Monday, 31 December 2007

My 2007

What a year. So much has happened...

My own personal highlights of 2007 are:

  1. Proposing to Lisa in Paris
  2. Getting Gizmo, our cat
  3. Moving house
  4. Getting the Deputy Head Teacher's job
  5. Being asked to be Best man at my friend's wedding in 2008
  6. Trip to London
  7. Holiday in Palma Nova
  8. Stag Do in Gloucester
  9. My birthday
  10. Getting my new car

This blog has been viewed over 700 times in 2007 and there have been nearly 340 posts.

The best tunes of the year are:

  1. Take That - Shine
  2. Mark Ronson & Amy Winehouse - Valerie
  3. Mika - Grace Kelly
  4. Sugababes - About You Now
  5. OneRepublic Feat. Timbaland - Apologize
  6. Sonny J - Can't Stop Movin'
  7. Pink - Leave Me Alone (I'm Lonely)
  8. The Fray - How To Save A Life
  9. Newton Faulkner - Dream Catch Me
  10. Jack Penate - Torn On The Platform
  11. Leona Lewis - Bleeding Love
  12. Freemasons - Rain Down Love (Walken Remix)
  13. Calvin Harris - Acceptable in the 80s
  14. Beyonce & Shakira - Beautiful Liar (Freemasons Remix)
  15. Mutya Muena - Real Girl
  16. Timbaland - The Way I Are
  17. Mika - Big Girl (You Are Beautiful)
  18. Kanye West - Stronger
  19. Peter Bjorn & John - Young Folks
  20. Freemasons & Bailey Tzuke - Uninvited

Top Films of the Year:

  1. Transformers
  2. Die Hard 4.0
  3. The Simpsons Movie
  4. Spiderman 3
  5. Knocked Up
Other useless facts:

I've kept a record of the nights out I've enjoyed in 2007. It turns out that I had 90 nights out! Blimey. Just think - if I spent £20 on each night out that's £1800 on alcohol. But I most probably spent more than £20 quite often. That is a really depressing statistic...

I have watched 100 films or DVD box sets this year! is an impressive site with lots of free resources in all subjects. I think the Year 6 Levelling Sheet to be really useful.

This is their interpretation of what a generic mark sheet would look like for SATs papers. It has been worded as simply as possible, so that children can use it to level their own work.

This will be really helpful in the next few months...

Sunday, 30 December 2007

Getting hitched!

Lisa and I have just returned from Paris where we got engaged at the Louvre!

We had a wonderful time. We visited the Arc De Triomphe, Champs Elysee, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and the Sacre Coeur. We stayed in a lovely hotel called the Waldorf Trocadero.

Now we need to make arrangements for the wedding which we plan to be in 2009!

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Sport makes a come back

According to a report in Junior Education Plus, sport in schools seems to be making a comeback. A lot of the credit for this is due to the financial investment and an expansion in the options children have to choose from.

The School Sports Survery 2006/2007 has found that 86% of children in the 21700 maintained schools surveyed (primary and secondary) take part in at least two hours of PE a week, beating the Governments 85% target for 2008 a year ahead of schedule.

Activemark awards have been made to several schools.

There is now an average of 16 sport options available at primary schools. Football (98%), dance (96%) and athletics (93%) are still the most popular. But sports, such as archery (22%) and cycling (42%) are growing in popularity.

Monday, 24 December 2007

Happy Christmas!

I'd just like to wish everybody a happy Christmas! Hope you have a brilliant time!

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Lost Season 4 Trailer

I simply cannot wait until the February - Lost returns with Season 4. Here is a trailer of the new series - it looks amazing!!

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Spuds You'll Like

Primary schools are being encouraged to pant their own potatoes next term, as part of a national project. To mark the international year of the potato in 2008, the British Potato Council is asking pupils to chip in and grow their own. All schools that register before February 8th will be given free seed potatos and a £5 voucher towards compost. The council has compiled a range of online education resources.The school that grows the most potatoes will be given a digital camera.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

£340 extra to help teach foreign languages

I'm sure we're all grateful... But come on!!

Primary schools will receive just £340 each extra to help them teach foreign languages next year. Ministers have pledged £35million, £5million more than this year, as schools prepare for 2010 when languages will become compulsory from the age of seven.

But Mick Brookes, of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the capacity of schools to develop languages was "dependent on funding". He added: "There may well not be enough."

Do you reckon?

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

DCSF targets are a load of 'Balls'

According to the Daily Mail, more than half of Whitehall's education targets will be missed. The official report shows 23 out of 53 goals have already been missed, while there is "slippage" in progress towards another seven and a further three are recorded as "cannot be assessed" or "yet to be assessed'. Failures include drives to raise standards in the three Rs and curb truancy.

The autumn report for the Department for Children, Schools and Families records progress against all targets set since 1998, which cover everything from maths and English standards to teenage pregnancy, obesity and joblessness among young people.
The failures cast serious doubt on Government claims to be investing in schools in return for reform - Labour has nearly doubled education spending from £29billion in 1997 to £63.7billion this year.

Opponents also said the Government had fallen foul of its own target-setting culture. For example, a target set in 2002 to reduce truancy by a third has been spectacularly missed with unauthorised absences running at their highest recorded level.

The Government has now dropped national targets for curbing truancy.
Progress in other areas, including a drive to reduce the teenage pregnancy rate by 50 per cent by 2010, has already slipped, the report reveals.

Monday, 17 December 2007

The Under-10s know what's important

The Daily Mail reports on a survey of children's thoughts carried out to mark National Kid's Day. Spokesman Patricia Murchie said: "The idea is to give preteens a national voice for their views in a very simple format. "This age group has some very clear ideas on how the world could be changed for the better but is very rarely given the opportunity to express them."

This is how the youngsters expressed their views:
What is the very best thing in the world: 1 Being happy. 2 Being famous. 3 Being healthy. 4 Being rich. 5 Families. 6 Good looks. 7 Nice food. 8 Friends. 9 Computer games. 10 Holidays.

What are the very worst: 1 Terrorists. 2 Drunks. 3 Being fat. 4 Bullies. 5 Illness. 6 Dying. 7 Divorce. 8 School. 9 Telling lies. 10 Wars.

Who is the most famous person in the world: 1 The Queen. 2 Harry Potter. 3 God. 4 Father Christmas. 5 Simon Cowell. 6 Jesus. 7 Jonny Wilkinson. 8 Spider-Man. 9 Prince William. 10 David Cameron.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

500 writers declare war on illiteracy

The Daily Mail reports that more than 500 authors yesterday called on Gordon Brown to tackle illiteracy among children. Nick Hornby, Ian Rankin, Andrew Motion and Jackie Collins were among best-selling writers to sign a letter expressing "deep concern" over pupils' reading standards. They highlighted figures showing that one in five children fails to achieve basic reading standards at primary school.

The letter handed in to Number Ten yesterday calls for children to be taught to read at school for an hour a day until they have mastered the skill. The coalition of 545 authors also includes No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency author Alexander McCall Smith, Anthony Horowitz, creator of the Alex Rider teenage spy novels, Tracy Chevalier, who wrote Girl With A Pearl Earring, and Sophie Dahl, Roald Dahl's granddaughter, whose first novel is Playing With The Grown-Ups.
The letter was presented to Downing Street by Kate Mosse, the biggest-selling author of 2006, Sophie Kinsella, writer of the Shopaholic series, Tony Parsons, author of Man And Boy, and so-called queen of the Aga Saga, Joanna Trollope. They were joined by Amanda Ross, the executive producer of The Richard And Judy Show, who is credited with introducing the couple's successful book club.

The authors said they were "deeply concerned" about levels of literacy and called for a push to tackle the problem. It follows a damning world league table which exposed falling literacy standards among England's ten-year-olds. In five years, English schools fell from third to 19th in an international table of reading achievement.

The back-to-basics synthetic phonics method of teaching reading was only made law in English schools last year but there are reports of some teachers still clinging to discredited methods. The authors' plea follows a documentary filmed at Monteagle Primary School in Dagenham, East London, and screened on Channel 4 earlier this year. An intensive synthetics programme managed to double the number of children who were reaching reading standards expected of their age. Miss Ross said: "Total literacy in our schools is achievable. Monteagle went a long way to proving that. "There are towns in India that have achieved 100 per cent literacy - we shouldn't settle for less."

A Department for Children, Schools and Families spokesman said: "The literacy hour has ensured that more than 100,000 children are now making the grade than was the case in 1997."

Friday, 14 December 2007

SEN pupils 'given poor education'

Laura Clark in the Daily Mail writes about a report that states that sending children with severe special needs to ordinary schools condemns many to a poor education and disrupts lessons. Schools too often lack expertise and resources to cater for pupils with behavioural or learning problems, it claims.

The report reveals how growing numbers of pupils are being classed as having special educational needs, with schools seeking extra cash to help cope with them. One in five primary children is classed as having a behavioural problem, disability or learning difficulty requiring extra staff support. "Teachers are finding it increasingly difficult to support children with special educational needs in mainstream primary schools," says the report. The warning comes in a submission to a major independent review of primary education based at Cambridge University.
It questions the effectiveness of a Government drive to integrate pupils with special needs in mainstream schools in the name of 'inclusion'. Guidelines in 2004 stated 'the proportion of children educated in special schools should fall over time'. Ministers have since insisted there is no agenda to close special schools. The report claims the 'uncertain progress towards fully inclusive primary schools' is clear from the rising number of schools requesting help to cater for children with problems.

Government figures show in 2007, 19.2 per cent of primary pupils were classed as having a special educational need - up from 17.5 per cent in 2003. These range from needs requiring a formal statement to milder conditions. Problems with speech and language are among the fastest growing, although diagnoses have risen across the board, including behavioural difficulties. Some experts have criticised a "growth industry" of special needs as the definition of the term has widened to include conditions such as dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Critics have said assessment criteria are too vague and disruption in the class and poor teaching is increasingly attributed to special needs.

Today's report by Bath University academics suggests a Government emphasis on "whole class" teaching may be fuelling the increase in special needs by inflaming behavioural problems.
It also says exam league tables could be hampering efforts to integrate those with learning difficulties.

Thursday, 13 December 2007


Schools face "snap" visits from Ofsted in a toughening-up of the inspection regime, the Daily Mail writes. Under the proposals, heads will no longer get two days' notice of an inspection - preventing staff sprucing up classrooms and rehearsing lessons. Parents will also be able to trigger inspections outside the usual threeyear cycle under plans to make the service more responsive to local concerns.

The Chief Inspector of Schools Christine Gilbert told MPs that the spot checks could be introduced as early as 2009. She warned that too many schools are still offering inadequate teaching. The crackdown follows warnings from the Commons Education Select Committee that Ofsted's regime has become "too light".

In a report earlier this year, MPs warned that pupils could be left to fail in poor-performing schools because the watchdog now spends as little as a day on inspections every three years.
Giving evidence to the committee, now called the Schools Select Committee, Mrs Gilbert said: "We are considering representations from parents and pupils that inspections should take place without any prior notice. At the heart of any new arrangements will be the observation of teaching and learning by skilled and knowledgeable inspectors."

Currently, "lightning" inspections with no notice take place only when there are serious concerns for the health or the wellbeing of pupils.

Dr John Dunford, of the Association of School and College Leaders, warned the changes would make little difference. He said: "Ofsted should consider the bigger question of whether to do away with mandatory inspection altogether." Shadow children's spokesman Michael Gove said: "I'm delighted Ofsted is seriously considering our suggestion that they should do surprise inspections, not give notice."

I think that this is a good idea. It will give a much more realistic picture of a school and all the different things that take place. It will reduce all the stress beforehand. It must be understood by the inspectors that sometimes Maths and English aren't taught in school every day, and that people will get nervous.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Children's Plan

Details of the Children's Plan have been published today. It sounds fantastic, and I like the fact that it is a 10-year plan. It gives time to build the foundations for real improvements rather than rushing everything.

Monday, 10 December 2007

SATs could be scrapped!

According to today's Daily Mail, primary school teaching is to be given a major overhaul, with greater emphasis on reading and maths. Learning a second language will become mandatory. It also suggests that the SATs are to be given a massive change.

Ed Balls, Schools Secretary, is to propose that pupils will take two shorter tests in summer or winter - when teachers think the individual pupil is ready! "It is time for a change. Our Children's Plan will pave the way for a change away from the rigidity of the national testing we have at the moment towards testing which is more in line with the needs of the child. This will involve children taking the tests when they're ready at the level which makes sense for them. i think this will be more popular with parents and teachers but still gives us the comparative information school by school," he said on the Andrew Marr Programme.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Children's fiction

Today's Times lists the top children's books from over the last twelve months.

The top sellers are Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, High School Musical, The Girls' Book, Princess Megan and the Magical Tiara and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

The paper recommends the new edition of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, release to accompany the new film version of The Golden Compass.

Other books described which sound suitable for Year Six include: Sally Gardner's The Red Necklace, Mary Hoffman's The Falconer's Knot and Anthony Horowitz's Snakehead.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Pupils learn nothing in Maths in first three years at high school

I found this report in the Daily Mail very interesting. Whenever past pupils come back into school to visit, one question I often ask is, "How do you find the Maths lessons?" The response is usually, "Easy." Just why is it that so many pupils leave primary school with a Level 5 and then go up to high school and study work below that level?

According to the report, pupils make virtually no progress in maths during their first three years at comprehensive school, a devastating study revealed yesterday. Several hours of lessons every week have barely any impact on the maths skills of 11 to 14-year-olds. Hundreds of 14-year-olds given independent tests were only slightly better at maths than students three years younger.

The researchers, from Manchester University, said the findings were so serious that ministers should conduct their own investigation 'as a matter of urgency'. They said their conclusions cast doubt on the validity of results in Government tests for 14-year-olds, which appear to show faster progress. They suggested pupils were being "artificially pumped up" to pass national tests instead of gaining a proper understanding of maths. The academics who worked on the study believe lessons at secondary school may be too easy, so pupils become bored.

In contrast to the three-year standstill, pupils made consistent progress during their years at primary school, although gains in the run-up to national tests at 11 were lost during the first year at secondary school.

Poetry is weakest area of English teaching

According to today's Daily Mail, classic poems are in danger of disappearing from English lessons because teachers with little knowledge of literature are resorting to "lightweight" verse, school inspectors have warned. Only very few primary schools are tackling works such as Wordworth's Daffodils or Coleridge's the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Too many primary teachers do not know enough about poetry to cover the subject properly and concentrate instead on a narrow range of easier works, often by modern writers.

Ofsted inspectors also warned that a culture of coaching pupils for tests in the three Rs was squeezing the time available for the study of poetry. Across primary and secondary schools, too much poetry teaching was "dull" and unchallenging, they said. Inspectors who checked poetry teaching at 86 primary and secondary schools concluded it was the worst-taught aspect of English. One in three schools were merely "satisfactory" while only seven were rated "outstanding". At primary level, many teachers had not been trained well enough to cover poetry with their classes.

Rather than giving detailed feedback on pupils' own attempts at poetry, they tended to make comments such as "super" or "lovely poem". In a report published today, inspectors also urged teachers to allow children to study a wider range of poems both from classic authors and other cultures. "Many teachers, especially in the primary schools, did not know enough about poetry," the inspectors said. "This sometimes led to poor quality marking and a uniformity in practice, where the same few poems were studied across most schools. "Although these poems were mostly worth studying, many of them were relatively lightweight and pupils had only limited experience of classic poems and poems from other cultures and traditions."

Children's experience of poetry also suffered through the "emphasis over recent years on raising standards of basic literacy" and national tests, the report said. Teachers who set boring class work - such as asking pupils to count the lines or list the rhymes in a poem - make poetry "a chore rather than a pleasure".

Personally, I really struggle teaching poetry. I find it really difficult to be inspired by writing poems and would really appreciate any extra training on this subject!!

Thursday, 6 December 2007

SATs results annulled

The Daily Mail reports that, rising numbers of high-performing primary schools are having their national test results annulled because they cheated. Some have been found to have doctored pupils' scripts prior to marking. Other breaches include giving candidates more than the allotted time for tests, allowing them unsupervised breaks, and verbal coaching.

In this year's tests, four primaries had all their results cancelled out across the three subjects tested – English, maths and science. A fifth had its results cancelled in one subject. Figures from the exams watchdog, the National Assessment Agency, show it is the highest number of schools to be punished across all subjects since 2001.

Heads said the trend for bending the rules displayed the "extreme pressure" schools were under to meet performance targets. However ministers insisted it was "unacceptable and unnecessary" for any teacher to cheat. Education experts compared the practice to the problem of drug-taking among top class athletes.

A spokesman for Hackney Learning Trust said an internal disciplinary investigation was being conducted on behalf of the governors Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "It is deeply sad to see some schools fall into the trap of malpractice. This demonstrates the extreme pressure that some schools and some teachers feel to perform to targets which may not reflect the ability of the children in their midst. We need an assessment system that promotes professional integrity and this one does not."

I thought one of the comments on the Mail's website summed up how I feel about this:

Brilliant! The government spends millions setting up the tests, millions checking the tests and then millions finding that the results don't mean a thing anyway. Let us try getting the setters, checkers and all the others involved TEACHING the children then perhaps standards might go up. I just wish "prudent" Brown and his pathetic ministers would get out so that "proper" people can get on with the job of running the country and teaching and not box-ticking our young.- David, Romford Essex

Whilst I disapprove of cheating, I find it understandable. Schools are under such pressure to show high standards that it's no wonder that some schools bend the rules a little. Like the comment said, SATs seem to be an endless drain on financial resources - money to set the tests, money to check the tests and money to check that the results are right or wrong.