image_pdfimage_print

All posts by Sal

About Sal

Sally McKeown is a trainer and journalist, offering informed comment on all matters concerning educational technology and special needs, including dyslexia.

SPOILER ALERT: Nottingham parents have lost the will to live

8TH AUGUST – a day to be feared. It is the day when British parents reach breaking point, throw a hissy fit, and tell the world and their families that school holidays suck.

This information reached me courtesy of Drayton Manor Park (which is around 40 miles from Nottingham City Centre) who commissioned a survey of 2000 parents.

The results prove that hell is indeed other people. On average, we can only sustain wall to wall contact with our family for 17 days before we have had enough and long for the school holiday to be over.

That’s not too bad. It’s more than two weeks. If you have been upbeat and good humoured for the first third of the holidays, give yourself a pat on the back but be warned, dark moments lie ahead.

Over the six to eight week break, the average parent will have to deal with 13 sibling fights, six public tantrums, 15 early morning wakeups, two cancelled childcare emergencies and five long car journeys.

As of tomorrow – August 8th 2019, many parents will stop enjoying the company of their offspring and start longing for September to arrive:

• One in five parents believe that the summer holidays are the single most stressful time of year
• 28% will attempt to limit screen time
• 17 percent of parents will be shouted at by their kids when/ if they succeed
• The average parent will be driven to HIDE from their little ones in a locked bathroom or bedroom at least six times over the holidays, just to get some respite
• 88 percent of parents believe they take school holidays more seriously than their own parents did
• 36 percent of mum and dads today say they feel guilty if they don’t have an activity planned every day
• Working parents are so stressed that 15 percent of parents are considering quitting their job. The rest are probably looking for overtime opportunities
• 90% of parents surveyed said they wished employers were more sympathetic to the plight of working parents during the summer break

Apparently, Nottingham is where parents cave in first. They gave up on 4th August, while the hardy folk in Belfast will be smiling grimly until the 12th

What does despair look like? Researchers found that 16 percent of parents reported that getting out of the house every morning is a major achievement so the prediction is that in the next month there will be seven days when everyone stays in their pyjamas all day.

For the cheerful and adventurous among you there is Drayton Manor Park. The yare offering the chance to win £500 and FREE entry to the park: www.draytonmanor.co.uk/competitions.

A deadly disease in our schools you’ve probably never heard of

Today -July 4th – is National Mesothelioma Day and this year the charity Mesothelioma UK is drawing attention to the risk to children in primary schools.

Politicians and environmentalists are rightly concerned about the quality of air in our cities and the traffic pollution around schools where parents leave their engines idling while waiting to collect pupils at the end of the school day. But there is a menace that lurks behind the plaster, in the damaged roofs, rotten windows and broken ceiling tiles of primary schools built or repaired roughly between the years of 1940 to 1980.

Mesthelioma is a cancer caused by breathing in asbestos dust and while asbestos is banned in the UK, it is still to be found in many homes, schools and offices.

Last year the Department of Education asked all schools to report how much asbestos was in their buildings. Nearly a quarter (23%) of schools failed to respond by the February 2019 deadline. A Freedom of Information (FOI) request by Stephensons Solicitors LLP received replies from just 69% of the 152 local education authorities in England but the results give cause for concern:

• 5,196 maintained primary schools are likely to contain asbestos
• A further 3,791 schools could contain asbestos
• At least 319 teachers have died from mesothelioma since 1980
• 205 of these deaths have occurred since 2001 (source: National Education Union)
• Academies and free schools are not required to report to their local education authority on asbestos because they are outside their control
Kate Sweeney, partner in personal injury at Stephensons, pointed out that asbestos is found in many primary schools because the buildings are very old: ‘Parents and teachers have a right to know if asbestos is present and what measures are being taken to manage exposure.’

There is no safe level of asbestos and the effects will not show up for several decades so Stephensons and Mesothelioma UK are calling for all schools and local education authorities to publicly disclose if asbestos is on the premises and the measures being taken to manage it.

Liz Darlison, Head of Services at Mesothelioma UK, said: ‘Sadly, the UK has the highest incidence of mesothelioma in the world.’
See the NEU fact file: https://www.teachers.org.uk/edufacts/asbestos

Use this summer to teach children a new – and useful – skill

We are just coming to that time of the year when schools are planning holiday activities and their after school clubs for the Autumn term.

Now of course you want activities that are a bit more exciting than school curriculum subjects. Some schools opt for trips out, unusual sports, learning an instrument or a gardening club and I have been intrigued by stories of children learning the Glockenspiel, engaging in cheerleading and joining a Conundrum Club.

Often schools look for clubs as an antidote to technology promoting outdoor pursuits and a break from screen time. All good arguments but there is still a place for learning touch typing.

In the UK we don’t teach it in schools as part of the curriculum and yet it is an important skill for life – as important as learning to cook. Often the pundits claim that
digital natives need no instruction on basic computer skills, including keyboarding but this is not true. These students are using more digital media to make notes, do their homework and even take standardised tests so it is vital that they learn to use it efficiently.

There are different ways to teach touch typing but schools often choose learning online where the most popular programs are:
Touch-type Read and Spell https://www.readandspell.com/ an online-access typing course – Winner of the Education Resources Award – 2017, with 24 levels, each with 31 modules
Kaz https://kaz-type.com/ – shortlisted for the Bett Special Needs Award 2019 – an Accelerated Learning course that teaches the A to Z keys in just 90 minutes – using a multisensory approach that engages both sides of the brain – has the added benefit of a qualification, a City and Guilds badge too
Englishtype https://www.englishtype.com/ uses vocabulary content from the national literacy strategy word lists and follows key stages 1-3 of the national curriculum

The Three Rs are not enough!

Here is Allen Tsui’s account of using KAZ type in different schools. You can read the full case study on the KAZ site

I first encountered KAZ-Type in 2014 when working at a highly rated Independent
Preparatory School based in central London. The Head Teacher asked me to manage the school’s subscription as part of its computing curriculum.

The children I was working with at the time were very enthused by it, especially being able to challenge each other with their typing speeds. Many were also partly motivated by the fact that I had set them a personal challenge to exceed my typing speed.

The school I currently work for – Willow Brook Primary School Academy in East London, is an amazing school, recognised by the Mayor of London as being one of the top performing schools in London in school year 2018/19

Beyond the school timetable, Willow Brook also offers a wide programme of after school clubs which are free to all families to take up. I was hosting or facilitating KAZ after school club held on Friday afternoons. This was so well attended and over-subscribed, we had to hold two groups.

Invisible barriers to inclusion

Today March 16th 2019 is Disabled Access Day.

Our government has promised to get one million disabled people into work over the next decade. This will certainly be a challenge as many disabled workers will not be able to get to work using transport. Recently, BBC journalist Alex Taylor described finding himself stuck on a train in his wheelchair and apparently Govia, parent company of Southern Rail Thameslink Railway recently is putting profits before people by telling staff not to help passengers who are disabled on and of trains if it is going to cause delays.

If these newly appointed workers are using a website or any form of technology they may find the systems inaccessible. Hilary Stephenson, managing director of digital user experience agency, Sigma, has found that many websites still have barriers to access which make it difficult – or even impossible – for people with disabilities to use.

Her company found that a third of council websites in the UK are not accessible for disabled people. From booking travel to accessing vital health services, poor digital design is leaving millions of vulnerable users confused, alienated and often severely isolated.

‘Living with an impairment, disability or health issue of any kind should never exclude people from accessing the same online and digital services as everyone else,’ she says. ‘It is scandalous that there are still so many companies not willing to invest the time and money into making their sites inclusive to all.’

Accessible Spaces – Exploring access to public, leisure and event spaces By Simon Wissink | 24/09/2018

Peace symposium 6pm Today 9 March London today

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the Caliph of the Worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is holding a National Peace Symposium at 6 pm today, 9 March 2019 at Baitul Futuh Mosque, 181 London Rd, Morden SM4 5PT

This comes on the same day that we heard the news of the death of the baby of Shamima Begum, just after she was moved from al-Hawl camp in the north of the country to another site nearer the Iraqi border.

Controversy surrounds her actions, and the UK’s responses, from Home secretary Sajid Javid’s decision to revoke the British citizenship to the news that a shooting range in Wirral, north-west England, is using Begum’s image as a target because it has ‘received a large number of requests from customers.’

What is clear is that there has never been more important time to have discussions about peace.

Politics has become a dirty word and many in the UK are hunkering down and trying to ignore what is going on here and abroad. In fact if it’s not rumour and gossip about Brexit, it will struggle to appear in the headlines.

We need to look at the big political issues of the day such as global politics, Islam, terrorism, and the ones that impinge on all our lives: environment and climate change social media, technology.

This Peace symposium is a good start.

When Sal and Anna met Russell

Why do people pay £4000 for a stand at Bett and then have no idea what they are going to do there?

‘We’ll tell people about our products, they say’ but then you see them standing there looking a little anxious, clutching their expensive glossy brochures, willing people to stop and talk to them.

There has to be a better way and indeed there is as Anna Pedroza, owner of PR agency Anna Pedroza Communication, and I explained in our interview with Russell Prue. Click on the bar above the picture and have a listen,

Check out Anna’s blog :  https://pedrozacommunications.co.uk/blog/how-to-secure-pr-during-bett-2019/

Can student planners help reduce stress and improve well-being?

This week is not just about Safer Internet Day, it is also Children’s Mental Health Week #childrensmhw.

A #YoungMindsUK survey of 6,719 teachers showed that teachers spend around 4.5 hours each week on well-being and the recent posts on #banthebooths show that schools can be very stressful places for young people.

There are no simple answers but there are simple tools which can help some children. You might want to look at a company called Penstripe that makes student planners that don’t just contain space for homework and timetables but can be personalised with things like code of conduct, uniform etc. and, even better, have advice on health and well-being. If schools are going to have planners that children have to carry with them at all times shouldn’t they also have advice that young people need and give them helpful strategies?
Penstripe Student Planners

Not just a pretty picture

An overview of a whole topic at a glance

Bett Award finalists Matchware offer top tips for introducing mind mapping into your school
Matchware (stand C142), a Bett Awards finalist in the Higher or Further Education Digital Services category, is looking forward to showing Bett visitors the latest version of their software MindView, the industry leader in mind mapping,

Often described as a visual thinking tool, MindView encourages learners and teachers to structure information in different ways so they can see the whole, the different parts and the connections in between.

It is well known that the visual approach of mind mapping can help the 10 to 15% of the population who have dyslexia or associated Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD), but it is also a wonderful tool for EAL students and those still to develop full fluency in English who will find that the visual representation of knowledge is so much easier for them to understand and recall.

To help schools and colleges not yet up to speed with mind mapping, Matchware’s manager David Kidd offers these top tips for introducing it into the classroom:
• Fire up your students: MindView is an excellent notetaking and idea generation tool classroom that encourages students to brainstorm and organise ideas for written documents and presentations. As a starting point choose a topic where students have prior knowledge or strong opinions and can collaborate.
• Think visual: Young people switch off if they are listening for too long. Mind maps often work better than linear presentation slides but for maximum effect incorporate pictures, colours, different fonts or text styles to make the ideas stand out.
• Expand and contract: Remind students that they need to crystallise their thoughts into a word or key phrase, a picture or symbol, a vital skill in an age where we are all overloaded with information. Then show them how to build on key words to create fuller accounts or more detailed work, gathering examples and evidence.
• Stretch the mind: Mind mapping helps us to gather, sort, structure and create in different ways. It also is a great aid to memory and learning. Once you have a fairly detailed mind map, switch off the screen and ask students to recall sections.
• Use MindView in the flipped classroom: It is often hard for students to evidence the work they have done before coming to the classroom and for students new to English it is a good way for them to process and interact with language and build their comprehension skills alongside curriculum learning.
• Try mind mapping as a planning tool: Teachers tell us that they use MindView to help with lesson planning, report writing and for curriculum planning, using the built in Gantt chart and Office integration. This gives them a clear visual overview of what needs to be covered.
• Make MindView a regular feature in the classroom: Mind mapping should not be a one-off. Plan to use it regularly for several weeks so it is seen as an accepted strategy in class and not as something special.

There are so many advantages to incorporating mind mapping into teaching and learning. Find out more from the MindView team on stand C142 at the Bett show https://www.matchware.com/mind-mapping-software

Ends

Press contact:
David Kidd
Matchware Ltd
T: 020 8439 8220
E: david.kidd@matchware.com

Making an impact with music technology

 

Music is no longer just about playing instruments or singing. Many careers now require  young people to be familiar with industry standard music technology and this is where so many schools fall down.

Not so Gable Hall in Essex, a performing arts school, part of the ORTU Federation, where almost every year group routinely uses the technology for composing, performing and recording.

This has paid off. As well as achieving academic success – a 100% pass rate in Music GCSE – students have gone on to greater glory with Louisa Johnson winning the X Factor in 2015 and Ruti Olajugbagbe winning The Voice UK in April 2018.

‘The profile of music and our students’ success is largely attributable to the excellent facilities. We try to get every year group to use the technology and get them doing sequencing and composing on the computer,’ said Faye Beamish Head of Music, Ortu Gable Hall. ‘It is really important that the technology is seamless so lessons run smoothly and the young people can just get on with making music.’

Their technology is supplied and managed by Counterpoint Ltd, and means that the students are building the skills they will need when working in professional recording studios in the future. It also gives the staff and students confidence: ‘When the music technology works in the classroom – put simply – we can then focus on what we do best,’ said Beamish.

As well as producing stars of tomorrow – or even today- Ortu Gable Hall runs a roadshow every year where the students go out and perform their best work in local schools putting into practice what they have learned in the classroom. This helps to build student confidence performing in front of large audiences.

They have been shortlisted in the Impact Award category of the BETT Awards 2019. See their video entry here – bettawards.com/impact-award-2019-finalists/

Pupils with autism are victims of bullying in primary schools

According to the NHS, there are about 100,000 children in the UK with autism and 70% are educated in mainstream schools. They can find it hard to read facial expressions and body language and misunderstand what other pupils say and do. Girls with autism are especially vulnerable because of:
• great sympathy or emotional empathy
• social naivety
• misinterpreting other people’s intentions
• being less able to read facial expressions and body language
• not understanding the unwritten social rules
• being overly idealistic about relationships
• social immaturity
Some of the key challenges for pupils with autism in school are:
• understanding the social world
• understanding instructions
• being misunderstood and misunderstanding others
• being bullied for being different (because they are ‘odd’, ‘out of the box thinkers’, or ‘weird’ as described by neurotypical pupils)

Tania Marshall, Autism Ambassador at Education Placement Group, suggests how children with autism can be supported. ‘It is important to educate all pupils about autism and tolerance of difference. Students with autism could also be assigned a ‘neurotypical buddy’ who makes sure they are safe and supported. Friendship skill acquisition, from as young as possible, is crucial for pupils with autism to learn. The best basis for this is through commonly held interests with peers. ‘
Watch out for some of the key signs that a child is being bullied- refusing to join in, staying physically close to a member of staff, hiding. If left undetected these small signs may escalate into more serious behaviour such as selective mutism and school refusal. The less structured parts of the day such as breaks and mealtimes can be a source of anxiety so give them alternatives such as supervised lunchtime clubs, library activities.

Teachers must instil values of acceptance, inclusion and tolerance among all pupils says Marshall: ‘The type of teacher a pupil with autism has can make or break their school experience – teachers who are patient, creative, accepting and intuitive can help children with autism thrive in the school environment.’

Tania Marshall, M.Sc. is AspienGirl Project lead for girls with Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism Ambassador for Education Placement Group, specialists in education recruitment