Archive for 2007

Lifetime Loss


I lost my mother last week to Alzheimer's disease. We were wonderful friends and she was a delightful parent and support to me throughout the years. I will miss her very much. During the services, I was brought back to many childhood memories and experiences that I alone shared with her. In Judith Viorst's poem book, "If I Were in Charge of the World," her poem SUMMER's END says,
"One by one the petals drop.
There's nothing that can make them stop.
You cannot beg a rose to stay.
Why does it have to be that way?"
I take comfort in the fact that I had this wonderful person in my life for 53 years. I wish it was much longer, but I feel lucky to have shared that valuable time. She was a great early childhood proponent, even before it was popular.

2007 - That Was The Year That Was

If you're a huge music fan like I am, you'll know that this is the time of year when the shops are full of greatest hits collections, which have been released in the hope that they'll find their way into plenty of stockings for Christmas. In keeping in this spirit, today's post brings together some of the most important documents and research which have been covered over the last 12 months, as if you're only an occasional visitor here you may have missed some of them before.

In February there were bad headlines after the UK came bottom of the league of a UNICEF survey of child well-being in rich countries. In fact, the theme of child poverty was a recurring theme throughout the year. It's difficult to isolate one or two reports as standing out from the others in this area, but you could certainly do worse than look at the work of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in this area. Click on this link to be taken to the section of their website devoted to child poverty; their annual Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion report is also an important document.

In June, the DfES was split into two; the new Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) is the new body whose work should most interest our students. This year also saw the setting up of the Equality & Human Rights Commission, a new organisation which replaces the work of the three commissions which had previously been responsible for combating discrimination in various forms.

Getting a contemporary, accurate picture of your sector is sometimes more difficult than you might expect, so thankfully a couple of reports from this year should help to make this a little easier. The DCSF has recently carried out a series of surveys into childcare and early years providers in the UK; summaries of their findings can be found in this report. Also of interest should be October's Focus on Families, which provides a very detailed picture of family life in the UK today.

One of the recurring themes that seems to crop up in child-related news stories at the moment is the issue of where children can play safely today. This theme was given a bit of a push in November with the publication of Tim Gill's No Fear, which argued that a modern preoccupation with protecting children from harm could have the effect of damaging their freedoms and relationships with adults.

Finally, some looking ahead to next year. It's likely that there will be plenty of discussion around the recently released Children's Plan, which sets out government policy in this area for the next decade. We're also likely to hear more from the Primary Review (dubbed the most comprehensive review of primary education in 40 years), which has already begun to publish its findings but will continue to release reports well into 2008. September 2008 will also see the introduction of the new statutory guidance for the Early Years Foundation Stage, but you can read about this now. And for your New Year's resolution, try to get into the habit of using the newly-launched Educational Evidence Portal, which looks like it's going to be an excellent tool for helping users turn up reliable information on all aspects of education.

Hopefully you'll all find this useful - if you do, leave a comment below - here's how - or feel free to suggest something else which you think other users will find especially useful. The blog will be back in the New Year; hopefully you'll you all have a wonderful break, and find some time to relax from your work. To help you with that, here's the link to the Peanuts site which was apparently popular back in the summer. Merry Christmas!


Social Mobility

The Sutton Trust educational charity has published a study which examines how social mobility has altered in the UK in recent decades. The research was carried out by the LSE, and has suggested that social mobility has been largely static in Britain since 1970. This means that clever children from poor backgrounds can often be overtaken in their education by less intelligent children from affluent families.

The report is entitled Recent Changes in Intergenerational Mobility in Britain, and can be read in full online now. A summary version is also available to read.

Children's Plan / Commercialisation of Childhood

If you've seen the news today you can't have escaped noticing that today is the day that the Government unveils its Children's Plan which encompasses it's vision for children's services over the next decade. The plan is very wide-reaching, covering such diverse topics as modernising playgrounds, making more support services available in schools, a review of testing procedures for children and much more.

Click on this link to be taken to a page with links to the Plan itself and a more managable summary version. You may also be interested in a document entitled Children and Young People Today, which contains much of the evidence that forms the basis of the plan and gives an incredibly detailed picture of children in the UK today. Overviews of the plan's contents can also be found in this BBC story and a similar one from The Times, while the Guardian has put together a page of related resources.

A story making the headlines yesterday was the publication by the National Union of Teachers of Growing Up in a Material World. This is a charter on the commercialisation of childhood, and is the result of a consultation exercise which asked children and parents how they felt about exposure to advertising for products aimed at young consumers, and the consequences that this could have.

Equality & Human Rights Commission

Those of you who have been asking me for information about discrimination in recent days should really take a look at the website of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. This body came into being on 1st October, and replaces the three organisations - the Commission for Racial Equality, the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Disability Rights Commission - that had previously been responsible for safeguarding equal rights in the UK.

The site is filled with reports and research relating to discrimination and equal opportunities in all areas of life, including education, employment and services. The sheer size of the site makes it a little difficult to navigate, so I think my advice would be to click the 'Publications and Resources' link from the homepage, then choose the type of discrimination that you are researching from the links on the left of the page. And after that it's up to you to explore and find the information that you're looking for...

Free E-Books

Hopefully many of you have now made use of the growing collection of ebooks which are available through E-Book Library (EBL) via Athens. However, several students have asked about Google Books in recent months, so this is the topic of today's post.

Google Books is a project which aims to digitise and make available the contents of millions of books from a number of sources, including several famous academic libraries - you can read more about the project here. While this sounds wonderful, there are restrictions in place; most of the titles you find will only offer a very limited preview of their contents, as copyright law means that Google is unable to freely share this material with anyone who wants to use it, and this situation is unlikely to change any time soon. As most students usually want full text items which they can use straight away, this is obviously a major problem.

Having said that, the site could possibly be useful if you have an interest in the early years (or any subject for that matter) from a historical perspective. This is because older titles are often no longer copyright protected - explaining it in detail would take a while! - and so have entered the public domain, which means that they can be freely distributed. For example, while preparing this post, I was able to access the full text of an 1855 book entitled Practical Education; an 1861 edition of the American Journal of Education; an 1860 book entitled Infant Feeding and its Influence on Life.

Half of the fun is never quite knowing what you're going to stumble across, but it's also fascinating to compare the methods prescribed over a hundred years ago with today's established practice. If you have any trouble viewing any of the books you've found, downloading them in full from the link in the top-right hand corner of the screen seems to fix the problem.

A similar, albeit much smaller-scale project is the Project Gutenberg website, which focusses purely on books which are out of copyright. Unlike Google Books, this site concentrates on titles from more well-known authors. So next time you're asked to find out about John Dewey, why not access a free copy of his 1916 work Democracy and Education? Or you could take a look at a 1919 anthology entitled Cambridge Essays on Education. Titles such as these should provide you with an excellent historical understanding of how our views on childhood and education have developed over the decades.

Educational Evidence Portal

Probably the main function of this blog is to direct students and staff towards research reports and other useful information on the Web which they could otherwise have missed. Obviously I do my best to point users to as many useful documents as possible as they become available, but it's impossible to check all of the best research sites every time that they are updated.

However, an excellent new site which has just been launched may make this task a little easier in the future. The Educational Evidence Portal (EEP) has been designed to bring together the resources from a number of important educational organisations in the UK; basically it allows you to simultaneously search though important documents on the websites of organisations such as the DCSF, Ofsted, Becta, and over 20 others. The EEP is still in development and promises more features soon, but I'd already recommend that you bookmark this site as it's likely to be useful on many occasions for your research.

More from OnTheWeb

Hot on the heels of the last issue of OnTheWeb comes the latest issue, which covers children and education-related research and reports which were published during November. As usual, there's a wide selection of documents to pick and choose from; here's a selection of highlights from the latest batch:

That should keep you all going for a while... :-)

Could We Have Made a Difference?

We went to California this past weekend to surprise my daughter for her 30th birthday. We also spent some time in San Francisco shopping and exploring. I am always interested in the number of homeless and panhandlers there are in that city. Probably because they won't freeze to death like they would here in Salt Lake in the winter. My friend, the doctor, always says the street people range in behavior from too much medication, too little medication or needs medication. During this visit my thoughts wandered to what each of these human beings experienced during the early childhood years. Did what happened (or what didn't happen) from birth to 8 play a major role in the fact that they are now homeless? Was their early childhood a factor in the many cases of being mentally compromised? I have always believed all of our experiences create who we become. I found myself wondering if nurturing experiences during early childhood would have made a difference in some of the cases.

Child Poverty / International Education

The latest big report relating to child poverty is the 2007 version of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation's annual publication, Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion. The report has made the headlines for its allegation that the government's approach to eradicating child poverty is stalling. A summary version of the document containing its key findings is also available, while you can view all the statistics contained in the report by following the links on this page.

Those of you interested in international perspectives on education may be interested by another annual report which was released last week. UNESCO's Education for All series is now in it's sixth year, and continues to look at issues affecting children's access to education around the world. This story from the Guardian provides a useful summary of some of the findings from the latest report.

How Young Is Too Young?

A couple of newspapers have today picked up on a story about a letter which appears in today's Times Educational Supplement (TES). The letter comes from the Open Eye campaign with which a number of influential educational figures are involved, and expresses severe reservations about the new under-fives curriculum which is due to become law next year. Although the letter does not appear to be available to look at through the TES website, you can read it in the latest issue which is available in the College Library.

Also, the latest reports from the Primary Review (see this previous post for details) were published last week. You can view these and all other reports from the project by following the links on this page.

Teachers / Literacy

It's been mentioned briefly on this blog before, but I've been asked to draw people's attention again to the ongoing Becoming A Teacher project. Full details are available on the website, but basically this ongoing research programme is being sponsored jointly by the DCSF, the GTCE and the TDA, and is looking in detail at the experiences of teachers during their initial training (ITT) and early professional development (EPD). There's a lot of acronyms in today's post...

To date Becoming A Teacher has generated five research reports, all of them available in full from the DCSF website. The links to the various reports are below:

A number of journal articles which have already been / will be published soon have also come out of the project, and the data gathered has also been used to deliver presentations at several academic conferences. Not all of these conference papers are freely available online, but I have managed to track down two of them - click here and here to have a read.

All of which only leaves a little room for a news story from today which states that while children's literacy standards in the UK remain above the international average, they are falling in comparison to many other nations. The full text of Readers and Reading is available online.

Latest from OnTheWeb

The latest issue of OnTheWeb contains its usual mixture of reports on all sorts of education and childcare related topics. Among the highlights are a report from Becta on whiteboards in primary schools and some Ofsted research on healthy eating in schools, or if you just forget about sleeping altogether tonight then you may find time to plough through Ofsted's annual report on Children's Services and Skills; the section on childcare and early years education is a goldmine of useful facts and figures.

Internet Detective

Fancy brushing up on your internet skills? Hopefully some of you are finding the occasional tips that I post on here useful when using the internet (click on 'Internet Tips' on the right of this screen to bring up a list of them), but if you've got the time to take a more holistic approach to improving your internet skills then why not spend an hour or so working through the Internet Detective?

This excellent tutorial will take you through a lot of the skills that you need to make effective use of the Internet as a research tool, and you can check your progress along the way by answering questions on what you've just read. It's well worth having a look at if you're concerned about your abilities in this area.

A Visit from Two Princesses


We had Thanksgiving at our house this year. Three of my grandchildren came and with my grandson in the highchair it was necessary to create a 'kids table' for my two granddaughters. I remember the dreaded 'kids table' from my own youth. We took a different approach this time. We created a princess table, complete with flowing tablecloth, silver goblets, a candelabra and gold flatware. When they arrived, my granddaughters were the princesses of the day and only the royalty could sit at the princess table. It worked wonderfully and I had two granddaughters on Thanksgiving who were thankful for peasants to cater to their needs.

Children's Rights

A number of reports looking at the views of children living away from home or receiving social care services have been published duting the last 12 months by the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI). Last week the conclusions from each of these were collected together to form the basis of a new publication entitled Children's Messages on Care. If you'd like some more information on the material contained in this new document, then the original reports are still available from the CSCI website.

Starting To Learn

Today and tomorrow sees a gathering of the great and good of the early years world at The Early Years Foundation Stage: Views From Near And Far conference. It all sounds very sedate, but according to a story in today's Guardian one of the speakers is likely to cause a little controversy by suggesting that children should not start formal learning until they are seven.

The topic of when children should start their schooling is one which students often make enquiries about and has been covered by this blog before. Try looking at this previous post for links to a report on this topic and suggestions for sources of further reading.

Google Scholar

One of the most interesting things about a job like mine is seeing how the way that students access information changes over time. When I started working at the College we had about 8 resources available through Athens; now there are 30. It was also true that most of those services focussed exclusively on online journals, whereas now we can also offer our users access to market research, official reports, case studies, statistics, ebooks and much more.

All of which brings us to Google Scholar; this service has been up and running for over 2 years, but recently quite a number of students have been making enquiries about what it is, how it works etc. Basically, Google Scholar is much like one of our Athens services, in that it searches through a mass of 'scholarly' documents and finds items that it thinks you might be interested in. A typical search will tend to return thousands of results, leading some users to question why they still need to bother with online resources provided by the College.

It's true that Google Scholar can sometimes point you towards useful documents for your research. However, a number of points should be kept in mind before giving it a try:
- Google Scholar very rarely offers full text access to documents, and those that are available tend to be relatively old. You will often find that articles you uncover using the service are actually freely available to you if you choose an Athens service and access them from there.
- Google has never defined what it means by a 'scholarly' document; in other words, you can't always be sure that what you find would be acceptable for inclusion in an academic database
- There's no list of titles available to show which journals are indexed by Google Scholar, so you don't know which titles you've already searched through and which ones you still need to check
- Even when using the advanced options, the ways in which you can narrow your search are relatively limited compared to most of our Athens services

What's the moral of all this? There is probably a place for Google Scholar alongside the online services that the College provides, but it needs to be used with caution. I tend to use it only for finding information when I've exhausted all other possibilities, but perhaps some of you have had different experiences? Feel free to leave a comment on this post and share your observations...

If You're Happy & You Know It...

With all the reports in recent months on bullying, poverty, exam stress, obesity and more besides, you'd be forgiven for thinking that British children's lives are at an all-time low. Not so, according to a newly published government review, which claims that most children in the UK feel happy and cared for.

The report is available in full online. It is based on consultations which were carried out during Setember and October as part of the Time To Talk project. You can also read a summary version of the report and other supporting evidence.

Speaking of infants and toddlers...

I just returned from the annual NAEYC convention. This year it was held in Chicago and it was a big event. I had the opportunity of spending time in the Discount School Supply booth with the new product I wrote, POCET-Infants & Toddlers. It was engaging and thought-provoking for me to talk to so many caregivers who spend their days caring for the youngest of our citizens. During the past 6 months, I have spent so much time on infant and toddler issues that it was wonderful to have enough background knowledge to have an intelligent conversation. I do hope that POCET will help caregivers provide quality care for those dear little ones.

Play / Poverty

There's two new reports out today which are worth mentioning. They concern play and poverty, two of the topics which students most frequently ask for information about, so hopefully many of you will find the material in today's post useful.

First up is a report highlighting the lack of play spaces available to children in public places today. The research has been carried out by Demos - who have been featured on this blog before - and was commissioned by Play England, who work to promote opportunities and partnerships to create areas where children can play. Seen and Heard: Reclaiming the Public Realm with Children and Young People is online in full now.

The second publication is a report entitled Living With Hardship 24/7, which amongst other things contains the claim that poor children living in rich areas can often become the victims of bullying. The report is published by The Frank Buttle Trust, who also provide a summary version on their website.

Children's Television

Last month, Ofcom published An independent Report on The Future of Children’s Television Programming; this is a piece of research which they commissioned following concerns that the rise of other forms of media (internet, mobile phones etc) was having a damaging effect on the amount of funding available for original children's programming. The report provides a detailed, thought-provoking of the current state of children's TV in the UK.

ADHD / Medication

Tonight's episode of Panorama on BBC1 will feature new research which appears to demonstrate that drugs such as Ritalin, which are used as medication for children who have been diagnosed with ADHD, are not effective in the long-term. The study, which was carried out in the US, also highlighted possible side effects from the drugs which could impact on children's growth.

Research into ADHD has been plentiful in recent years, and it can be quite confusing to try and make sense of so many different documents, especially as the findings from some projects appear to contradict those from others. If you've an interest in this topic then there are certainly plenty of books in Summer Row Library and journal articles available via Athens which you can use to brush up on your knowledge.

Elsewhere, the adders and ADDISS websites contain plenty of information on the condition, as well as reporting on research projects that have been carried out by other organisations. From the US, the CHADD website has plenty of interesting content, while an excellent introduction to ADHD is provided by the National Institute of Mental Health. If you want something a little more meaty to get your teeth into, then this 2004 briefing on ADHD - How It Is Treated from the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) should be what you're looking for.

Open Access Journals

As if we didn't have enough academic journals available through Athens, there is also a large (and growing) number of 'open access' journals available on the Web. Basically, an open access journal is one which - as the name suggests - is freely available to anyone. As the internet has made it much easier to publish and disseminate information to a wide audience, these sorts of journals are likely to grow in popularity in the future.

It's difficult to know exactly how many of these titles exist as they are scattered all over the Web. However, a website entitled the Directory of Open Access Journals aims to help users find relevant articles by listing thousands of titles under subject headings. Students looking for education-related journals can also take a look at Open Access Journals in the Field of Education, a list which as been compiled by the American Educational Research Association. Admittedly it can be quite daunting looking at the number of titles which are available, so if you only take a look at one of the journals on offer then I would suggest that you visit the homepage of Early Childhood Research & Practice, which contains a number of articles that I have found useful when answering student enquiries.

Special Educational Needs / School Sport

This week the excellent Teachers TV is featuring a range of programmes which deal with various aspects of Special Educational Needs. As usual, all of the programmes broadcast on the channel can also be viewed in full via their website - a separate section of the site containing SEN programmes has been set up, so you can browse through all of the material available. Of particular interest is an interview with Baroness Warnock, author of the 1978 Warnock Report, as I know that some students are currently looking at the effect that this document had on approaches to SEN in the UK.

Another area that's come up in discussion with some students recently has been the topic of children's physical activity. If you're interested in this area then you might want to take a look at the recently released 2006/07 School Sport Survey, which provides a detailed breakdown of children's participation in physical activities at all levels of education.

Child Safety

Last week saw the launch of No Fear, a new publication which investigates whether a preoccupation with keeping children safe is having the effect of damaging their freedoms and ultimately their relationships with adults. The report has been published by the Carnousite Gulbekian Foundation, which is a body concerned with (amongst other things) social change in the UK, Ireland and beyond.

Hard copies of No Fear will shortly be available in Summer Row library. Until then, you can read the full text of this document by clicking here, or a summary version is also available; the Guardian has also printed an interview with its author Tim Gill. Thanks to Joan Hendy for pointing me towards this resource.

Future Family

The BBC's Breakfast Programme is running a series of features this week on modern family life in Britain. Each of the reports will be available to view on their website after they are broadcast, but the series already seems to have made a bit of a stir with the publication of a poll which was commissioned to assess how people regard family life. You can read about some of the more eye-catching statistics by clicking here, or if you want to look at the full, detailed results then they are available here.

Whew!


I just finished creating some experiences and activities to populate a new teacher website resource. We already have resources for Head Start, Preschool and Environmental activities, but next week we are adding information for the infant and toddler caregivers. You might want to checkout this resource at:
www.teacherquicksource.com It can be a very valuable resource for early childhood educators and caregivers. Hopefully, by the first part of 2008, we will also have information for kindergarten teachers.
Creating these infant and toddler experiences have forced me to analyze the developmental milestones that children achieve during the first 3 years of life. There are so many! It is a wonder that some children survive without any type of support system for these stages. Hopefully, we in early childhood can help more families be aware of these very important changes as the infant grows.

Latest from the Primary Review

The latest reports from the Primary Review (look at this previous post for information about the project) have again succeeded in making headlines. The claims contained in the new research form a mixed picture of primary education in the UK; pupils are praised for their positive attitudes towards learning, mathematics standards are said to have improved, and standards in reading and science are said to compare favourably to many other countries, although literacy skills as a whole are said to have remained static for several decades.

On the negative side, researchers found that the curriculum has narrowed in recent years, possibly due to the pressure that teachers and pupils are under as a result of frequent testing. The reports also raise significant concern about assessment procedures, suggesting that many of the marks which are awarded in Sats Tests are inaccurate measures of an individual pupil's progress. To look at summaries and the full-text of all of the reports which the Primary Review has published so far, click here.

Resource Banks

When you're out on placement, are you ever stuck for ideas on what to do with the children in your classroom? Or perhaps you just want to try something a little different to sessions that you've done before? If so, try taking a look at the TES Resource Bank. This is a collection of teaching resources which has been put together from materials suggested by teachers themselves, and contains lessons ideas, presentations, audio files, links to useful websites and much more. You can search through the materials according to the subject area or key stage (including the foundation stage) that you are interested in, so it should be fairly simple to find what you're looking for quickly. You must register with the site before you can gain access to the materials available, but this is free and only takes a couple of minutes.

The Teacher Training Resource Bank is a different kind of collection. As the name suggests, this site is aimed specifically at trainee teachers, but rather than lesson plans, it contains materials which should help to support your professional development; these can include news stories, research reports, government guidance documents, QTS standards, Teachers TV broadcast and plenty of other resources. You might have guessed that I'm quite impressed by this site! Again, you have a range of flexible search options to allow you to quickly pinpoint the most suitable content for your purposes.

Creativity in Schools

An new report from the Parliamentary Education and Skills Commitee has flagged the importance of creativity as part of a balanced curriculum. The full report is entitled Creative Partnerships and the Curriculum and can be read in full online; among the other documents it makes repeated reference to is an Ofsted report from last year - Creative Partnerships: Initiative and Impact.

The Childhood and Education blog has covered the topic of creativity in education before; to see what other documents are available on the Web for this topic, try looking at this previous post.

Bereavement

Several students have recently asked what information is available on child bereavement, which seems as good an excuse as any to make that topic the subject of today's post. A number of relevant books are available in the library as well as some useful Athens materials, but there are also a handful of websites which could be deemed 'reliable' enough for academic use.

Both the Child Bereavement Charity and the Child Bereavement Network have well-designed sites containing information for children, parents, and professionals alike. There are many useful documents in both site, but possibly the pick of these is the Child Bereavement Networks' Summary of Key Issues for Bereaved Children and Young People, which does an excellent job of covering some key points and suggests a number of useful-looking items for further reading.

Back in 2005, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation carried out a large-scale literature review in this area; although the full review is not available online, you can read a summary of The Impact of Bereavement and Loss on Young People. Or for a broader view of children's emotional and mental health, the Young Minds website is well worth a visit.

The Invisible Web

As it's a slow news day, here's the latest instalment of an occasional series of search tips / tricks which appear on this blog. Today's post concerns the Invisible Web (sometimes called the Deep Web), what it is, and why it matters.

How big is the World Wide Web? No-one really knows, but what is known is that a huge number of web pages are not indexed by search engines like Google - in other words, no matter how cleverly you put together a search, you will be unable to uncover these pages. There are several reasons why a webpage may not be retrievable by a search engine - click here to read a useful article which explains it all in relative layman's terms, and provides links to related items.

You may be wondering why this matters, when Google or similar search engines are still capable of returning millions of results. The reason it causes a problem is that the very type of academic information that is most useful to students is often held in the sorts of websites which search engines cannot penetrate. For instance, I regularly use the ERIC service to help me find useful materials on education-related topics, but if you're using a search engine then you'll need to construct a very clever search if you want to access most of the references contained within the site; it's much easier to simply go direct to the ERIC homepage. Similarly, many of the materials held within Athens will not appear in the results of a normal Google search, and those that do will require a password and possibly payment if you want to access the really good stuff (ie the full text of journal articles); it makes more sense to go directly to the source, and reserve the search engines for when you really don't have a clue where to start, or have drawn a blank elsewhere.

Hopefully that all makes sense! If you're really keen, the library at Summer Row has an excellent book entitled The Invisible Web which contains much more on this topic. Also, the Complete Planet website attempts to bring together many of the resources which cannot be accurately picked up by normal search engines. The fella below seems to have got the idea...

When's Your Birthday?

A report from the Institute of Fiscal Studies has confirmed what many have suspected for a long time; the date of a child's birthday can have a significant effect on their likelihood of doing well at school. This means that children born in August are particularly at risk from the 'birth draw'.

You can read the full text of When You Are Born Matters online; a more managable summary version is also available.

Community Family Support Resources

The number of students from the FdA Community Family Support who have visited the library office today suggests that you're all rather keen! I have spoken to some of you and suggested which of the Athens services should be most useful to you in carrying out research for your course, but it also struck me that there are a lot of good quality websites which address some of the issues you will need to read about. So, if you're not already familiar with some of the sites listed below, then take some time to explore them and see what you can find. (Deep breath) Here goes...

Sites containing research information in your subject area are plentiful. I really can't praise the Joseph Rowntree Foundation enough, as their website is packed with news stories, reports and countless other resources on various social issues. Also well worth a look is Social Care Online, a freely accessible database of research that can be either searched or explored through subject headings. Other free sources of detailed reports and much besides include the Family and Parenting Institute and the Centre for Social Inclusion, while the Social Policy and Social Work gateway to research contains an impressive collection of links to sites covering all social issues. The website of the Economic and Social Research Council also contains information on both its own research and the projects of other organisations.

There are also several official / government websites which you should make yourself familiar with. The Social Exclusion Task Force is part of the Cabinet Office, and "champions the needs of the most disadvantaged members of society". Among the projects they are involved in is the ongoing Families at Risk Review, which has already produced the Reaching Out: Think Family report. The Communities and Local Government website is also worth bookmarking, and there should also be useful materials available from the new Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Still here? If you'd like a couple of sites which will help you keep up to date with your topic then you can read the archives of Community Care online for free. Similarly, all of the new and past content of the Guardian's Society supplement can be accessed from SocietyGuardian; the site also contains additional features which are not available in the print publication. And now I'm going to lie down...

Internet Safety

A new campaign has been launched by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), with the aim of helping young children to stay safe while they are online. Parents and carers of children can access a Strategic Overview with detailed information on internet safety, while children are pointed towards the existing thinkuknow website, which has content that is targeted at different age groups.


Further information and documents relating to internet safety are available from the website of Childnet International, an international organisation which runs a number of projects in this area. And as you might expect, Becta have produced a number of materials that cover internet safety from an educational point of view - perhaps the most useful of these is Teaching E-Safety at Key Stages 1 & 2, which was published earlier this year.

Child Obesity

One of the most common enquiries from students is requests for information on child obesity, so no doubt many readers will be interested in today's news story that the Department of Health is considering sending warning letters to parents of children who are found to be overweight.

Other sources of information on this topic are plentiful, so there really is no excuse for not finding useful materials. There are plenty of relevant, up-to-date articles and reports which can be accessed in full through the College's Athens services, or for further suggestions for items accessible through the internet try looking at this previous post.

Families & Neighbourhoods

Yesterday saw the publication of a survey based on interviews with 2,100 parents across England. The survey, entitled Families and Neighbourhoods, was carried out by the Family & Parenting Institute, and draws a correlation between household income and satisfaction with the area in which people live.

Video Games

This post is being created primarily in response to the person who left a comment on Monday's post regarding children and video games, but hopefully other readers will find it useful too. You may have read that Tanya Byron has recently been asked to lead an inquiry into the effects of video games on children, but this project is not due to report back with its findings for some time. Until then, two reports which deal with this topic are The Effects of Computer Games on Young Children – A Review of the Research, which dates from 2001, and the more recent (2005) Review of Research on the Impact of Violent Computer Games on Young People.

As always, I'd welcome feedback of all kinds on what users think about the blog, and whether or not you are finding it useful. You can leave public comments (click here to find out how), or if you'd prefer to contact me privately then feel free to send me an email.

Alternative Education

A bizarre story in the Guardian today tells of a 'secret school' in Germany which had apparently escaped the notice of the local authorities for 30 years. The primary school had been set up by parents who were disgruntled by what they perceived as the "rigid" set-ups promoted by the state system.

This seems like a good excuse to look at alternative education, and some of the information that is available on the internet on this prickly topic. Probably the best known institution of this type in the UK is Summerhill School, which was originally founded in the 1920's. There are a number of books which have been written about Summerhill; if you are searching the Web then you could do worse than read this article about it's founder AS Neill, which neatly summarises his educational philosophies. Also available is the foreword to his 1960 book Summerhill.

Of course Summerhill is not the only alternative to mainstream education, and this article from the TES compares its approach to that adopted in Montessori schools and Steiner schools. Other institutions which once operated in the UK include Bertrand Russell's Beacon Hill School in Sussex and Dartington Hall School - click here for the full text of a fascinating 1960's newspaper feature on the latter.

Latest from OnTheWeb

Once again the people behind the OnTheWeb service (click here for details) have done an excellent job of bringing together details of new reports and research in the areas of education and childcare. The highlights in the latest issue include the Harnessing Technology Review 2007, which is Becta's latest annual summary of how ICT is being employed in education. Also new is Rights Here, Rights Now, a UNICEF report which looks at the issue of how to protect illegally trafficked children in the UK. Or why not take a look at the excellently named Hoodie or Goodie?, which explores the links between victimisation and offending behaviour in young people.

Appropriate Practice-cont.

I should have done a better job last posting of explaining about my 'adopted' grandchildren. Those two cuties are not my grandchildren, but my friends. They are part of my life so they call me their 'adopted grandpa.'
The point of my posting was my frustration at teachers who fall into the trap of providing inappropriate classrooms when they should know better. One classroom I visited is taught by a second-year teacher. She graduated from a very appropriate early childhood program. All she did the entire time I was there (the full 3 hours) was shove dittoed worksheets in front of the children. No teaching, reading aloud, discussions or anything that kindergarten children desperately need. ALL kindergarten children deserve better.

Primary Review

Primary Review is an independent project based at the University of Cambridge which is taking a detailed look at primary education in the UK. The project is set to run for two years (it has already been running for a year), and will produce a staggering 32 reports over the next 12 months.

The first of these reports is entitled Community Soundings, and has been published today. The document is based on interviews with children, teachers and parents, and has revealed that primary school children are 'deeply anxious' about their lives and the modern world.

For more information about the Primary Review, you can visit their website. As well as providing more information about the project, the site also provides a list of reports that are yet to be published, and allows you to sign up to an email service that will alert you when this new content is released.

Nursery Places

The Daycare Trust and National Centre for Social Research have just collaborated on Childcare Nation, a report which aims to act as a comprehensive study of the childcare in this country. Although the media have mainly highlighted its claim that a quarter of families pay for childcare places that should be free, the report is actually very wide in scope, focussing on six different areas - outcomes for children; quality and the childcare workforce; the state of childcare provision; parents’ work patterns; changes in patterns of childcare use and childcare costs. A copy of the full report will shortly be available in the College library (it is not available online), but you can look at a summary version.

Space Learning

If you're a devotee of the cult 1960s programme The Prisoner, then you may remember one episode where the characters were exposed to a new education technique which would allow them to learn an entire degree course in just a few seconds. It sounds far-fetched, but now a school in North Tyneside is pioneering eight-minute lessons for pupils. This method has attracted critics, but is apparently based on US research on a technique called space learning.

We Know Too Much

Sometimes I think that well-trained early childhood educators know too much. It may certainly be the case when we look at our own children and grandchildren. I have three grandchildren (and two adopted grandchildren) in school this year. I have had the opportunity to help or visit several of the classrooms. In some cases I have found very inappropriate classrooms. In other cases, I have found developmentally appropriate environments. My daughter and I had the discussion of how devastating it is to have your own child or grandchild in an inappropriate early childhood setting. Most parents and grandparents don't really know what to look for in school classrooms. I facetiously say that sometimes it is hard to know too much. However, it also allows us to lobby and work for change. The trick is to influence positive change without causing resentment. We'll see what happens...

Rounding Up The Reports

Friday feels like a good day to round up some of the reports which have recently been published but not yet featured on the blog, so hopefully there'll be something for everyone in today's post. The educationalists among you have two documents to choose from - Effective Teaching and Learning for Pupils in Low Attaining Groups has been published by the DCSF, while What Role for the Three Rs? Progress and Attainment During Primary School is a new report from the Centre for Research on the Wider Benefits of Learning. This new publication builds on the work of an earlier report entitled Development in the Early Years: Its Importance for School Performance and Adult Outcomes, which students may also find useful.

Also new from the DCSF is Youth Inclusion and Support Panels: Preventing Crime and Antisocial Behaviour, which examines the support services available to children aged 8-13 who are considered to be at 'high risk' of offending and antisocial behaviour.

It's been gratifying to note that since teaching began at the start of this week, the number of people viewing this blog has rocketed. Hopefully you're all finding the information here useful, and are making use of the links / archives at the side of the page as well. If you'd like to offer any feedback or suggestions on how the blog can be improved then feel free to email me or leave a comment on any of the posts - for instructions on how to do this, click here.

It's a Family Affair...

The changing face of the family in the UK is highlighted today with the publication of Focus on Families. This publication takes an incredibly detailed look at all aspects of family life, revealing findings such as women with qualifications tend to marry later, or that the number of families containing cohabiting partners is growing faster than other family types. For a summary of the main findings, click here.

School Dinners / Children's Television

Just like buses, it seems that news stories relating to children seem to come in twos and threes... The first headline of interest today relates to the latest report on school dinners (will they never end?) which has found that there has been a decline in the take-up of school meals since they were given a healthy make-over following Jamie Oliver's TV campaign. The full report - Food in Schools - is available to read online now. For further information on this topic, try looking at these previous posts - Nutrition & School Meals and School Dinners.

Today's second story concerns the relative lack of homegrown TV programmes for children. A report by Ofcom has highlighted the decrease in children's programmes which are produced in the UK, despite the fact that such shows are often some of the most popular ones amongst viewers. You can read The Future of Children's Television Programming online, or for further information on children's TV try reading Turn Off The TV! or Children & The Media.

Children & Doctors

Anyone writing about children's health issues may be interested in taking a look at a new publication from the General Medical Council. 0-18 Years: Guidance For All Doctors will come into effect from 15 October, and provides advice for doctors on how to deal with issues that can arise when dealing with children. It also contains a lengthy list of other sources of information and guidance which readers could find useful.

Great Books

Teacher's TV and the National Union of Teachers (NUT) are collaborating on a project to find out which books have most inspired the people who work in education. The poll will remain open until the 26th October, after which Teacher's TV will broadcast a programme based on the votes received. If you'd like to participate in this project then you will need to visit the Great Books webpage; you must be registered with the Teacher's TV site, although this is free and it only takes a couple of minutes to sign up. Or you can simply look at the titles that have already been voted for - many of them are available in the College libraries.

School Councils

A new piece of research looking at school councils, and the role that they can play in allowing pupils to become involved in decision making has just been published. The report, entitled Real Decision Making? School Councils in Action was commissioned by the DCSF and looks at the work of school councils in both secondary and primary schools.

Further information and reports on this subject can be found on the School Councils UK website. You can also read the conclusions of School Councils: Their Role in Citizenship, an earlier piece of research in this area which was carried out by the NFER, although the full report does not appear to be online. Further information about the topic is available via the Childlink service in Athens.

Guidance / Briefing Papers for Schools

If you work in a school or early years setting, you'll know that bodies like the DCSF regularly issue briefing papers for staff on a wide range of topics - for example, guidance for SENCOs, or information on literacy teaching, SENDA, the new Foundation Stage framework and much much more. If your workplace is missing some of these documents or you would like a personal copy, then many of them can be found within Childlink (via Athens), or you can also search for them directly at the Teachernet Online Publications pages. Most of the papers are available for immediate download, or can be ordered in hard copy for free if you set up an account with the site.

Healthy Eating

It's induction week at the College, which may make it difficult to add regular updates this week, as everyone's so busy. So today's entry is just a short post to cover the story of a pilot study on Tyneside, which is going to investigate the effects of healthy school meals on children's behaviour and performance. For further information on school dinners, take a look at this previous post.

Finding the Leaks

We have been creating two ponds and a stream in our back yard. It has taken a long time because it has been so hot this summer. Once we had everything in place, the water level kept going down, signaling a leak (or two) somewhere. We have redone the stream/pond numerous times. Even though the decreasing water level has slowed, it is still there. This whole experience has reminding me of working with children. One thing I teach the students in my early reading class is that even the best methods for teaching reading do not work with all children. We need to continue to look for leaks, trying every angle and approach we can, so that we can remedy the problem. It takes a lot of effort and it is sometimes discouraging. But, we don't give up on children....or leaks.

New Cyberbullying Campaign

The DCSF has launched a new campaign to tackle the problem of cyberbullying. The homepage for the campaign can be viewed here, while a full set of guidance entitled Safe To Learn has been issued for use by teachers and other school staff. Advice for these members of staff is also available from the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) - click here for details.

This blog has dealt with cyberbullying resources before - click here for further sources of information on this topic.

RSS Feeds

If you use this site regularly, you should notice that the news headlines at the right of the page are changed daily. While I’d like to claim that this is the result of my hard work, in actual fact this information is updated automatically through the use of an RSS feed.

RSS Feeds are actually quite a simple tool which can be very useful in saving you time, and helping you to stay up to date with information and news from websites which you use regularly (you can actually subscribe to this blog by clicking on the 'Posts - Atom' link at the bottom of the page). However, web authors seem to take great delight in writing lengthy, jargon-ridden explanations of what RSS is, leading many to avoid getting to grips with the technology, which was my own experience until I attended a practical demonstration.

Today's post was intended to be a simple beginner's guide to RSS, but while looking for useful links I found a short video by CommonCraft, which does an excellent - and lighthearted - job of explaining how it all works. If you have sound on your machine, please have a look at the film entitled RSS in Plain English and see what you think. If you still have questions, feel free to email me or visit me in Summer Row library.



Education At A Glance

Continuing the international theme from last week's post, the OECD has just published the latest annual edition of Education At A Glance, which compares performance at all levels of education between countries around the world.

Among the findings that may interest our students is the statistic that shows that the UK spends more on pre-school education than any other country; it's also interesting to note that teachers in the UK are comparatively well-paid, although class sizes in primary schools are relatively high, and English children spend more time in the classroom than most of their international peers.

You can read an executive summary of the report by following this link.

Language & Communication

Last week the DCSF announced that it was launching a review into the support services that are currently available for children with speech, language and communication difficulties. The review is scheduled to be published next summer, and will tackle a range of issues that affect the 89,000 school-aged children in the UK for whom speech and language difficulties are considered a primary special educational need.

There is already a fair amount of literature available on the Web that deals with this topic. For a concise summary of the long-term impact of communication difficulties, try taking a look at this paper from the National Literacy Trust, which provides a very useful list of suggestions for further reading. The NLT is also responsible for the Talk To Your Baby project, which aims to help infants to become good communicators by encouraging parents and carers to talk to children at an early age.

Other recommended reading includes this recent research report from the DfES, or Research with Children who do not use Speech, an alternate version of an article which was published in the Children & Society journal in 2005. The ICAN website is also a useful source of materials in this area.

International Resources

There's a global flavour to today's post, as we take a look around some of the internet resources which contain information on childcare and education issues around the world.

Most people know about UNICEF and the work that they do, but if you need 'academic' material then it's worth visiting the website of their Innocenti Research Centre, which offers detailed research reports on a range of topics. The UNICEF site also contains the full-text of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, which is apparently the most universally accepted human rights instrument in history. Other useful sources of global child protection information are Save The Children and the Child Rights Information Network.

For information on education around the globe, it's difficult to imagine a better resource than the webpages belonging to the International Bureau of Education. If there is a problem with their site, it's that it contains so much material that navigating your way around is sometimes difficult. As a pointer, I'd suggest that you start from the Country Dossiers page, which contains links to information about education in almost 200 countries.

HLTA Staff

Students on our HLTA courses may be interested in a new report from the NFER. Research into the Deployment and Impact of Support Staff who have Achieved HLTA Status is possibly the first published piece of research to take an in-depth look at the effectiveness of Higher Level Teaching Assistants since the qualification was introduced in 2004.

For more information you can take a look at the HLTA website, or if you have sound on your machine, then the excellent Teachers TV has produced a programme for teaching assistants entitled HLTA – Are You Ready? You can watch this by clicking on the ‘play’ button in the image below; this video is provided under the terms of the Creative Archive Licence.

Child Poverty & Education

Following the trend of several recent posts, another new report dealing with the issues surrounding poverty has just been released. Chicken and Egg: Child Poverty and Educational Inequalities is a new publication from the Child Poverty Action Group which explores how children from poor backgrounds compare to their peers throughout their years at school; it concludes that children from disadvantaged families are already behind their middle-class contemporaries when beginning school, and that this gap increases as their education continues. The research was carried out for the Campaign to End Child Poverty.

New Research from OnTheWeb

The latest issue of OnTheWeb (see this previous post for details of the service) is up to its usual high standard, with links to dozens of new pieces of research from the UK and abroad. Highlights from this month's edition include reports such as Children’s Views and Experiences of Parenting, Understanding Fatherhood, and Lost in Transition?, which is an overview of research regarding transitions for young people with learning difficulties.

Conferences

As part of your professional development, it's necessary to stay on top of your subject by extensive reading of items such as journal articles, reports or relevant newspaper articles (or even resources such as this blog!). However, if possible it is also worth attending academic conferences; these are often the venues where new research ideas are revealed for the first time, and they also provide an opportunity to network with like-minded individuals.

The Education Conference Listings Service contains information on many forthcoming education events, as well as the details of conferences that have already occurred. Most of the events listed are UK-based, although quite a few international gatherings are also included. The themes of these conferences are also very diverse, so it's quite likely that at least one event in the forthcoming months will have some relevance to your own personal interests - if a conference on the role of fathers in family learning doesn't grab you, then how about events on innovative approaches in education or emotional literacy?

If you'd like to see what you missed out on at previous conferences, you may also want to take a look at Education-Line; this is a collection of full-text papers which have been delivered at previous events over the last few years. Not all presentations from the listed events are included, but there are still several thousand papers to browse through.

NAEYC Visit


I had the opportunity to briefly visit the NAEYC headquarters in Washington DC this past week. I was part of a discussion about what are the most crucial issues in early childhood. It was refreshing and enlightening to talk with experts who have donated so many hours to the cause of children. I think there was a general consensus that we need to secure the funds to make sure teachers and caregivers are adequately trained and compensated for one of the most difficult jobs in the country. Research plays a key role in showing everyone that this is true. Our children deserve the best, as do those who choose to love children as a career.

Chavs and Chav-nots

Hot on the heels of yesterday's post, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation seems to be attempting some sort of record by today publishing eight (!) individual reports on different aspects of child poverty. Obviously that's a lot of reading for even the most passionate followers of this subject, so the JRF have also helpfully put together a round-up, which brings together the main findings from the various projects into a more digestible document; this also contains links to the separate reports if you wish to explore further.

The main issues highlighted by the press in relation to this research include the conclusion that class awareness develops in children from an early age, with youngsters quickly labelling their contemporaries as 'chavs' or 'posh'. The Guardian and the BBC have both published articles which are helpful in giving a flavour of the main findings.

Child Poverty

Barnardo's has just published a new report on child poverty. It Doesn't Happen Here: The Reality of Child Poverty in the UK is a piece of research which is based on interviews with children from 40 poor families. At the same time, Barnardo's had commissioned a YouGov poll of 2000 adults, which gauges public attitudes towards child poverty; the results of this survey can be found here.

Ready To Read: New Phonics Research

New research from the Civitas thinktank suggests that primary school pupils who receive intensive "synthetic phonics" lessons can see significant progress in their reading abilities in a short space of time. The report, entitled Ready to Read, comes in the week that synphetic phonics has been adopted as the method by which all primary school children will be taught to read.

This post has dealt with the topic of phonics before, and you can read this information by following this link. Alternatively, if you have sound on your machine, why not take a look at the Teachers TV programme Cracking The Code below, which shows how phonics can be incorporated into literacy teaching - just click on the 'play' button to start the film. This video is provided under the terms of the Creative Archive Licence.

Nutrition & School Meals

This week there have been some confusing stories in the news on how well children are eating. Most of the headlines have focused on new figures which show that since the drive to introduce healthier school food began, the number of pupils actually eating school meals has fallen by over 400,000. Yet at the same time, a new report from the Department of Health suggests that over the last two years there has been a 13% increase in children who are getting their "5 a day" portions of fruit & vegetables.

It gets worse... If both reports are true then it might seem reasonable to assume that perhaps these children are getting their vitamins from packed lunches rather than food provided by their schools. But yet another news story from the School Food Trust claims that packed lunches are falling behind school dinners in terms of the nutritional benefits that they offer children. And in a further twist of irony, we are currently in the middle of National Lunchbox Week, which recognises this problem and aims to improve understanding of the issues involved; if you can make sense of it all, please explain it to me!

What is clear is that this year sees the introduction of the government's Revised Guide to Standards for School Lunches. These set out the regulations which all schools and caterers will be expected to follow from this month, and are essential reading for anyone with an interest in this subject.

Inequality in Childhood

A major new report from the National Children's Bureau (NCB) explores the link between childrens' schools and families and their outcomes in life. Reducing Inequalities is the title of the research, which encompasses topics such as whether pre-schooling or a child's social class have any bearing on their success in education and later life.

The report is freely available to those with an NCB membership, which the College has. If you would like to look at the report, please email me and I can provide you with the login details for the website. They cannot be displayed on this blog due to copyright issues.

MMR

There has apparently been a surge in cases of measles among children during the summer months; possibly one of the reasons behind this is the reluctance of some parents to allow their offspring to be immunised against the illness with the MMR jab, given the controversy over the injection which suggested that it may be linked to autism among young children.

In fact, most studies from recent years have suggested that the MMR jab is safe, and you can find a list of research projects which have examined this topic at MMR: The Facts. The National Library for Health also contains a lot of information on this subject, in the form of news stories and research reviews.