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Guardian Unlimited: Education
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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Despite flaws, the intelligence behind Hackney New School gives the lie to Michael Gove’s edict for free schools
Despite flaws, the intelligence behind Hackney New School gives the lie to Michael Gove’s edict for free schools
When, during the coalition government, Michael Gove introduced free schools, part of the idea was that they could go almost anywhere – converted office buildings, for example. Previous school-building programmes were accused of grandiose extravagance, of being ego trips by lordly architects at the expense of the public purse. Space standards – the minimum permitted dimensions for classrooms, corridors and suchlike – were shrunk.
The message was that spaces of learning don’t matter much, that teachers teach children, not buildings. So it is striking that with at least one free school, the Hackney New School in east London, its architects Henley Halebrown Rorrison are nonetheless striving to exceed the basic functional minimum with its architecture. They are doing so in extremely challenging circumstances. In particular they have to deal with the government’s demand that the making of schools has to be put in the power of large construction companies that show little sign of caring for ideals of education, the environments in which children grow up, the reasonable wishes of teachers, or anything much beyond getting away with the shabbiest possible building at the best possible price.Continue reading...
Outdoor education doesn’t just engage students with complex needs in the curriculum, it teaches life skills too
Sometimes, the best way to get the most out of the classroom is to leave it and take learning outside. Outdoor learning can make for happier, healthier, well-rounded students – particularly for those with special educational needs (SEN).
Sulivan primary school in Fulham, London, a maintained school where 30% of pupils have SEN, set up a “reading forest” for its youngest students.Continue reading...
Undergraduates campaign to break ties with the NUS over its new leader Malia Bouattia’s controversial stance
Are you feeling the urge for another referendum? Students at Cambridge University are. Some undergraduates are leading a campaign to break ties with the National Union of Students and on Monday the Cambridge students’ union is expected to approve plans to hold a referendum following the election of NUS president Malia Bouattia. If Labour has a problem with allegations of antisemitism, so does the nation’s youngest union leadership.
In Cambridge, a group called NUS: Let Cambridge Decide wants to ask students to disaffiliate from the national body. The university is at the forefront of protests against Bouattia. Students at Oxford, Lincoln, York, Exeter, Durham and Manchester universities are also considering their future relationship with the NUS.Continue reading...
A Princeton professor’s frankness hides the grim reality about work for many young people
‘One of the most strangely inspirational things I’ve ever read.” “This is a beautiful thing.” These aren’t plaudits about the latest Booker shortlist, but some of the praise directed at a “CV of failure” published by Princeton professor Johannes Haushofer. I have to confess that when I heard about the failure CV, I too thought it was a lovely idea. But when I read it, while it’s clearly very well intentioned, it made me feel a little uncomfortable. Professor Haushofer explains at the top of his CV that most of what he tries fails, but people only see the success, which “sometimes gives others the impression that most things work out for me”. The failures he lists include not getting into postgraduate programmes at Cambridge or Stanford, not getting a Harvard professorship and failing to secure a Fulbright scholarship.
I’m sure this was aimed at a small group of his students, to demonstrate that even successful professors get papers rejected by academic journals, but I suspect that the overwhelmingly positive reaction the CV has received in academic circles and on social media tells us more about our idealised view of success than the reality.Continue reading...
Parents making their kids boycott school tests is sending out the wrong message
The campaign Let Our Kids Be Kids has called on parents to boycott the forthcoming Sats tests, saying that pupils are over-tested and overworked, “in a school system that places more importance on test results and league tables than children”. They suggest that parents keep Year 2 children off primary school on Tuesday and make their own “educational fun”. Significant numbers of parents are sick of children being stressed, while some teachers are tired of “factory-farming” children. A supportive petition on the 38 Degrees website garnered almost 31,000 signatures by the end of last week.
In some ways, I sympathise with this campaign. No one wants young children to be overly stressed by exams or stigmatised by test results. Nor should schools and teachers feel pressured to narrow curriculums to deal with them. Something has gone very wrong if schools are forced to obsess over Sats performance over all other considerations.Continue reading...
Education secretary Nicky Morgan heckled after telling conference new primary school tests were ‘not about pass or fail’
Disgruntled headteachers could take industrial action after they voted overwhelmingly against schools having academy status thrust upon them.
A motion that “no schools should be forced to become an academy” was amended to include the “last resort” move at the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) annual conference in Birmingham. It was passed by 95% of delegates.Continue reading...
Rape survivors at Brigham Young University, considered the ‘Mormon Harvard’, face penalties under its strict honor code. Now they’re fighting back
Madi Barney sat sobbing in the Provo, Utah, police department. It had been four days since the Brigham Young University sophomore had been raped in her off-campus apartment.
She was scared – terrified – that the officials at her strict, Mormon university would find out and punish her.Continue reading...
Learning is all about motivation. When we really want to learn something, we generally succeed, even when the going gets tough
Imagine I gave you a book full of words, numbers and strange symbols – 150-odd pages of the stuff. Some of the things relate to each other in obvious ways, others not so much. Now suppose I’m going to test you: 50 questions about the contents of that book, how do you think you’d do?
Well, if you can drive a car, chances are you’ve already done very well: those of you who passed the theory test recently will have got at least 43 out of 50 questions correct. That’s just one everyday example of the average person’s capacity to learn something that appears complex at first. Despite recently making the questions tougher, the DVLA still reports that the test has a pass rate above 50%.Continue reading...
My school is designed for students with moderate learning difficulties but their needs are undermined by the arrival of pupils with severe behavioural problems
I’m standing in the middle of the playground on break-time duty, doing my best to scan the area. If accident, injury, or a play-fight suddenly turn nasty, disaster can strike in a matter of seconds. I glance at my watch – only two minutes to go, thank goodness. Then I see Kerry running towards me. “Miss! Miss! Charlie’s crying! Jordan’s being horrible to him!” I follow Kerry and see Charlie, a slightly-built child with severe autism, crouching close to the ground, sobbing. “What’s the matter, Charlie?” I ask. “Jordan keeps saying I look like an alien and that she’s glad my Mum’s sick,” he says between sobs (Charlie’s mum has cancer). I promise to sort this out, but as I lead him back across the playground, it crosses my mind that this won’t be the last time today that Charlie, and others like him, suffer this kind of torment.
I teach in a special school, which caters for pupils with moderate learning difficulties (MLD). Our pupils go from reception age right through to year 11 and have a range of diagnoses from autistic spectrum disorder and Asperger syndrome to Down’s syndrome. These diagnoses are often accompanied by a variety of medical conditions, such as cerebral palsy, which combine to significantly hamper a child’s ability to learn.Continue reading...
Johannes Haushofer bravely posts document listing degree programs he did not get in to and academic positions he did not get
A professor at Princeton University has published a CV listing his career failures on Twitter, in an attempt to “balance the record” and encourage others to keep trying in the face of disappointment.
Johannes Haushofer, who is an assistant professor of psychology and public affairs at the university in New Jersey, posted his unusual CV on Twitter last week. The document contains sections titled Degree programs I did not get into, Research funding I did not get and Paper rejections from academic journals.Continue reading...
Let Our Kids Be Kids campaign calls for parents to keep Year 2 children off school on 3 May, saying they are ‘overworked’
More than 30,000 people have backed a boycott of the Sats exams next week.
The Let Our Kids Be Kids campaign wants parents to keep their children off primary school, saying they are “over-tested, over-worked and in a school system that places more importance of test results and league tables than children’s happiness and joy of learning”.Continue reading...
We, as teachers, educators, parents and grandparents, are writing out of huge concern for the deteriorating experience of children in England’s primary schools – and the part played by assessment models in this distressing process.
A year ago over 80 of us signed a letter to the Guardian saying why we opposed the baseline assessment for four-year-olds. We welcome the decision to withdraw that, in the light of experience, and note that the proposed key stage 1 grammar has recently been cancelled due to errors in administration.Continue reading...
More than 3,500 children will continue to be taught at other sites while remedial work is carried out to fix building defects
More than 3,500 children in Edinburgh affected by the emergency closure of 17 privately financed schools will be taught in temporary sites until the next school year starts in August.
The city council said on Friday that nine of the 17 schools shut suddenly after potentially lethal building defects were found will remain closed for nearly four more months. They will reopen after the summer holidays on 17 August while remedial work is carried out – later than council leaders and parents had hoped.Continue reading...
National Association of Head Teachers says new grammar assessments for 10- and 11-year-olds in England are too difficult
The new grammar tests for primary school pupils would have stumped Jane Austen, according to an experienced headteacher, as members of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) criticised the government’s assessment regime.
Amanda Hulme, an NAHT executive member and head of a primary school in Bolton, said the tests for year six pupils were too difficult for the 10- and 11-year-olds in England who would be taking them this year.Continue reading...
In this world where we live, there should be more happiness. – so a new search for the nation’s classroom jokers seems like a good idea
The puddle was bad enough. The tiny puddle that started with a trickle was really quite bad enough. One minute I was sitting cross-legged on the floor, trying to look as if I was singing along to Now Thank We All Our God. The next, I was being marched out of the assembly hall by a teacher. I was sent home in someone else’s (clean) pants. But at least no one had told me that I’d have to stand at the front of the class and perform standup comedy.
If we all studied standup, we would certainly learn how to deal with humiliation, and how to have another goContinue reading...
I have an open fire and spend my evenings tanning animal and fish skins, and carving wood
I live alone on the Isle of Skye in a tipi almost impossible to find without detailed directions. It might seem unusual for someone of 16, but I love my own company and I’m passionate about preserving wild spaces. I grew up with my mum, Ghillie, and older sister, Yazzie, in the wilds of the Cairngorms, in a remote and sometimes inaccessible home, using cross-country skis to haul food and supplies to the house.
Mum, a cookbook writer, taught us about possible dangers and how to cope with them, then let us run wild from an early age. We also travelled abroad regularly, visiting remote tribes and cultures, where we lived for weeks as Mum studied food and recipes to write about. I spent so much time with tribes who rely on the land that this became second nature to me. When I gained a place at the School of Adventure Studies on Skye last year, I decided to live in a tipi, practising what I preach.Continue reading...
Graduates from England incur the most debt, research has found. It’s an intimidating figure that deters bright applicants from poorer backgrounds
Going to university felt like it was worthwhile. I enjoyed myself. I found my course interesting, and regularly use the things I learned in my writing. I got involved in various extracurricular activities and balanced studying with paid part-time work, allowing me to develop organisational skills that have helped me as a freelancer.
I also paid only a fraction of the tuition fees faced by current students. A recent report by the Sutton Trust showing that students in England graduate with more debt than anywhere else in the English-speaking world – including the US, where the cost of higher education has become a central political issue – has made me wonder whether I would have bothered with uni if tuition had been nine grand a year.Continue reading...
Responding to the needs of the world’s 3.5 billion young people will be vital in achieving the global goals. How do we get them more involved in policy-making?
With more than half the global population aged under 30, issues affecting young people are receiving greater attention from policymakers. Tackling high youth unemployment and low school attendance rates, and providing greater access to sexual and reproductive health services, are now top priorities. Leaders are beginning to realise that responding to young people’s needs is the only way to meet the biggest challenges facing the world.
But how involved are young people in the decisions that affect them? We asked campaigners involved with the youth-led NGO Restless Development what needs to be done to bring them closer to the heart of development.Continue reading...
The idea of home can be complicated when you move away from where you grew up. Students tell us how they settled into their halls
Accidentally referring to uni as “home” in the presence of Mum and Dad can be the first sign that you have settled in. But the idea of home can be complicated when moving away for the first time.
While university can be an exciting escape from parental authority, it’s common for students to feel uncomfortable in their new surroundings. Students tell us what has made them feel most at home.Continue reading...
Discussion paper will form basis of Coalition policy on private vocational education and training in the election
Student loans for the private vocational education and training (VET) sector could be capped and restricted to certain courses, a government discussion paper has suggested.
It also proposed an ombudsman be appointed for the sector, which has been plagued with scandals.