I’ve never met a researcher who had anything good to say about the soul-destroying process of applying for grants. But for all that’s bad, I used to like that funding was so competitive.
Peer review by an international panel prevents duplication, I thought, and funding bodies being so selective about where their money goes must mean that resources are channelled into research with real potential. It didn’t take long to realise this isn’t the case.
The same organisations that make it next-to-impossible to get a grant can be ridiculously laidback about how their money is spent once they’ve signed it over, so it’s probably unsurprising that I’ve seen so many grants misappropriated.
The story of my PhD is far from unique. The project was novel and exciting, and I already had several awards to my name by the time I started, so, unusually for a PhD student, I could bring in my own funding. Then my principal investigator (PI) had another idea, but this one wasn’t his best. No one would fund it and he had a hard time recruiting anyone to take it on. But eventually he “found the money somewhere”, and student Z joined the lab.
Whenever I logged into the orders system I’d see my unique grant code next to orders for student Z’s project – something I thought was particularly wrong as my grant was from the same medical charity that had refused to fund student Z.
With a year left to go, my grant money ran out. I could only continue because I was given another grant code and told to keep quiet about it – in much the same way as, I imagine, student Z was told to keep quiet when she was given mine.
The stories are endless, but we keep quiet. The department in a well-respected university where PhD students’ travel fellowships are used by senior staff. A fellow PhD student in another highly prestigious university, who earned her own grant, was told on her first day that the PI was splitting the grant between her and the other new student who couldn’t get funded. The new student left after a year with nothing when the money ran out: she barely finished.
We moan to each other, but can’t do anything about it, because this is what happens in our field – molecular biology. Budgets agreed for one project are bled dry to meet whichever needs the PI is prioritising, including blind alley research and ego projects – projects too scientifically unsound to merit being funded in their own right.
When one grant runs out, the next one is similarly mismanaged to meet the costs that should have been met by the first grant. It’s spending future earnings on credit, borrowing from one trust to repay another. It can only work for as long as there’s another grant coming in.
This doesn’t always come down to a wilful misappropriation or a moral failing. Unfortunately, a lot of people with impressive publications turn out to be incompetent managers of finances and clueless when it comes to administration. To put large sums of money into the hands of people like that is madness.
Grant applications need to look beyond publication records and start asking for details of management as well as research experience. They need to ask about the administrative supports available to the research team as well as the technology available in their labs.
It’s in the best interests of funding bodies to make sure their money isn’t being used to pay for projects they themselves deemed unworthy of investment. PIs have a reputation for being difficult and refusing to follow the rules, but they need money to keep their labs afloat.
Funding bodies could very easily prevent grants being mismanaged by issuing “fines”, withholding part of the next instalment, or in severe cases, blacklisting certain PIs for a set time period or permanently, depending on how far the PI has strayed beyond what it was agreed to finance in the first place.
When all’s said and done, the funders may be the only people a senior academic will listen to.
Whether you’re covering eggs with a coat or two of paint, making handmade cards or decorating bonnets, Easter is a time for arts and crafts in school. Getting glue and glitter everywhere – and filling your classroom with chicks and bunnies – is a staple of the season.
But for teachers and parents, getting everything together in time can be stressful. The bank holiday weekend begins on Good Friday (3 April), so we’ve pulled together a last-minute guide for teachers preparing their class celebration. Below are some fun ideas for things to try with your students. Follow our crafty tricks to give your Eastertide lessons a lift:
What you need:
2 sheets of white A4 card
1 pink piece of card
First make the headband by cutting two strips (2.5 inches wide) from the A4 white card. Glue the ends of the strips together to make a ring shaped headband. This will fit an adult’s head so cut shorter strips for a child. If you need extra support use staples to hold it all together. Cover the sharp staple-edges with clear tape.
Use the remainder of the first sheet of card for the nose and cheeks. Cut out a Y shape and two speech bubbles. These will be glued together to make the nose and cheek section. Don’t forget to cut out some bunny teeth.
For the ears, fold the second piece of white card in half and cut out a large tear-drop shape lengthways. Do the same with the pink card but make the tear-drops slightly smaller so they sit inside the white ones. For the nose cut out a heart or circle from the pink card.
Glue it all together. The nose should be the last thing you put on so it covers the rough edges of the cheeks and teeth. Once dried, use a pen to draw on whiskers. Eyes can also be added for more of a caricature-type look.
TWIST: Replace the card ear inserts and nose with pink felt and use pipe cleaners for whiskers.
Animal egg painting
An old sponge
Add the eggs to a pan of water (an adult will need to do this). When it starts to boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. When the time is up, place the eggs into a bowl of cold water.
Once the eggs are cool to the touch, start painting. For ease, sit them on some Blu-Tack (or an old egg cup, but remember to let the top half dry before turning it to paint the bottom) to stop them falling over.
A fun activity from Arkive involves students decorating the egg with their favourite endangered animal’s face. Students can present their egg to the class and explain why they chose that species.
Egg painting with a brush can be quite tricky. Cutting out shapes from an old sponge and dabbing paint over the surface of the egg is much easier and creates a nice mottled look.
TWIST: Use food colouring instead of paint to dye your eggs.
Easter egg hunt basket
Brown plastic mushroom punnet
Various coloured A4 card (four different sheets is enough)
Yellow tissue paper
Cut a one-inch wide strip of A4 card lengthways to make a handle for your punnet. Decorate it using the paint. Once dry, staple each end of the strip to the inside long edge of the punnet.
Using green card and scissors, make some grass fringing and glue it to the inside of the punnet (covering the sharp edges of the staples). Use the remainder of the card to make flowers, which should be glued to the outside of the punnet.
Finally, shred the tissue paper and use it to make a bed of hay for your painted eggs, chicks, sheep and chocolate eggs.
Chicks made from paper cups
Grab a cup and wrap it with yellow tissue so it’s completely covered. You can stick it down using sellotape or glue. Next, make your chick’s eyes by cutting out thick white card and drawing pupils with a black marker. Stick them on with glue and then cut out a triangle on orange card for the nose. For the feet, cut out Y shapes and then make little cuts in them for toes. Once you’ve done this, stuff some tissue in the top to create a feathered effect.
This makes a great card for your students to take home. Cut out an egg template twice, using two different bits of card. Cut one of your egg shapes in two. Glue these onto the whole egg template, using one as the top and one as the bottom. This should make it appear as if the egg is half open (as shown in the picture). In the gap, draw a chick. Add a bit of decoration with flowers.
Plans have been revealed for the world’s largest ever lesson, to take place this autumn.
Supported by TES, the project will see schools around the world take part in the same lesson during one day at the end of September. The lesson will aim to educate students about the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The World’s Largest Lesson, delivered in partnership with Unicef, TES and Education International, forms a key part of the Project Everyone initiative, let by the celebrated writer and film director Richard Curtis.
Calling on the expertise of teachers to develop classroom resources for the lesson, Project Everyone has launched a competition that invites teachers to submit exciting lesson plan ideas about the SDGs to a special area of the TES website.
The winning lesson ideas will be those that are most highly rated by other teachers. Winners will have their lesson plans published as a set of learning resources, which will then enable teachers to craft a relevant lesson on the SDGs for their pupils when they take part in the project.
One winning teacher will be invited, along with their school, to have a filmed lesson event with a visiting celebrity.
“The World’s Largest Lesson will be the biggest collaborative education project the world has ever seen,” Mr Curtis said. “By working in association with TES and Education International, Project Everyone are drawing on the unique creativity that the teaching community have in building understanding of difficult issues amongst children.”
To mark the launch of the project, Mr Curtis will feature in the My Best Teacher column in tomorrow’s TES. In it he remembers the influence of James Morwood, a classics teacher at Harrow school, who ignited his love of writing and the theatre.
“It’s not an exaggeration to say the start of everything I do now was thanks to James,” Mr Curtis explains.
The project will be supported by a short animated film by Sir Ken Robinson, which will explain why the goals exist.
Подробнее о проекте: click here.
All schools should join academy chains of 30 or more to enjoy economies of scale and improve teaching across the board, a report published today has said.
Research released by the right-leaning thinktank Reform claims schools should link up with larger chains to make savings of “between 5 and 8 per cent”, which can then be reinvested by hiring experts to boost teaching.
Too many schools suffer from poor-quality governance and CPD, the study adds, but large chains can invest in what it describes as a “corporate centre”, which could be used to improve expertise in these areas.
The report, produced by management consultancy Parthenon-EY, criticises the amount of cash chains currently hold back – typically around 4 per cent of the school budgets they oversee – and claims more could be achieved if they “substantially increase the cash they hold in the corporate centre”.
Despite the study’s enthusiasm for federalisation, there have been a number of high-profile cases of large academy chains falling foul of the Department for Education because of concerns about standards.
In 2013, the country’s largest academy chain, Academies Enterprise Trust (AET), which runs 77 schools, was effectively barred from taking over any further schools until it improved the quality of education it was providing.
And last year, Ofsted criticised the culture of “low expectations” among the chain’s schools, adding that it was failing to give pupils a good enough education.
Similar problems have been found at E-Act, which had 10 of its schools taken away by the DfE amid concerns over standards.
And in July last year, Ofsted again condemned the Kemnal Academies Trust, which manages 41 schools, stating an “overwhelming proportion” of pupils were not receiving a good enough education.
But the Reform report says that both E-Act and AET lacked the governance to cope with their rapid expansion, and “neither took adequate measures, such as the structural decisions they are taking now, to address the issues”.
Amy Finch, education lead at the thinktank, said: “This research suggests school groups can play a vital role in redirecting resources to deliver better teaching. Recent high-profile failures should not obscure the contribution that well-governed chains can make.”
According to the researchers, 84 per cent of academies are either stand-alone schools or belong to a group of 10 schools or fewer. Only 7 per cent are in a group of more than 30 schools.
Matthew Robb, managing director at Parthenon-EY, said the next government should prioritise merging schools into bigger chains.
“The prevalent model of stand-alone schools does not bring the professionalism, accountability and economies of scale that chains can provide,” he said. “The incoming government should provide the right incentives to encourage schools to join into groups to drive professionalisation in teaching and better outcomes for students.”