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  1. Christine Alsford

Families call for rethink as students face record tuition fees and "unfair" spiralling debt

Thousands of students are starting the new university year facing the highest tuition fees ever - £9,250 a year - plus interest rate charges of 6.1 per cent on their loans.

The government says the system is fair and progressive and has allowed more pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds to go on to higher education.

But our Social Affairs Correspondent Christine Alsford found growing discontent among undergraduates and their parents when she met those preparing to start degrees at the University of Portsmouth.


  1. Christine Alsford

Schools criticise revised funding plans

After being told by schools and parents they "could do better", the government went back to the drawing board for a new national funding formula.

Today they announced their revised plans - designed, they said, to make the money schools receive fairer.

The Education Secretary announced today that within two years all schools will be given at least £4,800 per pupil - and there will be more money for rural schools and pupils from deprived areas.

But the plans have received a hostile reaction from those who say the real issue is the amount of money in the pot for school funding, not only how it's shared out.

Our social affairs correspondent Christine Alsford spoke to Alison Ali from the Brighton Save Our Schools Campaign group and headteacher Richard Taunt from Bishop Luffa School in Chichester. Her report contains library pictures of protest meetings.

  1. Christine Alsford

First day at school - for the teacher

Like everyone on their first day at school Sam Genovese was full of nerves and excitement. But at the age of 21, he was starting as a trainee teacher at a secondary school in a tough part of town.

Christine Alsford joined him on his first day teaching English at Redbridge Community School in Southampton.

She also spoke to pupils and the headteacher Jason Ashley.

Sam Genovese will spend two years getting skills, qualifications and experience as part of a scheme called Teach First which places talented graduates in schools serving low income areas. They aim is to narrow the gap in performance between disadvantaged pupils and those from more affluent backgrounds.

Sussex parents to be fined for school absences

Parents could be fined in East Sussex Credit: ITV

East Sussex County Council is warning parents they will be fined for unauthorised school absences - including taking holidays in term time. During the last school year, the number of prosecutions for non-attendance at schools in East Sussex increased almost threefold on the previous year, with more than £27,000 in fines issued by the courts.

Couple take boys out of school because of row over dresses

Is it appropriate for a six-year-old boy to wear a dress to school? On the face of it, perhaps a fairly trivial question. But it has unleashed a storm of controversy involving parents, the church, education authorities and equality groups.

A couple on the Isle of Wight have taken their two sons out of their Church of England primary school because boys have been allowed to wear dresses in class. They say it offends their deeply held religious beliefs.

But the school says it has a legal responsibility to protect the children under the Equalities Act. Who is right - or who's wrong? Phil Hornby reports.

He also talked to Katie Yeomans.


Row over boy who wears dress at school

The couple have withdrawn their son from the school Credit: ITV

Parents of a boy on the Isle of Wight are furious because another boy is allowed to wear a dress. They are threatening legal action. They have withdrawn their child from the Church of England primary school . He will be schooled at home with his eight-year-old brother. The brother was taken out of the same school a year ago when a boy in his class wore dresses.

The boys’ parents, Nigel and Sally Rowe, say they are challenging the policy.

We always say you should love everyone, but as Christians we found this concerning. Some days he was dressed as a girl, and some days dressed as a boy

– Sally Rowe

Identifying some days as a boy and some days as a girl, for us is very difficult, it’s inconsistent. Our son was brought up in the way there are boys and there are girls

– Nigel Rowe

The parents said they had received a letter saying that, under the Equality Act, children could come in as they wished; boys and girls can dress any way they like. The couple said other children would become confused.

More follows...

Nurseries say they face closure under new scheme

Thousands of families in Kent and Sussex started receiving extra help with childcare costs this week as part of a new government initiative. Doubling the number of free hours from 15 to 30 for the working parents of three and four year olds is certainly going down well at nurseries like this one. The government says it will save parents up to £5,000 a year.

Yet the new policy has hit criticism and controversy before it even begins in earnest. Many nurseries and childminders say it's not adequately funded.

One nursery owner says she's had to close down because the sums don't add up. Along with many others she's calling for the government to think again - and says they're misleading parents about the scheme.

Our Social Affairs Correspondent Christine Alsford talked to Eve Wort, former nursery owner; Neil Leitch, Pre-school Learning Alliance; and Cheryl Hadland, Managing Director, Tops Day Nurseries.

Parents being encouraged to book healthy school meals

Library photo Credit: ITV News Meridian

Parents in Reading are being encouraged to book school meals for their children.

With the new term starting the council is keen to see more families take advantage of schemes guaranteeing healthy and nutritious food.

Schools encourage parents to sign up their children for school meals by inviting them in for a school meal to eat with the children, through lunchbox slips, banners at the school gates, attendance at parent evenings and school newsletters.

All pupils aged between four and seven-years-old are entitled to receive free school meals while parents on low incomes can also apply for free school meals for a child of any age.

The Council is committed to ensuring good quality, nutritious meals are available for every pupil at lunchtime and that those who are eligible for free school dinners take their entitlement.

Parents whose children have a school lunch can be confident they are getting a tasty, healthy meal which is great value for money.

I would encourage parents to start the new school year by taking advantage of the excellent meals that are on offer at school every day.”

– Councillor Tony Jones, Lead Councillor for Education,
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