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The Good Schools Guide Newsletter February 2017

Do parents need a lesson in small print?

If world events are causing you insomnia, schools have come up with the perfect cure. Hunt down their terms and conditions, get reading and there’s a good chance that after just a few paragraphs, you’ll be sleeping like a baby.

While we at The Good Schools Guide are no fans of needless bureaucracy (filing for pleasure aficionados should look away now) we appreciate the necessity of small print in commercial transactions, including those with schools.

But when did the private sector (and they do seem to be the offenders here) decide that their small print should be almost invisible, so well hidden online that there’s probably a door to Narnia round the back?

If you thought the sign-up blurb from social media or tech firms was as long and tedious as it got, think again. Facebook insist you agree to 3,500 words, Apple Media hit you with 7,000 (hands up who reads every word before ticking those boxes?). But compared to some schools, they’re not even trying. In fact, upwards of 8,000 words of small print is not uncommon. It takes almost half an hour to read this much text at normal speed but we guarantee (terms and conditions apply) that it would feel much, much longer.

What exactly is it that schools are asking you to sign up to? How about giving carte blanche to send out your child’s picture and information about their progress to ‘outside agencies’ (unspecified) for educational purposes? In practice this probably applies to the use of photographs in prospectuses or on the school’s website or, for example, to illustrate their school’s entry in one of our publications. It saves the school from having to ask parents’ permission every time a photo is used. But who are the ‘outside agencies’ who might need information about your child’s progress, and what are their ‘educational purposes’?

And did you know that you might also be allowing the school to share sensitive financial information about you with ‘certain third parties’. Bailiffs? Your employers? Facebook? A boiler room fraudster the head of English happened to meet at a dinner party? Who can tell? But don’t worry – it will only happen should it be deemed necessary in ‘the professional opinion of the head’ (it says nothing about what to do if they decide to use their unprofessional opinion instead).

Another school uses up 400 words just on definitions, including those for ‘head’ and ‘school rules’ (in case you were wondering, the latter are the ‘standards of behaviour expected from every child’).

Just to dispel any uncertainty, they also clarify ‘you’ – ‘the person who signs the acceptance form’. Who knew? If only they’d got round to defining ‘me’ (‘a name I call myself’ – or so we’ve heard) they could have staged a new ‘slow’ version of The Sound of Music. Who wouldn’t want to sing along to ‘Proceed vertically up every large natural elevation of the earth's surface’?

Lee Monks at the Plain English Campaign is, frankly, a bit baffled by schools’ foray into tiny font world. ‘It’s often because they don’t know what to say,’ he says (with admirable clarity). ‘Or so they don’t have to spell it out.’

So, if you have guests who have outstayed their welcome, why not put all that excess verbiage to good use by creating your very own terms and conditions quiz. With questions like ‘what should you do if a force majeure continues for more than 90 days?’ (Answer ‘ensure that the party who has provided notification under clause 93 above notifies the other of the steps to be taken…’ of course) we can guarantee swift departures and peaceful slumber all round. Happy dreams!

Confused about post-school options?

With so many options available to school leavers, deciding what to do next can be a daunting prospect.

Before making any decisions, ensure you are armed with all the facts by visiting What Career Live? and What University Live? an essential event for 15-19 year olds at the NEC, Birmingham on 3 & 4 March.

Free to attend, it's the ideal place to assess all the options side by side, from apprenticeships with the UK's top employers to university degrees and further training.

If your school leaver is about to make decisions about their future, take a day out with them and meet with top employers offering a range of school leaver job roles including Microsoft, J.P. Morgan, IBM, PwC, the Civil Service and Mercedes as well as universities including University of Birmingham, University of Exeter and the world-leading consultants at Oxbridge Applications.

To book FREE tickets visit www.whatcareerlive.co.uk

Going up, going down

Going up

Coding vs Hamlet Nearly half of UK parents would prefer their children to learn how to code at school than get to grips with a foreign language. According to digital learning provider OpenClassrooms, a third reckon digital skills are even more important than studying English literature.

Winter camping challenge Frensham Heights head Andrew Fisher spent ten nights at the start of February sleeping in a tent. His aim? To help pupils understand the hardships faced by children in poverty-stricken Malawi and to raise money for an orphanage and primary school there.

Famous Five This year marks the 75th anniversary of Enid Blyton’s tales about Julian, Dick, Anne, George and Timmy the dog. All 21 adventures are being republished with dashing new covers and the Royal Horticultural Society will be running Blyton-themed events at Wisley, Rosemoor, Hyde Hall and Harlow Carr this summer. Don’t forget to take lashings of ginger beer with you.

Going down

Worrying all the time Two-thirds of 10 and 11-year-olds ‘worry all the time’ says a report by mental health charity Place2Be. The main causes are concerns about family and friends and fear of failing at school.

Postcode teens Did you know that the likelihood of teenagers applying to university depends on where they live? Research by the Press Association news agency found that while London has an application rate of 47 per cent, only 32 per cent of youngsters in the South West apply.

Business pitch Speaking of higher education, university is no longer the automatic choice for high-achieving teens. That’s the view of Tim Firth, head of Wrekin College in Shropshire, who says youngsters need job-related skills, such as the ability to pitch a business idea, work as part of a team, and manage a budget.

Look out for the second issue of Chalk & Chat, The Good Schools Guide’s new digital magazine.

The spring term edition includes an interview with world-renowned psychologist Carol Dweck, a lighthearted look at mindfulness, a round-up of the most stylish children’s beds and a report on the best schools in Bath.

As editor Kate Hilpern says: ‘Chalk & Chat aims to be informative, entertaining and conversational, drawing on the in-depth expertise that The Good Schools Guide is fortunate to have built up over many years.’

Let us know what you think at office@goodschoolsguide.co.uk

Tell your school

You have probably heard a lot of chat recently about a new type of apprenticeship programme, the Degree Apprenticeship. In order to help schools and careers advisers understand more about this alternative, debt free, training focused degree we are hosting a conference in May.

Keynote speakers include Professor Timothy Quine, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Exeter, a representative from the CBI, Lord Baker, former Secretary of State for Education and Science, Lord Lucas, Publisher of The Good Schools Guide and Sir Peter Lampl, Founder and Chairman of the Sutton Trust.

There will also be panel discussions made up from six Russell Group universities, six blue chip companies, the Armed Forces and other Degree Apprenticeship providers. There will also be a chance to ask questions.

Tickets on sale 1st March.
Date: Wednesday 3rd May 2017, 9am - 4pm
Location: Kensington Close Hotel, London W8 5SP
Cost: Early bird £140 / Regular £180
Coffee and lunch included

For parents and students

After the conference ends we are presenting a fair at which Degree Apprenticeship providers will be able to give students further information about the new courses and their content.

4pm - 6pm #ACareerDegree

by

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