Archive for December 2007

Lifetime Loss

I lost my mother last week to Alzheimer's disease. We were wonderful friends and she was a delightful parent and support to me throughout the years. I will miss her very much. During the services, I was brought back to many childhood memories and experiences that I alone shared with her. In Judith Viorst's poem book, "If I Were in Charge of the World," her poem SUMMER's END says,
"One by one the petals drop.
There's nothing that can make them stop.
You cannot beg a rose to stay.
Why does it have to be that way?"
I take comfort in the fact that I had this wonderful person in my life for 53 years. I wish it was much longer, but I feel lucky to have shared that valuable time. She was a great early childhood proponent, even before it was popular.

2007 - That Was The Year That Was

If you're a huge music fan like I am, you'll know that this is the time of year when the shops are full of greatest hits collections, which have been released in the hope that they'll find their way into plenty of stockings for Christmas. In keeping in this spirit, today's post brings together some of the most important documents and research which have been covered over the last 12 months, as if you're only an occasional visitor here you may have missed some of them before.

In February there were bad headlines after the UK came bottom of the league of a UNICEF survey of child well-being in rich countries. In fact, the theme of child poverty was a recurring theme throughout the year. It's difficult to isolate one or two reports as standing out from the others in this area, but you could certainly do worse than look at the work of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in this area. Click on this link to be taken to the section of their website devoted to child poverty; their annual Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion report is also an important document.

In June, the DfES was split into two; the new Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) is the new body whose work should most interest our students. This year also saw the setting up of the Equality & Human Rights Commission, a new organisation which replaces the work of the three commissions which had previously been responsible for combating discrimination in various forms.

Getting a contemporary, accurate picture of your sector is sometimes more difficult than you might expect, so thankfully a couple of reports from this year should help to make this a little easier. The DCSF has recently carried out a series of surveys into childcare and early years providers in the UK; summaries of their findings can be found in this report. Also of interest should be October's Focus on Families, which provides a very detailed picture of family life in the UK today.

One of the recurring themes that seems to crop up in child-related news stories at the moment is the issue of where children can play safely today. This theme was given a bit of a push in November with the publication of Tim Gill's No Fear, which argued that a modern preoccupation with protecting children from harm could have the effect of damaging their freedoms and relationships with adults.

Finally, some looking ahead to next year. It's likely that there will be plenty of discussion around the recently released Children's Plan, which sets out government policy in this area for the next decade. We're also likely to hear more from the Primary Review (dubbed the most comprehensive review of primary education in 40 years), which has already begun to publish its findings but will continue to release reports well into 2008. September 2008 will also see the introduction of the new statutory guidance for the Early Years Foundation Stage, but you can read about this now. And for your New Year's resolution, try to get into the habit of using the newly-launched Educational Evidence Portal, which looks like it's going to be an excellent tool for helping users turn up reliable information on all aspects of education.

Hopefully you'll all find this useful - if you do, leave a comment below - here's how - or feel free to suggest something else which you think other users will find especially useful. The blog will be back in the New Year; hopefully you'll you all have a wonderful break, and find some time to relax from your work. To help you with that, here's the link to the Peanuts site which was apparently popular back in the summer. Merry Christmas!

Social Mobility

The Sutton Trust educational charity has published a study which examines how social mobility has altered in the UK in recent decades. The research was carried out by the LSE, and has suggested that social mobility has been largely static in Britain since 1970. This means that clever children from poor backgrounds can often be overtaken in their education by less intelligent children from affluent families.

The report is entitled Recent Changes in Intergenerational Mobility in Britain, and can be read in full online now. A summary version is also available to read.

Children's Plan / Commercialisation of Childhood

If you've seen the news today you can't have escaped noticing that today is the day that the Government unveils its Children's Plan which encompasses it's vision for children's services over the next decade. The plan is very wide-reaching, covering such diverse topics as modernising playgrounds, making more support services available in schools, a review of testing procedures for children and much more.

Click on this link to be taken to a page with links to the Plan itself and a more managable summary version. You may also be interested in a document entitled Children and Young People Today, which contains much of the evidence that forms the basis of the plan and gives an incredibly detailed picture of children in the UK today. Overviews of the plan's contents can also be found in this BBC story and a similar one from The Times, while the Guardian has put together a page of related resources.

A story making the headlines yesterday was the publication by the National Union of Teachers of Growing Up in a Material World. This is a charter on the commercialisation of childhood, and is the result of a consultation exercise which asked children and parents how they felt about exposure to advertising for products aimed at young consumers, and the consequences that this could have.

Equality & Human Rights Commission

Those of you who have been asking me for information about discrimination in recent days should really take a look at the website of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. This body came into being on 1st October, and replaces the three organisations - the Commission for Racial Equality, the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Disability Rights Commission - that had previously been responsible for safeguarding equal rights in the UK.

The site is filled with reports and research relating to discrimination and equal opportunities in all areas of life, including education, employment and services. The sheer size of the site makes it a little difficult to navigate, so I think my advice would be to click the 'Publications and Resources' link from the homepage, then choose the type of discrimination that you are researching from the links on the left of the page. And after that it's up to you to explore and find the information that you're looking for...

Free E-Books

Hopefully many of you have now made use of the growing collection of ebooks which are available through E-Book Library (EBL) via Athens. However, several students have asked about Google Books in recent months, so this is the topic of today's post.

Google Books is a project which aims to digitise and make available the contents of millions of books from a number of sources, including several famous academic libraries - you can read more about the project here. While this sounds wonderful, there are restrictions in place; most of the titles you find will only offer a very limited preview of their contents, as copyright law means that Google is unable to freely share this material with anyone who wants to use it, and this situation is unlikely to change any time soon. As most students usually want full text items which they can use straight away, this is obviously a major problem.

Having said that, the site could possibly be useful if you have an interest in the early years (or any subject for that matter) from a historical perspective. This is because older titles are often no longer copyright protected - explaining it in detail would take a while! - and so have entered the public domain, which means that they can be freely distributed. For example, while preparing this post, I was able to access the full text of an 1855 book entitled Practical Education; an 1861 edition of the American Journal of Education; an 1860 book entitled Infant Feeding and its Influence on Life.

Half of the fun is never quite knowing what you're going to stumble across, but it's also fascinating to compare the methods prescribed over a hundred years ago with today's established practice. If you have any trouble viewing any of the books you've found, downloading them in full from the link in the top-right hand corner of the screen seems to fix the problem.

A similar, albeit much smaller-scale project is the Project Gutenberg website, which focusses purely on books which are out of copyright. Unlike Google Books, this site concentrates on titles from more well-known authors. So next time you're asked to find out about John Dewey, why not access a free copy of his 1916 work Democracy and Education? Or you could take a look at a 1919 anthology entitled Cambridge Essays on Education. Titles such as these should provide you with an excellent historical understanding of how our views on childhood and education have developed over the decades.

Educational Evidence Portal

Probably the main function of this blog is to direct students and staff towards research reports and other useful information on the Web which they could otherwise have missed. Obviously I do my best to point users to as many useful documents as possible as they become available, but it's impossible to check all of the best research sites every time that they are updated.

However, an excellent new site which has just been launched may make this task a little easier in the future. The Educational Evidence Portal (EEP) has been designed to bring together the resources from a number of important educational organisations in the UK; basically it allows you to simultaneously search though important documents on the websites of organisations such as the DCSF, Ofsted, Becta, and over 20 others. The EEP is still in development and promises more features soon, but I'd already recommend that you bookmark this site as it's likely to be useful on many occasions for your research.

More from OnTheWeb

Hot on the heels of the last issue of OnTheWeb comes the latest issue, which covers children and education-related research and reports which were published during November. As usual, there's a wide selection of documents to pick and choose from; here's a selection of highlights from the latest batch:

That should keep you all going for a while... :-)

Could We Have Made a Difference?

We went to California this past weekend to surprise my daughter for her 30th birthday. We also spent some time in San Francisco shopping and exploring. I am always interested in the number of homeless and panhandlers there are in that city. Probably because they won't freeze to death like they would here in Salt Lake in the winter. My friend, the doctor, always says the street people range in behavior from too much medication, too little medication or needs medication. During this visit my thoughts wandered to what each of these human beings experienced during the early childhood years. Did what happened (or what didn't happen) from birth to 8 play a major role in the fact that they are now homeless? Was their early childhood a factor in the many cases of being mentally compromised? I have always believed all of our experiences create who we become. I found myself wondering if nurturing experiences during early childhood would have made a difference in some of the cases.

Child Poverty / International Education

The latest big report relating to child poverty is the 2007 version of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation's annual publication, Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion. The report has made the headlines for its allegation that the government's approach to eradicating child poverty is stalling. A summary version of the document containing its key findings is also available, while you can view all the statistics contained in the report by following the links on this page.

Those of you interested in international perspectives on education may be interested by another annual report which was released last week. UNESCO's Education for All series is now in it's sixth year, and continues to look at issues affecting children's access to education around the world. This story from the Guardian provides a useful summary of some of the findings from the latest report.