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Education in the media: Monday 19 March

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Today’s Education in the media blog looks at the investment in Breakfast clubs in schools in disadvantaged areas, university strikes and a teacher from London winning the prestigious Global Teacher Prize.

Breakfast clubs

Today, Monday, 19 March, the department has announced a £26 million fund to support breakfast clubs in over 1,770 schools across England.

The announcement has received widespreadcoverage this morning, including in the Guardian, the Daily Mirror, the Daily Mail, the Sun, the Independent and TES with many commentators welcoming the move.

The fund for extra breakfast provision will come from the Government’s soft drinks industry levy and will benefit over 1,770 schools across the country. This investment will be targeted at the most disadvantaged areas of the country – including the Department for Education’s Opportunity Areas – to help make sure every child gets the best start in life.

Research shows that a healthy breakfast can help boost children’s attainment by improving their memory and concentration. Thanks to Government reforms and the hard work of teachers, academic standards are rising in England, with 1.9 million more children in good or outstanding schools than in 2010, but there is more to do.

As part of the funding, experts at Family Action and Magic Breakfast will also look at how they can encourage more children to attend these programmes and improve collaboration and sharing of best practice across schools.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said:

A healthy breakfast can help fuel children’s concentration so they can get the most out of their school day.

Children only get one chance at an education and they deserve the best, whatever their background. That is why we are giving more pupils in some of the country’s most disadvantaged areas the chance to go to a breakfast club.

Paid for by the Government’s soft drinks levy, this investment will help raise education standards further and will make sure young people have happy, healthy childhoods.

Universities Strike

Today, Monday, 19 March, Universities Minister Sam Gyimah issued a statement on the ongoing dispute between Universities UK (UUK) and the Universities and College Union (UCU) over changes to university staff pension scheme.

Minister Gyimah is clear that a constructive agreement needs to be reached to ensure that students’ education – which is the key priority – is protected. No student’s future prospects should be put at risk because of a disagreement between UUK and UCU, and steps must be taken to minimise any disruption.
It is important to note assessments and exams is a contractual obligation which is not covered by the current UCU strike mandate.

Furthermore, the majority of universities involved in this dispute will have already set assessment titles and exam questions. So, unless there are extreme circumstances, all students should be able to submit assessments and take their exams. On top of this, universities are able to mitigate against disruption to exams by using non-academic invigilators and non-striking academics from others parts of the university to provide support.

Universities Minister Sam Gyimah said:

Our universities are a prized national asset, with a well-deserved global reputation. They contribute to our society through education, by creating opportunity, through their research, and through the vital civic role they play in communities around the country.

But I remain deeply concerned about the impact on students as a result of the failure to settle the USS pensions dispute. Last week, UUK and UCU negotiators agreed a potential settlement to the dispute in talks facilitated by ACAS, this deal included an independent valuation of the scheme. I was disappointed that the deal was rejected by UCU the next day.

I call on all sides to redouble their efforts to reach a constructive agreement that will protect students’ education. Under the UCU current mandate for strike action – they have no remit to directly disrupt students exams. However, as I have already made clear – no student’s future prospects should be put at risk as a result of this dispute and providers should be taking steps to minimise any disruption or impact on their students’ studies.

While I welcome the efforts that some universities are already taking to do that, I am calling on all universities involved to be crystal clear and set out what action they are taking. The Office for Students also has wide-ranging powers to ensure students interests are protected, and they will be working closely with universities to avoid or minimise disruption to students caused by strike action. But as I have underlined before - in the event that a student’s experience has been seriously affected, I expect universities to offer compensation.

Global Teacher Prize 2018

On Sunday 18 March, Andria Zafirakou – a teacher at Alperton Community School in Brent, London – won the Varkey Foundation’s Global Teacher Prize 2018. Andria is the first UK-based teacher to win the award.

The announcement was covered by the Guardian, the Independent, the Times, the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph, and the Metro.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds and School Standards Minister Nick Gibb congratulated Andria, highlighting her as a fantastic example of a teacher working tirelessly to provide an excellent an education for her pupils.

Secretary of State for Education Damian Hinds said:

Andria’s story of selflessness and dedication is truly inspiring, and I am thrilled that she has received international recognition for her fantastic achievements.

Great education is all about great people and Andria embodies the huge difference teachers can make to children’s lives.

School Standards Minister Nick Gibb said:

It is thanks to teachers like Andria that standards are rising in schools across the country.

You only have to meet Andria to see how her upbeat optimism is so infectious. Her love of teaching and her dedication to her pupils is truly inspiring and motivating.

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