MAPPED: Department of Education officials spent £156,000 on Coventry hotels

Department of Education officials stayed at Ramada Hotel, Coventry

An expensive sleep: Department of Education officials stayed at Ramada Hotel and a Premier Inn 

Department of Education officials spent more than £156,000 on Coventry hotels for the financial year 2012-2013.

The figures were obtained thanks to a written question to Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, by Conservative MP Priti Patal in the House of Commons.

Gove revealed on 25 April that 1,464 of his department’s employees stayed in hotels within the UK and 52 officials stayed in hotels outside of the UK for the financial year 2012-2013. Read More…

Intern Stories: ‘I created my own start-up while interning’

By Ian SIlvera

Stuart Elleray is a final year business management student at the University of Surrey.  The 22-year-old hails from Surrey and travels into university every day to complete his studies. Similarly, he was able to commute into London while completing his digital marketing internship, his first and only placement to date

Even though living so close to his university is advantageous – especially when it comes to saving on living costs – I wondered if Stuart felt like he was missing out on the infamous ‘student experience’.

He said: “Yeah, it saves costs and that’s important as students aren’t wealthy. I feel I do miss out a bit, but I lived on campus in first year then decided to live at home.”

Stuart added: “As long as I watch the train times or stay round a friend’s house I can go out and party.”

The football enthusiast was attracted to a business degree because he had always enjoyed the subject. At secondary school, for instance, he studied three A-levels in business related disciplines. Read More…

Intern Stories: ‘I had to sleep on a stranger’s floor’

By Ian Silvera

Libby Page is a 20-year-old fashion journalism student, author and a campaigns and policy co-ordinator at Intern Aware. Libby is in her final year at the London College of Fashion and has decided to concentrate on unpaid internships in the fashion industry for her documentary driven dissertation.

The young journalist was first attracted to the subject area because of her own experiences. Libby, originally from a small town in Dorset, found that she had been very lucky undertaking internships mostly in London thanks to her friends and family. The baking enthusiast wants other to share the same opportunities she has, whatever their economic background.

Libby said: “I’ve carried out seven internships all together. Even though none of them have been longer than a month, I’ve been able to rely on friends in London to help me survive on the unpaid internship circuit.”

Libby’s first placement was at a small, local paper based in London. As a keen 16-year-old, she told me that she had an enjoyable and exciting experience in the capital city. The young woman said: “It was great. I was even able to interview celebrities. One night I attended the BAFTAs and got to meet Rupert Everett on the red carpet.”

She added: “Because I was so young and inexperienced I didn’t know what to do at the time, but the other journalists pointed me in the right direction and explained that it was my turn to interview Rupert. I didn’t think too much about because I was just thrust into the interview.” Read More…

A lesson from Superstorm Sandy: How to find sources using social media

By Ian Silvera

Getting sources in the middle of a disaster zone was once a problem, now, in a world where an extraordinary amount of people own smart phones, you can connect to victims instantaneously from almost anywhere on the globe.

But what software is on offer to help reporters find those affected? Well, simple searches on Twitter or social networking site Facebook may yield some contacts. However, you have to wade through an endless list of ‘junk leads’.  This time consuming process means that you will lose out against your competitors.

Another, and more favourable approach, would be to use a piece of technology like TweetDeck. The social media dashboard allows users to scan through tens of Facebook messages and Tweets. The application will speed up the process of filtering through mass Tweets and statuses, but what if you were able to geo-locate social media users? Surely that would be a much more efficient method? Well, the good news is that there are numerous websites out there that offer this opportunity.

Read more here.

Internship stories: ‘We’re pushing back the tide’

By Ian Silvera

Gus Baker is the co-founder of pressure group Intern Aware. The organisation, by lobbying politicians and evangelising the intern issue, calls for the reform of Britain’s internship system and asks the government to enforce National Minimum Wage (NMW) laws so ‘interns are paid the wages they deserve’.

Intern Aware was unofficially formed in early 2010 when University of Bristol graduates Gus Baker and Ben Lyons formed an anti-unpaid internship group on social networking site Facebook to raise awareness of the problem among their friends.

The campaigners have pushed back the popularity of unpaid internships in sections of our society like Westminster, but still face some stiff resistance from the ‘creative’ industries.

But how did it all begin? When did Gus and Ben come up with the idea for Intern Aware? Well, Gus told me that Intern Aware had its genesis in the outrage he felt toward our nation’s acceptance of unpaid internships.

“We just decided to do something about it,” the politics graduate explained. “It grew organically really – there were a lot of people out there who were really annoyed about working for free.”

He added: “As far as marketing, we didn’t have to do much. We just pushed it between our friendship networks.

“The group hit a nerve. It became very popular and led to Intern Aware’s more official inception.” Read More…

Internship stories: ‘Going back home was like going back in time’

 By Ian Silvera

Amy is a public relations executive working and living in London, who hails from a small village in Northern Ireland. Before landing her current job, she carried out three internships – one paid and the others unpaid – in the capital city.

The 22-year-old decided to pursue a career in PR because she felt that her strengths lay in writing and communicating. Amy ruled-out another plausible vocation – journalism – because she thought it to be ‘too cut-throat’.

A University of Nottingham graduate, this determined young women was comfortable with living away from home for long periods of time and quickly adapted to a busy city lifestyle. But what drew her to England in the first place?

Amy said: “My main motivation for coming to here is that the universities are better.

“Most of my Northern Irish friends stayed and studied there,” Amy explained, “they were sort-of bribed – given cars to stay. For them, moving no longer was a priority, but some have travelled to Australia”

 She added: “I wanted to leave. Going back home was like going back in time.

 “Also the economy was really bad, so I thought it would be a good idea to get out. There weren’t many jobs around.” Read More…

Opinion: Comprehensive schools have failed the working classes

By Ian Silvera

David Willetts has now joined a long list of politicians who refuse to admit the obvious. The comprehensive system has failed.

I was not surprised when the universities minister proposed that universities in England should “treat white working-class boys the same as ethnic minorities”.

In 2010, Lord Mandelson, then New Labour business secretary,argued that top universities should lower their entry requirements for disadvantaged applicants by as much as two A-level grades. He openly queried: “Why are we still making only limited progress in widening access to higher education to young people from poorer backgrounds?”

It seems that Willetts has come to the same, deluded conclusion: schools should not improve their performance, but universities should lower their grades.

Read more here.

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