Archive for October 2007

Creativity in Schools

An new report from the Parliamentary Education and Skills Commitee has flagged the importance of creativity as part of a balanced curriculum. The full report is entitled Creative Partnerships and the Curriculum and can be read in full online; among the other documents it makes repeated reference to is an Ofsted report from last year - Creative Partnerships: Initiative and Impact.

The Childhood and Education blog has covered the topic of creativity in education before; to see what other documents are available on the Web for this topic, try looking at this previous post.


Several students have recently asked what information is available on child bereavement, which seems as good an excuse as any to make that topic the subject of today's post. A number of relevant books are available in the library as well as some useful Athens materials, but there are also a handful of websites which could be deemed 'reliable' enough for academic use.

Both the Child Bereavement Charity and the Child Bereavement Network have well-designed sites containing information for children, parents, and professionals alike. There are many useful documents in both site, but possibly the pick of these is the Child Bereavement Networks' Summary of Key Issues for Bereaved Children and Young People, which does an excellent job of covering some key points and suggests a number of useful-looking items for further reading.

Back in 2005, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation carried out a large-scale literature review in this area; although the full review is not available online, you can read a summary of The Impact of Bereavement and Loss on Young People. Or for a broader view of children's emotional and mental health, the Young Minds website is well worth a visit.

The Invisible Web

As it's a slow news day, here's the latest instalment of an occasional series of search tips / tricks which appear on this blog. Today's post concerns the Invisible Web (sometimes called the Deep Web), what it is, and why it matters.

How big is the World Wide Web? No-one really knows, but what is known is that a huge number of web pages are not indexed by search engines like Google - in other words, no matter how cleverly you put together a search, you will be unable to uncover these pages. There are several reasons why a webpage may not be retrievable by a search engine - click here to read a useful article which explains it all in relative layman's terms, and provides links to related items.

You may be wondering why this matters, when Google or similar search engines are still capable of returning millions of results. The reason it causes a problem is that the very type of academic information that is most useful to students is often held in the sorts of websites which search engines cannot penetrate. For instance, I regularly use the ERIC service to help me find useful materials on education-related topics, but if you're using a search engine then you'll need to construct a very clever search if you want to access most of the references contained within the site; it's much easier to simply go direct to the ERIC homepage. Similarly, many of the materials held within Athens will not appear in the results of a normal Google search, and those that do will require a password and possibly payment if you want to access the really good stuff (ie the full text of journal articles); it makes more sense to go directly to the source, and reserve the search engines for when you really don't have a clue where to start, or have drawn a blank elsewhere.

Hopefully that all makes sense! If you're really keen, the library at Summer Row has an excellent book entitled The Invisible Web which contains much more on this topic. Also, the Complete Planet website attempts to bring together many of the resources which cannot be accurately picked up by normal search engines. The fella below seems to have got the idea...

When's Your Birthday?

A report from the Institute of Fiscal Studies has confirmed what many have suspected for a long time; the date of a child's birthday can have a significant effect on their likelihood of doing well at school. This means that children born in August are particularly at risk from the 'birth draw'.

You can read the full text of When You Are Born Matters online; a more managable summary version is also available.

Community Family Support Resources

The number of students from the FdA Community Family Support who have visited the library office today suggests that you're all rather keen! I have spoken to some of you and suggested which of the Athens services should be most useful to you in carrying out research for your course, but it also struck me that there are a lot of good quality websites which address some of the issues you will need to read about. So, if you're not already familiar with some of the sites listed below, then take some time to explore them and see what you can find. (Deep breath) Here goes...

Sites containing research information in your subject area are plentiful. I really can't praise the Joseph Rowntree Foundation enough, as their website is packed with news stories, reports and countless other resources on various social issues. Also well worth a look is Social Care Online, a freely accessible database of research that can be either searched or explored through subject headings. Other free sources of detailed reports and much besides include the Family and Parenting Institute and the Centre for Social Inclusion, while the Social Policy and Social Work gateway to research contains an impressive collection of links to sites covering all social issues. The website of the Economic and Social Research Council also contains information on both its own research and the projects of other organisations.

There are also several official / government websites which you should make yourself familiar with. The Social Exclusion Task Force is part of the Cabinet Office, and "champions the needs of the most disadvantaged members of society". Among the projects they are involved in is the ongoing Families at Risk Review, which has already produced the Reaching Out: Think Family report. The Communities and Local Government website is also worth bookmarking, and there should also be useful materials available from the new Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Still here? If you'd like a couple of sites which will help you keep up to date with your topic then you can read the archives of Community Care online for free. Similarly, all of the new and past content of the Guardian's Society supplement can be accessed from SocietyGuardian; the site also contains additional features which are not available in the print publication. And now I'm going to lie down...

Internet Safety

A new campaign has been launched by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), with the aim of helping young children to stay safe while they are online. Parents and carers of children can access a Strategic Overview with detailed information on internet safety, while children are pointed towards the existing thinkuknow website, which has content that is targeted at different age groups.

Further information and documents relating to internet safety are available from the website of Childnet International, an international organisation which runs a number of projects in this area. And as you might expect, Becta have produced a number of materials that cover internet safety from an educational point of view - perhaps the most useful of these is Teaching E-Safety at Key Stages 1 & 2, which was published earlier this year.

Child Obesity

One of the most common enquiries from students is requests for information on child obesity, so no doubt many readers will be interested in today's news story that the Department of Health is considering sending warning letters to parents of children who are found to be overweight.

Other sources of information on this topic are plentiful, so there really is no excuse for not finding useful materials. There are plenty of relevant, up-to-date articles and reports which can be accessed in full through the College's Athens services, or for further suggestions for items accessible through the internet try looking at this previous post.

Families & Neighbourhoods

Yesterday saw the publication of a survey based on interviews with 2,100 parents across England. The survey, entitled Families and Neighbourhoods, was carried out by the Family & Parenting Institute, and draws a correlation between household income and satisfaction with the area in which people live.

Video Games

This post is being created primarily in response to the person who left a comment on Monday's post regarding children and video games, but hopefully other readers will find it useful too. You may have read that Tanya Byron has recently been asked to lead an inquiry into the effects of video games on children, but this project is not due to report back with its findings for some time. Until then, two reports which deal with this topic are The Effects of Computer Games on Young Children – A Review of the Research, which dates from 2001, and the more recent (2005) Review of Research on the Impact of Violent Computer Games on Young People.

As always, I'd welcome feedback of all kinds on what users think about the blog, and whether or not you are finding it useful. You can leave public comments (click here to find out how), or if you'd prefer to contact me privately then feel free to send me an email.

Alternative Education

A bizarre story in the Guardian today tells of a 'secret school' in Germany which had apparently escaped the notice of the local authorities for 30 years. The primary school had been set up by parents who were disgruntled by what they perceived as the "rigid" set-ups promoted by the state system.

This seems like a good excuse to look at alternative education, and some of the information that is available on the internet on this prickly topic. Probably the best known institution of this type in the UK is Summerhill School, which was originally founded in the 1920's. There are a number of books which have been written about Summerhill; if you are searching the Web then you could do worse than read this article about it's founder AS Neill, which neatly summarises his educational philosophies. Also available is the foreword to his 1960 book Summerhill.

Of course Summerhill is not the only alternative to mainstream education, and this article from the TES compares its approach to that adopted in Montessori schools and Steiner schools. Other institutions which once operated in the UK include Bertrand Russell's Beacon Hill School in Sussex and Dartington Hall School - click here for the full text of a fascinating 1960's newspaper feature on the latter.

Latest from OnTheWeb

Once again the people behind the OnTheWeb service (click here for details) have done an excellent job of bringing together details of new reports and research in the areas of education and childcare. The highlights in the latest issue include the Harnessing Technology Review 2007, which is Becta's latest annual summary of how ICT is being employed in education. Also new is Rights Here, Rights Now, a UNICEF report which looks at the issue of how to protect illegally trafficked children in the UK. Or why not take a look at the excellently named Hoodie or Goodie?, which explores the links between victimisation and offending behaviour in young people.

Appropriate Practice-cont.

I should have done a better job last posting of explaining about my 'adopted' grandchildren. Those two cuties are not my grandchildren, but my friends. They are part of my life so they call me their 'adopted grandpa.'
The point of my posting was my frustration at teachers who fall into the trap of providing inappropriate classrooms when they should know better. One classroom I visited is taught by a second-year teacher. She graduated from a very appropriate early childhood program. All she did the entire time I was there (the full 3 hours) was shove dittoed worksheets in front of the children. No teaching, reading aloud, discussions or anything that kindergarten children desperately need. ALL kindergarten children deserve better.

Primary Review

Primary Review is an independent project based at the University of Cambridge which is taking a detailed look at primary education in the UK. The project is set to run for two years (it has already been running for a year), and will produce a staggering 32 reports over the next 12 months.

The first of these reports is entitled Community Soundings, and has been published today. The document is based on interviews with children, teachers and parents, and has revealed that primary school children are 'deeply anxious' about their lives and the modern world.

For more information about the Primary Review, you can visit their website. As well as providing more information about the project, the site also provides a list of reports that are yet to be published, and allows you to sign up to an email service that will alert you when this new content is released.

Nursery Places

The Daycare Trust and National Centre for Social Research have just collaborated on Childcare Nation, a report which aims to act as a comprehensive study of the childcare in this country. Although the media have mainly highlighted its claim that a quarter of families pay for childcare places that should be free, the report is actually very wide in scope, focussing on six different areas - outcomes for children; quality and the childcare workforce; the state of childcare provision; parents’ work patterns; changes in patterns of childcare use and childcare costs. A copy of the full report will shortly be available in the College library (it is not available online), but you can look at a summary version.

Space Learning

If you're a devotee of the cult 1960s programme The Prisoner, then you may remember one episode where the characters were exposed to a new education technique which would allow them to learn an entire degree course in just a few seconds. It sounds far-fetched, but now a school in North Tyneside is pioneering eight-minute lessons for pupils. This method has attracted critics, but is apparently based on US research on a technique called space learning.

We Know Too Much

Sometimes I think that well-trained early childhood educators know too much. It may certainly be the case when we look at our own children and grandchildren. I have three grandchildren (and two adopted grandchildren) in school this year. I have had the opportunity to help or visit several of the classrooms. In some cases I have found very inappropriate classrooms. In other cases, I have found developmentally appropriate environments. My daughter and I had the discussion of how devastating it is to have your own child or grandchild in an inappropriate early childhood setting. Most parents and grandparents don't really know what to look for in school classrooms. I facetiously say that sometimes it is hard to know too much. However, it also allows us to lobby and work for change. The trick is to influence positive change without causing resentment. We'll see what happens...

Rounding Up The Reports

Friday feels like a good day to round up some of the reports which have recently been published but not yet featured on the blog, so hopefully there'll be something for everyone in today's post. The educationalists among you have two documents to choose from - Effective Teaching and Learning for Pupils in Low Attaining Groups has been published by the DCSF, while What Role for the Three Rs? Progress and Attainment During Primary School is a new report from the Centre for Research on the Wider Benefits of Learning. This new publication builds on the work of an earlier report entitled Development in the Early Years: Its Importance for School Performance and Adult Outcomes, which students may also find useful.

Also new from the DCSF is Youth Inclusion and Support Panels: Preventing Crime and Antisocial Behaviour, which examines the support services available to children aged 8-13 who are considered to be at 'high risk' of offending and antisocial behaviour.

It's been gratifying to note that since teaching began at the start of this week, the number of people viewing this blog has rocketed. Hopefully you're all finding the information here useful, and are making use of the links / archives at the side of the page as well. If you'd like to offer any feedback or suggestions on how the blog can be improved then feel free to email me or leave a comment on any of the posts - for instructions on how to do this, click here.

It's a Family Affair...

The changing face of the family in the UK is highlighted today with the publication of Focus on Families. This publication takes an incredibly detailed look at all aspects of family life, revealing findings such as women with qualifications tend to marry later, or that the number of families containing cohabiting partners is growing faster than other family types. For a summary of the main findings, click here.

School Dinners / Children's Television

Just like buses, it seems that news stories relating to children seem to come in twos and threes... The first headline of interest today relates to the latest report on school dinners (will they never end?) which has found that there has been a decline in the take-up of school meals since they were given a healthy make-over following Jamie Oliver's TV campaign. The full report - Food in Schools - is available to read online now. For further information on this topic, try looking at these previous posts - Nutrition & School Meals and School Dinners.

Today's second story concerns the relative lack of homegrown TV programmes for children. A report by Ofcom has highlighted the decrease in children's programmes which are produced in the UK, despite the fact that such shows are often some of the most popular ones amongst viewers. You can read The Future of Children's Television Programming online, or for further information on children's TV try reading Turn Off The TV! or Children & The Media.

Children & Doctors

Anyone writing about children's health issues may be interested in taking a look at a new publication from the General Medical Council. 0-18 Years: Guidance For All Doctors will come into effect from 15 October, and provides advice for doctors on how to deal with issues that can arise when dealing with children. It also contains a lengthy list of other sources of information and guidance which readers could find useful.

Great Books

Teacher's TV and the National Union of Teachers (NUT) are collaborating on a project to find out which books have most inspired the people who work in education. The poll will remain open until the 26th October, after which Teacher's TV will broadcast a programme based on the votes received. If you'd like to participate in this project then you will need to visit the Great Books webpage; you must be registered with the Teacher's TV site, although this is free and it only takes a couple of minutes to sign up. Or you can simply look at the titles that have already been voted for - many of them are available in the College libraries.