Latest Educational News

Edinburgh council refusing to pay £1.5m PFI charges following school closures

by The Guardian, April 14, 2016

Edinburgh council is refusing to pay the latest private finance initiative charges for the 17 schools shut down because of safety fears in a sharp escalation of the controversy over the potentially dangerous buildings.

With thousands of schoolchildren and teachers facing weeks of further disruption, council officials said on Wednesday they were withholding the latest £1.5m instalment of the private finance charge, invoking their legal rights under the PFI contract.

“We will not be paying them that this month,” a council spokesman said. “We’re applying all the contractual terms, and those include deductions for non-availability [of the schools].”

With the council now preparing for a major compensation claim against the PFI firm involved, the Guardian has established that the true lifetime cost of the contract will reach £529m in cash terms by 2032 – nearly 50% more than the original, publiclydeclared costing of £360m.

The city is being charged £17.6m this year as it repays the building costs, debt financing costs and day-to-day maintenance costs under the 32-year-long contract, Treasury figures for the PFI contract show.

Secretive Harvard club breaks silence in sex row to defend all-male membership policy

by The Telegraph, April 14, 2016

A secretive Harvard club has broken centuries of tradition by speaking out against pressure to change its all-male membership policy.

In the most extensive public comments in its 225-year history, the Porcellian Club hit back at a recent Harvard report that linked such so-called "final clubs" with “nonconsensual sexual contact”.

Charles M. Storey, Class of 1982, wrote an email to the Harvard Crimson newspaper, noting it was "the first time an officer of the club has granted an on the record statement to a newspaper since our founding in 1791".

“This reflects both the PC’s abiding interest in privacy and the importance of the situation,” he wrote.

While an undergraduate president has, in fact, given a public statement before - in 1983 when an African-American was admitted into the club for the first time - such an outspoken defence of its policies was unprecedented.

The mass child abduction by Boko Haram that remains ignored

by The Telegraph, April 14, 2016

Built on a half-parched river bed that snakes through the arid Sahel of northern Nigeria, the ancient town of Damasak fights a never-ending battle with the dunes of the advancing Sahara.

These days, though, it is not just the residents' farms and crops that are disappearing into the surrounding desert. Last year, Boko Haram gunmen abducted some 300 local children, whose whereabouts have remained a mystery ever since.

If the story has a familiar ring to it, that is not surprising.

Exactly two years ago today in the town of Chibok, 200 miles south from Damasak, Boko Haram carried out arguably the most publicised mass child abduction of modern times, kidnapping some 219 schoolgirls as they sat exams at a local government secondary school.

Once again a town was robbed of an entire generation of its youth, and once again - despite a newly-released video of them - there is still no word as to where they are.

UK lags behind other rich countries on child inequality

by BBC News, April 14, 2016

The UK is lagging behind other rich countries on reducing inequalities between rich and poor children, a Unicef report says.
The UN body set up to promote the rights and wellbeing of children highlights "concerning gaps in health, education, and income".
The lack of progress means ambitions to eradicate child poverty are unlikely to be realised in coming years, it adds.
The government said there were 300,000 fewer children in poverty since 2010.
The gap between rich and poor had narrowed in the UK in recent years, largely because the income of the poorest families had fallen more slowly than that of the average household, Unicef said in its Report Card 13 report.
But Unicef added that were it not for benefits, the income gap in Britain would be among the greatest in Europe.

Seven festival pitfalls and how to avoid them

by The Telegraph, April 13, 2016

Summer festival season is upon us. You don’t want to be that person who’s had one too many drinks and collapsed in the Chemical Brothers crowd. Nor do you want to be the one who gets sunstroke on the first day and spends the rest of the weekend in a dark tent.

In many ways, one weekend at a festival can amount to a year’s worth of fun. Maybe the mistakes and rookie errors are all part of the experience. But if you want to avoid at least some common pitfalls then read on, because we’ve got them covered.

Not washing
Some think that going to a festival means it’s compulsory to not wash for a week. Grimy fingernails, along with a vintage top hat or a Topshop headpiece, might all be part of the “festival look”. But there’s nothing inauthentic about staying clean, if you can.

Take some wet wipes, take a toothbrush and take a shower if possible. It might make you feel better.

“My friends sneered at the fact that I would get up every day to walk 30 minutes to go to the showers, which was totally not their priority,” says Alastair Smith, 22, a student from Leeds. “One friend in particular found the concept of showering absurd. I know it’s not the point of a festival, but a shower every two days helped me come back to life and feel ready to get back involved.”

Call for 'a decent education' for all

by BBC News, April 13, 2016

Access to good schooling in England is still "patchy" and more must be done to make sure all children receive a decent education, a report says.
The Fair Education Alliance (FEA) says while progress has been made in improving standards, this has been uneven, with some pupils missing out.
The FEA says more must be done, such as overhauling careers guidance and efforts to promote pupils' wellbeing.
Ministers say their policy is about achieving fairness and social justice.
In 2014, the FEA - a group of education organisations - published targets to be achieved by 2022, to help close the gap in opportunities and achievement between rich and poor children in England.

Cameron denies removing parent governors from schools

by BBC News, April 13, 2016

David Cameron has rejected claims that the academy plans for England will mean the "removal of parent governors from school governing bodies".
He was accused in Prime Minister's Questions of an "attack on parents" with proposals to end the obligation for schools to have them as governors.
Mr Cameron said it was "simply wrong" to say it would scrap them.
But Labour said the plans would mean "removing the requirement" for academies to have parent governors.
Mr Cameron was questioned by Labour's Catherine West about the government's White Paper that proposes all state schools in England should become academies.
Ms West said there was "sadness and anger" that this would also end the requirement for individual schools to have parent governors.
She said parent governors provided an "important civic duty" in supporting their local schools.
In response Mr Cameron said: "Parents have a great role to play, but no school should think that simply by having parent governors you've solved the problem about how to engage with parents."

Foster carers warn cuts threaten children's welfare

by BBC News, April 13, 2016

The wellbeing of thousands of children in care is under threat because of budget cuts in England, a charity says.
The Fostering Network says children in care are finding it harder to access social worker support as a result.
Town hall bosses says the number of children receiving intensive support through child protection plans has risen 60% in the past eight years.
Cuts to early intervention budgets left councils with very difficult decisions, they added.
'Truly shocking'
The Fostering Network's chief executive, Kevin Williams, said: "We are extremely concerned that so many foster carers feel that recent cuts are having a negative impact on their fostered children's access to the support and services that they so vitally need.

Edinburgh council postpones students' practical exams

by BBC News, April 13, 2016

Practical exams due to be held this week have been postponed due to the Edinburgh schools closures.
The city council decided on Friday to shut 17 schools amid safety fears.
About 7,600 pupils missed the first two days of the new term following the Easter break and most will not be back in class until next week.
The council has now announced that practical exams due to take place at the five high schools affected by the closure have been postponed.
Five secondaries, 10 primaries and two additional support needs schools were shut due to concerns over structural issues.
All of the schools, which are about 10 years old, were constructed under the same public private partnership contract.

Tory backbenchers challenge compulsory academy plan

by BBC News, April 13, 2016

Conservative backbenchers have raised doubts about the government's plan to force all schools in England to become academies.
There were warnings from MPs about the lack of choice and fears for the implications for rural schools.
Labour's shadow education secretary Lucy Powell said: "What choice is there in a one size fits all policy?"
But Education Secretary Nicky Morgan accused Labour of "deliberate misinterpretation".
This was an Opposition Day debate on the government's White Paper, but some of the most pointed criticism came from the Conservative benches.
The government won the vote, but Labour said that the strength of feeling showed ministers would not be able to go ahead with the school plans in their current form.

What gets me up in the morning: 'The massive privilege of fostering a joy of learning'

by tes.connect, April 13, 2016

One primary teacher explains why playing a role in unlocking the potential and curiosity of his pupils means so much to him
For me it is realising that I am but a tiny part of something truly great – the magnificent venture that is education.

I am not so much a teacher, rather an awakener – what better role could there be than to enjoy the massive privilege of fostering a joy of learning? As I look at myself in the shaving mirror every morning, I ask myself the question: "Am I enabling those I teach to find out who they really are?" I couldn't sum it up better than John Dewey, who wrote: "Education is not a preparation for life – education is life itself."

In the previous century it was said – on the eve of both world wars, and on both sides – that one was first broken at school before being broken again in the army. Today we live in the best and worst of times. Indeed, sometimes it seems that even in the developed world the whole education system is little more than a filter to weed out those who are too independent, can think for themselves or are reluctant to be submissive.

Improve schools by helping good teachers with housing costs, report recommends

by tes.connect, April 13, 2016

High-performing school staff should be given 'mortgage deposit support' to help them buy homes, a new report on the state of the education system says
The report from an alliance of teaching unions, universities and other education organisations makes the recommendation as it concludes that good schooling in England is still "patchy" and more needs to be done to ensure all children, especially those from poorer backgrounds, get a decent education.

The proposal to help teachers with their house deposits – to encourage their "long-term commitment" to an area – has been welcomed by a headteachers' association, which said the move could help to attract staff to teach in difficult areas.

The state-of-the nation report card, published by the Fair Education Alliance (FEA), says more action is needed, such as an overhaul of careers guidance and more work by schools to promote student wellbeing.

In 2014, the alliance published five national targets to be achieved by 2022, to help close the gap in opportunities and achievement between rich and poor children.

These goals included narrowing the gap in literacy and numeracy achievement in primary schools.

Graduates earn less than those without degrees at low performing universities

by The Telegraph, April 13, 2016

Male graduates who studied at 23 low performing institutions earn less, on average, than peers who chose not to attend university, a major new report has found.

The research revealed that, while the figure was lower for women, there were still nine universities where female graduates went on to be worse off than their school leaver counterparts, 10 years after graduating.

The figures will further concerns that universities are not doing enough to equip students with the skills required for top roles, with sixth-formers pushed into higher education degrees that they will struggle to repay loans for on graduation.

The report suggested that creative arts graduates had the lowest salaries - earning, on average, no more than non-graduates, 10 years on.

Wealthy students keep earnings gap

by BBC News, April 13, 2016

Graduates from wealthy families "earn significantly more" in their careers than less well-off counterparts, even if they study the same course at the same university, according to research.
The study, based on 260,000 graduates in England, has examined the links between university and later income.
It shows big earning gaps between different courses and universities.
Jack Britton, of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, says it shows the persistence of "social immobility".
The study, based on tax data, shows how the wealthiest students continue to have an advantage in their future employment, keeping them ahead of students from middle-class and low-income families.

Academy status won't make all schools better but it is 'unlikely to do harm', analysis finds

by tes.connect, April 12, 2016

Academisation could help close the gap between the very best and the lowest performing schools, says study
Converting all schools into academies won’t make them all improve, but it is “unlikely to do them any harm”, a new analysis of government data finds.

The research also concludes that all-out academisation could close the gap between the very best and worst performing schools, as academy status tends to improve low performing schools but has little effect on high performing “converters”.

But the research author warns that plans to turn the remaining moderately performing schools into academies – as outlined in the recent education White Paper – could be expected to have a “marginal or non-existent” effect on their performance.

The report comes shortly after the three main classroom teaching unions, the NUT, NASUWT and ATL, all voted to oppose government plans for all-out academisation at their annual conferences this Easter.

Parents to take children out of school in campaign against primary testing

by tes.connect, April 12, 2016

Thousands of parents have joined the fight against Sats in schools across the country.
A group of parents will take their children out of school for a day next month to support teachers and schools who want to boycott Sats, and national assessments for infants.

Almost 13,000 parents have signed a petition to end the key stage 1 national curriculum assessments – which take place in May – as they have had “enough of endless testing”.

Parents are joining forces on Tuesday 3 May for “a day of fun learning out of school” to support a return to teacher-led assessments that value “individuality and creativity” in the school setting.

The opposition from parents comes after the NUT teaching union called on education secretary Nicky Morgan to cancel this year's Sats tests.

NUT delegates strongly backed a series of motions calling for primary assessments to be scrapped and threatened to stage a national boycott if the government did not act at the union’s annual conference over Easter.

Village schools 'at risk from Tory reforms'

by The Guardian, April 12, 2016

The future of village schools across England could be threatened by government education reforms, according to a briefing sent to dozens of MPs by the country’s biggest headteacher group.

The National Association of Head Teachers claimed that plans to force every school to become an academy presented “a particularly high risk to the future viability and identity of small, rural, schools”. The union’s document has been circulated in advance of a parliamentary debate on the issue.

The NAHT’s move comes as analysis by the Commons library finds that schools will need to find £7.5bn of savings during this parliament, as budgets face the first real-terms cut since the mid 1990s.

The shadow education secretary, Lucy Powell, who requested the research and is leading an opposition day debate on Wednesday, said there would be heavy cuts to the number of teaching assistances, extra-curricular activities, subsidies for school trips and one-to-one tuition.

She gave the example of a school in Moss Side, Manchester, her constituency, which had cut a scheme involving pupils participating in Shakespeare performances at a local theatre.

Four reasons a Brexit would be bad news for UK universities

by The Guardian, April 12, 2016

Should we stay or should we go? That’s (almost) the question the nation will be answering in ballot boxes on 23 June. As the campaigns gather momentum, the arguments are stacking up on both sides: Brexit would be good for big business. It would be bad for farmers. It would threaten the NHS. It would protect the NHS. The Royal Family would be miffed.

The UK’s universities have largely backed the campaign to stay. But what does membership bring to higher education?

‘Collaboration across borders means better research impact’
Michael Arthur, president and provost, UCL

The opportunities and challenges we face are global, not national – from climate change to space exploration. The UK does not have a monopoly on brilliance. If we are going to find the best solutions, we must keep bringing the best scientists and researchers together.

The European Union plays a vital role in enabling this. Research carried out in collaboration with international partners has 50% more impact than that carried out by a single country.

Tory education plans will create schools like supermarket branches

by The Guardian, April 12, 2016

The white paper setting out the government’s plans for schools in England has caused a stir – and not just from the usual suspects. Parents, governors, influential Tories, even arch loyalist Toby Young are objecting. This may be a new variation of the masochism strategy used by politicians who want to look bold and courageous. Or it could be that ministers have seriously misjudged the public mood.

As a veteran critic of the academy model, I can’t deny a smidgeon of satisfaction at hearing concerns about centralisation, patchy quality, loss of freedom, reduction in parent choice and the anti-democratic nature of coercion coming from the mouths of people who have slavishly supported this wrong-headed policy for the past 10 years.

It was never necessary to create this type of legal structure to give schools a “fresh start”, though Labour’s academies did at least have disadvantaged communities at their heart. The current intention is far from that. It is also far from its own stated aim. Schools will not be liberated under this plan. They will be ensnared in a way most never envisaged.

Wigan junior school pupils 'made to stand in store cupboard by staff member'

by The Telegraph, April 12, 2016

An investigation has been launched into claims that schoolchildren were put into a store cupboard by a member of staff at a Wigan school.

Wigan Council has confirmed that they are examining allegations that pupils at Leigh CE Junior School, in Greater Manchester, were made to stand in the cupboard.

One parent whose 11-year-old son was allegedly banished to the cupboard said she was contacted by a social worker regarding the incident.

“To be punished for having a disability is despicable”
Victoria Francis
Victoria Francis told the Manchester Evening News that her son Nathan, who has dyspraxia, had been left for more than an hour.

Ms Francis said she was "disgusted". She said: "Nathan suffers from dyspraxia and told me he was put in there for not writing as quickly as the rest of his class.