breaking news from the world of ideas

by Kristina Murkett
Thursday, 13
January 2022
Analysis
11:47

Online child sexual abuse images triple during lockdown

A new report makes for grim reading

Today the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) — a charity that assesses and flags child sexual abuse material online — has released the key findings of their 2021 report, and it makes for terrifying reading.

Last year the IWF had to take action on over 250,000 URLs (some of which contained thousands of images and videos), compared to 150,000 in 2020 and 130,000 in 2019. They investigated over 360,000 reports, which is more than they dealt with than in the entire first 15 years of their existence, and found a hugely worrying increase in the number of so-called ‘self-generated images’. 

Self-generated images mean that no adult was physically present in the room when the images were taken, usually on a webcam or phone or tablet camera. In 2021 there was a 167% increase in the number of these self-generated images involving 11-13 year olds, and a 235% increase in the number of self-generated images involving 7-10 year olds. This means that in 2021 alone, the IWF found over 170,000 instances of self-generated images of pre-teens, compared to around 60,000 in 2020 and 38,000 in 2019. ...  Continue reading

by Kristina Murkett
Tuesday, 21
December 2021
Analysis
10:30

The trouble with Nadhim Zahawi’s ex-teacher army

The Education Secretary's big idea sounds better than it is

Most teachers and students should now be celebrating the start of the Christmas holidays, but instead are anxiously awaiting the ‘tidal wave’ of Omicron that is predicted to hit schools in January. There are concerns that January mock exams — which could prove vital if we have to return to teacher-assessed grades — will be cancelled, and many schools are already preparing for remote learning or delayed start dates. Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi even said yesterday morning that disruptions are likely until Easter, and has called upon retired and former teachers to “come forward and join the national mission” to keep schools open during the spring term. ...  Continue reading

by Kristina Murkett
Tuesday, 14
December 2021
Explainer
10:00

Get ready for exams to be cancelled… again

The return of teacher-assessed grades now looks inevitable

Ask any teacher, pupil or parent: absence from Covid is putting a huge strain on schools at the moment. Recent figures show that in both primary and secondary schools, sickness absence has been higher this term than any time since September 2020, and in secondary schools sickness absence has increased by two-thirds compared to last year. In Oxfordshire dozens of schools have partially closed, with the majority citing ‘exceptional levels of staff sickness’, and this seems to be the case across the country from Basingstoke to Chester to West Bromwich.

Things are likely to get worse. Covid case numbers are already highest among 5-14 year olds, and in October the ONS estimated that one in twenty secondary school children had the virus. While the government has decided to put all of its eggs in the booster basket, this is hardly going to affect school students, as the majority are still unvaccinated. We know that Omicron is even more transmissible than Delta, and studies predict a ‘major wave’ in the coming months. Just this morning Health Secretary Sajid Javid warned that “there was no guarantee schools would stay open”, a sentiment echoed by Education Secretary Nadim Zahawi. ...  Continue reading

by Kristina Murkett
Wednesday, 8
December 2021
Explainer
14:15

Our grammar school system is broken

Regional inequalities are hindering social mobility

Covid has exacerbated the disparities in our education system, and almost two years on since the start of the pandemic, it appears that support continues to be given in the wrong places. The National Tutoring catch-up programme has been a resounding failure, with only 5% of the target number of pupils having been enrolled so far. On the other hand, a recent Freedom of Information request has revealed that grammar schools in Kent are taking significant numbers of pupils that have not passed the 11-Plus, thereby giving them an unfair advantage.

Grammar schools have been allowed to expand but the number of students taking — and passing — the 11-Plus has failed to keep pace, and therefore more and more places are being given on appeals. For example, in the Herne Bay area, around 10% of grammar school places are now given through appeals, whilst across the county 35% of 11-Plus applicants go to grammar schools, despite the target being 25%. ...  Continue reading

by Kristina Murkett
Tuesday, 30
November 2021
Reaction
11:49

What will masks in schools actually achieve?

The lack of logic behind the Government's new Covid guidance is infuriating

This week the Government announced that secondary school pupils will once again be ‘strongly advised’ to wear face masks in ‘communal areas’ such as corridors. The Department of Education has said that the guidance is temporary and will be reviewed in three weeks (when most schools break up for the Christmas holidays).

The lack of logic behind this policy is infuriating. Why enforce masks in communal areas but not classrooms, where students spend the majority of their time and transmission is most likely? Why make masks mandatory for secondary pupils but not primary ones? Between the 10th and 20th of November, almost the exact same percentage of primary school students tested positive for Covid as secondary school ones (3.7 to 3.5), and we already know that primary school staff are just as likely to catch Covid as secondary school staff.  ...  Continue reading

by Kristina Murkett
Tuesday, 23
November 2021
Dark Web
10:00

Male teachers labelled ‘paedos’ on TikTok

The online platform has been a breeding ground for male abuse by students

After eighteen months of disrupted learning, cancelled exams and Covid u-turns, teachers now face a new problem: Tiktok. Reports have been circulating for weeks of teachers being harassed on the social media app; staff have been filmed, impersonated, rated, photoshopped onto pornographic images and accused of everything from homophobia to racism. One video, filmed more than 650,000 times, claims a teacher is “trying to prove he isn’t a paedo.”

This new TikTok ‘trend’ is needlessly cruel, humiliating and distressing; it is no surprise that many teachers who have been targeted have taken sick leave or left altogether. ...  Continue reading

by Kristina Murkett
Monday, 15
November 2021
Debate
14:15

What Durham University doesn’t understand about sex work

The student union can't make an inherently dangerous industry 'more safe'

Durham University has come under criticism for its decision to offer students an online course on working in the sex industry. The ‘opportunity’ is designed to offer students “support which is well informed and free from prejudice” so that they can be “safe and make informed choices.” For example, Level 1 involved discussions on “the laws that govern sex work”, “the challenges students can face”, “motivations for entry for students” and the “impact of Covid” on the industry.

There has, unsurprisingly, been a backlash. MP Diane Abbott called the move “horrific”; Further Education Minister Michelle Donelan warned that the university is “legitimising a dangerous industry” and Only Fans model Kaya Corbridge said that Durham is “preying on people’s vulnerability.”  ...  Continue reading

by Kristina Murkett
Tuesday, 9
November 2021
Explainer
07:00

Universities — not the Government — should cover tuition fee losses

A new report argues that they should bear the cost

A new report by the Centre for Policy Studies has condemned the university tuition fee system by claiming that students are being ‘ripped off’ with low-quality courses. The report,  ‘The Value of University’, states that huge amounts of taxpayer money are being spent on courses that do not improve the lifetime earnings of students. For example, Creative Arts — one of the fastest growing subjects in the UK — has zero impact on earnings for the average female graduate, and a negative impact for the average male graduate. Yet it has the largest subsidy of any subject: £1.2 billion, or £37,000 per student. ...  Continue reading