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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 are reassured they will not be disadvantaged by sitting ‘tougher’ exams

    The chief qualifications regulator in England, Sally Collier, said that this year’s A-level and GCSE students would not suffer from being the first to take the new, tougher, exams.

    Collier, head of the Ofqual assessment watchdog, sought to reassure parents and students – as hundreds of thousands of families anxiously awaited the publication of this summer’s A-level and GCSE results – saying that although the new exams were more testing, the final grades would be fairly distributed and in the same way as in previous years.

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    Maureen Beattie also hopes anti-harassment measures set out by UK actors’ union will be adopted by wider industry

    Working class youngsters who dream of becoming actors or performers are increasingly being kept out of the profession because of the cost and failures in the education system, the new president of Equity has warned.

    Maureen Beattie became the union’s president last month after being elected unopposed. In her first interview she has talked of the challenges ahead, including tackling harassment and bullying, pay, the union’s profile and the particular struggle for youngsters from less well-off backgrounds.

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    A logic puzzle about knowledge

    Hi guzzlers

    Of the many types of puzzle I have posed over the years, the genre that readers seem to respond to best are “common knowledge” logic puzzles. In these problems, there is a situation involving at least two people, each of whom has incomplete information about each other, and the solver makes successive deductions hopping back and forth from each person’s point of view. There is usually a charm to the set-up and even though no technical mathematics is used they are very brain-twisty!

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    No language in history has dominated the world quite like English does today. Is there any point in resisting?

    Read the text version here

    Subscribe via Audioboom, iTunes, Soundcloud, Mixcloud, Acast& Sticherand join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter

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    A ‘very small number’ of students had access to the paper ahead of those sitting the exam in late June

    One person was allegedly the source of a leak of an A-level maths paper this summer, an exam board has said.

    In addition, five students have been disqualified and a further 30 are being investigated over their involvement, according to Pearson.

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    The solution to today’s puzzle

    Update: Several readers spotted a mistake in the setting of the puzzle. Apologies. (Prem, who set the puzzle, responds below the line). This is the first time in more than three years that I’ve set a puzzle with such an issue. In order to stop this happening again, if anyone would like to be a ‘puzzle-tester’ for this blog please get in touch with me on the email address below.

    In my puzzle blog earlier today, I set you the following “common knowledge” puzzle:

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    US topples Britain as most popular country for educating world’s political leaders

    The UK’s fabled “soft power” influencing international affairs is under threat from restrictive immigration policies, after a new survey revealed the UK has been supplanted by the US as the most popular place of education for the world’s political leaders.

    The annual survey by the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) found that of the current crop of presidents, prime ministers and monarchs in power in about 200 countries, 58 studied in the US and 57 in the UK – a turnaround from previous surveys in which the UK topped the chart.

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    A scheme lauded by Barack Obama is steering pupils out of hardship and into university

    Two years ago Phoenix academy in Shepherds Bush, west London, was put in special measures. Its headteacher, Oli Knight, knows that turning around academic performance and behaviour in a school where many students come from challenging backgrounds isn’t easy. But he’s hoping an ambitious project inspired by an American success story can make the difference.

    Phoenix is one of 15 secondary, primary and nursery schools being supported by a programme of interventions run by a relatively new charity, the West London Zone (WLZ). The aim is to steer children in one of the most deprived areas in the country away from a life of hardship and into university. Its CEO, Louisa Mitchell, says it’s about “driving change for an entire generation”.

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    The government needs new ways to attract more teachers if it’s not willing to fund a competitive salary

    Teachers are the envy of the country during the summer break, snoozing and reading for six weeks. But spare them a thought: when they finished term last month they had no idea what salary they would return to in September. The cowardly government waited for schools to break up before announcing it would ignore the independent review body on teacher pay and not provide the recommended pay increase after all.

    This shows remarkable chutzpah. Almost 30 years ago, when the government wrestled teacher pay negotiations away from the unions, it did so on the basis that an independent board would carefully consider the evidence each year before decreeing a fair pay rise. It was always possible for the education secretary to ignore what someone smarter, who had spent more time looking at the evidence, had recommended. But why would you, and why now, given there is a serious teacher shortage?

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    Funding crisis means some UK headteachers spend more than 50% of their time seeking charity for essential subjects

    The village of Benenden in Kent has a green nearly as big as a football pitch. At one end stands a charming stone church. On the western edge is a picturesque mid-19th century building out of which, at 9.15am on a Wednesday, a stream of children dash, wearing their blue and white PE kit. This is Benenden primary, a state school in one of the wealthiest areas of the country: just up the road, the famous Benenden School charges parents £12,650 a term.

    The little state school, though, with its cramped and crumbling building, and an intake of only 162, has sub-standard facilities and is constantly strapped for cash. If governors hadn’t slashed the budget at Easter by substantially reducing teaching assistant hours and asking the headteacher, Gill Knox, to reduce her working hours to four days a week, rising fixed costs would have taken the school into deficit. Even schools in well-heeled areas – this one has just 8% of pupils eligible for the pupil premium – are facing financial crisis.

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    My Café Scientifique project brings academics and the public together in an informal setting. It has been a revelation

    Twenty years ago, Café Scientifique was born, borrowing from the French tradition of café philosophiques, where challenging ideas are discussed in the informal setting of a cafe or bar. That it’s still going is testament to just how much public interest academic work can have if it’s presented in an accessible way.

    When I started Café Scientifique with Duncan Dallas, a science television producer, we wanted to create evenings which were a bit like going to the theatre or a comedy gig, truly making science part of popular culture. But we also wanted to get people to ask challenging questions of all these scientists, medics and engineers, democratising the world of research.

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    Money is a huge obstacle for people trying to get into the arts. We need positive policies – even quotas – to improve diversity

    I’ve been acting professionally for more than 25 years now, but I know what it’s like to have that dream jeopardised by a lack of money. I never received a grant for drama school. My first year’s fees were cobbled together by my late mother and an East End bookmaker. And at the end of my first year, I had to audition for a scholarship to pay for the rest of the course. If I hadn’t won that I would have been out – dream over before I’d even begun. So I welcome what Maureen Beattie, the president of Equity, had to say about the lack of opportunities for working-class youngsters to pursue a career in acting.

    Related: Equity president warns working class struggle to get into acting

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    The transition to university is drastic – and not everyone sails through it. That’s why university mental health setups are second to none

    At the beginning of his second year at Loughborough University, Rahul Mathasing started struggling. His moods were becoming darker, his motivation disappeared and he started missing lectures. He approached the university medical centre, which referred him to the local NHS community mental health team. His pattern of behaviour – manic episodes in which he couldn’t concentrate or sleep, as well as episodes of very low moods – led to a diagnosis, in February 2015, of bipolar disorder.

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    Tribunal judge says aggressive behaviour is not a choice for children with autism

    Children with special needs who have been excluded from schools for aggressive behaviour linked to their condition are being discriminated against, a judge has ruled.

    Judge Alison Rowley, sitting in the upper tribunal, said it was “repugnant” to consider such behaviour as “criminal or antisocial” when it was a direct result of a child’s condition and “not a choice”.

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    Education charity Classics for All distances itself from high-profile supporter

    The Ides of March may be long past but Boris Johnson has found himself, like Julius Caesar, under attack from an unusual direction – in Johnson’s case, the nation’s classical scholars.

    Following his incendiary remarks about Muslim women wearing the burqa, Johnson has found his position on a charity promoting the study of classics under threat, after several other members of the organisation threatened to cut their ties if Johnson remained on board.

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    Number of disadvantaged students at Russell Group institutions virtually unchanged since 2010

    Ministers have been accused of a “total and abject failure” to widen access to top universities for disadvantaged students, after analysis by the Labour party found the proportions attending Russell Group universities had increased by only one percentage point since 2010.

    Separately, research by a group of Labour MPs suggests pupils from towns are less likely to attend university than those from London, with a nine percentage point gap between pupils from London and the rest of the country, and a 20-point gap between those from low-income families in the capital and in towns.

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    Zoos, community halls and churches hold all-day events to help keep 400,000 children occupied

    Primary school teachers have gone on strike in New Zealand for the first time in 24 years, weeks after 30,000 nurses walked off the job.

    An estimated 29,000 teachers stopped work for a full day on Wednesday, demanding a pay rise from the government of 16% over two years. The industrial action affected 400,000 children.

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    Children should not be victims of austerity says Robbie Davison, head of a meals service. It’s all about dignity

    Along the road sped the white Transit van, carrying its precious cargo. In its back were stacked rows of black Thermo boxes containing 750 freshly made children’s lunches. Chefs had been making them since around 4.30am that morning, working in a large kitchen on a small industrial estate a few minutes from Liverpool airport. Now it was just gone 9.30am and we were driving them over the bridge to north Wales and the playcentres of Flintshire.

    For some children at the other end, this white van contained their first meal of the day. Simon Bazley, a play worker at the biggest centre of the lot, Quayplay, said, “If they don’t get school meals, some of them won’t eat. They come here hungry and angry.”

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    Every day millions of people ask Google life’s most difficult questions. Our writers answer some of the commonest queries

    There are lots of good reasons for deciding to do a PhD. Deepening your knowledge of a subject you love is an excellent one. Wondering what to do with the next three years of your life and finding out your university will pay you to stay isn’t so bad either. But seeing it as a fast track to a cushy academic job probably shouldn’t be one of them.

    PhDs are often glamourised in popular culture. If you grew up watching Friends, you might recall Ross Geller celebrating getting tenure at New York University. Getting tenure in a US university means you are virtually impossible to fire. Your university trusts in your intellectual brilliance to the extent that it’s willing to give you total academic freedom to research what you want. In short, it sounds like a dream.

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    Don’t go overboard with the essentials – chances are you’ll have less space in your new room than at home

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