When reading turns from chore to pleasure


Sally Perry.

Of the many roles performed by the children’s or school librarian perhaps the most mystical is that of matchmaker: matching books with readers. Joy Court*, reviews editor of The School Librarian, describes the specialist children’s librarian mantra as ‘The right book for the right child at the right time in order to achieve the aim of every child reading for pleasure’. In the US this process even has its own name – readers’ advisory – and has traditionally been taught in library schools.

And why is this pairing so important? Because the right book might be the one where you stop thinking about the process of reading or the number of pages you have to get through and read for the story, read for pleasure. It might be your ‘turning point’ book, Read more ›

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Posted in Childhood & early education, Literacy, Teaching, learning, curriculum & assessment

Grammar schools: the rise and fall of ‘evidence-informed policy’?


Geoff Whitty and Emma Wisby. 

In her first major foray into domestic policy as Prime Minister, Theresa May has offered us more grammar schools. Not a return to the selective system of education that existed in England prior to the 1960s and still exists in modified form in a small number of local authorities; not the grammar school in every town envisaged by John Major in 1997; but new grammar schools where parents want them as part of the diverse mix of secondary schools that has developed in England over the past 30 years. We know that this would entail relaxing the restrictions on new or expanding grammar schools, as well as allowing existing non-selective schools to become selective in some circumstances. A fuller set of proposals will be subject to consultation in the light of a new Green Paper.

Our concern here is what to make of this development in relation to the rhetoric of evidence-based or evidence-informed policy that has been espoused by politicians of all three major political parties for some time now. On the face of it, it looks like a particularly stark illustration of how policy is in fact more often driven by ideology and the personal experiences and preferences of policy makers and their advisors – as well as the internal management of party politics. This is a point we made in our publication earlier this year, Research and Policy in Education. The conduct and outcome of the EU referendum Read more ›

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Posted in Education policy, Evidence-based policy

At the school gate: do parents make friends with those different to themselves?


Carol Vincent

As primary schools round the country return from holiday, ‘school gate’ relationships are picking up where they left off. The importance of these relationships to adults delivering and picking up their children, can be gauged by their regular appearance as a topic on the ‘talk’ section of parents’ website Mumsnet. Indeed, Mumsnet has produced its own quiz on ‘school gate mums’.

Our recent research (conducted by Carol Vincent and Humera Iqbal at UCL Institute of Education, and Sarah Neal at University of Sheffield) set out to explore the social relationships made by adults and their children who live in areas with diverse populations and attend local schools with others from a range of ethnicities and social class backgrounds. Having a child at primary school means that many parents meet regularly, often twice a day for seven years, in the playground, as they deliver and collect their Read more ›

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Posted in Childhood & early education, Parents

Post 16 GCSE retakes – what have they or the students sitting them actually achieved?

Brian Creese. 

If I may be excused a moment of being a grumpy old man, at least when I did ‘O’ levels, we knew what they meant. The top X% got an A (or Grade 1), the next Y% a B and so on. The approach was strictly hierarchical, the exam simply telling you where you stood in the nation compared to all others who sat the exam.

Among many problems with this approach was that results always remained the same and there was no measure of improvement. Politicians wanted to be able to show that they had improved education, and so Margaret Thatcher changed the system to an exam which marked a threshold skill; it measured a proficiency and anyone or indeed everyone should be capable of reaching that level. And so we entered a period of twenty-odd years where education did indeed improve – every single year, as measured by the new GCSE exams. That era came to an end with the ‘hair shirt’ policies of Michael Gove, and for the first time the government’s objective was to see success rates fall. This year’s collapsing success rates for GCSE, particularly in English, once again shows how successful this Read more ›

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Posted in Further higher and lifelong education, Teaching, learning, curriculum & assessment

Feminism is everywhere, but so is sexism. Do teachers understand what this means in the classroom?


Holly Maguire.

When I was in Year 10, feminism was a word I vaguely associated with not wearing a bra, hating men and setting things on fire. But the world has moved on. Last term, one of my Year 10 GCSE students told the class that men taking birth control pills and exercising responsibility for their sexuality was “just basic feminism”.

Young people’s relationship to feminism has changed. Beyonce is now a feminist. ‘No More Page 3’ campaigners won the argument. #Sayhername, honouring black women and girls killed by US police, happened. Social media made my students aware of these things.

But do teachers understand this change and its implications?

This progress has been coupled with non-compulsory PSHE in schools, allowing many Read more ›

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Posted in Teachers and teaching assistants, Teaching, learning, curriculum & assessment
This blog is written by academics at the UCL Institute of Education.

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