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Category: Education News Digest Page 1 of 2

Structural Racism At London School Of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Finds Report

An evaluation by an independent body has exposed evidence of entrenched racism within the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). The analysis noted that the institution’s colonial history continues to have a negative impact on students and staff who identify as people of color. Despite higher proportion of staff members from diverse backgrounds than the British academic sector average, under-representation in senior posts, lower promotional prospects, and a greater likelihood of having short-term or fixed-term contracts remain an issue. In recent years, LSHTM has played an important role in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic globally, and one of its alumni is the current Chief Medical Officer for England, Chris Whitty. Nevertheless, the review published on Monday revealed that the environment within the LSHTM still disadvantages non-white individuals, the curriculum is predominantly Eurocentric, and the leadership has been sluggish in reconciling issues related to colonialism and racism. Students and staff from diverse backgrounds have experienced unsupportive attitudes toward racist experiences, along with a lack of equitable opportunities. The report also notes that senior staff behaviour has gone unanticipated due to their influence within the institution. The council of the university established the review to evaluate issues of racism and inequality at the school following worries expressed by students and faculty, as well as in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. LSHTM’s colonial origins date back to the UK Government’s colonial office, and the assessment emphasises that current accomplishments in global health and research owe their origins to the institution’s stance during colonialism.

The governments of the UK and the European Union (EU) are expected to clash over new rules on financial services that will be introduced by Brussels on 26 June in the absence of equivalence judgments. According to the Financial Times, the EU has granted around 30 equivalence judgements for UK-based entities since Brexit, and negotiators fear further decision-making will now be slowed down, particularly after the freezing of an MoU between the UK and the EU on 26 March. This will likely cause stock exchanges to operate under different regulations, thereby raising costs for investors and increasing market risk. Moreover, UK-based firms that provide services in the EU are set to be impacted.

Lauded Academy Chain To Be Stripped Of Schools After Finances Inquiry

The Perry Beeches academy trust, which was publicly praised by former UK Prime Minister David Cameron and ex-Education Secretary Michael Gove, is to lose control of each of its five academies and free schools. Financial shortcomings at the Birmingham-based trust were first revealed in a report from the Education Funding Agency (EFA) issued earlier this year. This report showed that third-party payments had been made to Liam Nolan, the CEO, in addition to his £120,000 salary. A new report has now revealed “serious concerns” about the Trust’s financial management. The five schools will be handed over to a new academy trust, the West Midlands academies trust, which is headed by David Kershaw. Perry Beeches has declined to comment, but has released a statement by Nolan, who said that he had no involvement in the brokering of the deal.

According to a report, the academy had unlawfully paid Nexus a total of £72,000 along with VAT, and £88,800 plus VAT in 2014-15 for the CEO role. These payments were found to be in violation of the financial regulations and Treasury guidelines governing academies.

In a separate report submitted by the EFA, an investigation found that the trust had inexplicably deleted records of free school meal (FSM) funding eligibility worth over £2.5m until 2015, making it impossible to verify them. Hence, the EFA concluded that the trust had breached the academies financial handbook by not securing any evidence that could validate the eligibility of students for FSM for six years.

In light of the EFA’s report, Nolan announced to TES that he was resigning as the trust’s CEO, and as an executive head, he had taken a pay cut.

Oxford University Takes Top Spot In Guardian’s Annual University Guide

For the first time in ten years, Oxford University has taken the top spot in The Guardian’s annual universities guide, thanks to new employment data showing more of its students find graduate-level jobs after completing their studies. The University of St. Andrews remains in second place overall, while its ancient rival, Cambridge, drops to third position after having been at the top spot for nine consecutive years.

Several other institutions improved their performances in the rankings due to graduate jobs data which was released for the first time. The London School of Economics soared to fifth place from 19th place, with joint second place in graduate jobs alongside Oxford and Cambridge. This was due to high demand for economics and law graduates, two of the LSE’s main subject areas. Students also gave the LSE improved ratings for course satisfaction, assessment, and teaching when compared to its rivals.

The University of Brighton also saw a significant boost in its graduate jobs score, rising 12 places to reach 102nd, while De Montfort University fell from 61st to 119th position due to a decrease in its graduate job score.

British universities have had a cautiously optimistic outlook regarding the coronavirus outbreak and the exam grading turmoil which occurred in UK schools. Most institutions have reported that student recruitment numbers have remained stable, with few domestic students choosing to defer their studies, and international student numbers have not fallen as much as they had feared.

Oxford’s provisional figures show that 68% of its domestic intake this year will come from state schools, an increase of 6 percentage points from 2019. The university also expects to enrol 350 more undergraduates than normal, in order to offer as many places as possible. Cambridge has also expanded its undergraduate numbers by 10% as a result of the exam fiasco, and 70% of its new UK undergraduates were educated at state schools.

The Guardian university guide is the first league table to use new data which gauges graduate jobs after 15 months of graduation instead of six months; it is thought to more accurately capture graduate employability. The data is collected centrally by the Higher Education Statistics Agency to address concerns that universities were misclassifying their graduates’ occupations or offering them temporary employment during the survey period.

In the subject rankings of law, history, and modern languages, Oxford has surpassed Cambridge as well. This excellent performance is attributed by Richardson to the students and the university’s exceptional selection process. Richardson also added that the immense transformation of the undergraduate student body’s socioeconomic status and ethnic diversity in the past five years is regarded as a remarkable accomplishment. The university takes great pride in this achievement.

University Subject Profile: Geography And Environmental Studies

What You Will Learn

Geography is a topic that is always making an appearance in today’s news, whether it’s relating to migration debates or warnings about climate change and its consequences. The discipline is unquestionably relevant to our daily lives, particularly in regards to spatial patterns. You will explore why societies and environments differ from one place to another and analyze how they have come to be what they are today.

All societies are part of physical environments that have been shaped in varying degrees by humans. Different aspects of the natural environment can be considered, from the effects of human intervention to the processes behind the breakdown of climate, biogeography, soils, hill slopes, rivers, glaciers, and volcanoes.

A geography or environmental studies course is perfect if you’re interested in interdisciplinary learning and want to explore a mix of natural, social, and humanities sciences.

How You Will Learn

You will learn through a combination of lectures, seminars, lab work, and field practicals. Fieldwork is a crucial aspect of geography and environmental studies, and employers often highly value students who undertake activities outside the classroom, as it shows their problem-solving and analytical skills.

Some geography and environmental studies programs may also provide you with the opportunity to study abroad.

After finishing the course, you will have the ability to analyze complex issues, put particular events into a broader context, and effectively present your ideas in written, visual, and verbal forms. Group work is also typically an essential part of the program.

Entry Requirements

Entry grades will vary, but most geography courses are likely to require an A-level (or equivalent) in geography. However, having a background in biology, chemistry, maths, or physics can also be beneficial and positively impact your application’s success. Environmental science courses at highly selective universities generally require at least two A-levels (or equivalent) in environmental sciences, such as biology, chemistry, maths, physics, or geography.

Career Possibilities

Your employment options are expansive. You can pursue a career that specifically relates to your degree program, such as jobs in local authority planning or transport departments, or in environmental consultancy firms. Charities and NGOs involved in environmental concerns may also provide other avenues for employment.

Additionally, like with other degree programs, you will develop various transferable skills that could lead you to other work opportunities, such as in IT.

If you study this area, you will be well-prepared for further studies either in earth and social sciences or something entirely different, like teaching or youth work.

A Cavalier Approach To The English Civil War?

Martin Kettle suggests that history lessons in England are dominated by kings, queens, and battles, which doesn’t provide a full understanding of historical events. He recommends including more diverse topics like the roles of women, Scots, black people, protestors, class conflict, and more. However, Kettle still advocates for a shared vision of history for England and Britain, which could lead to myopic mythology. To truly understand the past, history must be a critical discipline that explores the good and bad aspects of history. While myth might have its purposes, it is not conducive to fully grasping the complexities of historical events.

Regarding Cromwell, the Cromwell Association focuses on research, debates, and publications to broaden our understanding of the man and his era, rather than revering him. Regarding Charles I, suggesting that he is a moral victor because of a modern monarchy and the end of the death penalty is misguided. Charles’ personal rule, the attempted arrest of the five members, and his belief in absolutism showcase his convictions and intent. The English civil war wasn’t just about puritans who opposed the aristocracy’s licentiousness, but also those who craved religious freedom. The restoration of the monarchy empowered the same elite that was there before, suppressing those who preferred individual religious beliefs. In conclusion, to fully understand history, it’s vital to look at all angles and understand the societal and personal beliefs that shaped events.

Prince Of Arts

Prince William’s decision to study history of art at St Andrews University has presented a unique opportunity for the academic art community in the UK. With a longstanding connection to art and culture, the royal family’s association with art history is not a new concept. Despite this, the subject is still widely regarded as elitist and unaccessible to many, a stereotype that the art history community is keen to dispel.

Art history has historically been dominated by white, upper middle-class, independently educated female students, a demographic that has been criticised in a report by teaching quality inspectors for promoting a narrow, Euro-centric view of art. The lack of diversity within the subject is seen as a major cause for concern, and has led to some universities discussing plans to set up workshops aimed at raising the profile of the subject among a wider student audience.

Prince William’s high-profile enrolment in a history of art degree program has the potential to bring the subject into the public eye and attract a more diverse and varied range of students. However, it is important for the academic community to ensure that this increased visibility dispels the stereotype of art history as a subject only accessible to the privileged few.

After conducting a survey of art history departments, it was found that there were mixed views about diversifying the curriculum. Some academics were skeptical about the idea, fearing that it could potentially compromise academic standards. However, the survey did also highlight the existence of courses that deviated from the traditional "Giotto to Cezanne" focus.

In terms of coverage and activity related to historic traditions and artistic practices outside of the Western world, the survey found that it was patchy. China had the best coverage for pre-20th century, followed by Japan and India. However, there was limited pre-20th century teaching of Latin American and African art outside of a few established centers. A conference is scheduled for later this year to discuss the survey’s findings.

Although the art history department at St. Andrews welcomed the GLAADH review, it will not have any impact on William’s education. He will be taught traditional courses such as Italian Renaissance, British architecture, furniture history, and the history of photography. During an assessment of the department that resulted in it being given a "highly satisfactory" rating, the main feedback was that students, particularly those with limited financial means, needed more frequent exposure to art in major cities.

While art history may not diversify William’s education, it could still provide him with valuable skills for his future as king. Graduates of art history programs are highly skilled at communication and presentation, which would be useful in a public-facing role like the monarchy. Additionally, students are trained to be visually aware and to engage with their environment, which is crucial for any leader. The expansion of art history as a field has also allowed for a wider range of artifacts to be studied and discussed, from country houses to town centers.

Five Reasons Parents Are Boycotting Primary Schools Over Sats

Parents are taking to social media under the slogan “Let our kids be kids” in protest against the annual standard assessment tests (Sats) for children aged seven and eleven. They argue that the tests place unnecessary pressure on their children. The Department of Education offered the view that Sats were simply aimed at identifying children requiring extra help and were carried out over a full month as part of the normal curriculum, not in a traditional exam environment. However, teachers’ unions claim that the tests are too demanding and distract attention from other subjects such as music, art, and physical education.

Parents, guardians, and teachers argue that Sats are too demanding of children, many of whom are too young to deal with the pressure. For example, some five-year-old children face phonics screening tests. Parents and teachers alike have explained that Sats put good local community schools at risk as schools that don’t meet target levels face academisation. Low investment in curriculum materials and resources puts pressure on teachers, who are themselves coming under increasing pressure to meet ever-tougher targets.

Some teachers have argued that there is an excellent opportunity in primary schools to embed critical thinking skills and creativity, as well as practical skills such as cooking, gardening, programming, and science. However, Sats threaten to push creativity out and make independence and fun occasional events. Parents have passionately expressed their disagreement with the government’s approach to education.

The strike is a positive way for parents to express their disagreement with government policy, use fun learning activities as an alternative to the prescriptive, pressured approach fostered by Sats and the national curriculum. It is hoped that the strike will provide clear evidence to the Department of Education of widespread opposition from parents, guardians, and teachers.

4. The current strike has been initiated due to concerns over the inappropriate testing methods and a curriculum that is overly focused on tests. Schools are lacking the inclusion of arts, music, and physical education in their curriculum, which are vital for a child’s physical and mental well-being. Sats, in particular, condition children to embrace stress, competition, and striving beyond their limits as the norm. This conditioning has a direct impact on their mental and physical health, and it is not a desirable outcome.

I have discussed this issue with my kids, who may not fully comprehend it yet but are being exposed to the concept of protests and their significance through me.

5. Assessments are a crucial part of monitoring a child’s progress. Continuous assessments that consider the child’s overall progress are far more accurate than standardized tests that fail to convey any valuable insight. Even young children, who are still learning the language, are expected to answer pointless questions on grammar, a subject they are yet to comprehend fully. This rote memorization is not an effective learning strategy and can prove detrimental to their interest in learning.

We would love to hear your thoughts on the current Sats changes. Are you opting to boycott school, or do you believe the protests are futile? Please share your experiences and opinions with us in the comments below.

What Happens When You Can’t Count Past Four?

In 1690, English philosopher John Locke observed that some Americans he spoke to struggled to count to 1,000 and had no clear understanding of the concept. He used the Tououpinambos tribe from the Brazilian jungle as an example of a group whose language lacked words for numbers above five. Locke argued that while number names can aid counting and calculation, they are not necessary for numerical understanding.

However, two recent studies of Amazonian tribes suggest otherwise. These studies propose that number words are not just convenient, but essential for numerical categorisation. This idea aligns with the Whorf hypothesis, which proposes that language shapes thought. For example, the Berinmo tribe of New Guinea have a linguistic boundary between "nol" and "wor" within what we would consider green, which affects their categorisation of colours.

Similarly, the studies of Amazonian tribes suggest that number vocabulary is necessary for categorising objects numerically. Researchers hypothesise that humans are born with two "core" systems of number recognition: a small number system for recognising up to three or four objects without counting, and a second system for dealing with larger numbers. But to recognise larger numbers precisely, counting words are required.

The Pirahã tribe of the Amazon, for example, only have words for one, two, few, and many, and even these words may not be used consistently. As a result, their numerical understanding could not be tested through traditional arithmetic exercises. Peter Gordon from Columbia University instead used a matching task to gauge their numerical skills, which significantly dropped off at three objects.

The Mundurukú tribe, also from the Amazon, similarly have words for numbers only up to five. While they could compare and add large sets of dots approximately, they struggled with exact subtraction when forced to use words to identify numbers. Researchers found that language plays a key role in the development of exact arithmetic, and suggest that without number vocabulary, precise numerical understanding may be stunted.

It seems plausible that Locke’s assertion is accurate. Although it is possible for counting to occur without the use of numeral nomenclature, it certainly facilitates the process. The intellectual mind behind the Mathematical Brain publication is credited to Brian Butterworth, who is currently employed at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at UCL.

Eddie Gratton Obituary

Richard Edward Gratton, my late uncle Eddie, was a prominent personality in the realm of amateur theatre and sports in the north-east region of England for over 60 years until his demise at the age of 83 due to anaemia and Alzheimer’s disease. He was an enthusiastic educator, teaching English and drama at several state secondary schools.

Eddie was born in Thornley, Co Durham, to a coal miner named Dick (also named Richard Edward) and Elizabeth (nee Hardman), who later became a Methodist preacher. Eddie began his early performing journey with local Methodist eisteddfods, where his elocution skills earned him various accolades. He pursued his education at AJ Dawson grammar school, Wingate, from 1950 to 1957, participated in county-level school rugby, and met his future wife, Ann Smith, whom he wedded in 1961 after national service.

While serving the nation, playing rugby and cricket, he also indulged in boxing for the RAF. He refused to get commissioned and opted for teacher training at Westminster College, Oxford, where he met Ann, who also pursued teaching as a profession. They lived in Co Durham, predominantly in Blackhall Rocks.

Eddie was a celebrated cricketer, and he played for clubs like Thornley, Castle Eden, Blackhall, Horden, Seaham, and Mainsforth. His passion and dedication for cricket revived Blackhall’s membership and attracted young players to senior cricket. During cricket season, he always carried his kit and played in matches that would take him as far as Nottinghamshire.

In the early 70s, Eddie joined Hartlepool Operatic and Dramatic Association and made his directorial debut with "Blithe Spirit" in 1974. Later, he acted and directed for various groups all around the north-east, including Opera Nova in Darlington, Stockton, and Murton. In musicals, he displayed his powerful bass baritone voice and dramatic talents, becoming famous for his role as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof.

Eddie founded the Brierton Players for former pupils to continue performing with him while he produced and taught at Brierton Comprehensive School, Hartlepool. He retired from teaching in the 90s, as he disagreed with Conservative government reforms that he thought focused too much on exams and neglected to nurture students’ creativity.

After his retirement, he enjoyed playing cricket and golf, singing in light operatic, musical, or north-east dialect repertoires on both sides of Tyne and Tees, raising funds for charity through the Freemason organization. The Guardian interviewed him in 2006 in that capacity. In 2019, back injury and memory issues caused him to seek hospital and then residential care; Ann passed away in the same year.

Eddie is survived by his children, Richard, Ruth, Rachel, and Rebecca, his grandchildren, Molly, Joe, Isabelle, and Thomas, and his sisters, Doreen and June.

Far Too Many Are Struggling’: Are Universities Failing Autistic Students?

Matthew Moffatt, an autistic student, faced significant challenges when he began studying at De Montfort University. He admits, “When I saw how chaotic my lecture theatre was, I was terrified. I struggle to control my sense of panic. The anxiety builds quickly, and I start shaking, wanting to flee.”

Moffatt had not initially planned to attend university, believing he would not fit in and dreading presentations and crowded lectures. Despite his reservations, he was encouraged by his tutors to pursue his interest in mathematics.

Moffatt represents one of a growing number of autistic students who find the UK university system is not ideally suited to their needs. The Office for National Statistics reveals that, between 2010 and 2011, 2,815 students with social and communication impairments enrolled, compared to 10,595 in 2017 and 2018. Many autistic students need extra time to process information, experience excessive anxiety in social situations, and find sensory issues, such as bright lights and noise, distressing.

Earlier this year, the Higher Education Commission initiated an investigation into the experience of disabled and autistic students. The investigation aims to determine why so many fail to reach their full potential. Although universities must comply with the Disability Act and the Autism Act, there is too much variety in approaches, according to experts who argue that universities are failing their autistic students.

Claire Burton, head of the division overseeing student support at the National Autistic Society, states that autistic students are socially isolated by their peers, complicating their integration into the university community. She also reports that inadequate autism-specific support forces students to abandon their studies prematurely, citing inconsistency as a significant issue.

Marc Fabri, a senior lecturer focusing on autism and technology at Leeds Beckett University, agrees, stating that some of the support, employment prospects for autistic graduates, and access to senior managers to implement changes are “dismal.” He argues that the disability support departments’ expertise does not reliably disseminate to other university staff.

Despite the challenges faced by autistic students, the university environment presents ideal opportunities for some, such as their ability to develop intense skills in their chosen areas of interest and find their place in clubs and societies. Ewan Davies, a history and medieval studies student at Swansea University, states, “If anything, I want more challenging work, increased contact hours, and lengthier assignments.”

So why are universities failing to accommodate autistic students adequately? According to James Hitchins, head of student services at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, schools must reconsider their approach to students who plan to enrol at university, notably through more effective communication rather than merely sending documents to the university. Furthermore, developing specific support for different courses and ensuring that such support is effectively integrated with the university’s educational practice would improve the experience of all autistic students.

Autistic individuals can reap significant benefits from novel technologies such as chatbots, enabling them to communicate more effectively via instant messaging, a preferred method over phone or in-person conversations. Some of these individuals may struggle to process speech accurately during lectures, necessitating the use of video captions and concise transcripts devoid of extraneous verbiage. Brain in Hand apps are also equipped to help students make conscious decisions, handle anxiety, and manage unexpected situations. Despite the strides made towards accommodating autistic individuals, securing funding for support remains an ongoing challenge. A recent study indicated that only 40% of disabled students were aware of the availability of the Disabled Students’ Allowance prior to commencing their coursework. The application process can also be arduous, and certain universities offer more extensive support than others. Moreover, there are individuals who do not possess formal diagnosis, while others forego applying altogether, as they do not consider themselves "disabled enough." Although institutions are endeavoring to better serve the escalating number of autistic learners, there is still a long way to go. That being said, universities stand to gain as much as students themselves, as highlighted by Ceri Low, Learning Support Coordinator at Gower College Swansea. "Autistic individuals may not excel at social events, but they can be groundbreakers in their respective fields. This notion is undoubtedly the greatest incentive for universities."

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