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Updated: 5 min 52 sec ago

No baptism, no school: Irish parents fight for equal access to education

Wed, 21/10/2015 - 13:41

Number of Catholics has plummeted, but church still dictates admissions criteria for vast majority of schools – with non-believers at bottom of pile

Instead of starting school last month, Reuben Murphy found himself back in his Dublin nursery for another year as his mother, Nikki, re-embarked on her quest to find a place at a local state primary for her four-year-old son.

She has already applied to 15 schools. But, following rejections from nine last year, Murphy is far from confident that a place will be found for Reuben. In a country where more than 90% of state schools are run by the Catholic church, unbaptised children like him are at the bottom of their admissions lists.

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Consultation starts on measures for taking over failing and coasting schools

Wed, 21/10/2015 - 13:31

Education secretary’s plan aims to speed up process in which the government can intervene in underperforming schools and allow academy sponsors to step in

The education secretary, Nicky Morgan, has launched a consultation on introducing tough measures to intervene and take over failing and coasting schools, with a strong attack on those who campaign against academies.

The measures, outlined in June in the education and adoption bill currently making its way through parliament, are designed to speed up the process whereby a school is deemed to be failing and academy sponsors are brought in to turn it around.

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Classical music – just give children the chance to love it

Wed, 21/10/2015 - 13:16

You don’t need a PhD or a specific gift in order to appreciate classical music. All you need is ears, and an open mind – things every child already has

Is the end of classical music approaching? The media is full of stories of doom and gloom: established orchestras and ensembles face closure or are being forced to merge, the audience is ageing, recordings don’t sell, copyright is dying and, worst of all, music education in schools is dwindling. Even in Germany, my country of residence, where high culture used to be heavily subsidised, the signs of the times are changing and increasingly politicians score points by advocating arts funding cuts. The prejudice that classical music is merely a substitutable commodity and a tiny minority’s pastime has gained ground. While there is occasional talk about the beneficial impact of musical education on memory, self-discipline, good grades and social life, the immaterial and aesthetic aspects of music tend to be overlooked.

The prejudice that classical music is merely a substitutable commodity and a tiny minority’s pastime has gained ground

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Is Scotland's university shake-up meddling or modernising?​

Wed, 21/10/2015 - 11:48

The SNP is calling for new regulation in university leadership – we hear the pros and cons of the controversial plans

University leaders in Scotland are afraid that politicians are about to stage a power grab. New legislation, they say, will give the Scottish government too much influence over how universities are run.

The higher education governance bill aims to unify the governance of the country’s higher education institutions by controlling the membership of their ruling councils. Currently, each university has its own management structure and rules about selecting candidates for leadership.

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Take the kids to … Camera Obscura, Edinburgh

Wed, 21/10/2015 - 10:00

Take a fairground hall of mirrors, add a dose of 21st-century tech and you have a fun day out for everyone. Just beware the giant children …

In a nutshell
Like a hi-tech hall of mirrors combined with a science museum, the six-storey Camera Obscura and World of Illusions is a celebration of visual trickery, packed with optical illusions, holograms and interactive exhibits that are – for all their educational value – simply funny. Lose yourself in the mirror maze; get shrunk by giant children in the big-small room; and stagger through the vortex tunnel (but take seriously the motion-sickness warning).

Fun fact
The Camera Obscura itself is like a 19th-century webcam, projecting live images of Edinburgh through a pinhole camera in the roof on to a viewing table (or your hands).

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Is campus life really right for you?

Wed, 21/10/2015 - 08:52

Many students find the close-knit community and convenience of a campus university comforting, while others prefer the variation offered by a city

With so many factors to consider when choosing a university, students often overlook whether to opt for a campus-based or city university.

But it’s worth thinking carefully about where you choose to live for the next three years. While some students might be more suited to a countryside campus with a community spirit and facilities on their doorstep, others would thrive in a city – surrounded by the hustle and bustle, twinkling lights and culture on tap.

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New Eton head to put emphasis on pupils' emotional intelligence

Wed, 21/10/2015 - 08:29

School’s youngest headmaster signals change in tone and will take holistic approach to focus on happiness and mental health rather than elitism

The new headmaster of Eton College wants to develop emotional intelligence in his pupils and provide them with a “holistic, rounded” education.

Simon Henderson, who took over the headship of the top public school at the beginning of this term, is attempting to signal a change of tone at Eton – a byword for privilege, power and considerable wealth.

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Wellcome’s £5 billion boost to British science

Wed, 21/10/2015 - 08:22

The Wellcome Trust today unveils its new strategy, with a commitment to spend more and spend smarter in areas where it can make the biggest difference.

A month out from the November spending review, Britain’s scientists are braced for bad news. Rumours continue to swirl about another five years of flat budgets, a likely merger of research councils, and the culling of other funding bodies. Next Monday, the pressure group Science is Vital is hosting a rally at Conway Hall in London where prominent voices from across the research community will spell out the case for public investment.

So in these uncertain times, today’s announcement by the Wellcome Trust is a shot in the arm for UK science. The trust, which is now the second highest-spending foundation in the world, will significantly boost the amount it invests in research, to a total of £5 billion over the next five years. The ambition of this is clear when set against £6 billion that the trust has spent over the past decade, and £11 billion since it was first set up in 1936.

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Royal Institution to sell science treasures to rescue finances

Wed, 21/10/2015 - 07:00

First editions of Darwin, Newton, Humboldt and Kepler among groundbreaking works going on sale

Ninety works spanning three centuries of scientific inquiry are to go under the hammer at Christie’s in December, in an attempt to plug a £2m hole in the finances of the UK’s most venerable science charity, the Royal Institution.

The groundbreaking works in the history of medicine, science and the natural world include first editions from scientific luminaries such as Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton, Leonhard Euler, Johannes Kepler and Alexander von Humboldt. They will be put up for auction on 1 December 2015. The selection ranges from the 16th to the 19th century, many of the volumes given added lustre by their connection to an institution founded in 1799 for “diffusing the knowledge” of science and technology.

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Michael Sheen: the freedom and terror of learning to act

Wed, 21/10/2015 - 07:00

A newly published anthology of polemics curated by Belarus Free Theatre explores what freedom means today. In this extract, the Welsh actor returns to his drama school days

When I was at drama school, I remember there being two different classes involving improvisation.

One was based on a very structured, analytical, rule-based form that developed out of the teachings of an American theatre practitioner named Uta Hagen.

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The anatomy of procrastination – and how pupils can beat it

Wed, 21/10/2015 - 06:30

YouTube, Facebook, the sidebar of shame; we all procrastinate sometimes. But you can teach your students to overcome it

Procrastination is more instinctive than you might imagine. The art of avoidance comes from our lower mammalian brain, which is equipped for survival. It’s adapted to focus on what we need immediately, making it harder to focus on attention-demanding, longer-term tasks.

For schoolchildren, getting the brain to engage in tasks that are not recognised as valuable survival goals or potential sources of pleasure is even harder. It’s not until our 20s that we develop the mature neural networks that override the lower brain’s reactive responses. This means that young people may need help resisting distractions to achieve their goals. Here are some ways you can assist your students in breaking through the roadblocks of procrastination.

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In defence of lad culture: camaraderie, fun and friendships – video

Wed, 21/10/2015 - 06:00

By his own admission, Dave Llewellyn has catcalled women and made sexist jokes in the past – but argues that positive aspects of lad culture deserve celebration. He set up the Good Lad initiative to give men the chance to discuss their masculinity and the way they think about and act towards women. He argues that blaming lad culture for all misogyny shuts many young men out of a conversation they need to be a part of

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Syrian refugees living in darkness in a derelict factory in Lebanon – in pictures

Wed, 21/10/2015 - 06:00

A disused factory in Saida, with its dangling electricity cables and pools of water, houses as many as 200 people who fled war in Syria. Their informal shelter is not protected by the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, so these families cannot access food grants or UN medical help, and none of the children are in school

Photographs: Anthony Gale/Islamic Relief

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Union flag from Nelson's fleet unfurled again to mark Trafalgar Day

Wed, 21/10/2015 - 05:00

The union jack that flew from HMS Minotaur at the 1805 battle will go on display at the National Maritime Museum after a century on a church wall


A battle-scarred veteran is to go on display again in the National Maritime Museum to mark Trafalgar Day.

The union flag flown by HMS Minotaur in the thick of the fighting on 21 October 1805 will be exhibited in the museum in Greenwich, London, after hanging for almost a century in a Kent church.

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