Upstart Dundee Launch

Upstart is a campaign for a nationwide moment to push back the starting age for school in Scotland from 4 or 5 years old to 7 years old to allow time for play and for children to be a child for as long as possible.

Queue the mad panic from parents. But just wait… There are so many benefits it may be time to step out of your comfort zone and into a new adventure and here is why.

comfort zone

The lecture theatre was filled in Dundee – Brenda (the Convener of Upstart) expected around 30 people but with a keen audience of over 330 people turned out it was the biggest launch for Upstart yet.

Upstart Launch

So why would we want children to start school later?

I have already looked into this in an early blog post available here.

In Scotland, we are keen advocates of learning everything as quickly as we can and we have one of the lowest school starting ages in Scotland with only 12% of countries worldwide having their children start school at 4-5 years old where as 66% of countries have children start school at 6 years old and the remaining 22% of countries have their children start school at 7 years old. An OECD survey shows that the 22% of countries that have their children start school at 7 years old are the countries with the children who tend to do the best academically.

Those countries that start at the age of 7 years old have a play-based kindergarden for 3-7 years old but by the age of 11 years old there is no difference in reading ability and those who start school at 7 years old are in fact keener to learn to read than their peers who started school at 5 years old.

In Finland, they do the least number of hour of schooling in the developed world yet still get the best results. They start school aged 7. They play until the age of 7. They lead healthier lives physically and mentally, they live longer and they are still better academically.

If we are living longer lives as adults, which Brenda quoted could be until 120 years old for this generation, then why are we continuing to decrease the time that a child spends playing?

The idea that children should play until the age of 7 is not a new idea. Sue Palmer, the founder of the Upstart movement and a language and literacy specialist, informed us at the launch that the idea originated from the Greeks.

The benefits of play are extensive. Sue Palmer and Dr Suzanne Zeedyk stated that free play build and influences many areas of our lives: it builds resilience, problem solving skills, social and communication skills, self-regulation, a love of learning. Free play influences creativity, sensory development, emotional experiences, friendships, a child’s thinking ability, motoric development, and the quality of marriage in later life. But the problem? Free play, such as playing in a sandpit, does not look like learning and in Scotland we love to push education.

Prince George at two years old is off to “nursey school” – into school at two years old. But according to the press it is not for the Prince to have a chance to play to develop all of the skills above it is to get him “into lessons” (The Telegraph, The Daily Mail and The Metro). We are too quick these days to put extra pressure onto children by adding the element of schoolification to early education.

The experiences a child has clearly affects the kind of adult you are. The pressure put on children currently has a clear impact on their mental health as children and as adults. In Scotland, there is a real decline of play – due to the school starting age and the development of technology. 2 in 3 children aged between 5 and 16 years old have their own tablets and at least a quarter of children are sent to bed with their tablets. In Scotland, there is also a huge increase in mental health problems and there is a widening achievement gap. How does our First Minister plan to fix this? By putting yet MORE pressure on children and teachers by reintroducing standardise testing – they didn’t work with the old 5-14 curriculum so why are we going back to this idea? Why do we not move forward for a 21st century change? Into a new revolution. A new adventure. An adventure where play and childhood is at the forefront?

Convinced? Follow the national Upstart movement on Facebook here and on twitter @UpstartScot.

Still unsure? Have a look at some more evidence

The Right to Play – Are Scotland Doing Enough?

In 1989, the United Nations introduced the Convention on the Rights of the Child which was ratified by the United Kingdom in 1991.

In the Convention on the Rights of the Child article 31 states that “States Parties recognize the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.” (Unicef, No Date Given, p.9). I am interested to investigate if Scotland are doing enough in the early stages of a child’s life to allow them to engage in play. I have recently been looking at Sweden’s education system for the early years and their outlook on childhood and play. I am going to compare the two systems to see if Scotland are doing enough to allow children to play.

The first crucial difference in the two educational systems is the school starting stage. In Scotland children start school between the ages of 4 and 5 where as in Sweden children do not start school until the age of 7. In Sweden, the children however do go to preschool from a very early age – this is heavily funded by the government to support parents who are working or in education themselves – it roughly costs around £7.50 per day including food per child. The children leave preschool with no knowledge or learning of reading and writing at the age of 7 however by the age of 10 there is no difference in the league tables for reading and writing in Sweden with any other country. Parents and the Government believe that children should have the chance to play and develop before they begin school which is why they go to preschool to develop their social skills.

On the other hand, in Scotland, from as early as possible children are sent to school to learn to read and write. The government suggest they do this to allow parents to go back to work/education as early as possible. However, this means that from an early age children are taking away from the right to play and are made to begin their learning through planned lessons where as in the early years in Sweden the children have no planned lessons giving them the freedom to play and explore, particularly in the outdoors – a huge part of the Swedish Education system is based upon their push for outdoor education and play. Comparing this to Sweden and the league table results suggests immediately we are not doing enough to encourage play in the early years of childhood which is a right of the child.

However, in the Early Learning and Childcare Entitlement produced by the Scottish Government (No Date Given, No Page) it states that the Scottish Government are continually trying to improve the standard of early learning as well as its flexibility and cost for all families. Since August 2014, children, aged between 3 and 4/5 years old (for the majority of children – there are cases where it is from the age of 2 years old), in Scotland are entitled to 600 hours of free early learning and childcare. This gives children the chance for meaningful play to encourage children socialising from a young age before going to school. However, in comparison to Sweden although they have to pay for their preschool, it is a small expense as it is heavily subsidised by their government, children can attend preschool to play for a much longer period from as early as a parent wants to the age of 7. This gives the child more opportunity and time for meaningful play before entering school than there is in Scotland.

There are opportunities for play in the Scottish Education System, enough to meet the right of the child in article 31. However, I personally feel that the Scottish Government could be doing more to encourage play particularly at a young age especially in comparison to the Swedish Education System.

 

References

Scottish Government (No Date Given) Early Learning and Childcare Available at: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/People/Young-People/early-years/parenting-early-learning/childcare (Accessed on 20/01/16)

Unicef (No Date Given) The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child Available at: http://www.unicef.org.uk/Documents/Publication-pdfs/UNCRC_PRESS200910web.pdf (Accessed on 20/01/16)

History and Literacy Outdoors!

Outdoor Education – two words that make any lecture automatically more interesting to me.

For Will’s input when he said we were actually going outdoors today I was as excited as any primary school child! As soon as we were allowed outside, off we went skipping away like little primary two’s.

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We literally went off skipping in excitement…

 

 

 

 

As we only had twenty minutes before we had to be back into the input, we cou10ldn’t go particularly far or find particularly much. However, what I did find that we could discuss was road safety, road signs and markings such as yellow lines – discussing with the children what they thought they meant. I also thought of reading things like bus time tables as this is a skill that is probably going to be relevant to their lives and is also something no one ever taught me to do.

 

However, after the input I went off for a wonder by myself down to the riverside. I already knew about the poem stanza down at the riverside and this was originally my first thought when Will told us to find something to do with literacy in the outdoors.

I was thinking of this as an upper years outdoor education lesson for history and literacy which could meet all four of these curriculum areas (Scottish Government, 2009):

Literacy (Reading): I can make notes, organise them under suitable headings and use them to understand information, develop my thinking, explore problems and create new texts, using my own words as appropriate. LIT 2-15a (p.31)

Literacy (Writing): By considering the type of text I am creating, I can select ideas and relevant information, organise these in an appropriate way for my purpose and use suitable vocabulary for my audience. LIT 2-26a (p.36)

Health and Wellbeing: I am experiencing enjoyment and achievement on a daily basis by taking part in different kinds of energetic physical activities of my choosing, including sport and opportunities for outdoor learning, available at my place of learning and in the wider community. HWB 2-25a (p.86)

Social Studies (History): I can investigate a Scottish historical theme to discover how past events or the actions of individuals or groups have shaped Scottish so1ciety. SOC 2-03a (p.283)

My lesson idea was to take the children down to the riverside with a notebook, first allow them to take some time to write down some words to describe what they seen, smelt, felt etc. I would give them some time to have a read of the tourist signs to see what information they would take about the Tay Bridge. I would allow some time for the children to discuss why they think we need the Tay Bridge.

Some pictures of the information signs for the Tay Bridge

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My final part of the lesson would be for them to read the poem “The Railway Bridge of the Silvery Tay” by William McGonagall (no date) which reads (a small extract from the section of the poem at the riverside):

“Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silvery Tay!

I hope that God will protect all passengers

By night and by day

And that no accident will befall them while crossing

The Bridge of the Silvery Tay

For that would be most awful to be seen

Near by Dundee and the Magdalen Green”

 

I would allow them to take notes from the poem stanza and give them time to discuss the poem. After going back to the classroom, I would have a copy of the poem for the children to read the full version if they wish.

Some pictures of the poem engraved at the River Tay.

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When we got back to the class I would take some time for a whole class discussion on what they are learnt from the trip: from what they could initially see, smell, feel; to the history of the Tay Bridge; to McGonagall’s poem.

Whilst we were out, I would take pictures of the experiences, videos of the children and what they are thinking. Then when I would get them to reflect on what they have learnt in any way they wish the write it for example in a poem, diary entry, a creative story.

If I was carrying this on for a topic of the history of Dundee, when we were on our outdoor trip, I would perhaps ask the children to take a carrier bag with them and collect things to make a picture of the Tay Bridge for cross-curricular links with art.

As the Magdalen Green is continual mentioned throughout the poem – I would take the children out to the Magdalen Green for them to explore this as it is also a crucial part of Dundonian history. Allow them to go round collecting facts, items etc. for another outdoor lesson on the history of Dundee.

When we were finished the topic on the Tay Road Bridge: I would take the children down with chalk, allow them to add to the information (that they are learnt over the topic) provided at the Riverside on the ground. Documenting this with photographs and videos for the children assessment. I would also allow them to do this down at pavement at Magdalen Green with the facts and information they have learnt about Magdalen and its link to the history of Dundee. They could use the photographs in a portfolio for their assessment.

I feel this overall would be a lot more engage and active learning for the children instead of sitting at a desk with textbooks learning about the history of Dundee. These activities also have a lot more cross-curricular links than sitting reading facts out of a textbook about history.

 

 

References:

McGonagall, W. (No Date) McGonagall Online: The Railway Bridge of the Silvery Tay Available at: http://www.mcgonagall-online.org.uk/gems/the-railway-bridge-of-the-silvery-tay (Accessed: 02/12/15)

Scottish Government (2009) Curriculum for Excellence Edinburgh: Scottish Government Available at: http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/Images/all_experiences_outcomes_tcm4-539562.pdf (Accessed: 02/12/15)

Is Teaching A Profession?

I recently came across a photo on an educational page I follow on facebook which I absolutely loved and linked very well with a few news articles lately. I felt this following blog might be of some interest (and help) especially to the MA1 who will writing their essay on professional now or in the near future.

The quote (of Donald D. Quinn) came from the Education to the Core’s facebook page (this does not mean I endorse or support this facebook page at all). “If a doctor, lawyer or dentist had 40 people in his office at one time, all of whom had different needs, and some of whom didn’t want to be there and were causing trouble and the doctor, lawyer or dentist without assistance, had to treat them all with professional excellence for nine months, then he might have some conception of the classroom teacher’s job”.

Now, I am not all one hundred percent in favour of this quote as it seems to dismay how much work doctors, lawyers and dentists do. I have never been either of those or studied any of their professions in depth but I am sure they are very hard working people from those I have had the pleasure meeting whilst at university.

However, there are a few sources out there that also seem to think that teacher do not quite make it as professionals or teaching does not quite make it as a profession. Teachers compared to doctors, lawyers and dentists seem to the least trusted – the government hold a lot more power over teachers than these other professions. A Guardian Education Correspondent, Sally Weale, summed up that the teaching profession is very closely monitored by the government by saying in her article “despite Michael Gove’s intentions, teaching has become a profession monitored to within an inch of its life. Weale links this to the reason for the huge drop out of newly qualified teachers very early in their career. This is something that doctors, lawyers or dentists do not have as much pressure on them as teachers.

There has been a record number of teachers leaving their profession due to the amount of work and stress they are under. “A combination of unacceptable number of hours worked, a punitive accountability system, the introduction of performance-related pay and being expected to work until 68 for a pension has turned teaching into a less than attractive career choice” (Blower, Quoted in The TES, 2015). I personally believe that teacher work just as hard as any other professional in professions such as medicine or law. However, due to quotes such as “He who can does. He who cannot teaches,” we do not get the same trust from the government or same respect as other professionals. Shaw (quoted in The Importance of Teaching, Volume 70 No. 5) rebuts this by stating that “teachers can do something, and do do something; they teach. Like any other professional activity, teaching requires a cultivated ability. To be done exceptionally well, it also requires a special talent and a sense of vocation”

Additionally, Quinn’s quote suggests that teachers have an incredibly hard job which most of the time goes unappreciated. Teachers work under many pressure listed in Quinn’s quote as well as the Guardian article which many other professions and professionals do not have. I believe this makes a good stance as to why teachers should be deemed as professionals and the job we do a profession.

I hope this has sparked some thoughts on teaching being a profession and teachers are professionals. However, in my own opinion, I clearly still believe that yes we are professionals for reasons such as those stated in Quinn’s quote and many more.

Can Animals Count?

This question seemed to hold a lot of debate in our recent Discovering Mathematics lecture and it intrigued me. Before the lecture, I was very narrowed minded on this issue and thought no of course not. However, there has been some pretty convincing arguments against my opinion which for anyone with the same opinion as me I am going to have a look into to broaden my mind a little.

The biggest influence that made me think that animals possibly could count was Ayumu the Chimpanzee who could correctly identify the order of number 1 through to 9. He could do this by just a few seconds looking at the numbers, which were in a completely random order, before they were covered up. Ayumu could also still correctly order numbers 1 through to 9 even if there were numbers missing from the pattern. This made me think that Ayumu could count to nine.

Although there were some pretty strong arguments against this as well. The fact that 30 students and 1 lectures who can all count could not do the challenge made me think does this chimp just have a great memory? Is the chimp really counting or does he just remember the patterns through rigorous training? However, the idea that he could do this even though there was no logical pattern to the numbers and there were just random digits between 1 and 9 on the screen then he was able to put them into a numerical order showed that this could have been related to the idea he knows the shapes of number 1 through to 9 and could put them in an order. There must have been some cognitive process going on – either counting or something similar to counting – to show that he could put the numbers in the correct order without every number being there. You can watch Ayumu impressively memorising where the number were and in the correct order below and have a shot at the same challenge below to see if you could manage it. Just remember 30 students and 1 lectures couldn’t do it together! Below is Ayumu showing you his skills and here is the Ayumu Counting Challenge Game link.

 

Another convincing, all be it strange and kind of cruel, argument that animals could count was that scientists now believe that ants count their steps back to their nests. Scientists glued on match sticks to the ants legs, leaving them with longer legs, or cut the ants legs, leaving them with stumps/shorter legs. The ants with the longer legs would walk straight past their nests where as the ants with shorter legs would not make it back to the nests. The scientists have put this down to ants having “internal pedometers” (which was first proposed in 1904) that they count the steps it take them when they leave the nest and they then go back using the same amount of steps to go back to their nest. Therefore, the ants with short legs would take the same amount of steps, but smaller steps, back to the nest and not make it back where as the ants with the stilts would take the same amount of steps and make it past their nests because of their new, longer legs. (Carey, 2006)

Another argument with two opposing sides to whether animals can count is the idea that mother ducks know when they have ducklings missing. One argument suggest that mother ducks can count. The idea that the mother duck knows that there is one missing as she does not have the same number of ducklings that she should. On the other hand, others argument that potentially the mother duck waits if there is a duckling missing is because she recognising the scent or features of a duckling is missing rather than knowing that there is a particular number missing.

Overall, I am now more convinced there is the possibility that animals could possibly count but there are also counterarguments that still support the view that animals cannot count.

 

Reference:

Carey, B. (2006) When Ants Go Marching , They Count Their Steps (Accessed: 7/10/15)

Stand and Deliver

How does Jaime Escalante teach differently/how is Jamie Escalante different?

Stand and Deliver (1988) is a film set in the 1970’s following a maths teacher (Jaime Escalante) in a deprived area of Los Angeles. At the beginning of the film, Escalante is having a particularly hard time at the high school with troublesome students and pressure from the school head teachers to control the taxing class.

Escalante can see the potential in a class full of teenagers likely to drop out. The takes on the challenge of teaching a class AB Calculus to a seriously mixed ability class ranging with some who have potential to go to college to others who did not even know their timetables. Throughout this blog post, I am going to look at the inspiring teaching shown through Escalante in Stand and Deliver (1988).

Jaime Escalante attempts to win over his pupils to education and respected him through joking, mimicking them and getting down to their level. Escalante shows a young man who used his fingers to swear at him other ways to use his fingers such as using his fingers to learn hS&Dis nine times tables. The maths teacher shows his pupil that by going along your fingers by the number of times you wish to multiple by nine put that finger down and you get the answer with the tens on the left hand side and the units on the right and side.

 

The joking and relaxed atmosphere that Escalante brought to his classroom made the pupils want to be there – they continued to work on their AB Calculus throughout holiday periods and weekends over other commitments through their own free choice. This made Jamie Escalante stand out for me as a teacher as there was never any teacher that I have had never made the atmosphere so relaxing. That is probably due to the fact that this film was set almost 40 years ago and the teaching community has changed a lot since then. There is no longer a place in the teaching community that allows for the relationship Escalante had with his class. Escalante had a personal relationship with his students that would more than likely be frowned upon in the modern day teaching society. However, as Escalante’s wife said in the film not only did the students respect him “those kids love you”.

Escalante makes maths seem simple to his class by using everyday examples. Jaime Escalante explained negative and positive numbers as digging a hole in the sand at the beach. He explained the negative numbers as the hole in the sand and the positive numbers as the sand used to fill the hole.  Personally, I thought this was a very interesting way to explain negative and positive number and something that you could use within a primary school.

The few words in my notes that I had highlighted throughout the film however do not comment on his teaching skills, they comment on the kind of teacher Escalante was made to be throughout the film. The words I had highlighted were: belief, dedication and his drive. Escalante’s wife said in the film that Jamie was doing 60 hours a week of teaching and had just signed up to teach a night class for free. This shows Escalante’s passion and drive for teaching and his will to get his students to pass AB Calculus. The main characteristic and theme throughout the film however, was Escalante’s belief in his students. No one else, not the teachers, the students or the examination board, believed that the students could pass the AB test but that just made Escalante work harder and longer to push and drive his students to passing. Escalante never forced anyone in his class to take AB Calculus, he encouraged and supported them throughout the entire film even when examination board questioned their papers.

Escalante never gave up on his students. I feel that is the key message to any teacher watching this film. That is a message that I, personally, will not forget from this film.

Hello world!

This is the first post in my education blog in my journey through the standards for provisional registration as a student teacher at University of Dundee.

“Just Another Teaching Blog” is my first ever blog – so bare with me please! My blog is going to contain anything and everything with a link to my degree and my journey as a student teacher through to graduating as a teacher!

I hope you find something interesting!

Happy Reading.