Alarm clocks, term-time holidays and a shocking lack of diversity at Oxbridge…
The former education secretary was dismayed at data released after a Freedom of Information request about admissions statistics for Britain’s top two universities, amid news that as many as 16 Oxbridge colleges failed to offer any places to black British applicants in 2015, the most recent figures under the FOI request. Despite both universities spending £5 million a year to cast the net wider for students, other startling revelations include:
- Four-fifths of students accepted at Oxbridge between 2010 and 2015 had parents with top professional and managerial jobs, and the numbers have been edging upwards.
- More offers were made to Home Counties pupils than the whole of northern England.
- Nationally about 31% of people are in the top two social income groups. They are the doctors, the lawyers, the senior managers – but claimed 79-81% of Oxbridge places in 2010 to 2015
- The data on admissions by region provided by the universities themselves showed:
- London and south-east England received 48% of offers from both Oxford and Cambridge
An Oxford spokesman said: “We absolutely take on board Mr Lammy’s comments, and we realise there are big geographical disparities in the numbers and proportions of students coming to Oxford.
“On the whole, the areas sending few students to Oxford tend also to be the areas with high levels of disadvantage and low levels of attainment in schools.
“Rectifying this is going to be a long journey that requires huge, joined-up effort across society – including from leading universities like Oxford – to address serious inequalities.”
However, the wider picture isn’t as bleak as the Oxbridge figures may suggest. The Telegraph reports that according to Ucas data, half of students who started a degree last year were the first in their family to do so. And for the first time, the number of students whose parents did not go to university matched those from wealthier academic backgrounds. However, critics claim that the figures showed that too many students were attending low-performing universities which charge “outrageous” fees but fail to improve social mobility, and disproportionately few are studying ‘top’ subjects such as medicine, maths and sciences.
Most people in education – and beyond – would see Black History Month as a time to recognise and celebrate black history, and the impact and significance of black role models throughout society and history. But for Paul Underwood, headteacher at St Winefride’s Catholic Primary School in Newham, east London, it seemed like a great opportunity to encourage black students to dress as slaves. A letter sent to parents encouraged year two pupils to wear “straw hats or fabric head wraps,” and others to dirty, worn out tea/coffee stained clothes for authenticity. One parent questioned whether Jewish children would have been asked to re-enact the Holocaust. However, others came to the school’s defence. Samantha Peters, who has two children at the school, said the criticism was “unfair” and praised teachers for their efforts to remember the “ugliness of slavery.”
A High Court ruling intended to discourage parents from taking children on holidays during term, ruling such absences unlawful, has backfired severely. The media attention around the case of a father who took his daughter to Disneyland during school time has alerted many parents to the fact that travel is far cheaper outside the school holidays – and they only need to pay a £60 fine as a result. Which is good value, considering they may save on average 60% of the cost of a holiday. Mark Lehain, director of the campaign group Parents and Teachers for Excellence, shrewdly observed that the surge in absences showed that truanting fines were not an effective deterrent.
Department for Education statistics reveal that 8.9 million days in unauthorised absence were recorded during the autumn and spring terms of the last academic year, up from 7.4 million the previous year. Meanwhile, nearly two million pupils took at least one day off without permission, up from 1.7 million during the same period.
New research suggests that, in a poll of 5,000 people by the Social Mobility Commission, three quarters backed a change in the law to stop companies from exploiting unpaid interns for more than four weeks. This news comes ahead of the second reading of a Lords Bill that seeks to end the practice. There are an estimated 70,000 unpaid internships a year and in some industries they have become the main route for graduates to get their first job – despite obviously favouring those that can afford not to be paid for that time. In April, a report from think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research said the number of internships had risen by 50% since 2010.
The commission’s chairman, the former Labour MP Alan Milburn, said the issue was a “modern scandal” that must end. Mr Milburn said: “They have become a route to a good professional job, but access to them tends to depend on who not what you know and young people from low income backgrounds are excluded because they are unpaid.
“They miss out on a great career opportunity and employers miss out from a wider pool of talent. Unpaid internships are damaging for social mobility.”
All 700 students at the Lady Eleanor Holles school in Hampton were handed an alarm clock at a special assembly marking World Mental Health Day on Tuesday. Headteacher Heather Hanbury – perhaps optimistically – advised parents to ban their children from using phones, televisions and computers in their bedrooms. She believes that the need for a phone to wake up in the morning, and the constant access to social media for fear of ‘missing out’ is damaging to students’ chances of getting adequate sleep – which she deems ‘the most important aspect of learning.’
A disgruntled American academic has shared a powerpoint on all the websites and browsing activities his students have done during his lectures, and it makes for some…interesting reading. As well as predictable destinations like Amazon, Facebook and job applications, some more leftfield browsing habits included photoshopping Donald Trump onto muppets, and purchasing several turtlenecks. Takes all sorts…
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.