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The life
A Christian perspective on society and the education industry for the Christian professional in education.

Hope for excluded children?

This summer, when she leaves school, Leah wants to become an art therapist. Her classmate Holly wants to do something with psychology, and for Sam it’s an apprenticeship with the police. None of this would be unusual except that Sam (not his real name), a chatty and engaging 16-year-old, used to spend his days at school in isolation and his evenings “getting into trouble” around town with his mates. He thought he had irrevocably screwed up his life, and was resigned to having blown it. Fortunately for Sam, he found somewhere prepared to give him not just a second chance but a third and a fourth and a fifth. Whatever happened yesterday, tomorrow is always a new day.

All three teenagers attend Restormel academy, in the Cornish town of St Austell. It’s one of a group of alternative provision schools belonging to the Wave multi-academy trust, catering for children permanently excluded from mainstream secondary schools plus others who haven’t been expelled but may be on the verge, who come in for specialist interventions. The young people I meet are friendly, articulate and sick of a national debate raging over their heads that draws sometimes crude connections between exclusion, knife crime and feral behaviour.

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Student loan black hole.

The Chancellor faces losing £11.6billion from his financial war chest because of new rules over how student loans are accounted for.

Student debt will be included in Treasury expenditure for the first time later this year, to reflect the fact that much of it will never be paid back.

The change poses a major headache for Philip Hammond.

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More mental health support needed at University of East Anglia.

A petition calling for more mental health support at a university where four students died has been signed by almost 5,000 people.

Four students at the University of East Anglia (UEA) have died since May.

Isabelle Keltie, who was involved in setting up the petition, said more help was "desperately needed".

The Norwich-based university said on Wednesday it would invest an extra £250,000 in support services, a day after a student was found dead.

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Teenagers in care live alone.

Thousands of teenagers in council care are living in B&Bs, flats and even tents and caravans - with no live-in adult supervision, a report reveals.

In 2018, 3,090 looked-after children were living independently, government data published in the Children's Rights Alliance for England report shows.

And local authority data shows at least 1,173 spent more than six months living in this way, 19 of these were 14 or 15.

Children's services bosses predict a £3.1bn funding shortfall by 2025.

The children in question are in the care of local authorities because something has gone wrong in their birth family.


They are being cared for in what is known as independent accommodation, rather than children's homes or foster care.

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Knife crime: I'm living on the edge, says student.

Three young, black men under the age of 25.

They fit the basic profile of those most likely to be victims of knife crime.

Speaking in simple statistical terms, they are also most likely to be prosecuted for knife crime.

Aged 17 to 19, these young men are hard-working college students who also love basketball.

All studying at Newham Sixth Form College, where students have organised a knife-crime awareness day, they have each been affected by knife crime or the threat of it in some way.


Clyde, 19, had a friend who was killed in a stabbing outside the McDonald's where he works nights.

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Mental health task force for Unis set up.

A new taskforce has been set up by Education Secretary Damian Hinds to support students to deal with the challenges that starting university can include to preserve their mental health.

On University Mental Health Day (7 March), Mr Hinds announced that the new taskforce will look at how students moving from sixth-form or college to university can be better supported in their crucial first year, building on the work already underway across the sector to improve support for student mental health.

It follows work by the Department for Education to identify four key areas of risk that can affect the mental health of people going to university. These are:

  • Independent living – including things like managing finances, having realistic expectations of student life, as well as alcohol and drugs misuse.
  • Independent learning – helping students to engage with their course, cope with their workload and develop their own learning style and skills.
  • Healthy relationships – supporting students with the skills to make positive friendships and engage with diverse groups of people. Other risks can include abusive partners, relationship breakdowns and conflict with others.
  • Wellbeing – including loneliness and vulnerability to isolation, social media pressures and ‘perfectionism’. Students may also not know how to access support for their wellbeing.

Members of the new taskforce – which will be known as the Education Transitions Network – will include leading sector groups such as UCAS, the National Union of Students, Student Minds, Universities UK, the Association of Colleges and the Office for Students.

The group will develop measures to help people make a smooth transition into higher education and help students maintain good mental health.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said:

Going to university should be a positive, life-changing experience. Understandably for many young people, the idea of leaving home and starting to live independently can be exciting but also daunting.

Juggling challenges like independent studying or managing finances can be hard enough, but with the added element being in a new place, surrounded by new people it can for some be overwhelming. We need to make sure students have the support they need to thrive at university and help these really be the best days of their life.

I’m delighted to have the expertise of the sector backing this vision and joining this taskforce. Our universities are world-leading in so many areas and I want them to be the best for mental health support too. Pinpointing these key areas which can affect student mental health is essential to the progress we must make to ensure every student can flourish in higher education.

Research shows that when people face a number of these challenges in student life at the same time it can be stressful and can lead to poor mental health.

The four areas all have the potential to be challenging for young people as they go through substantial change in their lives. The group may look at other areas which can affect student mental health as part of future work, such as challenges students face when moving from education to the world of work.

The Education Transitions Network, includes the Association of Colleges and Sixth Form Colleges Association to ensure schools and colleges play a vital role in preparing students for the new difficulties they can face when they start university.

Rosie Tressler, CEO of Student Minds, said:

We often hear from students and in our research that times of transition can significantly impact student wellbeing throughout their university experience. We therefore welcome the work of the Education Transitions Network, in enabling further collaborations in this space.

On University Mental Health Day, and all year round, we need to ensure that student mental health is a strategic priority at our Universities and for health providers. Together, we can use our voices to improve the futures of millions of people.

Professor Steve West, Vice-Chancellor of UWE Bristol, said:

Universities welcome the Secretary of State’s focus on student mental health. It is very much aligned with our core mission to enable students and staff to thrive by ensuring that mental health and wellbeing is a core part of all universities’ activities. Universities UK continues to play a leading role in setting out an ambitious vision for the sector and in convening a whole-system response to achieve change.

Across the UK, we are seeing an increase in the number of young adults disclosing mental illness and this is reflected at universities. So we welcome and will play an active role, alongside schools and colleges, in the government’s work on helping young people make the transition into higher education.

Universities, colleges and schools all see mental health as a priority but we cannot address these challenges alone. We are committed to working in close partnership with the NHS, locally and nationally, to improve services for students. It is essential that any future funding regime does not undermine this work to support students and staff to realise their potential.

The network will firstly look at ‘what works’ to help students handle the challenges of moving into higher education and spread good practice from examples of initiatives, such as the University of Huddersfield’s award-winning Flying Start inductions and the University of Portsmouth’s Welcome Ambassadors project, Student Minds’ Transitions and Know Before You Go, as well as measures developed through the Office for Students’ Challenge Competition projects.

Universities Minister Chris Skidmore met with students and staff at Kings College London yesterday to discuss the challenges students can face when they transition to university. This included charities, sector bodies and health experts joining a discussion about how universities can work better with the NHS to improve mental health support for students.

The ambition to create a network was first announced last year by former Universities Minister Sam Gyimah as part of a range of measures to improve student mental health support, including the development of a University Mental Health Charter, led by Student Minds, which will reward institutions that deliver improved student mental health outcomes.

In December, the Education Secretary wrote to the chair of an expert panel convened by Universities UK (UUK) to urge that it did all in its power to help higher education institutions do more to reach out to students’ emergency contacts when it is clear this is in the best interests of a student’s health.

Following this, Universities UK is currently leading a task group to explore how students’ families and friends can be better involved in mental health support and care while ensuring the confidentiality rights of students are fully respected.

Degree apprenticeships more popular with white affluent students.

White students from more affluent areas are more likely to do degree apprenticeships, report finds.

More needs to be done to ensure disadvantaged and underrepresented young people have access to degree apprenticeships, which combine paid work with study, the Office for Students (OfS) has said.  

Only 13 per cent of young people who took up degree-level apprenticeships, which were launched to help widen access to higher education and fill skill gaps, were the most disadvantaged students.


Cambridge University hopes to increase intake of disadvantaged pupils.

Cambridge University is to offer "second chance" places after A-level results for the first time this summer, in a deliberate bid to increase the number of disadvantaged students.

There will be about 100 places available but only deprived students from the UK will be allowed to apply.

The university has faced accusations of being socially exclusive.

Cambridge says the scheme reflects its wish to recruit more disadvantaged youngsters - but it is not a "quota".

The prestigious university has been attacked for a lack of diversity in its intake of about 3,500 undergraduates each year - such as too few students from poorer backgrounds or from deprived areas.


Last week, BBC News revealed UK students had 500 fewer undergraduate places at Cambridge than a decade ago, while overseas student numbers had risen by 65%.

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Head banned.

The former head of a school who starred in a BBC documentary has been banned from teaching by a disciplinary panel.

Thomas Marshall, 50, ran Baverstock Academy in Birmingham when Panorama covered its work in keeping disruptive children in mainstream education.

The panel found he hired his mother's consultancy firm without declaring it and also did not follow proper recruitment procedures.

Mr Marshall did not wish to make any comment on the ruling.

It is not known whether he had been teaching elsewhere up until the ruling was made.


The school closed in 2017 and was placed in special measures in November 2014. The allegations against Mr Marshall dated from between 2012 and 2015.

West Midlands Police launched a fraud investigation into the school in 2017, but said three people interviewed would face no further action.

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Pupils, both formally and informally excluded, are being "sucked into criminality".

Theresa May is being warned that a "broken" system of support for troubled and excluded youngsters lies at the heart of a rise in knife crime.

Police commissioners and London's mayor have written to the PM saying pupils, both formally and informally excluded, are being "sucked into criminality".

The letter says cuts to school funds and youth services mean "interventions" for needy youngsters are not happening.

The government said permanent exclusions should be a "last resort".

A spokesperson added that pupil referral units, where children excluded from mainstream school are taught, had a legal duty to safeguard children from dangers such as exploitation, abuse and gang activity.


The letter also called for the system of off-rolling, which sees pupils disappear from school registers without having been formally excluded, to be banned.

It comes a day after high-level talks between the home secretary and police chiefs and follows a spate of fatal teenage stabbings.

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