Schools ‘desperately need’ cash injection, MPs say

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Schools and colleges in England need a “multi-billion cash injection” and a long-term approach to funding, say MPs on the Education Select Committee.

Its report on school funding confirms the concerns of head teachers and teachers’ unions who have protested about worsening budget shortages.

The committee found that schools and colleges “desperately need” extra cash.

A Department for Education spokeswoman accepted that schools were facing “budgeting challenges”.

ASCL head teachers’ union leader Geoff Barton, said the report was a “damning indictment of the government’s dreadful record” on school funding.

Spending gap

Robert Halfon, who chairs the committee, said the report showed the need for a “comprehensive, bottom-up national assessment” of what it really cost to have an “education system fit for the 21st Century”.

The cross-party report says that schools have faced increased financial pressures from rising numbers of pupils and growing demands, such as supporting more pupils with mental health problems.

MPs say funding “has not kept pace” and the government needs to put in more cash.

“The government needs to cover the 8% funding gap currently faced by schools,” says Mr Halfon, with the report saying this would require a “£3.8bn uplift”.

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Further education colleges have faced particular problems, says the report, with per student funding falling by 16% in real terms over the past decade for the post-16 age group.

The MPs say funding for this age group, in sixth forms and colleges, needs a £1bn boost, and the pupil premium, which gives extra support for disadvantaged youngsters, should be extended to 16- to 19-year-olds.

The committee’s report also calls for extra support for pupils with special needs and disabilities, to tackle a “projected £1.2bn deficit”.

‘Horse-trading’

There have been long-running protests by school leaders over funding shortages – including a protest march by head teachers through Westminster and letters sent to millions of parents.

Jules White, the West Sussex head teacher who organised the WorthLess? school funding protest, said “a cross-party group of MPs have validated what we have been saying all along – namely that our schools and colleges have been crippled by cuts and rising costs”.

Tory leadership contender Boris Johnson has promised increased investment in schools – and there have also been claims that the Prime Minister, Theresa May, wants to announce a funding boost for schools before stepping down.

Former Education Secretary Justine Greening attacked the “horse-trading” over school funding, saying it should not be decided by short-term political pressures.

Labour’s shadow education secretary, Angela Rayner, said spending cuts had “left schools begging parents for donations just to keep the lights on five days a week and pay for basic supplies like pens and paper”.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: “While it is accurate to say that school funding is at its highest level, we do recognise that there are budgeting challenges.

“We are glad to see that school and further education funding is being highlighted as an important issue ahead of the next spending review, where the education secretary will back the sector to have the resources they need.”

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Parents of sick and premature babies should get more leave – PM


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It is “not fair and not right” that some parents have to return to work before their newborn leaves hospital, Theresa May has said as she launched a consultation on parental leave.

Under government plans, new parents in Britain would get one week of state-funded leave and pay for every week their baby is in hospital.

The intention is for parents to have more time at home with their newborns.

Every year around 100,000 babies go into neonatal care after their birth.

The consultation will also seek views on how parental leave can be changed to “better reflect our modern society”.

Mrs May – who is due to step down as prime minister next week – said she wanted to provide further support for parents dealing with “the unimaginable stress” of their babies being taken into neonatal care.

“Parents have more than enough on their plates without worrying about their parental leave running out and having to return to work before their precious newborn comes home,” she said.

“That’s not fair and it’s not right. So we’re also proposing a new neonatal leave and pay entitlement to make this time a bit easier for parents whose babies need to spend a prolonged period in neonatal care.”

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Theresa May discussed her proposals with parents in south London

Concerning parental leave, Mrs May said parenting had changed over the past 40 years “but too often, it is still mothers, not fathers, who shoulder the burden of childcare”.

“It is clear that we need to do more and that’s why today we have launched a consultation calling for views on how we can improve the current system.”

Although the UK’s maternity leave provision is above average among leading economies, its paternity leave is six weeks shorter than the average.

The government argues changing paternity leave could promote better gender equality in work and at home.

Women and Equalities Minister Penny Mordaunt said: “Fathers should not have to rely on annual and unpaid leave if they want to be involved in the first months of their child’s life.”

The consultation will also look at requiring firms to publish their leave pay and flexible working policies.


Paternity rights in the UK

  • Mothers are entitled to up to 52 weeks’ maternity leave
  • They must take at least two weeks’ leave after the baby is born (or four weeks if they work in a factory)
  • They are eligible to be paid for six weeks at 90% of their average weekly earnings and 33 weeks at £149 per week or 90% of their average weekly earnings (if lower)
  • Fathers can take two weeks’ statutory paternity leave at £149 a week



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Action needed against ‘rogue’ homes for teenagers, says minister


Nadhim Zahawi

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Nadhim Zahawi said full regulation of some 16+ accommodation would be a “knee-jerk reaction” to criticism

Unregulated accommodation for 16 and 17-year-olds may be subject to licensing and registration after claims children were being put at risk.

Children’s minister Nadhim Zahawi told BBC Newsnight he wanted to eliminate a “rogue element” in some 16+ supported and semi-supported accommodation.

His words follow calls to regulate these homes. Standard children’s homes are regulated by Ofsted.

But Mr Zahawi said full regulation would be a “knee-jerk reaction”.

He said full regulation of what Newsnight has termed “hidden children’s homes” could end up “throwing the baby out with the bathwater”.

But he added he was “looking at licensing and registering”.

The government is holding a roundtable meeting of care experts to discuss “best practice” later.

The number of teenagers sent to unregulated care homes outside their home borough has doubled since 2014 and data seen by Newsnight indicates they are set to rise further this year.

Missing children cases

Police have raised concerns to Newsnight about the number of teenagers reported missing from these homes – in one case a child had gone missing more than 100 times.

In the first of a series of special reports, Britain’s Hidden Children’s Homes, Newsnight learned that – according to figures from the Department for Education – about 5,000 looked-after children in England are in so-called 16+ supported or semi-supported accommodation.

This is a 70% rise in a decade.

This type of accommodation is not inspected or registered by Ofsted, even though residents are in the care of the state.

Because the teenagers are deemed to be receiving support, rather than care, the accommodation is not subject to the same checks and inspections as registered children’s homes.

Unregulated homes can often be simply a house on a residential street, with staff on site or visiting for as little as a few hours a week.

Bedfordshire Police is one of the forces that has called for greater regulation of these homes. It has given Newsnight access to film the impact that cases of missing children from care are having on the force.

Officers say many missing persons cases involve teenagers from unregulated homes. And of these, many teenagers have been re-housed from other areas of the country.

Newsnight has surveyed every local authority children’s services department in the UK to find out how many teenagers in care were being moved outside of their home area.

In 2018, more than 2,000 16 and 17-year-olds were placed out of borough in this kind of care, data for England from the Department for Education shows. Four years earlier, the figure was 1,020. New data Newsnight has seen suggests that the figure is still rising.

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Police have raised concerns to about the number of teenagers reported missing from unregulated accommodation

Oxfordshire, Windsor and Maidenhead, Peterborough, Swindon, Sandwell, Stockton on Tees and Cambridgeshire councils – as well as the London Boroughs of Enfield, Newham and Kensington and Chelsea – had all sent looked after children to unregulated homes in Bedfordshire.

This is information that Bedfordshire itself did not hold. Bedfordshire Police has shared with Newsnight examples of out of borough placements that have caused concern.

These include:

  • A child from a local authority in the Midlands on bail for knife point robberies and sexual offences, placed in an unregulated home in Bedfordshire with young female residents
  • A child in the care of a council in the south west placed in 16+ accommodation with a known drug dealer and street robber, after starting a fire in his previous placement
  • Two children from rival London gangs placed together in an unregulated home. One boy ended up stabbing the other

DCI Steve Ashdown from Bedfordshire Police criticised the practice of placing teenagers in unregulated care homes, saying the “lack of scrutiny just exposes a significant amount of children to risk”.

The Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) said local authorities do “many things” – including unannounced checks and DBS checks – to monitor provision.

Bedfordshire is not the only hotspot for unregulated children’s homes. A survey by the BBC’s FOI researchers indicated that at least 14 councils – ranging from Manchester and Peterborough to Croydon and Ealing – are all home to more out of borough placements than Bedfordshire.

You can watch Newsnight on BBC Two weekdays at 22:30 or on iPlayer, subscribe to the programme on YouTube and follow it on Twitter.





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Mental health: Primary school head teachers speak out about lack of support


Some primary school pupils are being repeatedly rejected for mental health support, BBC News has learned.

There’s been a near 50% increase in referrals to child health services from pupils aged 11 and under, over the past three years. But some children are on a waiting list for years before being offered help.

Three head teachers spoke to the BBC about the lack of support for children in their schools.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this piece, advice can be found via the BBC Action Line.

Produced by Ed Thomas and Noel Titheradge



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University of East Anglia student raps 10,000-word dissertation


A hip-hop loving student who submitted a 21-track album instead of a 10,000-word dissertation for his final coursework has earned himself a first class honours degree.

Nicholas Uzoka, 22, was studying English and creative writing at Norwich’s University of East Anglia.

“It was an opportunity to express myself in my favoured form,” he said.

“My future will be about music, music and more music. I want to give it my absolute all over the next couple of years and see how far I can get.”

Mr Uzoka published the album, featuring nine songs and twelve poetry skits, under his pseudonym Zoka the Author.





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New qualifications to boost teacher career progression


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The Department for Education has set up a panel of experts to develop new professional qualifications for teachers in England, to help them progress their careers.

The panel will advise on the scheme, which is to be introduced during the academic year 2020-2021.

The focus is on those who want to progress in non-leadership roles.

But unions said there was a lack of transparency about how the experts were recruited to the advisory panel.

The qualifications form part of the teacher recruitment and retention strategy in England, which was launched in January.

School standards minister Nick Gibb said the new qualifications would provide recognition for those teachers who want to develop their skills and progress their careers.

“Our ambition is for teachers to be able to do so without having to pursue traditional leadership routes, instead expanding their expertise in vital areas such as curriculum or behaviour management,” he said.

Richard Gill, chairman of the Teaching Schools Council, said: “There is a need to ensure that the current programme of qualifications meets the needs of the current educational landscape.

“These new bespoke qualifications will provide practitioners with an excellent opportunity to develop and progress their careers, building stronger and more effective classroom practice without the need for them to follow traditional leadership roles.”

But the announcement has drawn criticism from teaching unions.

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Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “Once again, the government has missed the opportunity to take the profession with them in the development of new qualifications.

“The advisory group is a snub, not just to organisations who represent teachers, but also to the many university departments that have so much expertise in teacher training. There is a serious lack of transparency in how these panels are generated.

“The National Education Union agrees that there must be a route for teachers who do not wish to pursue the traditional leadership pathways. Surely, therefore, we cannot afford to let the opportunity offered by the national professional qualifications be undermined by a lack of professional confidence.”

Teacher training tests

The announcement comes a day after the government revealed it was replacing the existing skills tests on teacher training courses with a new system.

Mr Gibb made a written ministerial statement on Tuesday saying: “I am introducing a new approach for assessing the numeracy and literacy of prospective teachers, which will replace the existing skills tests.

“From October, teacher training providers will become responsible for ensuring that prospective teachers meet the high standards of literacy and numeracy required to be a teacher.

“Under this new system, trainees will be benchmarked against a defined set of skills they will be expected to have by the end of their initial teacher training.”



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How chimpanzees bond over a movie together


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Chimpanzees watching a video together get the same sense of bonding and closeness that humans can feel from watching a movie or TV show together, say US university researchers.

Pairs of chimps were monitored as they watched videos – and psychologists found an increased sense of closeness between them in a way previously thought to be unique to humans.

Researchers say it shows the “deep evolutionary roots” of the heightened emotional impact of watching something with someone else.

It also raises questions about what is lost when there are fewer shared experiences – such as if families stop watching television together and are separately plugged into social media or using their own mobile phones.

Chimps’ favourite movie?

“Experiences are richer watching together,” says report co-author Wouter Wolf, from the department of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University in the US.

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There was closer bonding and touching after watching a video together

The study, being published by the Royal Society, put chimpanzees and bonobos in front of a screen showing a video.

Eye-trackers were used to make sure the apes were watching the film and fruit drinks were used to encourage them to stay relatively still and in the same place.

Mr Wolf says the choice of video was decided by previous research revealing what apes most liked to watch – which was film of other apes.

Using data from 45 apes, mostly chimpanzees and some bonobos, the researchers studied changes in behaviour after they had watched a video of a family of chimps playing with a young chimp.

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Shared viewing is being challenged by online and social media services

Watching the film together made them much more likely to bond afterwards – such as staying close together, touching or interacting with each other.

Shared experience

The psychologist says the findings have challenged the idea that there was something “uniquely human” about such shared social experiences from watching an activity.

The research concluded that this sense of feeling closer from watching something with someone is “present in both humans and great apes and thus has deeper evolutionary roots than previously suspected”.

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Watching something together creates a deep-rooted sense of social bonding

The psychologist says it might say something about how people in an audience or watching a sports event can feel a sense of bonding with people they otherwise do not know.

Heard it on the ape vine

Mr Wolf says there is something very distinctive about the enjoyment of shared watching – with a sense of irritation if this is interrupted.

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Chimps can be a tough audience – their favourite viewing is film of other chimps

“Experiencing and sharing something between two people creates common ground,” he says.

“If you go to the movies together, you’re sitting side by side, it’s a really social phenomenon.”

But he says “you get really annoyed if the other person starts to play with their phone. It’s annoying because you’re no longer watching together”.

The psychologist says part of the attraction of social media is that it taps into the human appetite for sharing moments – creating a sense of seeing something together.

Humans are “addicted to sharing”, he says.

“But do you get the deeper experience from social media? The quality of such a social network online is different,” he says.



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Moon landings: Apollo 11 celebrated in Cambridge University maps


Map of the Moon

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A map dating from 1742 comes from the Atlas Coelestis (atlas of the sky)

Old maps of the Moon and stars are being shared to mark 50 years since the first manned lunar landing.

Some will feature in a series of tweets by Cambridge University Library during the eight days coinciding with the dates of the momentous voyage in 1969.

They include a “rare” rubbing of a 12th Century Chinese map of the stars.

“We as a species have been recording, researching and documenting the moon through the ages,” library assistant Priyanka Pais said.

Apollo 11 launched from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral on 16 July 1969, with three astronauts on board – Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin. They reached the moon on 20 July and returned to Earth on 24 July.

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Man first walked on the Moon 50 years ago

The university library holds a vast collection of maps and other records spanning centuries of interest in the stars and planets.

A selection of these will feature in social media posts marking the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission.

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This image is taken from the 1661 atlas of the stars – Harmonia macrocosmica

They include images from Andreas Cellarius’s “Harmonia macrocosmica”, an atlas of the stars published in 1661.

It is considered to be one of the most notable works of celestial cartography produced during the early years of Dutch and Flemish cartography.

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A 1976 edition of a map shows the John F Kennedy Space Center in Florida

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This 1742 map shows the Sea of Tranquillity (Mare Tranquillitatis) in the centre

The lunar module touched down in the Sea of Tranquillity on the surface of the Moon.

A 1742 map showing the Mare Tranquillitatis, created by German mathematician, astronomer, and cartographer Johann Gabriel Doppelmayr, will be one of those featured in the library tweets.

Among the rarer items in the map room collection is a rubbing of a Chinese map of the stars originally made in about 1190 for the Song Emperor.

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A rare 19th Century rubbing of a Chinese map of the stars which was engraved in stone in 1247

The original map is now lost but in 1247 a copy was engraved on a slab of stone known as a stele.

The 19th Century rubbing from this stone copy held in the collection “is rare because they don’t now allow people to rub it anymore, and also the paper used for this one was very soft and not much of that sort of material survives”, Anne Taylor, head of the map department, said.

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This image is taken from the 1661 atlas of the stars – Harmonia macrocosmica

Ahead of the Apollo 11 mission, Nasa worked with the United States Geological Survey producing and publishing hundreds of geological maps of potential early Apollo landing sites on the moon.

Copes of most of those maps are also held at the library.

It also has copies of national and local newspaper coverage from the time of the Apollo 11 mission, which offer a fascinating insight into the “Moon fever” that gripped the world.

Many local businesses jumped on the bandwagon including aptly-named George Moon, a Cambridge lingerie shop which advertised it sold “corsets – not spacesuits”.

A space-themed trail – To the Moon and Back – is also planned for next month, which will take visitors through the library’s collection.



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Education publisher Pearson to phase out print textbooks


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The world’s largest education publisher has taken the first step towards phasing out print books by making all its learning resources “digital first”.

Pearson said students would only be able to rent physical textbooks from now on, and they would be updated much less frequently.

The British firm hopes the move will make more students buy its e-textbooks which are updated continually.

“We are now over the digital tipping point,” boss John Fallon told the BBC.

“Over half our annual revenues come from digital sales, so we’ve decided a little bit like in other industries like newspapers or music or in broadcast that it is time to flick the switch in how we primarily make and create our products.”

The firm currently makes 20% of its revenues from US courseware, but has been struggling as students increasingly opt to rent second-hand print textbooks to save money.

To counter this Mr Fallon said Pearson would stop revising print books every three years, a model that has dominated the industry for 40 years.

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Mr Fallon at the ‘Microsoft in Education Global Forum’ in 2014

It means that next year the firm will only update 100 of its 1,500 titles in print – down from 500 in 2019.

“There will still be [print] textbooks in use for many years to come but I think they will become a progressively smaller part of the learning experience,” Mr Fallon said.

“We learn by engaging and sharing with others, and a digital environment enables you to do that in a much more effective way.”

Digital textbooks can be updated responsively and also incorporate videos and assessments that provide students with feedback.

However, many of Pearson’s digital products are sold on a subscription basis, raising fears that authors will lose out in the way musicians have to music streaming services.

Mr Fallon denied this, saying the firm’s plans would provide authors with “a more sustainable income over time”.

He added: “For the Netflix and Spotify generation, they expect to rent not own.”

Pearson has been going through a painful turnaround after years of falling sales and profits, but appeared to have turned a corner in 2018.

Its underlying sales rose 2% in the first quarter of 2019, although the firm admitted revenue in its US business could fall by as much as 5% this year.

Mr Fallon said its plans for textbooks would begin in the US, but in time be extended to other markets including the UK.



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Breck Bednar: Play tells story of boy who met his killer online


Breck Bednar was murdered in 2014, by someone he thought was a friend.

Now a new play, written by Mark Wheeller and using the words of his friends and family, tells the story of how the teenager was groomed online.

His mother Lorin LaFave, watching from the audience, hopes that it will stop other teenagers falling victim to the same threat.

If you’ve been affected by the issues raised in this video help and support is available via the BBC Action Line.



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