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Showing posts from October, 2020

Chasing the bus: White, disadvantaged and left behind

There is a growing unease about  the numbers of young ‘White’ people  missing out on educational opportunities. It seems they are chasing after a bus they missed, or simply could not afford the fare, and are playing catch up throughput their lives. However, the problem becomes confused by constant use of the term ‘working class’ and the Education Committee fell into this obvious trap on Friday. There is a clear issue about first identifying who they are. Then there are observations from different perspectives contaminating objective evidence and how it is interpreted. The emphasis is too often put onto less tangible reasons such as lack of aspiration. But there are many different factors that must be disentangled. The Education Committee must try to do this. The first thing to do is to separate lack of resources and poverty away from the real scandal of racial discrimination. Using the term ‘White’ at the outset simply confuses the two issues. Then, accept that aspiration and encour…

Ofqual holding back information

Ofqual has responded to an FOI request from TEFS this week. They held a staggering twenty-nine board meetings since March. Despite promising the Parliamentary Education Committee over a month ago they would publish the minutes “shortly” after their meeting on 16th September, they are still not able to do so. They cite “exemption for information that is intended to be published in the future” for minutes that are in the “process of being approved for publication”. More concerning is they are also citing exemption under the “Public Interest Test”. This means they might not be published, and Ofqual will open themselves up to legal challenges. If both the Department for Education and Ofqual are prevented from being more open, then public interest will lie shattered on the floor and lessons will not be learned. 
Ofqual finally responded to the TEFS Freedom of Information (FOI) request to publish the minutes of its board meetings on Tuesday. It should have been replied to by 17th September a…

Don’t ignore the dashboard warnings and don’t blame the students

A sharp rise in students testing positive for Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) has coincided with a return to tighter lockdown measures announced yesterday. While some media outlets looked toward the role of students and universities (Daily Mail and Guardian yesterday), the WHO’s Director-General held a media briefing and denounced calls for a ‘herd immunity’ approach with “Never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak, let alone a pandemic. It is scientifically and ethically problematic”. The UK is becoming a dangerous place for the least advantaged and most vulnerable. The government, projected directly from No10, ignored the advice of its own scientists three weeks ago and deliberately led us to this pivotal point in time. Whatever the motivation, they are heading for a ‘herd immunity’ resolution and are prepared to sacrifice people to achieve this. The most chilling passage in the ignored SAGE advice on the 21st September …

COVID-19 in Universities, widening gaps and ‘Herd Immunity’: SAGE Advice

UPDATE 12th October 2020 
The report of the latest SAGE meeting on COVID-19, from the 21st September 2020 were released today. They confirm what we suspected all along. The government was clearly advised not to open universities and colleges for face-to -face teaching as one of five serious recommendations. Whilst some of them are only being introduced from today, the universities are not being asked to go online. Despite this, many will be planning to do so as even more students become infected. It surely looks like the government. It surely looks as if No10 is going its own deliberate way. It is noticeable that there was an anonymous observer from No10 (arrowed). However, the notes indicate this was one of several junior officials who were redacted. Original post from 9th October 2020
The metaphor of a stampede of nearly a million students onto our university campuses in the last few weeks fits well with the notion that ‘herd immunity’ is back on the agenda. What better way to spread t…

Campus lockdown and Parliamentary encounters

The chaos at many universities unfolded further this week as the number of COVID-19 cases increased across our campuses. Many students complain of being in ‘prison’ as online teaching becomes the norm. This was entirely expected and should come as no surprise to those in Parliament. Some universities can cope better than others, but it is the less advantaged students who will be most affected most. It is therefore with alarm that the House of Commons had to witness two sorry encounters between the Shadow Education Secretary and the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson.  He told us of an imaginary £100 million digital access fund for universities. Then of equally imaginary extra maintenance support from the Student Loans Company. This was topped off by him crowing about £256 million for student hardship funds, despite it being a cut from £277 million last year. Each imaginary assertion combined to highlight the cynical attitude of the government to student hardship. It will take ti…