Latest Educational News

'What should our son be doing to win a place at Cambridge university?'

by Daily Telegraph, June 21, 2016

Classified as General.

Question: What can our son do to make his application to Cambridge stand out?

My son is keen to study English literature at Cambridge with the intention of working in broadcasting as a writer.

At the moment he is in Year 11 at a state grammar school taking his GCSEs. He will take A-levels in English, history, maths and further maths. We are interested to know what extra curricular activities he could do through sixth form which would make his application stand out?

Currently, he teaches English at our local Kumon centre once a week; writes weekly for the school website and magazine, and also spends a lot of time writing fiction. He has published one of his radio plays online and won an accolade from Southampton University for writing a song for a musical.

In addition he has Grade 8 distinction on the Violin and plays in the county youth orchestra. He also plays the piano and electric guitar to a high level and has worked as a volunteer at our local open air museum.

Steve Watts: Admissions tutors would all say 'read, read, read'

There is certainly no problem with the subjects your son will be taking at A-level. These will show his abilities not only in his chosen English literature, but history will give contextual breadth and maths will show admissions tutors such as me that he can think analytically.

When asked what else would make an applicant competitive for studying English, academics and admissions tutors would all chorus ‘read, read, read’. Reading beyond the syllabus is nearly always good advice anyway, but for students of literature it is crucial.

Oxford University students launch scholarship campaign to help get refugees back into education

by Independent, June 21, 2016

Classified as General.

Developments come as US government reveals refugees from across the world will be able to take more than 1,000 online university courses for free.

A student at Oxford University who started a campaign to fund scholarships for refugees has revealed that £240,000 has been pledged over a two-year period.

BBC News reports how biomedical engineering student, Thais Roque, launched the Oxford Students Refugee Campaign (OxSRC) in October last year, aiming to lobby the university and colleges to provide scholarships for refugee and asylum-seeking students.

From the, so far, 11,000 students who have joined the cause, supporters will donate £1 a month over the two years.

It is hoped that, starting in the academic year 2017/18, scholarships will be available at the institution for those whose education has been disrupted because of conflict or natural disaster, with applications opening this September.

Teacher or not, Ofsted’s new chief inspector passes the test

by The Guardian, June 21, 2016

Classified as General.

Amanda Spielman, banker-turned-academy chain adviser, will be the next Ofsted chief inspector, it has been announced. A few formalities are necessary, a cross-party coalition of MPs will talk to her next Wednesday before giving her the final nod, but presuming no funny business occurs Spielman is in.

Overstating the importance of the inspectorate is difficult. Even though the current chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, is forever telling school leaders to be mavericks and take their own path, most heads diligently, even slavishly, follow Ofsted pronouncements.

School’s results go from Bottom to top, thanks to Shakespeare

by The Guardian, June 21, 2016

Classified as General.

nder bright spotlights in the drama room, students are getting into character as magical beings. The cast members of A Midsummer Night’s Dream grin and grimace as they skip, climb, leap and crawl through the plastic chairs that double as their enchanted forest.

This is a rehearsal at King Ethelbert school, in Thanet, east Kent, for a performance that will be the culmination of two years’ work during which the school has transformed from one of the worst in the country to one of the best of its type. And, says the headteacher, it’s thanks to Shakespeare.

Teaching assistants face violence at work, says union

by BBC, June 21, 2016

Classified as General.

More than half (53%) of UK teaching assistants (TAs) have experienced physical violence at school in the past year, a poll by Unison has found.
The survey of more than 8,000 TAs found three-quarters (76%) had witnessed some form of physical violence.
More than half (53%) had experienced, and 73% had witnessed, verbal threats at school.
Ministers say no-one should have to work in fear of violence or harassment, in or outside school or online.

Welsh universities firmly behind EU membership

by BBC, June 21, 2016

Classified as General.

Welsh universities have nailed their colours firmly to the mast in the referendum on the UK's membership of the European Union.
They have received millions from the EU for research and new buildings.
The representative body Universities Wales says this funding ultimately has huge benefits for the Welsh economy.
But the Leave campaign say that universities and science would continue to get at least the same level of investment after Brexit.

Teaching assistants face violence at work, says union

by BBC, June 21, 2016

Classified as General.

More than half (53%) of UK teaching assistants (TAs) have experienced physical violence at school in the past year, a poll by Unison has found.
The survey of more than 8,000 TAs found three-quarters (76%) had witnessed some form of physical violence.
More than half (53%) had experienced, and 73% had witnessed, verbal threats at school.
Ministers say no-one should have to work in fear of violence or harassment, in or outside school or online.

Increasing hostility towards private education is unjustified and ignores partnerships with state schools

by Telegraph, June 21, 2016

Classified as General.

Ask anyone associated with independent schools and they will tell you there has definitely been a bruising increase in hostility over the past few months.

Press headlines, esteemed commentators and the occasional chief inspector of schools have singled-out private schools for a smörgåsbord of blame and the result has been a creep towards a binary world of us and them, good and bad, privileged and poor, socially mobile and downtrodden.

We've tinkered with education for too long - what we need to do is start again from scratch

by Telegraph, June 21, 2016

Classified as General.

During a recent recording of The Big Questions there was an animated discussion about the failings of white working class boys.

According to a report published last year by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, poor white boys are now the lowest-achieving group in Britain, with just 28 per cent getting five GCSEs at grade C or above. They are also 10 per cent less likely to participate in higher education than any other ethnic group.

What would Brexit mean for universities and would EU students still be able to study in the UK?

by Telegraph, June 20, 2016

Classified as General.

How would Brexit impact higher education?

University leaders and some Conservative MPs have been warning for months over the potentially ‘damaging’ effects for higher education if the UK voted for Brexit.

They argue the move could mean the UK would lose out on research funding granted by the EU.

This could also mean academics struggle to cooperate on research projects.

Are there too many people going to university?

by Telegraph, June 19, 2016

Classified as General.

It's one of the most frequently debated issues in higher education, but the debate over student numbers is unlikely to go away any time soon.

Record numbers of students are entering university each year and following the removal of the cap on university places, the Government has predicted that this trend is likely to continue.

Just shy of 410,000 students were accepted into university by midnight on Results Day last summer, an increase of around 13,000 from 2014.

How physical exercise makes your brain work better

by Guardian Education , June 18, 2016

Classified as General.

Research shows different activities have quite specific mental effects – here’s how moving your body could sharpen your ideas.

The brain is often described as being “like a muscle”. It’s a comparison that props up the brain training industry and keeps school children hunched over desks. We judge literacy and numeracy exercises as more beneficial for your brain than running, playing and learning on the move.

But the brain-as-muscle analogy doesn’t quite work. To build up your biceps you can’t avoid flexing them. When it comes to your brain, an oblique approach can be surprisingly effective. In particular, working your body’s muscles can actually benefit your grey matter.

A wave of studies exploring the unexpected links between mental and bodily fitness is emerging from labs. This research might give you the impetus to get more active. It can also help you choose the best ways to prepare physically for mental challenges such as exams, interviews and creative projects.

Boost your memory
The part of the brain that responds strongly to aerobic exercise is the hippocampus. Well-controlled experiments in children, adults and the elderly show that this brain structure grows as people get fitter. Since the hippocampus is at the core of the brain’s learning and memory systems, this finding partly explains the memory-boosting effects of improved cardiovascular fitness.

As well as slowly improving your memory hardware, exercise can have a more immediate impact on memory formation. German researchers showed that walking or cycling during, but not before, learning helped new foreign language vocabulary to stick. So exercise while you revise. Don’t push it too hard, though: vigorous workouts can raise your stress levels, which can scupper your memory circuits.

Princess Beatrice urges young to speak up for themselves

by BBC News, June 16, 2016

Classified as General.

Pupils might often get told to stop talking in class - but a project in an innovative school in east London has been encouraging them to talk more often.
Or at least to be more articulate and confident in speaking up for themselves.
Pupils at School 21, a free school in Newham, were also given some very different perspectives on finding your own voice - from Princess Beatrice.
The princess is co-founder of a charity, Big Change, that supports young people with skills outside a traditional academic curriculum.
This is not one of the capital's wealthier areas.
It is not the stamping ground of yummy mummies. Instead, there is the Mummy Yum chicken and kebab shop on the corner near the school.

But Princess Beatrice says the idea of learning such life skills is important for anyone growing up, regardless of their background. And everyone has had their own inner struggle with trying to communicate.

Faith school: Desertmartin PS and Knocknagin PS to make NI history

by BBC News, June 16, 2016

Classified as General.

Two small County Londonderry primary schools are set to make history by becoming the first jointly-run church school in Northern Ireland.
Desertmartin PS and Knocknagin PS want to merge and be jointly managed by the Roman Catholic Church and Church of Ireland.
Desertmartin is currently a Church of Ireland school, while Knocknagin is a Catholic Maintained Primary.
There are currently no schools of this type in Northern Ireland.
Jointly-managed faith schools are distinct from an integrated school.
The proposed new school would be faith-based and have a Christian ethos.
It would have a clear policy on how worship is conducted within the school, and how RE is taught.
The staff and boards of governors of both schools are behind the move, and parents of pupils are now being consulted about the plans.

UK state school pupils for US Ivy League

by BBC News, June 16, 2016

Classified as General.

A project helping disadvantaged UK pupils go to US universities has seen undergraduates accepted for courses starting in September 2016 at all of the prestigious Ivy League colleges.
Between them, the 66 state-school pupils will receive scholarships worth $17m (£12m) from US universities.
The numbers of UK students in US universities has risen each year since tuition fees rose in England in 2012.
US ambassador Matthew Barzun praised the value of such "interconnectedness".
Mr Barzun said that such educational exchanges between the US and the UK allowed students to see beyond unrealistic "exaggerations" and "caricatures" of each others' cultures.
"It's a chance to see each other in three dimensions, not in caricature form," he told the BBC.
"It might not always be pretty, it's not always perfect, that's what makes the special relationship live."

But the strength of the special relationship between the US and the UK depended on accepting differences and looking outwards to the world.

Multi-academy trusts and the road to privatisation

by Guardian Education , June 16, 2016

Classified as General.

Sometimes the most chilling news is tucked away on back pages. Warwick Mansell’s always illuminating diary (14 June) reveals that the “powerful but shady” regional school commissioners see it as their “responsibility to ensure that the government’s goal is achieved”. And the goal? “England’s system to be all-academy in six years”. So much for the U-turn. Turn back a page and read Aditya Chakrabortty’s article (Less free market, more freeloaders) on a “deformed capitalism, barely worthy of the name”. Then look back at last Sunday’s Observer (12 June) and the equally chilling special investigation on the not-for-profit Bright Tribe multi-academy trust, which has apparently made the venture capitalist Mike Dwan a multimillionaire. The activities of the “charlatans in pinstripes” milking public funds aren’t restricted to the retail sector. Unison’s national officer responsible for local government is quoted as saying of a response from the National Audit Office, whose job it is to regulate potential profit-making in the academy system: “I have read a lot of correspondence from regulators over the years. And this one screams: ‘We really don’t like what we see’.” Permission to scream with them! We must support your 96 correspondents who wrote opposing the drive to multi-academy trusts (Letters, 10 June). This is as major a privatisation scandal as that facing the NHS.

• Puzzled why David Carter (schools commissioner) and Michael Wilshaw (Ofsted) have taken so long to “come clean” about the “failing” academy scandal (Report, 16 June). These two powerful positions and the organisations they represent are supposed to be independent of political control or bias. Yet we have Ofsted supporting the government’s “pro-academy” policy by pushing arbitrarily designated “failing” schools in to academy status – while also incidentally awarding a plethora of academies and alliances “outstanding” status. And Carter has told the Commons select committee that 119 academies have been brokered as “a last resort”. What is going on? We now know that a teacher can be fast-tracked into a school in 12 weeks, which makes a mockery of “professional pedagogical training”, and apparently the schools themselves have become the objects of “empire-building”. What have these two political appointees been doing to allow this disgraceful state of affairs to further erode an already crumbling education system?
Professor Bill Boyle
Tarporley, Cheshire

Sponsors lose control of 119 failing academies

by BBC News, June 15, 2016

Classified as General.

More than 100 failing academies have been removed from their sponsors and placed in new trusts, MPs have heard.
England's schools commissioner Sir David Carter told the Commons Education Committee 119 academies had been "re-brokered" as a last resort.
Some academies were performing no better than the failing schools from which they had taken over, he told MPs.
But he stressed the academies his team were most concerned about were being challenged and supported to improve.
Sir David said of the 973 functioning multi-academy trusts in England, only seven had been inspected by Ofsted as part of a process known as "batched inspections".

This is where a number of schools in an academy trust are inspected as a group because of concerns raised about performance.
Following these seven batched inspections, Ofsted reported concerns about the outcomes for pupils and accused some of the trusts of sitting on large sums of cash that should have been spent on pupils.
Sir David said: "There are academies that are performing not better or minimally better than the schools they were before.
"The commitment these sponsors made was to improve these schools rapidly."
Of the academies that had been re-brokered since September 2014, 68 had gone from a multi-academy trust to another multi-academy trust and 51 and gone from a single academy trust to a multi-academy trust, he said.

Independence, empowerment and the environment: school trips are more than jollies

by Guardian Education , June 15, 2016

Classified as General.

Under the shadow of a colossal Buddhist monastery, nestled deep in a mountain valley in India’s remote Ladakh region, a row of greenhouses grows fresh fruit and vegetables. They are a lifeline for the villagers during the harsh winter months when heavy snow cuts off the area from the outside world, but they were not put there by a charity or non-governmental organisation (NGO). They were built by a group of 30 teenagers from Devon.

The 16- to 18-year-olds from Exeter school travelled to the country with maths teacher Will Daws in 2013. During the 29-day expedition, organised by the School Travel Consultancy, the students lived with families in the village and worked with local builders to clear the site and construct the greenhouses. Malnutrition is a common problem among children and pregnant women in the village, so the ability to grow fresh produce all year round has made a huge difference.

Sustainable classrooms: mud walls, rainwater and visits from lizards
Read more
It’s not the first expedition Daws has taken his students on – previous destinations have included Vietnam, Peru and Namibia. He explains that each trip has been a unique opportunity to educate students about the impact of humans on our fragile environment, while teaching a host of curriculum subjects. The trip to India, for example, sparked discussions about the developmental and economic challenges facing the villagers, as well as how the area’s isolated location affects their lives.

Daws explains that these trips are far from jollies abroad for students: “They really pick up on the challenges that people are facing and the poverty, what little people have and how hard it is to make a living in some of these other countries.”

“It’s quite easy in a classroom to see a picture and write an essay about it, but until you see it face to face it is very hard to understand what that actually means for someone’s life and how it affects them,” he adds.

Grimm & Co’s magical approach to helping children write stories

by Guardian Education , June 14, 2016

Classified as General.

It’s no mean feat to inspire a group of 30 10- and 11-year-olds to run across a room and start writing. But run they do. Propped against plaster pillars, perched on a leather sofa, laid on ornamental grass, stories pour out of these children.

This morning they have entered a magical apothecary (to gasps of wonder), passed through a secret doorway (more gasps), climbed a winding staircase and ended in a room laid out like an enchanted garden. With the help of volunteer story mentors they’ve imagined an eagle-winged mouse that smells of cheese and a semi-invisible blue bird with a monkey’s head and clown’s shoes. The main action takes place in a regenerating block of cheese. Somehow a shark has been introduced for the cliffhanger. Now it’s up to each child to decide how their story will end.

Gradually the children make their way to their delighted teacher. “Can I show you my writing, Mr Tankard?” one asks proudly. Others are bursting to do the same.

At Grimm & Co, this children’s writing centre in the heart of Rotherham, the children’s willingness to write, their wide-eyed wonder as they move around the space and discuss and develop their ideas, is all the more welcome as many young people in the area have problems with confidence, self-esteem and imagination. Reluctant readers and writers abound. English is often an additional language.

Ian Tankard, assistant headteacher of Rotherham’s East Dene primary school, marvels at the children’s willingness to write here: “They’ve broken through more in this session than in a year. It’s amazing this is on our doorstep.”

The force behind Grimm & Co is Deborah Bullivant, an academic tasked in 2011 with turning around consistently low key stage 2 literacy results among disadvantaged children in the area. Although much is being done to raise Rotherham’s profile, the local authority is 52nd in the government’s 2015 index of multiple deprivation, within the 16% most deprived districts in England, and literacy results at the end of primary school are consistently at least 5% below national benchmarks.

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To combat the town’s education problems Rotherham council submitted a proposal to study the effect of creative literacy approaches on Sats results at the end of primary school. Bullivant, born in Sheffield and with a long background in education and children’s charities, was recruited to lead the study, with funding from the regional development agency.

The study, undertaken with Sheffield University, concluded the most effective means of helping these children was to lift them out of their sometimes chaotic everyday lives and offer individual mentoring. The model was trialled across all schools in Rotherham, and within a year boys’ Sats results had improved by 11%. Among children with English as an additional language, results for reading and writing were 22% higher. “We knew we couldn’t just leave this,” says Bullivant. “We had to do something.”

One in six families misses top secondary school choice

by BBC News, June 14, 2016

About one in six children did not get their first choice of secondary school, according to official admissions figures for England's schools.
But these figures were similar to last year - with 84.1% getting their top choice, compared with 84.2% last year.
A higher proportion of parents got their first pick of primary schools, at 88.4%, up from 87.8% last year.
A Department for Education spokeswoman said the admissions figures show that the "system continues to work".
The figures show state secondary schools had to accommodate a rising number of pupils, increasing by 2.8% to 548,006 applicants, the highest since 2008.
It reflects a population bulge, which has seen increasing pressure on primary schools, and which is now moving through secondary school age groups.
The figures showed Gateshead had the biggest fall in parents getting their first choice of secondary school, down from 91.5% in 2015 to 82.8%.