In a political climate where politicians’ are pushing to increase class sizes, some schools are earning a gleaming reputation for pushing back against the norm and keeping classes small.
We are in a time of flux with standardised tests, the debate as to whether the pressure from GCSE's and SAT's are too disruptive to pupil mental health are ongoing. Meanwhile the same non-conformist schools have thrown out exams all together. Where the modern day school system demands uniformity, California based High Tech High asks their pupils not to wear a uniform.
‘We have been very intentional at High Tech High about keeping our class sizes, team sizes and school sizes small...This allows us to build that sense of community and collaboration.’
Subject of a 2018 documentary "Most Likely to Succeed" High Tech High is a school proactively doing things differently. A place where pupils tend to be separated by what they are learning rather than their age group. A place where subject boundaries are fluid and are often taught simultaneously by focusing on project based learning. For example Physics and Art are conceivably one of the most unlikely pairings which result in life size Escher styled staircases which seemingly go nowhere being hand crafted and displayed by pupils. Science projects merge with environmental to see students measuring the local waterways and feeding their data into larger scope university projects.
By stark contrast to the Escher staircases this Montessori style school in California has pupils who certainly go somewhere as 95% of its students enter university education. The schools two month long internships that every student undertakes sees them experiencing tech companies, art museums and fertility clinics as part of their personal development. One student was quoted as saying "‘it was such a powerful experience, It’s made me realise I want to work in midwifery.’
Surprisingly High Tech High is a state funded charter school like the UK's free schools. It doesn’t discriminate on who gets to join. The classes boast SEN pupils and financially disadvantaged kids in relatively high percentages.
As we wrote about in our article on the Finnish school system. It seems that an ethos and culture innately embedded in a schools DNA can instil into pupils a desire and love of learning. This seems to translate into better results and more well-rounded successful individuals.
The culture of High Tech High is a flagship concept in new wave schooling. Envisioned by Educational leader Larry Rosenstock, Silicon Valley tech billionaire Irwin Jacobs and a team of civic heads and teachers who sought to redesign the entire system with notions of deep learning and holistic development at its core.
‘In our maths class, the teacher explains a concept. Then we all must go away and use this concept to create our own problem and solution – and then come back and teach the rest of the class. It’s a really powerful way to learn. And sometimes it’s easier to understand from your peers than a teacher.’
The school is visited by 5000 influencers and educators every year seeing celebrity visitors such as Oprah Winfrey and Bill gates through its doors. The pupils this type of free range education is spawning are confident, critical thinkers whose maturity and collaborative skills have been cultivated through constant collaborate activity in teams.
Their creativity is nurtured and given as much importance as the basic fundamentals such as English and Maths. This core subjects are mandatory but the options to venture into coding, language, politics, engineering and environment are there.
The landscape is changing and it seems Britain may be getting left behind in an outdated and regressive methodology. There are still some UK schools adopting new ideas and undertaking Dead Poets Society style mentoring but they are amongst the few not the plenty.
High Tech High students working on a robotics project.
The quality and style of international education is shifting towards pupil-centric ideals. Soon it's likely the face of schooling will have a new look. One not designed to produce workers for the factories, subservient and hardworking but instead, free thinkers with diverse critical thinking skills who are better equipped to take on the challenges being presented by the digital age.
Where do you stand on this new type of schooling? Would it work in the UK? Does your school embrace change? Let us know in the comments or on our social media channels.
Schools wishing to trial standing desks as part of their own new wave thinking can trial them here: Schools Student Standing Desk Trial
Low Literacy Due To Overuse of Screen Time?...Health Secretary Prescribes An App For That.
The independent reported today that the majority of parents would struggle to help a 7 year old with their homework according to a new study.
The study by Oxford Home Schooling found that only a third of parents felt confident assisting their kids with school projects. The study provided 1000 parents typical year 3 homework and found only 1 in 16 of the participants could answer each of the Maths, English and Science questions correctly.
You can head over to the Independents article to do the test yourself.
The study also determined men are more likely to feel confident helping out with homework. 39 percent of Dads compared to only 28 percent of mums said they were confident to help.
More than one in 10 parents acknowledged they use Siri or Alexa virtual assistants to help answer homework questions. More than 75% of parents admit to often using the internet to answer homework questions.
“The results of the survey are quite surprising, but they will probably resonate with many parents across the country," said Dr Nick Smith, principal at Oxford Home Schooling.
"For some, a large amount of time will have passed since they themselves were in the education system and so they will be unfamiliar with the current curriculum.
“Our research has found that over a third of primary school parents think their children are stressed because of work, so it is important that they strive to help out where they can, using assistants, like Google, if needed.”
Meanwhile despite televised warnings of kids getting too much screen time the education secretary Damien Hinds believes parents should be getting their kids to use educational apps to reduce the literacy gap between children at school entry age.
He talked in terms of the development gap being a "profound issue" and will let the areas most affected by the readiness variance have free prescriptions to educational apps for kids as young as two years old.
He said the so called sesame street can be harnessed to bridge the skill gap. He also puts the responsibility on distracted parents who are too engaged with their own devices to talk to their kids and help them out.
Both these articles are painting a picture of a society which has a two sided relationship with technology. The majority of parents are relying on the internet and devices to help kids do their homework. kids copy what they see at home and in turn spend too much time using devices and doing less and less of more proactive activity’s such as reading and motor skill improving creative play. The kids suffer as a result of their own and their parents overuse of tech whilst the health secretary prescribes more screen time to solve the issue no doubt creating kids who grow up reliant of technology to solve their problems and so a perpetual loop seems impossible to avoid.
With Apples steady integration into the school room via digital text books and homework apps, it seems that parents are going to undertaking an uphill struggle to push back against the machines we are increasingly relying on to help us raise our kids.
One way we can make sure our kids are getting some extra exercise is by providing them with standing desks. Schools can trial standing desks on a “try-before-you-buy” basis here. Parents can grab a suitably sized Eiger Standing desk here to encourage more physical literacy at home to make their own stand against the developing screen time addiction crisis turning our kids obese and illiterate.
I Want a Standing Desk Publishes a Fortnightly Blog about health and education. Bookmark us now or follow us on Twitter / Facebook to keep up to speed with our latest.
Jeremy Corbyn recently called out the Finnish education system as the one we should aim to emulate in this country. Michael Moore produced a documentary detailing the quality of Finland’s education system and media across the world have since been abound with details of the unique Finnish scholastic approach.
With political leaders citing other countries methods as best practise perhaps time to look at what Finland are doing well and see what our schools and educators could borrow from their process.
Finland completely rejuvenated their education system about 40 years ago as an integral element of the country’s economic recovery plan but evidence this was successful didn’t come until the 2000’s when a standardized test given to schools across 40 countries showed that Finnish schools produce the best readers. Three years later tests confirmed they then led in Maths. By 2006 Finland were first in science, third in reading and 6th in maths. It seemed the education revolution in Finland had a real impact.
NO TESTS AND BIG ON EQUALITY
So what do they do differently? Well there are no mandated standardised tests in Finland until the end of students last year of senior school. Pupils are not ranked, don’t compete within the school or across regions. So ‘teaching to the test’ is an outdated principle in Finland.
Instead equality is the buzzword integral to the culture of the countries education system. So much so that the gap between the lowest performing pupil and the highest is the smallest in the world.
“Equality is the most important word in Finnish education. All political parties on the right and left agree on this,” said Olli Luukkainen, president of Finland’s powerful teachers union.
Despite Finland spending 30% less than the USA on each student a striking 93% of their students go on to graduate. That’s 17.5% more than the US. Facts such as these are why other countries are looking at Finland’s methods and asking themselves “how can we do better?”
“We prepare children to learn… how to learn, not how to take a test,”
Pasi Sahlberg - Finland’s Ministry of Education and Culture
PLAY IS INTEGRAL. SCHOOL STARTS LATER.
So what else is different? Well schools allows 15 minutes of free playtime up to four times a day. The kids are getting fresh air and exercise both of which proactively benefits them when they hit the books. Now whilst Finland might not test these children studies have shown that 15 minutes exercise has a positive effect on kid’s ability to learn and study resulting in higher test scores for active pupils who exercise in or before class.
In Finland kids spend far more time playing outside and aren’t rushed into the education system. Compulsory schooling only starts at age 7.
WHATEVER IT TAKES
There is a widespread cultural phenomenon throughout Finland’s education system and it is one of doing “whatever it takes” to get a child to where they need to be academically.
This might be a headmaster taking a child under their wing as a personal mentee to letting them express themselves with how they dress or flex their wiggles by letting them get outside more. This approach is more easily demonstrated by the fact that Finish schools have dedicated SEN teams available to each class ensuring that each child benefits from their education equally.
Teachers in Finland are highly educated and require a masters degree (5-7 years in the making) in order to be qualified to teach. They are then given a great deal of autonomy in the process and are respected within their communities far more than in other countries.
With the commitment of so many years under their belts and the regard for their profession being highly placed they are also far more likely to view teaching as a lifelong career which bodes well in terms of retaining the highly educated better qualified staff for longer.
Can UK schools adopt a more Finnish approach right now?
Well by taking a leaf from the Finnish schools habit of encouraging physical literacy in the school day. Whilst we know that schools are in no position to suddenly introduce 15 minutes of play before every lesson however hundreds have already started to include standing desks to allow children some physical freedom in the classroom.
Standing whilst you work can have the same effect of improved engagement, academic performance, personal well-being and good mental health. By letting kids stand and move more whilst they work schools are reportedly reaping the benefits similar to the schools whose children are allowed additional playtime and outdoor exercise.
LITTLE TO NO HOMEWORK / THE INNER MOTIVATOR
So what else separates Finland’s process from our own?
Well Children are given little to no homework but most importantly kids are encouraged to tap into their inner motivation. Teachers and school systems focus on working out psychologically how best to stimulate a child’s own inner motivation. Teaching them not to work to tests well but instead how to think analytically.
Goals are set but by the kids themselves. They are asked to identify their own goals and these might be yearly or weekly but the emphasis is on the child taking ownership of their own journey.
This seems to go hand in hand with the desire to teach them not to perform for others but for themselves. A key component of the system which seems integral to its success. In short they introduce a joy of learning by taking away the side British children, bemoan. Tests, homework, few breaks…working to satisfy someone else’s standards.
The overarching educational reform Finland dared to implement has turned them into a world leader of education. They seemingly afford their teachers and pupils far more respect than we do nationally and importantly both now outperform us. So if you’re a teacher or headmaster and you think you can take a leaf out of the Finish playbook. Then don’t wait for national reform.
As Ghandi was apparently mis-quoted as saying. “Be the change you want to see in the world.” And implement some positive class or school wide changes in your institution. Show other schools, your pupils and communities that you are prepared to improve and change for the better. Positive change is contagious. It simply has to start somewhere.
New data shows children born today will spend more time in ill health when they are older than our generation. Meanwhile new data from the office of national statistics has also shown that 65 and overs are seeing their life expectancy increase. Men aged 65 are averaging an increase in life expectancy of 32 weeks whilst women can expect to live an extra 20 weeks approximately.
The study found that Richmond-upon-Thames men can expect to live to just shy of 72 years whilst Blackpool men have a healthy life expectancy of only 53 years.
For women in Nottingham a 'healthy life expectancy' is only 54 years but by contrast a baby girl in Wokingham can expect to live to 72. A significant disparity of 18 years.
Before 2012 large life expectancy gains year after year were expected now those gains are decreasing massively. Today’s children can expect to live 5 years less than their parents. This is a dramatic decline in health due to prevailing failing support for the health of young people and an increase in cancer causing sedentary lifestyles and screen time addiction.
What can schools do to help encourage their pupil’s to live healthy lifestyles? Well aside from delivering health education the schools can ensure than they provide opportunity for pupils to learn in active classrooms. This means the provision of flexible seating options, standing desks for kids and help kids reach the advised daily targets of 60 Mins exercise a day to help them stay healthy.
Schools doing this are already reaping the benefit as they report that pupil engagement increases, test results improve and general class atmosphere benefits when standing desks are introduced.
Schools wishing to try out standing desks the classrooms for themselves can try before you buy by filling in this form.
There are options such as the daily mile, BBC super-movers and marathon kids which encourage pupils to move regularly and integrate physical literacy into their daily rituals.
Lets work together to push back against the decline of out nations health. Surely we owe it to the next generation to make changes now before they spend more and more of their adult life suffering from ill-health and shorter lives.
This week sees several interesting news items surrounding kid’s health making the headlines. So rather than pick one out to write about we decided to bring you a news week breakdown focusing on kid’s health and education. So let’s get into it.
Dentists Call For Sugar Free Schools.
This week saw Dentists asking schools in England to go sugar-free after the launch of a new report which indicates the leading reason children are admitted into hospital between the age of five and nine is for tooth decay. The faculty of dental surgery has suggested supervised tooth brushing in schools. (These actually occur in Scotland and Wales already.)
They have put forward several suggested action points to combat the issues of tooth early onset tooth decay.
- Schools should become sugar free.
- Price increase sugary dairy drinks such as milkshakes.
- Reduce the amount of adverts for sugary food and drink.
- Lower the sugar content of baby food.
"It is incredibly worrying that levels of tooth decay among children in England remain so high. Everyone needs to play their part in ensuring our children have healthy, happy teeth." - Professor Michael Escudier, Dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery
New Tool for Assessing Screen Time Addiction
A peer reviewed journal, Cyberpsychology, Behaviour, and Social Networking found that more than 12% of kids aged nine to twelve are at risk of becoming addicted to digital devices.
The system for assessment borrows diagnostic criteria from the Digital Addiction Scale for Children (DASC) and measures the impact of screen time on the family unit, the likelihood the child is to lie about their use and the likelihood that problems arise from overuse such as sleep deprivation, academic slipping and more.
The addiction criteria were: preoccupation, tolerance, withdrawal, mood modification, conflict, and relapse. Now this might not seem like a huge news item but we live in an age where screen time is having direct consequences on how children’s brains are structured. A study released in November shows that more screen time means lower structural integrity of white matter tracts in parts of the brain responsible for language, literacy and emotional regulation.
Young people are now being diagnosed with a recognised disorder of gaming addiction because they legitimately experience symptoms of withdrawal and are controlled by their desire to play. No surprise when you consider how gaming companies now employ addiction consultants to implement game mechanics to cultivate exactly this response.
Info on the brain study can be found here.
"Screen-based media use is prevalent and increasing in home, childcare and school settings at ever younger ages, these findings highlight the need to understand effects of screen time on the brain, particularly during stages of dynamic brain development in early childhood, so that providers, policymakers and parents can set healthy limits." - Dr. Hutton.
Ways to monitor screen time addiction seems like a necessary response to a problem which is quietly growing in impact. Teachers and parents, take note. Screen time isn't just another boogie man. Overuse has direct consequences on your children's brain functions, sleep patterns, mood regulation and cognitive ability. As we live in the tech age where kids are grabbing iPads instead of books please remember that doctors used to endorse smoking before the general consensus was that they kill you.
New study suggests brain differences may be linked to obesity.
So this piece is interesting in terms of how it links brain differences and obesity which should the thinking that they are heavily connected become mainstream this could directly influence how we equip education work-spaces.
The recent study doesn't suggest that intelligence dips alongside weight gain but it does show a reduction in executive brain function alongside increased BMI.
Some critics say that studies such as these are dangerous because poor interpretation of the results can lead to unfair stigma attached to overweight people but an editorial which was published alongside the results called it "an important addition to mounting evidence of a link between weight, brain structure and mental function."
We have release many articles in this blog which demonstrates the mounting evidence that physical movement and active lifestyles directly affect academic results and even raises test score results. There are Ted Talks to this affect for those interested in learning more.
In short: These findings suggest that body mass index is associated with cortical development and diminished executive functions, such as working memory and might directly impact how in the future we look to treat obesity by improving brain function and vice versa.
The study yielded an insightful comment from one Henry Skinner MD Family Psychiatry of Maine who explains that should the cause and effect be reversed that the results might make more sense. I.e. "People with executive function challenges have more difficulty negotiating the toxic capitalist nutrition environment."
Is it simply a case of lower functioning adolescents falling vulnerable to a hostile predatory marketing machine and making ill-advised choices. Well according to Skinner child and adolescent psychiatrists observe this in clinic frequently and he believes this is the more likely reasoning for the results given that it requires fewer assumptions. (Occam ’s razor)
So just some interesting titbit’s from the children’s health community. One thing is for sure is there is an ever growing notion that schools have the time and resources to fix every child’s health problems which is simply not the case but schools are well positioned to educate kids to make better choices and learning spaces which afford students the opportunity to include movement in their daily routines are certainly an effortless way schools can support their students mental and physical health.
We offer schools standing desk trials for this exact reason. If you want to try before you buy then visit this form and get In touch.
A film by Daniel Gordon has been released lauding one London Primary School for introducing a series of measures to combat the growing trend of poor mental health in children.
[You can watch the video here]
Highgate Primary School, has embraced several innovative measures to improve their pupils mental well-being, from dogs in the playground, sound proofed classrooms and the availability of talk therapy and psychotherapy for each student.
The school has normalised the process of attending therapy so each child feels no stigma should they wish to use the service.
The school is said to be delivering a 'well-being first’ approach. They offer on the premises drama therapy, and talk therapy which one in ten of the schools pupils attend. Most of the therapists are trainees or new graduates so with the combination of some charity funding and a small investment of £7000 per year from the school they are able to directly tackle the rise of mental health disorders in young people which is on the rise throughout the UK.
Watch the video and you can see the school has its own dog and also allows dogs to attend the school premises at drop off and pickup times.
Highgate has implemented 5 key measures to combat poor mental health.
1. Availability of Therapy
2. Dogs are allowed on site.
3. Soundproofed classrooms.
4. Lessons outside.
5. School is for parents too.
Every child has some lessons outside where they can engage with each other and climb trees. The classroom soundproofing allows teachers to command attention without raising their voices due to improved acoustics and the parents of pupils can also access the onsite therapists meaning the impact on the community doesn't just stop at the children but can resonate outwards to have a positive effect on the children’s households which can only help support a culture of well-being at home.
The amount of children attending Highgates onsite therapists is statistically mirrored by the data released from NHS digital last year that indicated one in nine children experience mental health disorders. That figure is for 5-15 year old's however if we broaden the scope to 5-19 year old's the figure becomes one in eight.
In the age group of 17-19 year olds one in four young women have a mental health disorder, emotional disorders such as anxiety ranking the highest. Over half of these reportedly have attempted suicide or self-harm.
Statistics like these are an important warning that the impacts of mental health disorders are very real and schools who go out of their way to combat the issues should be applauded and considered to delivering best practise.
Whilst many argue that schools already have a priority to educate and aren’t qualified to deliver therapy this school has shown how the introduction of several small but effective measures can shift the culture internally to become a learning space which caters for mental health well-being without costing a fortune or requiring massive change to be effective.
The mental health foundation has a 'Make It Count' Campaign which states that Mental Health is not extracurricular. You can find out more about the campaign here.
Mark Rowland Chief Exec of the Mental Health Foundation said
"The school environment has a significant impact on a young person’s emotional welfare. For children’s well being to thrive during school hours, teachers need the confidence and knowledge to nurture young people’s development. Equally, teachers need to be supported with their own mental health throughout their career.
By exploring the root causes that lead to distress, be it body image, relationships or exam stress, we can help build resilience and prevent mental health problems from developing in the first place. "
You can sign the foundations petition to put mental health at the heart of school culture here.
The previous education secretary Damien Hinds said every single school in the country should have a school dog. Here's a video showcasing therapy dogs in schools on channel 5 news.
Now in the spirit of introducing small changes to impact mental health in schools we would be remiss if we didn’t point you towards our try before you buy student standing desk trials.
Hundreds of schools nationwide are becoming healthier and embracing movement and physical literacy to create more attentive learning spaces by introducing standing desks into the classroom.
Take a look at our product range and apply for a trial if your school could benefit from improved engagement, better mental health, happier, better behaved children and improved academic results.
The same week the vast majority of teachers have moved against high stake primary school testing such as SAT's via a ballot of members at the UK's largest Education Union another news piece has surfaced indicating that the majority of Head teachers are against mandatory baseline testing of primary school children on entry to primary school.
54,500 primary school teachers voted en-mass against the SATs means of testing as it negatively impacts children’s mental health and puts schools under undue pressure to hit benchmarks the government can hold them accountable to. Nick Gibb, the school standards minister however said that this number doesn’t even represent half the profession and that the tests had been around since 1990 and are designed to improve the standard of teaching in our schools.
Despite Gibbs insistences it seems the general consensus from head teachers is that the government are insisting on mandatory tests in order to measure the schools progress and an initial test to be used as a yardstick from which progress can be measured. However head teachers have argued vehemently that the £10 Million it will take to implement the newly proposed baseline testing for primary school joiners is completely unnecessary and the pitfalls of introducing this system include labelling children who speak English as a second language or those with SEN needs could be "unnecessarily labelled as low-ability"
“We already have an appropriate baseline that does not take staff too much time,” one teacher wrote. ”The baseline is used to identify gaps in learning and development for the staff to support the child, not locked away for seven years.”
Research carried out by staff at University College London’s Institute of Education surveyed 288 head teachers and only 8% of which spoke positively about the suggested testing regime due to become mandatory in 2020.
Some head teachers suggested some schools will “game” the system by underpreparing pupils for the baseline test in order to show greater demonstrable improvements when the government revisits and measures against the initial results.
Jill Robinson of More Than a Score who commissioned the head teacher interviews said;
“Heads agree with education experts and parents: this scheme is a waste of everyone’s time and a waste of £10m,”
“It has no basis in academic theory or even simple logic. It is simply another way for the government to judge schools, using unreliable and unfair testing methods.
“A batch of reception pupils will be used as guinea pigs when they should be settling into school and the government still can’t tell us how they’ll use the data which will be extracted from these four-year-olds.
“It’s time for the DfE to admit failure and halt the roll-out of this pointless and damaging experiment."
Parents tried to oppose the plans via a legal challenge however this was overturned at the high court.
A spokesperson for the DfE said that the baseline checks are simply standardising the way schools carry out their own baseline checks.
“We are confident that the reception baseline assessment will lighten the load for schools, which will no longer have to carry out whole-class assessments at the end of year two, or deal with the test papers and administration that comes with that, while also being stress-free for children.
“We have been listening carefully to feedback we have received throughout the development process to ensure we get the experience right for pupils and schools.”
We are certainly in a time where education staff are at odds with the government as to the best way to measure the success of UK education standards and one way or another change is going to be required to find common ground between both parties’ priorities. A SATS strike occured this year and the majority of voting teachers at the large union meeting had voted in favour of this action so from one year to the next our children could be having vastly different experiences.
The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) and the National Union of Teachers (NUT) staged the boycott which meant that nearly 200,000 children missed the SATs. This inconsistency is without a doubt not in our children’s interest in this writer’s opinion however if it results in the reduction of high stress testing of our young learners then it may well be what they call a necessary evil.
Wherever you lie on this issue we'd love to hear from you in the comments or via out social channels.
BBC Panorama has reported that an Academy head ordered her staff to cheat on Sat’s tests.
Suzanne Barham spoke to TV documentary Panorama and details how she was instructed to provide the answers to pupils that were struggling in the 11 year old test environment.
"We were told to go and work with specific children and to give them a little help.
"That's what happened, those children were given answers.
"You know it's not what should happen. You know it's the wrong thing, it's not going to help the children."
Citing a fear that she would lose her job if she didn't do as instructed Barham told Panorama she also was ordered to change test scores at three schools in 2017.
The Academy is effectively being dissolved and enveloped by another trust. Silver Birch says the current trustees cannot be held responsible for its earlier actions.
The trusts chief Exec Patricia Davies allegedly also ordered Barham to help children cheat in a reading exam.
"Mrs Davies called me into her office, and it's a reading paper, so you can't read it to them, and she said, 'I want you to read it for them'.
"I said, 'but it's a reading test.' She went, 'yes, I know'.
"You did what Pat told you to do, otherwise, you knew you wouldn't have a job, and so I read that paper."
Parents understandably were not happy to hear about the cheating. One Mother was stood at the gates when children came bounding out delighted they had been allowed to cheat
"The boys were quite vocal, as they thought it was funny, they thought it was hilarious: 'We cheated, we cheated, they let us cheat'.
"They were skipping up the hill screaming it out."
Startlingly the Standards and Testing Agency have investigated the allegations of cheating and let the results stand. The BBC have written about one girl who witnessed a teacher walk up to her desk during an exam and point at an answer saying "That’s the answer" the girl said “I was so annoyed. I just looked at her like, 'what are you doing, this is a test'."
Barham explained that the trust gave her sheets of paper with the actual results on and specific results scrubbed out with a request to change them in order to falsify and inflate how well the school was doing.
She resigned when the academy was taken over by another trust.
The academy is closing due to financial issues.
Labour and the Lib Dems have pledged to abolish Sat’s testing in favour of teaching “not to the test.”
A ballot of 54,000 primary school members of the NEU showed that 97 percent backed the campaign to scrap the tests which have been heralded as damaging to children’s mental health due to the high pressure environment and anxiety inducing process.
The criticisms of Sat’s testing often come from the fact that they exist as a means for schools to be measured against one another as opposed to having the welfare and education of the pupils at the forefront.
“Test-driven primary assessment is damaging children’s mental health and wellbeing; it intensifies the stress on teachers. Preparing children for Sat’s squeezes out other parts of the curriculum.”
- Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU
The Department of Education has launched a competition to develop early years "edtech" apps which will be designed to develop literacy, language and communication skills to kids.
The winning apps will be offered to families for free in 12 underprivileged areas of the UK as part of a DfE pilot scheme.
"We want to help parents make confident, informed choices about the resources they use." – Kemi Badenoch, education minister
The DfE said it wants parents to “think about how to use screen time constructively and provide meaningful learning activities for their young children”.
The apps content will need to meet educational standards and offer progression through levelling up in difficulty. They will also be designed to stimulate personal interaction.
Kemi Badenoch said "we want to help parents make confident, informed choices about the resources they use, so they can help inspire a love of learning in their children.”
One in four children leave reception without key communication skills and the winning apps should be designed to combat this.
The areas selected for the pilot were chosen based on the proportion of children achieving below the national level for literacy, and include Brent, Enfield, Halton, Leicester, Luton, Middlesbrough, Oldham, Peterborough, Plymouth, Sandwell, Stoke-On-Trent and Tower Hamlets.
With iPads becoming commonplace in the school and household, and screen time sessions at all time high this writer believes that being conscious of the content our children are engaging with can only be a good thing and would hope to see the winning apps offered universally for free instead of specific households or regions in order to benefit as many children as possible.
I know how difficult it is to find an app for free that doesn’t contain masses of adware or tricks to try and get the user to buy or subscribe to a service so I’ll be hoping to see this pilot be deemed a success and hopefully winning entries getting some real estate on the app store.
5 hours ago TES reported that Number 10 has lined up boxer and team England squad member Elena Narozanski as Head of Education at the Downing Street policy unit.
Narozanski is a former adviser to Michael Gove. She was a Children and Schools adviser whilst the conservatives were in opposition. Following the 2010 election she was appointed special adviser to the new education secretary before becoming Gove’s chief speechwriter in June 2011
She also worked as a policy adviser to Theresa May, was head of the New Schools for London Programme and worked on the vote leave referendum campaign. She has neither confirmed nor denied the news of her appointment.
Downing Street refused to comment on appointments.
Boris Johnson has stated in a sky news interview that he plans to reverse education spending cuts and he believes that providing a great education is the job of the state. He talks about readdressing the balance across the country and giving more rural communities with less funding the same opportunities and resources as more well funded communities. He also mentions he interprets the Brexit vote as an indicator that this is the peoples will.
Sky’s Sophy Ridge seems to question Johnsons promises that that he would invest more money into schools, more money into transport, investment in full fibre broadband for every UK household and put 20,000 more police on the street as a pipe dream given the likelihood that additional spend would in fact increase taxes however Boris claims there is money available and that certain tax cuts would in fact generate income.
"It is no good thinking that someone else will pay. That someone else is you. There is no such thing as Government money. There is only taxpayers' money." - Margaret Thatcher
This could well be politicians being politicians and making numerous promises during the election battle but as funding for schools is at an all-time low the fact that the conversation shines a light on the education sector is at least itself promising.
The current state of play with regards to school funding has many school incapable of offering SEN pupil’s places and are turning them away as a result. It means a lack of funding for teacher training resulting in an increase in expulsions and the ever prevalent overcrowding of classrooms.
This year classes now have on average one extra pupil per teacher in them compared to last year. Whilst this may not seem like an extravagant increase if the lack of funding schools are suffering from currently continues these figures can only worsen.
The 4% funding cuts to spending per child budgets have meant that many schools are opting to expel their most vulnerable cases as they lack the intrinsic resources and training to react to poor behaviour from vulnerable young people with a more holistic and proactive approach.
Pictured abaove, a new social enterprise called 'The Difference' has been set up to offer a sort of education special forces. Their aim is to raise the status and expertise of those working with vulnerable learners: in Alternative Provision, and in mainstream.
41 children are excluded in the UK every day whilst 85% of children in the criminal justice system were once expelled. These figures shine a startling light on a problem people just aren’t talking about enough. School funding cuts has our education centres letting down our most vulnerable learners.
If elected Johnson said he plans to roll back education cuts implemented by George Osborne in 2015. The Conservative leadership frontrunner said he would give England's schools budget a £4.6bn boost per year by 2022/23 if he enters Number 10.
The former Foreign Secretary said: "The 2016 referendum result was a clear cry from many people that they have been left behind. As Conservative councillors and members all over the country know, for too many years, schools in rural regions have received much less funding than schools in other parts of the country."
Labour spoke out against the claims. Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner said "Even today’s supposed pledge doesn’t come close to reversing all the cuts that the Tories have imposed on education, let alone match Labour’s plans to invest in a national education service."
The Guardian has also written a scathing retort to the claims saying that old Etonian Johnson has on numerous times spoken out in favour of grammar schools and wouldn’t have dreamt of sending his own children to state schools. The full write up in included below in our sources.
The Metro in April wrote about how Eton college is to receive an 80% tax reduction due to its status as a charity being a tax avoidance loophole whilst soe state schools are now so underfunded that they are asking parents to pay for pens, pencils and toilet paper.
Unfortunately politicians say lots of promises and this ine is clearly not without its critics but at least the conversation is finally on topic. Education needs a large financial boost to catch up with the growing class sizes and the increased need for training to keep up with our ever expanding cultural differences and children’s mental health needs.
Johnson plans to reverse education cuts: https://news.sky.com/video/boris-johnson-wants-to-spend-on-education-11751391
The Guardian -
Ending exclusion: specialist teachers trained to support most vulnerable
The Difference https://www.the-difference.com/what-we-do
Eton College gets 80% tax break while state schools are ‘at breaking point’
Protests has sprouted up across the UK against funding cuts for Special Educational Needs support in schools. 28 towns a cities played host to rallies and marches including London, Leeds and Birmingham.
These national rallies are the first of their kind in the UK. One of which was led by Emma Parker whose son James has spent over two years out of school in the last five as a result of sanctions, reduced timetables and exclusions.
An issue we wrote about in our article here is that schools who are underfunded for SEND support typically end up relying on sanctions to address issues they could be tackling in a more proactive manner. A recent report has shown that pupils with special needs are statistically more likely to be expelled and sent to isolation rooms.
“We have thousands of children across the UK who are not in schools, who are on reduced timetables and who don’t have access to the schools that they desperately need,” Parker said.
Her son James Parker delivered a 13,000 signature petition to end the "spending crisis" on SEND in schools.
Emma & James Parker.
Ministers for the Department of Education (DfE) commissioned a review last march and concluded that schools are using expulsions to get rid of students they fear may drag the schools results down and insisted that head teachers take responsibility for students who they have excluded from school.
The Dept. of Education released stats within the last fortnight which explained that SEND students have increased by 11% from last year alone. That’s a whopping 34,200 children that schools have to accommodate with limited funding and training to do so.
The TV presenter Carrie Grant attended and spoke at one of the rally’s describing her experience of attaining support for her four children with special needs as "shocking to say the least"
“The world that they [disabled children] face is a world that is just not ready.” - Grant
Children with special needs and excellent grades are being rejected from attending 6th form colleges with education centres claiming they just do not have the funding to support them. With local Government Association estimates a £500M deficit between what UK schools and education centres need and what they currently receive.
Last year Ali Fiddy, the chief executive of Independent Parental Special Education Advice said
“The system for supporting children and young people with SEND is verging on crisis. Against a backdrop of increasing cuts to local authority budgets, parents are having to deal with poor decision making on the part of local authorities"
Standing Desks Help Schools With SEND Pupils
Hundreds of UK schools are turning to standing desks to help provide stimulating and safe learning environments for kids with ADHD and similar special needs which find them with excessive energy. Schools wishing to trial our Eiger student standing desk can request a try before you buy trial right here.
Ministers have promised an extra £250M towards SEND but campaigners argue this still leaves a huge deficit and a severely unsolved problem.
The Guardian Oct 2018 // Special needs pupils being failed by system 'on verge of crisis'
The Telegraph May 2019 // Schools must be held accountable for results of excluded children
Chronicle Live March 2018 // Meet the autistic 11-year-old boy who the council can't find a school for
Schools are being encouraged to sign up to the Playground Challenge to raise money for Soccer Aid. The idea being that pupils help to design an outdoor assault course and fun sporty activities like headmaster penalty shoot-outs or teacher versus parent footy matches are held to raise money for UNICEF.
“The kids loved the Playground Challenge so much we organised a whole Soccer Aid for Unicef week. Every class took on the obstacle course, we held a pupils vs teachers/parents football match, a keepy-uppy challenge and loads of other activities.” Alex, Head of Sports, St Dunstan’s RC Primary School, Manchester
School can use whatever they have available and indoor or outdoor assault courses are used by thousands of participant schools to join in. The activities get the kids thinking about other countries and cultures and helps them understand that not everybody has the opportunity to learn and play as they do. Money raised is distributed to foreign countries in the form of various kits.
- £172 could provide a preschool-in-a-box, full of toys, games and books to help children learn through play.
- £375 could build a whole community playground in Zambia so that 100 children can play.
- £1,124 could provide a tent for a temporary school or clinic to help children live safe, healthy and happy lives.
This kind of fundraising has so many plus sides. Giving kids some social awareness by using the assembly plans to introduce them to relate-able case study’s whilst reaping the positive physical and mental health benefits of getting the whole school outside and moving seems like an no-brainer to us and we encourage schools to join thousands of others and sign up for a free playground challenge kit here
Until the 23rd July Money raised will also be matched pound for pound by the UK government so your schools donation could potentially have a real effect on children throughout the world.
Apples push into the education sector has hit the headlines again as Metro has written a rather glowing account of their education tech designed to bolster creativity and coding skills with free classroom apps and a 9.7inch iPad designed for school pupils. It seems Apple is aiming to make the iPad as essential as the calculator once was in schools.
Apple has combined these Everyone Can Code and Everyone Can Create iPad focused curriculum apps with a classroom app that allows teachers to keep an eye on their students iPad use and track them effectively whilst providing feedback and guidance.
Simon Pile, the Assistant Head teacher at Anson Primary School in London explained ‘iPad allows me to create a curriculum that is engaging and relevant, to give every student a voice…It gives students the opportunity to have a personalised learning journey that is packed with creative opportunities.’
Remember this? It was essential until the calculator came along.
Now apples push into education could be seen as a cynical attempt to get our children hooked on iPad tech from an early age – almost positioning the iPad as an essential learning aid. Their efforts to romance schools isn't without its critics however Apple claims their motivations are entirely altruistic and not at all focused on reaping a return on investment by turning our children into future brand consumers by exposing them to Apple tech as early as possible.
Here at IWASD we would suggest that children are already hooked on technology and amidst the NHS guidelines that screen time should be reduced its hard to see a case for implementing more tech and screen time into the children’s school day however at the same time we actively encourage schools who seek to find new creative ways to get their pupils using real world experiences and getting off the bums and away from their desks to learn lessons.
It seems nobody has asked the question of apple as to whether they believe they are compacting the problems associated with greater screen time in our children. For example we recently reported that excessive screen time is now linked to 12 deadly cancers in children. So whilst the short term desire to have our kids embrace tablets to get out and about might in fact have a detrimental effect on them culturally if they grow up plugged into the matrix one has to wonder how will they ever leave it?
Amid a landscape where childhood obesity is soaring and MacDonald's being delivered to schools in the UK, instead of sycophantic articles sucking up to multi billion pound brands heralding their tech as having a positive influence on our children's development without regard for reporting on any downside instead it would be nice to for once acknowledge that we live in a world where our teachers can come up with methods for students to get interested and get active without the aid of a screen based devices luring them to do it. They've been doing this for years. Apple didn't invent going outside.
Lets make time to promote our teachers who aren't using tech as a crutch and who's own creativity and diversity of their lesson planning lets them come up with a reason to get outside other than an app. Lets's promote physical literacy alongside technological literacy and importantly lets start listening to the expert advice to reduce screen time for our children instead of embedding it into our children's daily lives so inextricably as building it into the curriculum.
Apples push into schools makes our children early adopters exposed to the Apple brand and be more likely to become future consumers. Apple want the language of computing to have iPads in the scope and it's not beyond this writers imagination that their education programs are designed to familiarise the next generation with their tech for cynical reasons. Whilst their big brand sway has media outlets clamouring to flatter them in the process it's hard to see how they will fail. Brands are the new idols and bloggers are the new evangelists so just keep an eye open for objectivity amongst the sea of honeyed words.
The traditional image of school classrooms with identical desk seating in rows is fast becoming obsolete in favour of a bold new choice of classroom design. One that encourages choice and ownership of the space for students. We are talking about the growing trend that is flexible seating.
As part of a district wide classroom redesign in Kansas, Tescott Elementary have joined a number of other schools in the USA who are empowering students by introducing flexible seating options for its students.
So what is flexible seating? A growing concept of creating learning spaces wherein children take turns going first picking their preferred seating in the classroom, children select from a list of possibilities from traditional seats, wobble stools, floor mats, standing desks, crate seats, metal chairs, rocking chairs and various other teacher selected options all reflecting the character of individual class types and teacher preferences. The options encourage a relaxed mind-set and ensure students vary their physical positions throughout the day in the hope to benefit their productivity and learning.
"Flexible seating is an opportunity for students to select their best learning seat within the classroom,” said Abell, who has been teaching for 13 years. “In my classroom, they select a seat first thing in the morning according to our seating line up (number order). That way, each student gets an opportunity to be the first to pick first at least once a week.”
Rachel Ehlers, first grade teacher at Tescott Elementary said "We felt the students would work better if they were allowed to work not only at their own pace, but also in their own comfortable positions."
The school principle Steven Kimmi explained that the move to flexible seating isn’t just designed to make school more fun but to ensure they provide the best possible learning space tailored to each individual student.
“Flexible seating was designed to give students choice, physical health, comfort, collaboration, and commitment to learn,” she said. “Flexible seating allows students to choose their best learning space for the day and allow them comfort to collaborate with others if needed to have the best learning experience in our school.”
Feedback from parents and teachers have been incredibly positive, one parent commenting that the space felt like home and Abell points out the students are demonstrating greater focus and pride as they are being given the extra autonomy to decide their own seating for the day.
Eiger Student Standing desks can be integrated into flexible seating designs in schools. Eiger and iwantastandingdesk.com currently work with numerous UK schools to ensure their individual spaces are made to suit the individual needs of the students. You can request a standing desk trail for your school here.