Archive for September 2008

Step by Step

I had an engaging conversation last evening with past early childhood friends about developmental stages in learning. I was in Orlando to talk about developmental math sequences. We expressed our frustration about how many core standards are not listed in developmental order. It is left up to the teacher to make sure they are introduced in a sequence that will provide a foundation for learning. This is initially why I began to create the POCET tracking system for preschool.
Math is a great example. It is critical that a child can classify and sort by attributes prior to being asked to be aware of repeating patterns. Literacy experts have also concluded that phonemic awareness, letter recognition and print awareness are predictors of reading success in first grade. It is imperative that we help early childhood teachers understand the developmental order of skills so that empty, unsupported activities aren't the norm. We must build that solid foundation of learning.


Following on from yesterday's post, if you're about to embark on writing your dissertation, then you're probably at the stage of narrowing down your ideas to focus on the subject which you're going to look at for the next few months.

One of the most common comments which is heard at this time of year is, "I'd like to research this topic, but I'm not sure that there's enough information available." While your tutor will be the person to speak to with regards to selecting your final title, I can assure you that it's incredibly rare for anyone to pick a topic which cannot be studied due to a lack of relevant information or research.

If you're struggling at this stage to find useful information for your selected subject, feel free to get in touch with me and I'll try to suggest some good resources which will help you at this early stage. Or you could come to one of the research workshops which the subject librarians will be putting on around the College this semester - venues and times will go up on noticeboards in the next few days. And good luck to all of you!

DCSF Research

Usually around this time of year, our final year degree students are expected to have some idea of what topic they would like to focus on for their dissertation. In recent years one of the most popular areas for research has been to look at the provision which is available to gifted and talented students, so if you're thinking of studying that topic (or just have an interest in the subject), then you might want to look at a new report which the DCSF has just released. Click here to have a look at the report, or a 3 page summary of the findings is also available.

Also new from the DCSF are a detailed report on services for disabled children, and a literature review on the subject of independent learning. Happy reading!

Ceruk Plus

Ceruk Plus is a database which contains details of thousands of completed or ongoing research projects relating to education or children's services. The information is gathered from a diverse range of organisations and research bodies, and contains detailed background information on each project which should let you know whether it is likely or not to be relevant to your interests, and be worth the trouble of tracking down (full text items are not included). For more information about the service, take a look at the homepage.

Foundation Stage Results

Last Thursday saw the publication of the latest Foundation Stage results from the DCSF, outlining the achievements of children in this age group for the School Year 2007/08. This is the fifth year that these statistics have been published.

To take a look at the results, just click here; some further comment and analysis is also offered in this BBC report. And don't forget that as of this year, new Foundation Stage guidelines are being put into practice; this previous post will provide you with more information.

Mathematics: Understanding the Score

Several headlines today are devoted to the content of the latest report from Ofsted. Mathematics: Understanding the Score examines evidence from inspections of maths teaching that have been carried out from 2005 - 2007. Among the findings are suggestions that teaching in many schools is satisfactory, but that many teachers are 'teaching to the test', rather than giving their pupils a holistic overview of the subject.

The evidence in the report formed part of the review of mathematics published by the DCSF in June (see this previous post for details). For further reaction to the new Ofsted report, click here.

As Long As It Takes

The Action for Children charity has made headlines with its latest report. Entitled As Long as it Takes: A New Politics for Children, the new publication looks back at the last 21 years of government policy, and claims to find over 400 policy changes which have had a significant impact on the lives of children. The report argues that short-term gains and party politics should be set aside, so that a coherent long-term strategy for improving the lives of children can be put together.

Welcome Back!

Judging by the higher number of visits the blog has been getting in recent days, you're all gearing up to start the new term, so today's post is just an introduction to new visitors (or a refresher for old ones!) explaining what this site is all about.

The blog is designed to help keep students and staff up-to-date with new research and reports in the early years, education and social care sectors; organisations such as the DCSF, Ofsted, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and many others regularly publish documents which can be useful for writing assignments or just for advancing your own knowledge. So when a new report comes out, you can expect to find a summary of its content together with a link to the information on this site.

You can search through old posts by using the search box in the top left of the screen, or use the 'Hot Topics' links on the right of the page, which gather together all posts on a particular subject. As well as giving you links to reports on popular subjects such as 'Teaching', you will find a collection of 'Internet Tips' which contain suggestions for making your online browsing a little easier. Also on the right of the page are education news stories from the BBC, a selection of interesting recent articles from various sources which should interest many of you, and a collection of links to useful research websites.

Why not also have a go at using EYES Search (click here for details) the next time you need some information for an assignment? EYES has been developed for use by students within the school, and although it's a little experimental, there have been some good responses from people who have tried it. And finally, if you have any feedback about any aspects of the blog, or would like to add to what's been written here, then feel free to leave a comment - here's how to do it.

One-Day Bloom

We have a hardy Hibiscus in our yard which bloomed for this first time this fall. It is amazingly beautiful with a dark red bloom that measures approximately 8" across. The sad part is that the blooms only last 1-2 days. As there are many blooms on our plant, we have been enjoying them for a couple of weeks. These flowers have been reminding me about just how precious time is when we are looking at our children. Because of developmental windows, we don't have the luxury of hit-and-miss support for foundational learning. We need to make the most of each minute that these little ones are soaking up knowledge. Their brains are busy building connections that will affect the rest of their lives. The anticipation in children is just as breathtaking as my beautiful Hibiscus. The difference is that when we cultivate and enrich a child's joy of learning, it will most definitely last more than 1-2 days. Imagine blooming an entire lifetime!

Latest from OnTheWeb

As usual the latest issue of OnTheWeb (see previous post for details) is packed with details of new reports and research relating to education, early years and childhood. So without further ado, here are some of the highlights:

School Food Trust

In the wake of Jamie Oliver's series on school dinners, the School Food Trust was established to improve school food and the education of children with regards to eating. At about the same time a lot of our students suddenly developed an interest in doing research into school meals (!), so the School Food Trust website has been invaluable in providing information and research in this area.

Recently the Trust have released two new reports which may be of interest. The Provision of School Food in 18 Countries has an international focus, and looks at how school meals in the UK compare to those on offer abroad, as well as comsidering issues such as funding, catering providers and dining environments. Also new is The Link between Child Nutrition and Health, which is effectively a literature review of UK research in this area.

The Next Generation

The Centre for Social Justice is a thinktank which investigates how solutions can be found to the problems of poverty and the lives of those living on low incomes. Within the organisation there are a number of working groups looking at areas such as the early years, youth and gang crime, asylum, housing and prison reform.

This week the Centre's Early Years Commission has published a lengthy new report entitled The Next Generation. This takes as its starting point the idea that at present too much policy is focused on dealing with the consequences of neglect or abuse in the very early stages of a child's life, when a more effective strategy is to ensure that parents get help in 'getting it right' at the antenatal, postnatal and infant stages. The report reviews existing literature in this area, and gauges the view of experts in this area.

Time for Play

In June the National Children's Bureau published Play and Exercise in Early Years: Physically Active Play in Early Childhood Provision. This is a piece of detailed research which focuses on the extent to which young children (under-fives) are given opportunities to play in early childhood settings. The report helps to address the fact that there has previously been far more research conducted into the physical activity of older children than their younger counterparts.

On a similar theme, Play England have just released Design for Play: A Guide to Creating Successful Play Spaces. This publication is aimed at those responsible for looking after children's play areas, with the aim of helping them to create "imaginative, innovative, and stimulating
play spaces."

Education At a Glance

One for the number crunchers today... The OECD has just published Education At a Glance 2008, it's latest annual comparison of education systems across the world. If ploughing through the lengthy report doesn't appeal to you, why not take a look at how the Guardian or the BBC have reported some of the main findings? Or if your interest lies primarily in education in this country, the OECD has also prepared a Briefing Note which summarises the main statistics on the UK and compares them with global trends.

No, Not Yet!

We just recently completed a deck that has been in the planning for several years. As I sit out under the tree that grows from the middle, I am not happy that fall is on the way. The temperatures are cooling and darkness is coming earlier all of the time. But, I have my deck and I want fall to stop coming for a while. I want to enjoy the lovely summer evenings outside. But, time will keep marching on. I had the same feelings about stopping time as my children continued to grow older. Now I feel it occasionally with my grandchildren. Can't she stay two for just a little longer? It is the nature of things to watch time pass. I guess our challenge to make sure each day is better than the last one.

Child Prostitution

One of the topics that students occasionally enquire about is the subject of child prostitution. Understandably, doing research about such a sensitive subject has certain difficulties attached, and some of the sites which you attempt to access may be blocked by whichever filtering software your computer is using. So today's post is intended to point students towards 'safe', reliable information on this topic.

A very good starting point are the websites of ECPAT UK and Ecpat, an organisation which is dedicated to eliminating the commercial sexual exploitation of children. It's also worth looking at the Child Trafficking reading list that the NSPCC has put together, which lists a range of relevant books, reports and web pages. A similar list with a more international outlook has been put together by the Child Right's Information Network, though be warned that not all the reports listed are written in English!

Back in the UK, the primary legislation which governs this area is the Sexual Offences Act 2003. The DCSF is currently carrying out a consultation on how best to help professionals identify children and young people who may be at risk from exploitation, but until that is completed students may want to look at Paying The Price, a Home Office consultation that was published in 2004. Finally, for suggestions for further books and journal articles in this area, try going to Social Care Online and searching for 'child prostitution'; you should have over 300 results to choose from.

New Teachers & SEN; EYFS

If you are one of our PGCE students, then you will spend one of your three placements in an environment working with children with special educational needs (SEN). So if you have an interest in this area, you might like to take a look at a report which was published yesterday by Ofsted. How Well New Teachers are Prepared to Teach Pupils with Learning Difficulties and/or Disabilities examines what factors are required to ensure that training in this area is effective, and how such training can be best delivered.

Further to Monday's post, Teacher's TV has produced a 15 minute programme on the new EYFS, which explains the new framework and how it could affect professionals working in this area. Click here to watch the programme.

Learning & Teaching for Black Children

The DCSF has recently put together some materials to support their target of raising the attainment of Black children in the UK. The resources should enable schools to meet their equal opportunities obligations under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000.

To access the materials, follow this link. There are a range of related publications which you can download, including a detailed guide, information on previous research, and creating productive cultures in schools.

New Foundation Stage

As I'm sure many of you are already aware, today marks the introduction of the new Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) in England. The new guidelines describe the 'curriculum' that under-fives are expected to adhere to, and will have an impact on the work of all those who work with young children.

To learn more, you should really start by taking a look at the official site of the EYFS, which contains a wide range of resources, leaflets and much more information about the new guidelines and how they should be implemented. This BBC story should also be useful in telling you more about what the new EYFS entails.

Appropriately, a new piece of research from the EPPE Project has highlighted the importance of a good pre-school education, by suggesting that high quality care at this age translates into successful outcomes in English and Maths by the age of 11. The full title of the report is The Influence of School and Teaching Quality on Children’s Progress in Primary School, and it is online now.