Extra time in exams, the worrying mental health of British millennials and a toy doll that could be used to spy on children
A wide-reaching survey commissioned by the Varkey Foundation, involving 21,000 young people (aged 15-21) from 20 countries, found Brits had the second worst mental health overall, only ahead of Japan. 54% said money was among their greatest causes of anxiety, and British millennials were among the least likely to prioritise making a contribution to wider society – instead focusing on ‘working hard and getting on with life’. However, a third of young brits felt that the government should make it easier for immigrants to live and work legally in the UK, and two thirds believe that the UK is a good place to live. Canada and Nigeria scored highest in this measure, with 87% in both believing their country is a good place to live.
A separate report details that the lack of mental health provision at Scottish schools is leaving students in distress, and at serious risk. Scotland is currently the only UK country with no national strategy for school-based counselling services (as Cami Moorjani mentioned in our interview with her this week). This comes amid Theresa May’s plans for mental health first-aid training for teachers, peer mentoring and an initiative to tackle the stigma around mental health problems.
Leading academics and student representatives have expressed concern about widespread rising anti-Semitism on university campuses. After a string of recent incidents, they have urged universities to take swift action. This has included Holocaust denial leaflets, fascist stickers and swastikas etched on and around campuses. Incidents have been reported at Cambridge, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Sussex and Exeter, fuelling anxiety among Jewish students, especially as it follows similar cases in York, Birmingham and Sheffield Hallam last year. The rise in reported incidents is thought to be part of a wider spike in hate crime targeting Jews and other minority communities, in no doubt partially attributable to the political victories of Trump and Brexit.
Independent schools have been criticised over the revelation that as many as one in five students were given extra time for GCSE/A Level exams last year. This is 8% higher than the 12% of students given additional time at state schools. Former shadow education minister Lucy Powell said: “These figures don’t make any sense… Clearly the evidence shows that there has been a trend developing for many years, where the independent sector is being much more effective at getting special access arrangements. Powell claimed independent schools are unfairly benefiting from a “double advantage”, adding “The discrepancy is alarming… you shouldn’t get an exam advantage because you pay for it.”
It has been revealed that 29% of support staff at schools, including assistant teachers and librarians, are being forced to carry out the full range of duties of a teacher, due to funding shortages at schools. In many cases, teachers are leaving and not getting replaced, or support teachers are deemed too expensive to plug gaps when there are absences. Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of ATL, the education union, said: “As these results show, support staff are feeling the pressure to actually teach lessons and to plug the gap in staff shortages… As the Government continues to squeeze school budgets, there simply aren’t enough funds to replace staff”.
German parents have been encouraged to destroy or return any ‘My Friend Cayla’ dolls they may have purchased. The interactive dolls use an internet connection to search for answers to children’s questions. However, there are concerns that an insecure bluetooth connection in the toy could be explouted by hackers, and used to listen in on – or even speak to – children. The EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Vera Jourova, said: “I’m worried about the impact of connected dolls on children’s privacy and safety.” Complaints have been filed by US and EU consumer groups, but manufacturer Genesis Toys are yet to comment on the German warning.
Andrew Fisher, heateacher at Frensham Heights School in Surrey, is sleeping rough in the woods to raise money for All Saints, Frensham’s Malawian partner school. He hopes to raise £10,000, while teaching his students about the value of direct charity, having already taken over a hundred pupils to help build and improve the other disadvantaged schools Frensham supports.
By David Bard
David is a Minerva Pro Tutor who specialises in humanities subjects at A Level and is a trained expert in the 7 + and 11 + exams. Outside of tutoring, David writes blogs about everything that’s trending in education.
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