Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Amazing Microbe Hunters

This site is great for researching scientists who studied microbes. Very useful for the Micro-organisms science scheme of work which we are starting the year with next week!

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Online Photo Services

I have spent some time this summer trying to find an online photo service that I am entirely happy with. Let me share some of the pros and cons of what I found:
Snapfish
I have used this site for about a year for getting photos printed. I have been really impressed by the quality of printed photos and the seemingly unlimited storage space for photos. However, the sharing options are far from adequate, and I can't seem to find a way to tag photos. It was for this reason that I tried to find an alternative.


Oosah
Oosah was the next site I tried, tempted by the promise of 1TB of online storage space. It all seemed promising at first, but then I realised that I couldn't upload documents as well, meaning that I was never likely to come close to using all of the 1TB. Unfortunately I can't print photos from the site, and, as clear as day there were pornographic photos in the public photostream! Not ideal.


Picasa
This was next on my list. This could be useful as it links with Blogger. However, I can't print photos from the site.


Facebook
This is really useful if you want to share photos with friends, and the ability to tag people in photos is brilliant. But what if I don't want to share the photos, or simply back them up? Facebook wouldn't allow this.


Flickr
Flickr appears to be one of the best photo sites around. The tagging is excellent, and the photostream and ability to link directly to individual photos are all valuable features. I can edit photos online, and make photos public, for sharing, and private, just for backing up pictures. However, there is one flaw - at the moment you cannot print photos in the UK directly from Flickr.


Photobox
This morning I am trying out Photobox. Despite rather slow uploading speeds, so far it looks the most promising of them all - photo sharing, making photos private, tagging and printing all seem possible. Could I have found The One?

Anyone got any thoughts?

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Sunny Day Sky

This game makes me wish it was sunny. But it's good fun though!

Monday, 18 August 2008

Printable paper

If you ever need a sheet of graph paper in a hurry, why not use Printable Paper.net, a handy website. There are lots of different papers you can download to print.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

When Is Good?

Don't spend hours in a staff meeting trying to arrange suitable date. Why not use this useful website that will arrange it for you!

Saturday, 16 August 2008

ETS Europe has its contract ended

Good news - the firm responsible for this summer's national test marking "shambles", ETS Europe, has had its contract ended by exams watchdog the QCA.
The BBC reports that this is due to problems with the marking of the tests, taken by 1.2 million 11 and 14 year olds in England, delayed results and prompted concerns about quality. ETS is to pay back £19.5m and cancel invoices worth £4.6m. The total contract for 2008 was worth £39.6m. The QCA said the five-year £156m contract was ended by "mutual consent".

The National Assessment Agency (NAA) will handle the review process, while ETS Europe will continue to work on concluding this year's national test operations, and publish any outstanding results. There will be no further payments made to ETS.

Education Secretary Ed Balls said the tax payers' position had been safeguarded by the deal because two-thirds of the money spent on the contract was being returned. He told the BBC News website that the £15.5m ETS received for their work represented a loss to them and was smaller than the amount they had spent in the UK. The financial settlement reached means the government is able recover some of its costs, including those of re-tendering and re-marking.
The delivery of next year's tests would be carried out as a one-year contract, tendering for which would start in September, Mr Balls said. He said: "Let's put the national interest first and and get things sortred for next year so we do not see a repeat of the shambles that we have seen from ETS in recent weeks."

Schools Minister Jim Knight : 'I'm pleased the contract has been terminated'


QCA chief Ken Boston said: "ETS Europe was selected due to the strength of their worldwide experience in delivering large-scale assessments. It is disappointing that the issues with this year's national curriculum test results have meant that the partnership between QCA and ETS must end early."

Friday, 15 August 2008

Price of petrol


These cartoons just about sum up how we all feel about the price of petrol at the moment.


You might want to use this website to find the cheapest petrol near you:


Thursday, 14 August 2008

Summer Heights High

In case you haven't seen this hilarious Australian comedy, here is a clip of my favourite character in it, Mr G. The whole programme is a satire of life in an ordinary Australian public school. Very funny!
video

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

A lode of crappe if you ask me

A lecturer is calling for common spelling erros to be considered as spelling variants instead of errors.

According to the Daily Mail: Faced with a flood of basic spelling mistakes, you might expect a university lecturer to demand his students pay more attention to the dictionary. But one don is so fed up with having to correct his undergraduates' errors that he is calling for something rather more unorthodox - a spelling amnesty.
Dr Ken Smith is urging colleagues to turn a blind eye to the 20 most common slips - such as 'Febuary', 'ignor' and 'speach' - and view them instead as variants of standard spellings.

Writing in the Times Higher Education magazine, the senior lecturer in criminology at Buckinghamshire New University said: 'Teaching a large first-year course at a British university, I am fed up with correcting my students' atrocious spelling. Aren't we all? But why must we suffer? Instead of complaining about the state of the education system as we correct the same mistakes year after year, I've got a better idea. University teachers should simply accept as variant spellings those words our students most commonly misspell.'
He added: 'Either we go on beating ourselves and our students up over this problem or we simply give everyone a break and accept these variant spellings as such. All I am suggesting is that we might well put 20 or so of the most commonly misspelt words in the English language on the same footing as those other words that have a widely accepted variant spelling.'
He said the word 'judgement' was already accepted as a variant of 'judgment', adding: 'So why can't "truely" be accepted as a variant spelling of "truly"?'
Dr Smith said there was no reason many commonly misspelt words were configured the way they were. The word 'twelfth', for example, would make more sense as 'twelth', he said. 'How on earth did that "f " get in there? You would not dream of spelling the words "stealth" or "wealth" with a "f" (as in 'stealfth' or "wealfth") so why insist on putting the "f" in twelfth?'.

Dr Smith is not calling for the words to be changed permanently. But his remarks will heighten concern over the literacy levels of undergraduates.
They come after a lecturer at the prestigious Imperial College released the worst spelling and grammatical howlers by his students. Dr Bernard Lamb claimed Britain's brightest undergraduates were worse at English than foreign students. He said home-grown students were more likely to write essays littered with mistakes such as 'there' instead of 'their' and 'been' instead of 'bean'.
Dr Lamb had become so concerned at poor English among undergraduates in genetics, he began to keep a diary of mistakes. In little over a term, he had covered 24 sides of A4. He blamed failings in the school system, declaring: 'There was little evidence of students having been taught the relevant rules at school, or of the students having been corrected for obvious and frequent errors.'
Jack Bovill, chairman of the Spelling Society, said its national survey had shown up to 54 per cent of people couldn't spell words such as ' embarrassed', 'separate', 'accommodation', 'millennium' and 'friend'. But he said the society did not advocate changing the spellings.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Primary schools are not stretching the brightest pupils

The Daily Mail reports that primary schools are failing to stretch the brightest pupils, as SATs results revealed falling numbers of those achieving the highest level.

Although this year's results show more pupils are meeting the 'level four' pass mark, fewer are going on to achieve 'level five'. The outcome prompted warnings from the Tories that teachers are under increasing pressure to scrape passes for their pupils while neglecting high-fliers. This is despite Labour investing billions of pounds over the past decade in literacy and numeracy drives.

The results, published yesterday, revealed a one percentage point rise in the number of pupils achieving the standard expected for their age - level four - in both English and maths, taking the totals to 81 per cent and 78 per cent respectively. Science results were unchanged on 88 per cent.

However, the numbers achieving the higher level five fell five percentage points in English - the biggest drop since the tests began in 1995 - one in maths and three in science. Official figures from the Department for Children showed only 12 per cent of pupils - one in eight - scored a level five in the three subjects. Pupils achieving level four needed to gain just 43 per cent in English and 45 per cent in science compared to 69 per cent and 78 per cent for level five. Level five pupils are expected to be able to produce well-organised and paragraphed work, use complex sentences and write for their audience and purpose.

A slight fall in Level 5 results and media are already claiming aren't doing their job well enough. I like this comment on the Daily Mail website:
"If you look at a school's special needs budget it goes about 99% to the less able and 1% to the very able. It should be 50% - 50% because there will be equal numbers at both ends of the graph, but we're not interested in stretching bright kids, only in nurturing the less able. It's an insane policy." - John Ledbury, Kings Lynn England, 06/8/2008 09:45

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

SATs results

The KS2 SATs results have been published today amid lots of controversy about the way that they were marked. Schools Minister Jim Knight says he has confidence in England's Sats results, despite the embarrassing problems with the return of this year's papers. The tests taken by 11-year-olds show a slight improvement - and Mr Knight says the sample size, in excess of 90%, makes them statistically reliable.

The results for 2008 are:

  • English up 1% to 81%
  • Maths up 1% to 78%
  • Science stays at 88%
  • 72% reach expected level at English and maths
  • 61% reach expected level at reading, writing and maths
  • 12% achieve highest grade, Level 5, in all subjects
  • 36% of girls reach Level 5 English
  • 23% of boys reach Level 5 English
  • 460 schools waiting for results

But Knight emphasised that difficulties with delivery did not undermine the validity of the results - that these were separate issues. "The problems have been difficult, we've all heard the reactions of head teachers, and we've heard the apologies from the QCA and their contractor, and they've acknowledged the reputational damage. But it still remains the case that Ofqual are advising us that the quality of marking is as good as it's been in previous years. There are always reviews and appeals, that happens every year. I have confidence in these figures that we are putting out today."

The overall improvement in English and maths results, continuing an upward trend, was welcomed by the minister. "Compared to 1997, 101,000 more 11-year-olds are now achieving the target level for their age in English and 93,000 more in maths," said Mr Knight.

There has been a slight improvement in children's attainment in English and maths tests in England's primary schools, provisional results show. The proportion reaching the expected standard in English was 81% compared with 80% last year. In maths it was 78% against 77%, while the science score was unchanged on 88%.

2008 KEY STAGE 2 RESULTS
LEVEL 4
English: 81% (80% last year)
Maths: 78% (77%)
Science: 88% (88%)
LEVEL 5
English: 29% (34%)
Maths: 31% (32%)
Science: 44% (47%)

The results also show the proportions achieving the next level - which are down this year. The fall is most pronounced in English, with 29% reaching Level 5 compared with 34% last year. In maths it was from 32% to 31% and in science, from 47% down to 44%.

DCSF statisticians point out that comparisons with previous years are skewed by a change in the marking process this year. This involved removing the practice known as "borderlining", which involved double checking all the test scripts with marks just below the benchmark level (but not above it), to see if they warranted any extra marks. The effect is particularly significant in English, in which the marking is more subjective. See blog post which explains this here.

The figures show that the proportion of children attaining Level 4 in reading, writing, maths and science was 61%. So almost four in 10 children did not reach the expected level in all subjects.

The proportion of higher achievers in English national curriculum tests this year fell by five percentage points - from 34% in 2007 to 29%. Yet the proportion achieving this Level 5 in the reading component stayed the same, at 48%, and the proportion doing so in writing went up, from 19% to 20%.

Read more about the SATs results at:

The Daily Mail

BBC

BBC

BBC

The Times

I always find it interesting that the media always have to take a negative perspective of the results instead of praising the children for their effort and determination and the schools for their praise and encouragement.

Maths is Fun

Another great maths website - useful for teaching new concepts and revision!

Monday, 4 August 2008

SATs results to be published tomorrow

The BBC reports that the national results from this year's delayed SATs tests for primary schools in England are set to be published on tomorrow.

The results are being issued although about 460 primary schools still do not have a complete set of marks, a month after the missed deadline. The results will show how many 11-year-olds have reached the expected level.

The government has said there is no evidence of problems with marking quality to require a delay in publication - and so is going ahead with the scheduled release of the overall national results.

Head teachers have opposed the provisional publication of results, arguing that there remain too many uncertainties about the extent of problems - either in terms of returning papers and the quality of marking. Heads have warned that as well as missing results there are other unresolved problems such as pupils wrongly marked as absent.

The latest figures for completed marking show that 98.8% of results for English, 99.2% for maths and 99.3% for science have been returned. In terms of schools, the Qualification and Curriculum Authority says there are now 2.8% of primary schools which are missing results in one subject, 0.1% of which are missing in two subjects and eight schools without any results.

Interesting Education Blogs

The Whiteboard Blog shares ideas for using IWBs in the classroom.

Help! I'm A Busy Teacher is a blog where the writer tries to share resources and ideas to make lives easier.

Mr Warner's Blog is run by the creator of the superb Teaching Ideas and I have thoroughly enjoyed reading his informative and useful blog. One of the best blogs I have found.

Redbridge Primary ICT makes suggestions for using ICT in the classroom.

Mr Stacey has thoughts, ideas and reflections on teaching, learning and technology.

Doug Belshaw writes an interesting blog on education, technology and productivity. Worth a read.

ICT Inspirations is a very useful blog with 'reflections and notes from the pen of a primary school ICT subject leader.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Change in marking system causes results to fall

The Daily Mail writes that four in ten children are learning primary school this year without a basic grasp of the three Rs, results in SATs tests are expected to show.

Children's results are predicted to fall by up to two percentage points because of a change in the marking system. But the figures are certain to be contested by head teachers following a catalogue of administrative errors in marking and delivery of results.

Ministers expressed 'deep concern' yesterday that 18000 results in tests for 11-year-olds are still missing - but announced the publication of provisional national figures as planned on Tuesday.

They are expected to show that about 40% of children will move up to high school next month without the mastery of reading, writing and maths needed to cope with the curriculum. This year's results have been affected by a decision to scrap 'borderlining' where pupils who just missed a grade threshold had their scripts automatically reviewed.

An estimated 300000 pupils have benefitted from this since it was introduced in 1995 because they saw their scores upgraded. But children who just scrape over the borderline are not rechecked - meaning no students were ever marked down.

Official statisticians said the change is expected to cause a fall of up to two percentage points in the proportion of pupils achieving the expected level 4. English test results for 11-year-olds are expected to be affected the most, with the results falling back to the level of 2004.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Heads' anger at publication of SATs results

The BBC writes the government's decision to publish England's provisional primary school Sats results next week "beggars belief", head teachers have said. They warn that widespread concerns still remain about late and missing results, and the quality of marking.

The National Association of Head Teachers says ministers are issuing the results prematurely.
Schools Secretary Ed Balls said statisticians advised him publication should go ahead despite the problems.

According to the latest figures released by the contractor responsible for marking the tests, Educational Testing Service (ETS), 99% of Key Stage 2 results "are now available to schools". But it is not clear how many primary schools are still missing a complete set of marks. Head teachers have also warned of pupils wrongly marked absent for the tests.

In a letter to the chairman of the Commons schools select committee, Mr Balls said publication of the results was a matter for his department's head of statistics, who had advised publication should go ahead as planned on 5 August.

NAHT assistant senior secretary Kathryn James said: "The quality of the marking process is highly suspect, and unfairly casts doubts on the professionalism and the integrity of school leaders, their staff, and the laudable efforts of the pupils in their care." She added that her union had received more than 300 e-mails highlighting examples of maladministration and inaccuracies in the test results and that these may only be the "tip of the iceberg" in terms of concerns about the results. She said one school told her it had received 7 of the 87 papers it was supposed to receive while another had a complete set of papers for another school. Another head had warned that more than 100 of his maths pupils were wrongly down as absent for the test.
She warned that the NAHT would not see its members subjected to the rigours of an Ofsted inspection that may be predicated upon these "dubious results". "Until schools are satisfied that all returned scripts have been submitted for full and thorough review, with marks and levels accordingly adjusted, NAHT members will continue to have absolutely no confidence or trust in the reliability of this year's KS2 and KS3 test data," Ms James added.

But Mr Balls insisted that Ofqual had advised that, as of 28 July, there were no widespread concerns about the quality of marks that would justify withholding the results at a national level.
An Ofqual spokesman said it recognised that the confidence of teachers, parents, pupils and the wider public had been damaged by the test problems. "Ofqual will be closely monitoring the review process to ensure that it is carried through accurately and objectively, so that pupils get the marks their work deserves," he said.