Loans company insists students can pay debts

By Madalina Dichiu

THE Student Loan company today insisted graduates are clearing their debts after a report claimed an increasing number were unable to meet their repayments.

Figures published by The Student Loans Company (SLC) show that students can afford paying back their loans, even if current reports argue the opposite.

Concerns were raised after a study made by The Higher Education Commission found that the system fails to help students repay their debt.

The Commission says that student debt will increase to more than £330 billion by 2044.

It said: “The Commission fundamentally questions any system that charges higher education at a rate where the average graduate will not be able to pay it back.”

The Student Loans Company argues that there is an “increase in the average repayment amount [which] is caused by income growth in the years after leaving higher education. In the tax years from 2005‐06 up to and including 2011‐12 the income threshold was pegged at £15,000.

“Hence, it reduced in real terms so any increase in earnings in real terms would lead to increased repayments. In tax year 2012‐13 the income threshold was increased to £15,795 leading to a drop in the average repayment amount.”

According to a report published yesterday by The National Union of Students the proportion of graduates failing to pay back student loans is increasing at such a rate that the Treasury is approaching the point at which it will get zero financial reward from the government’s policy of tripling tuition fees to £9,000 a year.

The report named “A Roadmap to Free Education” argues that higher education could be funded by collective public investment through progressive taxation, with an increase on tax of the richest in society.

Megan Dunn, NUS Vice President (Higher Education), said: “Not only is a publicly funded education system achievable, it’s also necessary in the current economic and political climate. Our roadmap seriously challenges those who want to bury their heads in the sand and pretend that the current broken system can be fixed with tweaks and tinkering. The clear fact is that the current system we have is completely unsustainable.

“The Government’s own figures show that the prospect of a huge black hole looming over the budget is very real. It’s time the government started taking this issue seriously and committed to a new deal for students.”

She added: “We are told that we can’t tax the rich because they are the ‘wealth creators’ but we know that the real wealth creators of our society are the teachers and lecturers who are building up the knowledge and the skills of our country. We should be investing in them rather than protecting those who have driven the economy to its knees.

“Forcing debt onto students as a way of funding universities is an experiment that has failed not just students, but our country. Politicians need to recognise that we will only achieve a sustainable higher education funding system if we abandon the discredited regime of sky-high fees and debts altogether.”

The “roadmap” is based on a more contextualised and long-term view of what higher education is for, who the main beneficiaries are, and what balance of contribution these beneficiaries should make in order to allow the sector to function most effectively.

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said the government would “look closely at the findings from the commission.

“The UK enjoys a world-renowned reputation for the quality of its universities, which we have protected and enhanced through our reforms.”

Scottish drinks industry backs drink-drive limit proposals

By Lauren Beehan

The Scottish drinks industry has welcomed the reduction in the drink-driving limit, which will be voted on by the Scottish Parliament today.

Under the new laws, the maximum blood alcohol level for drivers will be reduced from 80mg to 50mg per 100ml, meaning that a single pint of beer could put them over the limit from December 5th.

Representatives from the drinks industry have encouraged customers to be aware of the new limit and to make their plans accordingly.

Neil Williams of the British Beer & Pub Association said: “It is vital that everyone in Scotland knows about the change, as the pub is at the heart of all our Christmas celebrations. Enjoy the pub during the holiday season, but be prepared, such as having a designated driver, so you can get in the party spirit knowing you can have a safe journey home.”

Industry think-tank, the Portman Group, also supports the changes, saying that that drink producers have a role to play in the campaign against drink-driving.

A spokesperson from the group said that producers will focus now on “running responsible drink driving campaigns and education programmes to encourage people to nominate a designated driver and to never drink and drive.”

The Scottish government has launched an awareness campaign to inform drivers of both the change to the limit and the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol.

The Don’t Risk It campaign includes advertisements on television, radio and online videos, as well as interactive social media with games showing the influence of alcohol on reaction speeds.

Advertisements will also be shown in northern England, where the limit remains at 80mg per 100ml, to ensure that drivers who cross the border are aware of the different laws.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, who proposed the change, said: “With the approval of Parliament, the new drink drive limit will come into force on December 5, making our roads safer and saving lives.

“We are doing everything we can to make sure everyone is informed about the new lower level.

“A persistent minority of people are still getting behind the wheel after drinking – that is unacceptable, it is putting lives at risk and it must stop. Our advice is simple, the best approach is to have no alcohol at all. Alcohol at any level impairs driving.

“This new law will bring Scotland into line with most of Europe and hopefully reduce drink drive arrests and prosecutions, as we have already seen in the Republic of Ireland, where drivers adjusted their behaviour to take account of the lower limit.”

A similar reduction was implemented in the Republic of Ireland in 2011, where drink-driving convictions fell by 3,000 in the space of two years.

Alcohol is a factor in 1 in 10 fatal road accidents in Scotland, with drink-driving causing over 400 accidents each year.

There were 4,730 people convicted of drink-driving in Scotland between March 2012 and March 2013, the last full year for which statistics are available.

Michael McDonnell, Director of Road Safety Scotland, said: “It’s almost 50 years since the current limit was introduced and that we still lose an average of 20 lives a year is a disgrace.

“Evidence from across the world demonstrates that the best results in tackling drink-driving are achieved by lowering the limit, or increasing enforcement, or both. We know, too, that a combination of high-profile enforcement, coupled with a heavyweight media campaign is the most efficient use of resources, and we are working closely with the Police Scotland and other partners to ensure that people know about the change to the limit and have no excuse.

“It’s not about catching more drink-drivers, but about preventing people from doing it in the first place. Ultimately, most of us have too much to lose, so it’s just not worth the risk.”

Chief Superintendent Iain Murray, Head of Roads Policing for Police Scotland warned that people should not drink at all if they intend to get behind the wheel.

He said: “An average of 20 die on Scotland’s roads each year and last year a further 90 were seriously injured and 340 slightly injured as a result of drink driving related collisions.

“The new lower limit will reduce those numbers and the evidence from across Europe where the lower limit applies suggests we will see reductions in drink driving and blood alcohol counts.

“However even at the new limit you are three times more likely to die in a crash than if you had taken no alcohol. It is clear, when it comes to drinking and driving, that the simple ‘the best advice is none’ message is the right one.

“On the lead up to 5 December, police patrols will positively engage with as many road users as possible to provide real-time education to those who may be putting themselves and others at risk, influence behaviour in the future and prevent collisions on Scotland’s roads.”

 

 

 

First Tree Planted in War Centenary Wood

By Paul Malik

The first of 50,000 trees was planted today on the Dreghorn Military Estate, Pentland,  to mark the centenary of the start of the First World War.

Margaret Murison, whose grandfather and great-uncle both fell on the same day during the Battle of Ypres, planted an oak tree with pupils from Currie Primary School to mark the opening of the new wood.

The wood is part of a national initiative set up by the Woodland Trust that aims to “create a living memorial of the conflict”.

The Woodland Trust said: “Over the next four years more than 50,000 trees including oak, birch and rowan will be planted on land that has been used by army personnel for training for more than a century on the MOD training estate at Dreghorn.”

Rory Syme, a spokesman for the Woodland Trust, said the tress selected for the wood were “native” to Britain and that their crimson autumnal foliage would create an “amazing memorial”.

Poppy seeds are to be sown in the area also, to create a vivid red hue across the Pentland Hills.

The area will still be an active army training ground and the MOD will inform the public as to when the woods are not accessible.

The First World War claimed the lives of more than one million British Soldiers. The first Battle of Ypres alone killed more than 55,000 British service personnel.

Holiday Cuts at Christmas Holiday Planned for Schools

By Jordan Hooks

Plans have been proposed to cut Christmas holidays to one-and-a-half weeks while giving students an extra week off in the summer. This would extend the summer break to last seven weeks.

An exact reason for the holiday calendar changes is unclear and has only been cited from an education source as “calendar reasons.”

The proposed changes have created quite a stir, especially for working parents.

For working parents, extra-long summers creates problems finding additional support because they have already arranged childcare for a set amount of time over the summer breaks.

Tory education chief Cllr Jason Rust said: “I’m surprised they would be looking to shorten the Christmas holiday as an additional week to the summer break could create further issues for working parents and employers.”

The consultation period will run until March 28.

Deportation threatened headteacher handed lifeline by Home Office

by Alasdair Crews

Ae Primary School

Ae Primary School; Credit: Dumfries and Galloway Council

The Home Office has lifted a deportation threat on an American-born headteacher working in Dunfriesshire who had his request for permanent residency turned down.

David MacIsaac, who has lived and worked in Scotland for almost 10 years, was told his application had been turned down in a letter from the Home Office, which said that they considered his four-year marriage to a Scottish woman “a sham”.

Mr MacIsaac will now start the application process again after his lawyer and the Home Office agreed a new framework for re-applying.

Mr MacIsaac has been working as headteacher for Ae Primary School for five years, having discovered a shortage of headteachers in rural communities in Scotland during a holiday to the country.

When the decision by the immigration authorities was brought down, Mr MacIsaac and his wife Susan were devastated. Their misery was compounded by the fact that Susan was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and is due to begin a course of treatment in Edinburgh.

The Home Office decision caused widespread condemnation from all corners of the Scottish political spectrum and various Parliamentary figures have welcomed the Home Office decision.

In a statement, MSP for South Scotland, Joan McAlpine said:

“This is a victory for common sense and I’m extremely pleased the Home Office has dropped its threat to deport Mr MacIsaac.

“The meeting with Scotland’s education secretary clearly sent a strong signal to the Home Office that its harassment of Mr MacIsaac was wrong.

“The Home Office should be ashamed that its archaic system brought about this highly stressful and unsettling situation.

“I hope Home Office officials learn from this situation and address the serious concerns it has raised about this barbaric Westminster system.”

Mr MacIsaac said: “Sue and I are both delighted and we have been overwhelmed by the cross-party support and the numerous letters and e-mails we have received”.

Student Radio Awards 2013

by Alex Watson

With nominations announced at the start of October, there is now just over a week left before the Student Radio Awards 2013 take place.  The annual awards ceremony celebrates the efforts of hardworking student radio stations and presenters across Britain.  This year, the event will be held at the indigO2 in London on Thursday 7th November.

The Student Radio Awards are supported by several high profile organisations, including various BBC radio stations, Global Radio and the British Council.  Dreamed up in 1995 by former Student Radio Association chair, Nick Wallis, the awards have been backed by BBC Radio 1 from the start.  Dubbed by Wallis as an ‘extraordinary talent-sourcing behemoth’, the awards boast some extremely successful previous participants.

Greg James (formerly of University of East Anglia’s Livewire) is one of the awards’ most famous alumni.  The ultimate inspiration for budding broadcasters – James won Best Male Presenter at the Student Radio Awards in 2005, and was presenting on Radio 1 just two years later.  The 27 year old presenter has never been afraid to dream big, admitting in an interview last year, ‘I always thought I could end up here [at Radio 1] if I worked hard enough’.

Greg James 2

Greg James went from the Student Radio Awards to BBC Radio 1 in just two years

The nominees for 2013′s Student Radio Awards are primarily from English universities.  Just two Scottish stations are in the running – Edinburgh University’s Fresh Air and Monster FM in Inverness.  Xpress Radio in Cardiff solely represents Wales this year.  University Radio Nottingham swept the board last year, although there were other strong contenders.

Fly FM (Nottingham Trent University) and University Radio York will go head to head this time around for certain awards.  However, nominations for categories such as Best Male and Best Female are evenly spread, leaving room for newcomers and lesser known stations to bag a prize.

Media Mondays – Catriona Shearer – 04.02.2013

By: Lauren Elliott

NapiersCatShearerCatriona Shearer, who studied at Napier 10 years ago, came back again to tell her life story and revisit tales of her experiences here.
She tells of how she climbed the ladder from being a student at Napier to working as a presenter for the BBC. We find out how she managed to get her work experience at BBC Radio5 Live and what work she does on a daily basis.
Catriona gives a very warm speech and provides plenty of inspiration and advice for student journalists who are just starting out. This talk is well worth a listen.

Listen Here:

New record label launched at Jewel and Esk College

Staff and students at Jewel and Esk College have launched a new record label, Feast Records. Utilizing the college’s impressive array of recording equipment the label is aimed at promoting “new young musical talent in Scotland”.

An event will be held to celebrate the new label on the 30th of March at Edinburgh’s Electric. The launch will be ticketed at £5 on the door and will feature young Edinburgh bands such as Maydays, The Nature Boys and Fridgemaster. Feast’s upcoming website will also feature gig and album reviews, studio sessions and up and coming bands.

This record label comes as the latest in a line of recent small independent labels to be launched in the capital such as Song by Toad, Offbeat, Alextronic and Pure Synthesis.

Feast records can be found here on facebook.

Jewel and Esk College website can be found here.

Time to slow down and save lives

Image

Gillespie's and Sciennes primary school pupils release balloons as part of an advert campaign for "Just give me a minute".

A new campaign has been launched today by school pupils in south Edinburgh.

“Just give me a minute” highlights the small amount of time lost to a driver if they travel at 20mph rather than 30mph.  The speed difference will save lives according to experts.

A 20mph speed limit along residential streets from Arthurs Seat to Blackford Hill has had the support of 70% of local people and will cost £100,000. Casualties have been reduced by 30-50% when the scheme has been introduced in other parts of the city road.

The change has also been an attempt to improve cycling safety where three fatalities have taken place over the last few months.

The campaign will continue to be promoted through adverts on radio, buses and bus shelters.

 

Trystan Davies reports:

Final colleges facing ban revealed

John Henderson, CEO of Scotland’s colleges, talked about the colleges’ situation and their future.

Government funding for Highland and Moray Colleges

A grant of £1.95million has been given to colleges in the Highlands and Moray to help tackle youth unemployment.

The funding is to be split between Moray College, North Highland College and Inverness College, which form part of the University of the Highlands and Islands.

The money, which comes from the European Social Fund, is the latest round of such funding, following the £5.3million announced in February to help aid economic growth. It will go towards funding training programmes and full time places in order to boost employability for young people in the area.

On a visit to Inverness College, the Minister for Youth Employment, Angela Constance said that not having training or education “can be highly damaging to the life chances of Scotland’s young people and can seriusly dent their ambitions.”

She stated that the Scottish Government has “guaranteed every 16-19-year-old a place in education or training” and that the funding will “build on that activity and help us nurture the potential of our young people, provide routes into work and harness their ability and creativity to contribute towards future economic growth.”

The December 2011 figures show that at the numbers of people claiming Job Seekers Allowance in Highlands, Moray, Argyll and Bute grew towards the end of last year, and was up to 7,500 by the start of 2012.

Students hold further protests over fees

Edinburgh University was the scene of student protests yesterday. Those involved are demanding that the university reverse its decision to implement £9000 fees for non-Scottish students.

 The march was organised by the EUSA and the Edinburgh University Anti-Cuts Coalition, and took place yesterday at 12.30pm. Students marched from Holyrood along the Royal Mile to the Scotland Office on Melville Street, with police closing Lothian Road in order to allow the protestors through.

Around 150 people are believed to have attended. The Anti-Cuts Coalition told Napier News that students were also “coming in on buses from Aberdeen, St Andrews and Glasgow” in order to take part.

Following the demonstration, a number of students took to the George Square Lecture Theatre at around 9pm, and proceeded to occupy part of the building, with reports emerging that there were around 27 people present.

The Anti-Cuts Coalition announced on Twitter that they would be leaving the building before lectures were due to start today, meaning that there would be no need for the University to alter classrooms or timetables.

A number of similar demonstrations and occupations took place all over the UK yesterday. Occupations took place at York, Birmingham, Goldsmiths and Warwick universities.

Several speeches were made at the end of the Edinburgh march, from Robin Parker, the president of NUS Scotland, and Matt McPherson, the president of the EUSA.

Mr Parker said, “Ultimately these fees are the responsibility of the regressive educational policies of the Westminster Government, and the Scottish Liberal Democrat MP’s who went back on their promises have to take ultimate responsibility.”

“Students from the rest of the UK will potentially be paying more than £36,000 for a degree in Scotland from next year. This is more than the maximum allowed in England, if you take the huge numbers from down south who attend Edinburgh and St Andrews into account.”

“And unlike in other parts of the UK, there are no requirements in Scotland for institutions to have a minimum bursary level for poorer students, and no independent regulation to ensure transparency for students about what additional support is on offer.”
However, Edinburgh University have claimed that they are introducing the most generous bursary package available to English, Welsh and Northern Irish students who come to study in Scotland.
Professor Mary Bownes has previously announced that, “From the total resources available to the University, we intend to create a bursary scheme of £6.7 million for RUK students. We are also planning to use investment income to fund a significant number of new access and accommodation bursaries a year for Scottish-domiciled students.”
The Anti-Cuts Coalition announced to Napier News that they are “planning a feeder march from Edinburgh University to the Scottish Trades Union Council (STUC)” on November 30, in order to show solidarity with public sector workers. The STUC protest is due to begin at the Usher Hall.

Thousands of students protest against Spanish education cuts

by Natalia Rodríguez Domínguez

Just three days before the Spanish General Elections, thousands of students and teaching staff from  Spanish Universities have taken to the streets
in order to protest against education cuts, difficult working conditions and educational reform which is to be implemented by the government in 2015.

Spanish students have chosen the International Student’s Day,  which is 17th November, as the perfect date to call for a day of protests and teaching strikes across Spain. In Madrid, hundreds of students have been occupying teaching rooms at the five main public Universities since the 14th November.

This movement has been organised by several student groups which have encouraged action against the increasing state cuts in public education and the expected increase of fees which will take effect in 2015. All across the main Spanish cities, students have skipped classes today to show their indignation.

In Barcelona, a number of teaching stuff have joined the students’ demonstrations across the city.  Some faculties also started the day under occupation by students. A group of radical protesters has demonstrated in the middle of some main roads and the city bypass. This has forced the traffic to stop for a few hours, until the demonstrators were removed.

This evening more demonstrations are expected as students and teaching staff plan to take part in localalised protests. They are demanding better quality higher education and an improvement in access to higher education regardless of family income.

Salmond:Teacher strike is “premature”

Today in parliament Alex Salmond praised Scottish teachers,
but refused to bow to impending strike action.

Teachers have responded by accusing the First Minister of ‘serving platitudes’.

Last week members of Scotland’s largest teaching union voted “overwhelmingly” to join other public sector workers in a national day of strike action on the 30th November. Salmond used first ministers questions today to praise the work of teachers.  “I bow down to no-one who doesn’t recognise the contribution of Scottish teachers to Scottish Education” he said.  But he also claimed that  any move toward strike action was ‘premature’

“I’m a  supply teacher.  Our pay has been slashed already” said Scottish teacher Donna McGlynn, “but this strike is even bigger.  It’s about pensions, it’s about the loss of McCrone time, meaning teachers will work more hours for less pay.   Alex Salmond should see that we don’t do things like this lightly.  It’s just platitudes.  He has to see the severity of what’s going on in our profession.  All these proposed changes will have a severe impact on our children’s futures, the education of generations.  It’s a pebble dropped in a pond, but I fear the ripple effect.”

EIS general secretary Ronnie Smith said that the 82% vote in favour of industrial action showed  “The patience of teachers and lecturers has been exhausted.  Faced with a wide ranging attack on their pensions,  on top of a two-year pay freeze, rampant inflation and education budget cuts, our members are signalling that ‘enough is enough’.”

Salmond also accused the Westminster Government of “Poisoning the atmosphere with regard to public sector workers” but vowed that they would get fairer conditions in an independent Scotland.

NUS Scotland reacts to spending review

NUS Scotland President Robin Parker "very worried" about cuts.

By Joseph Blythe

NUS Scotland have welcomed Scottish Government plans to increase funding for universities by around £75million. However they have said that they are “concerned” at proposed cuts to college funding, and warned that the government should ensure the number of places available doesn’t fall. The plans, announced yesterday by Finance Secretary John Swinney, are part of the government’s spending review, outlining the budget for the next three years.

There had been fears that austerity measures would lead to cuts in education, but Swinney was able to deliver on his party’s campaign promises of increased financial support and no tuition fees for Scottish students. He pledged a minimum income of £7000 for the poorest students, and the protection of the EMA for young students and pupils.

NUS Scotland President Robin Parker said “Taken together these proposals are a major step in right direction towards making access to education in Scotland fairer. This progress is very welcome news and testament to the hard work and campaigning by thousands of students across Scotland in the run-up to the last election.”

But he was less enthusiastic at the cuts facing the budget for colleges, saying “Colleges serve some of the most deprived communities in Scotland, offering an educational lifeline and local access to education to some of the most excluded in our society. They must make sure that no matter what, the number of places at college is at least protected and that quality is maintained.”

Non-Scottish students marching to the Parliament

by Boyana Atanasova

Students from University of Edinburgh have started an Anti Cuts Coalition as a result of the decision of the university to increase the tuition fees for all non-Scottish students (from the UK) to the highest possible levels of 9000 pounds per year, starting from 2012.

The move became possible after English universities got the go-ahead to charge up to £9,000 for tuition.

The students’ answer to these decisions are demonstrations in several institutions. They are planning to expand their actions with a major event planned for the end of November: “We are calling for a national demo at Holyrood on Tuesday 30th November. This will coincide with the tuition fees parliamentary debate in Westminster. Our plan is to meet at Bristo Square at 11:30, from where we will march to Holyrood and stage a rally outside parliament. We call on students and staff from all educational establishments, for trade unions and any coalitions or individuals who want to stand against the devastating cuts to higher education and public services to join us”, stated a message from the Anti Cuts Coalition.

The students believe that these cuts will have a huge negative effect on the next generations and will affect people from the less privileged backgrounds, which will result in broadening the gap between rich and poor.

“We’ve planned multiple wild cat 36 hour occupations in Edinburgh, Glasgow and St Andrews aimed at maximum disruption of management and not teaching”, added a member of the Coalition.

University of Edinburgh is one of the four universities in Scotland that recently made the decision to increase their fees. Edinburgh Napier University still does not have any position on this topic and the Napier Student Association did not give its opinion on the demands of the students from the affected universities.

Homophobia in schools: the last taboo

“I’ve been stabbed because of my sexuality.”

This pupil is one of thousands of victims of homophobic bullying in schools across the UK. Almost two thirds of young people, in the gay community, experience bullying in secondary schools. The charitable organisation Stonewall, which lends support to the gay community, found that homophobic bullying, after taunting because of weight, is the most frequent form of abuse in secondary schools. It is three times more prevalent than bullying due to religion or ethnicity. Unfortunately, a culture of homophobia exists in many school environments and this creates problems for young people trying to come to terms with their sexuality.

Previous poster campaign by Stonewall. Image courtesy of Stonewall.org.uk

[Read more...]

Morningside public library to close for renovations

Morningside Library Closing for Refurb Credit: Blythe Harkins

By Celeste Carrigan

Morningside public library is closing for eight months for renovations. The refurbishment will involve the creating of a new level in the library as well as a new cafe.

The library will see improved community and study areas with much-needed public toilets.

A book van will be in operation opposite the library during its closure on Falcon Road west.

Tune into Edinburgh Napier News TV Bulletin at 3pm to find out more on this story.

“Reclaim Your Voice”, once again to fight for education.

By Giulia Mattei

Reclaim Your Voice Logo

Yesterday morning, Tuesday the 22nd of March, students from all over Scotland gathered together in Edinburgh with the aim of taking part in the demonstration organised by the Scottish campaign “Reclaim Your Voice”.

Margaret Smith, Scottish Lib Dem education spokesperson and MSP for Edinburgh West, was invited to the rally to speak to the crowd. “”We are the party in government who scrapped Labour’s tuition fees while Tony Blair and the Labour party were increasing tuition fees down south, so I don’t need any lectures from the chap in front of me.” she said while people booed at her.

Oliver, 19 year old protester, comments on her speech by saying “I don’t even understand why she came her, I wouldn’t have had the guts to show up probably”.

The campaign’s website posted a slogan to encourage people to take part in the demonstration, it says : “For the first time in the history of the Scottish Parliament, we face budget cuts. The threat of tuition fees returning to Scotland has never been more real and we know that student support in Scotland is in deep crisis.”

Student leaders, lecturers, trade unionists and parents marched on Holyrood outside the Scottish Parliament before the elections on the 5th of May, to express their disapproval of cut-backs and tuition fees. People felt like it was the right time to step up once again and fight for the future of Scotland’s students, which explains why hundred of them showed up to protest.

Protesters urged the parties to rule out tuition fees, increase financial support for students, and protect university and college places, the three commitments demanded by Reclaim Your Voice.

If people were not impressed by Margaret Smith’s talk, they were definitely inspired by by what Liam Burns said. “In the rest of the UK, students were betrayed with huge cuts to colleges and universities and the trebling of tuition fees.” said the President of NUS Scotland, during his speech ahead of the march “We must come together with one voice to make sure that this never happens here in Scotland.” he added while the crowd applauded him.

Iron Age gold hoard to finally be on display at The National Museum of Scotland

by Emily Glass

National Museums Scotland have finally secured a set of four Iron Age gold neck ornaments after raising funds for two years.

The treasure was found by David Booth  in 2009 in his first outing with his metal detector whilst at work. Chief Game Warden at Blair Drummond Safari Park, near Stirling, Booth unearthed the trove which was lying a mere six inches below the surface of a field.

The neck ornaments, or torcs, date between the 1st and 3rd Century BC and will be on display in the National Collections at The National Museum of Scotland on Chambers Street.

Mr Booth will receive a reward payment of £462,000 which was set-up by the Queen’s and Lord Treasure’s Remembrancer after he reported his remarkable find to the Treasure Trove Unit.

The treasure has been cited by Culture Minister Fiona Hyslop as being the most important Iron Age find in Scotland’s history. She described the importance of the hoard’s display in The National Museum of Scotland: “I congratulate the National Museum of Scotland on its successful fundraising campaign to ensure that it remains here and will be on free display for the general public.”

International Students Struggle with Student Accounts

graduatefinance.comBy Eva Deckers

International students in the UK are having a hard time finding student bank accounts.

While UK residents can opt for special offers to come with their students accounts, international students are left with no options but to save their money and hope for the best.

So far only Santander, the Spanish bank, provides international students in the UK with special services. With the promise of receiving at least £50 a month, a student can get up to 3.00 AER/2.96% gross (variable) on balances up to £500 a month.

However, these can only be acquired after the students have been living in the UK for over 3months. Olivia Rastoin, 20, a French student at Edinburgh Napier University says “the most annoying thing is that I can’t get an overdraft, which can be hard when living a student life”. She adds that “having a larger interest rate and free bonuses like rail cards would be very welcome but just aren’t available for overseas students like me.” [Read more...]

Future of higher education running high on SNP agenda

By Tom Barry

The SNP is expected to bring in swift legislation regarding the future of Scottish universities if they are returned to power in the Holyrood elections in May with student support and  everyday running of the sector set to be the key issues.

[Read more...]

An American Dream in Scotland

What was once synonymous with America is now becoming a staple of Scottish tradition, but how is it being adapted across the pond, and how has the recession affected the prom business? Patrick McPartlin went to find out.

For most British schoolgirls, the idea of a prom normally involves splashing out on expensive dresses, getting their hair and nails done, and deciding whether or not to book that pink fire-truck as transport. For the boys, it’s looking awkward in dinner jackets or Highland dress. It’s normally a process that lasts for the majority of the school year. University applications are neglected, schoolwork lags, and nothing seems quite as important as the school prom.  Most long-suffering teachers and parents would point the finger at Hollywood creations such as Grease and in more recent history, 1980s films such as Pretty in Pink and Sixteen Candles. Of course the recent influx of American teen movies in the vein of American Pie, which often focus on the hapless hero’s attempts to woo the girl at the high school prom. Recognisable by the ill-fitting suit and crushed corsage, these reluctant protagonists have become something of a poster-boy for awkwardness, reflected in part by some of Scotland’s teenagers.

A scene from American Pie, with the main characters at their high school prom (nydailynews.com)

The first recorded account of a prom as we know it was by a student at Amherst College, Massachusetts, in 1894, who described what would now be recognised as a formal senior ball. Proms on the other hand, have evolved from something traditional to something decadent. One of the main differences between proms in America and proms in Scotland is the choice of dress for the guys. As if there was an unwritten law about what to wear, nearly every male shows up decked out in a kilt. There is an almost insatiable desire to emulate the Americans, especially in terms of limousine transport. I spoke to a representative from a limousine company and asked him how profitable prom business was for his company. Steve, who’s been organizing limousines for proms for the past six years is well aware of the benefits: “It makes up our biggest percentage; the next percentage is the wedding side of things, but the schools’ proms is a big section of it.” Classic cars and party fire-engines, complete with uniformed drivers are proving big hits with the kids, but limousines are still the favoured method of transport. The very idea of a school leavers’ prom has invoked ideas of celebrity and rockstar lifestyle. The more expensive the dress and the flashier the limo, the better, but it’s not just the 17 and 18 year olds who are fighting to be in the spotlight. In recent times, the idea of a prom to mark a coming of age has spread, as Danielle, who has been doing prom manicures for nearly two years explains: “a lot of the high schools are getting more and more into it and so’s primary seven; it’s a growing kind of thing now.” She later went on to tell me that despite specializing in wedding hair she was noticing that more and more school children were getting their hair done. It’s a similar story with nail-care experts and dress-makers.

There’s an underlying worry with some parents about their children attending a prom between primary school and secondary school. Some parents I spoke to voiced their concerns about their children ‘growing old before their time,’ whilst others questioned the point in having a prom for eleven year olds: “It’s all very well having a prom at the end of high school; it’s a rite of passage, it’s marking the end of school education. But to have a prom for primary school kids is nonsense.”  In a day and age where there is an ongoing battle between consumers and companies over the type of products marketed at younger children, the idea of a prom for pre-pubescent children seems a little, well, premature.

From my own experience, it wasn’t just tartan and Irn-Bru that helped my own high school prom feel distinctly Scottish, but the numbers of drunken sixth years, staggering about with an alcopop in one hand, and their makeup smeared halfway down their face. And that was just the boys. In what was an alarming comment on Scottish society, most of my peers had decided to use their prom as an excuse to get drunk. I hadn’t particularly wanted my lasting prom memory to be of me holding up one of my classmates, underage and severely under the weather from knocking back a few too many lagers, but it’s one that will remain with me.

Obviously for the primary-age children, one would hope that it wouldn’t be a similar story. But that’s where the worry lies. Children are starting to drink from younger ages. A recent article from the Guernsey Press highlighted the worrying trend for pupils as young as 12 turning up at school on Monday with hangovers. Due to the nature of advertising and television programmes, it’s nearly impossible to place children in an adult setting and not expect them to ape adult behaviour. Diana Appleyard pointed out how children are becoming ‘mini adults’ in the Daily Mail last year, titled The Primary School Prom Queens.She produced eye-opening figures about children as young as seven wearing dresses costing hundreds of pounds, along with fake tan, fake nails and makeup. Yet the parents seem to have no problem with forking out for outfits, or the idea itself, calling it ‘cute’ and citing the introduction of films like High School Musical as having given rise to this obsession with proms. When I asked a few parents for their opinion of proms for primary age children, none of them fully supported the idea. One mother admitted that she was uncomfortable with the idea of allowing her younger daughter to attend such an event, but had let her daughter go regardless, saying that she didn’t want her to feel left out. It’s clearly more of a dilemma for some parents than others.

So, with the country coping with a recession, it would seem sensible to assume that the money spent on proms would diminish. From what I’ve seen, it’s actually the other way around. Some parents were quite surprised at the suggestion that the recession would have limited spending on proms. I asked a few parents how they would cope with higher prices and less money. None of them felt that the recession was a stumbling block whatsoever. Some pointed out that they were actually spending more money on their child’s prom because they hadn’t gone on holiday this year. Others were adamant that such an important rite of passage shouldn’t be affected by money issues.

I visited a school that is well known for its charity work and donations to organizations such as the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF) and the Seed of Hope charity that helps girls in Kenya to receive an education. The school, along with final year students, has held a fashion-show-cum-prom-fair with a difference, for the last five years. Cath Whitten, the head of sixth year told me more about the idea behind the event: “Tonight’s fashion show has two different themes, really. It’s to allow all of our pupils to see the variety of dresses they can buy, where they can get limos, anything they need that will make their prom a success and it’s also in aid of various charities that the kids themselves take part in. For instance, part of the money tonight will go to help a number of people go to Lourdes in the summer with the archdiocesan pilgrimage.”

It was all very well organizing this fashion show under the banner of charity, but the real question is how effective it is. I know for a fact that a lot of the pupils taking part in the event regularly give to charity, even if it’s just emptying coppers from their pockets at the end of the week, but it almost feels a bit paradoxical, to be advertising decadence alongside charity. Perhaps that’s the way forward; the charity angle is certainly one to be commended, but I think there’s a bit of a concern that it’s the guilt factor dictating the dual purpose behind the event. Besides that, it’s the parents who turned up on the night who were the ones most likely to be footing the bill for their little darlings’ prom. Haircuts, fake tan, manicures, expensive dresses, eccentric modes of transport, makeup, a bag to go with the dress, perhaps some matching jewelry as well are all on the list for those graduating from high school next June.

In America, high school proms are limited to high school graduates. There are no imitations for younger children. Whether this is down to the difference in the education system or America’s more conservative nature is unclear, but from speaking to a few American students, some who have already been to their high school prom, and others who are eagerly awaiting their turn, the attitude is vastly different to that of Scottish pupils. Aubrey, who attended her prom in May of this year was very enthusiastic about the event as a whole: “It’s more about the end of an era. It’s still very traditional; you pick a date, and the two of you go together to the prom. It’s not even necessarily a ‘love’ thing; it’s often friends who go together, which reflects the overall feeling.” When I asked her about the drink culture, and explained how it was in Scotland she was shocked: “There isn’t really a drinking culture per se at our proms. I mean sure, we drink, there’s often a punch bowl for example but it’s all very measured. It’s not a party, it’s a formal event.” Allie, who graduates next summer, is looking forward to her prom already but remembers the media coverage that lesbian teen Constance McMillen received earlier this year after she challenged her school’s policy on same-sex prom dates:It’s ridiculous really. One of my friends is gay and the school has no problem with him bringing his boyfriend to the prom. It’s not about opinions or morality. It’s about having a good time with the people you’ve spent most of your life with for the past few years. It shouldn’t be about politics.” Both girls were more interested in the sentimental aspect of school proms than anything else, something that doesn’t play as big a part as it should in Scotland. The unanswered question is whether Scotland’s drink culture is responsible or whether it’s a difference in society in general.

At the end of the day, the prom business is one which appears to have been unaffected by the recession. It’s still an important rite of passage, the bridge between school and further education, or the world of employment. Girls are still buying dresses worth £800-£1000, and paying significant amounts of money in order to get their hair styled like a Hollywood celebrity attending an awards ceremony or a film premiere. Whilst the Tinseltown effect hasn’t really rubbed off on the guys to the same extent, it might only be a matter of time before they start to rival the girls in prom spending. Or they could save the extra cash for another pint of Tennent’s. The surprising thing is just how much the prom culture has taken off and how it affects other businesses. In a small provincial town like Livingston for example, the high school proms provide business for local hairdressers, manicurists, dress-makers, limousine companies, even the local tanning salon. So it’s just possible that the growing prom business is actually providing a bit of relief for local businesses despite the recession. It’s unclear where proms will go next. The big business side of proms will surely continue to thrive, as will local companies. Perhaps the dresses will get more expensive, the haircuts more elaborate…who knows, maybe flying in by helicopter will become de rigeur. That student from Amherst College may well be spinning in his grave come June next year.

Lessons to be learned from education reform

by Patrick McPartlin

The Education Secretary Michael Gove has today outlined his plans for education reform in England, with strong emphasis placed on what the BBC are calling a return to ‘traditional education values.’ A revamp of teacher training and more emphasis placed on language skills in exams, along with the reintroduction of uniforms and the prefect and house system is expected to feature prominently in Gove’s White Paper.

A deputy head teacher at a Scottish secondary school, which recently reintroduced blazers and ties as part of its mandatory uniform, and makes use of the prefect and house system has seen mainly positives from the move. “Contrary to expectation, school uniform, prefects and house systems are not about uniformity as much as they are about a sense of belonging and pride. We explain why uniform needs to be smart and formal – to present the school in a good light to people in the wider community and the employment market, a short cut to people forming a good initial impression of the school.”

Michael Gove wants uniforms reintroduced. (Photo courtesy of The Daily Mail)

Despite the positive experiences of returning to traditional educational values in Scotland, the opposition have questioned the suitability of the reform, warning that it could increase the risk of the education system favouring academic students over others, with Gove’s counterpart Andy Burnham telling him “You will need to work hard to explain how your plan won’t create a new generation of failing schools.” There are worries that struggling schools will suffer, whilst top-performing schools will continue to flourish. Leaders of a number of teachers’ unions have also voiced their concerns about Gove’s proposals, focusing on the potentially negative effects on England’s teaching staff.

Gove’s outlines for education reform come in the wake of Glasgow City Council announcing that around a third of their £90million budget cuts will be in education. In keeping with the fears that some students will suffer as a result of educational reform in England, the projected cuts in Glasgow are expected to affect support staff for pupils with learning difficulties, along with several other services being withdrawn, in a move that has left Glasgow residents reeling. 3500 teaching jobs have already been axed in Scotland, with the possibility of even more.

Students Walkout

By Celeste Carrigan

Student have taking to the streets in protest : Credit; http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-11829102

Students in Glasgow today are gearing up for a mass walkout, in protest  to increased tuition fees, Education cuts and to save the EMA.

Coordinated walkouts  are planned to commence from around 12pm today and there have been a number of confirmed Glasgow Universities, colleges and schools taking part. The walkouts will be led to  the protest and rally at 3pm at Glasgow’s city Royal Concert Hall. The  rally will then commence at 5pm at George Square where speakers will include Dave Moxham (STUC), Pete Murray (NUJ) and Phil Whyte (NUS)

The new wave of protests are expected to take part up and down the country today including London, Birmingham, Manchester and Cambridge. These protests come in response to the speech made by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg yesterday, where he called on students to reconsider their opposition to the government plans.

“I know that more protests are planned by students tomorrow. I make just one request of those planning to protest: examine our proposals before taking to the streets,” he said.

Students are still taking to the streets today to send a powerful message to Government. In Glasgow students are wanting the government to see they wont accept tuition fees being reintroduced into Scotland, although this is still to be confirmed by Scottish Government. They are also wanting the Government to take notice that students wont accept 80% cuts to teaching budget and the EMA being Scrapped.

The new wave of walkouts and protest that are happening today come two weeks after demonstrations in London descended into violence, where 50,00 people marched the streets of London. They marched in protest increased tuition fees in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to £9000 a year. Police up and down the country today are said to be ready for any violence at the protests today.

Fire Extinguisher thrown Millbank Tower : Credit ;http://www.thesun.co.uk/

Police arrested more than 60 people over the violence and disorder which saw windows smashed, objects hurled at officers and a fire extinguisher thrown from the roof of the building. Edward Woollard the 18-year-old student responsible for throwing the fire extinguisher from the top of Millbank Tower, has pleaded guilty today. There has been no word on any sentence yet.

Students in London have already started taking to the streets and have begun staging occupations at some Universities.

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