More than 87,000 racist incidents recorded in schools

More than 87,000 racist incidents recorded in schools

BBC |May 22, 2012

By Divya Talwar BBC Asian Network
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Nearly 88,000 racist incidents were recorded in Britain’s schools between 2007 and 2011, the BBC has found.

Data from 90 areas shows 87,915 cases of racist bullying, which can include name calling and physical abuse.

Birmingham recorded the highest number of incidents at 5,752, followed by Leeds with 4,690. Carmarthenshire had the lowest number with just 5 cases.

A racist incident is defined as any situation perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person.

In response to the local authority figures, obtained under a Freedom of Information request, the Department for Education said racism needed to be “rooted out”.

Lawrence inquiry

Following the inquiry into the murder of teenager Stephen Lawrence, the previous government said schools in England and Wales must monitor and report all incidents of racist abuse to their local authority.

However, the coalition government has changed that guidance and schools now have no duty to record and report the data.

Between 2007 and 2010 – the last year that heads had an obligation to record cases – recorded racist incidents in schools in England, Scotland and Wales rose from 22,285 to 23,971.

Many areas including Luton, Oldham, Croydon, Bedford and Middlesbrough saw an increase of 40% or more over the period 2007/08 to 2009/10.

In Cardiff, there was a 32% increase in cases of racism in schools in that time from 186 to 246.

In Aberdeenshire, cases rose by two cases in the same period from 22 to 24 and in Angus from 13 to 16.

In 2010/11, when the new reporting guidelines came into force, reported cases of racist bullying fell to 18,996.

‘Tip of iceberg’

Sarah Soyei, of the anti-racism educational charity, Show Racism the Red Card (SRRC), said: “Unfortunately, the numbers of recorded racist incidents are just the tip of the iceberg.

“Racism is a very real issue in many classrooms around the country, but cases of racist bullying are notoriously underreported.

“Often teachers may not be aware of racism in their classrooms because victims are scared of reporting them out of fear of making the situation worse.”

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: “These numbers are disappointingly high – we would really hope this is not the tip of the iceberg.

“Clearly were would not want any cases of racist abuse or racism in any of our schools.”

Many local education authorities say that the increase in reported incidents – up until 2010/11 when the guidance changed -is due to better recording methods.

However, anti-racism charities say that it is a growing problem in many regions.

“We are seeing a real increase in racism in some areas which is down to factors like a growth of Islamaphobia in society which is filtering into classrooms,” said Ms Soyei.

“Racism towards eastern European and gypsy and traveller communities is also on the increase,” she added.

Teaching unions say the key to tackling the problem in schools is through education for both teachers and students.

Charities have been delivering anti-racism lessons in schools across the country in an attempt to educate young people against racism.

‘Box-ticking’

But both unions and anti-racism charities fear that the government’s new reporting guidance of racism in schools is a mistake.

“It is not just a box ticking exercise, we absolutely do need recording and reporting of all racist incidents,” said Christine Blower.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “Racism needs to be rooted out wherever it occurs, and particularly in schools, where every child has the right to learn in an environment free from prejudice.”

The department defended the change in its guidance for schools.

“It is teachers and parents – not central government – that know what is happening in their schools, and they are best placed to deal with racist behaviour when it happens.

“We would expect all schools to implement their own processes to ensure they are dealing with racist incidents in the most appropriate way, rather than being bogged down with paperwork from the centre – which can sometimes mean that the most serious cases of racism are not dealt with.”

Neets ‘lack skills needed for first jobs’

Neets ‘lack skills needed for first jobs’

BBC |May 22, 2012

By Sean Coughlan BBC News education correspondent
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Too many young people lack the social skills needed to get their first job, says a report on the issue of “Neets”.

The Work Foundation says more than 450,000 Neets – youngsters not in education, employment or training – have never had a regular job.

Report author Paul Sissons says young people can lack the “soft skills” needed for the jobs available to them in the service sector.

He says youngsters need help at “this crucial point of transition”.

First steps

The report from the Work Foundation think tank warns of a long-term problem of Neets – aged between 16 and 24 – who have never successfully made the first steps from education into employment.

It suggests that first jobs are now increasingly unlikely to be in manufacturing – but instead will be in the service sector.

But it warns that too many youngsters in this Neet category lack soft skills – such as “communication, team working and customer service” – to get a start in such jobs.

“We know that if young people haven’t got on to the first rung of the job ladder by 24, they will suffer the consequences for the rest of their lives,” said Shaks Ghosh, chief executive of the Private Equity Foundation, which supports the report.

“Some will never work. That’s why this research is so shocking.

“Many Neet young people face a Catch-22. They don’t have the so-called ‘soft skills’ employers are looking for, but often the only opportunity to learn those skills is on the job,” he said.

The report, Lost in Transition, says that the growing number of Neets reflects a major shift in the labour market in the past decade, which has caused a mismatch between the jobs available and the skills of those who are out of work.

It means that more than half of Neets will never have had any sustained experience of a job.

Approaching a million youngsters are classified as Neet – with updated figures expected to be published this week.

International problem

Dr Sissons says such youngsters need “personalised guidance, workplace mentors and introductions to business networks, as well as work experience which leads to paid employment”.

Earlier this week the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) launched a Skills Strategy to address this problem on an international level.

The OECD has warned about the problems of people in industrialised countries isolated from the labour market by a lack of skills.

Even when there are job vacancies, the OECD has reported problems faced by employers who are unable to find suitably-qualified candidates.

The OECD argues for a more co-ordinated approach between education authorities and employers to prepare people for the skills likely to be needed in the future.

Neet blackspots in Great Britain (Northern Ireland not shown as it was not included in the study)

Higher fees may deter mature students, a study warns

Higher fees may deter mature students, a study warns

BBC |May 22, 2012

By Judith Burns Education reporter BBC News
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Higher undergraduate tuition fees may trigger a collapse in numbers of mature students in England, a study warns.

The report says the drop in applications for full-time places from mature students is almost double that from younger people.

The report for the National Union of Students and the million+ university group calls on the government to do more for mature students.

The government says financial worries should not deter anyone from study.

The report draws on figures from the admissions body UCAS which show that applications from people aged 21 or over for full-time degree courses starting in 2012-13 have fallen by 11.4% since last year.

This is compared with a drop of 6.6% from applicants aged 17 to 20.

Applications for university places from UK students fell by an average of 9% for this autumn, the start of higher undergraduate fees of up to £9,000 a year.

‘Debt averse’

The report, Never too Late to Learn, says the drop in applications is evidence that higher undergraduate tuition fees may act as a deterrent to prospective mature students who tend to be debt averse.

The authors say fewer mature students would be a concern as they currently represent a fifth of all full-time undergraduates. A third of undergraduates start university for the first time when they are over 21 and more than half (57%) of these study full time.

A spokesman for the Department of Business Innovation and Skills said: “Mature students make a valuable contribution to higher education, bringing real-world experience, knowledge and skills into the classroom.

“New students do not have to pay upfront. Instead they can make manageable monthly repayments as graduates once they are in well paid work.

“Repayments are for a maximum of 30 years with any remaining balance written off after that time.”

The report points out that mature students are less likely to have the usual set of A-level qualifications expected of school leavers. They are also more likely to study part-time and locally, to be from ethnic minorities and to have disabilities.

The study calls on the government to take into account the more complex financial circumstances of many prospective mature students when publicising the benefits of a degree.

Loan repayment

It says the impact of the changes in fees and student support schemes on mature students should be carefully monitored.

In particular, it mentions that longer repayment periods for loans could be a particular problem for mature graduates if they are still having to pay them off as they near retirement.

Liam Burns, president of the National Union of Students said:“Mature students report financial hardship as one of the key challenges they face.

“We can’t ignore the significant drop in full-time applications from mature applicants for the coming year, and we need to understand the reasons for this and prompt a change of direction in the government’s approach.”

Professor Patrick McGhee, chairman of million+ said: “This report is a timely reminder that social mobility is not just about young people …. contrary to popular perception university isn’t just for 18 year olds with A-levels.

“This is something we should be proud of – it’s a unique strength of our system – but it also means that we have a responsibility to preserve, protect and promote opportunities for people to study whatever their age, background and family, financial or work commitments.”

GCSEs not fit for purpose, says CBI

GCSEs not fit for purpose, says CBI

guardian.co.uk |by Jeevan Vasagar

  • Jeevan Vasagar, education editor
  • guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 23 May 2012 01.00 EDT
gcse exams

GCSE exams, which are due to be taken by 600,000 pupils in 2012, result in a ‘prescribed form of learning’,says the CBI. Photograph: Eye Ubiquitous/Alamy

GCSEs encourage “teaching to the test” and may be past their sell-by date, according to Britain’s leading business organisation.

The Confederation of British Industry warns that the qualification is stopping teachers delivering an “inspirational classroom experience” and should be replaced as a measure in school league tables by the A-level.

John Cridland, the CBI director general, said industry faced a shortage of key skills, particularly in science and maths. The CBI, which represents more than 240,000 companies, is also concerned about the 40% of young people who fail to achieve the benchmark of five good GCSE passes including English and maths.

The proportion of pupils who reach this standard is the main measure of school success.

Speaking at the launch of a CBI inquiry into education, Cridland argued that abandoning GCSEs could help deliver a more rounded education.

“There’s something about this GCSE funnel which produces a prescribed form of learning which seems to be teaching for the test.

“It frustrates teachers because it stops them delivering that inspirational classroom experience, and you see young people being switched off.”

The CBI head suggested that raising the school leaving age to 18– a change that comes into effect in 2015 – is an opportunity to reform the system.

“It seems to me that we’ve raised the participation age to 18 and we’re left with an education system that focuses on 16,” said Cridland.

“If you say to employers at the moment ‘what’s the gold standard, what’s the thing you measure more than anything?’, I think there’s more faith in A-levels than there is in GCSEs. If everybody is heading for that attainment at 18, then 16 is a hurdle that gets in the way.

“What would happen if you took that hurdle out – would you get speedier races to the tape?”

More than 600,000 children in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are due to take GCSEs this summer.

Many other countries do without a public exam at 16. Finland, the highest performing school system in Europe according to the OECD’s rankings, has just one public exam, at 18, though children are regularly tested at younger ages.

The CBI education inquiry, which will report back at the organisation’s annual conference in November, will also look at early years education. It is vital to tackle gaps in the system earlier, Cridland said, citing figures that showed just 6.5% of children who start secondary school behind for their age go on to achieve five good GCSEs including English and maths. The inquiry will look at whether heads and teachers can be given greater freedom.

Cridland said: “We need to give school leaders more freedom to motivate, to recognise, to reward high performance, and deal with poor performance, and I would go further, we need to give teachers more freedom to teach. If you have an inspirational teacher why don’t we do what we do in business, back the guy or girl that you trust to deliver excellence rather than tell them how to do it.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “We want to create an education system that ranks with the best in the world. This will ensure all pupils are equipped with the skills they need for work or university.

“Our reforms of GCSEs will break the constant treadmill of exams and retakes throughout students’ GCSE courses – school shouldn’t be a dreary trudge from one test to the next. We want students to achieve a real, lasting understanding and love of a subject.”

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