Archive for July 2007


Yesterday's G2 supplement in the Guardian was dedicated to a survey of how well employers treat parents who are expecting or already have young children. It contained a series of useful articles which also covered topics such as legal issues, case studies, and a glossary of useful terms. All of the articles can be accessed in full via this link.

Revisiting Kindergarten

Most of my presentations and workshops in the past two years have been dealing with preschool settings and teachers. I have been preparing to talk to kindergarten teachers in Houston this week and it has been fun to revisit much of my kindergarten training materials. I spent a big chunk of my teaching career in kindergarten and I dearly love it! I enjoyed visiting my granddaughter's kindergarten class this past year and I look forward to visiting another granddaughter's kindergarten class this coming year. The following year I will have a grandson in kindergarten. If I play my cards right, I will never have to leave. The kindergarten classroom was my favorite place to be when teaching...although college is pretty cool, too.


Wednesday 1st August is the 20th annual Playday, a celebration of children's right to play. To mark the event, Play England have commissioned no less than four separate pieces of research which can all be accessed in full via this link. Some of the media have picked up on a statistic from one of these reports that claims just two out of ten British children play outside while close to their homes, although many other play-related topics are also covered.

Something For Everyone

It looks like the new DCSF has hit the ground running - it's only been in existence for a month but already a steady stream of reports have emerged from the new government department (though in fairness, these would have originally been commissioned by the old DfES).

I get a lot of enquiries from students for information about children speaking English as an additional language, so perhaps some of you will be interested in Raising the Achievement of Bilingual Learners in Primary Schools. There are also two new reports dealing with different aspects of parenting - why not try looking at Family and Parenting Support in Sure Start Local Programmes or Engaging Parents in Raising Achievement Do Parents Know They Matter?


Last week saw the release of 2007's Annual Abstract of Statistics. As the title suggests, this is a yearly publication which rounds up a mass of detailed statistics about the UK. The chapters on education, health and social protection should be especially useful to students within the School of Childhood and Education, although some of the other chapters may also contain useful information for your research.

If you're a numbers addict then there are also some excellent sites which can provide you with detailed stats from other countries to allow you to make comparisons with the UK. OffStats is a website with links to official statistics sources for virtually every country in the world (be careful, not very site you visit will be written in English!), while Nationmaster contains a mind-boggling selection of figures on almost any topic you can imagine. Did you know that Belgian workers are the most heavily taxed in the world? Or that Cuba spends the greatest percentage of it's GDP on education? Dive in to find out more...

More Google Tips / PDFs

You may have noticed that most of the links on this blog link to pages which don't look or feel quite like normal web pages; instead, they look like digital versions of a printed document, with individual pages that you can flick through. In fact, most of these documents are known as PDF files, and PDFs seem to have become the accepted standard for webmasters when they are putting official reports or research online.

If you use Google for your online searches (and I know most of you do...), there is a way that you can narrow your search so that your results only contain PDF documents. This means that you will be much more likely to find suitable academic items and not have to wade through pages of irrelevant material. To do this, you simply have to add the command filetype:pdf to the end of your search. Eg if you were looking for material on child poverty, just enter the following...

child poverty filetype:pdf

and voila! You should now be looking at a page of results with a number of links containing good research material. Let me know if it works for you.

Teenage Pregnancy

Last Thursday the government launched a new strategy to help young families deal with the demands of parenthood. Teenage Parents Next Steps is a document aimed at Local Authorities and Primary Care Trusts which takes a holistic view of this issue and looks at how support services can be effectively delivered to those who require them.

If you're carrying out research on teenage pregnancy then there are plenty of useful journal articles and reports which you can access in full via Athens; this really is a well-covered topic. However, if you're still hungry for information then the Teenage Pregnancy area of the Every Child Matters website brings together many of the current policy documents in this area. Also worth a look are two documents which neatly summarise the available literature for this topic - Teenage Pregnancy: An Overview of the Research Evidence (2004) and the recent A Review of the Literature Relating to the Parental Aspirations of Teenage Mothers which was published by the CfBT Education Trust in March.

Drugs and Children

With cabinet members seemingly falling over themselves to own up to smoking cannabis during their University days, it seems an appropriate time to investigate some of the research that is available with regards to drug use among children and young people.

A good introduction is provided by Pathways to Problems, a 2006 publication which contains a useful overview of the complex issues surrounding this subject. A 2007 Home Office report - Identifying and Exploring Young People’s Experiences of Risk, Protective Factors and Resilience to Drug Use - also covers similar topic areas.

Developing the Evidence Base looks at the services which are available for young people who have misused illegal substances. Hidden Harm is a recently published follow-up report to a 2003 project which took a different angle by examining the effects of parental drug use on their offspring. Or for the number crunchers among you, why not take a look at Statistics on Drug Misuse: England, 2007? A large section of this NHS report is devoted to children from ages 11-15.

Tackling Educational Equality

Self-styled "liberal think tank" CentreForum has just published a report on poorly-performing pupils in the UK. Tackling Educational Inequality suggests that one method of tackling this issue could be to offer generous bonuses to the salaries of teachers who are prepared to work in schools that are located in deprived areas. Calls for the possibility of longer school days and the adoption of synthetic phonics as a teaching tool are among the other recommendations made by the report.

Child Proofing the Yard

Last year we purchased a home built in 1919. We gutted the home and worked hard to renovate the entire inside (we did most of the work). This summer it is the yard that needs our attention. The 100+ temperatures, however, have narrowed our working time outside. We are redoing a pond and waterfall, as well as plants and trees. With everything we design we keep the grandchildren in mind. How to make the pond safe, where to built the playhouse, how to make it easy to gather eggs from our chickens, and so on. It is a joy to try to create a safe and fun place for our grandchildren.

Poverty & Public Attitudes

Is it just me, or has the subject of poverty become the defining issue of recent years? Hardly a week seems to go by without the appearance of a new detailed study of the topic; now the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has simultaneously published two reports which take very different approaches in shedding new light on this area.

The first report - Poverty, wealth and place in Britain, 1968 to 2005 - takes a comprehensive look at economic trends in the UK in recent decades, and concludes that the gap between rich and poor is as large as it has been for 40 years. The second report - Public Attitudes to Economic Inequality - finds that a majority of the public consider the difference between high and low incomes to be too large. For further reading on this topic, the Guardian has produced a series of articles entitled Divided Britain.

Summer Holidays

Ah, summer holidays... a never-ending golden age of football in the park, hours on the beach, tree-climbing, days out... or so it seemed to me. Yet a story from the BBC states that children in England and Wales are the unluckiest in Europe when it comes to time off from school. What's more, many of those countries (eg Sweden, Finland) which are more generous in the extended breaks that they allow children to have are considered to have some of the most effective education systems in the world. (Personally I'd like to see this less=more idea applied to the workplace - bring back the 3 day week!)

To compound the agony for English children, a report published last week by the 4Children charity has warned that thousands of teenagers are left to hang around streets during the summer because there are no alternatives on offer for them. The Make Space Youth Review can be read in full online, although a summary of the main recommendations is also available.

Turn Off The TV!

Once again television is getting bad press over the negative effect that it can have on children. This blog has explored this topic before (see Children & The Media) but now a new report from the National Consumer Council argues that, among other things, too much television watching for 9-13 year olds can make them disruptive, disrespectful and greedy. The report also highlights stark differences between social groups in the amount of television exposure that children receive. Watching, Wanting & Wellbeing is now available online.

Ofsted Gets Ofsted-ed

Teachers who live in fear of Ofsted visits may be pleased to hear that the inspections body is itself the subject of criticism. A new report from the House of Commons Education and Skills Committee has questioned whether the new powers that Ofsted adopted in April have had an impact on its ability to carry out its work effectively. The Work of Ofsted is available to read online - the executive summary should give you a flavour of the report's main points.


I've recently received the latest monthly issue of NFER's OnTheWeb (see this previous post for details). This month's edition seems to be a particularly useful one, with a number of links to reports that students and staff alike should find useful. Some of the highlights include information on gifted and talented children, a Barnardos report on child poverty, and a Home Office document on child trafficking.

Perpetual Motion

I was reminded this past week about how much attention an infant or toddler demands. My California grandchildren were staying with me for a week. My 11 month-old granddaughter is a study in perpetual motion. She doesn't stop unless she is asleep. She has been walking for a month so she is unstoppable. Even holding her takes a lot of energy as she is constantly moving. Having just spent three months working on infant and toddler developmental guidelines, it was a reality check to actually participate in those developmental milestones that I wrote on paper. I constantly gain additional respect for parents and caregivers who spend every day caring for the young. Wow! is it a full-time job!

Boys vs Girls - Gender Wars; Get Involved!

Once again the issue of gender is in the news, following the publication of a new government report entitled Gender and Education: the Evidence on Pupils in England. The media have mainly picked up on the report's observation that recruiting more male teachers will not necessarily result in improved school performance from boys, although the document actually takes a very detailed look at all aspects of gender in education.

On a different note, I've added a new tool to this page to make it a little more interactive. In the right-hand column you should see a poll asking for your opinion. To kick this off, the first question is about the recent reorganisation of the government's education departments (see below for details) - is this a good or bad thing for children's services? Click to register your vote, polls close next Friday...


Think about seven-year-olds learning at school and what comes to mind? Lessons on literacy or numeracy? Simple ICT skills? How does a discussion about a puzzle devised by the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus grab you?

Strange as it sounds, the idea of introducing philosophy for seven-year-olds or even younger children seems to be gaining credence, following a recent study from Dundee University which suggests that this method of learning can raise a child's IQ and improve their emotional intelligence. This interview with practitioner Peter Worley gives an insight as to how this style of teaching is implemented.

For further reading, try looking at the articles below which were written by members of the Dundee research team. The first can be located by logging into Athens and searching the IngentaConnect database, the second is available in Summer Row Library in hard copy.

Trickey, S & Topping, K.J. (2004) Philosophy for Children: A Sytematic Review. Research Papers in Education. Vol. 19, No. 3, pp. 365-380.

Trickey, S & Topping, K.J. (2007) Collaborative Philosophical Enquiry for School Children: Cognitive Effects at 10-12 Years. British Journal of Educational Psychology. Vol. 77, No. 2, pp. 271-288.

Think Family

As it seems that virtually every government post has either changed hands or been turned into something completely different in the past few days, it's hard to know where this leaves any initiatives or reports that were launched shortly before the change of Prime Minister. Nevertheless, a couple of weeks ago the Cabinet Office's Social Exclusion Task Force published Reaching Out: Think Family, the first report from the Families At Risk Review which is looking at how excluded families can be supported better. A summary of the report's main themes is also available online - thanks to Terry Potter for pointing me towards this publication.

Children's Mental Health

Last week the Times published the results of an investigation into children's mental health issues, with a specific focus on depression. If you're interested in these topics, the articles entitled Young and Desperate and Is my Child Depressed? are still currently available to read in full from the newpaper's website.

Anyone wishing to read further about children's mental health should really begin with a visit to the Young Minds website. The pages are packed with information in a variety of forms, such as reports, journal articles and more. As an example I'd recommend the Putting Participation into Practice report, although there's enough material here to keep anyone reading for a while.

A 2004 report from SureStart entitled What Works in Promoting Children's Mental Health is also worth a read, while the National Children's Bureau's Mental Health briefing gives a quick overview of the issues surrounding looked-after children, as well as containing a lengthy list of suggestions for further reading. Or if pages of bar graphs and pie charts are your thing, then the most recent survey of Mental Health of Children and Young People in Great Britain from the Office for National Statistics gives an incredibly detailed breakdown of the situation in the UK.