ACT - The Association of Christian Teachers

for Christians working in education

The week
News items from the week’s daily and education press, covering the major education news stories of the week.

Higher-class degrees given out at an unprecedented rate.

British universities have been handing out higher-class degrees at an unprecedented rate over the past decade, according to detailed figures released by the higher education regulator.

The figures, from a selection of universities taking part in the government’s latest teaching excellence framework, known as Tef3, show huge variation, with at least one university issuing five times as many first-class degrees last year as it did a decade before.

The figures confirm previous signs that universities have been upping the proportion of firsts and upper seconds awarded in recent years, which many within the sector blame on pressure from league tables and from students themselves.

The group of 20 universities were required to submit detailed records of degree classifications awarded since 2007, and annually since 2014, in an effort to identify “rigour and stretch” of students at each institution.

Read more.

Public Accounts Committee thinks teenagers let down.

Teenagers in England are having to make choices about university on the basis of too little information, a report by the Public Accounts Committee warns.

The PAC report says this is due "in large part to insufficient and inconsistent careers advice".

It also says students have limited redress if they are unhappy with the quality of courses and that shorter and part-time courses have not emerged.

The government says a review of higher education will address such issues.

The report says it's "deeply concerning" that most students in England don't have the advice they need to make an informed decision.


"The substantial financial commitment required and wide variation in outcomes from higher education mean prospective students need high-quality advice and support to make decisions that are right for them," it says.

Read more.

DfE publishes names of high paying trusts.

The Department for Education has published the names of 160 academy trusts it has written to questioning why they are paying six-figure salaries.

Eileen Milner, chief executive of the Education and Skills Funding Agency, has written a series of letters to the chairs of mats and single academies trusts asking for their rationale for paying these high wages.

Letters were sent out at the end of last year to single academy trusts paying more than £150,000.

This has been followed this year with letters to MATs paying more than £150,000 and all trusts paying two or more people a salary of between £100,000 and £150,000.

Now the DfE has published a full list of those trusts which received letters.

Read the whole story.


A personal view of education.

 I used to long to be a child again. Not any more. British children seem under perpetual assault from the three horsemen of the apocalypse: obesity, social media and the manic gods of examination. Of these the most needless, and clearly dangerous, is the exam. The signs of stress are blatant. One in 10 schoolchildren now has a “clinically diagnosable mental illness”. Rates of teenage self-harm have risen dramatically in the last decade. Student suicide rates are soaring.

I have never seen the point of exams. If children cannot recall what they were taught two months ago, they will not remember it for life, probably because it was never worth remembering. An exam is like a Dickensian birching. It asserts power, and hurts.

Read the whole.

Autism in an age of austerity.

Principles, eh? Most of us have them. Some of us try to do our best to live by them. Then we have children and suddenly we’re blushing red-faced as we stand outside the headteacher’s office awaiting an unpleasant conversation.

I’ve been an advocate for inclusion ever since a close encounter with a cement truck (it knocked me off my bike and ran me over) came with the fringe benefit (I suppose) of providing me with a degree-level education on the cause of disability rights.


That cause is set back by a lack of inclusion and visibility; by the absence of disabled people in politics, in the media, in the wider workplace, and in education.

Read more.

Liturgical texts to go online.

For a monk who lives in the Sinai desert in Egypt, in the world's oldest working monastery, Father Justin replies to emails very speedily.

It should come as no surprise: the Greek Orthodox monk is in charge of hauling the library at St Catherine's into the 21st Century.

This ancient collection of liturgical texts, including some of the earliest Christian writing and second in size only to the Vatican, is going to be made available online for scholars all over the world.

The manuscripts, kept in a newly-renovated building which was opened to the public in December 2017, are now the subject of hi-tech academic detective work

Read more.

Football club University Sponsorship Deal.

When a gruff US media tycoon says: "Drop everything else and do that," they're not usually talking about a university sponsorship deal.

But former Disney boss Michael Eisner, now owner of Portsmouth Football Club, is a passionate advocate of a partnership that will see the University of Portsmouth's logo being unveiled on the team's shirt later this month.

Corporate sponsors might more often be airlines, online gambling websites, banks or financial services firms.

But Portsmouth, a big club that's faced tough times in recent years, is signing up with a university.

And it's not about the money, the club could have got much more elsewhere.

Read more.

Tuition fees in crisis?

The tuition fee system for England's universities is ripping off students and giving taxpayers poor value for money, says a parliamentary committee.

The House of Lords economic affairs committee revealed evidence the student loan book would grow to over £1 trillion over the next 25 years.

The committee attacked a "deeply unfair" system of fees and loans.

But the Department for Education said its review of fees would "make sure students are getting value for money".

Read more.

Family Justice in crisis.

A senior judge has said it is easier to obtain a care order to take a child away from their family, than for the family to get support.

Sir Andrew McFarlane, the incoming president of the family division, says the family justice system is in crisis.

The number of children in care has doubled in the last 20 years, with care applications continuing to rise.

The Department for Education said it wanted to see every child in a loving, stable home.

Speaking at the launch of the care crisis review - a massive sector-led inquiry into the care system, Sir Andrew said there may be a danger of "benevolent discretion" where courts accept the need to help the child, without questioning whether a care order is justified.

Read more.

Fake news harms children.

A few weeks ago, Chloe, 13, shared a hoax story about the alleged death of a favourite actor, Sylvester Stallone.

"I thought it was real and shared it with family members. A lot of people were quite upset," she says.

When the truth emerged that Sylvester Stallone was alive and well, Chloe says she felt stupid.

"I should have looked into it a bit more before posting," she adds.

Chloe is not alone, according to a report from a group of MPs which says that falling for fake news can harm children's "wellbeing, trust in journalism and democracy itself".


The all-party parliamentary group on literacy heard evidence that fake news could make children more anxious, damage their self-esteem and skew their world view.

Read more.


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