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The Guardian view on hyper-populism: it’s infecting politicians and technocrats | Editorial

Sun, 24/06/2018 - 20:05
We need a society to encourage dissent so that individuals can resist the challenge of undemocratic thought. This means giving people a voice as well as a vote

It was Michael Gove who before the Brexit referendum said “people in this country have had enough of experts”. The highly educated Mr Gove was mining a rich seam of voters fed up with, and disregarding of, expert opinion. Brexiters have continued in this perjorative style. Only last week the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, reportedly gave a terse and pungent imprecation to diplomats who raised the issue of companies doubting his wisdom about the UK leaving the EU without a trade deal. “Fuck business,” Britain’s top diplomat replied undiplomatically.

In fact both rabble-rousing Brexiters and experts have more in common than either would admit. Populists claim to have a special insight into the will of the people, able to dispense with debate and discussion. Hence Mr Johnson warning prime minister Theresa May against a “bog-roll Brexit” that was “soft, yielding and seemingly infinitely long”. By contrast, experts argue it’s necessary to insulate policies from vested interests and the vicissitudes of politics. More independent agencies should take over arms of the state. This has captured thinking in the UK, where the last few decades have seen a steady growth in the number of agencies, commissions and regulators which routinely draft legally binding rules. Not only did they provide a way for politicians to look as if they are doing something but they allow them to duck tough decisions until they cannot. Just look at public sector pay, which could only apparently be raised via independent pay review bodies – until politicians decided they were unnecessary.

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Antonia Syson obituary

Sun, 24/06/2018 - 19:48

My friend Antonia Syson, who has died aged 45 of breast cancer, was a scholar and teacher with a fierce commitment to her students. She challenged the dominant assumption that frequency of publication is a meaningful measure of academic worth.

Born in Botswana, Antonia was the daughter of John Syson and his wife, Lucy (now Gaster), who was researching rural development for the United Nations development programme. Antonia’s father was private secretary to the president, Sir Seretse Khama.

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Michael Banton obituary

Sun, 24/06/2018 - 19:41

iMichael Banton, who has died aged 91, was appointed the first professor of sociology at Bristol University in 1965, and headed the department until his retirement in 1992.

From 1971 until 1978, he also led the Social Science Research Council’s Research Unit on Ethnic Relations at the university, which was concerned with the settlement of migrants from south Asia and the Caribbean, as well as from African countries. The unit moved in 1984 to become the Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations at Warwick University.

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What next for the Glasgow School of Art? | Letters

Sun, 24/06/2018 - 19:15
Readers respond to the fire that destroyed Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s masterpiece

The Glasgow School of Art should be reconstructed as it was (Editorial, 20 June). Mackintosh did not, after all, physically build it himself – his genius resides in the design and a faithful rebuild is no less a Mackintosh building than the original. Unrealised buildings by Mies van der Rohe and Frank Lloyd Wright have been constructed long after their deaths from original plans. The only difference is that Mackintosh’s art school had a previous existence. If there is an opportunity to return this marvellous building to three-dimensional life, so it can be physically experienced by future generations rather than only surviving as plans and photos, it should be taken.
Ian Simmon
Monkseaton, Tyne and Wear

• I agree with Ian Jack (Brick by brick, Glasgow must recreate its lost masterpiece, 23 June). Glasgow without its art school would be like London without St Paul’s. In addition to the massive negative impact on students and Glaswegians, its absence would dismay the many visitors to the city who come to wonder at Mackintosh’s masterpiece.

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Caitlin Moran: ‘I address the taboos that need to be busted’

Sun, 24/06/2018 - 12:00

The journalist and author talks about revenge porn, embarrassing her children and the ‘big fuss’ of making a film

Raised and home-schooled in Wolverhampton, Caitlin Moran became a journalist aged 15 and is now an award-winning writer at the Times. Her 2011 nonfiction memoir How to Be a Woman is an international bestseller, while How to Build a Girl, the first novel in her semi-autobiographical trilogy about a teenager called Johanna Morrigan, is being made into a feature film. Its sequel, How to Be Famous, is out on Thursday (Ebury Press, £14.99).

This is your third book with a ‘how to’ title. How come?
I like writing useful books. I didn’t go to school. Everything I learned was from reading everything that interested me in Wolverhampton’s Warstone’s library. With a “how to” title you know what you’re going to get. If you call it, like, The Crying of Dolphins, people think: “Hmm, is that relevant to me?” Every book of mine is a list of topics I haven’t seen addressed, taboos that need to be busted, secrets that need to be told, things that I want to boggle at. What is everybody else not talking about or too scared to talk about?

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Too smart, too successful: Mongolia’s superwomen struggle to find husbands

Sun, 24/06/2018 - 08:00
Highly educated women far outnumber men in the capital – making it difficult for them to find a partner

At the UB comedy club at the back of a bar in central Ulaanbaatar, the audience is overwhelmingly female. Groups of smartly dressed women, just out of the office, sip from bottles of beer while watching a young Mongolian man on stage.

“Our women are beautiful,” he says, nodding at a few men seated at the front. “They’re great to be friends with, but they are crazy.” A few men chuckle but the room is mostly silent.

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There are good reasons why poor British children struggle in school | Barbara Ellen

Sun, 24/06/2018 - 08:00

Let’s congratulate migrant success, but the ‘indigenous’ poor deal with a hard legacy

Are underprivileged migrant schoolchildren just smarter or are they harder workers than other children with similar backgrounds? Or perhaps it’s just that hope hasn’t been drained out of migrant families? Yet.

Schools in deprived areas with a high intake of white, working-class children tend to receive poor Ofsted assessments, while those with a high proportion of migrant children fare significantly better. Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector of schools in England, puts this down in part to white, working-class communities suffering the “full brunt of economic dislocation in recent years and, as a result, can lack the aspiration and drive seen in many migrant communities”. Which sounds about right, except that nothing about this seems recent. The very problem is that it’s ingrained.

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Children face mental health epidemic, say teachers

Sat, 23/06/2018 - 15:39
More pupils are struggling with anxiety, depression and addictions but not receiving the help they need

Britain’s schoolchildren are suffering from an epidemic of anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts, yet barely half get the NHS treatment they need, teachers say.

Almost four in five (78%) teachers have seen a pupil struggle with a mental health problem in the past year, with one in seven (14%) cases involving suicidal thoughts or behaviour.

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Cambridge University porters in bitter racial-profiling row

Sat, 23/06/2018 - 14:46
Accusations have been levelled at the university’s gate staff by one of its own academics

Exams in Cambridge are over, and although the sun is blazing down on the spires of King’s, Trinity and St John’s, many of the students are still in bed, recovering from the formal May balls the night before. But while its students were spending every night last week celebrating until the break of dawn, the university has become embroiled in an acrimonious internal row that threatens to damage its illustrious reputation.

The academic at the centre of the controversy is the Cambridge lecturer Priyamvada Gopal, and today she is showing me what happens when you walk with her around the university’s most exclusive colleges – and encounter the “porters” whose job it is to keep unwelcome visitors out.

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A-level maths paper 'leaked online' night before exam

Sat, 23/06/2018 - 12:42

Watchdog investigates after Edexcel C4 paper allegedly offered for sale at £200

An A-level maths paper was allegedly leaked on the internet the night before thousands of students sat the exam.

The exams watchdog Ofqual said it was working with Pearson, the company that owns the Edexcel exam board, “to establish the facts” after the C4 maths paper apparently appeared for sale online on Thursday night.

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Brick by brick, Glasgow must recreate its lost masterpiece | Ian Jack

Sat, 23/06/2018 - 08:00

To rebuild Mackintosh’s great work would be a long and costly project. But the School of Art has a place in the city’s heart

It has been said that a certain class of person can spend their entire life inside the same kind of institutional architecture, never leaving the mellow English stone of the 17th century in their inevitable progress from boarding school to Oxbridge college to an inn of court. But most of us make a less splendid and more various journey. My primary school dated from 1912, my secondary school from 1934, and my tertiary place of education from 1931.

The first of these was the most attractive: “blocky red sandstone art nouveau”, says the Fife volume of the Buildings of Scotland series. Nothing much can be said for the other two, though it was from a classroom on the top floor of the third, the Scottish College of Commerce, that I first noticed the structure that has since become one of the most famous buildings in Scotland – perhaps, since its destruction, the most famous of all.

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Phillip Wearne obituary

Fri, 22/06/2018 - 19:46

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.

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The Guardian view on mobile phones: schools are better without them | Editorial

Fri, 22/06/2018 - 19:14
The call to ban phones from the playground is rightly popular. But schools will need resources to do it properly

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.

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Ofsted chief’s ‘call to action’ shows her lack of understanding | Letters

Fri, 22/06/2018 - 18:42
Headteacher Rachel Hornsey says poor ratings are another cause of the deep divisions in our society. Saville Kushner thinks inspectors fail to understand the structural effects of poverty

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

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David Dimbleby’s departure poses an interesting question | Letters

Fri, 22/06/2018 - 18:42
Miles Secker says top jobs should no longer be reserved for Oxbridge graduates; Neil Wigglesworth thinks Question Time should be hosted by both a male and female journalist; Richard Goude thinks more women should be given a chance

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.
Miles Secker
Heckington, Lincolnshire

• 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.
Neil Wigglesworth
Forton, Lancashire

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Students' end-of-year artwork 2018 – your entries so far

Fri, 22/06/2018 - 17:15

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
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Support proves key for teachers and children alike in Kenya’s largest slum

Fri, 22/06/2018 - 16:00

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.

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Matters of fact: separating brilliant breakthroughs from science fictions

Fri, 22/06/2018 - 15:09

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.

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'Panic attacks and crying': how the new GCSEs affected pupils

Fri, 22/06/2018 - 14:03

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.

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‘We don’t really need phones’: the French school that banned mobiles

Fri, 22/06/2018 - 13:55

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.

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