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Weekends and holidays are dominated by notifications from colleagues about school, but I don’t feel able to opt out

It’s silly o’clock on a Sunday morning and I’m still in bed when I hear my phone ping with a WhatsApp notification. I take a look and groan. A colleague is asking if I know how we teach subtraction according to our mental calculations policy.

This is a regular occurrence – even at the weekend. Social media and messaging apps are a blessing and a curse for teachers. While it has broadened our horizons and inspired new ideas (thank you, Pinterest), it has also increased the intrusion of work into our personal lives. We are always contactable, and in many different ways.

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Celebrating LGBT History Month with my students has shown me how schools can drive long-term change for equality

When I was a teenager, no one in my school was openly gay. I felt isolated and hid my true identity. Students said “that’s so gay” without a moment’s thought, and without consequence. I don’t remember ever discussing LGBT+ topics, except in a lesson about STDs.

It was my experiences at school that fuelled my decision to become a teacher. LGBT+ young people still often struggle during their teenage years. Last year’s School Report from Stonewall and Cambridge University showed that some progress has been made since my school days. But the report highlights that almost half of all LGBT pupils face bullying and “frequently” hear homophobic, biphobic or transphobic slurs. More than two in five trans young people have tried to take their life.

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Cutting PE lessons to boost exam results is madness – especially as we now know physical activity aids academic performance

When I was growing up I routinely bunked PE lessons. I saw PE as optional – it was on the timetable, but no one seemed to care if you didn’t attend. PE was for sporty kids anyway, and I wasn’t one of them.

Times have changed. We now know so much more about the value of physical activity – for physical and mental wellbeing, to promote positive body image in women and girls, to help people with depression, to engender a healthy lifestyle from an early age, to sharpen concentration and academic performance, and even to tackle the gender pay gap (research shows that women who play sport are more likely to enjoy high-flying careers).

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Teenagers are falling below the expected reading level for their age – but good literacy is a key building block for all learning

In his first major interview since being appointed education secretary, Damian Hinds set out his vision for the future schools. Raising school standards, teacher retention and school budgets are rightly top of his to-do list. But a new report has uncovered another challenge brewing in our classrooms.

We have a persistent problem encouraging secondary school pupils to read challenging and age-appropriate books. The tenth annual What Kids Are Reading Report, which analysed the reading habits of almost one million school pupils from 4,364 schools that use the Accelerated Reader assessment programme, found that this is true across Britain and Ireland.

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Parents of West End actor Lilian Hardy, 12, are facing legal action from Westminster council

The parents of one of the child stars of the West End stage show Matilda are facing legal action in a row with their local council over their daughter’s home education.

Lilian Hardy, 12, who played the title role for six months last year and hopes to study English at Oxford, has never attended school. She has been educated at home throughout her life.

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In school fields and communities, pupils are learning about the fragility of nature – and restoring depleted environments

After the long slog of winter, pupils at Evelyn Community primary school in Merseyside are getting outside with a mission in mind: to count and record the number of different bird species in the school grounds. The challenge is part of the Big School’s Bird Watch, an event which last year involved 73,000 school children and their teachers.

But the children have been taking an active interest in the wildlife at their school for a while. Since creating a garden in an unused corner of their field more than two years ago, the pupils have attracted a variety of birds. They’ve planted wildflower seeds, created a vegetable plot, made bird nests, and learned about biodiversity. The school has a wicker bird hide and has bought binoculars to encourage bird spotting all year round.

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My pupils are resilient, loving and appreciative of what little support I can give them. But they deserve more

I’ve spent more than a decade working in primary schools in a deprived area of the UK. Some of the children we teach come from families living on the breadline, and they often miss out on things that some of us might take for granted. I’ve seen a pupil eat five packed lunches provided for free by the school because he was so hungry, and families scrape together handfuls of coppers and loose change to pay for school trips. In winter, I’ve taken a child to the supermarket to buy them a coat and shoes.

Related: Most children in UK's poorest areas now growing up in poverty

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North Lanarkshire proposal comes as teachers report seeing more malnourished pupils

A Scottish council plans to provide free meals to children who need them 365 days a year, in a scheme that will be the first of its kind in the UK if approved at a council meeting next Tuesday.

Labour-controlled North Lanarkshire council will pilot the “Food 365” programme in Coatbridge during the Easter break, with the expectation of expanding it to cover the whole of the council area in time for the summer holidays.

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My world was rocked at the age of 12 – but my extraordinary English teacher helped me through it. Now we’re reconnecting

I was 12 years old, and my mum had just died from cancer. It was horrific to watch that happen to someone. My dad had an alcohol problem that mum had been managing all these years – suddenly he had a good reason to drink, and no one to stop him any more. He hit the bottle hard.

I went from being quite a high achieving student to being in the bottom quarter for English. But among all this, there was my English teacher, Miss Ward, who was so supportive. She wasn’t trained in mental health: she just saw someone who was distressed and unhappy, but who also had potential. She changed my world.

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If we want children to value art, we must give them access to it early on in life. Here’s how primary schools can make space for creativity

It’s no secret that arts subjects are increasingly being deprioritised in many schools, and that there’s a fall in the number of pupils taking arts subjects at GCSE. Yet the arts matter, not only to individual learning but to the UK as a whole: the creative industries currently contribute £84.1bn a year to the economy.

Enthusiasm for art should really start at primary school – by the time students reach year seven, attitudes about what matters in education will have already been established. The national curriculum for art and design is sparse and leaves a lot open to interpretation, meaning that provision varies greatly between schools. With pressures on pupil progress for reading, writing and maths, it’s not uncommon for a whole term to pass without one art lesson.

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