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Sean Coughlan

Sean Coughlan Education correspondent

Here are my ideas and insights on what’s making the news in education

Parents lose their car paying price of university

Student loans

When you hear about someone getting their car repossessed, you wonder what kind of financial calamity must have hit them.

You might think about redundancy or illness. But not that their child has done really well and got into university.

The report on the BBC News website about worries about student living costs triggered a strong response, with warnings about families who were struggling.

The fierce political debate in England has focused on tuition fees. But overlooked has been a much more immediate issue for many middle-income families - the low level of loans and grants available to pay for rent and living costs.

Students get an annual loan of up to £9,000 to cover fees, but this goes directly to the university. For living costs, much less is available, with many students receiving loans of less than £4,000 for the year, with parents expected to pay thousands in up-front cash to fill the gap.

Read full article Parents lose their car paying price of university

Are we missing the real student loan story?

Bank of Mum and Dad

When Labour finally shows its hand on tuition fees in England's universities it's going to be one of the biggest calls of the election campaign.

Whether Ed Miliband sticks with £9,000 or goes for a cut to £6,000 or a switch to a graduate tax it's going to trigger a blizzard of stories about student debt.

Read full article Are we missing the real student loan story?

Sean added analysis to:

School league tables branded a 'nonsense' amid changes

Should parents still trust the league tables, after all the claims that they are lost in a mire of confusion?

Head teachers and teachers have always disliked them - as they seem to boil down huge amounts of effort to a simplistic ranking.

Read full article School league tables branded a 'nonsense' amid changes

Did £9,000 fees cut applications?

University applications

When tuition fees in England's universities rocketed to £9,000 per year, applications plunged in the opposite direction.

Applications slumped by the biggest ever amount, down by about 40,000 in England when they were introduced in 2012. It looked like thousands of young people were going to be frozen out of higher education.

Read full article Did £9,000 fees cut applications?

How many attacks on schools around the world?

Aftermath of attack on school in Peshawar
School attack in Peshawar: There have been almost 10,000 attacks on education in recent years

The murderous attack on a school in Peshawar has appalled people around the world, but perhaps even more dreadful is that this is far from an isolated incident.

The deliberate targeting of places of education has become a global blight.

Read full article How many attacks on schools around the world?

The persistent appeal of grammar schools

Top of the Form, 1962
Top of the Form, 1962: There are calls to open more grammar schools

What's behind the undying fascination with grammar schools? Four decades after almost all of them disappeared in England, there are still appeals for their return.

Many other types of school have disappeared, largely unmourned. Most secondary schools in England had gained "specialist" status, but that was washed away with a change of nameplate and a coat of paint.

Read full article The persistent appeal of grammar schools

How many good schools are there really?

Upward graph on a blackboard

How many good and outstanding schools are there in England? Record levels, never been so many before. That's the official verdict of the education watchdog Ofsted.

"The proportion of schools judged good or outstanding at their most recent inspection reached 81%.

Read full article How many good schools are there really?

Sean added analysis to:

Private school business rate relief warning from Labour

This demand for the private school sector to work more closely with their state school neighbours will probably be seen as a symbolic gesture.

It allows the tone of Labour's education policy to sound different from the government's, when otherwise they have much in common.

Read full article Private school business rate relief warning from Labour

Tuition fees: Should they go higher or lower?

Freie Universitat Berlin
Freie Universitat Berlin: Germany has abolished tution fees for university students

Tuition fees in England's universities are approaching a crossroads. Should they go up or should they go down?

Students are still campaigning to scrap them - saying that putting students into debt isn't the way to fund a higher education system.

Read full article Tuition fees: Should they go higher or lower?

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About Sean

Sean Coughlan is an award-winning education correspondent for the BBC News website.

As well as covering news about schools and universities in the UK, he is editor of the BBC's international education online series, The Knowledge Economy, which looks at the impact of education from a global perspective and how it is shaping the economies of the future.

He is author of several books, including a cultural history of sleep.

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