New tests for 11 year-olds revealed

Education secretary Michael Gove has revealed new tests in literacy for 11 year-olds, an article in the Telegraph indicated yesterday.

The new exam, which is more focused, will assess pupils on correct use of punctuation, appropriate grammar usage including knowledge of nouns, verbs, adverbs, prepositions and the correct use of tenses and pronouns such as “I” and “me”. The tests will form part of the ‘writing’ component of Sats alongside existing teacher assessments of pupils’ written composition skills.

Read more in the Telegraph article online here.

The importance of the arts in our education

An article in yesterday’s Guardian assesses the vital importance of the arts to education, and looks at the implications of its absence from the recent proposals for the new EBacc qualification,

We all have an interest in giving our children a broad education. Of course, they need literacy and numeracy. But they also need to develop their imaginations, and exercise their visual skills and emotional creativity. Learning through and about the arts enables young people to make, learn and express themselves. This is fundamental to achieving success in school and in later life.

Other subjects suffer in the absence of the arts. Schools that integrate arts into their curriculum also show improved student performance in maths, English, critical thinking and verbal skills. The arts have a primary role in a world that is now highly dependent on visual literacy. Engineers, designers and those employed in the media all have to understand through images as much as through words.

Read the full article online here.

Helping children to read

One school library in Hertfordshire has taken steps to help improve children’s reading abilities, in a recent article in The Guardian.

For those students that we judged to need the most amount of help, we produced a literacy equivalent of an individual education plan (IEP). We use this with the form tutor, English teacher and parents to highlight certain strategies that can be used to help the student make the required progress.

Types of intervention and ideas range from the use of iPads, Kindles and other electronic devices to the use of blogs, guided reading, literacy leaders and the teaching of specific reading skills.

Using a Kindle, for example, is great for weaker readers who may have trouble reading a book with a double page spread – even if they are not dyslexic. If you watch a weaker reader read their eyes tend to wander off the sentence or even the paragraph. This is the same with a word they have noticed at the bottom of the page which they are worrying about. They either skip it or don’t concentrate in anticipation for a word they know they will struggle with. This inhibits fluency as well as comprehension but with the Kindle being able to enlarge the text lowers the chances of this happening and so helps to increase fluency and comprehension and of course, confidence.

Read the full article here.

Sending your child to private school: a Guardian Education journalist’s view

Education journalist for the Guardian, Janet Murray, reflects on the decisions she made in electing to send her child to private school.

As she observes at the end of the article,

Until local schools meet families’ needs and cater for each individual child, can you blame people for putting their hand in their pocket?

Image credit: The Guardian

Read the complete article here.

Group music good for children, study shows

Researchers from Cambridge University have found that participating in weekly music sessions improves empathetic skills in youg children, a report in the BBC reveals.

Those children who took part in weekly musical activities were better able to recognise emotions in others than children who did not.

The research was led by author Tal-Chen Rabinowitch, who said:

“Musical interaction may enhance a capacity for emotional empathy … Music might be a tool, a really nice welcoming medium for enhancing the mechanism for empathy in children.”

Read more on the findings here.

New certificate aims at rewarding pupils taking more academic GCSEs

Earlier this month, the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, announced the creation of a new qualification, which will be awarded to pupils who take more traditionally academic GCSEs.

The English Baccalaureate will be awarded to those achieving a grade C or better in five subjects: English, Maths, a science, a modern or ancient foreign language, and a humanities subject.

The move is, in part, attempting to redress the reported rise in the number of pupils taking vocational qualifications. The number taking sciences in particular has also declined.

The results of children achieveing the new qualification would also feed into schools’ league table results.

Read more in the Telegraph article here.

The English Baccalaureate: coming to a school near you.

What parents want from schools: new report published

A new report into what parents really want from their schools, written by the education writer Fiona Millar, makes for very interesting reading. Her report for the Pearson Centre for Policy and Learning, shows that parents have high expectations of their children’s schools. In it,

…a very clear, almost unanimous picture emerged of what that good local school should be like. Academic qualifications, good teaching and well managed behaviour matter hugely, and good levels of literacy and numeracy are particularly significant, but so too is the social and emotional development of pupils, their wellbeing and the opportunities to develop according to their specific personal or special needs.

And there is a clear hunger for more and different information than a league table or government data set will ever be capable of providing. Parents want a more rounded, balanced picture of how their children and their schools are performing and not just academically. Bullying, exclusions, behaviour management, the personal development and happiness of pupils, the views of other parents and even the CVs and qualification of heads and teachers were mentioned. Moreover they want that information regularly, in an easy to digest format, preferably directly from the school, either by text, email or via the school website.

And most significantly of all:

…everyone from headteachers to government ministers will need to listen carefully to what parents really want, rather than what they think we should have.

As the final, illuminating paragraph indicates, schools are now having to wake up to the fact that a more enlighted culture of parenting is emerging, one where parents are actively interested in addressing, assessing and monitoring their children’s education, are aware of the standard of provision that schools should be delivering, and are becoming more pro-active about addressing areas in which they perceive an issue. Communication between school and parent is vital: school websites in particular are expected to provide clear, relevant and useful information and to be regularly up-dated.

Read the full article here, and details of the report on the Pearson website here.