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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 social historian on why he believes Britain may finally tackle the inequality perpetuated by independent education

    • Read an extract from David Kynaston’s Engines of Privilege: Britain’s Private School Problem

    David Kynaston is a historian who has written books on postwar Britain, the City of London and cricket. His latest book, co-written with his old school friend Francis Green, is called Engines of Privilege: Britain’s Private School Problem, and focuses on the unfair advantage offered by the independent education sector.

    You are known for your forensic histories of modern Britain. What inspired this book?
    It’s an issue I’ve become deeply interested in since my sons went to a state grammar school in 2007. They both played football for their school and standing on the touchline when they played against local private and state schools I saw the full spectrum of the unequal allocation of resources, the huge difference in the quality of facilities at state and private schools. The unfairness hit me terribly hard. A few years later in 2014 I gave the Orwell lecture, focusing on the private school question, and then at the end of that year my son George and I wrote a piece on the history and cultural significance of private schools in the New Statesman, which provoked five further articles the following week. That was the moment that made me think this was an issue that had some traction.

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    A great public service is being run down by a state that prefers cost-cutting to culture

    It is a further triumph for The Favourite, with 12 Bafta nominations, to have propelled Ophelia Field’s 2002 biography of Sarah Churchill, the favourite in question, to the heights of Amazon’s gay and lesbian biography list.

    Anne Somerset’s 2012 biography of Queen Anne is also likely to benefit, as people attempt to discover more about the extraordinary incidents depicted in Yorgos Lanthimos’s film. How did 18th-century politicians train their racing ducks? Did Queen Anne ever get treatment for her raging bulimia? What became of Anne’s 17 little rabbits? And did Sarah really dress up as a highwayman – because it’s certainly not in Wikipedia?

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    Researchers have found just 2% of the UK’s early years education workforce is male

    A drive is under way to increase the number of men working with the youngest children in the education system, drawing on the success of Norway, which has the highest percentage of male early years professionals in the world.

    According to latest statistics, just 2% of the early years education (EYE) workforce in the UK is male, a figure that has remained static for decades despite previous targets and greater shared childcare between men and women in the home.

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    Families providing data on children without informed consent, say campaigners

    The government has revoked parents’ right to retract information on their children’s nationality and country of birth submitted to the schools census, months before Brexit throws the immigration status of 3 million European residents into doubt.

    Officials from the Department for Education (DfE) collected the data on 6 million schoolchildren, before it was halted last June in the face of opposition from critics who said it was an attempt to turn schools into internal border checkpoints.

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    Authors argue move would end unconditional offers and aid disadvantaged students

    School leavers should apply to universities only after seeing their A-level results, a move that would end the controversial use of unconditional offers, in a major reform of the current system, according to a report backed by university staff.

    Changes to the timing of the academic year and greater support for school-leavers could also form part part of the reforms, according to the report.

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    It was alleged the then education secretary tried to find out about an active investigation into a Catholic priest in 2010

    A public inquiry has refused to publish evidence that could shed light on an allegation that Michael Gove intervened in a child sexual abuse investigation.

    He has been accused of trying, during his time as education secretary, to find out about an investigation into a priest suspected of abusing a boy at a boarding school.

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    Five beautiful geometrical puzzles

    UPDATE: To read the solutions click here

    Today’s puzzles come from Catriona Shearer, a maths teacher at a school in north Essex, whose colourful geometry puzzles have recently gained a following on social media. These brainteasers are certainly pretty, and some are pretty tricky too!

    Here are five of her best.

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    The apologetic old Etonian on his school days and graduating from his studenty image

    Ivo Graham feels obliged to mention Eton, his former school, at all of his standup shows. “To quote my agent, ‘it’s the only USP you’ve got’.” The self-deprecation is typical of Graham’s act as well as our conversation at the Guardian office canteen. “Standup is full of young white guys with generic life experiences,” he says. “And my life experience the last five years has been very generic.”

    Graham, 28, has performed since 2009, appearing recently on TV shows such as Mock the Week and Netflix’s Live From the BBC. Besides school, his comedy often deals with youth and its foibles: drinking games, singledom, social awkwardness. He likes to look for “shared recognition” with his audience. His being a rather posh old Etonian Oxford graduate might be an obstacle, then – if you could ever call it that.

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    Katori Hall’s play Our Lady of Kibeho is the story of three friends who insisted that they were visited by the Virgin Mary and told of the horror that lay ahead

    The 16-year-old schoolgirl Alphonsine Mumureke said she was in the cafeteria of the Catholic boarding school Kibeho College, Rwanda, when she heard a voice “soft as air and sweeter than music”. She saw a beautiful woman – neither white nor black – floating above the floor in a flowing seamless dress, with a veil that covered her hair. She wore no shoes, just like Alphonsine and her classmates.

    “Who are you?” Alphonsine asked. “I am the mother of the word,” replied the woman, whom Alphonsine immediately recognised as the Virgin Mary. Then she issued a terrible warning: Rwanda was going to become a hell on Earth in a conflict that would see the picturesque rivers of Kibeho village run red with blood.

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    The solutions to today’s puzzles

    Earlier today I set you the following five geometrical puzzles by Catriona Shearer. I hope you discovered the clever way of solving them, without recourse to pages of algebra.

    1. Orange segments

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    Sometimes it takes a true believer to make clear the absurdities of a faith. An Oxford professor’s view on sexuality discredit his church’s doctrine

    Professor John Finnis is a devout and learned Catholic legal scholar, who is currently being attacked at Oxford University for his views on sexuality as expressed in a lecture to the Catholic University of Notre Dame, Indiana, in 1994 at the height of the culture wars. By reason of his religious commitments, his language, and indeed his beliefs, are profoundly homophobic. He believes himself to have a privileged access to reality which transcends the mere emotions of those who disagree with him. Homosexual acts, he writes, “cannot really actualize the mutual devotion which some homosexual persons hope to manifest and experience by [them]”. His only defence to the charge of homophobia is that he makes it clear that these strictures apply to everything but vanilla sex within the context of marriage. In this most charitable explanation, he is merely weird. He would not, for instance, ban contraception entirely: it would be allowed, but only for married couples, and it could not be advertised or advocated. That is the burden of the last footnote of his essay and what he argues the American constitution really teaches. Such reasoning is apparently the way to be known as a great legal scholar.

    These absurd views are put forward with admirable clarity and precision. He writes much better than the popes whose teaching he expounds. The question is whether these repugnant views should disqualify him from any role in the University of Oxford. That they are wrong goes without saying. They violate our moral sensibilities as deeply as his are violated by the modern world. But will they corrupt the young, to use his own yardstick? Will graduate students leave his occasional seminars convinced that he is right and that their own experience has deceived them?

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    A school in Birmingham is attempting to buck the trend of increasing ethnic and religious segregation in the city. The Guardian’s Aamna Mohdin spends a day at the University of Birmingham school that takes its students from across the diverse city. Plus: John Crace on today’s Brexit vote

    Most students in the UK go to state schools in their local catchment areas. It means that most children have a relatively short journey to and from school, but it also means house prices shoot up near the best schools, excluding all but the wealthy. Birmingham has some of the most segregated schools in the country: the east side of the city has a predominantly Pakistani Muslim population, while in the south schools are predominantly white.

    The Guardian’s Aamna Mohdin spent a day at the University of Birmingham school that is attempting to break with the catchment area model, taking students from a wide variety of backgrounds from around the city. She hears how the school is attempting to foster a spirit of integration and overcome its challenges.

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    Admitting students from across the city, University of Birmingham school is creating diverse place to learn

    It takes 14-year-old Cameron Matuvangua-Fernandez more than an hour to get to school. He gets up at 6.15am each morning and starts his day drinking hot chocolate out of a Winnie the Pooh mug when most children are still asleep.

    The city is enveloped in darkness when Cameron leaves the house at 7.15am to get his first bus. He meets his friends in the city centre, who tease and jostle each other, before they board their second bus of the morning. The school is based in a leafy suburb in south Birmingham, but Cameron lives in one of its three other catchment areas, which are located in far more deprived parts of the city.

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    Contraceptive use and peer pressure can affect whether first sexual experience is positive, says research

    More than half of women and two in five men are losing their virginity before they are ready, potentially affecting their wellbeing and health, researchers say.

    The team add that focusing only on age is misguided, noting the research showed issues around willingness, peer pressure and contraceptive use can all affect whether the first experience of sex is positive, regardless of age.

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    A bereaved American mother is bringing her emotional learning programme, downloaded in 60 countries, to British schools

    On the morning of 14 December 2012, six-year-old Jesse Lewis stepped out of his house on his way to school, pausing to etch the words “I love you” in the frost on his mother’s car. He walked down the driveway to where his father was waiting, got in the car, drove off, and never returned.

    Jesse was one of 26 victims of the Sandy Hook elementary school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty of the dead were aged six and seven; their killer, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, was a former pupil at the school who turned the gun on himself after bringing horror and heartbreak to all those affected.

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    As a tropical field ecologist in Borneo, I learned why science must work with industry to protect the planet

    Lots of academics worry that focusing too much on the real-world impact of research threatens pure, curiosity-driven science. But really the two go hand in hand, especially when it comes to solving the complex question of how we achieve sustainability despite increasing human pressures on our planet.

    As a tropical field ecologist studying rainforest destruction in Borneo, I saw the impact of the expanding palm oil industry on tropical biodiversity first hand, and so it was always a high priority to ensure the research I was doing made a difference. I was driven by scientific curiosity about how nature responds to the most drastic human activity, but also by the motivation to find solutions.

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    In 1919 local councils were given the task of educating the public. Now a centenary commission is looking to salvage what is left

    The face of a man I met just once, 15 years ago, still haunts me. He was around 40, pale and thin, with no distinguishing features beyond obvious exhaustion. I was working in the enrolment office at a further education college when he slumped into a chair opposite my desk.

    “I want to retrain,” he told me. “As what?” I asked. “As anything,” he said. Good at school, he had dropped out early to become a builder and earn his family some cash. Now a foreman, he wanted more from life: to be a teacher, or an accountant, or anything that didn’t involve heaving pallets from place to place.

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    New figures show up to 36% of freshers have fewer than three Ds at A-level – and would be barred under leaked proposals

    Some modern universities could lose about a third of their students and face a struggle to survive if plans go ahead to stop young people with lower grades qualifying for loans, data obtained by Education Guardian suggests.

    The prime minister’s review of post-18 education, due to report next month, is expected to recommend a cut to tuition fees. But another idea that has been leaked is to limit numbers by stopping young students qualifying for a loan if they get fewer than three Ds at A-level.

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    Richest undergraduates escape hefty fees by paying for university in one go, study reveals

    About 10% of students in English universities avoid having to rack up large debts and pay “sky-high” interest rates because they are rich enough to pay their fees upfront, researchers have said.

    Approximately 110,000 undergraduates are “escaping” the student fee system by paying for university in one go thanks to a “get-out-of-jail-free card” from their wealthy families, according to a think-tank.

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    If universities based offers on actual – not predicted – grades, disadvantaged students would get the break they deserve

    The decision regarding which university to go to and which course to choose is the biggest that most young people will have faced in their lives, and it’s made even more significant for those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland by the eye-watering debt most will accumulate. They need the support to help choose the course that is best for them, and avoid dropping out, which would leave them with the cost of higher education without the benefit. Unfortunately, the majority are not getting this support, as students in these nations remain tied to an archaic process based around predicted grades governing university entry.

    The present process, whereby the majority of students receive the offer of a university place based primarily on their expected grades rather than actual ones, is a product of a process designed for a time when less than 5% of the population went to university. Unfortunately, it has become seen by too many inside the higher-education sector as the only way to admit students in an era when nearly 50% of young people, rather than 5%, are going. The consequence is that students are making decisions earlier than they need to, and those whose grades don’t match the offer, are forced into the peculiarly homegrown phenomenon of clearing, where a decision that will shape your future career (and, given what we know about marriage patterns, your personal life as well), is made in a frenzied search at the end of August.

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