Archive for March 2007

Physical Education

With the woes of the England football team continuing to fill the papers, and the build-up for the 2012 Olympics already in full swing, it seems an appropriate time to look at information about developing the sporting abilities of future generations.

The QCA's PE and School Sport website contains a wealth of resources and case studies for anyone with an interest in the role of physical education within schools. The most recent DfES-commissioned annual School Sport Survey is also available online.

If you'd like to delve a little deeper into this topic, then has an incredible amount of full-text material on its website, much of which is relevant for people working with children. Or if this all sounds too energetic, sit back and choose from a selection of nearly 50 programmes about various aspects of physical education which can be viewed on the Teachers TV website.


A confession: I look at Wikipedia nearly every day. Whether I want information on classic films, historical figures, a region of the world or almost anything I can think of, it's likely to contain an article that's relevant to my interests. So where's the problem?

As you may know, Wikipedia's main flaw (at least in an academic context) is that it can be edited by anyone, meaning that novices and experts on a topic operate from a level playing field. This means that the quality of the articles it contains can vary from excellent to worryingly inaccurate. This inconsistency has led to a massive amount of discussion over the value of Wikipedia, as these two articles - A Stand Against Wikipedia and Can Wikipedia Ever Make The Grade? - illustrate very well.

The moral? Wikipedia has its uses as a place to find a 'quick and dirty' overview of a topic, but for academic research you would be well advised to stick to more trustworthy sources. Still not convinced? Then look at what Wikipedia's founder has to say...

Bullying Resources

The latest report from the parliamentary Education and Skills Committee is the result of an investigation into bullying. The final document stretches to 288 pages, but for the busy people among us a summary of the main conclusions is provided on pages 5-6.

It is only a few months since the publication of Bullying Today, a report from the Office of the Children's Commissioner which looked at current anti-bullying strategies in the UK. Also recommended is a 2003 DfES report entitled Tackling Bullying, which was researched in conjunction with Childline. Or for further information and useful resources dealing with this topic, the Anti-Bullying Alliance website is well worth a visit.

Preschool Behaviors

Today there was a Washington Post article reprinted in the Salt Lake Tribune, Study: Day Care Can Lead to Bad Behavior. It was very similar to an article that I talked about in the blog last year. Some recent research studies suggest that children in daycare and preschools seem to display more behavior problems, which continue through grade 6. The study quoted in this article suggests that this happens even in quality preschool settings. I was disturbed that the study downplays the fact that children in these settings do display increased language and school preparatory skills. In other words, preschool/daycare settings seem to be accomplishing academic tasks. Critics of the research point to the fact that there were no control groups and the turnover in early childhood settings would naturally contribute to children's behavior issues. I agree that social and emotional strategies are not taught and used effectively in many preschool/daycare settings. I also agree that the parent element is often the one that keeps behavior in check, as mentioned in the study. But, I must agree with the critics of the study and add that until we pay early childhood educators a high enough salary to make them stay, the staff transition rates will always be high. Yes, that would definitely effect children's behavior. Unless parents take on a more active role in their child's behavior, school can only do so much. The researchers should not be so quick to blame all negative behaviors on the preschool setting. More funding and parent responsibility seem to be at issue as much or more than the preschool.

ICT Reports

I've received a number of enquiries about ICT in schools recently, so it seems a good time to draw attention to some recent reports in this area.

Anyone with an interest in ICT is strongly advised to take a look at The Impact of ICT in Schools: a Landscape Review; this was published by Becta in December and a massive 350 literature sources were consulted to produce the final report. The Becta Review 2006 is also still available online, with a new version due in the next few weeks.

Also, January saw the publication of an insightful report from the Demos think tank organisation; Their Space: Education for a Digital Generation takes a detailed look at how children are making use of digital technology.

New Green Paper

Today sees the launch of the green paper Raising Expectations: Staying in Education and Training Post-16; the paper outlines the government's proposals to ensure that all children stay in some form of education or training until their 18th birthday. The consultation period to allow discussion of
the document will run until 14 June.

She's Back!

We have a pet turtle that lives in our pond. When we went to retrieve her for winter hibernation in November, we couldn't find her. We concluded that she had moved on to greener pastures. Imagine our delight in finding "Gertrude" on the edge of our pond this week. The grandchildren are thrilled to know the turtle is back. The minute they hit the door last summer they were in the backyard looking for Gertrude and wanting to feed her. Between the turtle and the chickens, the kids love to come to visit. I wouldn't want it any other way.

£1 Billion for Child Poverty

According to the media, the cornerstone of Gordon Brown's budget this afternoon will be a £1 billion pledge to tackle child poverty. Presumably his researchers have been doing a lot of reading lately, as there have been a number of reports published on this topic in recent months.

Delivering on Child Poverty: What Would it Take? was published last November by the Department for Work and Pensions; this followed on from the similarly titled What Will it Take to End Child Poverty? which was published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in July of last year. This was actually the final report of an ongoing research project that the Joseph Rowntree Foundation had been conducting; all of the reports and other information are available in full from the project website.

Further information on this subject is also available from the Child Poverty Action Group website, which offers free access to useful articles, statistics and links to other organisations which are involved in this area.

Communicating with Makaton

A story in today's Guardian talks about the rise in usage of Makaton among young children; although the system was originally developed for people with learning disabilities or speech problems, Makaton is proving to be a useful tool for encouraging language development with children under five.

More information is available from the Makaton Vocabulary Development Project website, which contains details of resources, research papers and training courses that are currently available. Or you might like to view the the CBeebies programme Something Special, which introduces Makaton to young children; the complete first series is available on a series of DVDs in Summer Row library.

Free Conference Papers

Next time you're carrying out a piece of educational research it may be worth taking a look at Education-line; this is a free collection of conference papers, working papers and other electronic literature, all of which are available in full text, and are fully referenced. Linked to the site is the Education Conference Listings Service, which contains full details of recent and forthcoming events, and links to the relevant conference websites where these are available.

Parenting Strategy

Another day, another government initiative... Today sees the publication of Every Parent Matters, a DfES document which sets out how the government aims to help parents improve their children's education and life chances. Among the pledges is a drive to designate 2008 as a National Year of Reading, and a trial of a 'family learning course' for parents of children under five. For more information on services for parents, try looking at the ParentsCentre website.

New Early Years Foundation Curriculum

Yesterday saw the launch of the government's new statutory guidance for the Early Years Foundation Stage. The framework, which comes into effect in September 2008, is intended to build on and replace the current Birth to Three Matters guidance, Foundation Stage for three and four year olds, and national day-care standards. Initial reactions to the guidance have been mixed, with some accusing the government of using a "tickbox approach."

Education Reports from Yesteryear

Many of the posts on this blog are concerned with current events, so today it's time for something different. If you're interested in viewing education from a historical perspective, then you should certainly pay a visit to Derek Gillard's website. Derek is a retired headmaster who has been obtaining licences to provide online access to education reports that have long been out of print. An 1868 text on girls' schools, the Hadow reports of the 1920s and 1930s, and the landmark 1967 Plowden report are just some of the documents that you can now read in full.

Changing Curriculum for Early Childhood Education in England is an article which provides a neat overview of how provision for young children has developed over the past two centuries. The article is taken from Early Childhood Research & Practice, a useful electronic journal which is free to access.

Foreign Languages in Primary Schools

A Lord Dearing-led review is recommending that foreign language lessons should be compulsory from the age of seven. The review, which was announced last October, was set up to examine how to encourage more children to take language courses to GCSE standard. The full report is available online.

Comfort Blankets

Does anyone remember Linus from the Peanuts cartoon strip? It looks like his creator was onto something; according to new research from the University of Bristol, children do indeed show a marked preference for their own 'special' objects or toys (although most parents have suspected this for years). You can read the full paper in the Cognition journal, which can be accessed via Athens in the ScienceDirect service.

Great Preschool Programs

I recently visited the Coast Episcopal School in Pass Christian, Mississippi. I was amazed at the preschool program that they provide for 3-5 year-old children. Several benefactors had donated money and helped build an amazing little preschool building. The playground was huge with vegetable gardens (planted by the children) and many engaging equipment experiences. But, the most impressive thing was how developmentally appropriate and wonderful the entire program was organized. The teachers were providing a nurturing, skill-based and hands-on program. It was a joy to watch. I was overcome with the feeling that all preschool children deserve this type of support prior to entering kindergarten. Everyone in early childhood should strive to see this happen. The children at Coast Episcopal School Preschool were full of joy and learning. What a wonderful world!

School Councils & Citizenship

Today's headlines include the publication of a report on Citizenship Education by the House of Commons Education Select Committee, which recommends that all schools should set up councils to allow pupils a say in the running of their school. However, the report is proving controversial, with a number of Conservative members from the committee refusing to support its conclusions. You can judge for yourself by viewing the document here.

New Literacy / Fathers Research

You wait for days for an early years story to make the news, and then two come along at once...

A new Ofsted report published this morning warns of weaknesses in the foundation stage in the learning of language and literacy, and identifies an achievement gap between boys and girls even at this early age. The full report is available online.

Also published today is The State of the Modern Family, a report from the Equal Opportunities Commission; this draws from data taken from the Millennium Cohort Study, and suggests that children are more likely to have development problems if their fathers do not take paternity leave or spend sufficient time with them at an early age. If you're feeling brave then you can view the full data behind the report.

Breaking the Google Habit

It's sometimes easy to forget this, but Google is not the only search engine on the internet! If you are going to use the Web for research, then it's good practice to make use of other search tools to ensure that you do not miss information that could be relevant to you. If you enter the same search into 3 different search engines, you will almost certainly get 3 very separate sets of results.

You can see how this works in practice by looking at the Thumbshots site; this allows you to compare an enquiry between two different search engines, and gives you a visual representation of how the results differ. You might also like to take a look at Jux2, which compares results from 3 of the biggest search engines, and shows which sites each of the engines fails to find. Or how about using Trovando as the starting point for all of your future Web research? This will allow you to quickly use a wide range of search engines from a single search box. Google may seem to give you the information that you need quickly, but sometimes a look at other search tools will reveal material that will be invaluable to you.