Education review abstracts


Vol. 20 No. 1, 2007 — New Directions Home? The challenges and opportunities of modern childhood


Is this a good time to be young?

Children’s work.


Teachers were invited to encourage their pupils to ‘write, comment or draw’ in response to the question “Is this a good time to be young?” Submissions were received from pupils across the age range from year 1 (6th birthday during the school year) to preparing for A levels (17 or 18-year-olds). Here a representative collection of extracts from across the age range is reproduced. The age of each author is not included as we do not do this for adult contributors. Nor is each individual’s school. The focus is on the content of each contribution.


Culture matters

David Lammy, Minister for Culture.


David Lammy believes that culture, sport and the arts should be at the heart of efforts to meet all five of the Every Child Matters outcomes; all of which should be central to the culture, sport and the arts services that the Government funds. The characteristics of developing education policy (autonomy, commissioning, personalisation) offer positive opportunities for the embedding of culture and creative approaches but require both schools and cultural organisations to establish new kinds of partnerships.


Detoxing childhood

Sue Palmer, Education writer.


A letter to the Daily Telegraph in September 2006, about ‘toxic childhood” achieved its intention of stimulating debate. While most commentators agreed that there are concerns about contemporary childhood, others were sceptical. In this article, the author of the letter argues that – while there’s cause to be optimistic about the overall effects of recent cultural change, and while many children are still safe from unpleasant side effects – we cannot be complacent. She also suggests how schools could help to “detox childhood”.


A crisis for efficacy?

Dr Bethan Marshall, Kings Collage, London.


Bethan Marshall reviews the evidence behind current concerns that school pupils in England are suffering from over-testing. She reveals an education system in which increasing numbers of teachers believe they are doing what is required rather that what is best for their pupils – certainly in terms of developing independent learning skills. Some teachers mitigate this by using Assessment for Learning strategies; but for Bethan this finding should not diminish calls for reform.


The assault on childhood and parenting; why urgent action is needed

Nigel Baker, Deputy General Secretary of Birmingham NUT.


Nigel Baker believes that the wellbeing of children is being undermined by too-rapid cultural change and exploitation tactics by advertisers. Meanwhile their parents are decreasingly able to counter these influences as a result of fragmentation of social and community networks. Nigel believes that urgent and radical actions are needed to prevent the ‘culture of cool’ doing permanent damage to our society.


Should schools be teaching happiness?

Dr Anthony Seldon, Master. Ian Morris, Head of Philosophy and Religion. Both at Wellington College.


Anthony Seldon and Ian Morris believe that there is no more important task for schools than teaching happiness – or wellbeing as it is more accurately described. Here, they describe how all students at Wellington College experience wellbeing classes. Each lesson starts with two regular features: meditation and ‘blessing counting’ followed by various elements of the skills of wellbeing. These may only become fully meaningful for students later but should equip them with life skills for the rest of their lives.


Doing good in the hood

Kenny Frederick, Principal of George Green’s School, Tower Hamlets.


As a head teacher, Kenny Frederick believes that children who care for the well-being of others and their community should be valued. She also believes strongly in the five aims of the Every Child Matters agenda. Her school encourages volunteering and, here, she describes a range of opportunities to volunteer that have become a beneficial element of school life. She believes that the current political climate is conductive to setting up volunteer schemes - both within and around schools – and that there is funding available to support them.


Rethinking the “toxicity” debate: the vitality of contemporary childhood

Patrick Alexander, a PhD student at the Oxford University Department of Educational Studies (OUDES).


Patrick Alexander argues that the current debate over the “toxicity” of childhood in contemporary Britain needs to be recontextualised if it is to provide helpful, positive discussion about the nature of childhood and education in the twenty-first century. He believes that “toxicity” suggests that we are dealing with a disease that needs to be cured: apparently, children are being poisoned by globalisation, new technology, and standardised testing, and we must seek the remedies to these ills. He argues that the framework of “toxicity” fails to appreciate the complexity of “childhood”; and also reinforces an image of the relationship between adults and children – or teachers and students – that is asymmetrical and alienating to the young people it presumes to help.


Walking in their shoes

Louisa Leaman is a part-time special needs teacher.


Troubled by what she sees as a call for a return to innocence in the recent media focus on childhood, Louisa Leaman suggests that there has never been an easy childhood. Nor is there a uniform experience of being young. Focusing on her work with troubled children, she highlights the influence of home circumstances – both material and emotional – and calls for greater empathy with the difficult circumstances some young people experience. She believes that we need to help children to survive the lives they live.


Time to Play? Foundation Phase Pilot Scheme

Ann Davies, head teacher of Ysgol y Dderi school in Ceredigion, Wales.


In Wales practical steps have been taken to introduce a more play-based, integrated and learner-centred curriculum for the early years – three to seven-year-old children. Ann Davies summarises the main aims of this new approach and reports on her school’s involvement, to date, in the four year pilot.


Sex and relationships education – we’ll tell you what we want, what we really, really want!

Gill Mullinar, Coordinator of the Sex Education Forum at the National Children’s Bureau.


In this article, Gill Mullinar uses young people’s views to demonstrate the value of, and need for, effective sex and relationships education (SRE) in schools. She explores what entitlement to effective SRE means and provides evidence that pupil satisfaction with SRE tends to decrease in secondary schools. She describes the campaign to make SRE within PSHE a statutory part of the National Curriculum and details the support from parents and carers for SRE in schools. She also identifies how schools can support Every Child Matters outcomes by tackling issues such as online safety and by supporting pupils to access confidential health services.


Brain development during adolescence

Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Research Fellow at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College, London.


While the physical changes associated with adolescence are well known, what is happening inside the teenage brain needs further investigation. In this article, Sarah-Jayne Blakemore explains the complex processes of brain development in babies and outlines recent research evidence of the further significant changes experienced during puberty and beyond. She maintains that education during the teenage years might focus on stimulating those parts of the brain which are changing during this period including internal control, multi-tasking and social cognitive skills.


The great outdoors

Gail Ryder Richardson is one of Learning through Landscapes’ Senior Development Officers.


Gail Ryder Richardson draws on her experiences with Learning through Landscapes to highlight the special nature and benefits of ‘outdoors’ during ‘school time’ for young children. She identifies the key features of outdoor environments that are successful in providing play based Foundation Stage learning. She considers some of the whole school issues that can hamper the development of this provision and suggests practical solutions to common problems.


Culture, ethnicity, language, faith and equal respect in early childhood – does ‘getting it’ matter?

Jane Lane, an advocate worker for racial equality in the early years.


Recognising the unique background to every childhood, Jane Lane highlights the importance of all young children having their family history and heritage respected. Here she considers how ‘getting it’ - grasping the wider significance of acknowledging and understanding the reality of racism – is necessary for genuine respect for the heritage of every child. She lists the steps of identifying, understanding and breaking down barriers needed in early years settings to ensure that all staff and families ‘get it’. For ease of terminology Jane refers to all forms of early years provision as “settings”.


Empowerment, learning and schools: reflections from psychology

Dr Christopher Arnold, senior educational psychologist in Sandwell, West Midlands.


Research studies show the crucial impact of empowerment and motivation on students’ learning. Strategies for combating bullying which focus on whole school approaches and which include pupils, parents and carers are also more likely to be empowering and successful for those involved. Christopher Arnold draws on his experiences as a teacher and educational psychologist to emphasise empowerment as an essential not just for pupils but for the teaching profession as well.



Vol. 20 No. 2, 2007 — Valuing identity and diversity


Identity, diversity and citizenship

Keith Ajegbo, retired head teacher.


Issues of identity are important to how students feel about themselves in school and in relation to their education and how they feel about what they might become. Drawing on his work for the Curriculum Review on Diversity and Citizenship, Keith Ajegbo looks at the challenges that schools face when trying to provide a curriculum and ethos that give clarity, motivation and a sense of identity for all pupils. He also outlines his thoughts on whether British modern social and cultural history should be the fourth pillar of the citizenship curriculum.


How society can create the conditions for all children to enjoy a good childhood

Bob Reitemeier, chief executive and Zoe Mason, campaigns and media officer. Both for The Children’s Society .


Childhood today is very different from that experienced by previous generations. Whilst many children in the UK enjoy a good childhood, many do not, with increasing levels of anxiety and mental health problems being diagnosed. In this article Bob Reitemeier and Zoe Mason emphasise the importance of society working together to ensure that all children receive the childhood they deserve. They outline the remit of The Children’s Society’s Good Childhood Enquiry and how the findings can help shape a new vision of childhood.


What is the place of race in the debate about choice?

Dr Debbie Weekes-Bernard, a senior research and policy analyst for the Runnymede Trust.


There has been little attention paid to issues of race or ethnicity in parental school choice either in proposed reform or in the debate prompted by it. Debbie Weekes-Bernard outlines her research into the impact that an increase in choice might have on parents and children from black and minority ethnic backgrounds. She argues that race plays an integral part in choice citing the example of “white flight” as a way of understanding the way that choice and race are linked. Black and minority ethnic (BME) parents are faced with choices that veer between local schools which sometimes educate pupils where those from one BME group constitute the majority of all children, or schools much further from home in which their children, who may be one of only a few BME children in their classroom or playground, might experience cultural isolation.


Educational achievement and social class

Bill Greenshields, Vice President of the National Union of Teachers.


Bill Greenshields outlines the link between educational achievement and social class which has been chronicled over the last century but sadly remains just as strong for today’s children and young people. Despite the pronouncements of governments, little has changed and schools and teachers find themselves blamed for failing to redress the balance when so many factors beyond their control influence the attainments and aspirations of their pupils. The article calls for teachers to have a concerted voice in trying to address the class issues which impact on society.


“Troublous times”: Perceptions, myths and the dangers of demonising young people

Doug Jewell, campaigns coordinator for the human rights group, Liberty.


Difference in age, like race, faith, physique, gender or sexuality, etc, is either interesting or nothing special or irritating or positively threatening – depending on your state of mind and point of view. In this article Doug Jewell discusses the dangers of holding stereotypical views about young people and argues that it should be as unacceptable to demonise young people in the media and in society in general as it is to demonise people on the basis of their ethnic background or sexuality.


Some issues are too important not to tackle – raising the achievement of vulnerable children and young people

Clare Tickell, chief executive, National Children’s Homes.


While the Government has spent a great deal of resources and not an inconsiderable amount of policy and legislative time on the educational outcomes of vulnerable groups, this article suggests a more radical approach to reform resulting in a culture change and policies beyond the classroom. The issue of looked after children – or children in care – is used as an example of an area where what is already known to work can be used to draw out more general conclusions that apply to all children. These conclusions include the need to celebrate achievement rather than measure attainment, acknowledge the appropriate role of targeted resources and capacity, and the importance of addressing emotional wellbeing needs.


Multiculturalism and the gender trap: Young ethnicised women and domestic violence in schools

Heidi Safia Mirza, professor at the University of London.


Socially responsible educators in multicultural Britain need to address the issue of gendered risk which young “ethnicised” women can face within their own communities and families. Young women growing up in minority ethnic communities who are subject to specific forms of cultural domestic violence, such as honour killings and forced marriage, are caught up in the contradictions of the cultural relativism of British multiculturalism on one hand, and the private/public divide which characterises our approach to domestic violence on the other. Liberal multiculturalism is popularly conceived as celebrating diversity and “tolerating” different cultural and religious values between groups. However in this model the notion of mutual tolerance is fragile. One way in which multiculturalism negotiates this fragility is to maintain a laissez-faire approach to gendered cultural difference. This paper looks at some of the tensions and confusions involved in dealing with the hard and sensitive issues of gendered human rights violations which can become issues in our multicultural schools.


Parenting support can help parents to develop better relationships with their children and reduce the risk of behaviour problems

Dr Judy Hutchings and Dr Tracey Bywater.


Early-onset anti-social behaviours such as aggression and non-compliance predict poor school attendance and attainment and, if not addressed, lead to later delinquent adolescent behaviours, involving violence, crime and/or drug misuse. These problems are costly for society and for the individual. The most effective way to tackle these problem behaviours is by targeting children at an early age. Research has shown that whilst the effects of a positive school experience can be protective for some high risk children, the most effective programmes are those that work with parents, introducing them to the principles of social learning theory. Through attendance on evidence based parenting programmes, parent-child relationships and child behaviour can be improved and the improvements maintained over time, but 30 years of research has demonstrated that not all programmes work equally well. This paper explores what works in parent programmes, using the work with the Incredible Years (IY) Parent programme as an example.


IntoUniversity: Making it happen

Dr Rachel Carr, Chief Executive of IntoUniversity.


Rachel Carr describes the history and development of IntoUniversity, an educational programme based at St Clement and St James Community Project in North Kensington which reaches 850+ users on-site each year. She outlines the activities that are run in order to encourage disadvantaged children and young people to aspire to university and to attain a university place. She also considers the factors she believes have made the programme successful and reports on the evaluation of the programme by the National Foundation for Educational Research, which recommends that IntoUniversity opens further centres.


Girls and exclusion: Why are we overlooking the experiences of half the school population?

Audrey Osler, professor at the University of Leeds.


In this article Audrey Osler argues that it is not only boys who experience problems with school. She explores the meaning of exclusion for girls and identifies the factors which enable girls to feel they belong and to achieve and those which lead to alienation and disaffection. The article looks at those types of exclusion, including self-exclusion, which are not recorded in the official statistics.


“’T’ain’t what you do (it’s the way that you do it)”: Challenging the boys to do better

Allison Crompton is head teacher of Middleton Technology School.


Seemingly, it is now white working class boys who form the largest group of underachievers nationally. Allison Crompton, Head Teacher of Middleton Technology School, Rochdale, looks at the issues facing these boys and their schools and shares with us her experiences of raising the achievement of white working class boys to among the highest in the country. Situated against a background of deprivation, and where the boys achieve as highly as the girls, Middleton Technology School is deemed to be an “outstanding” school in every measure. She explains what makes this school stand out from the crowd.


From exclusion to empowerment: LGBT young people find their voice

Marianne Lemond and Jess wood, both part of Allsorts LGBT Youth Project.


Allsorts Youth Project works with lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) young people in Brighton and Hove. They provide a safe drop-in space and one-to-one support. They also enable LGBT young people to learn new skills and participate in a wide range of volunteering opportunities including delivering homophobia awareness workshops to their peers. Marianne Lemond and Jess Wood write about how the project makes a difference to LGBT young people and makes an impact on the wider community.


Chickenshed – “Theatre that defies theatre” – and education!

Paul Morrall, Director of Education and Outreach at Chickenshed.


The inclusive theatre company, Chickenshed, undertakes pioneering education work with young people with disabilities to encourage them to express themselves creatively through theatre and the performing arts, using prose and poetry, music and movement. Paul Morrall describes how theatre is integral to education and tells the personal stories of some young people who have been inspired themselves and inspired others through the inclusive approach of the company. The work that Chickenshed has done in schools, both special and mainstream, advantaged and disadvantaged, is also outlined, with a plea for theatre and the performing arts to become an essential part of the curriculum – the fourth R.



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