Education News Weekly – 24th November, 2017
Tory childcare blunders, a glitter freeze at nurseries and… Is Mein Kampf back on the curriculum?
The cost of childcare for young children has risen more than four times faster than wages since 2008, research shows. New analysis published by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) reveals that in England the average wages of those with a one-year-old child rose by 12% in cash terms between 2008 and 2016, while their childcare costs shot up by 48% in the same period.
In some parts of the UK the cost of childcare has risen by even more, increasing 7.4 times more quickly than pay in London, seven times more quickly in the East Midlands and 4.8 times more in West Midlands. Most working parents with one-year-olds do not get any state help with childcare costs, so rising costs are likely to have big implications for many family budgets. Government assistance doesn’t kick in until age two, making the situation especially difficult for single-parent families, and families where both parents are working full-time.
This comes after seemingly accurate claims that the government has failed to fund its own pledge of 30 hours free childcare per week, with over 1,000 nurseries being forced to close due to inadequate funding, among other issues – with the vast majority of those closing down rated good or outstanding by Ofsted. The full roll-out of tax-free childcare, another key policy first announced by the Conservatives four years ago, has also been delayed until next year.
Layla Moran, Liberal Democrat MP and Spokesperson for Education and Young People has also spoken up against the government’s failure to live up to promises on childcare.
Girls are better than boys at problem-solving in teams, according to the world’s first global study examining the skill. Analysts said the findings suggest girls are better equipped for the workplace and are more able to cope with modern ways of working. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) – which carries out PISA tests that evaluate student’s academic abilities – assessed 125,000 15-year-olds to see how well they solved problems collaboratively: girls did better in all 52 OECD countries on collaborative problem-solving, being on average half a year ahead of male peers. OECD Secretary-General José Angel Gurría said more emphasis should be placed on improving team problem-solving skills among children, as these are among the most important in the modern world. However, the results sharply contrast findings made by the OECD in 2012 that tested individual problem-solving tests, where males did better. Interestingly, in collaborative problem-solving, people who played team sports fared better, while video-gamers were less successful – while there were no discrepancies between immigrant/non-immigrant children, or those who were economically more/less advantaged.
Extremely predictable news for graduates of arts and humanities subjects, as well as social studies and education, as the statistics confirm that these are among the lowest-earning degrees at UK universities. Shockingly, the likes of law, medicine, maths, economics, computer science, engineering and architecture were among the highest earning, along with languages.
After five years, graduates in the top-earning subjects can be earning over twice as much as those in the lowest-earning subjects, a gap which only widens as time goes on, suggesting the importance of course choice for potential undergraduates.
Other differences also included gender (men earn more), social background (the rich earn more) and which university you attended (those at more selective universities earned more).
Oh, and however much you’re earning, you’re still getting screwed by the new student loans system, ever since tuition fees went up £9,000 in 2012.
Not content with merely inviting right-wing controversialist, former pupil and general berk Milo Yiannopoulos to speak at their school, Simon Langton Grammar School in Canterbury has now said it will hold regular debates on controversial texts and ideologies in The Unsafe Space – an optional sixth-form course that would be the school’s ‘antidote to political correctness.’ Topics suggested include Mein Kampf, the ‘pros and cons’ anti-diversity ‘Google memo’ circulated suggesting women are less suited to tech jobs than men, and the suggestion that ‘not all cultures are created equal.’ Though some parents have welcomed the move, it has also sparked a negative backlash, among students – especially female students – and commentators, who have criticised the school for putting controversialism and ‘free speech’ above student safety, while undermining the value of safe spaces. Certainly, one can see why giving ‘pros’ on a sexist anti-diversity memo, or having an ‘open debate’ about Mein Kampf may attract some criticism.
A recent report by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender charity Stonewall, found that 80% of transgender youth have self-harmed, and 40% have attempted suicide. So the Church of England’s recent guidance to its schools, urging teachers to allow pupils to “explore the possibilities of who they might be without judgement”, is very welcome. Among the difficulties faced by trans students are the fact that the ‘T’ in LGBT was never discussed in school, so there was no visibility, they had no access to professional help or support, they were bullied by classmates in person and on social media and – on a practical level – some were unsure which toilet to use, and would sometimes face criticism from other students, whichever they chose. To properly support transgender and non-binary youths, more needs to be done to understand what they need. Guidelines sent to schools are a step in the right direction, as they can encourage teachers not to reproduce gender stereotypes, and advise them on creating safe, gender-neutral spaces. But, without education of the wider population, this isn’t enough.
A fourth study from Australia seems to have again confirmed the hypothesis that the higher socio-economic status of students at private schools is the key factor in their academic results, not the school they attend. Stéphane Mahuteau and Kostas Mavromaras, academics at the National Institute for Labour Studies at Flinders University, conducted the latest study, which found a strong and positive association between the socio-economic status of a student and their test scores. The core result of the paper is that, after controlling for a number of school and student characteristics, “school quality does not depend directly on the sector of the school” – rather, socioeconomic background is the key factor. A greater proportion of privileged students opt for private schools, and it seems they take the existing advantage with them. But such students are likely to achieve higher scores anyway, irrespective of the school they attend.
A chain of 19 nurseries have banned glitter for use in Christmas activities over concerns that, as a microplastic, it could be doing lasting environmental damage. Scientists have also called for the substance to be banned over environmental concerns, with it being too small to recycle, and very easily swept into gutters before eventually making its way into the sea. Despite its obvious aesthetic appeal, 86% of parents agreed with the decision, and the school’s emphasis on the environment and sustainability. Tops Day Nurseries managing director Cheryl Hadland said: “I love glitter, it’s lovely, shiny, twinkly stuff, so it is kind of sad, but when we’re wrecking the environment we really can’t be doing it.”
Minerva would like to point out that there is such thing as biodegradable glitter, and it can be found here, and probably in other places too.
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.