Archive for February 2008

More from the Primary Review

As regular as clockwork, the Primary Review (see this previous post for details) seems to issue a batch of reports every third Friday, and today is no exception. As usual, the latest collection is based around a common theme, which on this occasion is how primary education is funded and governed, and the impact that recent reforms have had.

For an overview of how the media has reported on the latest reports, try looking at these stories from The Guardian or the BBC. Alternatively, if you'd like to read the publications for yourself, then following this link will allow you to choose from each of the new reports as well as all of the previous documents which have appeared.

Working Memory

Researchers from Durham University believe that children who under-achieve at school may not be doing so because of low intelligence, but rather because they have a poor working memory. Their survey of 3000 primary school children suggested that as many as 10% of children have difficulties in this area - the condition is thought to be genetic, and impacts on areas such as holding information in your head.

The latest paper from the Durham team does not appear to be online, but you can read some of the previous research that they have done in this area. Listed below are two references to journal articles which they have authored; both of them can be found in hard copy in Summer Row Library, or are also available via the Blackwell-Synergy service in Athens.

Alloway, T.P., Gathercole, S.E. & Pickering, S.J. (2006) Verbal and Visuospatial short-term and working memory in children: Are they separable? Child Development. Vol. 77, No. 6, pp. 1698-1716.

Gathercole, S.E & Alloway, T.P. (2006) Short-term and working memory impairments in neurodevelopmental disorders: diagnosis and remedial support. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. Vol. 47, No. 1, pp. 4–15.

Truancy on the Rise

Statistics from the DCSF have confirmed that truancy has increased to it's highest level in over a decade. The newly-released figures cover a range of schools during the 2006/7 academic year, and can be accessed in full online.

For more information on truancy, try looking at the links from this previous post.

Lost in Transition

The topic of helping children to make transitions between different stages in their lives (eg schools) is one that seems to crop up regularly in student enquiries; indeed, the College offers a module which looks at this subject. With this in mind, hopefully many of you will find What Makes a Successful Transition from Primary to Secondary School? an interesting read; it was published last month by the DCSF, and comes out of the ongoing EPPE 3-14 project.

Building Blocks

I was researching some information about using blocks with children. I am always impressed by how many skills are reinforced through the use of blocks. Spatial sense, classification, patterning, shapes, cooperation, and planning are just a few of the experiences that children can have with blocks. I am also impressed by how important it is to leave block activities somewhat open-ended. Open creative thinking allows blocks to be a useful tool even an children get older. The kindergarten child creates different things with the same blocks he used as a toddler. It is important to have a variety of blocks available for children. They are also one of the most cost-effective tools and toys a parent or teacher can purchase.

CCInform / Grange Hill

We have just arranged for students to have access to an online resource called CCInform for an initial six month period - as the service is a relatively new one, we will be the first educational institution in the UK to have full access to this website!

CCInform is a new service from the people behind Community Care magazine, and contains detailed information on a range of social issues; this information is targeted at professionals who work with children, young people and families. Much of the content you will find on CCInform has been created especially for the site, while it also contains links to relevant legislation and supporting materials, and articles from Community Care itself.

What really impresses me about the site is well the information has been organised - you don't need to be a searching genius to find the material that you need. The service also promises that a lot more additional content will be added in the coming months.

We are currently in the process of setting up accounts for students so that they can access the site. You will need to check your College email accounts regularly over the next couple of weeks to receive your login details; students on the FdA Family Support Workers course and selected FdA EY students should have these already, others will follow shortly. Also look out for user guides to the service which will be available in the next week or so. If you have any questions about the service or any difficulties in using it, please contact me at

As it's a Friday, perhaps you can spare a couple of minutes on something that's not work-related. You may have heard the sad news this week that the upcoming series of Grange Hill is to be the final one, after 30 years on air. If like me, you spent a large amount of time during your formative years watching the programme, then this excellent fan site should bring back a few memories. Or you could break your usual study habits and read the Grange Hill entry on Wikipedia.

Safeguarding Children

Today's post is in response to a lecturer who has requested information on safeguarding children. Hopefully this will be of use to all students, but if you're doing the 2nd year of the FdA Early Years course then you may want to pay particular attention...

You could do worse than start by looking at the section of the Every Child Matters website which deals with the Common Assessment Framework; here you will find links to various documents and training materials which will hopefully prove to be useful. You may also want to take a look at the 2006 report Working Together to Safeguard Children which takes a detailed look at various aspects of the safeguarding process.

Other reports take a different angle towards safeguarding issues; to find out what children themselves have to say on the matter, try looking at Children and Safeguarding which was published last year. Last year also saw the appearance of the lengthily-titled Understanding the Contribution of Sure Start Local Programmes to the Task of Safeguarding Children’s Welfare, while a number of documents on safeguarding children in educational settings are available from the DCSF website. A further good source for materials on safeguarding and all aspects of child protection is NSPCC Inform, which contains the full text of many reports and pieces of research in this area.

To bring us up to date, you may want to take a look at Tim Gill's report No Fear, which caused something of a stir when it appeared towards the end of last year. Recent weeks have also seen the publication of the government's Staying Safe Action Plan and the Becta report Safeguarding Children in a Digital World (you'll need to click on this link then click on the 'download' link on the page that appears).

If you're interested in a particular case relating to safeguarding children, then you may want to access Childlink via Athens, as this brings together news and reports on a number of 'featured cases' (eg Victoria Climbie). You may also want to have a look at the new CCInform service which the College has just begun subscribing to (details to follow in tomorrow's blog post). A number of journals which should be useful are also available in the library - Children & Society and Child Welfare are just two of these.

Gypsy / Roma / Traveller Children

Each year we receive a few enquiries for information on the education of children from a gypsy, roma or traveller background. There are a couple of books in the library on this topic, and in addition to these I would now recommend that students take a look at The Inclusion of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Children and Young People, which was published yesterday by the DCSF.

As well as containing information about current educational provision for these children, the report also contains details about the first Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month, which is due to occur during June; there is now a website for this event, and details of planned activities will be placed here soon. If this topic is of particular interest to you, then you may also want to take a look at Supporting Early Years Practitioners Working with Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Families, which was published by Save The Children last year.

Snow, Snow, and more Snow...

We have had an abundance of snow and cold this winter. I think I am over it. I saw some young children making a snowman this morning and I remembered how I used to look forward to snow as a child. When our small town received lots of snow, we were blanketed for a while. I don't remember any snowplows, etc., so people used to try to clear their own path. I remember being pulled behind my dad's truck on an old car hood taboggan. A very dangerous thing to do (now that I reflect back), but it was a lot of fun. I guess I need to remember my child-like qualities and enjoy the snow while it is here. Hmmmm....I still think I am ready for spring.

Children on Bullying

A new Ofsted report claims that increasing numbers of children are resorting to carrying knives and even bottles to protect themselves against bullies. Among other issues highlighted by the research were the perception that bullying is on the increase, and that technologies such as mobile phones and social networking sites are also being used to intimidate some children. You can read Children on Bullying in full online. To look at previous posts on this topic, use the 'bullying' link from the Hot Topics area on the right of the page.

A Batty Idea?

A pilot programme is currently being run in Glasgow, where blind children are being taught about 'echolocation' to help them interpret the world around them. The children use their tongue to make clicking noises, and interpret their surroundings from the sound that bounces back, much like a bat or a dolphin. Intrigued? Read about it here.

Something For Everyone (Again!)

It's been a quiet week for new research / reports until today, with the release of no less than 4 different documents that may interest students. This will be a very long post if I write about them all in depth, so here's a brief summary of each with a link to the full text:


Just a quick computing tip today. If you want to get an accurate snapshot of what is appearing on your computer monitor at any given time, then just press the 'Print Screen' button (it's usually towards the top-right corner) on your keyboard, then open the document where you want the image to appear, right-click your mouse and select 'paste' from the menu. Voila! Your screenshot should now appear, and you will be able to resize it, move it around, or cut it down to size for your requirements.

This tip may be useful if you need to drop a screenshot into an essay to demonstrate a point that you are making. Also, if you are having difficulties with your searching from your home computer, then sending a screenshot to myself or one of the other subject librarians is often useful in helping us to diagnose what the problem may be.

Authentic Assessments-Revisited

There was a question comment on my entry of January 3rd about where to find authentic assessments. In my experience, it is critical for the teacher or caregiver to have a roadmap of skills that are appropriate for the age of children she is working with at the time. That is why I wrote the "POCET" program for Discount School Supply. As part of NAEYC's accreditation standards, Standard 4 – Assessment of Child Progress: The program is informed by ongoing systematic, formal, and informal assessment approaches to provide information on children’s learning and development. These assessments occur within the context of reciprocal communications with families and with sensitivity to cultural contexts in which children develop. Assessment results are used to benefit children by informing sound decisions about children, teaching, and program improvement*." It is important to remember that making assessments authentic is the APPROACH we take with the child. When we have a roadmap of appropriate skills and we administer each assessment in a developmentally appropriate way, it is an authentic assessment. As mentioned above, authentic assessment means multiple measures, not just one tool.

Family Spending

There's another week until pay day and already most of your hard-earned wages from last month seem to have vanished - ever wondered exactly how that happens? If so, then you may be interested in the latest annual Family Spending report from the Office for National Statistics, which provides a detailed breakdown of family expenditure in the UK.

This year's report makes the 50th anniversary of the survey, so contains extra information which compares how families spent their money in 1957 compared to today. Outlay on some items - for example, tobacco, biscuits and cakes - has fallen sharply in this time, while modern families are more likely to spend heavily on foreign holidays or furnishings.