Latest Educational News

Universities told to compensate students after Covid disruption

by The Independent, March 4, 2021

Universities have been made to compensate students for the effects of coronavirus on their courses, with one individual receiving £5,000.

The Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) has released a series of complaints by students about the impact of Covid-19 on their studies.

They included fears about accommodation, disruption to learning and a lack of vital practical experience.

One international medical student, who was paying £38,000 fees to an unnamed institution, was awarded £5,000 after the university stopped all clinical placements because of coronavirus, meaning they lost out on invaluable practical course time.

Primary pupils shouldn’t be made to wear masks in school, says No 10

by The Independent, March 4, 2021

Downing Street has said children at primary schools in England should not be made to wear face coverings, after learning a council was encouraging their use when pupils begin returning to classes next week.

Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said government officials had been in contact with Redbridge Council in east London after it told primary schools under its control that pupils should be advised to wear masks.

“Children in primary schools should not be asked to wear face coverings when they return to school on March 8,” said the No 10 spokesman. “Face coverings are only necessary for pupils in year seven and above.”

A Department for Education spokesman confirmed officials had been in touch with the east London council – and several other primary schools planning on making pupils wear masks.

Australian scientist gets baby fish to bust a move to MC Hammer classic

by The Guardian, March 4, 2021

What happens inside the brain of a baby zebrafish when you play MC Hammer’s timeless 1990 hip-hop track, U Can’t Touch This, and why is this even a question?

“I’ve spent a lot of time looking at the video over and over again to see if there are neurons that respond to the bass or the vocal. In my opinion, there’s something there.”

As Australia’s first female dance music producer and DJ, Rebecca Poulsen – aka BeXta – is a pioneer, with scores of tracks, mixes and hundreds of gigs around the globe under her belt.

Study undermines claim philosophy boosts maths and reading skills

by The Guardian, March 4, 2021

A controversial study that suggested engaging primary schoolchildren in philosophical discussions could also improve their maths and reading has been undermined by new research that found little or no improvements in those subjects.

An initial 2015 trial into the use of Philosophy 4 Children (P4C), a programme designed to develop social skills and cognitive abilities, had revealed an unexpected bonus in the form of improving reading and maths performance by the equivalent of two months in the primary schools that took part.

But a larger follow-up study funded at a cost of £1.2m by the Education Endowment Foundation showed no significant improvement in the reading ability of disadvantaged children, one of the programme’s main aims, and none of the statistically significant improvements in maths or reading.

Nearly 200 primary schools in England took part in the expanded study, involving 3,600 pupils in year six, divided between a control group of schools and those where teachers received training in conducting open-ended discussions on topics such as fairness or bullying. Teachers acted as moderators for the weekly, hour-long sessions.

UK universities facing 'unaffordable' hike in pension contributions

by The Guardian, March 4, 2021

University staff and employers have united to condemn an “unrealistic” increase in contributions demanded by the main higher education pension scheme, which would cost many employees about £8,000 a year and a further combined £1bn from employers.

The Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), which is the major staff pension fund for many British universities and academic institutions, announced it wants to increase combined contributions required from staff and employers from 30.7% of payroll to as much as 56%, to cover its projected deficits.

The move sent tremors through the academic community, where the pension administered by USS has prompted major strikes over the last three years, including industrial action during 2019-20 that was curtailed by the Covid pandemic.

Part-time return for all secondary pupils in Scotland from 15 March

by BBC News, March 4, 2021

All secondary school pupils in Scotland will return to classrooms part-time from 15 March, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said.

It had previously been announced that those in S1 to S3 would not return to school until April.

But Ms Sturgeon said all secondary pupils will now get some in-school time before the Easter holidays.

Pupils in S4 to S6 who are studying for national qualifications are being prioritised for face-to-face learning.

It has also been confirmed that children in primary four to seven will return full-time from 15 March.

Covid: School return chance for more pupils before Easter

by BBC News, March 4, 2021

More pupils in Wales could be back in class before Easter, but there will not be a full return to school, the education minister has said.

Schools will be able to welcome pupils in years 7, 8 and 9 for "check-in" sessions before they are due back fully from mid-April.

Kirsty Williams said falling Covid case rates meant pupils could return "earlier".

But teaching unions warned the return must not lead to schools closing again.

Ms Williams said while there was "no evidence to suggest widespread transmission in schools and colleges", for the first time official advice means pupils and teachers will have to wear face coverings in class, if they cannot stay two metres apart.

Wales' youngest pupils began returning to the classroom on 22 February for the first time since before Christmas, when schools closed to almost all pupils due to the coronavirus pandemic.

'Transformational': Yorkshire firm cleans up donated laptops for pupils at home

by The Guardian, March 4, 2021

“We wanted to level the playing field,” said Steven Lightfoot, of his project repairing hundreds of laptops and tablets and supplying them to children in Leeds who don’t have their own. “It’s about every person in the household having access to a device. My own kids want to continue learning while they’re at home. Some families are lucky enough to be able to do that, but some don’t have the option.”

Lightfoot, who has two school-age children and a toddler, is managing director of Pudsey Computers, a small IT repairs company located in a town of the same name between Leeds and Bradford. He and his team have mended and updated more than 450 devices donated by members of the community, in an attempt to provide each local child with access to an individual device on which to study while they are learning remotely. It works alongside a programme from the Department for Education (DfE) to distribute millions of laptops and tablets to children in England who need them.

Covid: 'All secondary pupils' should wear masks in class

by BBC News, March 4, 2021

All secondary school pupils could be required to wear face coverings in the classroom as well as corridors when they return to school later this month.

Currently only S4 to S6 pupils are asked to wear masks in classrooms.

But a Scottish government advisory group says this should be extended to pupils in S1 to S3 when the phased return begins from 15 March.

The Scottish government said it would publish updated safety guidance next week.

Reality Check: Are teachers more at risk of dying?
The advisory group on education is also recommending that while two-metre distancing should remain in school buildings, it can be cut to one metre on school transport and relaxed in general during outdoor learning and activities.

The advice from the group says: "The sub-group published updated advice on 12 February on the mitigations required to ensure a safe return to in-person learning for staff and pupils.

"That advice remains relevant and has been strengthened in one area to require face coverings to be worn throughout the day by all secondary aged pupils (not just senior phase)."

Covid: Out-of-work young in Wales 'face being scarred'

by BBC News, March 4, 2021

Young people should be guaranteed work or training to avoid becoming "scarred" by Covid-19, an inquiry has found.

Welsh ministers should take action to stop a "monumental spike in youth unemployment", a report by the Senedd's cross-party economy committee has said.

Overcoming it is a major part of the recovering from the "biggest economic challenge in living memory".

The Welsh Government said its priority was for Wales to be "more prosperous, but also fairer and greener".

In December, Wales had the highest rise in unemployment in the UK - despite that, the Welsh rate of unemployment stood at 4.4% last month, lower than the UK rate of 5.1%.

Back to school: The 6 key changes in DfE guidance

by TES, March 4, 2021

The new DfE guidance for schools is much the same as in the autumn term – but here Tes looks at the main changes

he Department for Education has unveiled new guidance for schools as part of the plan to reopen all settings on 8 March.

Much of this is the same as how schools were operating during the autumn term, before the current lockdown, and applies across primary schools; secondary schools (including sixth forms); special schools; special post-16 providers and alternative provision; 16 to 19 academies; infant, junior, middle and upper schools; and boarding schools.

There are no new legal obligations created by the guidance.

Secondary schools expected to test returning pupils three times on site

by Schools Week, March 4, 2021

Secondary schools will be expected to test returning pupils on site three times when they reopen, the government has said.

Ahead of Boris Johnson’s announcement on school reopening this afternoon, the Department for Education has confirmed arrangements for asymptomatic testing of pupils and staff.

All schools are expected to reopen to all pupils on March 8. Operational guidance for schools states they will have “flexibility to consider how best to deliver testing” but vulnerable children, children of critical workers and those in years 10 to 13 should be prioritised

The department has said pupils returning to secondary schools will be tested three times on site and then once at home in the first two weeks back – 3-5 days apart.

After that, they will be expected to be tested twice weekly at home and report results to NHS Test and Trace, as well as to their schools to record. Secondary schools will also be expected to retain a “small” testing site for those unable to test at home.

Schools consider 'radical change' to transfer tests

by BBC News, March 4, 2021

Schools who use transfer tests run by the Post-Primary Transfer Consortium (PPTC) are to consider "radical change" to the tests in the autumn.

A discussion paper from PPTC has asked schools to consider whether to use verbal reasoning tests to decide which pupils to admit in 2022.

Due to the pandemic disruption, they are being suggested as an option instead of tests in English and Maths.

But it will be up to individual schools and the PPTC steering group to decide.

The separate transfer tests run by the PPTC and the Association for Quality Education (AQE) were cancelled in 2021.

The PPTC-run tests provided by GL Assessment are used, in the main, by Catholic grammar schools to select pupils.

However, some voluntary and controlled grammars - and integrated post-primaries - also use the PPTC tests to admit some pupils.

The PPTC discussion paper, seen by BBC News NI, said the organisation had to plan "several months ahead" for the 2021-22 transfer tests.

In previous years, the tests run by PPTC had "examined the attainment of pupils in English and Maths," it said.

Calls to scrap 11-plus Kent Test this year because of coronavirus' impact on schooling

by Kent Online, March 4, 2021

Labour has called for the 11-plus Kent Test this year to be scrapped and for applications for a place at one of Kent’s 31 grammar schools be based on teacher assessment.

The education secretary Gavin Williamson has confirmed that both A-levels and GCSE exams will not take place this year.

Cllr Dr Lauren Sullivan, deputy leader of the Labour group at Kent County Council, said the same decision should be made about the 11-plus.

“It’s all about fairness. It is right that due to the impact that Covid has had on teaching, learning and the health and wellbeing of children the same rights as given to those in GCSE and A-level this year be extended to our 10-year-olds.

News DfE pledges £302m ‘recovery premium’ for schools and £200m summer schools fund for secondaries

by Schools Week, March 4, 2021

Schools will split a £302 million “recovery premium” to support catch-up and secondaries will get £200 million to run summer schools programmes under plans announced by the government today.

Ministers have also pledged £200 million for the “expansion” of the National Tutoring Programme, extension of the 16 to 19 tuition fund and additional support for language development in the early years.

But there are questions over funding available, after the government said expansion of those programmes would cost £203 million overall, rather than the £200 million pledged.

The Department for Education was also unable to say whether it will boost its target to reach 250,000 pupils via the National Tutoring Programme this academic year, despite a plan to “expand” the scheme.

The government has come under growing pressure to say how it will address learning loss caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and partial school closures.

Universities minister compares ‘decolonisation’ of history to ‘Soviet Union-style’ censorship

by The Independent, March 1, 2021

The universities minister has claimed courses are facing “decolonisation” by tutors who she complained were “censoring history” like the Soviet Union.

Michelle Donelan suggested books were being removed from reading lists in an effort to prevent students being forced to confront “hate speech”.

The Tory MP for Chippenham insisted that "a lot of the talk" surrounding the issue was about removing elements of history rather than adding alternative viewpoints.

However, the minister’s comments were criticised by historians who suggested she had misunderstood attempts to place subjects such as the British empire in the context of questions of race and slavery.

University of Tasmania clears scientists accused of research misconduct by logging industry

by The Guardian, March 1, 2021

Two conservation scientists have been cleared of research misconduct by the University of Tasmania after a review sparked by complaints from logging industry representatives.

The Institute of Foresters of Australia and the Australian Forest Products Association wrote to the university in October and November demanding an investigation after a research paper that found logging made forests more flammable had to be retracted.

One of the researchers, Dr Jennifer Sanger, described the process as a “witch-hunt” and said the way the university had handled the process would discourage other academics from speaking out about their research.

IFA had also demanded the university apologise “over the standard of the university’s review process”.

The study, published in the journal Fire, examined a fire in the Huon Valley in 2019 and concluded that forests left unlogged were generally less flammable.

Top UK universities 'use secret waiting lists' due to Covid uncertainty

by The Guardian, March 1, 2021

British universities are taking extreme measures to ensure a supply of recruits for the coming academic year, with some accused of operating secret waiting lists to encourage school leavers to accept their offers amid uncertainty over A-level results.

With many admissions offices braced for a second year of turmoil over results and grade inflation, experts are predicting record-breaking numbers of applications for university places.

But universities vying for highly qualified candidates fear that popular universities – including those in the Russell Group of leading research institutions – may seek to benefit from the likely grade inflation by increasing their undergraduate recruitment for a second year in a row, leaving less popular universities with fewer students to choose from.

Top UK universities 'use secret waiting lists' due to Covid uncertainty

by The Guardian, March 1, 2021

British universities are taking extreme measures to ensure a supply of recruits for the coming academic year, with some accused of operating secret waiting lists to encourage school leavers to accept their offers amid uncertainty over A-level results.

With many admissions offices braced for a second year of turmoil over results and grade inflation, experts are predicting record-breaking numbers of applications for university places.

But universities vying for highly qualified candidates fear that popular universities – including those in the Russell Group of leading research institutions – may seek to benefit from the likely grade inflation by increasing their undergraduate recruitment for a second year in a row, leaving less popular universities with fewer students to choose from.

My kids don’t believe they are going back to school – or a thing Boris Johnson says

by The Guardian, March 1, 2021

The reopening of English schools on 8 March brings all the conflicting feelings of which a sentient, mature adult should simultaneously be capable: a strong sense that teachers should be vaccinated first; a near-certain knowledge that they won’t be; a resigned hunch that this is because they are perceived as lefties and so fall into priority group 1,000; and untrammelled happiness for the children.

They were not designed to stay at home all day. It has been like keeping three dolphins in a provincial water park. The pool is not big enough. The weather is too grim. No amount of fish can make up for the lack of open sea. As the regional manager, I know this is not my fault, but it feels like it is.

It was as I roamed around the home making these observations that I discovered what I can only call a total breakdown of faith between generation Z and the offices of state. They do not believe at all that they will be back in school on 8 March. When I ask them to try on their uniforms to check they still fit, they look at me as if I have joined QAnon, as if I have reached a level of gullibility to which the only response is pity.