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Pastoral reflections April 27, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Leading Schools of the 21st Century, New releases, Pastoral issues.
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Co-editor Nigel Richardson introduces the latest book in the Leading Schools in the 21st Century series, Pastoral Work, in an article that first appeared in the summer edition of Boarding School magazine.

In a hundred years time what will historians write about UK education in the early twenty-first century? Technological advances in teaching, from audio and videotape to DvD and Internet? The shift in preoccupation from teaching to learning? Ceaseless exam reform and dumbing down? Worrying parents, and websites such as Twitter and Mumsnet? Hugely increased inspection and regulation, and (for boarding schools) the OFSTED/ISI and social services double-whammy, stemming from the Children Act 1989?

But many of these things are essentially administrative and procedural. More interesting for more perceptive scholars of the year 2100 will be the pastoral issues and what has shaped them.

Puberty comes increasingly early, and apparently more rapidly once it starts. Teenagers are much taller and heavier than even forty years ago. The disciplinary problems once seen in Year 11 now appear in Year 9 or even earlier. Children are more worldly-wise than when Enid Blyton was required reading up to 12 or 13 and young lives were centred around dolls, model railways and Meccano. Childhood has become foreshortened: some children are too precocious for their own good. Other wilt under the remorseless pressure of expectation about academic, university and eventual career success.

Meanwhile we have relaxed what might loosely be termed as censorship controls, believing that treating children as young adults and not wrapping them up in emotional cotton wool is a laudable philosophy. They are thus exposed to a huge range of information, which they may be able to handle intellectually but not emotionally. This situation is fed by impact of television, advertising and the Internet, e-mail and the mobile phone – much of it very beneficial, but some of it manipulative, exploitative and deeply worrying.

Bringing up young people in the broadest sense has become more child-centred.  Within the wider family there is less of a hierarchical style: a greater use of first names by children when talking to adults.  We have recently become increasingly preoccupied with the concept of ‘emotional intelligence’.

Click here to read the remainder of the article on the Boarding School ezine website…

  • Pastoral Work and Those Who Practise It: Essays in leadership for changing times. Edited by Hilary Moriarty and Nigel Richardson. Published for the Boarding Schools’ Association  and the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference by John Catt Educational Ltd, 2010

London Book Fair: focus on digital April 20, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in eBooks and digital publishing.
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The suddenly active Icelandic volcano threw a fairly large spanner in the works of many exhibitors and visitors planning on attending the London Book Fair this week.

When I went along on Monday as a visitor, there were a number of stands left empty by those unable to make the journey because of the closure of all UK airports, while visitor numbers were also down on those expected by organisers.

However, the volcanic ash failed to completely decimate the show and there was still plenty of interesting meetings to be made and discussions to sit in on – mostly, perhaps predictably, surrounding the digital future of the publishing industry.

One of the most lively seminars I sat in on was titled: Taking the Plunge: the Electronic Textbook Conundrum. Almost since e-books became commercially available, academics, students and librarians have increasingly pressurised publishers to digitise textbooks – although publishers remain concerned over whether this would unduly affect income.

There seems to be little doubt that the medium term will see all students in schools given laptops or notebooks (or iPads) on which to work in the classroom, necessitating a general overhaul of traditional textbook production process.

Indeed, a new survey in the USA suggests that digital textbook sales there will surpass 18 percent of combined new textbook sales for the Higher Education and Career Education markets by 2014.

This figure will be influenced greatly by factors such as e-content pricing, availability of digital textbook content and advances in technology related specifically to digital textbooks, but still suggests a sizable chunk of the market will be digital in just four years.

Almost every industry – from travel agencies to newspapers – that has moved to a digital model has seen its profits decimated and some existing participants bankrupted, so publishers are going to have to tread carefully to ensure they remain economically sustainable in this new industry.


Which School? for Special Needs April 16, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in New releases, Special Educational Needs.
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The 19th edition of Which School? for Special Needs, our annual guide to Special Needs education in the UK is back from the printers and in the John Catt warehouse, ready to be distributed to bookshops, Local Authorities and key reference points around the country.

Apart from the comprehensive directory of independent and non-maintained schools and colleges, the guidebook also features some excellent editorial from leading figures in the field.

In this edition, editor Wendy Bosberry-Scott has featured articles from organisations such as the National Autistic Society, the British Dyslexia Association and the National Bureau for Students with Disabilities.

The spring 2010 issue of is (International School) magazine, which we publish in association with ECIS, also features an interesting article by Fintan O’Regan, on Teaching Children with ADHD.

Fin is a a former secondary science teacher and was the Headmaster  of the Centre Academy School, regarded as the first specialist school within the UK for children with ADHD/ODD from 19996 -2002.

He is currently a Behaviour and Learning Consultant for a number of organisations and lectures for Leicester University, the National Association of Special Needs and the Institute of Education. He has written a number of published articles on the subject of Behaviour and Learning and is the author of the T.E.S. award-winning book Educating Children with ADHD (2000) – so you could say he knows what he’s talking about.

Here we reproduce the first part of Fin’s excellent article: click on the link at the bottom to read the rest on our ezine.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a term used to describe children who are hyperactive, impulsive and/or mainly inattentive. It is said to affect up to 5% of the child population and may also be evident in adulthood. In the first of two articles, Fintan O’Regan covers a range of common issues.

Students with ADHD often challenge teachers in three main areas: activity level, attention span and impulsivity.
Activity level

Whether it is with their body or their mind many children with ADHD appear unable to control their activity level, as do other children. How to teach them to do this can be a difficult process but strategies do exist and they can be fun as well.

One technique for younger children to help them to sit still is called ‘playing statues’, where the child sits like a statue for a certain time. The period of time can be increased and progress shown on a bar chart or rewarded by stickers. In essence it is about focusing the child and helping them to control their bodies and by a self-taught system.

Played alongside a stopwatch and recorded in terms of a visual presentation, it can provide long-term benefits to improving activity level. Variations on this involve playing games called ‘Catch me if you can’ and ‘Beat the clock’ which would be approaches to limit extraneous movement and focus tasks against a set of expectations for working in the classroom or an activity set against a timed upper limit.

With older students we are talking about much longer periods of sustained controlled activity levels, which we could call endurance training. These involve lengthening the time and improving the skills in sitting still in a variety of settings.

As a result the child will often need to have the session broken down for them for example, in a 40-minute lesson.

To sit still during the five to ten-minute intro to the lesson, teacher indicates part one over.
To focus on the task until the group discussion, teacher indicates part two is over.
To get through the group discussion, teacher indicates part three is over.
To keep it together during the clear-up time, teacher indicates part four is nearly over.

All of these games or techniques to harness activity level will need to be practiced, however, and feedback on success and failure on the initial trials will be crucial to determine long-term outcomes.

Improving attention span

Without a doubt it is the issue of poor attention span that is the most damaging feature for children with ADHD and attempts to improve this will be the most vital issue in long-term educational success.

First, we cannot assume that a child understands what paying attention really is, as for some children this is not a process that is either natural or appears problematic. As a result a series of roleplay activities between you and the child may need to take place, for example during a taped story where you, the supervisor, provide a series of incidents or examples so that you did not hear or understand what the story had been about…

Click here to read the remainder of Fin’s article on the is (International School) ezine website…

Brenda Despontin: Bucking the trend April 14, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Uncategorized.
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A recent Businesslink survey found 20% of women entrepreneurs still feel they have to work harder than men to prove themselves in the business world.

Is the same the case for women in education? Do they find it is harder to be appointed to senior management teams in schools than perhaps it should be?

Dr Brenda Despontin, principal of an all-female management team at The British School of Brussels, wrote an interesting piece in the autumn 2009 issue of is Magazine, saying she believed women “have cracked the glass ceiling but not shattered it”.

We have reproduced the first part of Brenda’s article here; click on the link at the bottom to read the rest…

When Jane Austen complained in Northanger Abbey that history was solely about men, with ‘hardly any women at all – very tiresome’, the world was a different place, and it would be comforting to think that the history of our own times will tell a different tale.

Opportunities here in Europe have never been so diverse to facilitate access to the top in any profession. In the UK, girls regularly outperform boys academically, and more females currently enter medical college than males. The picture becomes completely different, however, at consultancy level.

Indeed, positions at the very top still appear elusive to women: from the boardrooms of FTS100 companies to the Front Benches, women remain a significant minority. A quick glance at the proportion of females in governments internationally reflects this startling imbalance. Though Argentina boasts 43% of its senate house as female, in Germany the figure is 18%, in France 16%, in the USA 14% and in the UK, just 19% in the Commons and 17% in the Lords.

In 2006, the UK’s Equal Opportunities Commission claimed it would take another 20 years to achieve gender equality in civil service top management, 40 years to achieve it in the judiciary and up to 200 years (another 40 elections) to achieve an equal gender balance in Parliament.

A survey conducted in 2007 by the Chartered Management Institute revealed the proportion of women in management to be growing, but also that their resignation rates were higher than ever. Pay rises stalled earlier for women at the top, with female managers still earning around £6000pa less than male equivalents.

Women, it seems, have cracked that glass ceiling but not shattered it. Lifestyle choices, which include childcare and the support for elderly relatives, remain huge determinants of many a female career path. We still encounter the challenges epitomised in that oft-quoted example of Ginger Rogers, who did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels.

There are exceptions, of course. At the British School of Brussels, where I am Principal, we appear to buck a trend. It is a co-educational school of 1280, with a larger proportion of boys than girls. 80% of the staff are female, though the figure changes to 50% within the Secondary school teaching staff….

Click here to read the rest of the article in is Magazine

Pastoral Issues April 13, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Independent Education, New releases, Pastoral issues.
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This week we have taken receipt from our printers Bell and Bain Limited of Glasgow, Scotland, of the latest title in our popular Leading Schools in the 21st Century Series.

Published by John Catt Educational for the Boarding Schools’ Association (BSA) and the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, Pastoral Work and those who practice it is the fifth book in the Leading Schools series and provides some invaluable advice on the social and educational context in which educators work.

The book was co-edited by Hilary Moriarty, National Director of the BSA, and Nigel Richardson, former Head of the Perse School, Cambridge.

Here we reproduce part of Hilary’s editorial feature in the latest edition of Boarding School magazine, in which she talks about the pastoral and legal issues arising from international students arriving at UK borders.


We live in interesting times – indeed, when did we ever not?  But the recent months have been particularly interesting in the boarding world, with developments in areas of major interest to us all.

In the autumn, schools wrestled with the realities of Tier 4 Points Based Immigration for international students.  At Christmas, a flurry of activity was generated by the news that visa-holding students returning to their schools in January would need to carry letters of consent from their parents to assure border guards at airports that their parents did indeed know where they were going, and who was collecting them.  This turned out to be ‘best practice’ rather than ‘regulation’, but schools were wonderful in leaping to the task and rising to the occasion virtually at the same time as packing away the accoutrements of the Christmas parties.

Many harassed administrative staff, holding the fort in the holidays, reflected that there was sense in the request – after all, the gap between passing through immigration at Heathrow and arriving through the school gates can be lengthy and even hazardous.  And who would be responsible if a child arrived in the country but never appeared in the sponsoring school? A quick mental risk assessment would make you shudder.  Whether letters of consent from parents would obviate those risks is perhaps an interesting question…

Click here to read the rest of Hilary’s article in the Boarding School ezine…

John Dunford: Education and the Election April 9, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Uncategorized.
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The worst-kept secret in recent political times has been revealed and the date of the general election has been set for May 6.

We thought it might be interesting to republish a piece written for us by Dr John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, in the Autumn 2009 edition of Conference and Common Room, the official magazine of the HMC.

Titled  Will education be an issue at the general election?, John argues that “Doing better with less” is the mantra the next government will be issuing, whatever the colour.

Dr John DunfordWith the credit crunch and MPs’ expenses making the news headlines for so long, education has had a lower profile in the media than in the run-up to the last three general elections. With no party appearing to have the answers to the problems of the banking crisis and none free from criticism over expenses, we could be heading for one of the most volatile elections of recent times.

Education is in the news when politicians make announcements and so we can expect plenty of activity before May 2010, but real political dividing lines on education are unlikely to be the subject of heated debate on the doorstep, with an overriding agenda of recession, unemployment, and allowances for second homes and cleaning the moat. Labour came to power in 1997 with a mantra of ‘standards, not structures’. Too much attention, it was said, had been paid by the Conservative government of the 1980s and 1990s to structural changes, such as city technology colleges and grant maintained schools, and too little to raising school standards, especially in primary schools…

To read the rest of John’s piece on education and the general election, click here to be taken to our magazine archives…

Embracing our Gutenberg moment April 8, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in eBooks and digital publishing, John Catt Educational news.
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Ebooks are fast becoming Publishing’s Gutenberg moment of the 21st century. Not since the invention of the printing press in the 15th century have books been such a hot topic.

Price wars; format disputes; ground-breaking hardware developments; glitzy global marketing launches.

Such is the pace of change and development in the industry at present, the waters remain muddied as to what the future might hold – but what is certain is that any publishers who are not at least dipping their toes into these new waters are risking being seriously left behind.

And so, John Catt Educational have this week put our first ebook up for sale in our bookshopHead to Head, currently out of print, is now available for download in electronic form as a PDF file.

In addition, our distributors Gardners are currently working on converting the five books in our popular professional development series, Leading Schools in the 21st Century, into ebook format to be marketed and sold through their own mainstream channels. Meanwhile, all of our recent periodicals are also available in ezine format, less current ones in PDF format.

By taking these steps, we are by no means throwing our hat in with those who are forecasting an entirely paperless near-future in publishing. But we are saying that we think that ebooks and ezines are a growing and exciting market, and that we want to play our part in their future.

Even taking into account the potential for an explosion in the ebook market and further leaps in the advancement of ebook readers, we still think that our publications will remain well suited to the printed form for a good few years yet.

However, we are also excited to begin thinking of ways in which our publications will be enhanced by conversion into digital form.

For example, perhaps it won’t be too long before our school guidebooks are available as ebooks, with multi-photo slideshows and videos embedded into the text; virtual tours of school facilities and audio commentary from the Heads; web links to exam results, testimonials from students and other data.

Perhaps our digital professional development titles will contain added content from the authors and editors; videos showing examples of best practice in the classroom; weblinks to related research.

No doubt there will be hitches and glitches along the way, but like most people we remain optimistic that this period of change will also bring with it progress: more efficient, greater diversity, added value and the rebirth of long lost content.

Effective Marketing through storytelling: Q&A with David Willows April 6, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Effective International Schools Series, International education, Marketing, New releases.
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David WillowsOur popular Effective International School Series is a practical set of books we publish in conjunction with ECIS and CIS. It is based on the idea that international schools face common challenges, share similar values and represent a ‘knowledge bank’ of ideas and experience.

The series is now 11 years and 10 books old, with the latest title, Effective Marketing, Communications and Development, published in March 2010.

The book is co-edited by two highly experienced professionals, Adele Hodgson and David Willows: Adele was the director of marketing and development at the Frankfurt International School for many years and is a regular advisor to international schools and ECIS. David is director of external relations at the International School of Brussels and is a regular presenter at international conferences, blogger and author of several books in the field.

Adele and David will be speaking at the ECIS conference in Malta from April 8-11 and will be happy to chat about the book.

In the meantime, we put some general questions to David to get some background information about the book and marketing in international schools in general.

John Catt Educational: Just give us some background to the book: when did you get involved, why did you get involved, how long the process took etc.

David Willows: I have been working in the fields of communications and education, in one way or another, for twenty years now – although my career path has hardly been what you might call ‘traditional’. The last five years, I’ve had the privilege of working at the International School of Brussels as Director of External Relations; which has opened up for me a whole new network of colleagues doing similar kinds of jobs in schools across the world. I think we’d all say that we work in a professional field that is emerging, maturing and defining itself in new and exciting ways.

Ten years ago, many schools really weren’t thinking strategically about marketing, communications or development. That really isn’t the case now! The idea was therefore to create a book that captured the ‘practical wisdom’ of those who had been in the business for a while – if you like a manual for beginners, as well as a roadmap for future directions, challenges and trends.

JCE: And how do you apply your knowledge of marketing and communications to your current role at International School of Brussels?

DW: One of the central themes in the book is the role of storytelling – a theme that is, not surprisingly, very close to my own heart. I often say to people that when it comes to describing what people like me do, it can really be summed up in a couple of lines: ‘Telling the story of our school and helping people find their place in that story.’

Whether we are marketing the school, working in school admissions, running the school website, or speaking to donors about a major capital campaign – we really are a band of storytellers, inviting people each in their own way to join these remarkable learning communities.

You can take more from this link, where I spoke on this subject in another interview recently: www.astoriedcareer.com

JCE: How did you and co-editor Adele Hodgson go about choosing and approaching the contributors?

DW: It is always hard as an Editor to limit the list of contributing authors. What is absolutely clear is that the collective experience held by our colleagues who participated in this project is huge! In their respective fields, they are all highly experienced and respected by their colleagues around the world. It was also important that they represented a broad cross-section of schools from different locations around the world.

JCE: International schools are now big business: when did they stop being simply schools?

DW: That’s a great question – and could involve a long and detailed response. However, I’ll try and sum up my own thinking on this issue. A lot of this goes back to an ancient view of education as the pursuit of pure wisdom, away from the corrupting influences of ‘real life’. Universities like Oxford and Cambridge are great architectural expressions of this model – fortresses purposefully designed to protect the pedagogical environment.

Fast forward to the 20th Century and it’s not hard to see why many school’s have historically seen ‘business’ as a corrupting influence. In fact, though, when there is a common learning vision, business and education can and need to exist alongside one another. After all, what is education unless it has deep connections to the work-a-day world?

JCE: What areas of marketing and communications do you believe schools struggle most to get to grips with?

DW: I would sum up one of the most common challenges I hear right now in a single word: pace. Everything is changing so fast – in terms of technologies, demographics, customer expectations – that it can be hard keep up. Another challenge might be summed up by the word ‘sustainability’ – finding solutions that we have the resources to sustain, that compromise our commitment to respect the earth’s natural resources.

JCE: What are your hopes for Effective Marketing…?

DW: With the book only just published, both Adele and I are very intrigued to get feedback and comment. For both of us, I believe it’s all about conversation. If this book provides the opportunity for better conversations – then it has done its job.

We’ll certainly look forward to having conversations about aspects of the book at the forthcoming conference in Malta next week. So if anyone is travelling there, we’d love to have you attend the session on Saturday afternoon that will attempt to look at some future trends in this field and, together, begin to articulate what’s on the horizon and what will happen to marketing, communications and development in international schools over the next decade.