Ah, a visiting fellowship

Cambridge University has rescinded its offer of a visiting fellowship to controversial academic Jordan Peterson, who refuses to refer to transgender people by their chosen pronouns, after outcry from faculty and students.

This is like a visiting professorship but perhaps a tad grander? Or less so?

Come give a couple of lectures, have dinner, goodbye sorta thing? Like the LSE gave Naomi Klein?

Not sure about this to be honest

Singing patriotic songs in assemblies makes teenagers feel proud to be British, a headteacher of a leading inner city school has said.

Katharine Birbalsingh said singing the songs twice a week instilled “resilience” and a connection to the UK among her pupils, the vast majority of whom are from a black or ethnic minority background.

Ms Birbalsingh’s students at Michaela Community School in Brent, north London sing the National Anthem, I Vow To Thee My Country or Jerusalem twice a week.

Thing is, Birbalsingh’s been right about so much in education that it seems picky, pendantic even, to be questioning such details….

You will be assimilated….

Compulsory lessons to teach children from the age of five about gay and trans relationships will be outlined in guidance to head teachers to be published tomorrow.

The controversial new statutory guidance will also spell out for the first time the end of parents’ right to opt their children out of sex and relationships education classes in secondary school.

….into the Borg.

They do seem to be missing the bit about a liberal society being a plural one….

This seems fair enough

Teaching children coding is a waste of time, the OECD’s education chief has said, as he predicts the skill will soon be obsolete.

Andreas Schleicher, director of education and skills at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, said that the skill is merely “a technique of our times” and will become irrelevant in the future.

“Five hundred years ago we might have thought about pen literacy,” Mr Schleicher said. “In a way coding is just one technique of our times. And I think it would be a bad mistake to have that tool become ingrained.

“You teach it to three-year-olds and by the time they graduate they will ask you ‘Remind me what was coding’. That tool will be outdated very soon.”

Comparing it to trigonometry, he said: “We are going to get into the same dilemma. I think is very important that we strike a better balance about those kinds of things.

“For example, I would be much more inclined to teach data science or computational thinking than to teach a very specific technique of today.”

It’s important to distinguish between teaching the concepts of something and the techniques. Boyle’s Law is important, being able to fiddle around with an ICE engine isn’t a skill someone born today is likely to need. No, not because electric, but because computerisation.

The concept of coding, sure, but the techniques of javascript? I tend to think that’s all going to go the way of car engines in fact. Time was when any driver had to know how to maintain at the very least. Nowadays, just turn it on and drive. It’s a black box that works. Computers are getting there. There’s this group over here, engineers, who code. Then 99.9% of the world who don’t.

At which point not worth teaching the details of what’s not used to all, is it?

We need another number here

At half of England’s universities, fewer than 5% of students are classified as being from disadvantaged white backgrounds, according to a new report from the National Education Opportunities Network (Neon). This fact is bluntly stated as being a problem in the introduction of the report rather than the conclusion, but it is worth looking beyond these headline figures. What do reports like this really tell us?

Actually, the number tells us nothing at all without one more such number. What’s the portion of the age cohort that is disadvantaged white?

Guess what’s the one number we’re not told?

Isn’t this discrimination?

Last week, universities in England were preparing reports on how they have diversified their student populations. These reports will be submitted to the director of fair access at the Office for Students. My university, King’s College London, will report, happily, that our undergraduate intake is now 77% state school, more than 52% ethnic minority and has the fastest growing population of low-income students in the Russell Group.

52% ethnic minority is rather higher than the UK average. Even among the age cohort in London. So, why this illegal – for such is illegal – discrimination?

Hmm, what’s that? But it’s to make u for the past or summat? But English law doesn’t work that way – illegal discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity is illegal. And yes, given the way peeps talk about Oxbridge all we do need is those numbers showing out of proportion with the target population….

Selective school does good job

London state school secures 41 Oxbridge offers

We can write Polly’s article for her now, can’t we?

The point though being:

The sixth form, which is oversubscribed, annually accepts 300 students, who are interviewed before being offered a place.

Selective school has good results.


We are equal opportunity snarkists around here

There are many plans for making the world better. Some of them stemming even from lived experience of the real world.

Maybe we should go back to the good old days with less than 5% of the cohort going to university. But I’m not a reactionary, oh no. I wouldn’t insist on Latin for admission. I would insist on a decent standard in maths though, and at least one modern language that is not the applicant’s mother tongue.

A spot of science too? One argument would say “settle for physics”. Another argument would say that a bright boy – or girl – could teach himself much of physics from books, but to learn some chemistry you really need to do some lab, therefore demand chemistry for admissions. A finely-balanced argument I’d say. Views sought on biology.

That one might betray, ever such a tad, some of that experience. Say, the lived wisdom of having taught chemistry at a very selective university which used to demand Latin as an entry requirement?

I wouldn’t want to say myself….

Didn’t think Downside would make the list

Using published figures, among the schools and colleges with the highest number of Oxbridge admissions are:

Westminster School, London (independent) – an average of 70-80 pupils each year have been offered places at Oxford and Cambridge in the last five years, the school says
Eton College, Berkshire (independent) – in 2014, 82 students were accepted to Oxbridge. The following year 68 were accepted
Hills Road Sixth Form College, Cambridge (state sixth form college) – an average 60 pupils receive Oxbridge offers, the school says
St Paul’s School, London (independent) – 53 students went to Oxbridge in 2016 and 41 in 2015
Peter Symonds College, Hampshire (state sixth form college) – an average of 48 students received offers from Oxbridge over the past three years
St Paul’s Girls’ School, London (independent) – an average of 45 students went to Oxbridge each year between 2015 and 2017
King’s College School, London (independent) – sent 48 students to Oxbridge in 2017
Magdalen College School, Oxford (independent) – 44 students went to Oxbridge in 2018

Anti-Catholic bias I call that.

And what a surprise to see that the children of Oxbridge academics get into Oxbridge?

For Owen Jones – Any And Every Target Will Be Manipulated

Bless the cute cotton socks of the dear little boy. He’s still not grasped why that idea of a planned economy won’t work:

The educational segregation of children according to the bank balances of their parents – private education – needs to be abolished. But in the interim, it has always struck me that the only solution is to automatically enrol the best performing students from state school, taking class into account. If you grow up in a deprived ex-mining community and get two As and two Bs at A-level, you have outperformed someone at Harrow or Eton from a family of millionaires who gets four As. And until Oxbridge does this, it needs to stop pretending it represents Britain’s academic elite: because it doesn’t.

You’ve not got firm targets, written in stone. Within milliseconds they will be gamed. As with even the current reports that some are taken out of nice and private schools to be finished off at sixth form colleges so as to gain those deprivation points for their Oxbridge entry. Not that it woks all that well given the discretion the interviewers have these days…..but take away the discretion and it would.

It doesn’t matter what the system is

Universities should consider changing the system of traditional degree classifications in order to ease mental pressure on students, psychologists have suggested.

The expectation to achieve at least a 2.1 is driving up anxiety levels and deprives most students of the opportunity to differentiate their achievement from those of their peers, according to preliminary research.

Psychologists at King’s College London said the American system of degree transcripts may be less stressful for undergraduates because it provides a more personal and nuanced account of how a student performed.

Dr Nicola Byrom, who has conducted consultations with students, said there was a “particular issue” with the ubiquity of 2.1s.

“The way our UK grading system at universities is structured does potentially create stress,” she said “Most people get a 2.1, therefore getting a 2.2 is seen by the majority of students as absolutely terrible and yet that’s a fantastic achievement for many students.

“And there’s a huge pressure on students to feel they have to get a first otherwise they’ve just got a 2.1.”

Only that we all understand what the system is.

Bit conservative, isn’t it?

Children are less inquisitive and ask fewer questions because their minds have been dulled by iPads before they even enter primary school, according to the head of Britain’s biggest head teachers’ association.

Andrew Mellor, the president of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said children were coming into school as passive rather than active learners because parents were using iPads as “soothers” to keep them quiet.

The surrounding world and technology have changed. People now absorb and access information in different ways.

But the teachers are insisting we must all use the old ways? How Tory!

What excellent news

Some universities may be pushed to the brink of insolvency after the most cut-throat A-level student recruitment round vice-chancellors can remember, experts are warning.

This is one of the things markets do for us. Push shite suppliers out of he market through bankruptcy.

Because all university admissions staff are idiots, right?

Following last week’s GCSE results, it should surely be of concern to policy makers that almost all the schools announcing record scores are independent schools that in fact entered hardly any of their pupils for GCSEs. Instead, those schools stuck with international GCSEs, many of which still include the discredited coursework and are entirely unregulated by the standards watchdog, Ofqual.

I hope universities will take care to discriminate carefully in two years’ time between pupils who sat the new tough GCSEs — including youngsters in every state school — and those who did not.
Richard Cairns, Headmaster, Brighton College

Crass idiocy

The inescapable weight of my $100,000 student debt

MH Miller left university with a journal full of musings on Virginia Woolf and a vast financial burden. He is one of 44 million US graduates struggling to repay a total of $1.4tn. Were they right to believe their education was ‘priceless’?


I’m really pretty certain that both $100,000 and $1.4 trillion are prices.

In the summer of 2010, I completed my studies at New York University, where I received a BA and an MA in English literature, with more than $100,000 of debt,

In May, I got a freelance contract with a newspaper that within a year would hire me full-time – paying me, after taxes, roughly $900 every two weeks. ….. the payments for my debt – which had been borrowed from a variety of federal and private lenders, most prominently Citibank – totalled about $1,100 a month.

Might not be a price you like. But it’s a price.

Great big hairy dangly bits

GCSE reforms will help boys catch up with girls because they prefer “big bang” exams, annual analysis has suggested.

A report by Professor Alan Smithers of the University of Buckingham suggested that the move away from coursework and towards exams will benefit male students.


You’ve changed the measurement system, not how well boys and or girls are doing.

Agreed with the effect of the change, sure. That concentration on coursework in the first place was because boys did better at the big bang exam, girls better at the coursework. So, to overcome that issue of the girls getting worse grades the system was changed. Now we’re changing it back.

OK. But it’s still just a change in the measurement system, not a change in how anyone is doing.

Does this mean what I think it does?

That’s without considering the impact of disadvantage on pupils who find learning harder

Thick kids are disadvantaged because they find learning harder?

She also thinks we’re thick as mince:

Conservative 2017 manifesto to force independent schools to sponsor a state school or risk losing their tax breaks (she later quietly dropped it). These are not insignificant sums. Between 2017-22, private schools will get tax rebates totalling £522m as a result of their status as charities.

£100 million a year in tax breaks. The education budget is some £90 billion. Yes, b. It’s not even a rounding error, is it?

The private schools also save the state the cost of educating 7% of children. At a very rough guess that’s a saving of £6 billion a year, isn’t it?

But then we all do think that Frances Ryan is thick as mince, don’t we?

Fairly silly

Maths textbooks should be banned because they intimidate pupils, a leading girls’ school headmistress has said.

Jane Prescott, head of Portsmouth High School said that students risk becoming anxious if they can see that their classmates are “galloping ahead” of them.

The move has been a “confidence booster” for girls, and allows them to “feel encouraged, and feel they are good at Maths”, Ms Prescott said.

That’s rather the comprehensive ideal run riot isn’t it?

Mustn’t let those who grasp the subject run ahead now, must we?