MoU signed between India and Australia over Education

Keeping Education in the forefront for establishing better ties among the two nations, India and Australia has recently agreed on a joint financial commitment and signed a Memorandum of Understanding. Australia is expected to spend up to AUS $1 million under this understanding and this would help strengthening existing partnership between the two countries in the field of education and research.

The memorandum of Understanding would further strengthen the ties in technical and professional education, school, vocational education and training in the countries. The agreement was signed between the Union Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani and Australian Minister for Education and Training Christopher Pyne. The understanding is expected to open up new avenues of innovative areas of research, development and cooperation between the two countries. The approval for the MoU came from Union Cabinet last week. The inking ceremony saw the education minsters of the two countries discussing over matters of interests in the field of education.

Class 5 and 8 board Exams to Return Again



At a meeting recently held in New Delhi by the Central Advisory Board of Education, all the states reached to a consensus that Board exams would get re-introduced in the fifth and eighth standard. The Madhya Pradesh State Advisory Council recently approved the proposal and sent it to the union ministry for approval. The School Education minister Paras Jain also took part in the meeting that was headed by the Union Minister of Human Resource Development, Smriti Irani.

Madhya Pradesh has long been issuing the claims to restart the board exams for class 5 and 6. The requirement was felt in light of the Right to Education Act 2009 which further saw decline in academic level of the students. During the last year Manish Jain had also apprised Union HRD Minister for the same.

From the next academic year the board exams would make a comeback once the states give away their written consent over the matter discussed at the Central Advisory Board of Education meeting that was recently held in New Delhi. Jain has presented a memorandum in this regard as well to the participant states. According to Jain, the provision of not failing any student up to class 8 is actually declining the academic level of the students and thus needs to be taken care off. This has also restricted the schools to assess the teaching quality of the teachers as well. According to him assessments and teacher availability in schools is a must and there should be minimum one teacher and separate classroom for every class in primary and middle schools.

Councils unite in bid to tackle Scottish teacher shortages



Six councils in the north east and north of Scotland have united to tackle teacher shortages in their schools.

The local authorities in Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Moray, Highland, Orkney and Shetland are to hold a summit aimed at addressing the issue.

Ministers and officials from the Scottish government and the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) are among those also involved.

Councils have already tried individual initiatives to ease the problem.

Launching the initiative ahead of the 7 October summit, the councils said the challenge had been recruiting and retaining “sufficient numbers of high-quality teachers to provide the best possible education” for pupils.

Pay weighting

This is in the face of low application numbers for teaching jobs, and rising pupil numbers.

The objective of the new drive is to find a resolution to teacher recruitment and retention on a local and national level.

Consideration will be given to issues such as whether pay weighting should be introduced for those in the north and north east, similar to that given in London, and a national campaign to promote teaching.

Gillian ElliotThe event has been led by Aberdeen City Council.

Council Leader Jenny Laing said: “Many councils in the north and north east of Scotland are experiencing higher than normal levels of teacher shortages – particularly at senior management levels.

“Whilst not yet at crisis levels it is nevertheless a serious issue that we want to tackle now to protect the interests of pupils.

“We urge the Scottish government to work with us on finding a solution at a national level. This is a case where one-size does not fit all councils.”

In 2013, Aberdeenshire Council sent staff to Canada and Ireland to try to recruit new teachers.

Last year, Aberdeen City Council offered to pay the tuition fees of staff who want to become primary school teachers in a bid to tackle the shortage.

And earlier this month, the first teachers took advantage of an offer of free accommodation for six months to teach in Moray.

The council teamed up with a local developer to provide 10 new two-bedroom properties for new recruits.

The local authority said there had been a significant increase in the number of applicants for teaching posts.

‘Right skills’

A Scottish government spokesman said: “We are committed to ensuring schools have the right number of teachers with the right skills.

“That is why we acted to safeguard teacher posts for the next year by committing a £51m package of funding for Scotland’s local authorities to maintain teacher numbers and pupil-teacher ratios at 2014 levels in 2015-16.

“In each of the last four years the Scottish government has also increased student teacher numbers.

“We welcome the opportunity to engage with local authorities to discuss potential further action to address the issue of teacher recruitment. We look forward to receiving the invitation to the summit and a representative from the Scottish government will attend.”

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) welcomed the announcement of the joint summit.

General secretary Larry Flanagan said: “The EIS is willing to engage constructively with councils to explore ways to improve processes for teacher recruitment and retention.

“Attracting teachers to some parts of the country – for example rural or remote areas or areas with a lack of affordable housing – is an ongoing challenge for a number of local authorities.

“While pay and conditions for teachers will continue to be agreed nationally through the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers, it is open to local authorities to explore additional incentives or other means of attracting qualified teachers to come and work in their schools.”

And Scottish Parent Teacher Council executive director Eileen Prior said of the news: “Our children deserve no less.”

Belfast City Council proposes new guidelines for student housing

An artist's impression of the new Ulster University Belfast campus

Belfast City Council is proposing to develop new planning guidelines for student accommodation.

There are currently more than a dozen applications in the system representing more than 6,000 student beds.

The council is proposing internal guidelines for planners and a best practice guide aimed at developers.

The guidelines would not have determining weight in decisions, but could help influence proposals and ensure consistency.

A report to the council’s planning committee said guidelines could also “provide reassurance to communities that existing residential amenity will be protected”.

It added that any “policy deficiencies” can be addressed in the longer term in a new Local Development Plan.

The Ulster University’s new campus on the northern edge of Belfast city centre has led to a wave of planning applications for student accommodation.

Most of the applications are for sites close to the new campus, but Queens University has also tendered for student accommodation.

Kids Company warned its closure could cause ‘rioting’

Camila Batmanghelidjh at a protest in support of the charity shortly after its closure

As central government, local authorities and charities pick up the pieces of Kids Company, the charity which collapsed insolvent in early August, new details are emerging of the discussions that preceded the Cabinet Office paying a controversial £3m grant to the charity in late July – just days before it closed its doors.

BBC Newsnight and BuzzFeed News have learned of a document, emailed to civil servants in the name of Alan Yentob, chair of the charity’s trustees, on 2 June. It warned that a sudden closure of the charity would mean a “high risk of arson attacks on government buildings”.

The document also warned of a high risk of “looting” and “rioting”, and cautioned that the “communities” served by Kids Company could “descend into savagery”. The document was written in language that civil servants across government described as “absurd”, “hysterical” and “extraordinary”.

The document was the first part of the case made by Kids Company, which sought to help young people up to the age of 24, for the £3m grant. It was part of a proposal that the financially troubled charity should be restructured into a much smaller “child wellbeing hub”, which could survive on a smaller income.

The Cabinet Office has acknowledged receiving a copy of the document, which was also sent to at least two London local authorities. The central government department has, however, declined to comment beyond noting that this document was not the basis upon which the charity was given the £3m grant.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, Mr Yentob, also the BBC’s creative director, said: “The document… was an appendix written by the Safeguarding Team, who set out all the potential risks to be taken into account in the event of closure.”

Alan Yentob, chair of the trustees at Kids Company, and creative director at the BBC

‘High risks’ attached to closure

The document sent to the Cabinet Office said: “We have created a structure which acts as a substitute parent and extended family. The endings of these relationships will be therefore potentially equivalent to death of the primary care giver i.e. a mother, a father and/or the whole extended family within a biological familial structure.

“The impact of such termination will be devastating for each child in their own way. In our scenario, these children will have no emergency aid agency or rescue team set up for them to acknowledge the turmoil closure will bring for them.”

After explaining the potential trauma for clients, the document then went on to list “risks posed to the public”, saying there was a “high risk” of looting, rioting and arson attacks on government buildings. The same section also listed “increases” in knife and gun crime, neglect, starvation and modern-day slavery as possible dangers.

The document also says: “We are… concerned that these children and families will be left without services in situations of sexual, psychological or emotional abuse, neglect and malnutrition and facing homelessness and further destitution.”

It continued: “Our cause for concern is not hypothetical, but based on a deep understanding of the socio-psychological background that these children operate within. We know that the referrals will not get picked up and be dealt with. We know that there are not enough voluntary agencies equipped or staffed to deal with the challenging behaviour that our client group possesses.

“Without a functioning space for hope, positivity and genuine care, these communities will descend into savagery due to sheer desperation for basic needs to be met.”

Local authority officials and councillors have expressed anger and bemusement at this claim, in particular.

The £3m question

MPs expect a formal investigation into the £3m disbursal to the charity. The money was received by the charity less than a week before its sudden closure on 5 August.

This grant was paid against the advice of the department’s lead civil servant. Richard Heaton, the Cabinet Office permanent secretary, sought a “ministerial direction” – a means of registering his dissent – at the payment over concerns about the charity’s management.

He wrote a letter setting out his concerns, based in part on Kids Company’s failure to meet conditions attached to a grant of £4.3m paid in April.

Oliver Letwin and Matthew Hancock, ministers at the Cabinet Office, decided to give the money to the charity despite Mr Heaton’s misgivings.

But as BBC Newsnight and BuzzFeed News revealed in July, they demanded that Camila Batmanghelidjh, the charity’s chief executive, step down from her role as a condition of the payment.

Officials now expect to recover only £1.8m – a loss of £1.2m which, according to internal emails from the charity, prolonged the life of the charity by just five working days.

Bigger questions to answer

Officials in central and local government have also told BBC Newsnight and BuzzFeed News that they have been taken aback by the difficulty in establishing how much work the charity actually did. The organisation had claimed to “intensively” help 18,000 young people and to “reach” 36,000.

The charity also said that its records showed that it supported 15,933 young people. Speaking to Radio 4’s The Report on August 5, Ms Batmanghelidjh had said that the figure of 15,933 represented “the most high-risk group of kids, that’s what’s sucking up all our money”. All of these clients, she said, had “keyworkers” allocated to them.

However, the charity has handed over records to local government relating to just 1,692 clients in London, of which the charity had designated 331 as “high-risk”. Officials in Bristol have been given details of a further 175 clients. Ms Batmanghelidjh has told The Sunday Times that she has kept back some records of clients who are at risk of deportation.

Mr Yentob, in his statement, added: “Despite the support of local authorities, many of those who received support and refuge from Kids Company remain at risk. The welfare and safety of both the young people and the communities in which they live continues to be of great concern.”

Investigations by MPs and the National Audit Office are now expected into the Cabinet Office’s decisions.

Meanwhile, the Charity Commission is looking into Kids Company’s management and governance, while the Metropolitan Police is also conducting an investigation involving the charity. Their inquiry is being led by the complex case team of the Sexual Offences, Exploitation and Child Abuse Command.

Pilot schemes to give all children automatic library membership

Child in library

All Scottish children could automatically become library members in a bid to promote literacy.

Pilot projects are being developed in every council area to enrol children during their early years.

Children will be given library cards either at birth, age three or four – or in P1.

The scheme will also see libraries working with schools and communities to promote the services they offer to families.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon joined P1 members at Glasgow’s Mitchell Library to promote the initiative.

The children are part of Glasgow Life’s pilot which will target 2,000 pupils in six areas with issues of lower literacy.

From 7 September, every baby registered in the Glasgow area will be given a library card by the registrar.

Ms Sturgeon said: “Our libraries are often the hub of a local community – providing vital access to information and resources that people would otherwise not have.

“Now, thanks to £80,000 Scottish government funding, every local authority in Scotland will trial methods to give children automatic membership to their local library.

“Libraries can empower communities – often in our most deprived areas where we know that young people can have lower levels of literacy and numeracy.

“Access to books and learning materials will help us to make sure that every child has the opportunity to get excited about reading.”

Councillor Archie Graham, chairperson of Glasgow Life, added: “An appreciation for books and an enthusiasm for reading is one of the most important gifts we can give our children.

“Not only is reading vital to improving literacy levels but it also opens up a number of opportunities throughout young people’s lives; developing valuable life-skills, signposting them on to education and employment pathways and supporting our future generations to grow and prosper as active citizens.”

Earlier this year Dumfries and Galloway Council launched its Every Child a Member initiative.

It means every family registering a birth is offered a library membership for their child.

The authority said that one of its priorities was to provide the “best start in life” for all children.

“We are continuing to engage with families to encourage more children to use and enjoy their local library and enjoy books,” added councillor Tom McAughtrie

Call for school exam failure levy to aid FE colleges

Exam hall

Schools where pupils fail to get good GCSE grades in English and maths should pay a levy to fund pupils who re-take their exams in further education colleges, says a think tank.

Policy Exchange has published a report highlighting that FE colleges in England teach a higher proportion of pupils re-sitting exams than schools.

But FE colleges face greater pressures on their budgets than schools.

Two teaching unions have criticised the levy proposal.

Brian Lightman, of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said the idea of a levy was an “own goal”.

‘Passing the buck’

The report from the right-leaning think tank suggests re-allocating financial support to further education colleges in England which take on pupils who have previously struggled in school.

It proposes that secondary schools where pupils have failed to achieve at least C grades in GCSE English and maths should face a financial penalty of about £500 per pupil which would then be used to support students retaking exams in further education colleges.

There are five times more students retaking English in FE colleges than in schools, says the report.

For maths, almost six times as many retakes are in FE colleges as in schools.

Natasha Porter, author of the Policy Exchange report, said: “It is unfair for some schools to pass the buck to FE colleges who are already facing extreme funding pressures to fix a problem they have not caused themselves.

“To recognise the additional burden on FE colleges and shoulder more responsibility, schools should cough up and pay a re-sit levy.”

A Department for Education spokesman defended the existing arrangements.

“Post-16 funding is already allocated on a per pupil basis, and we already provide an extra £480 per student, per subject for all those with GCSE English or maths below grade C,” he said.

More retakes to come

In terms of funding, while school budgets have been protected in cash terms for the next five years, further education colleges face growing financial problems.

FE studentLast month, the National Audit Office (NAO) warned that the further education sector was “experiencing rapidly declining financial health”.

At the same time, the number of retakes is likely to increase because of a requirement for pupils to retake English and maths if they fail to get at least a C grade.

Mr Lightman of the ASC said funding for post-16 education “urgently needs to be addressed”, but he argued that taking money from schools would be a step backwards.

“Schools are already facing real-terms cuts in their budgets and unprecedented difficulties in recruiting staff, particularly maths teachers,” he said, “a re-sit levy would potentially worsen this situation.”

John Widdowson, president of the Association of Colleges, welcomed the recognition of the funding pressure on his members and said it was “extremely disappointing” that the government had failed to ring-fence spending for colleges in the way it had for schools.

But Christine Blower, leader of the National Union of Teachers, said the think tank’s proposals would in fact “penalise secondary schools without improving matters substantially for further education colleges”.

Wealth gap

A Department for Education spokesman emphasised the importance of key subjects such as English and maths.

“If young people have not mastered them by 16, it is more likely they will be held back for the rest of their life,” he said.

“That is why we want all young people who do not achieve at least a GCSE C in English or maths to continue studying until they reach that standard.”

A separate report being published on Tuesday emphasised the achievement gap between rich and poor that had opened by the age of 11.

An analysis of primary school test results in England showed that in the most deprived areas, 31% of pupils did not reach the expected levels in English and maths, compared with just 11% in the wealthiest areas.

The study of the 2013-14 test results was published by the New Schools Network, which supports the opening of free schools.

“This important new research shows the deep inequality that still exists within the state school system,” said director Nick Timothy.

“We have many excellent schools in England but it cannot be right that children from poor families are three times more likely to be unable to read, write and add up properly than children from wealthy families.”

A Department for Education spokeswoman said that the pupil premium, worth £2.5bn per year, is supporting disadvantaged children and narrowing the attainment gap.

“We are determined to ensure every child regardless of background is given an education that allows them to realise their potential,” said the education department’s spokeswoman.

Hay fever ‘bar to university places’


The impact of hay fever at exam time could be harmful enough to mean that some students might miss out on a university place, say researchers.

A study in Norway has examined the relationship between pollen levels, hay fever and exam performance.

It suggests rising pollen levels could push down results by 10% for hay fever sufferers.

Report author Simon Sobstad Bensnes said students could be “unfairly barred” from getting into university.

The study, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, examined the impact on hay fever sufferers of taking exams at a time of year when pollen levels are higher.

Bad timing

Using the results of public exams in Norway over three years, researchers found that on days with high pollen levels exam performance was consistently lower.

Image caption The Norwegian study suggests high pollen days see lower exam results

There was an average performance dip of 2.5% on high pollen days – and researchers estimate that for pupils with an allergic reaction results were lowered by about 10%.

The report, presented at the European Economic Association conference in Mannheim in Germany, says hay fever sufferers could be missing out on the grades needed for university and for jobs.

“Increases in pollen counts can temporarily reduce cognitive abilities for allergic students, who will score worse relative to their peers on high stake exams, and consequently be at a disadvantage when competing for jobs or higher education,” says the report.

The study says that the negative impact shown in exam results would be likely to apply to other settings, such as the workplace, where it could lower productivity.

About one in five people are estimated to suffer from hay fever – and the study says that this could be higher among young people, with suggestions that a quarter of young people in Norway are allergic to some extent.

In England’s exam system, pupils who have had serious problems with hay fever on an exam day could ask for this to be taken into account by examiners.

The report author says it raises questions about holding exams in the spring and the early summer, when sufferers are most likely to be affected.

“Holding high-stakes exams during pollen season has a large negative effect on allergic students, who are subsequently unfairly barred from enrolling in the most prestigious universities,” says Mr Bensnes.

Teachers hired in recessions get better results, says US study


Teachers recruited during a recession and a tougher jobs market are more likely to get better results for their pupils, says a study.

The researchers say in an economic decline, with pressure on employment, teaching attracts more talented staff.

Academics analysed results in more than 30,000 schools in Florida in the US and found higher scores in classes taught by teachers hired in the recession.

They also say it shows higher pay “would improve teacher quality”.

The study from the National Bureau of Economic Research in the US examines how the recession and a tighter jobs market affected the quality of recruits into teaching.

‘Window of opportunity’

The analysis, to be presented at the the European Economic Association in Mannheim in Germany, found that teaching attracted more talented graduates at times when other employment opportunities were worsening.

And when looking at exam results, pupils on average did better in classes taught by teachers hired during a recession.

Image caption Economists say the recession raised the quality of recruits into teaching

This compared 5,200 teachers in Florida state schools who started during a recession and 27,800 teachers who started in non-recessionary times.

“Teachers who entered the profession during recessions are significantly more effective than teachers who entered the profession during non-recessionary periods,” concluded the study.

During a recession, other careers could seem more insecure, offered fewer opportunities or could have reduced pay, which would push a higher number of “able individuals” towards teaching.

This economic analysis argues that this suggests that increasing teachers pay would attract higher-quality recruits, which is linked to higher results.

“Our results provide the strongest evidence to date that making teaching wages more attractive would improve teacher quality,” said authors Markus Nagler, Marc Piopiunik and Martin West.

“What’s more, while no-one would hope for an economic downturn, recessions do seem to provide a window of opportunity for the government to hire teachers who would otherwise have not chosen this career path.”

A separate study for the National Bureau of Economic Research, also being presented at the European Economic Association conference, shows how the level of learning of teachers influences the outcomes for pupils.

Research into the value of “smarter teachers”, such as their ability levels in literacy and numeracy, can mean a year’s difference in the results of pupils.

Higher education is our priority: Jharkhand CM

Higher education is our priority: Jharkhand CM



RANCHI: The Jharkhand government on Wednesday said higher education is its priority and results can be expected in its development in five years’ time.

“Higher education is our priority and there is a separate secretary for it,” chief minister Raghubar Das told the state assembly during Question Hour.

The government would meet expectations of the members concerned on higher education in five years, he added.

State HRD minister Neera Yadav said she would get it probed when JMM MLA Joba Manjhi and Jai Bharat Samanta Party legislator Gita Koda raised the issue of absence of teachers in primary schools in Naxal-affected Gudri block in the West Singhbhum District.