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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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    Letters from Prehistoric Society president Clive Gamble, British Academy Europe liaison chair Helen Wallace, Steve Peers and Louise Rowntree and Kelvin Appleton

    How hard can it be for the government to stop its Brexit dithering for a moment and remove the planning blight surrounding EU research funding (‘We haven’t got a plan B’: Academics race to safeguard research amid Brexit fears, 16 October)? Archaeology may deal in timescales of many thousands of years but the crisis looming in two years’ time threatens to sweep away our status as a world leader in deep history.

    The value of our EU funding is not just monetary. In its explicit support for blue-skies research, it is a rare funding resource. It encourages archaeologists to explore the potential of cutting-edge technologies applied to new evidence from the field and museum archives, and all driven by original questions about who we are and where we came from.

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    The government’s new loans can’t plug gaps in research funding, nor do they cover the cost of self-funding

    Whether a university education represents value for money has been called into question in recent years, as students have seen their financial support chipped away thanks to the tripling of tuition fees, and scrapping of maintenance grants and healthcare bursaries. Doctoral education, however, has so far mostly been left untouched – or at least, it had been until the recent launch of doctoral student loans.

    Related: I've just finished my PhD, and now I feel lost without academia | Anonymous academic

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    What is the least you can get away with giving your kids for lunch at half-term before it starts looking like neglect?

    Before we get going let’s accept that we all love our kids and wish only the best for the little darlings. Agreed? Good. With that established, let’s move on. Isn’t having to find something, dammit, anything to feed them across school holidays of the sort that are just beginning a total and utter pain in the arse?

    People who usually leave the house for work suddenly find themselves marooned at home, without adult company, standing in front of a fridge, the contents of which simply aren’t engineered for an extra daily meal. Those of us who always work from home have different issues. We usually pass lunch standing in front of the fridge, prodding leftovers to see whether they’ve developed a furry crust, eating salami straight from the packet and eyeing cautiously a half-eaten packet of cheese strings. As a result, we are justifiably baffled by how demanding our own children are. I give you breakfast. I sort dinner. And now you want more? Can’t you go out and get a job or chase a fox or something? So what if you’re only seven.

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    Annual release of interview questions comes with suggested ways of answering them

    How you listen to music, what a rock looks like, and what historians cannot know about the past are among this year’s list of sample interview questions published by Oxford University.

    The annual release of interview questions and suggested ways of answering them are designed to prepare aspiring students for the ordeal of trying to get into one of the world’s most elite institutions.

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    The post-university slump is real, but there are ways you can pick yourself up when you’re missing your old life

    Three years of study, plus a year as a sabbatical officer on the students’ union, and here I am. A part of me never considered that this moment would actually come: after four long years at university, I’m living back at home. Returning after such a long period of freedom can be daunting, so here’s how to ease the transition.

    Set boundaries with your family. Coming back home, one thing I’ve been more than a little concerned about is the question of everyone’s expectations. The last time I lived in my house I was a teenager, getting told off for not making my bed and still texting my mum every hour to let her know where I was on nights out. Surely the goalposts have shifted? Consider having a sit-down chat with your family to work out what you should expect from each other – for example, how you’ll contribute financially, or what you’ll do to help around the house.

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    As a trial on alleged Asian American discrimination that may decide the fate of affirmative action plays out in Boston, both sides charge the other with racism

    A trial that could eventually decide the fate of affirmative action programs in the United States is playing out in Boston as a lawsuit that alleges Harvard has intentionally and systematically discriminated against Asian Americans brings the Ivy League school to court.

    Supporters of the lawsuit say Harvard illegally discriminates against Asian Americans, putting a cap on the number of Asians admitted to the university and making it harder for Asian applicants to get in.

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    I was an obedient child, and think kids should be stretched. But the amount of schoolwork my children get is unacceptable

    Between the hours of 6.30 and 7.15pm nightly, we sit down in my house to do homework. This has been a surprising addition to the schedule, given that my children aren’t yet four years old. More surprising has been my enormous hostility towards it; while my daughters happily apply themselves to reading and writing practice, I pace in the background, indignant that the tiny amount of time we have in the evening has been annexed by the New York City Department of Education.

    What’s particularly weird about this is that I never had any objection to doing homework myself. I’m a fairly obedient person. If as a child I’d gone to a progressive school, I doubt I would have liked it, and I sometimes thank God no one thought of forest schools in the late 1970s. As an adult, I belong to a personality type that has never grown out of needing sharp deadlines to function, and I believe, somewhere in my core, that missing one means I will actually die.

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    Sorting people by ‘merit’ will do nothing to fix inequality. By Kwame Anthony Appiah

    Michael Young was an inconvenient child. His father, an Australian, was a musician and music critic, and his mother, who grew up in Ireland, was a painter of a bohemian bent. They were hard-up, distractible and frequently on the outs with each other. Michael, born in 1915 in Manchester, soon found that neither had much time for him. Once when his parents had seemingly forgotten his birthday, he imagined that he was in for a big end-of-day surprise. But no, they really had forgotten his birthday, which was no surprise at all. He overheard his parents talk about putting him up for adoption and, by his own account, never fully shed his fear of abandonment.

    Everything changed for him when, at the age of 14, he was sent to an experimental boarding school at Dartington Hall in Devon. It was the creation of the great progressive philanthropists Leonard and Dorothy Elmhirst, and it sought to change society by changing souls. There it was as if he had been put up for adoption, because the Elmhirsts treated him as a son, encouraging and supporting him for the rest of their lives. Suddenly he was a member of the transnational elite: dining with President Roosevelt, listening in on a conversation between Leonard and Henry Ford.

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    This stimulating documentary looks at physicist and TED-talk guru Sugata Mitra’s ideas about using technology to help children learn for themselves

    Half term usually brings forth a minor deluge of U-rated animated features, laid out like cinematic kitchen roll to absorb the attention of restless children. This documentary offers, instead, debate-stimulating viewing for all educators enjoying time off, too.

    Director Jerry Rothwell has tracked projects set up by Sugata Mitra, a physicist turned TED-talk guru over several years. In the late 90s, Mitra set up an experiment. He made a hole in the wall of his office building in New Delhi, in which he installed a computer screen and mousepad for use by local slum kids. The way he tells the story, after a few months they wanted more expensive graphics cards and a better mouse, and displayed a thirst for knowledge that got Mitra thinking about how our Victorian-designed, factory-style education systems might be improved with modern technology.

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    Writers including Frank Cottrell Boyce and Piers Torday cheer announcement that the schools inspectorate will now reward a broader style of education

    Children’s writers including Frank Cottrell Boyce and Piers Torday have hailed Ofsted’s plans to judge schools on the broad range of their education as “great news”.

    “Anything that moves away from making humans fit the demands of algorithms instead of the other way round is great news,” said the Carnegie medal-winning Cottrell Boyce, one of a chorus of authors to welcome the proposed changes.

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    The Canadian professor is only the third female recipient of the physics prize in its 118-year history, but she is nonplussed by the focus on her gender

    When you win a Nobel prize, you can expect a fair bit of attention. When you are a woman and you win the prize in physics, as the Canadian professor Donna Strickland did earlier this month, you can expect the level of attention to be overwhelming.

    The day after the announcement, just about everyone Strickland knew – and several people she did not, including Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada – called or emailed with congratulations. The day after that, her inbox overflowed with thousands more messages. The interview requests were similarly incessant; Strickland expects to be travelling non-stop, talking at schools and scientific organisations about her work, for the next two or three years. For a self-described recluse, the frenzy was all a bit much. “Two or three weeks ago, I was an ordinary human being and now I’m not,” she says with a laugh.

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    Blog claims sermon by imam at Oxford church contrary to ‘sacred act of divine worship’ in keeping with C of E rites

    An invitation to a distinguished Muslim scholar to preach at a eucharist service in an Oxford church on Sunday has triggered complaints from traditionalists.

    Monawar Hussain, who was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours last year for services to interfaith relations and the community, will deliver a sermon at the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, following a request from Oxford University’s vice-chancellor, Louise Richardson.

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    Move reflects fears for half of British children unable to swim 25 metres by the age of 11

    A new drive to encourage private schools to share their swimming pools is being launched by the government amid concerns about the number of children who emerge from primary school unable to swim.

    This weekend the education secretary, Damian Hinds, who has three young children, called on private schools to open up their pools to state pupils in their area.

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    History is in crisis when black students refuse to study it and staff suffer abuse

    What happens when a highly respected professional body undertakes serious and rigorous research into race and racism in its industry? Then, in the light of depressing findings, the researchers call upon their profession, institutions and colleagues to confront “persistent inequalities in our habits and practices”?

    The dismal answer is that both the researchers and their findings are served up, by parts of the press, as disapproval fodder for the “world’s gone mad”, “had enough of experts” demographic; the hard core of the unreality-based community.

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    The university’s policy on affirmative action is on trial – but it is the evidence of links between offers of acceptance and donations that is most damning

    Want a place at Harvard? Persuade your parents to give the university a nice gift. A new building, perhaps, or a million dollars for a fellowship. That sort of thing.

    It has long been understood that you can, to some extent, buy your way into many of the US’s prestigious universities. There are certainly plenty of examples of people with more money than sense being admitted to elite educational institutions. Jared Kushner, for example, got into Harvard despite having a mediocre academic record. To be fair, this may have had nothing to do with his father pledging $2.5m (£1.9m) to the university shortly before he was accepted. Perhaps the admissions office just had a hunch that this was the genius who was finally going to bring peace to the Middle East.

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    Ministers move to address concerns over growing number of first-class degrees

    The government has announced plans to crack down on grade inflation in universities amid fears that the growing number of first-class degrees being awarded to students is undermining their value.

    More than a quarter of graduates (26%) were awarded a first-class degree last year, up from 18% in 2012-13, according to data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

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    Puzzles that will have you in pieces

    Hello guzzlers,

    Scalpels at the ready! Today, three dissection puzzles.

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    Parents of pupils at Ninestiles in Birmingham complain the academy will ‘feel like prison’

    A secondary school has banned pupils from talking between lessons, threatening detention to children who break the rule.

    In a letter to parents, Ninestiles school in Acocks Green, Birmingham, said pupils would be expected to move around the building in silence when they return after the half-term holidays.

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    More and more parents of children with SEND are having to battle for services councils are failing to deliver. Here are two of them

    Mary Riddell’s daughter Dakota, now nine, was born at 24 weeks and has been diagnosed with a number of conditions including cerebral palsy, epilepsy and learning delay.

    “She’s a warrior,” says Riddell. “She’s fantastic. She just gets on with everything and takes it all on the chin.” But just as Dakota has had to battle for life, so her mother has battled to get the right educational support for her.

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    Rising demand puts councils in England at risk of bankruptcy, Guardian investigation reveals

    Children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are being failed by a system “on the verge of crisis” as demand for specialist support soars and threatens to bankrupt local authorities, a Guardian investigation has revealed.

    Parents of children with SEND are increasingly locked in prolonged and costly disputes with councils across England who are too often failing to deliver on their legal obligations.

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