Thursday, March 14, 2019

UK: Cambridge opens up extra places for "disadvantaged" students who perform better than expected in their A-levels

"Disadvantaged" here seems to be code for "black".  Last year, 63.4 per cent of Cambridge’s undergraduate intake came from state schools so whites would seem to be doing well already.  It is clearly no longer the preserve of "toffs" and products of private schooling

Cambridge University is opening up extra places for disadvantaged students who perform better than expected in their A-levels, in a bid to improve diversity.

This summer the university will give out up to 100 additional places which will be earmarked for pupils who have either spent time in local authority care, or those with a combination of characteristics including attending a state school and living in a deprived household or area.

It is the first time that Cambridge will take part in the Ucas “adjustment” system, where students who do better than expected in their A-levels are able to “trade up” for a better university place.

While many Russell Group universities offer places through this system, Oxford and Cambridge have traditionally abstained from doing so on the basis that they fill all their places in advance.

Dr Sam Lucy, director of admissions for the Cambridge Colleges, said that move is aimed at admitting more talented students from disadvantaged background who have already applied and had an interview, but “narrowly missed out” on an offer.

“Students have to apply almost a year before they start their course, and some may be on an upward academic trajectory and not demonstrating their full academic potential at the point of interview,” she said.

“Adjustment provides those students who go on to achieve highly with an opportunity to be reconsidered as soon as they have their final results, rather than having to make a reapplication the following year.

Universities are under increasing pressure to increase the number of students they admit from poor backgrounds.

Last year Russell Group universities spent £254 million on “outreach” activities, aimed at encouraging more students from disadvantaged background to apply, with a further £270 million due to be spent in the year ahead. Initiatives include bursaries, extra tutoring and support, and giving lower offers to those coming from state schools.

Last year, 63.4 per cent of Cambridge’s undergraduate intake came from state schools, compared to 58.2 per cent at Oxford.

The higher education watchdog has said that institutions must "eliminate" the gap in admissions between wealthier students and their less well-off peers within 20 years But the Office for Students has admitted that top universities will need to accept fewer middle class students in order to meet diversity targets.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, said that Cambridge's announcement is a “step in the right direction”, adding that he welcomed any new initiatives aimed at closing the “stubbornly wide” gap between rich and poor students at top universities.

"However, our research has shown that many poorer pupils with the grades to get into Oxford or Cambridge don’t apply, or have their grades under-predicted," he added.

“We also want to see universities like Cambridge giving poorer students a break by taking into account such factors as their school and parental background.”

He said universities should all move to post-qualification applications, where students apply only after they have received their A-level results. 


Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin's husband Mossimo Giannulli are both released from custody after making their first court appearances in the college bribery scandal

Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin's husband Mossimo Giannulli have been released after they were charged in a massive college admissions cheating scandal.

Huffman and Giannulli are among 50 people, including Lori Loughlin, who have been accused of paying bribes to get their children into America's top colleges.

The Desperate Housewives star was released on $250,000 bond on Tuesday. 

Huffman allegedly paid $15,000, which she disguised as a charitable donation, to arrange for someone to change her daughter's answers during the SAT exams. 

Charging documents state that both Huffman and her husband, actor William H Macy, agreed to the plan to help daughters Sofia, 18, and 16-year-old Georgia.  

Macy was in court on Tuesday to support his wife and sat in the front row. Authorities have not disclosed why he was not implicated in the scandal.

Huffman has been charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud. A magistrate judge ordered the actress to restrict her travel to the continental US and she surrendered her passport to the court. 

Seven FBI agents showed up to Huffman's home in Hollywood Hills at 6am on Tuesday, drew their weapons, and ordered the actress to come out and surrender.

Sources told TMZ that Huffman, Macy, and their two daughters had been asleep inside the home when the agents arrived.

One FBI source said that the guns were drawn as a precaution - a decision that is always left to the agents' discretion when an arrest takes place. 

Huffman was then taken to a federal building and processed by federal marshals.   

Meanwhile, Loughlin is currently en route to Los Angeles and will surrender to authorities on Wednesday morning.

The Full House star, 54, is flying from Canada to Los Angeles to turn herself in. She has likewise been charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud.

Both Loughlin and her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli were charged. They allegedly paid $500,000 to get their daughters Olivia Jade, 19, and Isabella, 20, into the University of Southern California.

Sources said that FBI agents likewise arrived at Loughlin's home on Tuesday morning, only to find out she was in Vancouver. They took Giannulli in custody. Giannulli's bond was set at $1million, forcing him to put the family's primary residence up as collateral to guarantee the bond. The designer also had to surrender his passport to the court, according to Variety. Like Huffman, his travel has been restricted to continental US.

Loughlin's attorney has requested that she be allowed to travel to Vancouver, where she films for the Hallmark Channel, after she is arraigned. The judge said the request sounded reasonable but must be decided at a later date.

Loughlin and Giannulli allegedly paid the half-million dollar sum to get their daughters into USC, which Giannulli graduated from in 1987, as fake rowing recruits. Neither daughter participated in crew.   

The scheme was uncovered by the FBI and federal prosecutors in Boston, who discovered the affluent parents involved had paid a total of $6million in bribes to get their children into elite schools including Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, and UCLA.

In many instances the children were unaware that their parents had paid these bribes, according to federal documents.

Most of those charged either paid to get higher SAT scores or faked an athletic resume that, with the participation of a bribed college coach, helped the children get accepted to a college as a team's recruit.

Prosecutors said in court on Tuesday that some students also lied about their ethnicity on applications to take advantage of affirmative action. 

William Rick Singer, the founder of Key Worldwide Foundation, had been identified as the alleged mastermind behind the scandal.

Singer was charged with racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and obstruction of justice. He has pleaded guilty.


New push in Australia for children to start school at the age of three

This push is basically bullshit. Finland does not start kids at school until age 7 and they have famously good results.  Let me quote just a small excerpt from someone who has surveyed the evidence on the question:

"University studies are often quoted to support the perceived academic benefits of preschool. What is not often mentioned is that whilst these studies demonstrate preschool in a favourable light when compared with an impoverished home environment; preschool environments and results do not compare favourably with the average home environment.

Even Professor Edward Zigler, credited as “the father of Head Start” a well-respected American preschool program admits “there is a large body of evidence that there is little to be gained by exposing middle class children to early education…(and) evidence that indicates early schooling is inappropriate for many four-year-olds, and that it may be harmful to their development.”

So what about the long-term academic effects of preschool? The longitudinal studies, often quoted to argue an academic advantage provided by preschool for lower socio-economic groups, actually also show that this “advantage” disappears by grade three.

If preschool were truly beneficial in terms of giving children a head start, those places with some form of compulsory preschool should do demonstrably better academically. The evidence does not bear this out. The two states of America which have compulsory preschool, Georgia and Oklahoma, have the lowest results for fourth grade reading tests in the country."

So why the deception?  The push is in fact just a push for free child-minding

Children should start school at the age of three to give them the best start in life and to stop Australia falling behind Europe and China, leading experts claim.

Lobby groups are urging the Federal Government to boost funding for more children to have access to school earlier.

More and more private schools and early learning centres are offering 'pre-kindy' which exposes children to play-based learning so they are better prepared for when they start school.

Many programs have lengthy waiting lists and now an initiative led by the Early Learning Benefits campaign wants extra funding so more children have access to pre-school education. 

'We have some children already having access to high quality learning, but many are missing out … equity is a big issue,' Early Childhood Australia CEO Samantha Page told The Courier Mail.

Latest statistics show only 58.5 per cent of three-year-olds in Australia are enrolled in pre-school programs, compared to 95-100 per cent of children in France, Denmark, Norway, Israel and Spain.

University of the Sunshine Coast senior lecturer Dr Ali Black, said international research showed children introduced to high quality education earlier were more likely to go to university, gain better jobs and even own their own homes.

They were more resilient, had better social skills and had fewer behavioural issues.

Australian Catholic University early childhood specialist, Laurien Beane, said the push would follow the lead of cutting-edge Scandanavian countries, who have invested huge resources to educating kids from birth to the age of five.

'We invest in the 5-18 age group and it starts too late … that's why as a nation we are languishing so far behind a number of other countries,' Ms Beane said.

Ms Beane said the main objectivity of early education was not about literacy and numeracy but to foster curiosity, creativity, imagination and social development. Children would typically attend two days a week for five-and-a-half hours.

They would have lessons in music, literature, languages, as well as more social-based lessons about respecting others and regulating emotions.

Ms Page said Labor made a commitment in October to extend funding to early education for three-year-olds by 2021.

Some parents say they feel pressured to be in favour of the push as primary schools are likely to give preference to children attending pre-kindergarten programs. Other fears include schools will favour children in those programs to boost rankings and funding.

Childcare and early learning provider C&K is among those leading the way with pre-kindergarten rooms, like Banyo in Brisbane's north.


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