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Top universities ‘doubled pay for senior staff’

Top universities ‘doubled pay for senior staff’

BBC |April 20, 2012

By Judith Burns BBC News education reporter

Leading universities doubled their spending on senior staff in less than a decade, a report claims.

Russell Group universities spent £382m on staff earning£100,000 or more last year, twice as much as in 2003-04, the research suggests.

The study by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts says the proportion of spending on top staff rose from 1.8% to 3.8%.

The Russell Group said top staff had taken small rises, pay freezes or cuts.

The report said that figures on pay for senior staff from the Russell Group of leading universities had implications across the higher education sector.

“At most universities we’ve seen year-on-year increases in student fees and hall fees combined with real-terms pay cuts and attacks on pensions for lecturers and cleaners alike.

Higher pay

“At the same time universities have massively expanded the pay and number of senior managers that they employ.”

“With the total cuts to UK universities being at 3.4% these figures are extremely worrying. It is entirely possible that a significant proportion of the cuts could be mitigated by restraint at the top,” said the report.

Dr Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group said: “Our vice-chancellors and other senior staff lead complex multi-million pound organisations that succeed on a global stage.

“First rate leadership and academic talent is crucial if our universities are to continue to excel in such a challenging economic climate.”

Dr Piatt said the average rise for a Russell Group vice chancellor this year had been lower than both UK inflation and the country’s average pay rise.

The group described the research as flawed as it fails to account for inflation.

The highest spend was at University College London with £50m paid to staff earning over £100,000 or more. Some of these were NHS consultants at the university’s teaching hospital.

Imperial College London paid senior staff almost £40m, while the figure for the University of Oxford was just over£35m.

Michael Chessum, a senior member of the National Union of Students and co-author of the report, said pay rises were a significant drain on universities’ budgets.

Mr Chessum told Times Higher magazine: “When we first berated vice-chancellors about their pay packages, we did so because we felt they were out of touch with ordinary staff and students.

“We are now seeing that the amount of money drawn by the highest paid staff is having a real impact on university finances.”


Government’s new, old-fashioned schools agenda

Government’s new, old-fashioned schools agenda

The Guardian World News

Eton wall game

The government’s plans for state education would take many aspects of the systems in place at public schools such as Eton. Photograph: Eddie Keogh/Reuters

David Cameron may avoid talking too openly of his tailcoat-wearing schooldays at Eton, but if the Conservative members of government want to avoid conjuring images of ruddy-cheeked prefects, brisk games of rugger and chapel before breakfast, they don’t seem to be trying very hard.

In a speech this week to Scottish voters before the local elections, the prime minister laid out the latest policy aspiration to be modelled explicitly on what he called the best of“what independent schools had going for them”.

Pupils, he said, should “stand up when their teacher walks in the room”. He then catalogued – in a characteristically verbless paragraph – other attributes every school should acquire: “Real discipline. Rigorous standards. Hard subjects. Sports where children can learn what it is to succeed and fail.”

Headteachers, he added, should “captain their own ship”.

Last year Cameron was accused of behaving like Flashman –the arrogant cad of Thomas Hughes’s Victorian public school romp Tom Brown’s School Days – by Ed Miliband at an ill-tempered prime minister’s questions.

This week the PM, who has never quite shaken off the Flashman dig, might very easily have been channelling Tom’s father, Squire Brown, who “believed honestly that the powers which be were ordained of God and that loyalty and steadfast obedience were men’s first duties”.

It is far from the first time the coalition, particularly its Tory segment, has explicitly called for a return to what some see as the stiff-backed, “play the game” values of top Victorian-era schools.

The education secretary, Michael Gove, unveiling the government’s plans for schools in November 2010, said Britain could become an “aspiration nation” if schools were urged to reintroduce uniforms – featuring traditional blazers and ties, rather than louche, modish sweatshirts –and the prefect and house systems that parents more commonly pay for their children to partake in.

There being “no profession more noble, no calling more vital, no vocation more admirable” than teaching, he said, former soldiers, sailors and airmen would particularly be encouraged to take up the profession, adding: “Unless order is maintained in the classroom, teachers cannot teach and children cannot learn.”

Gove, who like 59% of the original coalition government was educated privately (he was a scholarship boy at an independent school in Aberdeen), has since pledged to place a King James Bible in every school, and urged more “unashamedly elitist” institutions such as Cambridge University and major public schools to help run state schools. He has also sung the praises of a classical education in characteristically anti-populist tones: “We should recover something of that Victorian earnestness which believed that an audience would be gripped more profoundly by a passionate, hour-long lecture from a gifted thinker which ranged over poetry and politics than by cheap sensation and easy pleasures.”

The communities secretary, Eric Pickles, may be in the cabinet minority as a grammar school boy from Yorkshire, but his self-consciously jolly catchphrase – “Hello chums!” –is straight out of Hughes’s novel. Pickles has forcefully called for a return to a very particular brand of old-fashioned national traditions, which in his interpretation means “British traditional Christian culture”.

“A handful of activists,” he has said, want to “disown the traditions and heritage of the majority” – including Christian worship at council meetings, the union flag and, presumably, the traditional British weekly bin collection.

Winterval, the menacingly secular festival ousting Christmas across Britain, similarly “deserves to be in the dustbin of history”, he has said – overlooking the fact that even the Daily Mail has admitted that stories of Winterval renaming or replacing Christmas were untrue.

But there has been criticism of the old-fashioned agenda –analysis last year by a coalition of female academics accused Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, of actively seeking to restore an “old-fashioned model of family life” in which men worked as sole breadwinners, and women stayed at home to raise the family. This may or may not be a model fondly remembered by Duncan Smith, but the Fawcett Society said the reforms “risked turning back time on women’s equality”. The government denied it was seeking “to incentivise ‘traditional’ families only”.

And what is the “big society”, if not a politician’s attempt to capture Tom Brown’s team spirit?

“We’ve more reliance on one another,” says the book’s hero,“more of a house feeling, more fellowship than the school can have”.

In the schoolboy’s case, this was a winning formula. The Tories will hope it can represent the same for them.

Primary school paid PR firm £152,000, accounts show

Primary school paid PR firm £152,000, accounts show

The Guardian World News |by Jessica Shepherd

Michael Gove

Michael Gove visited Durand Academy twice between 2010 and last month, despite visiting only 21 primary schools in this period. Photograph: Sang Tan/AP

A primary school regularly praised by the government paid a political lobbying and public relations firm more than£152,000 last year to ensure positive mentions of the school in parliament and the press, among other work, it has emerged.

The latest accounts for the trust that runs Durand Academy in Stockwell, south London, show it paid £152,812 to Political Lobbying and Media Relations Ltd (PLMR) – a London-based firm that boasts of its connections to politicians of all parties.

The trust owed a further £12,455 to the lobbying company at the time the accounts, which are for the year ending 31 August 2011, were published. The academy’s website states that between 1 April 2009 and 31 December 2010, the trust paid just over£199,000 to the firm.

Part of the school’s brief to (PLMR) has been to “secure the explicit support of the British government and all political parties via visits to the school, mentions in speeches and positive mentions in parliament”.The firm said this was just a small part of the work it did for the academy.

PLMR has been highly successful in achieving positive mentions in parliament and the press for the school. Michael Gove, the education secretary, announced a major review of truancy sanctions in a speech at the academy in September last year and the school was again mentioned in a Department for Education press release on academies in January.

Gove visited the school twice between 2010 and last month, despite only visiting 21 primary schools in this period.On January 11 2010, Gove told parliament that he was “a great admirer of Durand school and its headteacher”.

PLMR told the Guardian that public funds had not been used to pay for the school’s political lobbying. “Revenues from commercial activities at Durand have exceeded PLMR’s fees many times over for this portion of our activity,” a spokeswoman said. These commercial activities are thought to be the academy’s social enterprise company – London Horizons Ltd – which runs a leisure club that subsidises the school. “We can be comfortable that public funds are not being used to pay for services, such as lobbying, that would be unusual or in any way controversial,” the spokeswoman added.

The managing director of PLMR, Kevin Craig, became a governor of Durand after PLMR had started working for the firm.PLMR boasts on its website that its employees have worked “across the political spectrum in Westminster (both Houses), the devolved assemblies and Brussels, in thinktanks and party offices, and in local authorities across the UK”. “We know politics and government. We know media. We know how to get planning permission,” it states. The firm specialises in lobbying and attracting publicity for healthcare, green technology and agricultural firms.

PLMR’s public relations campaign and political lobbying for Durand has focused on the school’s plans to set up a state boarding school in a stately home in Sussex. The firm won one of the top awards at the Cannes Lions international advertising festival last year for the positive coverage it secured for this project. PLMR says plans for the new boarding school have been mentioned 23 times in parliament and the ensuing print and broadcast coverage has been worth more than£2m.

PLMR told the Guardian that the work it carried out for Durand included liaising with “relevant politicians and civil servants locally and nationally”. A spokeswoman said the firm provided support, among other things, for external relations, media relations, government relations, public consultation around expansion, curriculum development research and diary management for senior staff at the school.

“It will come as no surprise that the school does not have the time or resource to manage all of these processes, while they are focusing on delivering an outstanding education to 1,000 children in the UK’s biggest primary school,” she said. “There are many services we supply that are common expenditure items for most schools – ie website copy writing and design, photography, printing etc. and would be regarded as a normal use of a school’s admin budget.”

Greg Martin, executive headteacher of Durand academy, said that without PLMR’s support, his school would not have been able to create a state boarding school.

A spokeswoman from the Department for Education said schools had to be able to justify their spending to parents. “Academies’accounts are publicly available and the Education Funding Agency reviews all their financial statements,” she said. “Durand is rated as outstanding by Ofsted and has an excellent track record in improving the results and life chances of children from disadvantaged homes.”

Drinking water improves exam grades, research suggests

Drinking water improves exam grades, research suggests

BBC |April 18, 2012

By Katherine Sellgren BBC News education reporter

Students who bring water into the examination hall may improve their grades, a study of 447 people found.

Controlling for ability from previous coursework results, researchers found those with water scored an average of 5% higher than those without.

The study, from the universities of East London and Westminster, also noted that older students were more likely to bring in water to exam halls.

It says the findings have implications for exam policies on access to drinks.

The researchers observed 447 psychology students at the University of East London – 71 were in their foundation year, 225 were first-years and 151 were in their second year.

Just 25% of the 447 students entered the exam hall with a bottle of water.

Of these, the more mature students (those in their second year of degree study) were more likely to bring in water – 31% did so compared with 21% of foundation year and first-year students.

After taking students’ academic ability into account, by examining coursework grades, the researchers found foundation students who drank water could expect to see grades improved by up to 10%.

This improvement was 5% for first-year students and 2% for second years.

Across the cohort, the improvement in marks was 4.8% for water-drinking exam candidates.

The research paper said information about the importance of staying hydrated during exams should be targeted at younger students in particular.


Dr Chris Pawson, from the University of East London, said consuming water may have a physiological effect on thinking functions that lead to improved exam performance.

Water consumption may also alleviate anxiety, which is known to have a negative effect on exam performance, said Dr Pawson.

“Future research is needed to tease apart these explanations, but whatever the explanation it is clear that students should endeavour to stay hydrated with water during exams,” he said.

Dr Mark Gardner, from the University of Westminster, told the BBC: “We find the results exciting in that they translate findings from the laboratory to real world settings like this.

“Also, supplementing with water is a really cheap way students and educators can help get better results.

“There are also implications for policy makers in terms of the availability of water on campuses.”

Programming project comes to primary schools

Programming project comes to primary schools

BBC |April 17, 2012


Volunteers have kicked off a project to set up after-school clubs that teach young children how to programme computers.

Called Code Clubs, the sessions will aim to instil the basics of computer programming into children aged 10-11.

The clubs will be built around practical hands-on tasks that will include children making games and eventually controlling robots.

It aims to have 25% of the UK’s primary schools running a Code Club by 2014.

Free codeThe clubs will sit alongside a broader national push to reform current computer lessons. These are based around children learning to use software found in offices and businesses, said Clare Sutcliffe who, with Linda Sandvik, dreamed up the Code Club project.

“We’re teaching our kids to be secretaries rather than programmers,” she said.

The government is in the process of changing what children learn about computers following a successful campaign that showed how important basic programming skills would be in the future.

Ms Sutcliffe said Code Club would “slot neatly alongside” changes to the national curriculum that emphasise programming.

Although in its early days, Code Club has about 100 volunteers signed up ready to help and has begun work on writing notes to guide what the clubs will teach.

Ms Sutcliffe said club sessions would be based around Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Scratch tool which lets children try their hand at programming by dragging and dropping code elements instead of typing them. Scratch is already used in many schools as an aid to computer lessons for children aged 12 and above.

A few schools have volunteered to test out the session plans once they were finished, said Ms Sutcliffe.

“The idea is to build things that are really exciting,” she said. “We want them to be making stuff.”

The first 12 sessions should be free for a school to run, she said. The only extra step a participating school would have to take would be to download and install Scratch on its computers. Code Club plans to get volunteers rather than teachers running the sessions.

As well as drawing up session plans, she said Code Club would also give advice and support to anyone that wanted to set up a club in their local school and win over a head teacher and a Parent-Teacher Association to the idea.

Lib Dems set to push for more funds to retain students

Lib Dems set to push for more funds to retain students

The Guardian World News |by Hélène Mulholland

Lib Dem MP Simon Hughes told young people he was ready to push the government for student funding

Lib Dem MP Simon Hughes told young people he was ready to push the government for extra student funding. Photograph: Anna Gordon

Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat MP and government advocate for access to education, is preparing to lobby the government for additional money if evidence proves that the decision to withdraw the educational maintenance allowance is having a negative impact.

The move suggests the Lib Dems are concerned at the possible effect on student retention of the government decision to withdraw the weekly allowance of up to £30 for 16- to 19-year-olds at a time of unprecedented youth unemployment.

Hughes revealed his intentions as he and the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, joined the Liberal Democrat candidate for the London mayoralty, Brian Paddick, at an event to court the youth vote. Polls show the Lib Dems’ share of support in the capital ahead of the 3 May election has dropped two percentage points on last month.

Speaking at the event at the Ministry of Sound, which was jointly organised with Bite The Ballot, a grassroots campaign to encourage young people to vote and become politically engaged, Clegg said youth unemployment was“one of the biggest social issues this country faces”. He highlighted the youth contract which will offer young people an opportunity to “earn or learn”.

The trio were challenged about the struggle young people face when they stay in post-16 education. Hughes said that while those who had been promised the EMA at the start of their post-16 education would continue to get it, “the difficulty is for people who haven’t got it to start with”.

The 2010 comprehensive spending review set out plans to abolish the EMA, which provided grants of up to £30 a week to children whose parents earn less than £30,800, on the basis that it was poorly targeted. The move led to an outcry and the appointment of Hughes as advocate for access to education.

Hughes, who is chair of the party’s mayoral election campaign, told the audience that he had asked sixth form colleges and schools to report “how much money they have, how much money they need, and what they say will make the difference in terms of who is staying in college and who is not”.

“We should have that information by this summer, June, then we need to talk to government and say: ‘Look guys, it’s had this effect, for example, we have half as many black women now staying on at college – what are you going to do about it?’” He said he would make sure “the commitment and, if necessary, the finance [will be provided] to make sure we got those people to stay on at college”.

Boris Johnson, the incumbent mayor, is among those who have expressed fears that young Londoners from low-income backgrounds could drop out of education and see their life chances“radically diminished” as a result of a ministers’ decision to replace the £560m EMA budget with £180m for the new 16-19 bursaries.

Clegg said the decision to review the impact was being taken“step by step”. Asked later about Hughes’s plan, Clegg: “You wouldn’t in the normal course of events not track the effect of change. Of course you have to do that.”

He conceded that the new bursaries needed to be “better targeted than before” because the more generously funded EMA scheme was given to those who didn’t necessarily need it.

Clegg showed his support for the Lib Dem London campaign just a day after the latest YouGov poll on Londoners’ voting intentions showed support for the party had dropped by two percentage points to 7% – the same as Paddick’s share of support in the first-preference round of a system conducted under the supplementary vote system. This is lower than the 9.63% Paddick secured when he came third in the 2008 mayoral election, but two points higher than his rating share in a YouGov poll conducted last month.

The figures indicate that the party’s hope that the mayoral election could boost its result in the more low-key London assembly elections taking place at the same time could be thwarted. The Lib Dems have three assembly seats after losing two in 2008, and the indicative support of 11% and 9% for the constituency and list seats respectively suggests the party is set to lose another one.

A YouGov poll for the Sun shows the Liberal Democrats are doing even worse nationally, having been pushed into fourth place by the UK Independence party. The survey puts Labour on 43% support, 11 points ahead of the Tories, with Ukip on 9%, and the Lib Dems on 8%.

A second poll showed Labour extending its lead over the Tories to nine points, while the Liberal Democrats were unchanged on 11%.

Asked about the London polling figures, Clegg dismissed them as“bogus science” and insisted there was still “everything to play for” in a campaign which was “only now coming to life”.

Truancy fines should be deducted from child benefit, says behaviour adviser

Truancy fines should be deducted from child benefit, says behaviour adviser

The Guardian World News |by Jeevan Vasagar


The government’s adviser on behaviour wants fines for truancy to rise to £60. Photograph: Bubbles Photolibrary /Alamy

Headteachers should be able to impose increased fines on parents whose children miss school without a valid reason and the money will be docked automatically from child benefit if they fail to pay, a government adviser has said.

Proposals published on Monday by the government’s expert adviser on behaviour, Charlie Taylor, would allow schools to impose fines of £60 for truancy, rising to£120 if they are not paid within 28 days.

The money would be recovered automatically from child benefit if parents failed to pay within that time. Parents who do not receive child benefit and fail to pay fines would have the money recovered through county courts.

Currently, parents of children who play truant face a fine of£50, rising to £100 if unpaid after 28 days.

Taylor’s review of truancy will call for a crackdown on term-time holiday, with absence only allowed in “exceptional circumstances”. In the past school year, term-time holiday was the reason for 9.5% of absences from school, up from 9.3% the previous year.

The education watchdog, Ofsted, will also be urged to set timed targets for improving attendance in schools where there are high rates of truancy.

Taylor is due to say: “We know that some parents simply allow their children to miss lessons and then refuse to pay the fine. It means the penalty has no effect and children continue to lose vital days of education they can never recover.

“Recouping the fines through child benefit … will strengthen and simplify the system. It would give headteachers the backing they need in getting parents to play their part.”

A report on the effectiveness of fines, commissioned by the last government, found that 79% of local authorities said penalty notices were “very successful” or “fairly successful” in improving school attendance, but councils felt court action was often a long-winded process that achieved little.

In 2010, out of 9,147 parents taken to court and found guilty over their children’s truancy, only 6,591 received a fine or a more serious sanction. The average fine imposed by the court was£165.

Fines for school absence were introduced by the Labour government in 2004 and the levels of the fines have not been revised since then.

Taylor, the headteacher of a special school in west London, is currently on secondment as an expert adviser on behaviour to the government, which is expected to adopt his recommendations.

His review calls on all primary schools to analyse their data on attendance to quickly identify children who are developing a pattern of absence.

He will say: “The earlier schools address poor attendance patterns, the less likely it is that they will become a long-term issue. The best primary schools realise this and take a rigorous approach to poor attendance from the very start of school life.”

Education secretary Michael Gove announced the review of sanctions for truancy in a speech made after the riots last year. Gove said policing of the existing sanctions was “weak”.

“When fines are imposed, they are often reduced to take account of an adult’s expenditure on satellite TV, alcohol and cigarettes. And many appear to shrug off fines and avoid existing sanctions, refusing to take responsibility for their actions,” he said.

More than 32,600 penalty notices for school absence were issued to parents last year, and more than 127,000 have been issued since their introduction in 2004. However, about half of all notices have gone unpaid or been withdrawn; schools or local authorities have to withdraw the penalty notice if it is unpaid after 42 days. The only further option is to prosecute parents.

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