked like a sudden crisis for the government, it has been a daily reality for years for thousands of people on the frontline of the deterrent policies that Theresa May first described as a “hostile environment” in 2012, when she was home secretary. Last week, NHS doctor Neal Russell told how he delivered a baby with untreatable complications – which could have been avoided – to a mother who had been too frightened to attend antenatal appointments. He handed back a medal for his lifesaving work abroad because he did not want to accept an award from a government whose policies have created fear and mistrust in the health services.

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    Sending children in care to live in deprived parts of Kent is exposing them to gang violence and sexual exploitation

    Thanet hosts millions of holidaymakers and day trippers from London and further afield during the summer holidays, but away from the sandy beaches of Margate and Broadstairs there are fears that these east Kent coastal towns could become the next Rochdale or Rotherham. A group of local headteachers is so concerned about the risk of exposure to gang violence and child sexual exploitation that last month it very publicly told the government that without ministerial direction, it would no longer give school places to looked-after children sent there by other local authorities.

    Related: Children in care being 'pinged' around schools and homes, says report

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    International higher education isn’t about a few countries getting all the students, it’s about giving young people opportunities

    Australia is about to overtake the UK as the second most popular host country for international higher education students, or so new research tells us. But the situation is not as clear cut as it seems.

    The predictions are based on Unesco Institute for Statistics data, which is far from perfect. Although it is the most comprehensive set of global student mobility data, it excludes Erasmus+ students and those studying at private institutions in the UK. It fails to capture the true size of the international student population here, which is closer to half a million.

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    Readers respond to a piece that claimed the English language was taking over the world, and to a letter about American English that it prompted

    As a former lecturer in colleges in colonial central Africa, I must plead “guilty” to teaching many students how to teach English in their primary and secondary schools (How the English language is taking over the planet, 27 July). During my 17-year tenure, I must have spread the language to maybe thousands of Africans and no doubt they spent their careers passing English on to umpteen thousands of their pupils, ad infinitum (if I may be permitted to use a Latin term).

    I gladly took on the role of cultural ambassador to enable these young women and men to take their place in the greater world. They were eager learners and laughed when I told them they were perfectly entitled to use English to attack the British colonial regime. They were also well aware that having a foreign lingua franca (ditto) meant that they could avoid choosing one of the 70 local languages for this task, thus igniting the anger of speakers of the other 69 tribal tongues. I very much doubt whether this led to their decay; bilingualism was almost universal.

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    Universities need to adopt strategies that focus on the perpetrator – and the role of power – rather than the victim

    Throughout history, and around the world, rape has been used as a weapon of war – a way to demonstrate and maintain power. But when it comes to addressing sexual violence on university campuses, we seem to have forgotten the role of power. Too often, we focus on teaching women how not to get raped, rather than teaching perpetrators not to rape. This strategy significantly misrepresents the problem of sexual violence.

    Examining the role of power in sexual violence would help us more effectively address and eradicate sexual violence from university campuses.

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    Teenagers are being encouraged by the government to get a job during the holidays. How did your summer job help you?

    Teenagers are being encouraged by the government to take up a job during the summer holidays to “complement” their education and prepare themselves for the workplace in the post-Brexit world.

    From working in a fish and chip shop to helping out in an office, we would like to hear about your summer jobs. How did you end up spending your school holidays? How did a summer job shape your outlook on the world of work? Did your holiday job help carve out a career path?

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    If the Tories hadn’t cut funding for early years support, perhaps children would have a fairer start in schools today

    So, Damian Hinds has woken up to the fact that there are huge gaps in ability between children from different backgrounds before they even start school. In a speech yesterday, the education secretary described the fact that children are starting school unable to communicate in full sentences or having barely opened a book as “a persistent scandal”, which meant some children never caught up with their peers.

    Related: Children starting school 'cannot communicate in full sentences'

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    Caucher Birkar grew up on a farm near the Kurdish city of Marivan in Iran and spoke little English when he began his PhD

    A Kurdish man who came to Britain as a refugee after fleeing conflict two decades ago is one of four men who have been awarded the Fields medal, considered the equivalent of a Nobel prize for mathematics.

    The winners of the prize, presented at the International Congress of the International Mathematical Union in Rio de Janeiro, have been announced as Prof Caucher Birkar, 40, from Cambridge University, Prof Akshay Venkatesh, 36, an Australian based at Princeton and Stanford in the US, Prof Alessio Figalli, 34, from ETH in Zurich and Prof Peter Scholze, 30, from Bonn University.

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    Can summer work be life-enhancing? Writers, politicians and musicians share what they learned in the laundrette, behind the bar – or cleaning earwax off hearing aids

    Esther McVey, the work and pensions secretary, believes young people taking a summer job is “connected to having a successful future … They can help people develop their customer service and problem-solving skills, build their resilience and attitude to work, as well as improve time management and the ability to juggle different priorities.” Last week, she launched a campaign “to make the case for part-time, Saturday and summer jobs”. She fondly recalled her own student holiday job as a waitress, and said it had directed her away from the law and towards a job in the media.

    McVey has been under a cloud recently, accused of misleading parliament on the rollout of universal credit, so may be hoping for some good publicity. Unfortunately, her Telegraph article announcing her jobs-for-students campaign is, rather like her initial statement on universal credit, disingenuous. She says that “the percentage of young people working while studying has more than halved, falling to 18% in 2014 from 42% in 1997”. Readers would probably take this to include university students, but it is only the proportion of 16- and 17-year-olds holding down a part-time job that has halved. By contrast (and not mentioned by McVey), the proportion of university students who work while studying has risen, and is now almost eight in 10.

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    Watchdog criticised for ‘ludicrous’ downgrading of Little Ducklings in Brighton

    A nursery in Brighton had its Ofsted rating downgraded after it was found staff did not know how to protect children from adopting extreme views and potentially being radicalised.

    The decision provoked anger among parents and a local councillor who criticised it as “absolutely ludicrous” and called for the state to “let children be children”.

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