Education News Weekly – 16th November, 2017
Church of England welcomes transgender children, bad news for grandparents and why girls should learn ‘banter’…
In a move that feels potentially like addressing the wrong problem, Lucy Elphinstone, headmistress of Francis Holland School, Sloane Square, has suggested that girls should be taught ‘banter,’ learn to take themselves less seriously, and essentially ‘man up’ (though she stopped short of using the actual phrase). More helpfully, Mrs Elphinstone also said that girls must also be taught about how to “wing it” and successfully blag in certain circumstances (as men so frequently do) so they are not at a disadvantage to their male peers when it comes to applying for jobs. “Sometimes we need to be able to take risks, to be braver, and sometimes to learn how to wing it a bit.” This applies especially for male-dominated workplaces, she suggested, such as law, politics, banking and finance, and Mrs. Elphinstone encourages her students to overcome the urge to be a perfectionist and to take themselves too seriously: “They can take risks in a supportive environment, and I think that’s the most important thing,” she said.
In the most dramatic moment yet of the on going education funding crisis, headteachers representing more than 5,000 schools and 3.5 million children across England are supporting a protest letter to the chancellor over “inadequate” funding, that will be delivered to Downing Street. The letter warns of schools increasingly having to make “desperate requests to parents for ‘voluntary’ donations”. Heads are calling for an extra £1.7 billon per year for schools, as the new national funding formula only re-distributed funding, not increased it overall. Despite the promise to move £1.3 billion from the Department for Education’s budget directly into school spending, the heads say they will still have faced a real-terms cut of £1.7 billion between 2015 and 2020, a claim backed up by the Institute of Fiscal Studies. Without this £1.7 billion being restored, heads are warning the chancellor:
- They will not be able to afford to recruit teachers
- Class sizes will rise
- Subjects will have to be withdrawn
- Sixth forms could close
- Special needs pupils will not get the support they need
But school standards minister, Nick Gibb, said the £1.3 billion being put into school budgets “will put an end to historic disparities in the system,” which is, due to inflation, unfortunately a total lie.
‘Don’t waste time taking photos if you’re caught up in an attack’ is high up on the list of advice that police have been promoting for children in schools. Instead, they have been advised to ‘run, hide, tell’ if they are caught up in an attack, in guidelines that follow the Manchester Arena attack this year. The National Police Chiefs Council will publish an animated film and teaching resources on their website today for schools to download, in the hope of producing a generation of young people who know what to do in such a situation, and can tell others too. The lessons, which are not mandatory but schools are being urged to use them, also advise young people on what to do should they see something suspicious, and basic first aid training.
The Church of England has produced its first guidelines on transgender pupils, and it’s…surprisingly progressive. The guidance says: “For example, a child may choose the tutu, princess’s tiara and heels and/or the fireman’s helmet, tool belt and superhero cloak without expectation or comment. Childhood has a sacred space for creative self imagining.” It adds that children “should be at liberty to explore the possibilities of who they might be without judgement or derision”. An increasing number of schools have begun to liberalise their uniform policy to allow boys to wear skirts and dresses if they wish.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby emphasised the potential long-term damage caused by transphobic bullying (as well as all other types of bullying) and the importance of giving children young children “freedom from the expectation of permanence” if they want to dress outside the gendered norms.
A spokesman for Stonewall said: “Our research shows that nearly half of lesbian, gay, bi and trans pupils are bullied for being LGBT at school: a situation that desperately needs to change. “We would like to congratulate the Church for sending a clear signal that homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying must never be tolerated.”
At the same time, Simon Henderson, headmaster of Eton, has suggested that his school’s pupils need to be more ‘gender-intelligent.’ (Guardian) He said that any pupil wishing to transition while studying there would be allowed to stay, and that efforts to prepare its pupils for the modern world now included LGBT-awareness education and talks by the founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, Laura Bates. Despite recent headlines about how more students from Eton go to Oxbridge than students on free school meals, and instances of Eton students being told exam content in advance of sitting the papers, Henderson, who took over in 2015, defended the school’s record, aside from its traditional image: “I want us to be a modern, forward-thinking, relevant school,” he said. “Eton has always subtly reinvented itself. But you have moments in an institution – and this is one of those moments – when it has to take a step forward.”
Grandparent’s embracing their traditional role as being indulgent towards children is likely to have an adverse affect on their health, research from Glasgow University suggests. The researchers looked at 56 studies with data from 18 countries, including the UK, US, China and Japan. Many studies found they were inclined to feed grandchildren high-sugar or high-fat foods – often in the guise of a treat – which can impact their weight and diet. Parents felt unable to interfere because they were reliant on grandparents helping them out, The study also found that grandchildren were perceived to be getting too little exercise while under the care of their grandparents, although physical activity levels appeared to be related to whether grandparents were active themselves, and whether there was appropriate space where children could be active. Actress Maureen Lipman, a grandmother, defended their role: “The grandparents’ job is always definitely to indulge… There are two sets of grandparents – and you don’t want to be the one that isn’t giving them the nice piece of cake.” Which seems reasonable, as long as it isn’t every day. According to Grandparents Plus, grandparents are “the largest provider of informal childcare” in the UK and they need to be “better recognised and supported”.
In another blow to the beleaguered Student Finance Company, Panorama has uncovered that their student loans system is susceptible to fraud. BBC Panorama spent 10 months investigating dishonest education agents and bogus students who are committing frauds that target private colleges – also known as alternative providers – which offer courses approved for student loans. About £400m-a-year is received by 112 private colleges through the student loan system. One education agent was secretly filmed offering to get bogus students admitted into a government-approved private college for a £200 fee. This was to allow the bogus students to fraudulently claim student loans, out of which £1,500 a year the agent took in exchange for offering fake attendance records and to provide all their coursework. Public Accounts Committee chairwoman Meg Hillier said: “There is criminal fraud going on from what you’ve shown me. It needs to be referred to the police.” The National Union of Students has also called for an inquiry into the abuses exposed by Panorama. “These are horrible people who are exploiting our education system,” said NUS President Shakira Martin. “The student finance system is ultimately broken.”
A former Big Issue seller has said he is “still getting used to the idea” he has fulfilled his “dream” of going to Cambridge University. Geoff Edwards, 52, spent most of his adult life homeless in Cambridge after work as a field labourer dried up. He said selling copies of The Big Issue “gave me back a bit of self-respect”. After gaining distinctions in an Access to Higher Education course at Cambridge Regional College, he is now studying English Literature at Hughes Hall. He left school with two O Levels, and said: “Going to Cambridge University was a dream of mine… This is what I have always wanted to do, but no-one in my family had been to university, so I didn’t consider it.” He said winning a place is “the first thing I am proud of in my life”.
Ever wondered what the teachers are thinking, and how they would deal with parents if they could say what they really thought? The Guardian has compiled a helpful ‘10 things teachers want to say to parents, but can’t’ – and if any of them apply to you, perhaps think twice about how you approach the next parent’s evening.
By David Bard
David is a Minerva Pro Tutor who specialises in humanities subjects at A Level and is a trained expert in the 7 + and 11 + exams. Outside of tutoring, David writes blogs about everything that’s trending in education.