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With five deaths and 247 confirmed cases, California now has the third largest number of cases in the nation

Response to the coronavirus outbreak drastically escalated in California this week, with officials working to curb the spread by canceling school, postponing festivals and prohibiting large gatherings.

As of Friday, the virus had killed five people in California, with 247 cases confirmed now the third largest number of cases in the nation, after Washington and New York.

Los Angeles unified school district, the second largest school district in the country, announced Friday that it would be closing its more than 1,300 schools for two weeks, a move that will affect more than 734,000 students and their families.

Los Angeles unified serves a high-needs population, and our schools provide a social safety net for our children, Austin Beutner, the superintendent of the LA unified school district, said in a statement. The closing of any school has real consequences beyond the loss of instructional time. This is not an easy decision and not one we take lightly.

San Diego unified school district, Oakland unified school district and Santa Clara unified school district followed suit by closing their schools for three weeks, just as San Francisco unified school district announced it would on Thursday. Other districts across California, including in Santa Cruz and Berkeley, are closing their schools because of coronavirus.

Closing schools deeply affects so many of our families who depend on schools to provide a safe place for their children, food, and many other services, Kyla Johnson-Trammell, the superintendent of Oakland schools, said in a statement. School sites have been and will continue to be crafting continuity of education plans, with each school preparing to provide assignments to students.

And across the University of California system, administrators suspended in-person classes, pivoting to remote instruction and canceling campus events. University housing remained open, but on some campuses, students were encouraged to go home.

Meanwhile, state public health experts released recommendations Wednesday night calling for large gatherings of 250 people or more to be rescheduled or canceled. They also recommended that venues that do not allow social distancing of 6ft per person to cancel or postpone events, as well as any gathering that brings people together in a single space at one time, be it an auditorium or a conference room.

Changing our actions for a short period of time will save the life of one or more people you know, Gavin Newsom, Californias governor, said in a statement. Thats the choice before us.

The recommendation came after San Francisco and Santa Clara county fully banned all gatherings of 1,000 or more. On Friday, London Breed, the San Francisco mayor, went a step further and fully banned all gatherings of 100 or more.

San Francisco will also close its public libraries and recreation centers to the public starting Monday, and open emergency childcare and youth centers in the wake of the public school closures.

Earlier in the week, the famed music festival Coachella, known for drawing hundreds of thousands to the California desert, was postponed to October. Soon after, Disney agreed to close its California parks until the end of March. Disney made the right call in the interest of public health and agreed to shut down their California parks, Newsom said. Expect more announcements like this shortly.

The week began with officials scrambling to figure out what to do with the Grand Princess cruise ship, which had been stuck off the coast of California after 21 on board tested positive for coronavirus. The ship originally destined for San Francisco ended up docked in the larger and more industrial port of Oakland, where it remained Friday after a slow five days of disembarking2,450 passengers to quarantine locations elsewhere. According to the cruise line, 14 international passengers were still on the ship, awaiting transportation to their home countries.

A lack of testing capacity has caused an outcry nationwide, and California made strides on that front this week. Experts at the University of California San Diego Health, UC San Francisco Health and UC Los Angeles Health can now offer their own in-house testing for coronavirus, taking place in hospital laboratories for patients who meet clinical recommendations. UC Davis Health and UC Irvine Health will be able to begin in-house testing within the next week or so as well, said the UC Health spokesman Michael Crawford.

Meanwhile, Kaiser Permanente rolled out a pilot program for drive-up testing in northern California, allowing for patients who meet criteria for testing and have a doctors order and an appointment to get tested with minimal exposure.

California had the capacity to conduct 8,227 tests as of Thursday, Newsom said in a press conference. But many of the testing kits provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were missing the key components to conducts the analyses.

The test kits do not include in every case the RNA extraction kits, the reagents, the chemicals, the solutions that are components of the broader tests, he said. This is imperative that the federal government and labs across the United States, not just state of California, get the benefit of all the ingredients, the components of the test. I am surprised this is not more of the national conversation.

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Lander elementary in Ohio was treated to a concert after the schools principal made a video of the kids singing Old Town Road

The students of Lander elementary school in Mayfield Heights, Ohio, are a remarkably energetic bunch, as they demonstrated in a viral video last week. Today, however, their enthusiasm bubbled over into jubilant, life-affirming insanity thanks to a surprise show by the rapper Lil Nas X.

Last week, the schools principal made the kids into social media sensations by tweeting a clip in which they sang along, in a bouncy manner, to his hit Old Town Road.

Lil Nas X saw the infectious clip and was inevitably moved. He made a generous offer:

nope (@LilNasX)

when they want a free show

May 23, 2019

Felecia Evans, the principal, took the musician up on it, but kept the plan completely a secret, she told BuzzFeed news.

Lil Nas X appeared in the schools gym after a magic show, prompting squeals of delight from the children on par with early Beatlemania, or perhaps a nuclear blast. The real magic, however, came when the rapper and the kids lifted their voices together in song. Complex magazine captured the results in a video equally moving and hilarious, showcasing both the power of music and the decibel level achievable by a room full of small individuals who dont care what anyone thinks.

Also, wow, those kids really know the words.

Complex (@Complex)

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In 1957, Dorothy Counts endured a taunting mob to integrate a North Carolina school. Sixty-one years later, her work is being undone

One afternoon in early June, graduation week in Charlotte, North Carolina, Dorothy Counts-Scoggins answers the landline phoneand waits for an update on the white people who want to flee the local school system she was the first to integrate.

What happened? she asks me, her voice low, as if she already knows the answer.

Counts-Scoggins is 76 and lives in the west Charlotte neighborhood where she grew up. The black and white photo that reshaped schools in the south adorns her wall. In the frame, it is 1957. Shes 15 and walking toward a previously all-white high school, her chin up and shoulders back, flanked by hunched-over white kids following her menacingly, their spittle soaked into the fabric of her checkered dress.

The next morning, she was on the front page of the New York Times under the headline Soldiers and Jeering Whites Greet Negro Students. James Baldwin saw the image and said it compelled him to return to the United States from France to write about civil rights in the south.

There was unutterable pride, tension and anguish in that girls face as she approached the halls of learning, with history jeering at her back, he later said. It made me furious. It filled me with both hatred and pity. And it made me ashamed. Some one of us should have been there with her.

Dorothy Counts-Scoggins poses for a portrait outside of the school she attempted to integrate on 4 September 1957. Photograph: Logan Cyrus for the Guardian

Right there in the frame, the next generation of white hate was stalking the next generation of black dignity, right when the civil rights movement was starting to spread.

Counts-Scoggins went on to finish high school and college quietly, but then she dedicated her career to public education in her home city as a mentor, speaker and childcare services administrator. Her lifes mission, she has said over and over, is to make sure no child ever goes through what I went through.

But 60 years later, children are going through it again.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system is now the most segregated in North Carolina: 55% of students would need to change schools for the district to achieve full integration. Charlotte welcomes 60 new residents every day; its allure is not country music or Spanish moss, as in other booming southern cities, but something subtle and less hip: the city is simply a comfortable place to live and raise a family. The diverse economy, with textiles and banking and farming, held up better than most during the Great Depression, keeping the population growing even in the worst years.

For all these reasons, Charlottes schools have been a weathervane for Americas relationship with public education for decades.

In 1957, it was Counts-Scoggins, striding toward Harding High School in a city that viewed itself as progressive, surrounded by shouts of Go home, nigger. In 1964, it was Darius Swann, a black six-year-old denied admission to the integrated Seversville elementary inciting the lawsuit that led to a supreme court ruling in favor of bussing as a means to desegregate.

In the late 1990s, it was William Capacchione, a white parent, arguing that his daughter was shut out of a magnet program because she wasnt black, resulting in a federal district judge ordering CMS to stop using race in student assignments.

And in 2018, its four dove-white suburbs asking for more choice.

The now famous photo of Dorothy Counts-Scoggins hangs on the wall of the den at her home in West Charlotte. Photograph: Logan Cyrus for the Guardian

A bill before the state legislature, HB 514, would allow these towns, each more than 77% white, to develop their own charter schools. If it becomes law, town residents would have priority admission, and kids from the rest of the county would be able to enroll only if seats remain.

Its part of a deconstruction of school systems thats already occurred in other cities Detroit and New Orleans, for instance and a trend that the US secretary of education Betsy DeVos would like to see continue nationally. Congress rejected many of her spending proposals this year, but DeVoss goals were clear when she suggested adding $1bn for school choice programs and vouchers while cutting the US Department of Education by 5%.

Supporters of the North Carolina bill argue that charters provide students and parents with more options than traditional public schools systems, while expressing little concern for kids who may be left behind in a shrinking district.

For Counts-Scoggins, it feels like another thread being pulled out of her lifes work. Shes spent 61 years trying to walk out of that photo. She prefers to be called Dot Counts-Scoggins now, but its a regular occurrence for something to remind her of a time when her name went around the world as Dorothy Counts. Shes a part of a generation of civil rights activists who endured the abuses of the 1950s and 1960s, only to see a surge of repeat offenses late in life. Shes a living lesson, unlearned.

To her, this isnt the standard debate over whether charters are as effective as traditional schools. Its about wealthy towns crouching behind charters to pass a law that builds walls around white zip codes.

The North Carolina general assembly convened on 16 May; by Memorial Day, it was clear that the Republican majority had enough votes to make HB 514 law.

When she answers her phone that Wednesday in June, Counts-Scoggins is prepared for news that her telltale southern city will become an example once more this time of a country chiseling away at the public education system for which she suffered.

Did they pass it? she asks.

Yes, I tell her.

The line goes silent for several seconds before she speaks again.

I just cant believe Charlotte is getting to that point, she says. Its nothing but racism. You know that and I know that.

Unlike Counts-Scogginss, my kindergarten class photo had 13 white kids and 12 black kids. I came through public schools in the 1980s in rural southern Maryland, where my mother was a first-grade teacher. Although we had our problems, our classes taught us to revere civil rights heroes. I moved to Charlotte six years ago to become editor of the city magazine, a job that introduced me to many of the regions leaders. I was more nervous to meet Dorothy Counts than any of them.

Weve since become friends. Ive grown close to her brother, Howard, too. Counts-Scoggins laughs and says that shes adopted me and my wife, Laura, who came through CMS, as part of her extended family.

When Counts-Scoggins tells me she sees racism, I dont question it.

Photograph: Logan Cyrus for the Guardian

As kids, she and her three brothers spent summers at their grandparents house in the tiny town of Rowland, North Carolina, two hours east of Charlotte. Her grandfather was a barber and her grandmother a seamstress. Theyd stopped for gas one day in the early 1900s, only to be approached by two white men who, unprompted, offered to help her grandfather set up a shop and business. Racism seemed like a distant affliction to Counts-Scoggins as she passed the summers lying on the floor, watching her grandmothers foot thump on the sewing machine pedal.

The summer of 1957 was different. She was one of two Charlotte-area girls chosen to join 1,800 Presbyterians at the National Youth Assembly at Grinnell College in Iowa. As she unpacked her clothes, her roommate for the week, a white girl from Illinois, stared at her. Counts-Scoggins asked if something was wrong, and the girl admitted that she had never been face-to-face with a black person.

The girl asked Counts-Scoggins if she had a tail. She asked her if her skin rubbed off. Counts-Scoggins stopped her.

Believe it or not, you and I are alike in a lot of ways, Counts-Scoggins told her. They were friends by the end of the week.

A month later, her parents learned that she and three children at other schools would be the first black students to step into all-white public schools in Charlotte.

A group named the White Citizens Council chose Harding as the place they would protest. The temperature was already in the 80s on 4 September 1957, when the mob filled two city blocks on the west side of uptown.

At about the same hour, 750 miles away in Little Rock, Arkansas, armed state militia stopped another 15-year-old, Elizabeth Eckford, as she clutched a notebook to her chest while trying to enter Little Rock Central high school with eight other black students. No troops greeted Counts-Scoggins, but the crowd grew angrier each step she took. White boys in buzz cuts and plaid shirts filed in behind her and made faces that would remain stuck that way in photos. Others threw pebbles at her from behind a tree. One woman, a parent, skittered up behind the crowd and hollered: Spit on her, girls! Spit on her!

Inside, teenagers tugged on her dress and hurled erasers at her head, harassment that was unofficially sanctioned by teachers and administrators who didnt stop it.

It remains Charlottes most disgraceful moment. Even the woman who shouted Spit on her, girls! later quit the White Citizens Council, saying: I am ashamed of the white race.

That night, though, Counts-Scoggins thought about the white girl in Iowa who asked if she had a tail.

If they just get to know me, she told her parents, theyll like me.

But the Harding kids didnt like her. The next Wednesday after school, boys heaved rocks painted like oranges through her brothers car window. That night, she sat on the couch next to her parents as they told a news crew that it was too dangerous. They sent her to live the rest of the year with relatives in Philadelphia. Two weeks later, then president Dwight Eisenhower ordered federal troops to Arkansas to escort the Little Rock Nine into Central high.

On 3 September 1957, the day before schools opened, then North Carolina governor Luther Hodges asked for voluntary separate school attendance. Basically, the idea was that black parents should choose to keep their kids in black schools for their own good, of course.

Can these few citizens seriously believe that they are helping remove any real or fancied stigma from their race by placing their children in schools formerly attended only by white children? Hodges said. Where are the Negro leaders of wisdom and courage to tell their people these things? Have they none?

School choice has advanced since then. But every iteration is underscored by a reluctance to commit to a public education system that benefits everyone. Throughout the 1960s, small, private Christian schools popped up across rural North Carolina especially in the eastern part of the state, where some families still control land granted by King Charles II as white parents shuffled their kids out of integrated public systems.

North Carolinas legislature had bipartisan support to open the state to charter schools public schools that run independently and are subsidized by private funding with a 100-school cap in 1996. The appeal of charter schools seemed straightforward tax money goes to the school instead of inflated administrations, and instructors have freedom from standardized testing. A decade later, the results were mixed.

As with most things that are inconclusive, charters became a partisan issue with plenty of gray space for politicians to manipulate. Republicans say they inspire innovation; Democrats say they undermine public systems.

One example is in rural Northampton county, North Carolina, where 26% of residents live in poverty and more than 70% of the student population is black. The charter school there, KIPP Gaston College Prep, consistently scores high. But the other 80% of the students in the county remain in underperforming traditional schools. A charter-school advocate, likely Republican, would note the single success; an opponent, likely Democrat, would note the overall failure.

The book I Am Not Your Negro: A Major Motion Picture Directed by Raoul Peck sits on an ottoman inside Dorothy Counts-Scoggins home. Photograph: Logan Cyrus for the Guardian

Dorothy Counts graduated from an all-black girls high school, earned a degree from the historically black Johnson C Smith University, moved to New York, got married, and then came home as Dot Counts-Scoggins to live in a predominantly white suburb named Matthews.

By then, the Swann v Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education decision had helped make CMS a national model for desegregation. TheCharlotte Observer called it the citys proudest accomplishment. But not all parents were happy.

A woman knocked on Counts-Scogginss door one day, upset that her kids were being bussed from Matthews to a school in a predominantly black neighborhood. When the woman held out a petition she was circulating, Counts-Scoggins said: Youve come to the wrong house. I dont think you know who I am.

Parents like that eventually ended bussing in 1999, rocking the demographic makeup of the district. Within 15 years, a third of CMS schools were segregated by poverty, and half were segregated by race.

In September 2016, Charlottes inequities received national attention during a weeklong string of protests following the police shooting of Keith Scott, a black man, in a north Charlotte apartment complex.

One cannot disentangle the state-sanctioned school resegregation that poor black students in Charlotte experience from the police killing of a black man waiting for his son to get off the bus from elementary school, Clint Smith wrote in the New Yorker.

Eight months later, CMS took the first major policy action after the protests. The board approved a modest student reassignment plan that would affect only about 10% of the districts 147,000 students. No children in Matthews would have to switch schools, but the mere threat of it made people there skittish.

State representative Bill Brawley, a Matthews Republican, introduced HB 514 that month.

Supporters say its not about race. They point to things like last years $922m school construction bond package that included little for the northern suburbs. [HB 514] gives us an option to add capacity should CMS opt not to, Huntersville mayor John Aneralla told me in May. They will not add capacity unless pushed.

The school board responded to HB514 in late August by doing the opposite, passing a measure to block future construction in the four suburbs unless they agree to a 15-year moratorium on municipal charters.

Regardless, opponents like Counts-Scoggins see capacity as an ornament hanging on a tree of a different concern, one more like what then-Matthews mayor Jim Taylor told the Charlotte Observer when the bill was introduced.

I am pleased with the new proposed student assignment plan but the concern I have is that student assignment will come up again, Taylor said in 2017. We will be fine today, but there is no guarantee for the future.

In 2006, Counts-Scoggins opened an email from a white man named Woody Cooper, admitting that he was one of the kids in the photo. He wanted to apologize.

They met for lunch at the now 67-year-old Open Kitchen restaurant near uptown. In the 1950s, white teenagers could eat in the restaurants dining room, but black teenagers ordered to-go plates from the back window. Cooper asked Counts-Scoggins if she could forgive him. I forgave you a long time ago, she said. This is an opportunity for us to do some things for our children and grandchildren.

They agreed to share their story with former Charlotte Observer columnist Tommy Tomlinson. The piece ran on the 50th anniversary of Counts-Scogginss walk, and the state press association named it the best story in North Carolina that year. From there Counts-Scoggins and Cooper did as many speaking engagements and interviews as they could.

Cooper got cancer a couple of years later. On a Wednesday in September 2010, Counts-Scoggins drove to a Huntersville hospice facility to say goodbye. She sat with him for two hours. Cooper never opened his eyes. She kissed him on the forehead and left. The next morning, Cooper s wife, Judy, called to say he was gone.

Dot, I think he was waiting for you, Judy said.

Counts-Scoggins has always been there. Shes told her story thousands of times all over the country. Shes a mentor at a high-poverty school. Shes part of the Womens Inter-Cultural Exchange, an organization that builds trust across race and culture. This September, shell receive the United Negro College Funds Maya Angelou award for lifetime achievement. Next spring, shell be surrounded by children of all colors on a one-mile Unity Walk that will end at the old Harding high school.

But instead of talking about how far weve come, she talks now about recognizing mistakes from the past as they pop up again today.

In 2016, there were the Charlotte protests after a police shooting. Last year, there were white supremacists terrorizing Charlottesville, only a few hours north.

And then there was an event this spring, one that made headlines only in her family. Counts-Scogginss great-nephew, a brilliant fifth-grader who spends as much time with her as she did her grandparents, came home from school one day and said that a teacher told him that slavery wasnt all bad.

She called the school and the administration and anybody whod listen.

What gives him the right to talk to any child about slavery like that? she tells me. I did not think after all these years Id still be fighting this.

Michael Graff is a writer in Charlotte

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Choice of Thomass Battersea makes four-year-old prince the first direct royal heir to be educated south of the river in London

Prince George has started school; a royal enrolment that has upped the desirability of properties in the well-heeled environs of the south-west London prep school chosen to tutor the four-year-old.

Plans for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to accompany their firstborn on his first day were changed due to her recently announced pregnancy and the severe morning sickness she has been experiencing. Instead the duke did the school run solo.

A crowd of well-wishers had gathered outside the school gate to watch. The young prince arrived shortly before 8.50am and was driven through a side entrance and a security gate closed behind them.

The third in line to the throne arrived for his first day at 18,000-a-year Thomass Battersea, where he will learn to be kind, acquire confidence, leadership and humility and not have a best friend to prevent other children having hurt feelings.

Holding his dads hand and looking a little apprehensive, George walked from the car and then had a formal handshake with Helen Haslem, head of lower school. the duke was holding his sons school bag.

It was a low-level arrival as far as media were concerned. Unlike Williams first day, which was witnessed by a bank of photographers, the fiercely protective Cambridges stipulated only one TV camera and one photographer would be there to capture the moment of Georges first day.

The newest and most famous pupil, who will be known as George Cambridge, was escorted into the reception class.

Kitted out in his John Lewis uniform (also available at Peter Jones in Sloane Square) winter and summer uniforms, red art smock, and PE kit including black ballet shoes total more than 365 the young prince can look forward to a broad education.

Prince George arrives with the Duke of Cambridge at Thomass Battersea in London. Photograph: Kensington Palace/PA

Along with maths, English and science, the curriculum includes classes in understanding the world, expressive arts and design and communication and language. Art, ballet, drama, ICT, French, music, and PE are all taught from day one.

If, like his great-uncle Edward, he inclines towards thespianism, the school performs eight different productions and a nativity play every year, and has its own sound and lighting crew. Any musical leanings will be encouraged enthusiastically through weekly concerts and summer and winter galas.

He may, of course, prefer to just charge around the rooftop playground, with climbing frames and stunning views across the river Thames and Battersea Park.

Ben Thomas, principal of Thomass London Day School, who was headteacher at Thomass Battersea for 18 years, said he hoped George would learn to be himself.

The whole aim of these precious early years of education is to give children that confidence in who they are. So we are not going to try and mould him into any kind of particular person and we wouldnt do that with any of our pupils.

I hope he will have the confidence to be himself with all his quirks and his idiosyncrasies and characteristics.

The choice of Thomass Battersea makes him the first direct royal heir to be educated south of the river, but then he is only the third-generation heir to attend public school.

His father, the Duke of Cambridge, attended Wetherby school in Notting Hill, west London, gaily waving to photographers on his first day, and leaving the establishment with the distinction of winning the Grunfield Cup for the child with the best swimming style.

Diana, Princess of Wales, following her sons Prince Harry (right), then five, and Prince William, then seven, on Harrys first day at the Wetherby school in Notting Hill. Photograph: Ron Bell/PA

His paternal grandfather, the Prince of Wales, then the Duke of Cornwall, did not start at Hill House school, Knightsbridge, until the age of eight. On his first day, he painted a picture. Breathless newspaper reports, based on the imaginative accounts of witnesses, described it variously as a red and blue seascape, a green ship going under Tower Bridge, or the royal yacht Britannia. One thing is clear, on his first day at school the Duke of Cornwall painted a picture, the Manchester Guardian reported.

With just 560 boys and girls between the ages of four and 13, Thomass Battersea school, in a Grade II-listed building, parts of which date to 1700, has a ballet room, science labs, a pottery room, two libraries and a one-acre playground with AstroTurf.

Morning snacks include organic milk, freshly baked pain aux raisins and wholewheat breadsticks. For lunch, pupils are promised freshly cooked meals which, whenever possible, include organic meat, vegetables and dairy, all of which grandpapa Charles will undoubtedly approve.

According to the Good Schools Guide, it has a wide-ranging mix of international parents, with 19 different foreign languages spoken at home. Competitive and oversubscribed, it is looking for children who have a measure of confidence, are responsive, sociable, and with a light in their eyes.

It is busy and slightly chaotic and for cosmopolitan parents who want the best English education money can buy, the guide continues. That is what they want and, to a large degree, that is what they get. It adds: Withdrawn types might find it all overwhelming.

Tatler advises to get childrens names down at birth. According to the society magazine, new headmaster Simon OMalley, who, like George, starts this September, is a silver fox whose previously stated mission is for pupils to leave school confident and comfortable, the sort of people others turn to.

Duke of Cambridge with his son Prince George on his first day of school. Photograph: Chris Jackson/Kensington Palace

Known for his attention to detail, OMalley once told the Daily Telegraph how it was the little things that count: such as emailing the parent of an expat pupil to say they performed a great rugby tackle because the parent is not at the match to see it and say well done.

The school, whose alumni include model and actor Cara Delevingne and singer Florence Welch, is said to discourage pupils from having best friends, instead encouraging lots of friends to stop others having their feelings hurt.

Its website stresses along with the highest academic standards, the schools ethos, aims and values actively support the upholding of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.

These are British values which we cherish and which equip pupils for life in modern Britain.

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The path to fame and fortune is no easy ride, says Mariella Frostrup. Thats the best lesson parents can pass on

The dilemma Our son has given up on study. He has never really enjoyed school. He complains that teachers dont know how to control classes, feels he learns very little in a day and questions the ritual humiliation he experiences through PE.

He is intelligent, but also sensitive with a passion for music. He is talented and spends nearly all of his time playing guitar or rehearsing with a school band. He says various artists never needed exam success, and cites Liam Gallagher who apparently only got 4 GCSEs.

He is rejecting everything about us, but mostly me as his dad. I am academically successful and value education. I am impressed with his music, but if I bring this up, he tells me I know nothing about it so should stay out of it. It does feel like a clash of alpha males at times.

Reasoning with him appears futile. He tells me I cant make him do anything, which is, of course, entirely true. So how do I guide him so he is not left without options in the future?

Mariella replies Oh dear. Ive feared this question and now here it is, slap bang in the midst of my mail and not a valid excuse (bar ignorance) to dodge it.

Unlike most of the agonies Ive come up against in my own life, this is one Im only on the cusp of experiencing. However, with a near teenage, granite-willed daughter in the house I can certainly feel your pain. So lets air, share and invite my opinionated readers to do likewise.

Until you hit the implacable teens its hard to comprehend the fatal loss of tools for the job that every parent undergoes. All those threats and rewards that once maintained a degree of discipline and kept the family in working order are rendered redundant. Until recently I was still able to count to three and get some traction from my two children. Now they laugh at me and say or what?, so I can only imagine the response from a hulking GCSE candidate. Yet I cant help feeling that asserting a degree of authority is half the battle, even if its uncomfortable and, worse, unfashionable. As weve edged ever closer to our children in lifestyle, its become increasingly difficult to take the authoritarian path, but sometimes because I say so really is the answer.

Teenagers who want to be pop stars are truly 10 a penny. I had a friend who was about to fund a rehearsal space for their scholastically errant but musically obsessed child. Despite their daughters assertions that she didnt have to listen to them she was entirely reliant on them for a roof over her head and the occasional foray to Brandy Melville which to my mind simplified the situation.

Withdrawal of all but the most basic creature comforts does seem to lend some sway to your argument. Threatening punitive measures will only get you so far, though, and ultimately there has to be a bit of give and take. One of the reasons Im a big supporter of Speakers for Schools is the opportunity they offer for kids to hear about the reality, not the Google gloss, of the path to fame and fortune. For every bowlcut Mancunian theres a failed musician stacking shelves, because musical talent is not the only element necessary for success.

Tenacity, self-confidence, determination and commitment are the qualities invariably revealed when you scratch the surface of stardom, showbiz or otherwise. Happily theyre the same qualities required to knuckle down at school, while pursuing their dreams. Your son may be sick of school, but until hes waving a record contract in your face Id suggest hes not displaying the requisite qualifications to assure you of his potential for self-sufficiency.

Whatever approach youve been taking I assume from your missive that its not working and the clash of the alpha males has me worried. Is it possible for you to back off on the glories of academia while insisting on the basic building bricks for the future that education provides? Perhaps simply passing the exams could become the bottom line, rather than excelling. Navigating the shark-infested waters of the commercial world requires a rudimentary set of skills. Encouraging kids to understand that you get nothing without graft is one of the most valuable lessons you can pass on.

Few parents can offer the big bucks blackmail that will deliver a car or a deposit on a flat, but even without an oligarchs assets there are smaller luxuries our offspring depend on. Teaching them the art of compromise and the skill of negotiating seems the place to start. Theres not an artist out there who hasnt grovelled on the path to greatness, and getting through school isnt an impediment to a musical career but a platform to build one on. As for PE, humiliation now will pay off when he wows his fans with his nimble moves. Mick Jagger is a better role model than Liam G, having used his studies to build up the bands finances while working out every day to keep stage fit.

If you have a dilemma, send a brief email to Follow her on Twitter @mariellaf1

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Middlesbrough is worst place to be a girl, while Waverley in Surrey is best, report finds

There are huge discrepancies in the quality of life for girls depending on where in the country they live, according to a new report, which has found that Middlesbrough is the worst area to be a girl in England and Wales and Waverley in Surrey is the best.

The report, produced by Plan International UK in conjunction with the University of Hull, revealed large discrepancies across the country, with inner-city areas performing the worst.

The researchers compared all local authority areas in England and Wales on five markers childhood poverty levels, life expectancy, teenage conception rates, GCSE results and percentage of girls aged under 18 not in employment, education or training.

The 10 worst local authorities to be a girl, according to the report, are Middlesbrough, Blackpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Liverpool, Knowsley, Hastings, Kingston upon Hull, Salford and Sandwell.

The 10 best areas are Waverley, Rushcliffe, Chiltern, Mole Valley, Epsom and Ewell, Rutland, Elmbridge, Wokingham, St Albans and East Hertfordshire.

The state of girls’ rights

Comparing some measures revealed how significant the discrepancies were between areas. On the issue of teenage conception, Tamworth in Staffordshire showed the highest result in England and Wales, with 40.5 per 1,000 girls aged under 18 becoming pregnant in 2013 the year used in the report compared with 7.6 per 1,000 in St Albans.

Similarly, life expectancy for girls born between 2012 and 2014 ranged from 86.7 in Chiltern to 79.8 in Middlesbrough.

Our research found that overall the UK is failing girls, said Lucy Russell, the UK girls rights campaign manager for Plan International UK and lead author of the report.

Its clear that despite being one of the richest, most developed countries in the world, girls dont have equal rights and equal life chances across the UK, she said.

Russell condemned the assumption that because Britain was wealthy it was necessarily meeting its obligations to protect girls, saying that not only were there issues relating to poverty, which the report was able to examine quantitatively, but other issues affecting girls chances for which there was not robust data to measure, such as sexual harassment, gender stereotyping at schools and workplaces and online harassment.

We found it hard to get really accurate data on girls rights at a local level. There are large gaps; for example, when we looked at violence against women data, it was available at a police force level but not at a local authority level. We also found that sexual assault offences werent always recorded by age, gender and place, so it became hard to map what was happening for girls. There was a wide range of data we would have liked to have collected self-harm and suicide by local authority, cyberbullying its very hard to paint a picture, said Russell.

To address this, the report included interviews with 103 girls to ask about their experience of life in Britain, which Russell said painted a national picture of their concerns.

What weve heard from girls in our research is that girls are facing daily harassment in school in the classroom and on the way to and from school. They need to use technology, but they dont always feel safe to do that. Theyre scared every day on the street, they have certain things they dont do and places they dont go, said Russell.

In particular, the report pointed to research conducted earlier this year, which found that 22% of British women experienced unwanted sexual contact in or around school as girls and the fact that reports of sexual offences in UK schools had more than doubled in recent years.

Emma, 19, was one of those interviewed for the Plan UK report. She is from Bridlington, east Yorkshire, and now lives in Huddersfield where she is studying music.

People think we have equal rights and that were equal to men, but were just not, said Emma.

She said that while she mostly felt safe in Bridlington, she was constantly aware that she could be cat-called. I walked home the other day and a group of young boys shouted at me to get my arse out and my tits out, said Emma. It was daytime, it would have been about 3pm and they were about 14. And I got home and I was crying to my mum. It made me so angry, because why should I cry because of something a 14-year-old boy says? But its the principle behind the action. How can I be equal to men if that still happens?

Emma says she would like to see girls rights discussed more and girls represented.

Girls rights are so important. Most of the time theyre just overlooked. Theres so much stuff that happens to girls thats just not known about. Someone needs to say something. There needs to be some sort of voice that represents us, she said.

A government spokesperson said: We are committed to building a country that works for everyone no girl should be held back in life just because of her gender or where she lives. We have given schools clear guidance on sex and relationship education and products to help them discuss body image with their pupils, so they can learn to respect themselves and others.

Teenage pregnancy rates are at the lowest level for 40 years and we are driving down child poverty, with the number of children living in workless households at a record low. But we want to do more which is why we are encouraging more young people, particularly girls, to study Stem subjects and working to eliminate the gender pay gap.

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