Archive for September 2007

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.


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.


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.