University chiefs angry over ‘elitist’ student loan plans

The heads of UK universities have reacted angrily to leaked proposals they say would bar thousands of disadvantaged young people from going to university by preventing them from getting student loans.

They also say that if the government goes ahead with rumoured plans to cut tuition fees, undergraduates would experience a poorer quality of education, less mental health support and a smaller choice of degree subjects.

The ideas have been leaked from the prime minister’s review of post-18 education, chaired by Philip Augar, a former equities broker, which is expected to report next month. One idea would stop young people qualifying for a loan if they didn’t get three Ds at A-level. 99bandar

Vice-chancellors argue this would be reducing student numbers “by the back door”, and damaging poorer students in the process. “This would strike at the heart of social mobility,” says Dominic Shellard, head of De Montfort University, as it would prevent many people from the poorest backgrounds from improving their life chances by studying for a degree.

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Last year nearly 8,000 UK 18-year-olds were accepted to study at university with 3Ds or lower, according to new data released by the admissions service Ucas last month. Universities say these applicants are much more likely to be from poorer families.

Shellard says these students are potentially among the best motivated: “Many students with lower A-level grades go on to do extremely well at university as they feel they’ve got something to prove.”

One of the subject areas that could suffer would be nursing. “There are already 500 nurse vacancies in our local hospitals and there will be far more after Brexit,” says Shellard. “At a time when we will have skills shortages because of Brexit it seems crazy to be talking about rigging the market even more and reducing our ability to train people.

“My fear is that we are going to end up with fewer people going to university, less social inclusion, less diversity, more elitism and a greatly denuded sector.”

Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, a thinktank, also believes this would be a “catastrophic policy”. “It will hit entrants from the poorest backgrounds disproportionately. You might have missed 3Ds because you’ve been at a poor performing school,” he says.

With the Conservatives anxious to regain ground with young voters following Labour’s commitment to abolish tuition fees, universities have long believed that the review is a vehicle for reducing the £9,250 fees cap. But vice-chancellors fear the government is unlikely to plug the resulting gap in funding.

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The Augar review team is rumoured to be favouring a cut in fees to £6,500 for arts, humanities and social science subjects – a loss of nearly £3,000 per student for universities. But fees for high-cost subjects that typically lead to higher earnings, including science, engineering and medicine, could increase to up to £13,500.

Academics with close links to Westminster have heard that for every £1,000 reduction in fees, the government calculates the sector will lose £1bn. They say reducing fees to £6,500 could mean an “eye-watering” loss of nearly £3bn.

The head of a Russell Group university, who asked not to be named, says: “The bottom line is that has to mean big job losses. You can’t cut £3bn without some really serious consequences.”

A second Russell Group vice-chancellor agrees: “If the government bring this in they will see a huge university job losses in the same year as a general election.”

He adds: “We’ll have to make some tough decisions. We won’t close arts and humanities subjects. But we will have to get more students on to those courses to make them viable.”

Universities including Cardiff, Reading, Gloucester and Birkbeck have already announced plans to make redundancies this year.

Nick Petford, head of Northampton University, told the Guardian that if fees dropped to £6,500, there was “no way” his university could move forward without “significant redundancies”.

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Nigel Carrington, vice-chancellor of the University of the Arts, one of London’s biggest universities, is angry about the implication that arts disciplines are worth less. “It is very frustrating and depressing. If the leaks are to be believed, policy is being created based on ignorance or prejudice with no understanding of the importance of world-leading creative education as the foundation for our flourishing creative and cultural sectors.”

Carrington, whose university is made up of six internationally renowned arts and design colleges, including Central St Martins and the London College of Fashion, says it costs his institution more than £11,500 to deliver the average degree. He says teaching these subjects to the level industry requires needs technical facilities, properly resourced studios and increasingly expensive technology.

“A fees cut for arts subjects would be terrible for the UK. The creative industries will become even more important if we are to sustain growth after Brexit. And if universities don’t receive enough to run these courses properly, many will be forced to drop them.”

Hillman warns that some universities forced to find savings would slash investment in student mental health, as well as on helping students prepare for the job market. “In the short term, universities might be able to squeeze these things invisibly – until they have a spate of student suicides or their employment rate plummets.”

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Sleep-deprived pupils need extra hour in bed, schools warned

Sleep experts are warning of an epidemic of sleep deprivation among school-aged children, with some urging educational authorities to alter school hours to allow adolescents to stay in bed longer.

Adequate sleep is the strongest factor in the wellbeing and mental health of teenagers, and a shortage is linked to poor educational results, anxiety and obesity, they say. The French education minister to push back by an hour the start of the school day to 9am for students aged 15-18 in Paris. ikutqq

It followed the publication in December of a study of teenagers in Seattle which found a “significant improvement in the sleep duration of students” after the start of the school day was delayed by almost an hour.

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“The Paris decision can only be a good thing for the children,” said Dr Neil Stanley, author of How To Sleep Well, who has noted increasing sleep problems in children and teenagers. “For the benefit of our children start times should be moved later, bringing them more in line with teenagers’ biological rhythms.”


Mandy Gurney, founder of Millpond Children’s Sleep Clinic, has seen a 30% rise in referrals of school-aged children in the last 12 months. Lisa Artis of the Sleep Council also said there had been a “noticeable rise” in sleep deprivation among school children. “A change in the school day would be beneficial to teenagers, but it would take a massive campaign for it to happen. The school day is designed to fit in with the standard working day.”

School leaders are increasingly raising concerns about overtired children, both in secondary schools and the upper end of primary schools, according to James Bowen, director of NAHT Edge, an offshoot of the head teachers’ union.

But there was not enough “hard evidence” to justify the “drastic step” of changing school hours, he added. “The bottom line is that school leaders are very interested in any approach that may have a positive impact on pupils’ learning, but there are significant logistical barriers to changing the school day” especially for working families, he said.

The Education Endowment Foundation funds Teensleep, by Oxford and Durham universities. Teensleep wanted to evaluate the impact of a later start to the school day, but not enough schools signed up for a trial. Now it is examining the consequences of “sleep education” in schools, with the results due to be published in the spring.

Guidance in providing sleep lessons for pupils aged seven to 16 was rolled out to teachers last month.

Scientists say that humans’ circadian rhythms – the body clock that manages the cycle of sleep and wakefulness – change in adolescence. The cycle shifts two hours in teenagers which means that they are wired to go to sleep and wake up later. “It’s like they’re in a different time zone,” said Dr Michael Farquhar, a consultant in paediatric sleep medicine at the Evelina children’s hospital in London.

“We’re asking them to get up before their body clock is ready, because that’s the way the adult world works. So most teenagers end up sleep-deprived.”

Sleep is the “strongest predictor of wellbeing among teenagers”, said Russell Viner, professor of adolescent health at University College London and president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

He co-authored a paper, published in the British Medical Journal in November, based on a study of more than 120,000 15-year-olds which pointed to increasing evidence of the dangers of inadequate sleep.

“When we think about all the things parents worry about, the effects of sleep are about four times higher than the effects of smartphone use,” he said. “There is major development of the brain in puberty. We need to go back to basics: more focus on sleep, physical activity and diet.”

Farquhar said: “If we could rewire the world to suit teenagers, we’d see benefits. But there are practical difficulties in doing that. So, as a start, schools could not schedule double maths at 8.30am and perhaps make PE the first lesson of the day.”

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Casey Gerald: ‘Trump may be the most American president we’ve ever had’

Casey Gerald knew he was special from a young age. Not in a conceited or entitled way – being poor, black, gay, “a damn near orphan”, and from the wrong side of Dallas meant he would often be told otherwise – but special because his mother insisted he was. “And she was the most magical creature I ever knew,” he says, “like something from the movies.” 77bandar

Gerald’s mother was, he later recognised, a manic depressive – “with big, crinkly, burnt-blond hair [that] made her look like a high-yellow Whitney Houston”. She left home and disappeared when he was 13. Some time before, Gerald’s football star father, the son of a renowned Texas preacher, became hooked on heroin only to then carousel in and out of prison. And so this gifted, athletic teenager ended up in the care of his grandmother and older sister – until a football scholarship to Yale became his ticket “to live America from the very bottom to the very top”.

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Gerald and I talk via a video call from Los Angeles. Now 31, he is eloquent, handsome, thoughtful – the rags-to-riches poster boy for the American dream that his book, There Will Be No Miracles Here, sets out to dismantle. On the surface, his life reads as the elevator pitch for a Disney movie, the Horatio Alger myth beloved of pop culture and politicians; so much so that after meeting Gerald in 2016, former president George W Bush used his story in a speech to illustrate the plucky, inspirational, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps narrative that feeds the country’s identity.


“I think of my book as an intervention,” says Gerald. “To turn this American dream on its head is like being the warning on a pack of cigarettes: people will still smoke, but the way we’re taught to live our life in this society can kill you and it is killing people – even if they’re not dead, they are miserable, sad, depressed. We need to have a referendum on the American machine.”

What would the question be?

“How do we build a society where every kid has a shot? It’s as simple as that. One exceptional case [like mine] does not justify the suffering of 13 million American children who don’t have enough food or one in 30 who don’t have a stable place to sleep. My generation has inherited a country that doesn’t work any more.”

Gerald says he feels traumatised not only by his childhood, but by his belief that a Yale degree in political science, a prestigious MBA from Harvard Business School and a glittering career on Wall Street would save him. “For sure, it’s one of the reasons I’m in therapy.”

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Watch Casey Gerald’s TED talk, The Gospel of Doubt.
As a student, he took an internship at Lehman Brothers in the summer the bank filed for bankruptcy. Enthusiasm undimmed, after graduating he worked in economic policy and as an entrepreneur, but neither wealth nor success resolved his internal conflicts. “I had to write this book to understand what was wrong with me,” he says. “It’s a long journey.”

Gerald’s memoir is a nonlinear collection of memories and experiences, often unsentimental and stark, sometimes elegiac and elliptical. By writing about the dual burden and invisibility of being a black American man, he plays with a literary tradition that has been canonised by the likes of Frederick Douglass, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Ta-Nehisi Coates. It’s an ambitious exercise.

“There is a great tradition of people writing on the margins of society and I am grateful for them, but I had no interest in writing that kind of book,” he says. “I set out to tell the truth and understand why I and a lot of my friends were cracked up. I started this in 2016 and so the country and a lot of the world was cracked up too, but I was sad. I wouldn’t say I was having a nervous breakdown but I wasn’t far off.”

He wrote the first draft by hand, using “Morning Pages”, a writing style popularised by Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. This meant writing three pages of longhand every morning, on lined A4 paper, in a stream of consciousness. “I needed it to be a visceral exercise and lose myself in it.”

By 29, Gerald had successfully founded (and closed) MBAs Across America, a nonprofit organisation that matched business students with small businesses. Its aim was to “show that purpose and not profit is the new bottom line”. The model was made open source and taught as part of a curriculum at Harvard Business School.

According to New York magazine, Gerald seemed poised to either “run for national office in either party, become the youngest-ever CEO of a multinational business or produce and star in some viral reality show”. For now, he balks at the idea that he may consider a career in politics.

“I don’t have any political ambitions or willingness to be a politician,” he says, shaking his head. “I do believe I have been put on this planet to do real work but my priority is to be well. If I’m well, everything I do will be well.”

The experience of losing his grandmother last summer has underlined everything he wants his generation to rail against. “I was asked to write her obituary,” he explains, “and I got the draft [from his family] which was in essence: ‘she was born, she met this dude, she married him, she had seven of his children, she was a beautiful wife and mother and she died.’ And I thought: ‘holy shit, who is this? I thought she was a whole person and we’re supposed to go to her funeral and praise her for being submissive?’” He sighs. “I miss her so much. But eulogising her because she never complained? All that stuff, wow, that world is done. My sisters, my friends, my cousins, that is not a way of living for anyone.”

Gerald’s book mirrors the findings of a 2017 Pew study on the American dream that confirms “the myth of bootstrapping” – the fantastical notion that wealth and security can be achieved simply if you work and dream hard enough. The report reveals that social mobility between those at the bottom and those in the middle of American society has become increasingly harder, not easier. Given the choice, most families are happier to make ends meet and pay their bills than move up the economic ladder; this reads particularly true of African Americans who are stuck at the lowest levels and more likely to stay there and even potentially fall further behind from one generation to the next.

“Yes, this is Donald Trump’s America,” shrugs Gerald. “But let me be clear: I’m a black person, a queer person, my grandma’s grandfather was born a slave in Texas. Very few black people – if any I know – were shocked that Donald Trump was elected. Donald Trump may be the most American president we’ve ever had!

“For 200 something years we’ve been taught that the president was supposed to be better than everyone else – a Washington or Lincoln. Now is one of the few times we have a president that reflects a strong strain of depravity that has always been part of America. Life for people that Trump has been destroying with his policies – for poor people, people of colour, for immigrants – that has been intolerable and unsustainable for a long time.”

But Gerald isn’t without hope. “You can’t be a black American and not understand the extraordinary potential of the human spirit.” In any case, he believes a shift is under way. “Fundamentally, the way we are taught to be men in this country is a dead end and it’s changing – and I’m happy about that,” says Gerald.


His book, like the TED talk he delivered in 2016 titled The Gospel of Doubt, begins with the end of the world: a flashback of Millennium Eve when he was in church with his grandmother praying for the Rapture. “There’s a reason for beginning with that,” he says. “So much of my childhood was the world ending over and over again; no one called a family meeting and said: ‘Hey Case, how do you feel about your momma disappearing?’ It just happened and then you have to figure life out.”

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Figuring things out included his place in the elite institutions he later found himself in, how he might make a difference, and his sexuality.

“I didn’t want to write a dissertation on being an oppressed gay person,” he says. “I wanted to bring worthy language to the beauty of loving another boy in a society that hates gay people – but that doesn’t mean I have to hate myself.”

The neighbourhood of Oak Cliff, where Gerald grew up, has barely changed in recent years, he says. Running east of downtown’s ever newer, ever shinier skyscrapers, it is still a predominantly African American area that straddles extreme wealth and deprivation.

“A lot of white people want to make the conversation about segregation, but I grew with incredible, dedicated black teachers, I had black crossing guards to get me across the street, there were hardly any white people and it did not occur to me then that I was inferior because I was black.

“Dallas, for all its faults, is not that much different to when I grew up except that there has been a continual material assault on the poor, working class, people of colour, that makes their lives materially more impossible. But that’s not a question of identity to me, that’s socioeconomics.”

Writing and talking about his experience, which he is clear “does not fetishise or commodify black bodies for entertainment”, has come at a cost to his mental health. “I don’t think it’s cathartic; catharsis implies purging and that didn’t happen. I can just see it clearly now,” he says.

“I don’t know what it will be like for us in 30 years or whether we will be happier. What I do know is that it will be different.”

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Popcorn and pliés … ballet turns to cinemas to get children dancing

Children are no strangers to the cinema, where they can watch a dizzying array of films, from animated cartoons to blockbuster musicals to the latest rite-of-passage teen hits.

But ballet is not a genre they get out the popcorn for. And that, according to David Nixon, artistic director of Northern Ballet, is a shame.

This year, in a series of specially crafted cinematic productions at mainstream cinemas all over the UK, his dance company will try to turn on a new generation to ballet by allowing them to watch world-class dancers at their local Odeon, Cineworld or Picturehouse.

“There’s an unconscious bias towards ballet. Dads will say to their sons, oh, you don’t want to do ballet – that’s for girls,” says Nixon. “But often they’ve never even seen a ballet! Now it’s so physical, so artistic, that I think productions can be enjoyed across the genders.” qilinpoker

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“You have children-specific theatres in Europe where they’re just addressing young people. The kind of things that children like and what appeals to them and what inspires them and ignites their imagination is different to adults. I think it’s really important at that age to add as much stimulus as possible,” he adds.

Shot as 40-minute films in vibrant high-definition colours, the Bite-Sized Ballets series will kick off with an adaptation of the Tortoise & the Hare, to be followed by Elves & the Shoemaker and Three Little Pigs. At the start of each film, the story is narrated on screen and dance instructors show children how to do some of the moves to create a sort of dancealong.

The ballet then begins, and like a live performance there are no words, just an original musical score.

How you use your body as a tool is an important part of the education, says Nixon. “Part of the problem with kids sitting in front of iPads all the time is that they’ve stopped using their physicality; you need to engage your body as well in this life and learn how expressive it can be and how it can serve you,” he says. Nixon believes exposure to ballet is important to children’s creative and intellectual development, but getting them into live shows is a barrier. So the cinema, he hopes, is a way to make it more accessible nationally.

Daniel de Andrade, the films’ choreographer, says you inevitably miss some of the “magic of live theatre”, but believes the story-telling nature of the ballets translates well to the cinema. “With eight different cameras all over the place, some of them really, really close, you feel like you’re almost on stage with the dancers,” he says.

One of those dancers, Gavin McCaig, has been involved in Northern Ballet’s live children’s productions since they started seven years ago. He wears a huge shell on his back as the tortoise (made pliable so he can still do the moves). “I think anyone being exposed to theatre and dance, at an early age, can go on to have a new perspective about what they want to do in life. Maybe they want to get involved in the arts, or they see that you can go to dance classes and it will lead to something,” he says.

McCaig, who fell in love with dance after seeing a production of Cats, aged six, says cinema dilutes the perceived elitism of ballet. “The cinema has none of the stigma that sometimes surrounds going to the theatre, it’s a cheap, accessible place,” he says.

Shelagh O’Connell, the head of English at a west London school, agrees. “If you can’t be there, seeing a theatrical production on screen is the next best thing,” she says.

Kaylee Marko and, right, Gavin McCaig in Northern Ballet’s Tortoise & the Hare.
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Kaylee Marko and, right, Gavin McCaig in Northern Ballet’s Tortoise & the Hare. Photograph: Brian Slater/Northern Ballet
O’Connell says children’s exposure to theatre has suffered in recent years not only because it is expensive for families, but because schools, too, are more cash-strapped. “Arts and dance and drama motivate children and fill them with confidence but giving them a first-hand experience of the theatre is really hard now,” she says.


It’s a concern, she adds, that the “cultural privilege” of private schools seems to be growing. “Private schools have their own theatres, drama departments, and continuously promote those things. It’s no wonder private school people are dominating the profession,” she says.

Nixon agrees there is a disparity between private and state schools, but says dance and the arts are “fantastic careers” for young people from more disadvantaged backgrounds. “They tend to be creative, and ballet is something you can do without a lot of higher education schooling,” he says.

Last week a report by the Fabian Society found that two-thirds (68%) of state primary school teachers in England believe there is less arts education now than in 2010, and half (49%) say the quality of what remains has decreased.

Northern Ballet’s artistic associate, de Andrade, hopes the cinema will breathe new life into ballet. His dancers perform 130 shows a year all over the country, he says, so he sees close-up the impact theatre can have.

“When the tortoise and the hare cross the finish line, the hare losing, the tortoise tumbling slow motion to victory, the children go absolutely berserk, the parents too. They laugh, they cry, they cheer, it’s like they’re living the story as it happens,” he says.

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Inner London students placed in excluded pupils’ schools almost double national rate

The proportion of students in schools for excluded pupils in inner London is almost double the national rate, according to new analysis which raises concerns over the increasing exclusion rates from schools in England.

Research found that one in 116 pupils in the 13 inner city boroughs of the capital are in schools for excluded students – rising to one in 54 in one London borough, compared with the national figure of one in 196 pupils.

The rate was calculated by looking at headcount of students in pupil referral units as a proportion of all secondary school pupils.

This latest research was carried out by a new education charity called The Difference, set up to train a new generation of specialist teachers to help stem the flow of excluded pupils out of mainstream schools, first in London and then across England.

Kiran Gill, charity founder and fellow of the Institute for Public Policy Research, said: “I think we need to ask seriously whether the London story of school improvement has left some of the most vulnerable behind.”

London’s schools are among the highest performing in the country, having undergone a radical transformation as a result of the London Challenge programme which saw huge improvements in the capital’s schools between 2003 and 2011. semangatpoker

However experts in the sector are concerned about the proportion of pupils who end up leaving high-achieving mainstream schools in inner London and moving into pupil referral units (PRUs) or other alternative provision (AP) for excluded students.

School exclusion rates in England are coming under increasing scrutiny from government and the schools watchdog Ofsted. Last year saw the third successive annual increase, which ministers acknowledge is a concern, though they point out the numbers are still far fewer than the peak 10 years ago.

According to official government data, Blackpool has the highest proportion of students in schools for excluded children with one in every 30 secondary school pupils in a PRU – or 3.3% – which is six and half times the national average.

But many of the inner London boroughs are among those with the highest proportions in England – in Kensington & Chelsea it is one in 54 pupils in a PRU (1.8%), in Islington, it is one in 65 (1.5%), in Camden one in 76 (1.3%) and in Haringey one in 84 (1.2%). The national average proportion of children in PRUs is 0.51%.

Education secretary Damian Hinds is due to appear before the education select committee next week when he is expected to be quizzed about rising exclusion rates, ahead of the publication of the government’s review into school exclusion, chaired by Edward Timpson, which is expected in the next few weeks.

According to Gill, the most vulnerable children with the most complex needs are disproportionately affected by exclusion, and London has large numbers of them.

“Exclusion is correlated with multiple and overlapping layers of disadvantage,” she said. “Growing up in a low-income household, but also having other strains on a child outside of the school gates, like criminal exploitation, grooming and gangs. We know that’s a particular problem in London at the moment.”

With mounting concern about the increase in knife crime in the capital, there have been reports that some gangs are giving knives to pupils in order to get them excluded, thereby making those children more vulnerable to gang pressures.

“In London we’ve got some really exceptional PRUs where mainstream teachers know that if they do refer there, then their students will receive a good quality education,” said Gill. However, the overall picture is bleak. Nationally pupils in PRUs underachieve on a spectacular scale – while 59.1% of pupils will manage a 9-4 pass in English and maths GCSEs, in PRUs and AP it’s just 4.3%.

“I don’t think it’s fair to say that London has some of the least inclusive schools, but I do think in some local authorities where PRU and AP populations are high but quality is low, we need to seriously prioritise both improving AP quality and reducing school exclusion.”

Gill’s new charity will launch a Teach First-style fast-track career programme on Saturday, inviting applications from top quality teachers to train for leadership roles in the sector serving excluded pupils. Successful candidates will spend two years in some of the capital’s best schools for excluded pupils, returning to mainstream with new skills to support vulnerable pupils and reduce exclusions.

Sir Tim Brighouse, architect of the London Challenge, will be among those speaking at the launch. “The greatest challenge facing schools is the pandemic in mental ill health among young people,” he said.

“The Difference leaders’ programme will create a new generation of school leaders with skills to support the city’s most vulnerable learners, and to reduce school exclusion.”

The Department for Education said since 2010 it had taken decisive action to empower teachers to tackle poor behaviour in schools. “Permanently excluding a child from school should only ever be a last resort, but it is wrong to assume that all children in pupil referral units and alternative provision have been excluded from other schools,” a spokesman said.

“The department firmly believes that all children, regardless of the setting, should receive a good education and that is why we have committed to reforming alternative provision. We have already made progress and have launched a £4m AP innovation fund which is delivering projects to improve outcomes for children in alternative provision.”

‘Here, they are the ones who adapt to your needs’
Dré Clinton-Barnes, 15, was just 23 minutes into his introductory day at Mossbourne Community Academy in Hackney when he fell out with a teacher and was asked to leave. It was an inauspicious start.

He and his mother met with staff the following day and Dré returned to classes, but his school career at the celebrated London academy was beset by detentions and isolations. “I talk a lot. I like to have the last word all the time.”

His home life was complex, with periods in foster care. He kept running away and ended up being placed in a care home in Ashford in Kent where he cried himself to sleep every night for two weeks. “After that it was calm.”

Dré was home-schooled, then got a place at a local secondary school which lost patience with him when he got into a fight. After he was robbed at knife-point, his mother brought him back to London where he struggled to find a school that would accept him.

He is now a student at Wac Arts college in Camden, north London – an alternative provision free school for 14- to 19-year-olds, specialising in creative arts and media – and is thriving.

“The schools I’ve been to don’t really have patience,” said Dré. “They have a thousand other kids to deal with.” He doesn’t blame them. “I was distracting the class,” he said. In any case things have ended up well.

“I live by a philosophy – everything happens for a reason. Here it’s nice. They have more time for students because there’s less students here and teachers explain the work more.”

Giulianna Barbosa, 15, has had a similarly disrupted education. She comes from a complex background and has dyslexia. She went to four different primary schools and her time in mainstream secondary school was spent mainly in isolation.

“My family says that trouble finds me. I come out of class and there’s a fight. I’m the one that gets isolation for it and I’ve got nothing to do with it,” she said. “I had big arguments with teachers. I kept on being accused of stuff that was nothing to do with me.”

Like Dré, Giulianna was never permanently excluded but was the subject of a managed move to Wac Arts college, which suits her interest in creative arts and provides a more flexible approach than mainstream.

“They don’t have patience,” she says of mainstream schools. “They never understand. They are very straight. They will not bend for anything. Here [at Wac], they are the ones that adapt to your needs, rather than you adapt to them.”

College principal James Fornara says the rise in exclusions is directly linked to the way schools are now measured through school league tables, which means teachers are under pressure to focus on tests and getting pupils through qualifications. “Young people like Dré and Giulianna who have complicated and challenging lives can’t fit into those boxes.”

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‘A mother tells me her son joined Isis and is now dead’

After the school run, I rush over to Westminster for a series of meetings with MPs to discuss counter-terror issues facing the UK. While I am out of the office a member of my team alerts me to some hate mail that features vile imagery of women of colour and faith being hanged, accompanied by the text: “You’re next.” I head straight to the office and report it to the police. It’s not the first time this has happened, and I fear for my safety and that of my staff and our beneficiaries, a lot of whom are Muslim women. I can’t help but question the society we live in where people threaten, hurt and kill others based on the colour of their skin, gender or faith. dominoqiu

Today I am delivering a series of workshops to 180 students. Since surviving the 7 July London attacks, engaging with communities to prevent and tackle radicalisation has been what’s driven me. It can be disheartening hearing how many children suffer Islamophobic and racist abuse. Additionally, some of their peers have travelled to Syria to join Islamic State, and I am concerned by the impact this may have on them. To know the friend that you used to play football with is now in Syria can only be detrimental to young minds.

Sajda Mughal
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Sajda Mughal: ‘It can be disheartening hearing how many children suffer racist abuse.’ Photograph: JAN Trust

I have a call from abroad first thing with an international minister, to discuss counter-terrorism and online extremism. Once the children are at school I go to our headquarters. We are running daily classes on topics including English, fashion and employability, as well as benefits workshops. Today we had a beneficiary who was very distressed. I left what I was doing and found out that she was suffering domestic violence at home. Mid-afternoon I sit down with the team and catch up on a new initiative we are about to launch. Heavy rain begins to fall and the centre starts to flood. We have to sort the flooding out, with all hands on deck to clear up. I am then on the phone to Haringey council, forgetting I have funding deadline to meet at 6pm. Fortunately I get it in at 5.57pm.

I deliver a refresher session for a programme we run designed to educate and empower Muslim women and mothers to prevent and tackle online extremism. Halfway through, a mother tells us that her son joined Isis and is now dead. It’s a sombre moment: the whole room is in tears.

After the school run, I head into town to deliver a presentation to the board of a major company on overcoming adversity. It receives a great reception, and even has some people in tears after hearing the human impact of the stories we come across, but I can’t help but question if they would see the value of funding our charity’s vital work. In the afternoon I chase the response to the hate mail we received at the beginning of the week, and am advised by the police to get panic alarms and not take my children onsite with me anymore.

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Britain’s private school problem: it’s time to talk

While many agree that private education is at the root of inequality in Britain, open discussion about the issue remains puzzlingly absent. In their new book, historian David Kynaston and economist Francis Green set out the case for change

he existence in Britain of a flourishing private-school sector not only limits the life chances of those who attend state schools but also damages society at large, and it should be possible to have a sustained and fully inclusive national conversation about the subject. Whether one has been privately educated, or has sent or is sending one’s children to private schools, or even if one teaches at a private school, there should be no barriers to taking part in that conversation. Everyone has to live – and make their choices – in the world as it is, not as one might wish it to be. That seems an obvious enough proposition. Yet in a name-calling culture, ever ready with the charge of hypocrisy, this reality is all too often ignored.

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For the sake of avoiding misunderstanding, we should state briefly our own backgrounds and choices. One of our fathers was a solicitor in Brighton, the other was an army officer rising to the rank of lieutenant-colonel; we were both privately educated; we both went to Oxford University; our children have all been educated at state grammar schools; in neither case did we move to the areas (Kent and south-west London) because of the existence of those schools; and in recent years we have become increasingly preoccupied with the private-school issue, partly as citizens concerned with Britain’s social and democratic wellbeing, partly as an aspect of our professional work (one as an economist, the other as a historian).

In Britain, private schools – including their fundamental unfairness – remain the elephant in the room. It would be an almost immeasurable benefit if this were no longer the case. Education is different. Its effects are deep, long-term and run from one generation to the next. Those with enough money are free to purchase and enjoy expensive holidays, cars, houses and meals. But education is not just another material asset: it is fundamental to creating who we are.


What particularly defines British private education is its extreme social exclusivity. Only about 6% of the UK’s school population attend such schools, and the families accessing private education are highly concentrated among the affluent. At every rung of the income ladder there are a small number of private-school attenders; but it is only at the very top, above the 95th rung of the ladder – where families have an income of at least £120,000 – that there are appreciable numbers of private-school children. At the 99th rung – families with incomes upwards of £300,000 – six out of every 10 children are at private school. A glance at the annual fees is relevant here. The press focus tends to be on the great and historic boarding schools – such as Eton (basic fee £40,668 in 2018–19), Harrow (£40,050) and Winchester (£39,912) – but it is important to see the private sector in the less glamorous round, and stripped of the extra cost of boarding. In 2018 the average day fees at prep schools were, at £13,026, around half the income of a family on the middle rung of the income ladder. For secondary school, and even more so sixth forms, the fees are appreciably higher. In short, access to private schooling is, for the most part, available only to wealthy households. Indeed, the small number of income-poor families going private can only do so through other sources: typically, grandparents’ assets and/or endowment-supported bursaries from some of the richest schools. Overwhelmingly, pupils at private schools are rubbing shoulders with those from similarly well-off backgrounds.

They arrange things somewhat differently elsewhere: among affluent countries, Britain’s private‑school participation is especially exclusive to the rich. In Germany, for instance, it is also low, but unlike in Britain is generously state-funded, more strongly regulated and comes with modest fees. In France, private schools are mainly Catholic schools permitted to teach religion: the state pays the teachers and the fees are very low. In the US there is a very small sector of non-sectarian private schools with high fees, but most private schools are, again, religious, with much lower fees than here. Britain’s private-school configuration is, in short, distinctive.

Some of the public figures of the past 20 years to have attended private schools (l-r from top): Tony Blair, former Bank of England governor Eddie George, Princess Diana, Prince Charles, Charles Spencer, businesswoman Martha Lane Fox, Dominic West, James Blunt, former Northern Rock chairman Matt Ridley, Boris Johnson, David Cameron, George Osborne, Jeremy Paxman, fashion journalist Alexandra Shulman, footballer Frank Lampard, Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn and cricketer Joe Root.
Some of the public figures of the past 20 years to have attended private schools (l-r from top): Tony Blair, former Bank of England governor Eddie George, Princess Diana, Prince Charles, Charles Spencer, businesswoman Martha Lane Fox, Dominic West, James Blunt, former Northern Rock chairman Matt Ridley, Boris Johnson, David Cameron, George Osborne, Jeremy Paxman, fashion journalist Alexandra Shulman, footballer Frank Lampard, Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn and cricketer Joe Root. Composite: Rex, Getty

And so what, accordingly, does Britain look like in the 21st century? A brief but expensive history, 1997–2018, offers some guide. As the millennium approaches, New Labour under Tony Blair (Fettes) sweeps to power. The Bank of England under Eddie George (Dulwich) gets independence. The chronicles of Hogwarts school begin. A nation grieves for Diana (West Heath); Charles (Gordonstoun) retrieves her body; her brother (Eton) tells it as it is. Martha Lane Fox (Oxford High) blows a dotcom bubble. Charlie Falconer (Glenalmond) masterminds the Millennium Dome. Will Young (Wellington) becomes the first Pop Idol. The Wire’s Jimmy McNulty (Eton) sorts out Baltimore. James Blunt (Harrow) releases the bestselling album of the decade. Northern Rock collapses under the chairmanship of Matt Ridley (Eton). Boris Johnson (Eton) enters City Hall in London. The Cameron-Osborne (Eton-St Paul’s) axis takes over the country; Nick Clegg (Westminster) runs errands. Life staggers on in austerity Britain mark two. Jeremy Clarkson (Repton) can’t stop revving up; Jeremy Paxman (Malvern) still has an attitude problem; Alexandra Shulman (St Paul’s Girls) dictates fashion; Paul Dacre (University College School) makes middle England ever more Mail-centric; Alan Rusbridger (Cranleigh) makes non-middle England ever more Guardian-centric; judge Brian Leveson (Liverpool College) fails to nail the press barons; Justin Welby (Eton) becomes top mitre man; Frank Lampard (Brentwood) becomes a Chelsea legend; Joe Root (Worksop) takes guard; Henry Blofeld (Eton) spots a passing bus. The Cameron-Osborne axis sees off Labour, but not Boris Johnson+Nigel Farage (Dulwich)+Arron Banks (Crookham Court). Ed Balls (Nottingham High) takes to the dance floor. Theresa May (St Juliana’s) and Jeremy Corbyn (Castle House prep school) face off. Prince George (Thomas’s Battersea) and Princess Charlotte (Willcocks) start school.

The statistics also tell a story. The proportion of prominent people in every area who have been educated privately is striking, in some cases grotesque. From judges (74% privately educated) through to MPs (32%), the numbers tell us of a society where bought educational privilege also buys lifetime privilege and influence. “The dogged persistence of the British ‘old boy”’ is how a 2017 study describes the traditional dominance of private-school alumni in British society. This reveals the fruits of exploring well over a century of biographical data in Who’s Who, that indispensable annual guide to the composition of the British elite. For those born between the 1830s and 1920s, roughly 50-60% went to private schools; for those born between the 1930s and 1960s, the proportion was roughly 45-50%. Among the new entrants to Who’s Who in the 21st century, the proportion of the privately educated has remained constant at around 45%. Going to one of the schools in the prestigious Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) still gives a 35 times better chance of entering Who’s Who than if one has not attended an HMC school; while those attending the historic crème de la crème, the so-called Clarendon Schools (Charterhouse, Eton, Harrow, Merchant Taylors’, Rugby, St Paul’s, Shrewsbury, Westminster, Winchester), are 94 times more likely to join the elite than any ordinary British-educated person.


Even if one’s child never achieves celebrity, sending him or her to a private school is usually a shrewd investment – indeed, increasingly so, to judge by the relevant longitudinal studies of two different generations. Take first the cohort born in 1958: in terms of those with comparable social backgrounds, demographic characteristics and early tested skills, and different only in what type of school they attended when they were 11, by the time they were in their early 30s (around 1990) the privately educated were earning 7% more than the state-educated. Compare that with those born in 1970: by the same stage (the early 2000s), the gap between the two categories – again, similar in all other respects – had risen to 21% in favour of the privately educated.

The only realistic starting point for an analysis lies with the assertion that, in the modern era, most of these schools are of high quality, offering a good educational environment. They deploy very substantial resources; respect the need for a disciplined environment for learning; and give copious attention to generating a positive and therefore motivating experience. This argument – the resources point aside – is not an altogether easy one for the left to accept, against a background of it having historically been undecided whether (in the words of one Labour education minister’s senior civil servant in the 1960s) “these schools are so bloody they ought to be abolished, or so marvellous they ought to be made available to everyone”. We do not necessarily accept that all private schools are “marvellous”; but by and large we recognise that, in their own terms of fulfilling what their customers demand, they deliver the goods.

Above all, private schools succeed when it comes to preparing their pupils for public exams – the gateways to universities. In 2018 the proportion of private-school students achieving A*s and As at A-level was 48%, compared with a national average of 26%; while for GCSEs, in terms of achieving an A or grade seven or above, the respective figures were 63% and 23%. At both stages, GCSE and A-level, the gap is invariably huge.

Harrovians Peter Wagner and Thomas Dyson and local schoolboys George Salmon, Jack Catlin and George Young photographed outside Lord’s cricket ground in 1937 by Jimmy Sime.
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A famous image of school privilege: Harrovians Peter Wagner and Thomas Dyson and local schoolboys George Salmon, Jack Catlin and George Young photographed outside Lord’s cricket ground in 1937 by Jimmy Sime. Photograph: Jimmy Sime/Allsport
There are, of course, some very real contextual factors to these bald and striking figures. Any study must take account of where the children are coming from. Nevertheless, the picture presented by several studies is one of relatively small but still significant effects at every stage of education; and over the course of a school career, the cumulative effects build up to a notable gain in academic achievements.

Yet academic learning and exam results are not all there is to a quality education, and indeed there is more on offer from private schools. At Harrow, for example, its vision is that the school “prepares boys… for a life of learning, leadership, service and personal fulfilment”. It offers “a wide range of high-level extracurricular activities, through which boys discover latent talent, develop individual character and gain skills in leadership and teamwork”. Lesser-known schools trumpet something similar. Cumbria’s Austin Friars, for example, highlights a well-rounded education, proclaiming that its alumni will be “creative problem-solvers… effective communicators… and confident, modest and articulate members of society who embody the Augustinian values of unity, truth and love…” menang ceme

If, on the whole, Britain’s private schools provide a quality education in both academic and broader terms, how do they deliver that? Four areas stand out.

First, especially small class sizes are a major boon for pupils and teachers alike. Second, the range of extracurricular activities and the intensive cultivation of “character” and “confidence” are important. Third, the high – and therefore exclusive – price tag sustains a peer group of children mainly drawn from supportive and affluent families. And fourth, to achieve the best possible exam results and the highest rate of admission to the top universities, “working the system” comes into play. Far greater resources are available for diagnosing special needs, challenging exam results and guiding university applications. Underpinning all these areas of advantage are the high revenues from fees: Britain’s private schools can deploy resources whose order of magnitude for each child is approximately three times what is available at the average state school.

The relevant figures for university admissions are thus almost entirely predictable. Perhaps inevitably, by far the highest-profile stats concern Oxbridge, where between 2010 and 2015 an average of 43% of offers from Oxford and 37% from Cambridge were made to privately educated students, and there has been no sign since of any significant opening up. Top schools, top universities: the pattern of privilege is systemic, and not just confined to the dreaming spires. Going to a top university, it hardly needs adding, signals a material difference, especially in Britain where universities are quite severely ranked in a hierarchy.

Ultimately, does any of this matter? Why can one not simply accept that these are high-quality schools that provide our future leaders with a high-quality education? Given the thorniness – and often invidiousness – of the issue, it is a tempting proposition. Yet for a mixture of reasons – political and economic, as well as social – we believe that the issue represents in contemporary Britain an unignorable problem that urgently needs to be addressed and, if possible, resolved. The words of Alan Bennett reverberate still. Private education is not fair, he famously declared in June 2014 during a sermon at King’s College Chapel, Cambridge. “Those who provide it know it. Those who pay for it know it. Those who have to sacrifice in order to purchase it know it. And those who receive it know it, or should.”

Consider these three fundamental facts: one in every 16 pupils goes to a private school; one in every seven teachers works at a private school; one pound in every six of all school expenditure in England is for the benefit of private-school pupils.

The crucial point to make here is that although extra resources for each school (whether private or state) are always valuable, that value is at a diminishing rate the wealthier the school is. Each extra teacher or assistant helps, but if you already have two assistants in a class, a third one adds less value than the second. Given the very unequal distribution of academic resources entailed by the British private school system, it is unarguable that a more egalitarian distribution of the same resources would enhance the total educational achievement. There is, moreover, the sheer extravagance. Multiple theatres, large swimming pools and beautiful surroundings with expensive upkeep are, of course, nice to have and look suitably seductive on sales brochures – but add relatively little educational value.

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This Woman Reads 100 Books In A Month

Last month, Therese embarked on a challenge to read 100 nonfiction titles with the Blinkist app. Here’s how she did.

Hi, I’m Therese, a business development manager living in Berlin, Germany. Last month, I managed to read over 100 nonfiction titles in psychology, politics, and leadership. I know it sounds crazy, but I really did.

Here’s how.

It started with a bet. A colleague challenged me to read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story Of Success in two hours.

As determined as I was, I just couldn’t meet the deadline. I got through the first few chapters relatively quickly but found it impossible to finish the book in the designated 2 hours. So, I lost the bet, but it gave me an idea! I needed to find a better way to consume nonfiction books.

I found several websites, blogs and apps that transform books into ‘bite-sized’ content. But in the end, I opted for the Blinkist app. I want to read more nonfiction books—I find it really useful to read the key takeaways from lots of books to help me get a feeling for what’s an absolute must for my to-read list! Blinkist is one of the first apps that transform books into ‘bite-sized’ content. As one of the first services to turn nonfiction books into quick reads, it has over 3,000 bestselling titles in its library. (including Outliers: The Story of Success — aka, the book that defeated me!).

To be honest, I was skeptical at first, but I learned some things that put my mind at ease. For example, I learned that in order to produce quality insights from every book, they have over 100 literary experts hard at work.

I also loved that the app has an audio function which allows me to listen to great ideas throughout the day. So, with this cool new sidekick, I set a fresh goal for myself — I’m very competitive like that!— to read the key insights from 100 books in just one month.

So, how did I do? I did it! I read 102 titles to be exact. It might sound like a lot, but the Blinkist packs take only 10-15 minutes to read. I read roughly 3 titles a day, mostly during commutes. And I learned so many cool new things. Here are some insights that I found the most interesting: Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely 15 min reading time 130k reads audio version available Get the key ideas on Blinkist I learned that if I go out with a group of friends for dinner, I should order my meal first.

This will make me happier with my choice. Sounds crazy, but it’s true! (Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely) Bulletproof Diet by Dave Asprey 16 min reading time 130k reads audio version available Get the key ideas on Blinkist I haven’t tried this one yet, but supposedly it’s better for my health to put butter in my coffee instead of milk. (Bulletproof Diet by Dave Asprey) Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá 16 min reading time 99.7k reads audio version available Get the key ideas on Blinkist I learned that before the onset of agriculture, women used to have more sexual freedom than men. (Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha)

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben 16 min reading time 18.4k reads audio version available Get the key ideas on Blinkist I can never look at trees the same way again. Apparently, they have personalities and are able to learn. This is why every tree sheds their leaves differently! (The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben) And I found a new favorite author! While I really enjoyed Dale Carnegie’s books — they’re all self-help classics — and Richard Dawkins’ books about the human race are also very interesting, my new favorite author is definitely Dan Ariely. 99ceme

His book Predictably Irrational on human behavior has given me incredible insights that really help me in my job. Now, I want you to take on the challenge! Yes, you heard me! I used to burn a lot of time on social media and Netflix. My job is exhausting, so by the time I leave work, my brain is pretty much useless.

Reading a book on the Blinkist app however, is like a snack for my brain. I’m able to get the main learnings from a 400-page book in minutes. I’m happy that I’m doing something productive with my time.

Everyday, I wake up wiser than the day before. If you want to get wiser, too, then I challenge you to try and beat my 102-title record! Check out the Blinkist app and start your reading adventure!

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England’s schools face staffing crisis as EU teachers stay at home

Fears that uncertainty over Brexit will hit language learning after 25% drop in applications from EU citizens

The number of teachers from the EU wanting to work in England has slumped in the past year, with fears that Brexit will exacerbate staff shortages and hit language learning.

Teachers from EU countries applying for the right to work in English schools fell by a quarter in a single year, according to official data. There were 3,525 people from member states awarded qualified teacher status (QTS) in 2017-18, which allows them to work in most state and special schools. A 25% fall on the previous year, it included a 17% drop in applicants from Spain, an 18% drop from Greece and a 33% drop from Poland.

The fall comes after repeated warnings of a staffing shortage. Last summer the Education Policy Institute said that teaching shortages would become severe, with bigger classes and falling expertise as a result.

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Recruitment targets were missed last year for all subjects except biology, English, history and physical education. Teacher-training applications are also down last month compared with a year earlier, according to the National Association of Head Teachers. boyaqq

Ian Hartwright, senior policy adviser at the union, said: “We found from our work that there is no evidence to suggest they [EU teachers] are displacing UK teachers – in fact, they were probably filling gaps and mitigating a recruitment and retention crisis in teaching here and positively improving the lives of young people in England and the UK.”

Modern languages could be among the subjects most affected by the fall in European applications to teach in England, he added.

The Labour party said plans for a post-Brexit immigration policy with a salary threshold of £30,000 for visa eligibility would hit teaching.

“The Tories have created a crisis in teacher recruitment and retention and their shambolic Brexit negotiations are making things worse,” said shadow schools minister Mike Kane.

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: “There are more than 450,000 teachers in schools across the country – that’s over 10,000 more than in 2010. The proportion of people entering postgraduate initial teacher training from overseas has been stable since 2016.

“The education secretary has made clear his commitment to recruiting more teachers into our schools, and our upcoming Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy will also help address this.”

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