Archive for August 2007


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.

Key Stage 1 Results / NQTs

This time of year is always busy for those working in education as staff prepare for the new academic year which is about to begin, and it seems that the same applies to the DCSF as they have released a number of relevant documents in recent days. Today has seen the publication of the latest figures on Key Stage 1 Assessments in England, which show only slight changes from last year's results. It will be interesting to see how next year's data compares, as this year will see the introduction of the renewed Primary Framework for Literacy and Mathematics, as well as increased emphasis on the use of phonics in literacy teaching.

Students (particularly those taking the PGCE) may also be interested in Newly Qualified Teachers’ Experiences of their First Year of Teaching, which details how NQTs are coping with their first year in the workplace. This is the latest report from Becoming A Teacher, which is a six-year project focussing on teacher's experiences during their initial training and early professional development.

Getting On Well

Ofsted has today published a new report on childcare provision within England. Getting on Well: Enjoying, Achieving and Contributing is the second annual report on early years and childcare providers, and draws on inspections and surveys carried out between April 2006 and March 2007. Among the report's conclusions are the suggestion that day-care as a whole has improved, although 4% of children in registered settings are still receiving an 'unsatisfactory' service.

At the same time, the DCSF has published a series of reports on the different types of childcare and provision in the UK. The main findings from these are brought together in a single document entitled 2006 Childcare and Early Years Providers Surveys.

NSPCC Inform

NSPCC Inform is a growing collection of research data and reports on child protection issues. Most of the materials in the site can be accessed for free, although some offer only summary versions of the full content. It's well worth exploring if you have an interest in this area.


After a quiet couple of months, stories about childhood obesity are once more in the media, after two new studies have highlighted new areas of concern where children's weight is concerned. The first piece of research has recommended that children should not be put on low-fat diets, as their energy needs differ from those of adults. In the second study, researchers working with a group of rats (charming!) have suggested that mothers who eat junk food during pregnancy may unintentionally influence the eating habits of their offspring in later life.

To read the full version of the first study, click on this link. The second article regarding pregnancy can be found in hard copy in Summer Row Library - the reference is below:

Erhuma, A et al. (2007) Prenatal Exposure to Undernutrition and Programming of Responses to High-Fat Feeding in the Rat.
British Journal of Nutrition, Vol. 98, No. 3, pp. 517-524.

Summer Break Continued...

When I returned to work today I expected to have to wade through a sea of new reports and research from the last fortnight, so that I could pick out the most relevant ones to highlight for this blog. However, it seems that everyone else is on their summer breaks right now as there have been surprisingly few new publications of interest during the past two weeks. This gives an opportunity to draw attention to one or two items which I appear to have missed before disappearing on holiday.

The end of July saw the launch of the DCSF's Ten Year Youth Strategy, which aims to provide improved youth facilities throughout the UK. You can read the whole document online, or the press release which announced the scheme should give you a flavour of the main proposals.

There have also been a number of other new research reports from the DCSF. As we have a large number of Teaching Assistants and HLTAs studying at the College, it's worth drawing attention to Deployment and Impact of Support Staff in Schools, which provides a detailed look at the role of such staff within schools. Sure Start Local Programmes and Domestic Abuse and
Minority Ethnic Pupils in the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England are two other new reports that may interest some of our readers.

Finally, it seems that the government has embraced the zeitgeist by opening a YouTube Channel for the DCSF, where they can post videos directly. There's only a couple of films there so far, but if you're curious then no doubt others will be added soon.

A New Beginning

Every fall seems like a new beginning in education. I have grandchildren starting school and my daughter-in-law is opening a preschool. Everything is focused on this opportunity to begin a new phase of life. I am looking forward to Monday when I meet my new students for the semester at the university. I am particularly excited as I have the privilege to also work with a group that is exclusively early childhood. My usual groups are comprised of those students, as well as future elementary teachers. As a beginning teacher it took me a while to approach fall with the excitement of what each person could accomplish during the next nine months. I challenge all teachers to approach new groups of children with the attitude of, "How much will each one of these wonderful people achieve this year and how can I help?"

Summer Break

Judging by the stats that I am getting for this blog, we’re beginning to build an audience of loyal readers who return on a regular basis to see what‘s been added. So today’s post is just to say that while there’s going to be a break for a couple of week’s holiday, please come back soon as normal service will shortly be resumed. In the meantime amuse yourself with some Peanuts cartoons, which will surely tell you as much about children’s minds as any research report...

Starting School / International Education

When should children begin their education? According to some speakers at the Professional Association of Teachers' annual conference, the school starting age should be raised to six or seven. This would bring the UK into line with most of Europe, as this 2002 report from the NFER illustrates.

If you are interested in seeing 'how they do it' in other countries, there are a number of websites which can provide you with detailed information on educational systems in other countries. The largest of these belongs to the International Bureau of Education, although INCA and Eurydice are also well worth a look.

Web 2.0 & Education

Something a little different today... One of the buzzwords currently doing the rounds in newspapers and magazines is 'Web 2.0', although a lot of people still seem confused as to what it actually means. While it's hard to come up with a precise definition as the technology is changing so quickly, Web 2.0 essentially refers to online content that has an interactive element, allowing users to contribute to the material on the screen in front of them. If you've ever used MySpace, Facebook, Wikipedia, Flickr, YouTube or countless similar sites then you've made use of Web 2.0 applications. Even this blog could be classed in this category, as users have the ability to leave comments and generate a discussion.

What has all this got to do with this blog's normal themes? I'll tell you! With the spread of e-learning into all areas of education, teachers and lecturers are starting to investigate how these new tools can be utilised as part of the learning experience. Much of the research in this area so far has concentrated on higher education, but there are examples of projects which have been carried out with young children. For example, pupils at a primary school in Scotland have been experimenting with blogging and podcasting, while this FutureLab report presents a case study of 13-14 year olds building a wiki as part of a project. Also worth looking at is this Guardian article from last year which lists several examples of the use of Web 2.0 within education, and this Becta factsheet which neatly summarises some of the issues currently confronting educators, as well as suggesting further sources of reading.

If you're interested in this topic then here's two more items which might interest you. Last year Time magazine gave its prestigious Person Of The Year title to You, by which it meant the mass of internet users who are reshaping the World Wide Web into new forms; you can read the full editorial fom this issue online. Or if you've got 5 minutes to spare why not watch The Machine is Us/ing Us, a fantastic short film which addresses many of the issues regarding the future direction of online information.