Education News Weekly – 17th November, 2016

November 18, 2016 by Minerva Tutors,

The importance of philosophy, the damaging risks of social media for young people and how Google could be revolutionising UK classrooms

Google CEO Sundar Pichai this week announced plans to bring virtual reality to 1 million UK students. The technology giants are also offering a free 5-hour training session for teachers who want to use the technology, which will be available in 100 UK cities, and have developed the Google Expeditions app, which will allow classes to go on ‘virtual reality field trips’. Mr Pichai said:  ‘Virtual reality can spark students’ imagination and help them learn about topics like how blood flows through the human body or the impact climate change is having on the Great Barrier Reef, in an engaging and immersive way,’ adding that he had received unanimously positive feedback from students and teachers alike, after a pilot scheme using cardboard headsets.

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In what could be seen as a rare positive step, health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said Britain needs to have a ‘national conversation’ about the impact of social media on the mental health of young people. Hunt implored the ‘fantastically profitable’ social media companies to do more to help with issues such as cyberbullying and sexting, and be part of finding a solution to the issues they are causing. Speaking at an Education Policy Institute event, Hunt said the ‘constant comparison’ encouraged by social media is ‘not healthy’.

A recent Ofcom survey of 2,059 UK families reveals that as children increasingly spend more time on the internet, a significant number are encountering hate speech. The survey also reveals that a quarter of 8 to 15 year olds are overly trusting of Google for reliable information, believing the results to be hand-selected by some kind of authority figure. One in three internet users between the ages of 12 and 15 say they encountered hate speech in the last year, that being defined as ‘anything hateful on the internet…directed at a particular group of people, based on, for instance, their gender, religion, disability, sexuality or gender identity?’.

Economic background was the greatest indicator of whether or not children had encountered such material online, with those from the three lowest socioeconomic groups twice as likely as those from a wealthier background. However, the findings suggest that parents are more and more aware of their children’s online safety, with an increasing number talking to them about, employing network-level filters and adding locks to prevent children from downloading apps when unsupervised.

Schools in England could be facing a shortage of up to 19,000 head teachers by 2022 if there isn’t significant improvement in key areas such as inconsistent recruitment, a lack of professional support or a culture of development and feedback, and some of the stress and challenges attached to the job. The report by three leading education organisations, including TeachFirst, estimated there could be a need for 14,000 – 19,000 heads, deputy heads and assistant heads by 2022, with retirements and teachers quitting the profession early also part of the problem. However, the Department for Education refuted the report’s figures, citing the 68, 000 full time education leaders currently working in state schools, while accepting the need to work with the profession ‘to develop excellent leaders in challenging schools’.

A children’s charity has announced that the current system of reading assessments is failing, and have devised a new model, based on the fact that enjoyment is what drives the core skills of reading. The Read On. Get On campaign, a coalition of children’s charities, produced a report concluding that we should move away from a definition of ‘reading well’ as only the mastering of decoding and comprehension skills – and instead place greater emphasis on motivation, enjoyment of books and engagement with language and stories.

Author and former children’s Malorie Blackman, said: “The benefits of reading for enjoyment are boundless for children; not only can it help to improve vocabularies and fuel imaginations, but it can also help children to do well at school in all areas and give them the building blocks to succeed in life’.

The charity LGBT Youth Scotland reported that lesbian gay, bisexual and transgender student’s in the country are still experiencing high rates of bullying in schools. Fergus McMillan, the chief executive of LGBT Youth Scotland, said: “We want to see an education where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people report feeling included in their school, have their lives reflected in the curriculum and are free from homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying”. A spokeswoman for the Scottish government discussed the Respect for All campaign, ‘the refreshed national anti-bullying strategy for children and young people’, which has been developed alongside charities to help tackle the issue.

Dr. John L. Taylor, the director of learning, teaching and innovation at Cranleigh School in Surrey, has argued that Philosophy should have a greater place on the school curriculum. Taylor praised subjects such as political philosophy, epistemology, ethics, metaphysics and philosophy of science for giving students time to think, and equipping young people with the ability to think for themselves. He believes that philosophy should be taught more widely, have its own GCSE, and that philosophical questioning should be used more commonly in the teaching of other subject. How else will the students of tomorrow be able to address Socrates’ age-old question: how, then, should we live?

And finally… a Norfolk school has come in for criticism, being branded ‘pathetic’ and ‘ridiculous’ for banning the bottle-flip challenge over ‘safety reasons’. Attempting said challenge, now a global craze, involves flipping a half full bottle of water and getting it to land flat on its base (as one of my tutees successfully showed me a few weeks ago), will now get you a detention at North Walsham High School in Norfolk. The school ‘did not want to spoil the fun’, but felt the ban was necessary due to a couple of minor plastic bottle-related injuries.

What next? Oh yeah. The mannequin challenge


For more information:

Google bringing virtual reality to British schools – Times Education Supplement (TES)

Jeremy Hunt warns of social media mental health impact – TES

Young people exposed to hate speech online – BBC

Lack of school heads in England could be critical by 2022 – Guardian

Children’s charities seeking to overhaul reading assessments – TES

LGBT bullying rates still high in Scottish schools – BBC

Cranleigh director of learning encourages wider engagement with philosophy – TES

Norfolk school bans bottle-flip challenge – BBC


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 creative writing and everything that’s trending in education.


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