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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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    Shift in priorities over 20 years in England closes long-term gap in government funding

    Children from poor backgrounds in England now have more spent on their education than those from better-off families, in what experts called a “remarkable shift” that has closed the long-term gap in government spending.

    Research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) found that, since the start of the millennium, government policies and changing attitudes have transformed how much children from different social classes receive in state spending on their formal education, from primary school through to university.

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    Survey reveals many parents give cash, books, glue and toilet rolls to child’s school

    Parents are increasingly being asked to make regular cash donations to their children’s school, as well as supply essentials such as books, glue pens and toilet rolls, according to a survey that lays bare the impact of funding shortfalls on families.

    Just days after the chancellor, Philip Hammond, enraged headteachers when he announced a one-off budget bonus to pay for the “little extras” they might need, the survey reveals the extent to which parental contributions are propping up school budgets.

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    In a system cut to the bone, gaining access to the support we had been promised for our daughter’s special educational needs was an exhausting, soul-sapping battle. By Jake Anderson

    One morning back in May 2016, my wife and I had a visit from a nurse, who had come to the house to discuss our daughter, Alice. We made coffee, put biscuits on a plate and sat around the kitchen table.

    “So,” said the woman, who was part of the local community learning disabilities team, “how can I help you?”

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    After a troubled year for universities, the next generation of leaders is emerging. They’re tech savvy, low ego and skilled in soft power

    Over a few days in September, five universities announced their vice-chancellors were leaving: Nigel Weatherill stepped down from Liverpool John Moores with immediate effect, Christopher Snowden announced his retirement from Southampton next spring, Brian Cantor said he would leave Bradford at the end of the year, while Iain Martin quit Anglia Ruskin for Deakin in Melbourne, Australia.

    Meanwhile, new vice-chancellors were starting at the universities of London, Reading, East London, Sunderland and Belfast. Ian White was revealed as the replacement at Bath for Glynis Breakwell, who left following controversy over her £468,000 pay package. He will be earning more than £200,000 less.

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    Demand is down, supply is up – something had to give and now universities are on the brink. It’s all so avoidable

    The decade-long experiment in turning universities into market-driven businesses whose success depends, like a cut-price airline’s, on student bums on lecture seats, looks likely to claim its first casualties.

    This will come as no surprise to anyone in the sector. It shouldn’t even surprise ministers, but it should be a nasty shock for them. The system of 18+ education that has emerged since 2010 is turning into a national catastrophe.

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    Every year, hundreds of students come to the American Academy McAllister Institute to learn the art of taking care of the dead and their families

    It’s a Wednesday morning like any other in a classroom on Manhattan’s West Side, and Lindsey Raymond is carefully molding pieces of wax in the shape of a nose. If it weren’t for the display of coffins and gravestones in the room next door, you’d think you were in an academy of fine arts. But this is the American Academy McAllister Institute (AAMI), New York’s oldest – and only – school for morticians.

    Fittingly, Raymond, a 30-year-old from Maryland, studied art. But instead of pursuing a career as an artist she decided to follow her father’s footsteps and become a mortician. Now she’s using her talent in sculpture to help people recognize their loved ones in a casket and bid them goodbye. “I can actually say that my previous work is bleeding into a new one,” she says.

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    Six-part series School lays bare the funding crisis affecting schools across the country

    The creators of the acclaimed BBC television series Hospital have turned their gaze from bed-blocking, cancelled surgery and health tourism in the NHS to England’s schools, going behind the scenes after a period of turbulent change across the education landscape.

    A new six-part series, School, is expected to make for uncomfortable viewing for ministers. The cameras have moved from operating theatres and overcrowded wards in some of the country’s biggest hospitals to the classrooms, staff rooms and playgrounds at three typical secondaries in south Gloucestershire. The resulting films lay bare the funding crisis affecting schools across the country.

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    Chancellor accused of having misunderstood schools’ needs despite tour of comprehensive

    The headteacher of a comprehensive in Philip Hammond’s constituency has expressed disappointment at the chancellor’s budget suggestion that a bonus for schools could pay for “little extras”, months after she outlined to him the financial crisis her school was facing.

    Earlier this year Katie Moore, the principal of Fullbrook school, a mixed secondary in Hammond’s Surrey constituency of Runnymede and Weybridge, became so concerned about the impact of funding cuts that she wrote to him asking to attend his surgery.

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    Organisation may need to mortgage its headquarters and cut staff to remain solvent

    The National Union of Students – which represents the bulk of students in UK higher and further education – has revealed it is in severe financial difficulties and has been warning its members to prepare for spending cuts and structural reform.

    A letter from the national president, Shakira Martin, and the acting chief executive, Peter Robertson, to the group’s 600 affiliated student unions and associations said that the NUS was unable to meet a projected £3m deficit this year from its existing reserves.

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    Anti-racist campaigners had planned to protest at appearance by Alice Weidel of AfD

    Anti-racism campaigners have claimed a victory after a leading figure in a far-right German political party cancelled a planned trip to the UK to address the Oxford Union.

    Activists had demanded the withdrawal of an invitation to Alice Weidel, whose Alternatif für Deutschland (AfD) party has drawn criticism for its links to neo-Nazis. Campaigners had planned to protest during her appearance.

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    Exams, rules, timetables: do teachers know what’s best for children? Increasing numbers of British parents don’t think so

    Every morning Ben Mumford starts his school day with maths. At the age of 10 he is already working at GCSE level, but he doesn’t always bother to get out of his pyjamas in time for the class. He reads more books than most of his friends, studies science on the beach, and recently built a go-kart in a technology lesson. Ben is happy and fulfilled. All, his mother Claire Mumford believes, thanks to home-schooling. “It’s not that I’m anti-establishment,” says Mumford, who has been home-schooling Ben and her other children, Sam, 11, and Amelia, eight, for the last year. “It’s just that schools haven’t got the time to nurture and teach children the way I think they should. School is very oppressive for young people. It’s not natural to be sat at a desk all day, with fluorescent lights, computer screens, barely able to see outside.” Her children get “time to relax and to be kids – to go to the woods, build dens and to learn what they’re excited about.”

    Mumford, 40, a community volunteer, was born on the Isle of Wight, where her father had taken early retirement as an army captain following an accident, and her mother was a former teacher. She moved back about eight years ago, when she separated from the children’s father, a chauffeur.

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    Oxford University forges intercultural understanding with anthropological treasures

    When Mariam Karah Ahmad saw the embroidered red, coral, gold and black Syrian dress in the Pitt Rivers Museum, the anthropological treasure house run by Oxford University, it brought back memories of the life she had left behind as a refugee.

    Hearing that the dress was probably worn by a wedding guest in the north-west of her home country in the mid-20th century, Ahmad, who used to work in a textiles factory, said: “When I was in Syria, if I saw a hand-made dress like this, I just thought it was normal. Now I come here and I see it is actually very special.”

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    Cambridge distiller takes a punt on emulating rival using botanicals from university gardens

    For decades it has played out on the Thames, on University Challenge and on playing fields, as well as in university league tables. Now the ancient rivalry between Oxford and Cambridge is spilling over into a rather less traditional sphere: gin.

    Eight months after Oxford ann-ounced the production of Physic Gin, distilled from plants in the university’s botanic garden, Cambridge has created its own spirit. Costing nearly £40 a bottle, £5 more than its Oxonian counterpart, Curator’s Gin claims to benefit from a variety of floral flavourings, and ingredients including lavender, an unusual “green ginger” rosemary and berries from the dozens of varieties of juniper grown in the garden. The final ingredient, it says, is apples from a tree descended from the one that sent fruit tumbling on to Sir Isaac Newton’s head.

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    Department for Education says it will ease pressures on teachers in England after new findings

    The Department for Education has pledged to ease pressures on teachers in England, after it accepted the recommendations of a new report that said an “audit culture” in schools was causing anxiety and staff burnout without improving results.

    The report by the DfE’s teacher workload advisory group says teachers have to waste time producing data on their pupils, with the recording, monitoring and analysing of data being demanded by multiple sources, including local and central government, Ofsted school inspectors and multiple tiers of school management.

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    Too many universities ‘not providing value for money’, says chair Robert Halfon MP

    Pressure is growing on the government to reverse its scrapping of maintenance grants in England, after a second influential parliamentary committee called for financial support for disadvantaged students to be reinstated.

    The call by the House of Commons’ education select committee will add to the ongoing debate on high levels of student debt and tuition fees in England, as rumours swirl over a possible cut in undergraduate fees to £6,500 being considered by a panel set up by Theresa May.

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    A puzzling episode from the early seventeenth century

    Hi guzzlers,

    Today’s puzzle concerns the Gunpowder Plot, in which Guy Fawkes and pals attempted to burn down the Houses of Parliament on this day in 1605. In an incident as yet unreported by historians, six men were rounded up by the authorities on suspicion of being traitors.

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    The government’s draft curriculum on sex education falls short on LGBT experiences, sexual violence and pornography

    I had just turned 11 when Salt-N-Pepa released a track that made my ears burn on first hearing: “Let’s talk about sex baby. Let’s talk about you and me. Let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be. Let’s talk about SEX.” It was quickly recorded on to a cassette and listened to surreptitiously. God forbid my parents should hear and think I wanted to talk about sex with them. But of course, as a preteen and then teenager, it was a conversation I did want to have. One I hoped would make me feel normal amid the swirl of overwhelming hormones.

    My parents were, for their part, ordinary in their attitude towards “the talk”. They could be best described as squeamish, preferring to be vague on details but with a huge dollop of fear because … PREGNANCY. They were, and are, not alone. Ineptitude sits close to denial; both act as effective weapons for those who’d rather shirk a tricky responsibility. On this matter our schools have proved no different. Deemed best placed to curate discussions around sex, they have done so with an incompetence that has left young people unable to talk about the good and bad of s-e-x.

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    The solution to today’s puzzle

    In my puzzle column earlier today I set you the following conundrum, concerning an incident in which six men were arrested during the 1605 Gunpowder Plot. Each of the men were questioned in private about who was a traitor and who was loyal. They made the following remarks.

    Augustine: Felix is loyal, Erasmus is a traitor.

    Bartholomew: Augustine is loyal.

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    Local parents backed move, in country where uniforms have not been required since 1968

    A French town has become the first in the country to introduce uniforms for pupils in its primary schools.

    Six state schools in Provins, a town in the greater Paris area south-east of the capital, gave pupils – aged from six to 11 – the choice of wearing a uniform after a poll of parents organised by the local mayor.

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    MP Robert Halfon thinks too many people get degrees. For his party, the value of learning will always be a puzzle unless you can count it in cash

    Universities, the Conservative MP Robert Halfon has warned, are “obsessed with academic degrees”; these degrees do not prepare students for the workplace, where nobody cares how much TS Eliot you can quote. Consequently, they represent poor value for money, in a marketplace where students have been sold their debt on the basis of its future wage returns. As hazards go, it’s somewhere in the region of “warning: scientists obsessed with measuring stuff”. Yet such is the Tory worldview that perfectly legitimate human endeavour – tertiary education for its own sake – has indeed become quite perilous as a lived experience.

    The idea that a degree should result in a definable return was a necessary – indeed, the single most necessary – element of the introduction of £9,000-a-year fees. Unless students could be persuaded that their degrees would net them well in excess of £27k when it came to earnings, the offer would have been much simpler: you can’t have what generations before you had, because … tough.

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