In-Depth Education Reports

John Boyega, a Hollywood actor, is the most famous alumnus of Wes Streeting’s former inner-city school. However, both Boyega and Streeting hail from council estates and attended Westminster City School. Though the school was in special measures during Streeting’s tenure, opportunities for state school pupils like him are now rapidly diminishing. The school has had to make tough choices, such as cutting funding for extracurricular activities, including drama, despite boasting a Star Wars-famed alumnus. Unfortunately, Westminster City School is not the only institution facing this problem. According to recent research conducted by Labour, extracurricular activities, such as music, sports, drama, and school trips, have been in freefall over the last decade of Conservative government, particularly for primary-age children. Participation in theatre and drama has decreased by 47%, while music participation has dropped by 36%. Competitive sport participation has declined by 13%, and there have been similar drops in visits to heritage sites, museums, and libraries.

Labour’s study reveals that the poorest children suffer the most when it comes to access to extracurricular activities. Their findings are supported by the Social Mobility Commission report "An Unequal Playing Field." Therefore, the party is set to promise, if elected, to offer children ten life-changing extracurricular experiences before they turn ten, including swimming and music lessons, overnight trips, and other similar activities.

Streeting acknowledges that government funding cuts are a missed opportunity, and basic activities, such as drama, can help to heal mental health damages during the pandemic. When he attended a rough inner-city school, drama brought him a friendship group and gave him the confidence to pursue his later achievements. Although he returned to his old school, the school has been forced to make some tough choices, unlike the private school a short distance away.

Streeting’s background is atypical for Westminster and the Labour Party. He grew up in poverty, and he knows firsthand how essential benefits are to single mothers. Though he used to think that his childhood in a council flat in Stepney was unfortunate, he now feels that society has regressed under the Tories’ last ten years of government.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that Streeting is a seasoned politician and an experienced organiser who emerged from student union politics. He won the coveted marginal seat of Ilford North in 2015 and was appointed Child Poverty Secretary in the shadow cabinet after being diagnosed with kidney cancer earlier this year. Though his diagnoses came as a surprise, he is now fully recovered, with the exception of one kidney, and back working full-time. Despite Streeting’s frank criticism of Corbyn, the former Labour leader proposed a similar policy to back arts in schools and help children learn a musical instrument. Unfortunately, this policy was ridiculed in the tabloid press.

When discussing music, drama, and sports in state schools, those on the right often dismiss such activities as lacking academic rigor. The hypocrisy of this attitude is truly nauseating.

Despite criticism urging the Labour party to increase their attacks on the Conservatives, Streeting remains confident that they can win a majority. He argues that simply pointing out the faults of the current government will not be enough to convince voters to support Labour. Instead, they need to inspire people with a vision for a better future under a Labour government.

Streeting is convinced that there is a majority of voters who can be won over by the Labour party. However, they will not simply come to Labour due to Tory failures. Labour must actively demonstrate that they have the potential to create positive change.

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An open letter signed by thousands of academics from both the UK and overseas has appealed to Goldsmiths, University of London, urging the university to halt the decimation of its English and History departments. As a response to significant financial challenges, Goldsmiths recently announced 52 compulsory redundancies targeting these departments and administrative staff. More than 2,600 signatures are currently on the letter, which stresses the threat hanging over experts with deeply-rooted expertise in Black and Queer History and Black Literature. University management has been accused of prioritizing financial gains over education and treating higher education as fast fashion.

The country’s academic community has already been rocked by ongoing debates about free speech and gender identity, sustained strike action, and a reduction in resources for previously prestigious departments, at Cambridge University. The cost of attending university remains high, prompting widespread concern among students about how they will be compensated should further disruptions occur this year.

Many academics are frustrated with the timing of the Goldsmiths redundancies, pointing out that they are occurring during Black History Month and in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests. The Royal Historical Society’s president has said that the situation in the humanities will continue to deteriorate with further cuts looking inevitable. Despite Goldsmiths having a rich pedigree in English – evidenced by its venture into sponsoring its own £10,000 literary prize for a “mould-breaking” novel – applications to study the subject have been declining.

Institutions such as Leicester University have already witnessed academic unrest over chosen redundancy plans in English departments. There is now widespread concern about the future sustainability of humanities subjects at universities in the UK.

A representative for Goldsmiths University has indicated that the institution faces a significant financial hurdle. Despite efforts to address this, the university continues to be impacted by an underlying deficit, in addition to costs incurred from the COVID-19 pandemic, cuts in government funding that will result in a loss of over £2m annually, and a decline in student numbers in some subjects.

Given these challenges, the university is currently devising a recovery plan to effectively manage the situation. In order to minimize expenses, the university plans to reduce capital costs, while also selling properties that are not essential for teaching purposes. Though a last resort, redundancies may also be considered to reduce costs.

Despite the challenges facing the institution, Goldsmiths remains committed to providing education in a variety of humanities-related fields. These include history, English and creative writing.

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Dolf Polak, my father, passed away at the age of 98, leaving behind a legacy as a distinguished professor of renal medicine and a devoted music aficionado. He was originally from The Hague in the Netherlands but relocated to London with his family as a youngster. His parents, Jacques Polak and Connie van den Bergh, both shared a passion for art and music, which they instilled in their son from a young age. Dolf took up the violin and continued to play it passionately throughout his life.

Growing up, Dolf attended a progressive school handpicked by his mother. During the war, he attended Bedales in Hampshire to avoid the blitz, but returned to London regularly for violin lessons. Despite having a talent for music, he decided to pursue medicine instead after the war, mainly due to the loss of many Dutch Jewish friends and family members and the chaos of the war at the time.

As a medical student at Cambridge University and later at University College hospital in London, Dolf continued to play music in his free time. He played with many of his peers, who later became celebrated musicians and ambassadors of the art form. After being deployed as a dispatch rider by the Dutch army, Dolf began his 40-year love affair with the NHS in 1948.

In 1954, Dolf married Thalia Salaman, a prolific sculptor, and together they had four children. In 1964, he pioneered a regional renal unit in Portsmouth and in 1971, became a revered professor at a new medical school in Southampton. Thalia and Dolf renovated an old rectory near the school and made it their home for 40 years, creating a large music room for informal concerts and musical gatherings.

Despite being a dedicated medical professional and renowned academic, Dolf always found time to pursue his passion for music. He played in many local orchestras and chamber ensembles and organized informal at-home concerts with his wife. After retiring in 1988, Dolf started teaching violin lessons to private students and continued to play music until he was 96.

Dolf and Thalia moved to Cambridgeshire in 2006, seeking a warmer environment and community of like-minded chamber music players. Despite suffering from arthritis, Dolf continued to play with his new friends until he physically could not. During his free time, he began writing string arrangements for some of his favorite pieces of music, creating short “encores” and even a full-scale quintet. His vast knowledge of chamber music made him an intimidating audience, but he always remained a generous and humble host.

Dolf is survived by his wife Thalia, their four children, nine grandchildren, and a great-granddaughter. His life was an inspiration to many and will not soon be forgotten.

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The National Union of Students (NUS) has been banned from official Government contact due to ongoing allegations of antisemitism within the organisation. Despite the NUS’s commitment to collaborating with Jewish students, ministers have acted on concerns raised by groups such as the Union of Jewish Students. This follows the election of Shaima Dallali as the new NUS president: alleged historic comments, including a tweet from ten years ago referencing a AD628 assault on Jews, caused the UJS to raise concerns. Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi stated that “Jewish students need to have confidence that this is a body that represents them”, announcing the suspension.

Minister for higher and further education in England Michelle Donelan has written to the electoral body overseeing this year’s NUS presidential election asking for information on how the election was conducted. The suspension only affects the NUS’s relationship with the Westminster government, not those in other countries. Matt Western, Labour’s shadow universities minister, said Jewish students should be able to participate in student organisations in safety and called for the independent inquiry set up by the NUS to address these issues satisfactorily.

The NUS represents seven million students at universities and colleges, with 600 student unions affiliated. During the suspension, the NUS will be removed from all government groups and replaced with alternative student representatives. The Department for Education said that the situation will be reviewed as substantive action is demonstrated. A spokesperson for the NUS revealed an independent investigation would be launched with a QC to be appointed next week, in consultation with the Union of Jewish Students.

After Dallali’s election, she received a lot of online Islamophobic and racist abuse. Black Muslim women are frequently subjected to such attacks, and Dallali voiced the belief that this was something to be anticipated. In response to the NUS suspension, NUS officials expressed disappointment that the decision had been publicised in the media rather than being shared with them directly.

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The Catholic Church is taking the government’s schools admissions watchdog to court to defend the right of priests to determine whether pupils are eligible for a place based on faith. The move follows a ruling earlier this month by the schools adjudicator that a policy across all UK Catholic schools by which priests decided on a pupil-by-pupil basis whether they came from a "practising (Catholic) family" was unfair. The adjudicator’s decision was based on a complaint by a parent who had hoped to secure a place for their child at St Richard Reynolds Catholic College in Twickenham. The parent and Surrey County Council argued that the policy failed to define "what form or frequency of religious practice is required for a priest to do this."

The Catholic Education Service (CES), which oversees policy for the UK’s 2,300 Catholic schools, issued a Certificate of Catholic Practice (CCP) for the current academic year. Its aim was to ensure that all Catholic schools followed the same admissions policy, thereby closing loopholes in which parents without any genuine faith sought to "game the system" to admit their children. Under the CCP, faith schools can select oversubscribed pupils on the basis of religious faith. However, there have been complaints that the application of CCPs has been "inconsistent" with no clear "transparent" basis for decision-making.

However, the UK government has proposed lifting the 50% cap on the proportion of faith selection in free schools and academies. Voluntary-aided faith schools are allowed to select up to 100% of pupils on the basis of faith. Catholic schools perform better than the national average in SATs and GCSE tests, exceeding the former by six percentage points and the latter by five percentage points.

The Office of the Schools Adjudicator ruled that the criteria on which priests made their decisions were "not transparent." The ruling said: "There is no easy way for any parent to know in advance that they will be able to fulfil the over-subscription criteria under which such priority is afforded." Parents who have attended mass for many years may not be granted a CCP, whilst a recent convert or someone who has been prevented from attending church could be given priority in the admissions process. The legality over the determinations is now being challenged in the UK high court.

A spokesman for the Catholic Education Service said: "The central issue in the determinations is who should decide whether a pupil is a practising Catholic. Within the Catholic community, it is accepted that priests are the correct authority to identify any practising Catholics."

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The government has issued guidance in England that permits headteachers to press criminal charges against students who make false allegations against teachers. To enforce discipline in schools, Education Secretary Michael Gove has introduced a range of measures, including allowing schools to search mobile phones for inappropriate material. Headteachers can temporarily or permanently exclude pupils who make false allegations, subject to the new guidance. In addition, teachers have greater protection, with an assumption of reasonableness unless proved otherwise, and confirmation that they can use reasonable force to control children. Presently, they can be suspended solely on a student’s word. A 2009 survey found that almost 30% of school staff had made false allegations of misconduct against students; 16% of these claims were passed to the police. The Department for Education is publishing new discipline guidance, which will reduce regulations from 600 pages to 50.

A new adviser has been appointed to help schools with pupil behaviour. Charlie Taylor, a headteacher and consultant who has worked in and advised some of London’s most challenging schools, will take up the post. Taylor’s approach addresses fundamental gaps in children’s development, such as teaching them to welcome affection, and he is openly critical of league tables. Gove has stated that the appointment of someone of Taylor’s calibre demonstrates the government’s seriousness in tackling the issue of school discipline. Last year, Gove promised a "new deal" for teachers regarding classroom discipline, which included the removal of the "no touch" rules that often discouraged teachers from restraining or comforting schoolchildren.

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Do you go by Longnose or Sheepshanks, Vuggles or Halfknight? Even if you’re a Smith or Jones, there’s likely a curiosity brewing inside of you about the origin and evolution of your surname. My surname, Tickle, hails from the town of Tickhill in the old West Riding of Yorkshire and is not as rare as one might think.

Thanks to a grant of £835,000 from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, this curiosity may soon be satiated. Launching in April at the University of the West of England (UWE), a research project into UK family names will provide a publicly accessible, online database offering meanings and origins for up to 150,000 current surnames.

Engaging with this database may reveal connections to an aristocratic history, or it may pinpoint the Middle Age’s decision to name the local squire’s preferred pig-keeper after you. Though many surname dictionaries exist, principal investigator Richard Coates, linguistics professor, claims these resources are unreliable in interpreting old forms of a name. He also highlighted the problem of the suggested interpretation not aligning with known familial history. Alongside Dr. Patrick Hanks, collaborating lexicographer, Coates and three researchers will seek out the names that have slipped through the cracks by scrutinising old county rolls, medieval archives, and parish registries.

To create a profile for each name, they will gather information on the name’s spelling variations, the time and place of its first appearance, frequency, and social and regional distribution. Coates explains that originally, people did not concern themselves with surnames. They came to be out of the necessity to protect inherited wealth. The wealthy required a way to ensure the fortune would pass to the correct Edward, Henry, or William, with their wealth also being taxable. “There were far more given names in Anglo-Saxon England than in the 12th and 13th centuries. At the end of the Anglo-Saxon period, only the aristocracy have second names. As the number of given names reduces, so the need for distinctive second names grows.”

Once second naming became fashionable, aristocratic naming patterns trickled down to the lower classes rather rapidly throughout most of England. Surnames came about during the late Middle Ages for most of the UK, with the trend spreading from south to north; although, in certain regions such as Wales and Lancashire, their prevalence is seen much later.

Four classifications of surname exist. The first identifies an individual by their relation to another; for instance, a person adopting their father’s given name resulted in Jackson or just Jack, and in Gaelic Scotland, Macdonald. The second identifies location or profession; Coates’s name means “cottages” in Middle English and originated from the place name Cotes in his grandfather’s ancestral county of Staffordshire. The third way surnames are formed is by description, often relating to hair or skin tone; examples include White, Short, Armstrong, or Russell. Finally, occupation-based surnames such as Naylor (a nail maker), Baxter (a female baker), Wheelwright (a wheel maker), and Leech (a doctor) are common.

Decoding how surnames changed with variations in location and spelling is a task that will be undertaken by the research team. Moreover, Coates notes that women have not always adhered to taking their husband’s name. “Then there’s the question of illegitimacy. In one sense, it wouldn’t matter what an illegitimate child were called if there was nothing to inherit, but if you and your mother were abandoned, an identifying surname would be crucial to establishing which parish was responsible for paying to look after you." Lastly, Coates mentions that the funniest surname he came across was inappropriate for print in a family newspaper.

The peak moment in this type of investigation occurs when you realize that you have accumulated adequate information to arrive at a conclusion that has never been reached before about how a particular name was acquired, according to Coates.

Are there any surnames whose origins the team might never be able to uncover?

With a grin, Coates acknowledges that some will inevitably be incomprehensible. If the team can account for each name that has more than 100 people, they would be satisfied. Even better would be if they could account for many names with fewer than 100 people.

What about names such as Lickerish that seem quite odd?

The names on the list below all had no more than 200 people with them in 1881. It is uncertain if any are still in use today.

Bolus which is Old Norse for ‘poleaxe’

Champflower which is from a village in Normandy

Gwatkin which is apparantly a welsh-influenced form of Watkin or ‘Little Walter, from the Herefordshire area

Halfknight which may refer to someone who held half of a knight’s fee, or was simply intended as an insult.

Lickerish which means ‘Randy’

Marmion which is Old French for ‘monkey’

McCambridge which is Anglicised Gaelic for ‘son of Ambrose’

Pitchfork which is a rare variant of Pitchford, a place in Shropshire

Prettyjohn which is a variant of Prester John, a legendry oriental ruler from the 12th century

Puddifoot which is ‘Fat Vat’

Slorance which is Scots and has an unknown meaning

Stiddolph which is from the Old English ‘hard’, ‘wolf’

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Michael Banton, a distinguished professor of sociology, passed away at the age of 91. He was the first person to hold this position at Bristol University and remained the head of the department until his retirement in 1992.

Apart from his work at Bristol University, he led the Social Science Research Council’s Research Unit on Ethnic Relations from 1971 to 1978, which looked at issues surrounding migration from south Asia, Caribbean and African countries. The unit later moved to Warwick University and became the Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations.

In 1978, Michael was selected as a member of the Royal Commission on Bermuda, which investigated the civil disorder that unfolded after the execution of the men responsible for assassinating the then-governor, Sir Richard Sharples. He also served on the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure from 1978 to 1981 and later joined the United Nations committee on the elimination of racial discrimination. Michael held the positions of chairman from 1996 to 1998, and rapporteur from 1990 to 1996 and again from 1998 to 2001. His extensive experience in these positions led to the publication of two books, International Action Against Racial Discrimination (1996) and The International Politics of Race (2002).

Born in Birmingham, Michael was the son of Francis Banton, who worked at a cement company and Kathleen Banton (nee Parkes). He studied at the London School of Economics and was appointed as a lecturer in social anthropology at the University of Edinburgh in 1950. He later became a reader before moving to Bristol.

Michael’s research methodology focused on the relationships between individuals and the choices they make, including those that lead to social exclusion or to increasing one’s social advantage. His book, Racial and Ethnic Competition (1983), explored this theme.

I had the pleasure of working alongside Michael for over 40 years at Bristol University. During our last meeting in 2017, he remained engaged in his work and continued to be a source of intellectual inspiration.

Michael was survived by three children – Dagmar, Ragnhild, and Christopher. His wife Marianne Jacobson passed away in 2007, and he lost his son Nicholas in 1994.

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My husband, John Needham, passed away at the age of 84, and was an active member of the Labour party, a highly regarded permanent secretary of the Open University Students’ Association (OUSA), and a lifelong fan of Arsenal football club.

John was raised in a tenement flat near King’s Cross station in London. His parents, Lydia (nee Pateman) and John Needham, both worked at Whitbread’s Brewery. When John was two years old, the second world war broke out, and his father enlisted, leaving him and his mother to spend much of the war in underground shelters. Their building was also bombed twice.

Leaving William Ellis school at the age of 15, John worked as an office boy in the City. In the 1960s, he became an active member of St Pancras North Labour party and was eventually elected to Camden council. As chair of the libraries and arts committee, he oversaw the construction of the St Pancras library and Shaw theatre.

During the 1971 Housing Finance Act, he was one of a small group of councillors who stood with tenants during the rent strike and was later surcharged as a result. This huge debt lingered over him for years until it was eventually revoked by the House of Lords. It was during the run-up to the February 1974 general election that John and I met. He was the agent for St Pancras North, and I had signed up as a campaign volunteer.

In the early 1970s, John was one of the first to enrol in the Open University and studied both the social science and science foundation courses. After the OU negotiated with several universities to admit students with OU course credits instead of A-levels, he became one of Lancaster University’s first full-time mature students. At the age of 40, he earned his degree with a 2:1 in organisation studies and sociology.

John later moved from working at Sunderland Polytechnic to becoming the general manager of the student union. In 1983, he moved to Milton Keynes, where he became the permanent secretary of OUSA. As someone who strongly believed in the Open University’s mission, he had firsthand experience of its power to change lives. When the university was under threat from a hostile Tory government, John spearheaded a campaign to support the OU by engaging students throughout Britain. It resulted in a 160,000-signature petition that was delivered to 10 Downing Street in November 1985. He retired in 1999, and in 2001, he received an honorary master’s degree for services to OU students.

During his retirement, John dedicated much of his time and effort to campaigning for patient and public involvement in the NHS. He was also an avid golfer.

He is survived by me, our daughter Jessica, and our grandchildren Teddy and Poppy.

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When pursuing a degree in social policy, you will delve into major social and political matters, such as unemployment, inequality, and crime. Some programs also have an international aspect, exploring global influences on current social challenges and analyzing various countries’ responses to problems such as poverty or inequality.

In your course, you will examine theoretical concepts from a range of social sciences, including political science, sociology, economics, psychology, and management. You will learn how to apply these theories to actual social problems. You will also discover how policies are created and gain a foundation in social research methods. In addition, there will be opportunities for you to specialize in particular areas of interest, such as contemporary policing, disability, migration, asylum seeker rights, housing, or drug use.

Regardless of where you study, social policy can be paired with one of the core social science subjects such as economics, criminology, English literature, or history.

Social policy degrees provide you with more space to be inventive than pure politics degrees. You will be urged to find solutions to policy problems instead of merely examining them in a historical context. Your studies will involve lectures, seminars, and independent research, which will develop your ability to work independently and as part of a team. You will assess competing theories and explanations and learn to incorporate evidence into policy-centered discussions.

Entry conditions differ, so it’s ideal to check with each institution to establish their minimum requirements. Most programs necessitate a grade C or above in Math and English GCSE.

Social policy graduates frequently seek careers in the public sector, where they help create policy and manage critical services. You will also be equipped with the qualifications to work in the criminal justice field and charitable organizations that concentrate on social concerns. Additionally, this degree could send you towards careers in media, consultancy, management, or other fields.

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