Well-being and education “go together”

Well-being and education “go together”

BBC |July 5, 2012

By Angela Harrison Education correspondent, BBC News
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People who are better educated are more likely to say they are satisfied with their lives, a study suggests.

And they are more likely to say that the things they do are worthwhile, according to research by the Office for National Statistics.

The study is part of a £2m project launched by the prime minister to try to measure people’s happiness and well-being.

It does not say education necessarily leads to happiness.

The researchers point out that many other factors affect the way people feel, including someone’s age, health, income and job.

The study also shows that over time, the UK’s population has become better-educated.

Between 1993 and 2011, the proportion of adults aged 16 to 64 without any formal educational qualifications has more than halved from 27% to 11%, it says.

Meanwhile, the proportion with a degree or equivalent qualification has more than doubled from 11% to 24%.

Among people with A-level or higher qualifications, 81% rated their overall satisfaction with life as seven out of 10 or more.

And 85% felt similarly positive about how worthwhile they felt the things they were doing were.

Among those who left school with no qualifications, 64% rated their happiness with life as seven out of 10 or higher.

Poverty gap

The researchers also quote from a study of the British Household Survey which found that people who were learning part-time in evening classes or in other ways were more likely to rate their well-being as high.

And they point out that in England, while three-quarters of children from the richest families achieve five good GCSE passes (A* to C), only one in five from the poorest homes do so.

The report is one in a series about well-being from the ONS.

It is part of £2m national consultation launched by the prime minister in autumn 2010 aimed at working out how best to measure the nation’s happiness.

David Cameron said he wanted more research on what mattered most to people, saying this could help shape future policy and gauge the effect of government action on people’s well-being and quality of life.

The Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair had also looked at the idea of creating what is often called a “happiness index”.

Do smart devices make smart kids?

Do smart devices make smart kids?

bbc.com  6 July 2012 Last updated at 05:24 GMT

By Jane Wakefield Technology reporter
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I grew up with Ladybird books. They looked pretty old-fashioned when I was reading them and they seem to belong to a bygone age in the era of iPads and e-books.

These days, with the toddler acknowledged as the family’s tablet expert, children often learn to navigate the internet before they learn to read.

But are smart screens making our children smarter or simply creating a new generation of “square eyes”?

In the US most young children have access to a touch-screen device and, according to Daniel Anderson, a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Massachusetts, using these devices could be more addictive than watching television.

A young child will look away from a TV screen about 150 times an hour, but a well-designed iPad app is more engaging because the child is touching the screen to generate actions.

  Reading crisis       Book or e-book reader? Which is best?

Half of all US 10-year-olds read poorly, according to Dr Michael Levine, executive director of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, which was set up to research how digital media impact on learning.

One of the centre’s studies, using an iPod Touch, found that the vocabulary of 13 five-year-olds improved by an average of 27% after using an educational app called Martha Speaks.

Another study, using a different educational app, had a similar result, with three-year-olds showing a 17% gain.

Its latest research compared how children learned using traditional books versus e-readers.

The conclusion was that for young children traditional books were more effective in focusing attention on literacy skills while e-readers helped older children maintain attention and excitement with books.

But even then the picture is complicated.

“Children may be distracted by the bells and whistles of enhanced e-books. They may be engaged but many are not comprehending as much,” said Dr Levine.

“It depends on the context and content, but e-readers aren’t going to solve the reading crisis.”

  Book power

The idea that apps and touch screens are now constant companions for young readers was the inspiration for MagicTown, a fantasy world built around classic children’s books such as Elmer, Winnie The Witch and Little Princess.

The site is trying to bridge the gap between the screen-based digital world and a time when families gathered around to listen to stories.

Every time a child listens to a story, they create a new house in the town.

They can choose a variety of modes for stories, from basic listening to modules that require them to participate in the story.

Even in the web age, stories maintain their power said David Begg, chief executive officer and co-founder.

“Story is the best medium to teach children. From the village elder importing stories from generation to generation, it is how people learn about emotions, morals and the structure of society,” he said.

In Magic Town the village elder is a lion called Louis who will tell different stories to children daily.

The tree at the centre of the town grows more leaves the more stories listened to and withers if none are read.

“It is not about ramming books down kids throats but about engaging them,” said Mr Begg.

“We wanted it to be something that parents think is valuable for their children,” he added.

  Screen learning       Not all children have access to books at home

The model of children learning alongside adults is thought to be the ideal, but in parts of the world with low literacy rates it is simply not possible.

In such places, the screen may take the place of a parent or teacher.

Prof Sugata Mitra, whose “hole-in-the-wall” terminals offered children living in the slums of India their first experience of computers.

Now, in conjunction with the Massachusetts Institute of Education, he is experimenting with teaching children to read without adult intervention.

“We are trying to find out if children can learn to read by themselves,” he said.

He and his team have created reading software which has been installed on computers in three villages in central India, one in West Bengal, plus in a slum school and household in Calcutta.

The trial runs until the end of the year.

“The field reports so far are exciting. Children are starting to read already,” said Prof Mitra.

Just how technology can be harnessed to help children learn in better ways may be unclear, but it is obvious children’s perception of books has radically altered.

“Really young children look at a real book and think that it is electronic. They try to swipe it and think it is broken when nothing happens,” said Dr Levine.

Free schools campaigners celebrate freedom of information victory

Free schools campaigners celebrate freedom of information victory

guardian.co.uk |by Hélène Mulholland on July 6, 2012

schoolchildren sitting exams

Free schools victory – Disclosure could lead to speculation about why a proposal was unsuccessful, the education department has warned. Photograph: Bubbles/Alamy

The Department for Education has been ordered to release details of all proposals to establish free schools, after a complaint by the British Humanist Association over an unsuccessful freedom of information (FOI) request lodged in June last year.

The BHA asked for the release of the information amid concerns that the additional freedoms afforded to free schools could lead to a rise in religious discrimination within the state-funded sector, and see a growth in what it considers “evangelical and pseudoscientific schools”.

It argued that since applications were only known once successful, the public had been denied a chance to scrutinise the bids, and requested a list of all free school proposals – including unsuccessful ones – in the first and second wave since the policy was introduced in 2010.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) ruled there were “very strong” public interest grounds to publish.

Education secretary Michael Gove’s department argued against disclosure under a section of the FOI Act, initially on the grounds that such a move would be “prejudice of effective conduct of public affairs”. The DfE subsequently argued for exemption on the grounds that the information related to the formulation or development of government policy.

The department argued that unsuccessful proposals could be improved and successfully resubmitted and that the release of earlier failed proposals could attract negative publicity and deter proposers, thereby reducing choice for parents and pupils.

Disclosure could also lead to speculation about why a proposal was unsuccessful, such as whether the proposed area or religious character of the school was a factor, and this could increase local tensions and deter other proposals, said the DfE.

But the ICO said the public interest factors in favour of disclosure were “very strong”.

“The withheld information relates to the practical application of a new national education policy and the expenditure of public money,” the decision notice stated. “There is a very strong public interest in providing the public with information about free school applications, both on a national and local level. The disclosure of this information would help to increase the transparency of the programme, help public understanding and enable participation.”

While acknowledging there were valid public interest arguments for maintaining the exemption, it concluded these were outweighed.

BHA faith schools campaigner Richy Thompson welcomed the ruling. “The BHA campaigns against state-funded faith schools, and an important part of being able to do this effectively is being able to identify who is applying to set them up,” he said. “This year we have been trying to identify all free school applications, but have only been able to identify about two-fifths of the groups that applied – the majority of groups are simply unknown to the public at large.

“It is hard to know how the public is able to scrutinise these proposals if we don’t even know about them in the first place. By the time free schools are ‘pre-approved’ to open by the DfE and publicly listed, it is often too late to stop them.”

The DfE has 35 days to comply or appeal. A spokesperson said: “We are currently considering the ICO’s decision, and will respond in due course.”

The decision follows a separate ruling in May instructing the DfE to publish a list of proposed university technical colleges and 16-19 free schools.

Governors hit back at Gove’s ‘badge of status’ comments

Governors hit back at Gove’s ‘badge of status’ comments

BBC |July 6, 2012

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Governors have hit back at the education secretary’s claims that they can be “local worthies” who view their post as a “badge of status not of work”.

Michael Gove said in a recent speech that he wanted to speed up reforms to school governance in England.

Head of the National Governors’ Association Emma Knights said there was not status in being a governor.

Most governors volunteer because they want to give something back, she added.

She told BBC News: “There are very few people who do it for a badge of status. There isn’t even any status in being a school governor.

“In fact what you find is that people volunteer because they want to give something back to their community. They’re interested in children and whether children are getting a good deal.”

‘Local worthies’She said her organisation was “incredibly disappointed by the language of the secretary of state”, adding that she had been in discussions with his department over how governors could best be supported.

She said Mr Gove had focussed on the minority of governing bodies who do not do a good job.

Ms Knights was speaking after Mr Gove said in a speech in London that he wanted to speed up reforms to school governance.

“All too sadly”, he said, people knew what bad governance looked like.

“A sprawling committee and proliferating sub-committees. Local worthies who see being a governor as a badge of status not a job of work.

“Discussions that ramble on about peripheral issues, influenced by fads and anecdote, not facts and analysis.

“A failure to be rigorous about performance. A failure to challenge heads forensically and also, when heads are doing a good job, support them authoritatively.”

‘Volunteers’And he also described good governance, characterised by “smaller governing bodies, where people are there because they have a skill, not because they represent some political constituency”.

“They concentrate on essentials such as leadership, standards, teaching and behaviour,” he said

“Ofsted, in their new inspection framework, will now be asking searching questions on governance – including assessing how well governors hold the head and senior leader to account,” he added.

An aide to Mr Gove said the secretary of state was not critical of all governors and that his intention was merely to improve standards in schools.

There are about 300,000 volunteer governors in England who sit on school governing bodies. They are responsible for working with the head teacher to ensure the school gives a good quality education.

As well as appointing and dismissing staff and deciding how budgets are spent, they act as a critical friend to the head teachers, holding them to account.

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