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Archive for the 'Childhood & early education' Category

A few words in the OFSTED framework could help boost the digital skills children need for learning outside of school

Blog Editor, IOE Digital11 November 2020

Sara Hawley.

While the pandemic continues and individual pupils, groups or classes stay home self-isolating, the DFE has made remote learning part of schools’ legal duty for now. OFSTED has suspended routine inspections but is carrying out interim visits (without grading schools) to understand the lay of the land.  Yesterday, Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman published a report detailing the skills many children had lost during months of absence from school and acknowledging that home learning remains ‘patchy’.

For those of us working in and around schools in England over the last decade, it comes as no surprise to read of the huge variation in online learning provision across the state sector now and during the spring lockdown. Funding and policy choices made over recent years have in many ways taken things backwards. The abolition of BECTA (British Educational Communications Technology Agency) in 2010 meant the end of a coherent national strategy for online learning resources and infrastructure.

Since then, schools have been left to their own devices, navigating a baffling range of commercial options, often relying on any expertise held by enthusiasts among their staff. Compounding the difficulty has been (more…)

What food-insecure children want you to know about hunger

Blog Editor, IOE Digital15 September 2020

Rebecca O’Connell, and Julia Brannen.

Footballer and food poverty campaigner Marcus Rashford has rebuked Conservative MP Kevin Hollinrake on Twitter for suggesting that parents who need help to feed their children are failing in their responsibilities.

Children growing up in poverty today recognise it is their parents’ duty to make sure they are fed adequately. But, like Rashford, whose family struggled with food security when he was a child, they know from experience that parents cannot always fulfil this obligation. In this context, they argue, government and others have a responsibility to act.

Children speak out about hunger

We know this because we have asked children about this exact issue as part of our research into food poverty. In a European study of low-income families, we asked young people between 11 and 16 years old who they consider to be responsible for making sure children have access to enough decent food. Most children argued that parents, government and organisations like schools should work together to achieve this. Phoebe, age 16, whose father had lost his job in the local authority, said:

If a family is unable to provide food then I think it’s up to schools and government to kind of make that up, if there is really nothing that they can do. So free school meals and fruit at break I think is really important. I think it’s really important that there is enough money for schools to be able to provide free school meals, breakfast club and fruit and stuff like that.

However, attributing responsibility to those in power did not mean children exempted parents from taking responsibility. On the contrary, several young people talked about the (more…)

Breadth and balance: the essential elements of a recovery curriculum

Blog Editor, IOE Digital3 September 2020

Dominic Wyse.

Government guidance for schools reopening this month originally suggested that national curriculum subjects could be dropped in order to focus on key areas such as phonics. In the latest welcome U-turn, the guidance now says that “the curriculum remains broad and ambitious”. But at the same time it notes that “Substantial modification to the curriculum may be needed at the start of the year, so teaching time should be prioritised to address significant gaps in pupils’ knowledge with the aim of returning to the school’s normal curriculum content by no later than summer term 2021,” and goes on to give details.

The key question is, will the guidance’s emphasis on aspects such as “disapplication”, “the essentials”, and “phonics” lead to some subjects in the curriculum being neglected? The history of governments’ national curriculum reform in England suggests this will be the case.

The guidance continues, “For pupils in Reception, teachers should also assess and address gaps in language, early reading and mathematics, particularly ensuring children’s acquisition of phonic knowledge and extending their vocabulary. Settings should follow updates to the EYFS [Early Years Foundation Stage] disapplication guidance.”

And, “For pupils in key stages 1 and 2, school leaders are expected to prioritise identifying gaps and re-establish good progress in the (more…)

Ending a pernicious split: how to get beyond childcare as a commodity to education as every child’s right

Blog Editor, IOE Digital6 August 2020

Peter Moss.

Early childhood services in England need to be transformed. The split between childcare and education, firmly embedded in our deeply flawed system, is one of the key problems. The solution is to stop focusing on childcare and reform our early childhood provision as an education service.

This is a central argument of a new book I have edited with Claire Cameron, with contributions from academics at or associated with UCL Institute of Education.

After the second world war England’s early childhood services suffered policy neglect for decades and the split between ‘daycare’ services (under health) and school-based services (under education) was ignored. Then the 1997 election brought landmark change. Early childhood became a New Labour government priority, followed by a start on integration. All services came under education and a common system of regulation (Ofsted and the Early Years Foundation Stage) was implemented.

But integration stalled before the difficult bits were tackled. Services remained fragmented, with (more…)

New study: empowering teachers, children and parents is the way to achieve the best early childhood education and care

Blog Editor, IOE Digital22 July 2020

Yuwei Xu, Clare Brooks, Jie Gao and Eleanor Kitto.

The need to educate young children from home during the Covid crisis has caused early years staff and parents to rethink their roles.

At the IOE’s Centre for Teacher and Early Years Education (CTEY) we carried out an analysis of 19 national and regional early childhood curriculum frameworks across five continents. It reveals that most education systems see empowering educators, parents, and children as essential for effective and high-quality Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC).

Government evaluation reports on those national frameworks make it clear that educators, parents, and children should all be involved both in the policy making of (more…)

Proceed with caution: unravelling the evidence behind the DFE’s Covid guidance on teaching assistants

Blog Editor, IOE Digital17 July 2020

Rob Webster.

In the early stages of the UK government’s response to the Coronavirus health emergency, it was common to hear that decisions were ‘being led by the science’. As attention begins to shift to addressing the impact of school closures on the attainment gap, it is essential that schools adopt a similar evidence-based approach.

The DfE’s guidance for the full opening of schools in September contains the following advice for school leaders on deploying teaching assistants (TAs) and other support staff:

“Where support staff capacity is available, schools may consider using this to support catch-up provision or targeted interventions. Teaching assistants may also be deployed to lead groups or cover lessons, under the direction and supervision of a qualified, or nominated, teacher”.

This section of the DfE guidance goes on to point school leaders towards the practical recommendations contained in the Education Endowment Foundation’s (EEF) Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants report. Ordinarily, a link to the EEF’s work in DfE literature is a tacit signal to the reader that the advice being provided is trustworthy, robust (more…)

Why the arts should be at the heart of a recovery curriculum

Blog Editor, IOE Digital16 July 2020

Isobel Traunter.

To make up for lost education during the lockdown, the UK government recently advised primary schools in particular to prioritise ‘progress in the essentials’. Consequently, many have voiced concerns regarding the implications this may have for the arts in English primary schools. The artist known as Bob & Roberta Smith has spoken out against the idea of a ‘catch-up’ curriculum, suggesting that this could potentially ‘damage the creative potential of this country, stunting our ability to draw and design the future’.

Many educators and artists believe the arts are more important than ever at this time. They are calling for a renewed focus on the arts in schools as a response to the emotional fallout of the national pandemic.

Reception child’s painting

The government’s announcement echoes the messages which have resounded throughout the pandemic suggesting that pupils – especially those from deprived backgrounds – are falling behind or need to catch up. This catch-up rhetoric often seems to focus exclusively on the core subjects such as numeracy, literacy and science at the expense of the arts. But surely the arts have merit of their own which warrants their inclusion in a ‘catch-up’ curriculum? In fact they could provide what children and teachers need most.

In my own PhD research exploring visual art’s position in the early years curriculum in disadvantaged primary schools across England, the 25 teachers I have interviewed so far (more…)

Special schools: still open and providing a lifeline for the most vulnerable

Blog Editor, IOE Digital14 July 2020

John Vorhaus.

Covid 19 presents extraordinary challenges for schools. Children with disabilities are amongst the most vulnerable pupils – and none more so than children whose disabilities are multiple and profound. What makes these children especially vulnerable is that they are often immunocompromised and their complex health needs require constant, close attention and physical contact. I have been speaking with three heads and assistant head teachers about their experience of running special schools in London during the pandemic. Names have been changed to preserve anonymity.

When the news first broke that schools would be closing in March Anita Ward, Diana Clarke and Helen Shapiro each faced a similar problem: Government announcements were principally aimed at mainstream schools, and very little attention was initially given to special schools – schools for severely and profoundly disabled children: how would they be expected to adapt so as ensure that extremely vulnerable children were kept safe and well?

In 2018 10,032 children were identified as having profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD), most of whom were boys. Children with PMLD were more likely to be (more…)

Choosing welfare over worksheets and care over ‘catch-up’: teachers’ priorities during lockdown

Blog Editor, IOE Digital3 July 2020

Alice Bradbury and Sam Duncan.

Teachers’ working lives changed dramatically under lockdown, with a sudden shift to providing work for children at home or teaching small groups at school. At the same time, our research suggests, their priorities may also have changed. As we enter a new phase of the COVID-19 crisis, planning for the autumn term needs to take into account the importance teachers place on care over ‘catch-up’.

Our project, ‘A duty of care and a duty to teach: educational priorities in response to the COVID-19 crisis’, explores how schools have been operating during this unique period of sudden and dramatic changes to daily life, and how these changes have affected primary teachers’ and school leaders’ thinking about education. Our first set of findings arise from a survey conducted in May via TeacherTapp, involving 1,653 participants.

The survey results reveal that teachers’ primary concern at the start of lockdown was with pupil welfare. When asked about their priorities in communicating with parents, the most popular option was checking how families are coping in terms of basic food, health and emotional needs. Headteachers in particular were regularly involved in (more…)

Supporting parents through online programmes: now and into the future

Blog Editor, IOE Digital29 June 2020

Jie Gao, Clare Brooks, Yuwei Xu, Eleanor Kitto.

After nearly three months of lockdown, most of us crave human interaction. Indeed our experience of living and working virtually has taught many of us the value of face-to-face communication with real people. And yet, our systematic review on programmes designed for parents of young children suggests not only that online programmes offer effective ways to support parents, but that they are already extensively used to good effect.

Our systematic review of the research into programmes for parents of young children (0-6 years old) identified that effective parenting programmes often feature:

  • Focused programme aims and purposes
  • Clear theoretical frameworks
  • A programme tailored around individual user needs
  • Versatile means of delivery
  • Useful programme contents
  • High-quality teaching and facilitating
  • Effective professional training for programme leaders and facilitators
  • Constructive programme evaluation

Strikingly, the increasing use of technology and Internet-based parenting programmes stands out. Empirical reviews suggest that it has distinctive (more…)