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News website's Education and Family section

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Steve Herrmann Steve Herrmann | 08:13 UK time, Tuesday, 12 January 2010

We're making a change to the Education page on the BBC News website - this week, it will become "Education and Family".

Screenshot of BBC News Education and Family websiteThat's because we'd like to be able to feature a wider range of stories linked to education on this page along with our general education coverage. Examples include news about parenting, about issues affecting elderly people, young people's lives, child development, social trends and family life.

Of course, these areas are already covered by BBC News - the specialist news correspondents who report on education for the BBC also cover family and social policy - but on the website, these stories have not, up to now, had a common home. By broadening the remit of the Education page to include them, we hope we'll make such pieces easier to find for those who are interested in them.

We'll still be covering all the education news we do now - from stories about the very young, through to college and university students and adults returning to learning. And we'll continue to look at how policy affects all these areas. We'll also continue to make it easy for you to find out about the performance of your primary or secondary school.

I hope you approve of the changes - please do let me and the Education and Family reporting team know what you think.

Steve Herrmann is editor of the BBC News website.


  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    But surely much of the subject matter for a "Family" section sits more comfortably as a sub-section within the Health section?

    Sorry but this decision sound half-baked to me, call me cynical but this sounds like the start of a dumbing down of the Education section to me, totally illogical...

  • Comment number 3.

    “about issues affecting elderly people… social trends and family life.”

    Sounds like you need a new ‘Society’ section to me.
    Otherwise Education becomes a catch-all section for any stories that don’t easily fit elsewhere (or are crowded out). e.g. UK, Health, Science & Environment, Politics, Health etc.

    e.g. "Issues affecting elderly people" doesn't easily fit into Education. I'm unconvinced this is the best solution.

  • Comment number 4.

    As an elderly person who is not FAMILY but concerned professionally with education it's clearly not for me... given the space available. 'Elderly' is also a word that some of us are beginning to feel has associations like the road sign. The government may be about to raise age at which employers can discriminate without cause to 80, so, at a stroke as it were, we will be now reincorporated in the 'population of working age' which will be discussed on the 'economy page'

    I support the idea of a 'home page' call society + drop downs like is done for 'world' or 'economy' or 'entertainment'

    At the moment the English Government (Ed Ball's) incorporates child rearing and education at least from 0-16 into 'Childrens Services' delivered by Sure Start and Schools. This perspective may be is quite a good one from which to start thinking about an Education and Family section from what I have seen, having been involved in the practice of both Sure Start and Schools recently.
    But of course it is not 'National' since CS is not devolved. Scotland Wales and NI get less attention already on the current relevant pages and often are more interesting.

  • Comment number 5.

    Daft. These: "news about parenting, about issues affecting elderly people, young people's lives, child development, social trends and family life" are not "linked to education" except in as far as everything relates to education - which is because education is important, which is why it has its own news page! Several of these are not necessarily "family" either, making a nonsense of the new page name. I sympathise with the elderly person who mentioned that s/he was not anyone's "family", in particular. You seem to be implying that this is a page for things that affect people. But if a news story does not affect people, what's it doing on the BBC news site at all? This page seems set to be a dustbin of everything that doesn't fit anywhere else, and those of us who actually care about education will have to go somewhere else for our news. Maybe the Times Education Supplement site will do.

  • Comment number 6.

    Seems a bit of a strange pairing to me, my gut instinct is that "Family" stories by and large have nothing in common with "Education" stories, so it's like pairing up the "Politics" and "Entertainment" sections - makes no sense.

    A quick glance over the stories in the "More family stories" section bears this out, of the ten stories: six have nothing to do with education and are to do with health, three are to do with business/politics and only one has any crossover with education - and even that one is as much to do with health as education.

    Seems to me that this is a really bad match, and that people following the "Education" section will now have to filter out a huge amount of stories that are irrelevent to their interests: I know I'm not interested in it, and I'm not interested enough in education to wade through the extra gumph.

  • Comment number 7.

    First of all a big round of applause for Steve Hermann and the team of Education and Family section!

    Firstly, hanging something on a website like BBC must have had a lot of work and research put into it. So well done guys!
    Secondly in my opinion (sorry to disagree on the comment sent last),news about parenting, young people's lives, child development, social trends and family life are all a part of EDUCATION. Education is not only about Maths and English or about good grades but it is much more beyond that!
    Regarding issues affecting elderly people, that comes under Family, so I guess it's okay!
    And last but not the least, someone like me who is very passionate about Child development and Positive parenting who also writes articles on Parenting tips, Child development and Education can now find all the information under one roof and who better than BBC and of course I can share my articles too.

    So Well Done guys!!

    Best Wishes
    Seema Thobhani

  • Comment number 8.

    A degree in engineering and family ?
    Sats results and family ?
    Teacher pay levels and family ?

    Is there any more connection between Eduction and Family than Politcs and Family or Business and Family ?

    Don't quite understand this decision myself, but good luck trying to make sense of it.

  • Comment number 9.

    The council in Edinburgh no longer has an education department.

    A few years ago, when it merged with children's social work sections, the department's name became, 'Children and Families'. At the time, those of us involved in adult education voiced concerns but were assured that we would continue to be included. Now, ALL of the department's objectives relate to children and young people. (This in a city where 75% of the population is over twenty years of age!)

    'Education' should be for everyone. 'Family' is an exclusive term.

  • Comment number 10.

    About the only common thread is the way that Ed Balls is keen to intrude on family life in the name of safeguarding and making sure our toddlers conform to national standards for reading and maths. Parents are not to be trusted around their children, school is the only safe and good way forward so obviously the school (although sometimes lacking in education, it's there somewhere under the red tape) will become the family.

  • Comment number 11.

    Of course, education and family definitely coincide when it's home education under discussion, but that's being abolished, sorry, licenced, by legislation before Parliament at the moment.

  • Comment number 12.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 13.

    I'm inclined to agree with most of the other posters. I have no 'family' in a direct sense, yet I still feel education is still very relevant for me. "Families" has a very distinct (and often exclusive) meaning. I see the widening of this section to be a bad thing. By all means include families in the site, but as suggested above I'd prefer the creation of a new section called "Society" to contain family and societal issues.

    In common with much of the media, the BBC education reporting always tends to under-represent stories covering further education, Sixth Form Colleges and lifelong learning in particular in favour of "Schools" and "Universities". Yes, you do provide coverage, but not enough and not of a high-enough quality. This change suggests even more focus on education of younger learners to the exclusion of older learners (or just those who don't see themselves in a family setup).

    Sorry - I'd call this a bad move. Nevertheless, I suspect it will continue regardless. I don't post often, but so far I don't think I've ever seen any evidence of anything more than lip-service paid to the substantive views coming across regarding the significant changes made to some of your services.

  • Comment number 14.

    As others have said, far from being the natural home for family matters, it strikes me that this is something of a marriage of convenience - probably aided by the equally irritating combination of areas in the government department. Does the BBC intend to change the headings as often as the government reorganises the education department's title and remit?

  • Comment number 15.


    I hope you approve of the changes - please do let me and the Education and Family reporting team know what you think.

    Yes, I am very supportive with of the recent changes...And, the updated Education/Family Site that is now being used on BBC News....

    -Dennis Junior-

  • Comment number 16.

    Given that the BBC has chosen to showcase the opions of Ron Jeremy in two prominent articles in the past two days, why not ask him to become a regular contributor, with special interest in child protection/technology as these seem to be his specialist areas?

  • Comment number 17.

    I agree with others - I like the idea of having a page for the family and social stuff but education is a different topic and should stay as such. I don't see how an article on university examinations would sit next to one on encouraging breast feeding...

    I feel they are both big enough topics to have their own sections and leave education alone. As a young teacher I use the page to keep up-to-date with important education news and don't want to have to wade through social care issues.

  • Comment number 18.

    Please don't do this - the Education page is great as it is! Education is an enormous topic anyway, and if you include Family as well there will be far too much to wade through. The RSS Feed already provides so much that it needs selective reading. I can see no advantage to linking the two and you will just swamp readers with stuff they don't want: the opposite of what a selective feed is supposed to do!

  • Comment number 19.

    Is there going to be any feed-back from the BBC on this or is it going to just be another 'fateacomple', like it or lump it, like so many unpopular recent changes on the BBC news website...

  • Comment number 20.

    Re 19 Boilreplated - as per the fiasco with the removal of choice for UK and International News Frontpages, I suspect the fact that so far most comments are not in agreement with this change will also be ignored.

  • Comment number 21.

    I'd be interested to know whether or not you plan on collaborating with BBC Learning in the future.

  • Comment number 22.

    I'm not completely convinced that the areas go together particularly well - but to be honest I have no great problem with you organising it this way. I can see that it's tough to categorise content neatly without ending up with 20 sections.

    Frankly, there are other things about the BBC News website that dismay me far more - like the fact that the Latest News ticker has been leading for the last few hours on "Victoria Beckham criticised by US media for her slot on American Idol". Might it not be an idea to introduce a mechanism so that ridiculously unimportant stories like this are excluded from qualifying for the Latest 'News' ticker? I'm not suggesting you drop entertainment altogether. Just reduce its prominence. Leave the Daily Mail and Sky to make a big fuss about such non-stories.

  • Comment number 23.

    Thanks for your comments so far. To SheffTim, Cping500, TrustedFriend_Com and others – I’d say that finding the right groupings for stories is never going to be an exact science.

    As we develop methods for tagging and categorising stories in more detail and more systematically, it should become easier to provide more ways to group content – making it easier for us to help you to find the type of story you are looking for.

    Meanwhile – we aren’t taking away from the Education coverage – the stories will still be there and I hope they’ll be just as easy to find. Boilerplated – the last thing we want is a dumbing down of the section – the same coverage will still be there – we are just broadening it to include family related stories too.

    Seema – glad you approve! Dotconnect – you are right we do not want to end up with a proliferation of sections at the top level of the website – though it will become easier in general to aggregate stories automatically elsewhere around the site - and about the prominence of that ticker item, I’d concede you have a fair point. Helen – we haven’t got any collaboration plans at present though we do link to BBC Learning.

    Thanks for the feedback from all of you who have commented here – the education team will be continuing to look for thoughts about the changes to the section, and feedback on their coverage in general – you can find out who they are and details of how to contact them here.

  • Comment number 24.

    #23. At 5:38pm on 14 Jan 2010, Steve Herrmann (BBC) wrote:

    "Meanwhile – we aren’t taking away from the Education coverage – the stories will still be there and I hope they’ll be just as easy to find. Boilerplated – the last thing we want is a dumbing down of the section – the same coverage will still be there – we are just broadening it to include family related stories too."

    Steve, I could accept that if education and the additional sections mentioned in your original piece were all distinct sub sections of a Education & Family banner (see Footnote [1]), that is, completely separate sections, but what we have now is a page diluted with non Education - or indeed 'Family' - editorial content contained within the same page space - perhaps you won't think of it as dumbing down but many readers will because it stands to reason that the same physical page/scroll area can't contain more stories that it already does (unless you're also intending to increase the scroll length...), two, never mind three or four, into one simple doesn't go, something inevitably gets crowded out.

    The same sort of thing happened when the "Entertainment" section had it's scope increased a few years ago, true media industry news is hardly present like it used to be now, mostly (when ever I now bother to look at the page) it seems dominated with celeb' style gossip and tat rather than hard industry news.

    *Education & Family
    ***League Tables
    **Family & Home
    ***Child Development

  • Comment number 25.

    Please carry on the great job you are doing. As an cademic researcher I focus on education and your website is fantastic! Many thanks to you and the whole team of the BBC News website.

  • Comment number 26.

    "Dotconnect [@ #22]– ..//.. and about the prominence of that ticker item, I’d concede you have a fair point."

    Yet today we have the earth shattering Latest News ticker that Zoe Ball has given birth (isn't that what many women do, so what is 'news about it?), and that there is at least one more multi-millionaire in the UK curtsey of a lottery ticket. Considering all the real news from around the world at the moment such prominence of non-news just shows how dumbed down the BBC has become in it's attempt to be 'politically-correct and all-inclusive', is it any wonder that people in this blog are concerned at for the prospects of the education section...

  • Comment number 27.

    In my experience when politicians or think tanks, etc talk about "family" it is bad news. "Family values" means "get back in the kitchen women". People who talk about the importance of "family" are usually trying to stigmatise single mothers or something similar. It's meaningless anyway because we're all in families. Whether you count me, Mr Cru and the cat or whether you include other relatives who don't live with us - it's all family.

    This seems to have been timed to co-incide with David Cameron banging on about tax breaks for married couples. This is now the top story on what used to be the education section of the BBC site. Underneath it says:

    "'End of nuclear family' forecast

    Cameron backs family support

    'Toxic cycle' of family breakdown"

    Which all comes back to this hideous notion of assuming that "family" = good. When we know perfectly well that for 2 women a week in the UK "family" = murder. We know that child abuse is happening all over the country, domestic violence, forced marriage, marital rape, all these things. Seems to me that if we're going to have a news section about "family" these things should get some coverage - not just David Cameron's largely meaningless quotes.

  • Comment number 28.

    In reply to comments @ #27:

    Wow, someone was really on a (sexist) 'rant' there! Don't suppose she has ever come across men who have been abused or killed by their female partners or wife, that kids never get abused - either physically, mentally or sexually - by women, that men never cook, that men never 'keep house', that men never take care of their children (and yes, children are just as much the man's 'property' as the woman's, men are just as entitled to say "My children" as any woman is, nor that 'children are always best staying with the mother' when relationships break-up), that women don't and have never held some of the highest offices of state...

  • Comment number 29.

    Gee! I wish Cameron had shared his wonderful insight into teaching a few years ago. I didn't realise that a good degree made for a GOOD teacher. Judging from a few of the "well qualified" teachers I've encountered a lot of them resembled the professor in Jules Verne's "Journey to the Centre of the Earth" when he describes him as a well of knowledge with a leaky bucket. I have know a few "firsts" in my time that couldn't construct a sentence above a mutter... good luck in the classroom.

  • Comment number 30.

    Beauvallet: thank you! Boilerplated: you are right, there are other ways to arrange and sub-divide the content, and we'll keep looking at how to make it work best. Education news - pieces like this story on a surge in university applications, which we broke on the website last week and which other media outlets then followed up - are still the staple of this page. We are simply broadening the scope to include other stories too So yes, there will be more on the page, but we think you'll still be able to find the education news easily.  On ticker items: again, I think a breadth of agenda is important there too. I just thought that to have that ticker item there for hours sounded like too much.

  • Comment number 31.

    #30. At 11:27am on 18 Jan 2010, Steve Herrmann (BBC) wrote:

    "but we think you'll still be able to find the education news easily."

    Assuming it's there in the first place...

    Can you confirm that the same number of pure education news stories will remain on the sections front page as before, even if that means making the page scroll longer?

  • Comment number 32.

    As expected the family news is all about problems and the news on the over 65's is that they are are dependent. The education news is more balanced. The Household Expenditure Survey is turned into one about families, The boozing Scots has no mention of families... it's a health issue and a political issue in Scotland. The Section needs and editor who can escape from the redtop agenda and be less agist both ends.

    It needs also to remember the BBC Nations Policy. Some stories only apply to England.

  • Comment number 33.

    Wonderful! Thank you! Godspeed! I look forward to reading more in this section, and I believe the BBC does in fact have considerable influence over the content and interests of others in the media. So I view this development as a positive one.

  • Comment number 34.

    I'm surprised no one else has commented about the "Detentions with Mozart' story (19.01.10 BBC news home page).
    A certain Mr. Brian Walker - Headmaster of West Park School in Derby - apparently 'forces' children in detention to listen to "Mozart, Elgar, Mozart, Verdi and Bach, on a Friday after school." (I for one, would have begged for more!).
    He triumphantly declares, "Hopefully, I open their ears to an experience they don't normally have and it seems many of them don't want to have it again, so it's both educational and acts as a deterrent."
    Well done headmaster! Ten out of ten!
    I can't help wondering, dear Mr. Walker, did you get your inspiration for this appallingly disgusting idea from Guantanamo Bay?
    What exactly is 'educational' about using some of the greatest music ever written, as a punishment?
    Nothing like using the work of musical geniuses to put off your pupils ever wanting to listen to or understand classical music for the rest of their lives, eh? Perhaps that is your intention, who knows?
    Sadly, you are a misguided man and obviously have no reverence for the arts whatsoever.
    Your conduct beggars belief and the last word has to go to your pupils for whom I feel very sorry and saddened.

  • Comment number 35.

    Teacher quality
    I must admit that I was as ignorant and ill-informed as David Cameron about the real problem in schools until my wife became a teacher of 14 to 19 year olds.
    As teachers cannot speak up for themselves, because they are effectively gagged by the Labour introduced GTC professional code, I think it is time that spouses of teachers spoke up on their behalf.
    It is convenient to blame teachers, whereas the real problem is far more complex. My wife officially works 3 days per week. She actually works from 07.45 to 22.00 Monday to Friday, 09.00 to 21.00 Saturday and Sunday. The reason is the need to prepare lessons, and to mark assignments for BTec courses. Before anyone says about long holidays, Christmas, Easter, half term and half of the summer holiday are taken up with marking and lesson planning and preparation.
    If anyone is really interested in why good teachers either leave or seek promotion to non-teaching roles, they need look no further than the hours worked, and the enormous stress placed on teachers by targets and the threat of being labelled a failing teacher. If David thinks he is going to attract quality graduates into our schools, he is living in cloud cuckoo land.

  • Comment number 36.

    I disapprove of this move.

    We currently have a perfectly logical Education section that covers an easily understandable topic i.e. how we educate people in our society be those children or indeed the very important topic of remedial or ongoing adult education, apprenticeships etc.

    The new suggested category is ill defined and panders to some kind of odd sociomorphic feel good categorisation of british society.

    As has been highlighted elsewhere in thread, old peoples issues dont fit at all well with say primary education. Definitely a retrograde step aimed at dumbing down the site in my opinion.

  • Comment number 37.

    Is the BBC attempting to get on the right side of the (dying/dead)Labour govt. with this dumbing down of the education section, by introducing a (really poor) catch-all idea like this?

  • Comment number 38.

    Education is from the cradle to the grave. You find people of all ages participating in Open University Courses. So the idea of having a huge education umbrella makes good sense! Trying to broaden discussion and trying to innovate by using new technology and encouraging a broader spectrum of learners and educators make a good deal of sense. There is so much to discuss and brain-storm.

  • Comment number 39.

    #38. At 10:23am on 25 Jan 2010, Pancha_Chandra wrote:

    Education is from the cradle to the grave. You find people of all ages participating in Open University Courses.

    Yes! But that's an argument for a larger "Education" section, not a smaller one (in effect), as will happen with this ill-though out change - as I said way up, and unless the BBC plan to increase the page scroll, one can't fit a quart into a pint pot.

    As others have said, this sounds like it has more to do with political correct nonsense than any editorial advantage.

  • Comment number 40.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 41.

    Having an area for Education is really a great idea. This is really helpful for every student to broaden up their knowledge. Since BBC is reliable, students could rely on the contents whether they are writing an essay [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator] or making a speech for their class.

    It is overwhelming that BBC is taking extra step to mold future leaders through educating the youth.

  • Comment number 42.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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