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IOE Blog in 2022: an age of anxiety with glimmers of hope

By Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 3 January 2023

Credit: Startup Stock Photos

Diane Hofkins.

Few of us will have been sad to see the end of the year 2022, and yet, throughout the year, our IOE writers sought to make things better. They analysed findings on topics from dyscalculia to climate change to exams to international development and proposed ways forward.

Take for example Sandra Leaton Gray and Andy Phippen’s helpful February post about children and internet safety, with its down to earth advice on listening to children and talking through concerns and its reassurance that most children use the internet safely. This post also featured my favourite illustration of the year (see above). Or Katya Dowdle’s debate-provoking proposals for more oral exams in higher education (HE). For some students, “an oral presentation seemed to create the feeling of ‘ownership’ and ‘responsibility’ in the way learners presented their ideas and structured their narrative”,  she says.

Of course, cyberspace was far from the only thing causing anxiety in 2022. Stress and worry were among our most dominant topics. The ever-resourceful John Jerrim’s statistical analyses looked at, among other things, whether anxiety affects pupils’ GCSE results (not really, though the anxiety itself can be a problem) and Ten things we learned about teachers’ anxiety about work during the pandemic (it was worse for women than for men). His look at what makes some schools stressful places to work was one of our most popular reads in the year just gone.

The pandemic caused stress for parents as well as teachers and Jess Zhou and Keri Wong’s post on their Vax-Pac Study took parental worries seriously. Following detailed interviews with parents of young children, they offered helpful advice, complete with eye-catching charts and illustrations, to assist parents in deciding whether to vaccinate their children.

Few things cause young people more anxiety than the climate emergency. In June, Alison Kitson wrote about IOE’s new Centre for Climate Change and Sustainability Education, and its approach to helping schools embed climate change education into the wider ethos and culture of their schools. And in November the centre’s Kate Greer and Nicola Walsh returned from COP 27 optimistic about a new global Action for Climate Empowerment plan, with education as a key focus.

Themes that have dominated the blog since its launch 10 years ago continued to do so. The damaging effects of inequality have been highlighted over and over. In 2022, Kendra Pyne, Yi Shi and Mukdarut Bangpan proposed ways to ensure that the education of the most disadvantaged children does not suffer during public health emergencies. The ‘broad range of interventions highlighted by our analysis of 52 research projects from around the world’ include school support to build children’s resilience and boost their analytical skills, teacher training, school meal initiatives and mental health counselling. Colleagues from the Thomas Coram Research Unit reported that young children most in need of early childhood provision lost out the most during the pandemic. “Nearly all the parents we interviewed [in Tower Hamlets] were concerned about their children’s development of speech and language, as well as their social development.”

And Lena Kamenopoulou highlighted global inequality by calling for “more research about the South, from the South’.

An antidote to bad news was Kathryn Riley’s uplifting series on school belonging. Describing the pupils in a school that puts belonging at the forefront, she writes: “They are in a place that matters to everyone in it, a place which recognises them for who they are. It is this sense of place which contributes to the strength of their sense of ‘belongingness’, as well as their awareness of future possibilities.” She concludes that a sense of school belonging propels pupils through life: “It is this kind of school experience which sets young people on a pathway to citizenship – personal, social and global.”

Another highlight for me in 2022 was the chance to edit our 12-part IOE at 120 series. It was a tour through not only the Institute’s story, but a century-plus of education history, revealing the rises, falls, twists and turns of educational thinking; which ideas lasted and which were ephemeral; and how in every era they were intertwined with politics.

Diane Hofkins was editor of the IOE blog from its launch in 2012 until her retirement at the end of 2022.


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