Tag Archives: Education

Teenage boys wear skirts to school to protest against ‘no shorts’ policy

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Dozens of pupils at Isca academy in Exeter stage uniform protest after school insists they wear trousers despite heatwave

Some had borrowed from girlfriends, others from sisters. A few had gone the extra mile and shaved their legs. When the Isca academy in Devon opened on Thursday morning, an estimated 30 boys arrived for lessons, heads held high, in fetching tartan-patterned skirts. The hottest June days since 1976 had led to a bare-legged revolution at the secondary school in Exeter.

As the temperature soared past 30C earlier this week, the teenage boys had asked their teachers if they could swap their long trousers for shorts. They were told no shorts werent permitted under the schools uniform policy.

When they protested that the girls were allowed bare legs, the school no doubt joking said the boys were free to wear skirts too if they chose. So on Wednesday, a handful braved the giggles and did so. The scale of the rebellion increased on Thurday, when at least 30 boys opted for the attire.

Quite refreshing was how one of the boys described the experience, pointing out that if even Royal Ascot had allowed racegoers in the royal enclosure to remove their jackets, then the school ought to relax its dress code. Another said he rather enjoyed the nice breeze his skirt had afforded him.

A third, tall boy said he was told his short skirt exposed too much hairy leg. Some of the boys visited a shop on their way to Isca the name the Romans gave to Exeter to pick up razors to make sure they did not fall foul of any beauty police.

Ironically, the temperature had dropped in Exeter to a more manageable 20C, but some boys said they had enjoyed the freedom afforded by the skirts and that they might continue.

The school said it was prepared to think again in the long term. The headteacher, Aimee Mitchell, said: We recognise that the last few days have been exceptionally hot and we are doing our utmost to enable both students and staff to remain as comfortable as possible.

Shorts are not currently part of our uniform for boys, and I would not want to make any changes without consulting both students and their families. However, with hotter weather becoming more normal, I would be happy to consider a change for the future.

It was too late. The revolution was picked up by media organisations across the globe, and Devon county council was forced to help the school out with inquiries. A spokesperson said: About 30 boys arrived at school this morning wearing school skirts. None of the boys have been penalised no one was put in isolation or detention for wearing a skirt.

The mother of one of the boys who began the protest said she was proud of him. Claire Lambeth, 43, said her son Ryan, 15, had come home earlier in the week complaining about the heat. He said it was unbearable. I spoke to a teacher to ask about shorts and she said it was school policy [that they could not be worn]. I did say this was exceptional weather, but they were having none of it. If girls can wear skirts, why cant boys wear shorts?

Ryan came up with the idea of wearing a skirt, so that evening we borrowed one. He wore it the next day as did five other boys. Then this morning I didnt expect it to take off like that. The school is being silly really this is exceptional weather. I was very proud of Ryan. I think it was a great idea.

Another mother said: My 14-year-old son wanted to wear shorts. The headteacher told them: Well, you can wear a skirt if you like but I think she was being sarcastic. However, children tend to take you literally, and because she told them it was OK, there was nothing she could do as long as they were school skirts.

A third mother said: Children also dont like injustice. The boys see the female teachers in sandals and nice cool skirts and tops while they are wearing long trousers and shoes and the older boys have to wear blazers. They just think its unfair that they cant wear shorts in this heat.

There were signs that the revolution might be spreading. The Guardian has heard of at least one more school in Wiltshire where one boy turned up in a skirt, although it did not go down quite so well with his friends.

And schoolboys were not the only ones making controversial dress choices because of the heat. Michael Wood, who works as a porter at Watford general hospital, claimed he was facing disciplinary action from his employers Medirest for rolling his trousers up to try to cool down. A spokesperson for the company declined to comment on the case, but said: The health and safety of our colleagues is always our number one priority.

What happened to summer school uniforms? Matthew Easter, managing director of the schoolwear supplier Trutex, said they had become less popular for reasons of economy. Its really up to the individual school to decide, but the headteacher is in a difficult position. A decade or so ago, summer wear was more popular, but theres been a change recently to try to make uniforms as economical as possible. Summer uniforms are only worn for a matter of weeks.

If parents havent bought uniform shorts, then some children may feel disadvantaged, so perhaps the decision in this case is simply down to fairness.

It may be that the weather will solve the problem for the school. The Exeter-based Met Office situated up the road from the school predicts pleasant, but not searing, temperatures over the coming week.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/jun/22/teenage-boys-wear-skirts-to-school-protest-no-shorts-uniform-policy


Duolingo launches paid subscriptions as it experiments with new ways to monetize its service

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Earlier this week, the popular language learning service Duolingo quietly introduced paid monthly subscriptions in its Android apps.

Subscribers get two benefits: theywont see ads in the app and they will be able to download lessons for offline use. In addition, there is also a feel-good aspect to this, as Duolingo highlights that subscribers to Duolingo Plus, as the subscription is called, will help millions around the world learn for free.

The new subscription service,which you can buy through an in-app purchase, currently costs $9.99 per month. Its live now on Android and will come to iOS in the future.

Its worth stressing that this subscription is completely optional and a company spokesperson told me that Duolingos learning content will always be free.

Update: a Duolingo spokesperson tells me that the company expects to break even (or come close to it) by the end of the year and that the company has a fully fleshed out monetization plan. We have updated the headline to reflect this.

About a year ago, Duolingo CEO Luis von Ahn announced that the companywould start experimenting with ads and optional in-app purchases to figure out how each would impact app usage and the financial health of the company. At the time, von Ahn said that Duolingo was spending about $42,000 per day on its servers, employees and other operating expenses, a number that has surely increased over the last year or so.

Subscribers will help keep language education free for millions of people around the world, von Ahn writes in this weeks announcement.

Ads in an educational app are always a difficult tradeoff between monetization and user experience because they are, by default, designed to take the user out of the app. Von Ahn acknowledged as much. I dont like ads any more than you do, but we need to test if a small non-intrusive ad at the end of a lesson makes people use Duolingo less. (We know this would take us a long way towards breaking even.), he wrote a year ago.

Now, however, it doesnt look like ads are going away anytime soon, because not seeing ads is, after all, one of the main benefits of paying for Duolingo Plus.

The original idea for monetizing Duolingo was to use the combined brainpower of its users to power a translation service. This service, however, remains in beta after all these years and the company doesnt really highlight it anymore (and as far as I can see, theres not even a link to it from its homepage at this point).

Duolingos mission is to provide free language education to the world. Having talked to von Ahn many times in the last few years, I know that hes extremely passionate about this. At the same time, though, Duolingo also took almost $84 million in venture funding since it launched in 2011 and those investors surely want to see a return.

Its worth noting that Duolingos move here feels a bit similar to that of Berlin-basedBabbel, the companys biggest competitor in Europe. Babbel, too, tried the ad model but found that it couldnt sustain its business through ads alone. In a last-minute pivot before running out of money, Babbel switched to a paid model and today it has hundreds of employees andruns a cash-flow positive operation. In all fairness, though, its mission wasnt to offer free language education to everyone, so it had far more freedom to pivot.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/04/21/duolingo-launches-paid-subscriptions-as-it-struggles-to-monetize-its-service/