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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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    New exams see slight narrowing of gender gap but girls are still outperforming boys in most major subjects

    So here we are, the last big day of this year’s examination results season on which over half a million pupils in England will collect their GCSE results. As is fast becoming traditional, there have been changes that need explaining.

    Related: GCSE results day 2018: students get their grades - live

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    Many feared the worst but the overwhelming feeling on results day has been relief

    The summer of 2018 will not be fondly remembered by many 16-year-olds. There were stifling sports halls, sleepless nights and sweeping changes to GCSEs that left many fearing the worst come results day.

    It was no surprise, then, that the overwhelming feeling was relief when students at two schools in Manchester ripped open their envelopes on Thursday morning.

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    Rolling coverage as youngsters find out how they did under new grading system introduced for most subjects in England

    We’re wrapping up our GCSE liveblog for the day. Thank you for all your contributions and well done to everybody who got their results today - you survived!

    'I'd go home, stress, cry, eat, cry': Manchester pupils on new GCSEs https://t.co/jg76vOuxOd

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    More pupils achieve top marks following the biggest shakeup in grading for a generation

    There were sighs of relief from students, teachers and education policymakers in England after the government’s long-awaited overhaul of GSCE exams passed off with few hitches and an upturn in the proportion of good grades.

    Despite fears that tougher assessments in about 90% of exams would cause difficulties for some, results in England showed an increase in the proportion of 16-year-olds achieving a 4 or C and above to 69.2%, up from 68.7% last year.

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    The continuing gap between state and private education is reinforcing privilege and harming the prospects of another generation. The only solution is integration. By Melissa Benn

    Unlikely as it might sound, one of the most electric political meetings I have ever attended was a lecture on the Finnish educational system given by Pasi Sahlberg, the Finnish educator and author, in London in the spring of 2012. Sahlberg, who was speaking to a packed committee room 14 of the House of Commons – the most magnificent of a run of grand meeting rooms that directly overlook the Thames – has a rather laconic manner of delivery. However, in this particular instance, his flat speaking style proved the perfect vehicle for an unexpectedly radical message.

    Sahlberg described how Finnish education had evolved, in the postwar period, from a steeply hierarchical one, rather like our own, made up of private, selective and less-well regarded “local” schools, to become a system in which every child attends the “common school”. The long march to educational reform was partly initiated to strengthen the Finnish nation after the second world war, and to defend it against Russian incursions in particular.

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    One university I worked at had no promotions criteria; at another they were so vague as to be meaningless

    The road to becoming a fully-fledged academic can feel long, tough and filled with disillusion. A study by The Royal Society found that only 3.5% of students that complete a PhD secure a permanent research position at a university. Of those lucky few, only 12% (or 0.45% of the total) make it to professor level.

    During my first academic position, I wanted to become one of these fortunate few. So I visited the university’s HR advisor and asked her – naively – what I would have to do to eventually be appointed professor. Her answer was frank: “I have no idea.”

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    Our child has deferred going to university and is thinking of working in Australia

    Every week a Guardian Money reader submits a question, and it’s up to you to help him or her out – a selection of the best answers will appear in next Saturday’s paper.

    My son has decided to go to university in 2019 and is starting a year off. He needs to earn some money to pay for adventure later on. Does he get a job locally, or head to Australia, or has anyone got a a better plan? What made your gap year a hit?

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    Many young women miss school because they cannot afford sanitary products. We need free, universal access to them

    I wrapped a sock around my underwear just to stop the bleeding, because I didn’t want to get shouted at. And I wrapped a whole tissue roll around my underwear, just to keep my underwear dry until I got home. I once Sellotaped tissue to my underwear. I didn’t know what else to do.”

    This was the quote, from a schoolgirl in Leeds, that stunned me into realising that young women in the UK were experiencing the trauma of period poverty. All women have faced the mess of an unexpectedly early period, but the idea that, for some, this was the bloody reality of every day of every period was profoundly upsetting; and galvanising.

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    Success deserves applause, but the reformed qualifications are a missed opportunity

    Last week more than half a million children in England, Wales and Northern Ireland opened their GCSE results; this week those who don’t yet have a firm plan for their 16-18 education will work out what to do next. Results are never good news for everyone. Disappointments should not be ignored. But the success of schools and of pupils in the face of new and harder exams deserves applause.

    Big changes such as these should mean big improvements. Following reforms causing stress and disruption, we should feel better equipped as a nation to face the future than we were before. Questions or shortcomings in the previous dispensation should have been answered; innovations introduced. But while the greater difficulty of the new qualifications means many children will have a stronger 11-16 education (even if the more traditional content is not to all tastes) and some subjects have been brought up to date, the new GCSEs are also a disappointment.

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    Old and new masters reveal their radical edge, Assemble unveil their Goldsmiths galleries, Fernand Léger seeks utopia, and photography focuses on the facts

    British Museum, London

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    Architecture’s lack of diversity shows in environments created by people who never need step-free access or to take a bus

    There’s an architect’s impression of a new development for Greenwich, south-east London, that has caused some outrage on social media. The Elysian rendering of Charlton Riverside features 36 people frolicking in the park, and only one of them is black. Among the white millennials and young children there is also a single older person, gesticulating in a sprightly manner with a walking cane.

    Architects are overwhelmingly male and pale, young and privileged, and there are legitimate concerns about them designing our cities in their image. Fewer than one in every 10 architects is black, Asian or minority-ethnic, and less than a third of UK qualified architects are women. And the numbers are not improving.

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    Gimme, gimme, gimme...a puzzle from Stockholm

    UPDATE: Solutions can be seen here.

    Hallå guzzlers!

    Today, I’ve four puzzles from the country of Abba, courtesy of Swedish magician and puzzle author Fredrik Cattani. His most recent book was his highest ever release; he dropped a copy out of a light aircraft flying at 120m. (The pun might work better in Swedish).

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    Scientists and the design of experiments under scrutiny after a major project fails to reproduce results of high profile studies

    Some of the most high profile findings in social sciences of the past decade do not stand up to replication, a major investigation has found.

    The project, which aimed to repeat 21 experiments that had been published in Science or Nature – science’s two preeminent journals – found that only 13 of the original findings could be reproduced.

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    The answers to today’s puzzles

    Earlier today I set the following puzzles from Swedish magician Fredrik Cattani. Here they are with their solutions.

    Money, Money, Money

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    Recommendations for when you can’t face another textbook

    The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken, by The Secret Barrister

    Both a qualified junior barrister and award-winning blogger, The Secret Barrister has struck a balance between educational and entertaining with their debut book. It serves, in some ways, as a 21st century tale of morality and law, exploring the many wrongs and a few rights of our criminal justice system. You’ll also find useful information on the profession as a whole. Denser historical sections are often interspersed with witty remarks that disperse any ambivalence you may feel due to the anonymity of the author. For a taster, start with The Secret Barrister blog or their Twitter (@BarristerSecret) – nearly 150,000 followers would agree it’s worth a look.

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    Former contestants cite social media hostility and ‘confidence gap’ as barriers to taking part in TV quiz

    Your starter for 10: why are so few women taking part in University Challenge? Former contestants say it’s because they are too intimidated to audition by the barrage of comments, jokes and even abuse they will inevitably face.

    Rose McKeown, a star of the winning team from St John’s College, Cambridge, in the last series, and Hannah Rose Woods, captain of the 2015-16 winning team from Peterhouse, Cambridge, cited the ordeal of social media as a factor in the striking gender imbalance of the BBC2 quiz.

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    A new report concludes testing in reception class is unjustified. Shall I send you a copy?

    I guess your hands have been full keeping the press onside with reasons why the GCSE system, as “reformed” by Michael Gove, is necessary, fair and useful (I suspect it is none of these), but can I take you back to the end of July and your speech about pre-school children?

    Those of us who have worked for years with the youngest children have long campaigned for the very things you seemed to be calling for: more professional support and help. Now I think of it, it’s what my own parents campaigned for, along with their colleagues and heroes stretching all the way back to the suffragist, socialist and nursery pioneer Margaret McMillan (1860-1931).

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    As schools in the UK prepare for the start of another academic year, we celebrate the work of Unicef in providing the opportunity for children in some of the world’s poorest countries access to education

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    A feverish clearing process has seen universities taking desperate measures, including fake phone calls to their rivals

    Some universities may be pushed to the brink of insolvency after the most cut-throat A-level student recruitment round vice-chancellors can remember, experts are warning.

    The removal of the cap on the number of students universities can recruit, combined with a demographic fall in the number of 18-year-olds, has created a fierce new market in higher education. Prestigious universities are sucking up students who might previously have chosen mid-ranking institutions. The knock-on effect is leaving some universities without enough students – and their £9,250 fees.

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    Skinhead English teacher ‘Mr Pink’ is one of many finding ways to stop stereotypes sticking, even among the smallest children

    Matt Pinkett grimaces as he repeats Charles Dickens’s description of a female character in A Christmas Carol. “She had a ‘ripe little mouth’,” he says. “Isn’t that a horrible way to describe women?” The woman in question, Scrooge’s nephew’s wife, is peripheral to the tale; Pinkett’s students aren’t going to get a GCSE question about her. But he draws their attention to it every time he teaches the text: “It only takes me five minutes to say, ‘Why is this man infantilising this woman? Why that word ripe? It suggests consumption, it’s horrible’.”

    The questions are part of what Pinkett, a shaven-headed, blokeish English teacher at King’s College Guildford, a comprehensive academy in Surrey, calls “militant tenderness” – his deliberate drive to combat what he sees as the “hyper-masculinisation” of boys by society, by modelling an alternative masculinity that values “kindness, vulnerability and love”.

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