US buyers to protect ethos of AC Grayling’s London college

Rikama Education 5th December 2018

The New College of the Humanities, founded in London by the philosopher AC Grayling, is being bought by a US university, Northeastern.

In the college’s Bloomsbury building, the pennants of both universities are flying side by side, and their two leaders are planning their joint future.

Joseph Aoun, president of Northeastern, says: “It’s not an acquisition, it’s a marriage.”

There’s an element of politeness about this, because in a deal announced last month the Boston-based university is becoming the owner.

But it means the New College of the Humanities (NCH) is now financially secure, it can take a not-for-profit status and can push on to get its own degree-awarding powers.

Keeping the faith

Prof Grayling says it also protects the original ambition to offer something distinctive, with an emphasis on individualised learning.

“Right from the very beginning, the conversation was about, ‘Let us create something remarkable, let’s do something really good.'”

Northeastern ice hockey Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption How will the culture of the US university work alongside the New College of the Humanities?

But he says when any new institution is burning through its start-up cash, the temptation is to dilute the good intentions.

“If you start losing your nerve, you start lowering the quality, you drop the entrance requirements and then you just become another high-volume, low-cost college.

“You really have to keep going and keep faith,” he says.

When the college was launched in 2012, it headed straight into a storm.

Tuition fees

Students were rioting about tuition fees going up to £9,000 and it seemed like a brash and provocative move for the New College of the Humanities to set fees at £18,000.

Claims about it being a rival to Oxbridge also irritated the academic establishment.

Northeastern graduation Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Graduation for students at Northeastern this summer

“It was an unlucky moment,” he says.

“But when I first started this I had two unconquerable things on my side: enthusiasm and ignorance.

“The ignorance was manifold. I didn’t have a complete idea what would be involved with the labyrinth of regulatory bodies.

“Nor that we were just about to have a change in visas, nor of the reaction that students would have to the rise in fee levels.”

The setting of such high fees wasn’t a deliberate plan, he says, but a last-minute change when tougher visa rules made it harder to recruit overseas students.

Defying the odds

That had “blown a hole underneath the waterline” of the business plan, which Prof Grayling says, left them with the choice of either scrapping the launch or increasing fees.

When the college opened it was expected to be the pioneer of a wave of new higher education providers, including from the US.

Northeastern Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Northeastern has a chain of campuses across the US – and will add the New College of the Humanities

But starting a university from scratch is far from easy, when reputations are built over many years – and the New College turned out to be one of the few rather than the first of many.

What made it even more against the odds was to create a college dedicated to the humanities, at a time with so much emphasis on science and technology.

Prof Grayling, famous as both author and philosopher, proved to be a pragmatic entrepreneur and dogged defender of his college.

Not ‘academic tourism’

So what will Northeastern do with the college?

“The last thing we want is to say that this is going to be a franchise,” says President Aoun.

Northeastern already has a network of campuses, across the US and Canada.

Grayling and Aoun
Image caption Joseph Aoun and AC Grayling outside the New College in Bloomsbury, London

He wants to keep the independence and the ethos of NCH – and to avoid the habit of US universities replicating their own culture when they move abroad.

“Universities in general in the US, when they establish themselves overseas, they base it in an export model.

“I am exporting my campus, my knowledge, my approach.”

President Aoun says he wants the New College of the Humanities to work on joint projects with Northeastern students, but to offer them an authentically English educational experience.

“We don’t want academic tourism,” he says.

‘Robot-proof’

The New College of the Humanities will remain a UK-regulated institution – and if it gets its own degree-awarding powers, these will be UK qualifications.

He says there are no plans for any big expansion. “We’re not chasing the numbers.”

Northeastern has about 20,000 students – while the New College of Humanities has about 200 students. It’s like a big chain buying a boutique hotel.

Joseph Aoun Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Joseph Aoun says universities need to “robot-proof” students for an era of artificial intelligence

President Aoun’s annual pay, not the highest in US higher education by any means, would start another riot in the UK, with a package worth about $1.45m (£1.13m).

He says the challenge for universities is to make students “robot-proof” for an era in which artificial intelligence will take away many existing jobs.

He thinks NCH’s way of teaching the humanities will provide some answers.

Alongside subjects such as literature and history, students have to learn about science and study entrepreneurship.

President Aoun says universities will have to get over their own resistance to change.

“We want to change the world, but we don’t want to change ourselves,” he says.

With the deeper pockets of Northeastern, it also means that the New College has a much better chance of becoming an old college.

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Domestic abuse: ‘Children are the hidden victims’

Rikama Education 28th November 2018
Daisy (R) and her mum (L)
Image caption Daisy (R) saw domestic violence from a young age, leading her mother, Charlotte (L), to set up a refuge

“Whenever I go back to the area I grew up, I still feel nervous,” says Daisy.

“When I see someone that looks like him, it makes me anxious. And seeing someone driving the red car that he used to drive makes my heart race.”

Daisy, now 19, grew up in an environment of domestic violence, with her father abusing her mother.

She says her experiences as a child has left her suffering from anxiety attacks and nightmares.

But Daisy’s story is not unique, with the charity Women’s Aid estimating that 160,000 children in England are living in homes where they witness domestic abuse.

The charity says it calculates more than 13,400 women and their 14,350 children escaped to a refuge during the year 2016-17.

The issue has prompted the schools watchdog for England, Ofsted, to call for greater awareness of how domestic abuse affects children’s wellbeing and for more lessons about what constitutes a healthy relationship.

Daisy’s parents divorced before she started school but she says coercive control was present in their relationship even after the divorce. She also saw her father assaulting other family members.

Anxiety is something Daisy now struggles with as a young adult, when she does not feel in control either of her body or of a situation – a feeling that stems from childhood.

“When my father first went to prison, I began compulsive hand-washing but I have since been able to keep my anxiety more in check.

“I have had therapy for my anxiety but it is still not 100%. It can be triggered by many things such as men raising their voice or me feeling sick (because my brain sees this as a loss of control in my body).

Daisy as a toddler with her mum
Image caption Daisy as a toddler with her mum

“My dad was always a big drinker and had no control over his temper. My mum worked tirelessly to make sure that he did not lose control, especially not in front of other people.

“She did not want other people to know what was going on behind closed doors perhaps because (just like many other women facing domestic abuse) she was in denial, she would minimise the abuse.”

‘I had to grow up quickly’

Daisy says visits to her father, after the marriage broke down, were stressful.

“Even as a very young child, I dreaded having to stay at my dad’s house. I was always worried about what he was going to do, how much he had had to drink.

“I felt like I had to grow up very quickly because I had to look after my little sister – she was only 13 months younger than me.”

A deep sense of anxiety is something 15-year-old Sophie (not her real name) can identify with.

Her mother walked out of the family home with her two children, then aged six and four, after suffering persistent abuse from her husband.

“I remember feeling very upset and very anxious,” says Sophie.

“I remember telling my friends, ‘I’m moving. I’m not going to be at my old house anymore.’

“It was hard for me. When I moved to a new school, I was very shy and everyone took me as the shy, mysterious girl and I got bullied and everyone excluded me.”

What help would Daisy and Sophie have welcomed?

Sophie says a willing, confidential ear would have helped her enormously.

“I definitely think it’s really helpful to have someone to talk to. It’s somewhere safe.

“I feel the kid’s voice should be heard. They’re the one who should have a voice. It should be about their needs.

“If kids are going through this, they need someone to listen to them, somewhere that’s a safe place.”

Daisy, whose mother Charlotte now runs a refuge for affected women, says: “I know that if someone had asked me if I was scared of my dad, I would’ve said yes.

“I would say to others, ‘Don’t be afraid to tell someone, to ask your mum to explain what is happening, to tell an adult and ask for help.'”

Daisy
Image caption Daisy says she is working on her anxiety

She also says Ofsted is right that schools should prioritise lessons about what constitutes a healthy relationship.

“I remember when I was at school, there was one day in my whole education dedicated to ‘healthy relationships’ but the majority of it was about sexual health with very little to do with what a healthy relationship is.

“Everyone should be educated on the signs of control, the signs of abuse in your relationship as well as others.

“They should be told what to do if they think their relationship is unhealthy and what to do if they think someone they know is suffering. I think this awareness will help stop so much suffering.”

What do campaigners say?

Katie Ghose, chief executive of Women’s Aid, says children are the “hidden victims” of domestic abuse.

“Children not only witness domestic abuse, they experience it. Thousands of children are living in homes filled with fear, frightened of what will happen next.

“Every child deserves support to live free from fear and abuse.”

In its report, Ofsted says domestic abuse causes long-term suffering to children.

“More thought needs to be given to how local areas can collectively supply the emotional, psychological and practical support that is needed to help children and victims… get safe, stay safe and move on to reach their full potential.”

How is domestic violence defined?

A new law of “controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate family relationship” came into effect in England and Wales in December 2015.

It targets “any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality”.

“The abuse can encompass, but is not limited to: psychological; physical; sexual; financial; and emotional,” the law states.

Statistics suggest that some 6.5 million adults in England and Wales have experienced domestic abuse.

Latest statistics from the Office of National Statistics show an estimated 8% of women (1.3 million) and 4% of men (695,000) experienced domestic abuse in the past year alone.

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What Does Brexit Mean For UK Education?

Ben Tiffin 22nd November 2018

english teaching jobs uk

It seems that you can’t go anywhere lately without hearing that insufferable word that has split our nation, BREXIT!!. No doubt, a time will come where we will never hear the word again, but for the time being; it is here to stay.

Wherever there is a notion of Brexit, education is rarely spoken of, it just seems to be the Northern Ireland border, import/export deals, the divorce bill or what will happen to our beloved fisheries!

What must we be asking within the education sector when Brexit finally happens in March 2019? (This is highly unlikely now). Will EU trained teachers still come to the UK? Will trained teachers from outside of the EU still come into the UK?

Will Brexit increase our current shortages of Teacher Talent across Kent, make for harder school recruitment which is currently extremely challenging, what does the future of our Education human capital look like?

Numbers from the EEA (European Economic Area) show that 4,795 QTS awards were given in 2015-16 which is a 10% increase from the previous year. Also, outside the EEA there was a 22% jump from the previous year (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US).

Most of these counties offer highly skilled teachers but quite often only deliver short-term solutions due to visa restrictions unless ancestry or on the highly skilled teaching list!

 These figures show promise as qualified teachers are increasing and, through personal experiences, it is generally more difficult to obtain a teaching role within these countries. Therefore, what must the UK do in order to have a higher application rate for positions? We must make the education market desirable; but how do we do this?

In Kent, we have a huge shortage of teachers within primary, secondary and special needs. In our experience over the last few years, we have witnessed several schools taking on non-qualified teachers or daily supply to cater to their requirements. Schools would be better hiring a qualified cover teacher/PPA teacher or a dedicated class teacher so that the children and students of their school will have continuity. We must lower work-load for a better quality of life, ensure our teachers and support staff are cared for and ensure that they are trained to the best of their ability through continuous development as a county. Only time will tell.

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Parents ‘not wholly to blame for child weight gain’

Rikama Education 21st November 2018

Pointing the finger of blame at parents for children’s weight gain may be unfair, research suggests.

It has been thought that parents’ feeding patterns are a major factor in whether a child is under or overweight.

But a study suggests parents adapt their feeding styles in line with a child’s natural weight and size, which is largely genetically influenced.

The study was carried out by researchers at King’s College London and University College London (UCL).

The research says that, since the onset of the childhood obesity crisis at the turn of the century, the spotlight has focused on environmental factors for the problem – in the hope of finding solutions.

“Perhaps unsurprisingly, parental behaviours have received a great deal of attention,” it says.

“Parents are widely considered to be the ‘gatekeepers’ to their children’s food, and powerful shapers of their developing eating behaviour.”

Parental feeding styles

The study notes that two types of parental feeding styles, in particular, play a role in how parents regulate children’s eating habits:

  • restriction of food, which is thought to lead to weight gain because children overeat when the restriction is not there (the “forbidden fruit” effect)
  • pressure to eat, which is thought to make children with low appetites anxious, and compromise weight gain

But rather than dictate children’s habits, the research suggests parents are “responding to their child’s emerging characteristics, not simply causing them”.

The researchers assessed data, from the Twins Early Development Study, of 4,500 sets of twins born in England and Wales between 1994 and 1996.

They calculated a genetic score that sets out the likelihood of these individuals to have a higher or lower body mass index (BMI).

They then matched this score against parents’ feeding reports, setting out whether they used restriction or pressure.

The study found those children with a higher genetic BMI score had higher reported rates of parental restriction and those with lower BMIs had higher rates of pressuring, suggesting parents were adjusting their strategies for each child.

Even within families where non-identical twins differed in their genetic predisposition, parents were more restrictive with the twin who had a tendency to be of a higher weight and were more pressuring of the twin who tended to weigh less.

What do the results show?

Lead author, Saskia Selzam, from King’s College London, says: “Our findings suggest that parents develop their feeding practices in response to their child’s natural tendency towards a higher or lower weight.

“The way a parent feeds their child may also influence their child’s weight to some extent, but our results challenge the prevailing view that parental behaviour is the major influence on childhood weight.”

kids eating Image copyright Getty Images

Senior author, Dr Clare Llewellyn from UCL, adds: “These results show that parents are not the ‘full story’ when it comes to a child’s weight, and blaming parents for being too controlling about feeding may be unfair.

“But it is unclear whether these natural ‘go to’ strategies are helpful, harmful, or of no consequence to a child’s weight in the long run.”

Do parents have any impact on weight?

Ms Selzam says parents clearly have an impact, but not only in establishing learnt eating behaviours.

“It doesn’t mean that feeding strategies aren’t important.

“But the main point is how parents influence their children’s BMI genetically.

“A lot of studies suggest it must be the parents that cause the weight gain, but we are showing that it’s more complex than that.”

The researchers say further study is needed to identify which feeding strategies are acceptable and how they work.

The study is published in PLOS Genetics.

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Help for trauma in childhood ‘fragmented’

Rikama Education 14th November 2018

girl crying 

Early intervention to reduce the impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) such as abuse or neglect is “fragmented and variable” across England, MPs warn.

The Science and Technology Committee says more help in the formative years can help stave off mental health problems in later life.

The committee is urging the government to draw up a new national strategy for early intervention approaches.

It says early intervention can save the government money in the long term.

What does the committee’s report say?

The report says: “There is now a body of evidence that clearly demonstrates a correlation between adversity suffered during childhood and an increased prevalence of health and social problems in later life.”

It adds that while there is evidence of good practice in some local authorities in England, there is no “clear, overarching national strategy”.

“This has led to a fragmented and highly variable approach to early intervention across England, with evidence of a significant gap between what the latest evidence suggests constitutes best practice and what is actually delivered by many authorities.

“Where local authorities are not providing early intervention based on the best available evidence, vulnerable children are being failed.”

What do the MPs want?

The MPs are calling for more support for local councils to plan and deliver effective early intervention.

They also want to see better collection of data to help assess the effectiveness of intervention schemes.

But the report is clear that stepping in to help children is worthwhile, both for the children and the public purse.

“When delivered effectively, there is strong evidence that early intervention can dramatically improve people’s lives and reduce long-term costs to the government,” it says.

What sorts of things are considered to be ACEs?

The report says there is no universally agreed definition of what an ACE is, but that the following issues are typical:

  • verbal abuse
  • physical abuse
  • sexual abuse
  • physical neglect
  • emotional neglect
  • parental separation
  • household mental illness
  • household domestic violence
  • household alcohol abuse
  • household drug abuse
  • incarceration of a household member

What does the committee chairman say?

Norman Lamb MP says: “Adversity in childhood appears to be the biggest single risk factor in the emergence of mental ill health in childhood and teenage years and beyond.

“If we are to make any impact on the high prevalence of mental ill health in childhood, we have to transform how we address the causes.

sad boy Image copyright Getty Images

“Early intervention offers young people who have suffered adversity in their childhood an opportunity to avoid the long-term problems associated with such experiences.

“When delivered effectively, there is strong evidence that early intervention can dramatically improve people’s lives, whilst also reducing long-term costs to the government.”

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