University tuition fees, argumentative youngsters and what Malala did next…
Tuition Fees – BBC, Telegraph, Independent
One of education’s hottest potatoes has been back in the news, with an IFS report revealing that students can expect to leave university with debts of up to £57,000, taking into account the new 6.1% interest rates (Minerva’s blogger can confirm this figure, after recently receiving a harrowing letter from the Student Loans Company). Unsurprisingly, this means that, according to the IFS, over three quarters of students (77.4%) will now never pay back their loan in full. Compared to the previous system, the figure was only 44.2%. The damage to students from Tory policies has been so extreme that Lord Adonis – who devised the original fee hike to £9,000 – has suggested fees should be scrapped all together. He has said that they have been overtaken by ‘greed’ and become ‘politically diseased.’
With so many dizzying statistics flying around, the BBC has helpfully produced this article, revealing 10 charts that show the effect of tuition fees in the UK. These include the fact that student debt has doubled to over £100bn in four years, comparisons with other countries, and that students feel their value for money for university is dropping steeply.
Some good news for parents who are tired of arguing with their children – it could be a sign of intelligence. Research by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), a charity set up by the Sutton Trust, found that encouraging pupils to reason with their classmates can boost results in English, maths and science.
2,500 Children at 78 primary schools with higher-than-average numbers of poorer children were given lessons in which they were encouraged to debate, discuss and argue with others about their answers, as opposed to just stating them. An independent evaluation of the initiative found that the youngsters who took part made on average two months more progress in English and science than a similar group of pupils who did not take part – the control group.
Even more good news for anxious parents! Despite all the doom and gloom around social media use by young people, and how it can be addictive, as well damaging to social skills and mental health, a comprehensive recent report suggests otherwise. Researchers who looked at evidence from multiple sources (including the OECD and NSPCC) found that engagement in social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook can build up children’s resilience and have a beneficial impact on mental wellbeing. The report, published by the Education Policy Institute, found that social media helped children to develop their social skills, collaborate better with peers, and access help and emotional support more easily.
However, they did not underplay the risks, citing cyberbullying, sharing of private content and easy access to harmful content. More than a third (37.3 per cent) of 15-year-olds in the UK can be classed as “extreme internet users” – spending more than six hours online a day – which is significantly above the OECD average, and evidence suggests it is extreme users who are most at risk.
So to quote some wisdom we already knew…everything in moderation.
Theresa May has been forced into another policy U-turn, abandoning her unpopular ‘lunch-snatcher’ policy, which schools minister Nick Gibb claims has nothing to do with the party losing their parliamentary majority. The plan – replacing school lunches for infants with breakfasts instead – was intended to save £650 million from the education budget, which could help in costing the new funding formula for schools.
However, abandoning this policy has created a further black hole in funding, at a time when schools are already facing cuts to staff numbers, subjects, extra-curricular options and even teaching hours. The Guardian reports that May is now facing a revolt from within her own party over education policy, as MPs raised concerns about when and how struggling schools in their constituencies would get the extra money promised through the funding shake-up. Gibb refused to be drawn on reports that education secretary Justine Greening has asked May for an additional 1.2 billion in education funding, after it became a priority during the election.
According to a new league table measuring schools on their science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) results, boys from a number of free schools and grammars are more likely to do well than their peers at Eton College. This is in the new ‘Your Life’ league table, a government-backed campaign to promote science skills in school leavers. Eton is among the most expensive and prestigious schools in the country, yet it came only 109th for STEM skills, which prepare students for some of the most employable sectors. Reading School, King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Boys, and Sutton Grammar in Surrey have all been awarded top places in the Your Life league table, a government-backed campaign to promote science skills in school leavers. Pupils from the aptly named Sir Isaac Newton Sixth Form Free School in Norwich, and Sidney Stringer Academy in Coventry, also received top teaching for sciences. Lady Eleanor Holles, a girls’ independent school in southwest London, fell from 19th place nationally to 160th in the new tables.
Almost a quarter of the teachers who have qualified since 2011 – over 27,500 – have already left the profession, according to official figures that have prompted further concerns about the pressures on the profession. Of those who qualified in 2011 alone, 31% had quit within five years of becoming teachers. Amid news that the government won’t be relaxing the 1% pay cap for teachers, and the seemingly never-ending, ever-deepening funding crisis, one could argue it’s hardly surprising. Recent analysis by the Education Policy Institute found teachers in England are working longer hours on average than in most other countries: 48.2 hours a week on average, including evenings and weekends – 19% longer than the average elsewhere of 40.6 hours
Although education secretary Justine Greening is known to be sympathetic to relaxing the pay cap and increasing public spending on schools, that’s no guarantee of receiving extra cash…unless you’re in Northern Ireland. Angela Rayner, the shadow education secretary, who uncovered the figures, said they show the “sheer scale of the crisis that the Tories have created in teacher recruitment and retention… It is time that ministers finally admitted that we are at a crisis point, and came up with a proper plan of action to deal with it.”
Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani campaigner who survived being shot in the head by Taliban gunmen, has joined Twitter with a call for people to help her fight for girls’ education, posting her first tweets the day she finished school. After surviving being shot in the head when she was 15, she was treated in the UK, where she also finished her schooling, and has said she will now continue with her global fight for girls’ education.
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.