Fewer children cycling to school despite drive to curb car use

Three in 10 Dutch children travel to school by car despite a series of campaigns encouraging them and their parents to take the bike, according to new research. Research agency SOAB found that the number has increased in recent years from 26% even though schools and safety organisations such as Veilig Verkeer Nederland have urged parents to escort younger children by bike. The trend has been partly attributed to the increase in the number of families where both parents work, leaving them with no option but to drop their children off by car on their way to the office, De Telegraaf reported. As well as the health implications, the increased car usage leads to congestion and parking problems at the school gates. Ellen van der Ligt, head teacher at 't Praathuis primary school in Culemborg, said: 'Last week we had the children handing out flyers to motorists. From next week the police will be out enforcing the rules. People who breach the parking regulations will be fined.' Although some parents have valid reasons for using the car, in many cases it becomes the convenient option, said traffic psychologist Gerard Tertoolen. 'It's the idea that we're so horrendously busy. We want to use every minute productively and see cycling or walking to school as dead time.' As well as enforcement measures, some schools have introduced incentives to reward children who go by bike. The cycling4school scheme enables children to earn points by walking or cycling which they can then spend on activities for the class. Ineke Spape, of SOAB, said Breda had cut car use by 10% simply by encouraging children to take the initiative. 'They would rather cycle than sit on the back seat of the car and have been urging their parents to leave the car behind,' she said.  More >

MPs call for change on primary school test

Teachers should not take a final decision on what sort of secondary school their 12-year-old pupils should go to until after they have taken their school leaving tests, MPs from the four coalition parties said on Wednesday. Since 2015, the role of teachers in deciding what sort of school pupils go to at the age of 12 has been boosted and that of national tests, such as the Cito, downplayed. However, MPs now say it is illogical that pupils are given their formal secondary school advice in February but don't take the tests until April or May. In addition, teachers are unlikely to change their recommendations in line with the test outcomes, MPs say. Last year, it emerged that primary school teachers are being pressured by parents to change their recommendations about what sort of secondary school children should go to. The survey of 2,000 teachers by the CNV trade union showed three-quarters had faced pressure from parents to recommend children went to a more academic secondary school. Dutch children are selected for one of three streams at the age of 12: pre-university (vwo), pre-college (havo) and vocational training (vmbo). MPs are divided about whether the tests should be brought forward or the recommendations published later, broadcaster NOS said.  More >

Too few teachers for information sciences

A shortage of teachers is increasing pressure on schools to scrap information sciences in the last two years of secondary education, the Financieele Dagblad reports. The number of schools offering information sciences as an exam subject has gone down from 300 to 260 schools, figures from government education agency DUO quoted by the paper show. ‘Social sciences is about more than programming alone,’ Amsterdam university lecturer Derk Pik told the FD. ‘It’s about social media, information processing, privacy and encryption. Every secondary school student needs to know the basics.’ Schools have had problems attracting information science teachers for a long time, and the problem has now been labelled ‘permanent’, with 23 full time jobs unfilled, a number that will go up to 96 in the next decade, according to recent research. If more schools wanted to include information sciences the number would be even higher. Teacher training colleges are finding it impossible to hold on to graduates because they cannot compete with business. ‘Every company involved with information sciences wants them. We have three master students a year who are going into teaching and it’s not much better at other universities,’ the paper quotes Jan van der Meij of the University of Twente as saying. Although initiatives are being developed to attract people from business into education, the problem is not going to go away, said professor of information sciences didactics Erik Barendsen of the Open University. ‘I’m seeing creative solutions where schools offer distance learning to their students but the coming years will be difficult. We can’t simply conjure up teachers out of thin air,’ he told the FD.  More >

Dutch scientists popular with peers: study

The Netherlands is in the top five countries whose scientists are most often quoted by their peers, Dutch scientific institute Rathenau has found. The 2016 figures show a top rating for Dutch scientists in all disciplines, including social sciences, which in 2011 was dealt a blow by the large-scale fraudulent research by Tilburg university’s Diederik Stapel. The percentage of sociology quotes between 2003 and 2016 is 26% higher than those from other countries. Although the number of quotes used by fellow scientists is seen as an indication of quality, ‘the data show a development but do not give a complete picture of all the aspects that are relevant for the quality of the articles,’ Rathenau researcher Alexandra Vennekens told the Volkskrant. In the last analysis, which looked at the period from 2000 to 2003, the Dutch came in seventh, which was below the global average. Since then the number of published articles has increased and with it the number of quotations. One reason for the success of social sciences may be increased funding although ‘an extra euro doesn’t directly translate to better quality,’ Vennekens is quoted a saying. Professor of innovation studies at Utrecht university Koen Frenken, himself one of the most quoted scientists, said the Dutch perform particularly well in the interdisciplinary field of new technology and its effect on society, such as the influence of initiatives like  Snappcar and Airbnb. The professionalism of social sciences and proper funding also play a role, he said. ‘Moreover, from the mid-1990s onward Dutch scientists have presented their research in English while scientists in other countries continued to publish in their own language for longer,’ he told the Volkskrant.  More >

Delft 'intensifies' industry partnerships

Delft University of Technology is to work more intensively with eight key companies in an effort to drive innovation, the Financieele Dagblad reported on Monday. Heineken, civil engineering group VolkerWessels and state-owned railway company NS are among the eight firms which have signed up to the first year of the scheme, flagged X!Delft. The companies are paying €150,000 to the university to be included om the project and financial institutions Aegon, Rabobank and LeasePlan are also on the partner list, the FD said. The Heineken research, for example, is looking at ways to robotise the packing line and 'streamline the work done by operators'. The Aegon partnership focuses on chat bots, the project website says. Intensify The university says it wants to intensify the relationship to the extent that people ‘ no longer know if they are employed by the university or a company,’ director Tim van der Hagen told the FD. The concept, spokesman Paul Althuis told BNR radio, is to bring together researchers from both industry and university under one roof. Companies will benefit financially from research they have funded, he said, when asked who would profit from the alliance. Fundamental research, free from commercial involvement, will continue to be the bedrock of the university, he said.  More >

Schools urged not to replace sick teachers

Trade unions have called on head teachers to highlight the problem of staff shortages by not arranging cover for teachers who fall sick this week. The AVS and CNV Schoolleiders unions say schools should make parents aware of the issue by sending children home or giving them a lesson-free day rather than finding another member of staff to teach them. 'We are seeing that senior staff are finding it increasingly difficult to fill vacancies. Soon there won't be anyone there at 7am to take the phone call from a teacher who is ill and arrange a replacement. We need to send out a strong signal.' The unions published the results of a survey of around 1400 head teachers and senior staff, which found that schools are unable to replace a teacher who is off sick in one in three cases. Another third are resolved by calling in a retired teacher, a head teacher or a teaching assistant. The unions say around 700 schools are prepared to suspend classroom replacements, although some head teachers argued it was unfair on parents. Patricia Meyer, of the De Flierefluiter school in Zwaag, said she supported the cause but did not want to send children home: 'It's better to plan actions like this in advance, because no parent can make alternative arrangements at 8.30am. Parents aren't responsible for this problem.' A spokesman for the AVS said: 'We note that many schools find it difficult to do this to parents, but if we don't do it we'll soon have a much bigger problem. Society and parents need to understand that this unpopular decision is likely to ensure that we retain enough senior teaching staff for the long term.'  More >