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Does eating fish make children smarter?

Does eating fish make children smarter?

BBC Science

Some interesting information on the power of Omega 3 to help children increase their learning potential


Up To 50,000 Migrants ‘Exploited Student Visa Flaw To Work In UK’

Up To 50,000 Migrants ‘Exploited Student Visa Flaw To Work In UK’

BBC |March 27, 2012

Up to 50,000 migrants may have exploited flaws in a new student visa system in its first year to come and work in the UK, a report by Whitehall’s spending watchdog says.

Under a system introduced in 2009, each student must be sponsored by a licensed college and cannot change institution without gaining permission.

But “key controls” had not been put in place, the National Audit Office found.

The Home Office said “tough new rules” were cutting student visa numbers.

Under the previous system, there was no limit on the number of non-European Economic Area students a college could enrol and students were free to move college and course without notifying the UK Border Agency.

The replacement, brought in by the Labour government, states that each student must be sponsored by educational institutions licensed by the agency and cannot change college without applying to it.

‘Low priority’

Colleges are responsible for judging people’s intentions to study.

But the audit office said the system had been brought in “before the key controls were in place” and that “in its first year of operation, between 40,000 and 50,000 individuals may have entered the UK… to work rather than to study.”

It added: “The agency did not check that those who entered the UK as students were attending college.”

The report continued: “The agency has taken little action to prevent and detect students overstaying or working in breach of their visa conditions because the agency regards them as low-priority compared to illegal immigrants and failed asylum seekers.”

The agency has removed 2,700 students since 1 April 2009, but the audit office said it had “been slow to withdraw students’ leave to remain in the UK, where it has cause to do so”.

“This has meant that, in many cases, enforcement teams have been unable to arrest students found working and not attending college.”

Addresses for almost a fifth of more than 800 migrants wanted by the agency were found in just one week at a cost of £3,000 by a contractor hired by the watchdog.

Amyas Morse, head of the audit office, said the flaws in the student visa system had been “both predictable and avoidable”.

He added: “Action planned by the agency to ensure that those with no right to remain in the UK are identified and required to leave must now be pursued more vigorously.”

‘Beginning to bite’

Labour MP Margaret Hodge, who chairs the Commons Public Accounts Committee, said: “This is one of the most shocking reports of poor management leading to abuse that I have seen.

“The agency needs to get a grip and fix the way it deals with student visas.”

But immigration minister Damian Green said: “This government has introduced radical reforms in order to stamp out abuse and restore order to the uncontrolled student visa system we inherited.

“These include tough new rules on English language, working rights and dependants to ensure only legitimate students come to the UK. New restrictions on post-study work mean that all but the very best will return home after study.”

He added: “These measures are beginning to bite, we have already seen the number of student visas issued drop considerably in the second half of 2011, compared to the same period in 2010.”

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK which represents vice-chancellors, said “good progress” had been made tightening up the system, but there was evidence that legitimate students were being deterred from applying.

“There are some very significant dips, particularly from the Indian sub-continent, where there appears to have been a very negative message which is going out, which is that genuine students are not particularly welcome in Britain and that’s what we’re really concerned about,” she told the BBC.

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of the Migration Watch UK campaign group, called on the government to reintroduce interviews for all prospective students “to weed out bogus applicants before they come to Britain, as the Americans and Australians are already doing”.

Schools That Fail Ofsted ‘Likely To Improve’

Schools That Fail Ofsted ‘Likely To Improve’

BBC |March 27, 2012

By Sean Coughlan BBC News education correspondent
Narrowly failing an Ofsted inspection is more likely to prompt an improvement in schools, rather than begin a spiral of decline, according to research.

The academic study examined the consequences for secondary schools in England of being labelled as failing.

Among schools which had “just failed”, this setback was more likely to be a catalyst for recovery, the study found.

An average 10% rise in GCSE results after a failed inspection showed such interventions worked, said researchers.

The study by Rebecca Allen, of the Institute of Education, University of London, and Simon Burgess, Centre for Market and Public Organisation, University of Bristol, looked at the outcomes for underperforming schools.

It addressed the key question of whether the process of being failed by inspectors was likely to damage a school even more – or whether it could be the springboard for a recovery.

Better to fail? This study focused on schools just above and below the boundary between satisfactory and unsatisfactory, to make a comparison between schools not too far apart in levels of achievement.

Falling on the wrong side of this divide – and being failed by inspectors – could be a long-term advantage, according to the study, which looked at inspection results from between 2002 to 2008.

And it found less evidence that failing an inspection triggered an irrevocable process of decline – damaging morale, risking pupil numbers and undermining staff recruitment.

“It could be worse to be judged as satisfactory,” said Dr Allen.

The judgement that a school was failing “empowered” head teachers to take corrective action, she said.

An improvement of 10% in GCSE results was the average recovery following a failed inspection, the research found.

Dr Allen said these improvements were also in the core subjects, such as English and maths, suggesting this was substantial and significant progress.

“It suggests there is a lot of capacity to do better within schools,” she said.

Dr Allen accepted that inspections were stressful for teachers, but argued that these improvements in results, following an Ofsted intervention, showed the public value.

This study did not address what happened to schools with more severe problems, which had been found to be inadequate by inspectors.

There has been increasing attention paid to borderline schools, with Ofsted’s chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, announcing that the “satisfactory” grade would be designated as “requires improvement”.

This is part of an attempt to drive improvements in so-called“coasting” schools.

Legal Bid Over Academy Row Downhills Primary School

Legal Bid Over Academy Row Downhills Primary School

BBC |March 27, 2012

The parent of a pupil at a north London school has begun legal action over Education Secretary Michael Gove’s decision to sack the governors.

Downhills Primary School governors were dismissed on 15 March. The Department for Education said the Haringey school had been“failing” its pupils.

It had been at the centre of a row over attempts to make it an academy.

Susan Moyse has sent a letter about her intent to seek judicial review to Mr Gove.

After the removal of the governors an interim executive board – chaired by Les Walton, the chairman of the Young People’s Learning Agency which is the academies’ funding body – was appointed.

In February the school’s then head teacher Leslie Church resigned after Ofsted placed the school, which is more than 100 years old, in special measures.

The pre-action letter sent by Ms Moyse’s solicitors to Mr Gove on 23 March claims that he acted unlawfully by sacking the governors and appointing an interim board.

The letter calls for the governors to be reinstated and asks the government to hold a “fair and lawful consultation” with parents, staff and the local community on whether the school should become an academy.

‘Ridden roughshod’Ms Moyse said: “This school was already rapidly improving as a community school.

“The parents recognise this and have voted overwhelmingly against academy status.

“We’re not the ideologues and we don’t want our children used as guinea pigs in the forced academy experiment.”

Ms Moyse’s solicitor, Beth Handley, of Hickman and Rose, said:“The Secretary of State has considerable powers under the laws surrounding Academy conversion, however there remain checks and balances in the system which the Secretary of State has ridden roughshod over.”

A Department for Education statement said: “Downhills school has been underperforming for several years.

“Most recently Ofsted found that the school is failing to give its pupils an acceptable standard of education and that those responsible for leading, managing and governing the school are not demonstrating the capacity to secure the necessary improvement.

“That is why we have appointed an interim executive board to give the school the leadership and expertise it needs to improve. This board will consult on whether conversion should take place.”

Mr Gove’s office has until 6 April to respond to the letter.

Illegal Exclusions: In No Other Area Would Ministers Be So Slow To Act

Illegal Exclusions: In No Other Area Would Ministers Be So Slow To Act

The Guardian World News

Some young people are disproportionately affected by school exclusions

Some young people are disproportionately affected by school exclusions. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

The Children’s Commissioner’s report on school exclusions is not the first report to highlight this vexed issue, and no doubt won’t be the last. It confirms much that we already know. Although the number of exclusions is relatively small, the consequences are significant, with those excluded being more likely to underachieve, be unemployed later on or enter the criminal justice system.

The report also graphically reminds us of the disproportionate impact on specific groups of young people. To characterise the extremes, poor black boys with a special educational need are 168 times more likely to be excluded from school than white girls without special needs from more affluent backgrounds.

The report reminds us of our failure to get a grip on this in the past. But it also has new things to tell us, both in the evidence it presents and in some of its recommendations.

With most other challenges facing our education system –literacy, numeracy or the national anxiety over the fact that four out of 10 young people don’t get five good GCSEs including English and maths, for example – there is clarity of expectation and a record of progress on which to build. Not so for exclusions. The number of children excluded might fluctuate each year, but it’s hard to argue that we have made any meaningful progress. It is not a lack of political attention; successive governments have changed the law, invested money and called for progress. Neither is it because schools or parents do not realise its importance.

At its heart, our attitude to exclusions has never really been clear and successive governments have sent out mixed messages. At the start of its term in office, the last government set out its wish to see a fall in the number of exclusions. But it backtracked rapidly when the policy was seen as removing headteachers’ powers to instil good behaviour. Over the years, schools with high levels of exclusions have, in turn, been criticised for abandoning pupils, and praised for being tough on discipline.

We hide behind some obvious truths. Of course, heads need the authority to exclude; it is essential that the bad behaviour of a few should not stop others from learning; sometimes a move does give a child the fresh start they need.

Yet lining up behind these ideas does not make an effective policy. The report from the Children’s Commissioner makes uncomfortable reading, but three points, in particular, deserve to be addressed.

First, there is no guidance for schools on good practice in managing or commissioning provision for pupils with challenging behaviour. If we spent as much time and effort in understanding successful alternative provision as we do in fiddling with the appeals system, we might make more progress.

Second, we must confront the evidence that shows the significant over-representation of vulnerable groups, such as those with special needs. If we don’t, the ambition of the government – and of us all – to close the social class attainment gap will not be achieved.

Third, and perhaps most significant, the report presents evidence that a small number of schools use “illegal” means of exclusion. There have long been rumours that some children are out of school without it ever being recorded as such, but the report, for the first time, cites evidence.

Whatever the frustrations or pressures on schools, this can never be acceptable and the allegations should be taken seriously. In no other area of school activity would the government or Ofsted be so slow to act on evidence of illegal activity.

No one pretends that these are easy issues. There are often conflicting loyalties and a lack of expert resources to support challenging children. All this, in a context of a national accountability system that gives schools little recognition of the progress they often do make with children with poor behaviour, and a national policy that has never been sure whether success would be more or fewer exclusions.

The report is a reminder that, despite our best efforts, the work to develop an approach to exclusions that suits all pupils and all schools is very much unfinished business.

The Trainee Teachers Who Are Paying To Work For Nothing

The Trainee Teachers Who Are Paying To Work For Nothing

The Guardian World News |by Laura Marcus

The practice of using unpaid, unqualified staff is unfair on qualified teachers, too

The practice of using unpaid, unqualified staff is unfair on qualified teachers, too, and on students. Photograph: Alamy

We’re becoming depressingly familiar with the idea that to get work of any kind now, you must first work for free. Now, it seems, the trend has hit teaching. Education Guardian has been contacted by lecturers at three further education colleges that are using unpaid teachers to take classes. How widespread is this practice?

The University and College Union (UCU) says some of its members have recently approached it with complaints about the use of unpaid teachers. UCU is to raise the matter with ministers and employers.

Unlike school teachers, who are all required to have the same qualification (the PGCE), and who usually combine on-the-job training with academic study, there are three different training routes in FE. Two of these – the certificate and diploma in lifelong learning – can only be undertaken by those already employed in a teaching role.

Trainee lecturers in colleges need 150 hours’ teaching time to get their qualification, awarded after continual assessment in the classroom. The problem is, says Mary Slater*, who trains teachers in a large inner-city college, there just aren’t enough jobs to go around.

“This year, at least 50% of my students couldn’t get paid jobs, so they’re getting round this requirement by teaching as volunteers instead,” she says.

In other words, they are working as unpaid teachers to meet the criteria for their on-the-job training. Not only that, they are also paying their own fees, which, depending on the level of the course, can range from around £500 to over £3,000.“Normally an employer would pick up the bill. So they’re not only working for nothing, but paying to work for nothing,” says Slater. Next year, the teaching diploma at her college will cost£3,000.

“I can see why this may be OK for the volunteers,” says Slater.“If they can’t get paid work, then at least they can get the teaching experience that will lead to a qualification. But it means some colleges are getting unpaid teachers. And because of cutbacks in FE, many are not even going to get proper paid jobs when they finish.” The skills they learn are not transferable either; currently, those with FE teaching qualifications are not eligible to teach in schools.

Are colleges doing this to support aspiring teachers in a tough job market, or are they taking advantage of the situation to boost staffing levels? Pressed for cash, do some colleges see it as a way of saving money while maintaining teaching hours?

Slater suspects this could be the case. She says some of the volunteers at her college are not being properly supported or mentored: “Paid staff on teacher training courses are allocated mentors through a formal process so they fare better than those who are there as unpaid volunteers.

“I teach them in a classroom and observe them from a generalist viewpoint, but they need subject-specialist mentoring from the subject department where they are teaching. In many cases they’re just left to get on with it and used as free labour. They’re not getting the proper training they should. I don’t blame the trainees themselves. I can see why they do it, as for many, there’s no other way to get the in-service qualification.”

Slater says the practice has been happening at her college since 2009. “Prior to that, we were fairly strict on who we would take on the course and they had to have paid, usually part-time, teaching jobs. Now many feel forced to work for free to meet the criteria for qualification. It’s becoming an accepted norm and that troubles me.”

Another lecturer, Mike Marshall*, says his college has also been using free teachers. “Our college is employing at least two trainee students to deliver a large number of classes unpaid. In one case, the student teacher has replaced a full-time member of staff who emigrated. The college authorities claim they are supporting lecturers in a proper placement, but this isn’t the case. Some have been given so-called extended placements so they’re doing far more hours than they should be. They are being taken advantage of. It’s as simple as that.”

But using unpaid, unqualified teachers could also have legal repercussions, as Penny Davies*, who also works at a large FE college, points out. “They are almost certainly not covered by employer insurance. Some may not have been CRB checked, in which case they should not be in sole charge of classes.”

When Davies became aware of the use of volunteer trainee teachers at her college, she and a colleague reported it to their human resources department. “We came across instances of three people last year who were actually taking whole classes on their own without a proper attached teacher to supervise them. We then discovered this was happening in two other sections of our college.”

In her college, the practice was stamped out. But Davies sees trainees from other institutions, so she knows this is happening elsewhere in the region, and worries that it seems to be going unchecked. “It undercuts wages and affects jobs,” she says. “So it’s not just unpaid teachers who suffer, but paid ones, too. It’s also supremely unfair on the students … who may be unaware they’re getting someone who hasn’t finished training, may not know how to do proper lesson plans and isn’t being supervised.” She is worried this is happening in other places, but college staff are too frightened to speak up at a time of cuts and redundancies.

“To their great credit, HR at our place were absolutely horrified and immediately issued a college-wide memo saying the practice must stop,” says Davies. “Big, reputable colleges such as ours do not want this going on, but it’s below the radar and the authorities won’t know about it unless someone tells them.

“So far as we’re aware, we’ve managed to stop this here now, but it’s vital others do, too,” says Davies. “We don’t want this to become the norm.” She appeals to other lecturers to speak out. “If it’s happening at your college, tell HR and tell the union.”

Davies says when she went to the head of HR, no names or departments were mentioned. “The last thing we wanted was to get people into trouble. We just wanted it to stop.”

She points out that there is a big difference between volunteers being used as helpers and these unpaid teachers who are training on the job. “We use volunteers helping with, say, adult literacy classes, and that’s not a problem as long as they are allocated hours in a class with a paid teacher supervising. But where they are being used to take away the necessity to pay somebody, it undermines the profession and threatens jobs.”

The UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, says the union will now be raising the issue with ministers and employers. “Trainee teachers must be properly supported and mentored at work for the sake of their development and students’ education,” she says. “They must not under any circumstances be used as free labour or to take paid work away from existing staff. There is a very strong case for a national code of practice for all colleges to ensure trainee teachers are not exploited.”

The Association of Colleges (AoC) says it is unaware of unpaid trainees being used. Evan Williams, director of employment and professional services, says: “Colleges are responsible employers with stringent recruitment practices who take the training and development of teachers as of paramount importance. This issue has not been brought to our attention … and if it were, it is something we, and our members, would take seriously.”

• *Names of all lecturers have been changed

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