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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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    The advice from the Good Schools Guide is sound – but only to find out if you will have to help with the summer fete

    The Good Schools Guide has a suggestion for parents picking a primary school: hang around outside the school gates. Are the children leaving in an orderly fashion? Do they run, beaming, into their parents’ arms, saying: “Well, what I don’t know about hieroglyphs is not worth knowing”? Are they carrying complicated works of art or a chopped salad? This will tell you far more than an Ofsted report.

    But here’s a tip: you will look very weird loitering outside a school, so make sure you take some kind of child with you. Otherwise, sure, great advice, if suggesting a thing that people have been doing since education began could ever count as such a thing.

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    British universities | The dispossessed | When horses don’t neigh | If your glass is half empty | Long lives

    Is there any hard evidence that leads a group of academics to state “British universities are the strongest and most attractive in Europe” (Letters, 9 January)? Have they taken account of the decline in student numbers, especially among those from the EU?
    Jenny Ridley
    Canterbury

    • I appreciate the irony of your lead letter (10 January) with its concern for the “dispossessed” who have “had enough” coming from a Tory MP. Cheeky.
    John Airs
    Liverpool

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    Senior figures fear creating colleges with remit to improve access could lead to accusations of ‘ghettoisation’

    A radical proposal by the former education minister Andrew Adonis for a new breed of Oxbridge colleges designed to improve access for under-represented students has been greeted with little enthusiasm by the two universities.

    Under the plan Oxford and Cambridge universities could speed up their efforts to widen participation by opening new colleges focusing exclusively on “access with excellence”, according to Adonis, the man credited as being the architect of Tony Blair’s education reforms.

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    Analysis by party finds £22m was spent on bursaries for trainees who did not go on to take up teaching posts

    Labour has accused the government of squandering taxpayers’ money on bursaries of up to £25,000 and beyond to attract top graduates into teaching, many of whom then fail to take up teaching posts.

    According to Labour analysis of Department for Education (DfE) data, trainee teachers awarded the highest bursary of £25,000 and above were the least likely to end up in a teaching post, compared with those on smaller bursaries or no financial incentive at all.

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    Not sure whether the postgrad life is for you? Answer these five questions

    When it comes to considering a master’s degree, the decision can be as daunting as the course itself. There’s a lot to think about. How will it benefit you in the future? What kind of course should you be looking to do? If you’re undecided about what your next move should be, answering these five questions might help.

    Will a master’s make me more employable?
    Many large organisations now require graduates with specialist interests. In some fields a master’s can also help to build a network of contacts from your alumni base, colleagues and peers. “That in itself is going to make you more employable long-term,” says Eli Bohemond, a career coach with Seven Career Coaching. But while an master’s does boost employability, students should think about the value of work experience. “If you don’t know how to sell yourself after receiving that master’s and you still don’t have practical experience … you’re kind of shooting yourself in the foot,” says Bohemond.

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    Heather Stewart is joined by Jonathan Freedland, Dawn Foster and Will Tanner to discuss the turmoil in the Commons ahead of next week’s Brexit vote. Plus: we talk to Harriet Harman about MP harassment, and look at the new 10-year plan for the NHS

    Battle resumed in parliament this week, as MPs voted to take back control of the Brexit process from government.

    First, a coalition of Labour and Conservative MPs organised an amendment to the finance bill to curb the government’s tax powers in the event of no deal. Then May was defeated again over another amendment, this one forcing her to present MPs with a new Brexit plan within three days if she loses next week’s vote.

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    Lowering the cost of degrees will devastate university budgets. The state will bail them out – in exchange for more control

    Meanwhile, back at the ranch – or in this case the campus – the mice are running riot. Ignored by Brexit, Britain’s universities are facing financial meltdown. I predict that within a decade they will become institutions wholly owned by the state, their academic autonomy unrecognisable.

    A few weeks ago, three universities were reported to be on the brink of bankruptcy. University debt has soared by £12bn in the past decade. Cardiff has borrowed £300m over 40 years, with experts suggesting it would take 2,000 years to repay if its current surplus does not improve. The backing for these loans is supposedly the ballooning scale of student fees, which David Cameron almost tripled to £9,000 in 2012 in England, and the removal of the cap on student numbers. Fees, rather than grants, now comprise the vast bulk of all university income for teaching undergraduates.

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    Education Policy Institute urges councils to redistribute surpluses to struggling schools

    State school budgets in England have deteriorated in the last year, according to analysis by a thinktank that says councils could redistribute surpluses to bail out struggling schools in the same region.

    The Education Policy Institute looked at the accounts submitted by maintained and academy schools for 2017-18 and found that secondary schools were particularly hard hit.

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    Survey calls for ‘arts premium’ so primary school children can have better access to the arts

    Primary school-aged children in England have been suffering a shocking decline in the arts education they receive since 2010, according to a new survey of teachers and arts organisations published by the Fabian Society.

    The research, funded in part by the author and actor Ben Elton, found that a narrowing curriculum, pressure on school budgets and the demands of national tests were all contributing to the decline, leaving schools with few resources and little time to introduce their pupils to drama, music and art galleries.

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    When I raised concerns that students were receiving good grades for low quality work, senior staff were hostile

    There’s a widespread view that the university system has become soft, and that the qualifications it offers have become easier to gain. Universities say that improved grades reflect an improvement in teaching quality, not falling standards. For those of us who work in universities, we know which interpretation is correct.

    I am an experienced lecturer and external examiner, but was forced to leave a teaching position for drawing attention to the low quality of student work and the high grades it received. My attempts to highlight grade inflation to my peers were met with indifference and exasperation, but, ultimately, an acceptance that standards had fallen. From senior colleagues, however, I met outright hostility, denial and dismissal. Talking to colleagues at other universities suggests I am far from alone, with stories of resignations under threat and no-fault dismissals with pay-outs not uncommon.

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    Many of those we trust to teach and nurture our young people live on poverty wages that put them on the brink of homelessness

    As a student, I didn’t think much about my professors, how much money they were making or what their lives were like. That was until the end of last semester.

    Last spring, I signed up for a course on gender roles. The class was so interesting, I’d often stay after to talk and I eventually became friends with my professor. During finals, I noticed that she seemed stressed out. I was shocked to learn why: my professor was about to lose her place and have to live in her car.

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    Submit your questions and ideas to our panel of experts who will discuss what can be learnt from different approaches to education

    Join our panel of education experts to examine what can be done to improve education, and make systems more equal. Whether you’re a teacher, student, academic, social worker, policymaker, parent, and wherever you are in the world, we want to hear from you.

    Alex Beard, author of Natural Born Learners, and one of our panellists for this podcast, says:

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    This isn’t a question of academic freedom. The law professor’s writings dehumanise many of his students

    This week, along with other students, we started a petition to stop Professor John Finnis teaching at Oxford University. As anticipated, the petition has been criticised on the grounds that its proposals would undermine academic and – though Finnis himself says his views are “strictly philosophical” – religious freedom. We were called “snowflake” students who were simply incapable of arguing against opposing views. We believe these criticisms miss the point.

    Here are some of the reasons for the petition: in a 1995 paper Finnis sets out that the judgment that homosexual conduct is “evil” can be defended. He draws an analogy between the “copulation of humans with animals” and homosexuality. In a 2011 article, he laments restrictions on the discussion of “the reversibility of sexual orientation or the relation if any between sexual orientation and child-abuse”.

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    Exclusion is ‘correlated with layers of disadvantage,’ says founder of education charity

    The proportion of students in schools for excluded pupils in inner London is almost double the national rate, according to new analysis which raises concerns over the increasing exclusion rates from schools in England.

    Research found that one in 116 pupils in the 13 inner city boroughs of the capital are in schools for excluded students – rising to one in 54 in one London borough, compared with the national figure of one in 196 pupils.

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    Running a charity that works to prevent and tackle radicalisation is emotionally draining

    • Guardian Jobs: see the latest charity vacancies

    After the school run, I rush over to Westminster for a series of meetings with MPs to discuss counter-terror issues facing the UK. While I am out of the office a member of my team alerts me to some hate mail that features vile imagery of women of colour and faith being hanged, accompanied by the text: “You’re next.” I head straight to the office and report it to the police. It’s not the first time this has happened, and I fear for my safety and that of my staff and our beneficiaries, a lot of whom are Muslim women. I can’t help but question the society we live in where people threaten, hurt and kill others based on the colour of their skin, gender or faith.

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    Northern Ballet tries a new way to break down barriers to the increasingly elitist world of classical dance

    Children are no strangers to the cinema, where they can watch a dizzying array of films, from animated cartoons to blockbuster musicals to the latest rite-of-passage teen hits.

    But ballet is not a genre they get out the popcorn for. And that, according to David Nixon, artistic director of Northern Ballet, is a shame.

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    From a traumatic childhood in Dallas to Yale, Harvard, Wall Street and beyond, the businessman and author exemplifies the American dream – the very myth his new book sets out to dismantle

    Casey Gerald knew he was special from a young age. Not in a conceited or entitled way – being poor, black, gay, “a damn near orphan”, and from the wrong side of Dallas meant he would often be told otherwise – but special because his mother insisted he was. “And she was the most magical creature I ever knew,” he says, “like something from the movies.”

    Gerald’s mother was, he later recognised, a manic depressive – “with big, crinkly, burnt-blond hair [that] made her look like a high-yellow Whitney Houston”. She left home and disappeared when he was 13. Some time before, Gerald’s football star father, the son of a renowned Texas preacher, became hooked on heroin only to then carousel in and out of prison. And so this gifted, athletic teenager ended up in the care of his grandmother and older sister – until a football scholarship to Yale became his ticket “to live America from the very bottom to the very top”.

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    Fears that uncertainty over Brexit will hit language learning after 25% drop in applications from EU citizens

    The number of teachers from the EU wanting to work in England has slumped in the past year, with fears that Brexit will exacerbate staff shortages and hit language learning.

    Teachers from EU countries applying for the right to work in English schools fell by a quarter in a single year, according to official data. There were 3,525 people from member states awarded qualified teacher status (QTS) in 2017-18, which allows them to work in most state and special schools. A 25% fall on the previous year, it included a 17% drop in applicants from Spain, an 18% drop from Greece and a 33% drop from Poland.

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    Shift school day back by an hour to tackle poor results, anxiety and obesity, say experts

    Sleep experts are warning of an epidemic of sleep deprivation among school-aged children, with some urging educational authorities to alter school hours to allow adolescents to stay in bed longer.

    Adequate sleep is the strongest factor in the wellbeing and mental health of teenagers, and a shortage is linked to poor educational results, anxiety and obesity, they say. The French education minister approved a proposal to push back by an hour the start of the school day to 9am for students aged 15-18 in Paris.

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    While many agree that private education is at the root of inequality in Britain, open discussion about the issue remains puzzlingly absent. In their new book, historian David Kynaston and economist Francis Green set out the case for change

    • Read an interview with David Kynaston

    The existence in Britain of a flourishing private-school sector not only limits the life chances of those who attend state schools but also damages society at large, and it should be possible to have a sustained and fully inclusive national conversation about the subject. Whether one has been privately educated, or has sent or is sending one’s children to private schools, or even if one teaches at a private school, there should be no barriers to taking part in that conversation. Everyone has to live – and make their choices – in the world as it is, not as one might wish it to be. That seems an obvious enough proposition. Yet in a name-calling culture, ever ready with the charge of hypocrisy, this reality is all too often ignored.

    For the sake of avoiding misunderstanding, we should state briefly our own backgrounds and choices. One of our fathers was a solicitor in Brighton, the other was an army officer rising to the rank of lieutenant-colonel; we were both privately educated; we both went to Oxford University; our children have all been educated at state grammar schools; in neither case did we move to the areas (Kent and south-west London) because of the existence of those schools; and in recent years we have become increasingly preoccupied with the private-school issue, partly as citizens concerned with Britain’s social and democratic wellbeing, partly as an aspect of our professional work (one as an economist, the other as a historian).

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