Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Demand up for university places

30 January 2013 Last updated at 01:47 GMT Seonag MacKinnon By Seonag MacKinnon BBC Scotland education correspondent University students Applications from students from elsewhere in the UK to study at Scottish universities are up Figures seen by the BBC suggest applications from the rest of the UK for places at Scottish universities are markedly up, despite fees of up to £9,000 a year.

Glasgow University said demand rose by almost 37% - to 6,339 applications.

It was a similar picture at other universities which traditionally attract students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Edinburgh said applications increased by 24% - to 15,077.

With 2,665 applications, demand at Aberdeen was up by 26%.

St Andrews University reported an 11% rise.

It is believed demand was also up at Glasgow School of Art and at Strathclyde University.

The complete figures on applications for places at all UK institutions are due to be released by the admissions body UCAS later.

The upturn is all the more remarkable at Edinburgh and St Andrews which charge £9,000 each year - a total of £36,000 for the four year degree.

Continue reading the main story
£9,000 for university education seems like a lot of money but comparatively is quite cheap”

End Quote Alexander McNab Aberdeen University student In England, where degrees are generally over three years, graduates usually pay no more than £27,000 and also have one year less of living expenses such as rent and food.

Prof Ian Diamond, Principal of Aberdeen University, which charges a total of £27,000, said demand has gone up, not down, partly because of a strong marketing drive.

He confessed that when fees were launched this year he was not sure that demand would hold up.

He said: "I think we have all worried because we were taking a step into the unknown with no data on which to make predictions.

"We simply had to remain confident that the offer that we had at the University of Aberdeen was at least the equal of that of anywhere else."

Healthy demand

Alexander McNab, from Suffolk, who is now a first year student at Aberdeen University suggested fees were not necessarily a barrier.

He said: "In many ways it is bargain because school fees are £16,000 - £26,000 in day and boarding schools. £9,000 for university education seems like a lot of money but comparatively is quite cheap."

The enviable international reputation of Scottish universities is another reason given for the healthy demand.

It is believed the provision of new bursaries to compensate for fees is also a factor - but there remains concern that students from less well-off homes may still be deterred from applying.

Early figures also seem to indicate more Scots are applying for university places. At Edinburgh demand was up 4.3%, at St Andrews it has risen by 4.5% and Glasgow saw a 10.2% increase.

And there are also signs of rising demand from EU students, who pay no fees in Scotland.

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Hungarian Roma win school case

29 January 2013 Last updated at 17:03 GMT Roma schoolchildren in Hungary - file pic It is alleged that Hungary's school tests fail to give Roma children equal chances Two ethnic Roma (Gypsy) men have won a discrimination case against Hungary at the European Court of Human Rights over their education at a remedial school.

Education in a school for the mentally disabled meant the pair were isolated from mainstream society - a bar to their integration, the judges found.

The Strasbourg court said their schooling amounted to discrimination.

For years many Roma children have been wrongly placed in remedial schools in Hungary and some of its neighbours.

Many Roma communities in Hungary and the neighbouring Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania and Serbia are blighted by poverty and a high degree of social segregation.

Istvan Horvath and Andras Kiss, from the town of Nyiregyhaza, were born in 1994 and 1992, respectively.

Ruling on their case, the court said the Hungarian school system had failed to provide the necessary safeguards for a disadvantaged minority.

The judgment said Hungarian courts had also acknowledged deficiencies in the way mental abilities were tested.

Hungary was ordered to pay the pair's legal costs of 4,500 euros (£3,848; $6,065). The applicants did not request damages from Hungary on grounds of discrimination.

Segregation problem

The BBC's Nick Thorpe in Budapest says the conservative Fidesz government is putting money into teaching Roma culture and history - though some NGOs argue that integrating Roma is more important than building their cultural identity, which can be divisive.

Fidesz argues that it has developed a Roma strategy, aimed at improving Roma rights - something that the EU has long been urging.

Fidesz says Roma-majority schools in some villages are a fact of life, whereas the previous Socialist-led government favoured bussing Roma children to schools where they would have to mix with ethnic Magyars, our correspondent reports.

Hungary's Minister for Human Resources, Zoltan Balog, has said the country "cannot prosper without its Roma population - if the Roma lose, we lose too".

He said the "negative trend" of the majority against the Roma must be changed, at the same time as Roma themselves must shed their "victim mentality". Most Roma are unemployed and poor, he pointed out.

A Council of Europe report in 2009 criticised the over-representation of Roma children in Hungarian remedial schools, while acknowledging that Hungary had made efforts to address the problem.

The report said "the vast majority of children assessed as having a 'mild disability' could, in the view of many NGOs, be integrated relatively easily in the ordinary school system: many children are misdiagnosed due to a failure to take due account of cultural differences or of the impact of socio-economic disadvantage on the child's development".

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Schools enjoy league table success

24 January 2013 Last updated at 13:44 GMT By Judith Burns BBC News education reporter Science lesson at Colyton Colyton is determined not to be an 'exam factory' Every one of the 117 pupils entered for GCSEs at Colyton Grammar School in Devon got at least five good grades including English and maths, achieving the best results for GCSEs in England.

This is a particularly strong result as pupils at Colyton do all their exams a year early, at the end of Year 10.

"We are very pleased", said head teacher, Paul Evans, adding that it had been "a challenging year for schools".

Mr Evans said that Colyton's overall results were actually slightly down on last year's when it came fourth in the GCSE table - but he said this just showed that this year results had been "depressed across the board".

In particular he said that there had been fewer A* grades. He commented that the school had experienced "an increasing discomfort with the quality of assessment" and had been forced to challenge the exam boards and ask for remarks, particularly in modern languages.

Mr Evans was keen to emphasise that Colyton, whilst being a selective school, does not have the most challenging entrance exam. It takes around a third of the candidates who apply to start in Year 7.

"If I'm honest the most able children in any school will do well. The real challenge is to make the next tier down do well too, and that's what I am particularly proud of here.

"I have staff prepared to go the extra mile and make sure the pupils do well without over pressurising them."

The advantage of taking GCSEs in Y10 is that pupils at Colyton spend three years in the sixth form. Most come out with four A-levels, plus general studies and critical thinking. He said the three year sixth form enabled them to deliver a "very much broader curriculum, we are not just delivering the specification".

"We are very conscious about not being an exam factory. By the time they leave the sixth form we have encouraged them to become very individual learners. They are encouraged to read around their subjects and very much to go off at tangents".

'Most improved'

Three hours drive away, another school was celebrating a different kind of league table success.

Bad weather meant morning assembly was cancelled at Trinity High School and Sixth Form Centre in Redditch. Pupils went straight into lessons or, in the case of the current Year 11s, a science exam.

So head teacher Marian Barton, had not yet had a chance to tell pupils of their success in achieving the most improved GCSE results in England.

"We are absolutely thrilled, very excited - and I am sure the pupils will be really proud and delighted when they find out", Ms Barton told BBC News.

Some 80% of pupils who took GCSEs in 2012 achieved the benchmark five A* to C grades, including English and maths, up from 32% in 2009.

Ms Barton said she was particularly pleased with last year's results because of when they first arrived in the school, only 55% that year group had been predicted to achieve good GCSE grades.

The school prides itself on being very open and not at all selective. Some 20% of the intake are on free school meals, an indicator of poverty often linked with poor academic performance, and 20% do not speak English at home.

Last year almost two thirds of free school meals children at Trinity High achieved five good grades at GCSE, outperforming the national average for all children.

Ms Barton puts the improvement in grades down to "hard work" and an improvement in teaching.

Trinity was formed in 2001 after a reorganisation of local schools. Ms Barton describes the first few years as "rocky". In 2008 the school was included in the then Labour government's national challenge programme for poorly performing schools, which delivered extra funding but also threatened with closure if they failed to improve.

It became an academy in 2011. Since then Ms Barton says she has focussed funding on hiring highly qualified teachers and on extra support for pupils who struggle with English and maths, including one to one tuition for those in danger of falling behind.

Ms Barton says she is confident that next year's GCSE candidates will do as well: "We know we can maintain this improvement".

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