Archive for November 2007

How Young Is Too Young?

A couple of newspapers have today picked up on a story about a letter which appears in today's Times Educational Supplement (TES). The letter comes from the Open Eye campaign with which a number of influential educational figures are involved, and expresses severe reservations about the new under-fives curriculum which is due to become law next year. Although the letter does not appear to be available to look at through the TES website, you can read it in the latest issue which is available in the College Library.

Also, the latest reports from the Primary Review (see this previous post for details) were published last week. You can view these and all other reports from the project by following the links on this page.

Teachers / Literacy

It's been mentioned briefly on this blog before, but I've been asked to draw people's attention again to the ongoing Becoming A Teacher project. Full details are available on the website, but basically this ongoing research programme is being sponsored jointly by the DCSF, the GTCE and the TDA, and is looking in detail at the experiences of teachers during their initial training (ITT) and early professional development (EPD). There's a lot of acronyms in today's post...

To date Becoming A Teacher has generated five research reports, all of them available in full from the DCSF website. The links to the various reports are below:

A number of journal articles which have already been / will be published soon have also come out of the project, and the data gathered has also been used to deliver presentations at several academic conferences. Not all of these conference papers are freely available online, but I have managed to track down two of them - click here and here to have a read.

All of which only leaves a little room for a news story from today which states that while children's literacy standards in the UK remain above the international average, they are falling in comparison to many other nations. The full text of Readers and Reading is available online.

Latest from OnTheWeb

The latest issue of OnTheWeb contains its usual mixture of reports on all sorts of education and childcare related topics. Among the highlights are a report from Becta on whiteboards in primary schools and some Ofsted research on healthy eating in schools, or if you just forget about sleeping altogether tonight then you may find time to plough through Ofsted's annual report on Children's Services and Skills; the section on childcare and early years education is a goldmine of useful facts and figures.

Internet Detective

Fancy brushing up on your internet skills? Hopefully some of you are finding the occasional tips that I post on here useful when using the internet (click on 'Internet Tips' on the right of this screen to bring up a list of them), but if you've got the time to take a more holistic approach to improving your internet skills then why not spend an hour or so working through the Internet Detective?

This excellent tutorial will take you through a lot of the skills that you need to make effective use of the Internet as a research tool, and you can check your progress along the way by answering questions on what you've just read. It's well worth having a look at if you're concerned about your abilities in this area.

A Visit from Two Princesses

We had Thanksgiving at our house this year. Three of my grandchildren came and with my grandson in the highchair it was necessary to create a 'kids table' for my two granddaughters. I remember the dreaded 'kids table' from my own youth. We took a different approach this time. We created a princess table, complete with flowing tablecloth, silver goblets, a candelabra and gold flatware. When they arrived, my granddaughters were the princesses of the day and only the royalty could sit at the princess table. It worked wonderfully and I had two granddaughters on Thanksgiving who were thankful for peasants to cater to their needs.

Children's Rights

A number of reports looking at the views of children living away from home or receiving social care services have been published duting the last 12 months by the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI). Last week the conclusions from each of these were collected together to form the basis of a new publication entitled Children's Messages on Care. If you'd like some more information on the material contained in this new document, then the original reports are still available from the CSCI website.

Starting To Learn

Today and tomorrow sees a gathering of the great and good of the early years world at The Early Years Foundation Stage: Views From Near And Far conference. It all sounds very sedate, but according to a story in today's Guardian one of the speakers is likely to cause a little controversy by suggesting that children should not start formal learning until they are seven.

The topic of when children should start their schooling is one which students often make enquiries about and has been covered by this blog before. Try looking at this previous post for links to a report on this topic and suggestions for sources of further reading.

Google Scholar

One of the most interesting things about a job like mine is seeing how the way that students access information changes over time. When I started working at the College we had about 8 resources available through Athens; now there are 30. It was also true that most of those services focussed exclusively on online journals, whereas now we can also offer our users access to market research, official reports, case studies, statistics, ebooks and much more.

All of which brings us to Google Scholar; this service has been up and running for over 2 years, but recently quite a number of students have been making enquiries about what it is, how it works etc. Basically, Google Scholar is much like one of our Athens services, in that it searches through a mass of 'scholarly' documents and finds items that it thinks you might be interested in. A typical search will tend to return thousands of results, leading some users to question why they still need to bother with online resources provided by the College.

It's true that Google Scholar can sometimes point you towards useful documents for your research. However, a number of points should be kept in mind before giving it a try:
- Google Scholar very rarely offers full text access to documents, and those that are available tend to be relatively old. You will often find that articles you uncover using the service are actually freely available to you if you choose an Athens service and access them from there.
- Google has never defined what it means by a 'scholarly' document; in other words, you can't always be sure that what you find would be acceptable for inclusion in an academic database
- There's no list of titles available to show which journals are indexed by Google Scholar, so you don't know which titles you've already searched through and which ones you still need to check
- Even when using the advanced options, the ways in which you can narrow your search are relatively limited compared to most of our Athens services

What's the moral of all this? There is probably a place for Google Scholar alongside the online services that the College provides, but it needs to be used with caution. I tend to use it only for finding information when I've exhausted all other possibilities, but perhaps some of you have had different experiences? Feel free to leave a comment on this post and share your observations...

If You're Happy & You Know It...

With all the reports in recent months on bullying, poverty, exam stress, obesity and more besides, you'd be forgiven for thinking that British children's lives are at an all-time low. Not so, according to a newly published government review, which claims that most children in the UK feel happy and cared for.

The report is available in full online. It is based on consultations which were carried out during Setember and October as part of the Time To Talk project. You can also read a summary version of the report and other supporting evidence.

Speaking of infants and toddlers...

I just returned from the annual NAEYC convention. This year it was held in Chicago and it was a big event. I had the opportunity of spending time in the Discount School Supply booth with the new product I wrote, POCET-Infants & Toddlers. It was engaging and thought-provoking for me to talk to so many caregivers who spend their days caring for the youngest of our citizens. During the past 6 months, I have spent so much time on infant and toddler issues that it was wonderful to have enough background knowledge to have an intelligent conversation. I do hope that POCET will help caregivers provide quality care for those dear little ones.

Play / Poverty

There's two new reports out today which are worth mentioning. They concern play and poverty, two of the topics which students most frequently ask for information about, so hopefully many of you will find the material in today's post useful.

First up is a report highlighting the lack of play spaces available to children in public places today. The research has been carried out by Demos - who have been featured on this blog before - and was commissioned by Play England, who work to promote opportunities and partnerships to create areas where children can play. Seen and Heard: Reclaiming the Public Realm with Children and Young People is online in full now.

The second publication is a report entitled Living With Hardship 24/7, which amongst other things contains the claim that poor children living in rich areas can often become the victims of bullying. The report is published by The Frank Buttle Trust, who also provide a summary version on their website.

Children's Television

Last month, Ofcom published An independent Report on The Future of Children’s Television Programming; this is a piece of research which they commissioned following concerns that the rise of other forms of media (internet, mobile phones etc) was having a damaging effect on the amount of funding available for original children's programming. The report provides a detailed, thought-provoking of the current state of children's TV in the UK.

ADHD / Medication

Tonight's episode of Panorama on BBC1 will feature new research which appears to demonstrate that drugs such as Ritalin, which are used as medication for children who have been diagnosed with ADHD, are not effective in the long-term. The study, which was carried out in the US, also highlighted possible side effects from the drugs which could impact on children's growth.

Research into ADHD has been plentiful in recent years, and it can be quite confusing to try and make sense of so many different documents, especially as the findings from some projects appear to contradict those from others. If you've an interest in this topic then there are certainly plenty of books in Summer Row Library and journal articles available via Athens which you can use to brush up on your knowledge.

Elsewhere, the adders and ADDISS websites contain plenty of information on the condition, as well as reporting on research projects that have been carried out by other organisations. From the US, the CHADD website has plenty of interesting content, while an excellent introduction to ADHD is provided by the National Institute of Mental Health. If you want something a little more meaty to get your teeth into, then this 2004 briefing on ADHD - How It Is Treated from the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) should be what you're looking for.

Open Access Journals

As if we didn't have enough academic journals available through Athens, there is also a large (and growing) number of 'open access' journals available on the Web. Basically, an open access journal is one which - as the name suggests - is freely available to anyone. As the internet has made it much easier to publish and disseminate information to a wide audience, these sorts of journals are likely to grow in popularity in the future.

It's difficult to know exactly how many of these titles exist as they are scattered all over the Web. However, a website entitled the Directory of Open Access Journals aims to help users find relevant articles by listing thousands of titles under subject headings. Students looking for education-related journals can also take a look at Open Access Journals in the Field of Education, a list which as been compiled by the American Educational Research Association. Admittedly it can be quite daunting looking at the number of titles which are available, so if you only take a look at one of the journals on offer then I would suggest that you visit the homepage of Early Childhood Research & Practice, which contains a number of articles that I have found useful when answering student enquiries.

Special Educational Needs / School Sport

This week the excellent Teachers TV is featuring a range of programmes which deal with various aspects of Special Educational Needs. As usual, all of the programmes broadcast on the channel can also be viewed in full via their website - a separate section of the site containing SEN programmes has been set up, so you can browse through all of the material available. Of particular interest is an interview with Baroness Warnock, author of the 1978 Warnock Report, as I know that some students are currently looking at the effect that this document had on approaches to SEN in the UK.

Another area that's come up in discussion with some students recently has been the topic of children's physical activity. If you're interested in this area then you might want to take a look at the recently released 2006/07 School Sport Survey, which provides a detailed breakdown of children's participation in physical activities at all levels of education.

Child Safety

Last week saw the launch of No Fear, a new publication which investigates whether a preoccupation with keeping children safe is having the effect of damaging their freedoms and ultimately their relationships with adults. The report has been published by the Carnousite Gulbekian Foundation, which is a body concerned with (amongst other things) social change in the UK, Ireland and beyond.

Hard copies of No Fear will shortly be available in Summer Row library. Until then, you can read the full text of this document by clicking here, or a summary version is also available; the Guardian has also printed an interview with its author Tim Gill. Thanks to Joan Hendy for pointing me towards this resource.

Future Family

The BBC's Breakfast Programme is running a series of features this week on modern family life in Britain. Each of the reports will be available to view on their website after they are broadcast, but the series already seems to have made a bit of a stir with the publication of a poll which was commissioned to assess how people regard family life. You can read about some of the more eye-catching statistics by clicking here, or if you want to look at the full, detailed results then they are available here.


I just finished creating some experiences and activities to populate a new teacher website resource. We already have resources for Head Start, Preschool and Environmental activities, but next week we are adding information for the infant and toddler caregivers. You might want to checkout this resource at: It can be a very valuable resource for early childhood educators and caregivers. Hopefully, by the first part of 2008, we will also have information for kindergarten teachers.
Creating these infant and toddler experiences have forced me to analyze the developmental milestones that children achieve during the first 3 years of life. There are so many! It is a wonder that some children survive without any type of support system for these stages. Hopefully, we in early childhood can help more families be aware of these very important changes as the infant grows.

Latest from the Primary Review

The latest reports from the Primary Review (look at this previous post for information about the project) have again succeeded in making headlines. The claims contained in the new research form a mixed picture of primary education in the UK; pupils are praised for their positive attitudes towards learning, mathematics standards are said to have improved, and standards in reading and science are said to compare favourably to many other countries, although literacy skills as a whole are said to have remained static for several decades.

On the negative side, researchers found that the curriculum has narrowed in recent years, possibly due to the pressure that teachers and pupils are under as a result of frequent testing. The reports also raise significant concern about assessment procedures, suggesting that many of the marks which are awarded in Sats Tests are inaccurate measures of an individual pupil's progress. To look at summaries and the full-text of all of the reports which the Primary Review has published so far, click here.

Resource Banks

When you're out on placement, are you ever stuck for ideas on what to do with the children in your classroom? Or perhaps you just want to try something a little different to sessions that you've done before? If so, try taking a look at the TES Resource Bank. This is a collection of teaching resources which has been put together from materials suggested by teachers themselves, and contains lessons ideas, presentations, audio files, links to useful websites and much more. You can search through the materials according to the subject area or key stage (including the foundation stage) that you are interested in, so it should be fairly simple to find what you're looking for quickly. You must register with the site before you can gain access to the materials available, but this is free and only takes a couple of minutes.

The Teacher Training Resource Bank is a different kind of collection. As the name suggests, this site is aimed specifically at trainee teachers, but rather than lesson plans, it contains materials which should help to support your professional development; these can include news stories, research reports, government guidance documents, QTS standards, Teachers TV broadcast and plenty of other resources. You might have guessed that I'm quite impressed by this site! Again, you have a range of flexible search options to allow you to quickly pinpoint the most suitable content for your purposes.