Archive for April 2007

Spending Time with Children

When I was a child I often asked for shiny new toys or objects which I wanted very badly. Usually the answer was 'no', but my mum or dad would tell me that it didn't matter because I was lucky enough to have lots of family members to play with, so I didn't need those things that I asked for.

Now it seems that my parents were right all along (as usual...). A new report has concluded that while there is a place for toys, the biggest influence on a child's development is the level of one-to-one interaction and personal attention that they receive. The research, conducted by the Institute of Education, is the latest report from a long-term project which is tracking the development of 12,500 children born between 1991 and 1992.


A Southampton University project has concluded that intensive tutoring can raise the IQ levels of autistic children; the study, which was carried out over 2 years, involved children receiving home education from a personal tutor for 25 hours per week.

Anyone with an interest in this area has a number of internet sources and reports to choose from. Research Autism is a newly-launched website which aims to present authoritative research in a clear, user-friendly manner. The site has links with the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge University and the National Autistic Society.

For an in-depth look at what is known about the condition, this Literature Review of Autism from 2005 is well worth reading, while Reaching Out, Reaching In is a report which looks at how autistic children can be successfully integrated into a mainstream school. Users of Athens may also be interested to know that issues of the Autism journal can be accessed via Sage Online back to 1999.

The Blogosphere

"71 million blogs... some of them have to be good." This is the quote which greets visitors to Technorati, a website which allows its users to see what topics are currently setting alight the blogosphere (in other words, what bloggers are writing about!).

The drawback of course, is working out how to find which of those 71 million blogs are most relevant to your interests. There's no magical service which can do this for you, so in the absence of such a guide, here's some suggestions for blogs which readers of these pages may find useful.

The TES has a team of opinionated bloggers who write about a range of education-related themes; their often insightful pieces can be accessed here. Mortarboard is a similar offering hosted by the Guardian. If you have an interest in primary education then Primary Teacher UK is a useful source of news and information, or for blogs about broader social issues try looking at the Community Care website (the link is in the bottom left of the page).

I'd like to add a 'blogroll' of links to useful blogs to this site in the near future; if you have any suggestions for content for this area then please leave a comment in response to this post or email me directly with your ideas.

Child Support

Child Support Policy: An International Perspective is the title of a research report released last week by the Department of Work and Pensions. The report compares provision for child maintenance across 14 countries.

Child maintenance in the UK has been administered by the Child Support Agency (CSA) since 1993, although it is now due to be wound up by late 2008. For information on the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission, the new body that is due to take on it's responsibilities, take a look at A New System of Child Maintenance, a white paper published by the government last December.

Thinkers on Education

Montessori, Steiner, Froebel, Piaget... These aren't the foreign players in a football team, but some of the theorists that have helped to shape how we think about early years education. And as I've been asked about each of them in the past week or so, I can only presume that our students have once more been asked to find out about them.

The College holds a number of book titles which are useful in researching this area, but if you'd like to dig a little deeper than there are some high-quality internet resources available. Probably the most useful is the Thinkers on Education series from the International Bureau of Education, a collection of articles which takes an in-depth look at the life and work of over 120 individuals. A similar list of key theorists is available from the PSI cafe website, which provides links to further reading about various thinkers; sadly it appears that the site is no longer being maintained, although enough of the links are still working to make it worth a look.

Two further sources of interest are infed - a free encyclopaedia of "informal education" - and a useful list of links to child development theories provided by the North Coast Institute in Australia.

Another Birthday!

I had another birthday this week. I don't think it matters how old you get, birthdays can be fun. This year I got this cool tray with a picture of all six of my grandchildren sealed in a picture. It's great! One thing about being a grandparent is they are always glad to see you! Let's hope as more birthdays roll around, I can keep it that way.


A new report on truancy has suggested that fining the parents of absentee children does not work. In the absence of the report itself - it's resisted my best efforts to track it down - this BBC news story should give you a flavour of its contents.

It's not the first time that this topic has been looked at in recent years; Improving School Attendance in England was published in 2005 by the National Audit Office, and provides a detailed overview of the various issues surrounding truancy. The DfES site on School Attendance is also worth a look, as it provides access to documents which cover legal information, good practice and further research.

Reggio Emilia

One of the most common enquiries that our students make is for information on the Reggio Emilia approach to early years education. While the library has a number of titles on this subject, the good news is that plenty of reliable material can also be found online. A useful 'one-stop-shop' for information is available which has a list of Resources related to Reggio Emilia that provide links to mailing lists, journal articles and more. If the choice on offer here is overwhelming then try this report, a Scottish publication last updated in 2006 which gives a useful overview of the approach and contains an impressive bibliography for further reading.

Home Education

A story about Home Education was printed in the Guardian on Saturday; as with my recent post about boarding schools, this is a subject that seems to have generated more than one article in recent weeks, so it's probably worth looking at what information is currently available on this topic.

Education Otherwise is an organisation which provides support and information for families who have chosen to educate their children outside of school, and their website is a useful starting point for material regarding legal rights etc. The DfES has also set up a mini-site which aims to provide information on Home Education. Or for a more meaty piece of research on this subject, try looking at The Prevalence of Home Education in England; this is a report which was published in February.

Social Trends

The latest edition of Social Trends has been published this week by the Office of National Statistics. Social Trends is an annual publication which takes a very detailed look at society in the UK - frankly, it's quite scary how much they know about us! If you're interested in topics such as education, health, welfare or any other social issues, then this is a wonderful resource for information on the state of the nation.

Continuation of Development

I am currently working on a tracking program for infants and toddlers. It will be a companion piece to the POCET individualization kit that I wrote for preschool children. I am constantly amazed how important it is for teachers and care-givers to track a child on a developmental continuum. If a child is not progressing at an appropriate pace, the care-giver can provide supportive activities to help the development to continue. This begins soon after birth and continues through the primary grades of school. Looking at continual progress it is also affirming why early childhood is defined as birth to eight. There are so many milestones along the way. I wish we could train parents in early childhood development, as well. It would lead to happier and more well-adjusted children.

School Discipline & Pupil Behaviour

Today sees the publication of new guidelines for schools on discipline and pupil behaviour; the guidelines recommend that teachers should aim to praise pupils far more than they criticise them, although some critics are not impressed with what they regard as a "softly softly" approach.

Recent research on children's behaviour has been plentiful; if you have an interest in this topic then you may be interested in the GTCE report Improving Pupils' Behaviour through Multi-Agency Working. Also relevant are two DfES reports from the past three years - Research and Evaluation of the Behaviour Improvement Programme and Improving Children’s Behaviour and Attendance through the Use of Parenting Programmes, while the Behaviour and Attendance website is a useful source of official information.

Wonderful/Terrible Twos!

A couple of years ago I attended a workshop given by Dr. David Sousa, author of, "How the Brain Learns." He was explaining the importance of the two year-old developmental stage. This is the time that the logical part of the brain tries to take over from the emotional side (which has been in charge of the child the first two years). That is why children in this stage are very emotional and tend to have some type of tantrum. The worse thing an adult can do is to get emotional during these outbursts. This emotion will continue to feed the emotional side of the child's understanding and thwart the progress of the logical side. I was having lunch with my 5 year-old and 2 1/2 year-old granddaughters this week. What a wonderful experience. The younger girl didn't want to eat lunch at all and then would pout when her sister or I ate any of our lunch. Somehow, we made it through lunch with just a few episodes. It forced me to again remember what I learned from that workshop. Tell the child what she is doing is not acceptable and give her a choice of two other things to do instead. The choice will give the two year-old some of the control. It still works quite well.

Maternity Matters

Yesterday saw the publication of Maternity Matters, which outlines the government's plans to increase the choice of childbirth options available to expectant mothers. A selection of relevant documents (including the full paper) can be downloaded here; if you have RealPlayer or Windows Media installed on your machine then you may also want to listen to a Woman's Hour interview with Patricia Hewitt about the new regulations.

Further information on pregnancy, birth and parenting in the UK can be found on the National Childbirth Trust website. Or for an interesting view of how provision has altered over the years, try reading Pushing 50 - Three Ages of Childbirth.

What's in a Name?

Have you ever made use of BOPCAS or joined NUPE? Would you be happy if someone said that you had a G&T child? The last question is nothing to do with gin and tonic - it stands for gifted and talented - but it is easy to become bewildered by the amount of jargon and acronyms used in education today. The issue is due to be raised at a teacher's conference today.

Fortunately, help is at hand - an impressive list of acronyms used in UK education can be viewed on the EMIE website. Or if you'd like a fuller explanation of some of the terms used when working with children, then you should certainly take a look at the Multi-Agency Working Glossary from Every Child Matters.

Boarding Schools

A couple of weeks ago I read an article in a newspaper magazine about boarding schools, and now I've stumbled across an article on the same subject on the BBC website. Maybe it's just a coincidence, but it seems a good excuse to look at what information is available on this subject.

The Boarding Schools' Association website is a good starting point for information on boarding in the UK, as it features a selection of research, reports and contacts. The State Boarding Schools' Association is also worth a visit.

Boarding Schools are expected to adhere to a set of National Minimum Standards, and these are available in full online. Or for a look at how the pupils feel about their experiences, try looking at this document - Boarding School Placement: A Children's Views Report - from last year.

Education and Inspections Act

The weekend saw many of the legal powers from the Education and Inspections Act 2006 come into force. A short guide to the provisions contained within the act is available online; a more complete guide to the legislation from the NFER will shortly be published and made available in the library stock.