Phillip Wearne, who has died of a cardiac arrest aged 60, worked as a freelance journalist, TV producer and author all over the world.
I first met Phillip in 1989 in El Salvador, making a film for Channel 4, The Return of the Death Squads. His energy and local contacts soon helped us line up a host of brave and informative interviewees for the film: terrified villagers, Jesuit priests, human-rights workers, political leaders and eventually even a death squad member.Continue reading...
When a minister in this government stumbles on a policy that is both popular and good, it’s newsworthy. Matt Hancock, the digital minister, has suggested that schools ban the use of mobile phones by their pupils. Amanda Spielman, the head of Ofsted, agrees. In France, the Macron government has put forward legislation that will ban the use of phones in all primary and middle schools. This removes the matter from the discretion of headteachers. Those who have already purged their playgrounds of screens report few problems. The measure seems entirely straightforward and sensible.
There are three kinds of damage that mobile phones can do in the playground and schools are right to tackle them. The most obvious may be the least serious: some games and apps are so overwhelmingly attractive when they first appear that unhappy children can be entirely swept away in them. Fortnite is the latest craze of this sort. Before that there were birds, variously angry and flappy. All these crazes evaporate in time and are replaced by others. The market is just too rewarding for those who get it right. On the whole, though, these problems are self-regulating. The second problem, which is not of course confined to school hours, is that social networks make bullying and cliquishness easier and perhaps more attractive. They make grownups behave like petulant teenagers and real teenagers have fewer defences against their own worst impulses. Schools are right to try to defend themselves and their pupils against such influences.Continue reading...
In your report (Ofsted chief: white working-class children hindered by low aspirations, 22 June), Amanda Spielman claims to admire teachers in such areas and says a requiring improvement (RI) rating is merely a “call to action”. This shows a complete lack of understanding of the huge impact it has. I am the headteacher of a school whose population is predominantly low income, white working class. Last November, after a gruelling two-day ordeal, we received an RI grade. As an ex-local authority consultant and leader in three outstanding schools, I am fully confident that teaching in my school is at least as good as in schools with higher ratings, and is often inspirational. My staff work amid the huge pressures of leading social care cases and battling special educational needs and disability (Send) bureaucracy. During the inspection, my teachers were accused of not challenging children sufficiently in a kafkaesque charade as inspectors justified a grade based on data. We were told we lacked ambition, and were sneered at for the energies we invest in keeping Send children in our school while they await specialist provision.
Behaviour, safeguarding and early years were all recognised as good, but we still wear the badge of shame that is our RI grade, and are compelled to advertise it on our website to ward off more motivated parents who could be infected by our apparent “lack of drive”. A poor Ofsted grade is much more than a “call to action”. It is another cause of the deep divisions in our society.
Rachel Hornsey Headteacher, Lisa Knight, Louise Potter Assistant headteachers, Sutton Courtenay C of E primary school, Oxford
More effort needs to be made to dispel the old suspicion that well-paid, taxpayer-funded, employment at the top of the BBC – like the higher ranks of the civil service, armed forces the law or CoE – are appointments unfairly reserved by gatekeepers to meet the supply of privately educated students who are good at English and history and not inclined to become builders, electricians, police officers or nurses (New Question Time host should be a woman, 22 June). The vacancy created by the departure of David Dimbleby should be filled by any individual who attended a comprehensive school and who did not collect a degree in history, English or some version of philosophy, politics and economics from the Oxbridge gatekeepers.
• Wouldn’t the sensible approach to Dimbleby’s replacement be to alternate the chair between male and female journalists? There are plenty of both genders well qualified for the role and it would give the viewing public a weekly opportunity to experience whatever gender differences in approach there may be. An additional benefit would be to reduce the possibility of the programme once again becoming a vehicle for a particular personality.
We asked you to share your end-of-year artwork. Here is a small selection of the hundreds of contributions we’ve received so far
- You can view all the entries or submit your own art here by 2 July
Efforts to improve the training and resources available to childminders in Nairobi’s Kibera settlement are bearing fruit – to the benefit of all concerned
Three-year-old Joy and her sister Lavine, four, are surrounded by kitchen pots, soft toys and an old wellington boot. It’s mid-morning at Kidogo’s nursery and preschool, and the sisters are playing in the dramatic centre, a place set aside for children to invent their own games. Each corner of the room is dedicated to a different activity: music, stories, art or a quiet space for reading.
The centre is one of the few quality childcare facilities in Kibera, an overcrowded informal settlement in Nairobi that houses 170,070 people, according to a 2009 national census (although other estimates have put the number significantly higher). Most centres are found in cramped rooms or homes, with one woman responsible for 20 or so children. Ventilation is poor and there are reports of babies being given sleeping pills to knock them out for the day, or children being locked in dark rooms. There’s rarely space to play.Continue reading...
The Guardian’s science editor on elixirs of life, questions of ethics, and meeting some extraordinary minds
There are people who will tell you that the elixir of life is to be found in the blood of youngsters. It’s a vampiric belief, but not unfounded. One day in February 2015, I watched Joe Castellano pull a tray of frosted vials full of human plasma from a freezer at Stanford University. The yellowy contents were bound for old mice. Infusions of the fluid have a striking effect: feeble animals perk up; they learn faster; their cognitive skills are sharpened. It seems that both bodies and brains are rejuvenated.
What gives rise to these intriguing changes is a major research question. Young plasma, it seems, may be suffused with compounds that keep tissues youthful, and lack certain factors that age us. Find these potent ingredients, and show that they can stave off ageing, and your name will go down in history. Or so the story goes.
Many of those doing revamped exams report mental health problems and extreme stress
Pupils have delivered a damning verdict on the revamped GCSEs, saying they have caused crying, mental exhaustion, panic attacks, nosebleeds, sleepless nights, hair loss and outbreaks of acne.
About half a million 16 year olds sat the tougher exams, which were initiated by the former education secretary Michael Gove and tested for the first time this summer, with grades ranging from 9-1 rather than A*-G.Continue reading...
How pupils at La Gautrais rediscovered games, dance and the art of conversation
It’s breaktime at a middle school in rural Brittany, and huddles of teenagers are chatting in the playground. Two 15-year-olds sit reading novels, while others kick footballs or play chase. One boy does some press-ups.
The hum of conversation and flurry of movement contrasts with most other French secondary schools, where playgrounds can be eerily silent as pupils stare at their mobile phones. In La Gautrais, no one looks at Instagram, Snapchat or YouTube. Here mobile phones have been banned. Few seem to miss them.
Nicht nur Gymnasiasten verdienen es, Zeit zum Lernen und Reifen zu haben. Unsere Gesellschaft sollte es sich leisten, alle Jugendlichen länger in die Schule zu schicken. Sie würde davon profitieren.