Archive for March 2008


Each month the National Children's Bureau puts out a short leaflet as part of a series entitled Highlights, with each separate issue providing a neat, concise overview of a topic relating to childhood. For instance, recent issues have focussed on topics as diverse as the Education and Inspections Act 2006, Counselling Services for Young People, and Children, Young People and Bereavement. Highlights are a great way of getting an overview of a topic about which you don't have a great deal of information, as well as suggesting ideas for further reading.

You can access Highlights online through the ChildData service on Athens. Getting access to them is a little fiddly, but here's how to do it:

  • Select ChildData from the Athens list
  • Click on 'Library Catalogue'
  • Click on 'Advanced Search'
  • Next to the 'Format' box there is a button marked 'Word Wheel'; click on this
  • In the box that pops up, click on 'highlight', then on the 'Paste' button, then the 'Close' button
  • Finally, click on the 'Submit Query' button at the bottom of the page

You should now be looking at a list of all of the Highlights series, arranged in alphabetical order. You do not get access to the very early titles in the series, but all of the most recent ones are available; just click on the link underneath each one to open the file.

The Byron Review

Today sees the publication of the Byron Review, the eagerly awaited report from Dr Tanya Byron (star of Little Angels and The House of Tiny Tearaways!) into the risks posed to children from exposure to inappropriate materials and violence through the internet or computer games.

The link above takes you to the Review's homepage, which contains a copy of the full report, a summarised version, the government's response and plenty of other supporting documentation. The Guardian also offers a simple bullet-point summary of the main points.

For further research in these areas, why not take a look at these previous posts on Video Games and Internet Safety?

Social Workers in Schools

New research from the NFER suggests that having social care practitioners who are based within a school ensures that children's needs are identified more quickly. However, the NFER report also states that there is a culture of unease and distrust which exists between the education and social care sectors.

The full text of The Value of Social Care Professionals Working in Extended Schools is now available online in full; a summary version is also available.

Multiple Uses

In most areas, the educational dollar is not as plentiful as it should be. As a teacher, I always looked for products or additions to my classroom that I could use for multiple teaching experiences. I have been doing a series of math workshops this year and explain to teachers how easy it is to use items for teaching numerous different skills. I also have been working on ways to keep children active and energized. One item that caught my attention was a circus tent for active play that could also double as a reading center or any other type of center. I am very much in favor of products and activities that can be used for various teaching strategies. That way, the teacher can stretch that scarce dollar a bit further. It will also help children think of creative uses for toys and games.

Looking for Early Years Information? You need EYES!

One of the most frustrating things about doing a Google search is the amount of irrelevant or non-academic material which appears in your results. So today's post is about a service I'm trialling that tries to get around this problem by building a search engine which focuses only on relevant and suitable webpages, which I've named EYES (because it stands for 'Early Years, Education and Social policy', and also because it looks for things).

You can access EYES by clicking on this link. You will then be looking at a simple search box, which is powered by Google software; the difference is that this search engine will only find results from the websites which it has been programmed to look through. I've selected about 50 websites dealing with all aspects of childcare, early years, and social policy, which have been chosen for the quality and reliability of the information that they provide - more sites will be added shortly.

It's important to emphasise that this is only a trial for now - this new search engine is very much in the beta stage. Shortly it should be possible to embed the search box into this blog, although I'd like to iron out any teething problems before doing that. What would be really helpful for now would be for anyone who tries the service to give some feedback, whether good or bad, on how useful they found it. Suggestions on possible improvements that you would like to see will also be gratefully received. You can contact me either by leaving a comment below or by emailing me at

Bercow Review

The Bercow Review has been commissioned by the government to look at services for children with speech, language or communication difficulties. The final report from the review will not be available until July, but a document with interim findings has just been published. To take a look at a summary version or the full report, or simply to learn more about the project, click on the link above.

Keyboard Shortcuts

A few weeks ago my brother told me that he'd had to turn his computer monitor upside down to continue using it. Apparently, his baby daughter had spent a few seconds mashing the computer keys when the display on the screen had suddenly vanished for a second, and then reappeared the wrong way up. As he couldn't figure out how to fix the problem, he had to move the monitor to continue using it.

As it turned out, what had happened was that she had triggered one of a number of keyboard shortcuts which are embedded in all Windows software, which is the operating system that most computers use. Shortcuts are designed as an alternative to using the mouse to accomplish everything on screen, and can also be useful to computer users with motor difficulties.

Lists of all of the existing shortcuts are available online. If you are using Windows Vista then click here, XP users should click here, while shortcuts for older versions of Windows are available here. The sheer number of options can look daunting, but many regular computer users find that there are a handful of actions which they need to carry out on a repeated basis and discover that doing that action via a keyboard shortcut is sometimes a quicker alternative. Why not try out one or two for yourself?


In the headlines today is a claim that up to 2 million children have dyslexic-type learning difficulties which are not currently being catered for by the government's literacy strategy. This information comes from an interim report from a research project which is being funded by the DCSF - you can read the report here.

If you have an interest in dyslexia, there are a number of established organisations from whom you can obtain further information. Today's report has been published by XtraordinaryPeople, while you may also be interested in the work of the British Dyslexia Association, Dyslexia Action, or British Dyslexics.

For more research information on dyslexia, you should certainly take at Literature Review of Current Approaches to the Provision of Education for Children with Dyslexia, which was published last year by the Scottish government's education department. Or you can take a look at the Dyslexia journal; back issues of this can be accessed in full via Athens by going into the Wiley InterScience site.

Bits and Pieces

This is going to be another of those blog posts which doesn't have a central theme, but rather is composed of odds 'n' ends. So in no particular order, here's a selection of useful reports / research which have come to my attention in recent days:

Forced Marriage

One of the most sensitive topics which students occasionally look at is the subject of forced marriage. So those of you with an interest in this area may be shocked to learn that statistics from a new piece of research suggest that the number of forced marriages in the UK each year appears to be much higher than previously thought. The research has been commissioned by the Home Office, following discussion about how widespread the practice really is.

The government actually passed the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection Act) 2007 last year, which forms the basis of legislation in this area (click here for a summary of the main points). They have also established the Forced Marriage Unit, while two earlier reports on the issue can be accessed by clicking here or here. The NHS Forced Marriage Awareness service is also worth a look if you are completely new to this subject.

Two for the Price of One

Two documents that have come out this week and may interest some of you:

There has recently been a lot of talk regarding child well-being and happiness, but how exactly can these ideas be measured? The DCSF has just published Childhood Wellbeing: Qualitative Research Study, a study which looked at existing literature and spoke to families to try and answer this question. One of the DCSF's ongoing commitments is to improve the quality of children's lives, and so this report is intended to help this process.

Secondly, one of the common enquiries which students make is for information on children with English as an Additional Language (EAL). So you may be interested in a new guide which the DCSF has just released, which is aimed at helping educational leaders to include such children in school life. While the New Arrivals Excellence Programme: Management Guide does not contain much in the way of research material, it does contain plenty of practical advice for practitioners.

Are Children Growing Up Too Fast?

Dame Jacqueline Wilson, the author of the popular Tracy Beaker books, made headlines this week after suggesting that today's children are being forced to grow up too quickly. Her comments were made as a new survey into modern parents' views of childhood indicated that as many as 55% feel that their offspring's childhood is over by the age of 11.

In response to this, the BBC website has posted an excellent short article which questions whether the idea of childhood being "not as it was" has always been with us. Entitled Was Childhood Ever Innocent?, the article looks at changing attitudes from Edwardian times up to the present day.

For further information on this topic, you can take a look at the Harry Hendrick book which the BBC article mentions, as there are copies available in Summer Row Library. Or if you want to explore the subject in real depth, then why not get hold of a copy of The Invention of Childhood? This series was aired on Radio 4 in 2006, and examines the lives of children in Britain over the course of the last millennium.

Sure Start is Good for Children

Do you work in a Sure Start centre, or does your child attend one? If so, it seems that you can give yourself a pat on the back; according to a new report out today, children who attend Sure Start Centres are more likely to exhibit positive social behaviour and greater independence.

However, the researchers behind the project have suggested that the effects noted were relatively modest; among other findings was the fact that children living in Sure Start-supported areas were more likely to have been immunised. You can read the full text of The Impact of Sure Start Local Programmes on Three Year Olds and Their Families online, or a summary version is also available.

Drugs Strategy

Last week the Home Office published a ten year drugs strategy, which aims to reduce the demand for illegal drugs whilst simultaneously restricting the available supply. You can read about some of the measures that the report contains here, or you can choose to browse through the whole of Drugs: Protecting Families and Communities online.