Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Children 'less able than they used to be'

A recent Guardian article reports on a research project by the Economic and Social Research Council that concludes that 11 and 12 year old children in England are less advanced in terms of cognitive and conceptual development than 15 years ago.

ICT in Schools

A recent report Are Students Ready for a Technology Rich World? draws on research from PISA 2003 to consider issues such as how students use ICT, what their attitudes are towards ICT, and the relationship between students' access to and use of ICT and their performance in PISA 2003.

The Sector Skills Council e-skills UK has announced the launch of Computer Club for Girls (CC4G) at the Scottish Parliament on 22nd March. After a successful pilot, CC4G will roll out to all Fife schools. Click here for more details on CC4G.

In e-assessment, an article in Edutopia describes the use of automated grading systems to score the work of US school students.

Motivating Pupils

Careers Scotland's Activate programme is designed to provide extra support to S4 and S5 pupils in the final three months of schools, and is aimed at young people who are most likely to fall into the NEET group (not in education, employment, or training). A recent independent evaluation has found that in the pilot, 87% of participants had stayed at school or moved into work, training, or further education - compared to the projected 40% normally associated with this group. The Activate programme recently won a UK award at the National Career Awards Ceremony.

West Lothian Council has also won an award - a European Social Fund Best Practice award - for motivating pupils who have found mainstream education difficult. Their Alternative Curriculum programme involves a range of vocational activities to keep young people engaged in learning. Read the press release here.

Personal Learning Plans

A recent BBC story outlined the results of a survey, conducted for the Educational Institute of Scotland, about the piloting of personal learning plans (PLPs). The results indicated that teachers reported increased administrative workload and doubts about PLPs' benefits.

Progress on Ambitious, Excellent Schools

The Scottish Executive has published a report on the progress made in the Ambitious, Excellent Schools reforms.

A summary of the report is available here, or the full report is available here.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Highland Council to drop courses?

A BBC story reports that Education Minister Peter Peacock has expressed surprise that Highland Council has warned that paying for a new teachers' pay package means that schools may have to cut back on their existing curriculum. Highland Council's Director of Education has stated that it would be up to individual schools to reduce curriculum options such as some Advanced Highers.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

UN Condemns German School System

A BBC story reports that a UN special rapporteur has condemned Germany's school system after an eight-day inspection. The main problem, it seems, is that the education system selects children very early - at the age of ten - to go to either a grammar school or a vocational one.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Mixed report for Scottish education system

BBC News website today carries a story on a recent HMI report [PDF] on Scottish education. It is the first time the system has been examined from pre-school nurseries to further education colleges.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

English 'a threat to the UK'

A recent report by the British Council has concluded that the global dominance of English now poses a major threat to the UK's international standing. The advantage traditionally enjoyed by UK citizens is disappearing, as millions around the world can speak English and at least one other language. In India and China, the report found, English is not taught as a foreign language, but as a 'basic universal skill'.

The report's author said that UK students should be encouraged to learn languages of the future - such as Spanish, Mandarin, and Arabic.

Click here for the BBC story.

Use of VLEs in Higher Education

A report carried out by JISC and UCISA (University Colleges and Information Systems Association) takes a longitudinal perpective in comparing the use of Virtual Learning Environments for higher education between March 2001, March 2003, and March 2005.

Details of the survey are available here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Students Should Choose Assessment Method

A study carried out by Manchester Metropolitan University, on behalf of the Learning and Skills Development Agency, has concluded that students studying for post-16 qualifications should be offered greater choice in how they are assessed. 'Assessment needs to be made more appropriate for particular subjects and qualifications.'

The review covered assessments carried out in sixth-forms, further education colleges, workplace training, and adult education. It found an over-reliance on traditional exams and written work and that there is too much emphasis on writing, rather than practical skills. A wider range of assessment methods - such as online testing - would perhaps motivate students more.

'...We are arguing for an assessment regime that is fit for purpose and supports learning rather than replaces it.'

The report - The impact of different modes of assessment on achievement - can be found on the LSDA website. Click here.

Students' Skills 'Worsening'

A recent BBC story reported that university admissions tutors and lecturers think that new students' skills in reading, communication, and thinking are increasingly worsening and many are suffering from 'assessment burn-out' as they arrive from school. Click here to read the story in full.

The university staff were questioned as part of the ongoing Nuffield Review of 14 to 19 education.

Meanwhile, on a related note, another BBC story reports that the Liberal Democrats are proposing that in England GCSEs and A-levels should be replaced by a national diploma. Scrapping the national curriculum after the age of 14, they say, would give schools the 'freedom to teach'. Click here for the article in full.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Wikis in education

SQA recently developed a new qualification in blogging [PDF] and took the unusual step of developing support material in the form of a wiki. The material is now available via Wikibooks. More information on the SQA blog.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Curriculum for the future

QCA produces occasional papers on the future of education. One of the recent papers was entitled "A curriculum for the future" [PDF] which explains how different subjects will change in the future. Some interesting ideas - although I was disappointed in the description of my own subject (ICT).

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Call for internet safety lessons

The University of Central Lancaster published a report today on the importance of teaching children how to use the Internet safely. The researchers discovered that most children are taught how to use IT - but the curriculum rarely explains the potential dangers or shows children how to use the Internet safely.

SQA has recently produced a new qualification entitled "Internet Safety" which is the first national qualification in Europe to focus on this aspect of Internet use.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Britons unconvinced on evolution

A recent poll shows that less than half of Britons accept evolution as the best explanation of how life developed on Earth. And 2 in 5 respondents want creationism and intelligent design taught in UK schools. These figures are lower than a similar American survey - when more than half of respondents expressed the view that God had created humans in their present form and 2 in 5 people wanted creationism taught instead of evolution.

East Ren's New Curricular Structure

Reports in last week's TES have John Wilson, East Renfrewshire's education director, denying earlier media reports that all their pupils are to sit Intermediates in S3.

He stressed that the new curricular structure was a response to A Curriculum for Excellence. The approach embraces flexibility and, while some pupils may sit Intermediates in S3, there is no plan to impose this on all pupils.

'The focus is not on age and stage, but rather on teachers assessing these kids and saying this is the appropriate course for them.'

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Music in Education

A BBC story 'Music 'as vital as the three R's' outlines a new study in England which reports that learning to play an instrument boosts the intelligence, teamworking and general well-being of children. This suggests that it's not just an valuable choice in its own right but also as a means to achieve broader educational objectives.

Here in Scotland, I'm sure that would be a view expressed by Music educationalists. The on-going curriculum renewal through the Curriculum for Excellence places an emphasis on enabling all young people to become 'successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors'. Good rounded members of society.

But couldn't many other teachers also claim that their specialism delivers broader gains than mere subject knowledge and skills?

Me, I learnt much more useful life-skills (such as taking care of myself and social skills) in Home Economics classes where the girls were in a big majority...

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Continued debate over phonics

The debate in England over the best way to approach early literacy teaching continues, as new research questions the conclusion that synthetic phonics teaching is more effective than the analytic method.

Research by the universities of York and Sheffield for the DfES found the evidence inconclusive and called for a large-scale trial. The DfES re-iterated that they advise that the teaching of phonics should be 'set within a broad and rich language curriculum.'

Click here for the BBC story.

Chinese in schools

First time posting, so we'll see how it goes...

While an estimated 100 schools in the UK are now teaching Mandarin, an independent school in East Sussex - Brighton College - has become the first in the UK to make Mandarin Chinese compulsory for pupils, alongside French, Spanish, and Latin.

The BBC story is available here.

GCSE entries for Mandarin and Cantonese increased to just below 4,000 entries in 2005, and while this is still small, increasing business links with China means that this is likely to increase substantially over the next decade or so.

Is there any demand or need for more Chinese courses in Scotland if we too are to keep up with the world's fourth-biggest economy?