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Huntington’s Disease: more from Which School? for Special Needs… June 30, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Special Educational Needs.
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Many UK news outlets have been carrying stories over the last couple of days about new figures surrounding the devastating genetic disease, Huntington’s.

As this link to a Sky News story reveals, this inherited neurological condition was once thought to affect fewer than 6,000 people in the UK.

But new figures show 6,702 adults and children are suffering symptoms, which include problems with brain function and muscle movement.

In our Which School? for Special Needs 2010/11 guide, published earlier this year, we carried some very interesting editorial about HD and how it affects young people.

We have reproduced part of the article, kindly contributed by Helen Santini, Roald Dahl Care Adviser for Juvenile Huntington’s Disease, and Cath Stanley, Head of Care Services for the Huntington’s Disease Association, below…

Juvenile-onset Huntington’s disease (JHD)

Huntington’s disease usually affects adults, although in a small number of cases it can affect children and teenagers (juvenile-onset HD, or JHD). However, only about 5-10% of those with HD will develop symptoms before the age of 20. JHD is therefore a rare condition and this can make dealing with it an isolating experience for those affected, their families and also professionals involved in their care. When young people develop JHD, it is likely that their school or college will become one of the key groups involved in their care, and in supporting any siblings who may be at school.

The HDA family weekend, which is specifically aimed at young people with HD and their familes, is held at a disabled activity centre and provides a unique opportunity for families to meet other people in the same situation and learn more about the condition from each other. It also gives the children and young adults with JHD an opportunity to take part in a whole range of exciting activities that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to take part in, giving them a sense of achievement.

Young carers

It is important to remember that Huntington’s disease doesn’t just affect the person with the condition, particularly given the inherited nature of HD. When a parent has the condition, there is often a great impact on the children within the family and the school can have an important role in supporting them. Family roles may be affected and children may have to take on additional caring roles for their parent.

There may also be an increased burden on the unaffected spouse, impacting on a child’s home life. Children may face changing symptoms within a parent that they don’t always fully understand, as well as aspects of the hereditary nature of HD and their own risk. Some families may find it very difficult to know how and when to discuss these things with children.

Finally, there may be issues around repeated loss, as well as grief and bereavement, that schools may need to be aware of. It is particularly important for schools to be aware that HD is taught as part of the National Curriculum and that there may, at any time these lessons are being taught, be children within the class whose lives are affected by the condition.

In addition to providing support and advice, the HDA offers four annual summer camps throughout England and Wales for children from families affected by HD. For young adults aged from 18 years onwards, the HDA now also offers a conference, ‘Decisions, Discussions and Dilemmas’, which gives them an opportunity to explore areas such as testing, having children and caring, as well as a chance to meet other young people in the same situation. From this, a Huntington’s Disease Youth Association has recently been established, with a Yahoo group and Facebook page. There is a range of literature aimed at young people available on the HDA website.

David Willows Effective Marketing interview June 29, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Effective International Schools Series, Marketing.
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Here’s a link you might be interested in.

David Willows,  director of external relations at the International School of Brussels, has been speaking about school marketing and international education at finalsite, explaining more about the power of storytelling and social media in the promotion of schools.

David was co-editor of one of our recent publications, Effective Marketing, Communications and Development, part of our popular Effective International School Series, and is a forward-thinking and articulate writer. He also has an excellent personal blog at www.davidwillows.com.

gap-year.com relaunches! June 23, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Uncategorized.
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Appreciating what a demanding lot our readers are, we are delighted to unveil a new and improved gap-year.com to help support gappers through all the stages of their life-changing trip.

Our website has been providing informative and unbiased advice for those considering a gap-year or career break for over 11 years, but the changing demands of our growing number of users meant it was time for a revamp.

So, following three months of redevelopment, we are happy to launch a cleaner, fresher and more user-friendly gap-year.com, with easier access to more useful editorial than ever before and a new messageboard that we hope will become another vibrant and diverse source of advice.

The new website also features a huge directory of gap-year and career break providers, with access to information, contact details – and even video and photo slideshows – from many of the leading suppliers in the industry.

More people than ever are taking an interest in structured gap-years and career breaks, especially now that employers and universities are actively seeking to recruit former gap-year participants, who can demonstrate that they have developed key life-skills such as teamwork and cultural understanding.

The new-look gap-year.com and sister publication the gap-year guidebook are the perfect reference guides for anyone planning to take time out to volunteer, work or learn in the UK or abroad.

Come and see the new-look website for a look around – those who register as a new member of the website will receive a discount code to purchase the gap-year guidebook 2010 for the reduced price of just £8.95 + P&P.

John Catt reaches booksales milestone: £750k and counting! June 18, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in John Catt Educational news.
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The future of the publishing industry is the subject of much debate over recent months, thanks to the continued growth of the eBook and the explosion of interest in reading devices such as Apple Inc.’s iPad and the Kindle.

At John Catt Educational we really are excited about these new developments and are keen to keep pace with the technological changes that are seeing new platforms become available to read our publications.

But despite all the recent digital advancements of the last few years – and all those unknown ones yet to come – it is satisfying to know that sales of our physical books are still strong – indeed, they have been strong enough over recent months to help propel the company to a pleasing milestone.

Our booksales report for May shows that we have recently passed the milestone of £750,000-worth of sales – a fantastic landmark for the John Catt team and one we are proud to reach.

A combination of hard work, talent and continuing support from our friends at various educational associations in the UK and beyond means that 2010 is proving one of our most productive ever in terms of booksales. The John Catt team have now set their sights onbreaking the £1m barrier over the next few years – what a party that will be…

Former Olympic chief Simon Clegg: Sport, independent schools and young people June 14, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Independent Education, New releases.
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Simon Clegg CBE is the former chief executive of the British Olympic Association and was a key figure in the awarding of the 2012 Olympic Games to London.

Now chief executive of Ipswich Town Football Club, Simon recently gave us his thoughts on sport in independent schools in the UK for an editorial feature in Which London School? & the South-East 2010/11.

“I am passionate about the benefit that sport can bring to society. Not only through exercise but also in terms of the camaraderie and the building of esprit de corps, and the ability of young people to learn that it is important to play by the rules and the whole principles of fair play.

Sport also educates young people in experiencing failure and victory, and plays an important role in teaching young people about acting in an appropriate manner on a sports field. Our high-level sports people in this country do need to be seen as role models for society and it is quite important that young children aspire to be like these role models: sport is a very powerful vehicle for achieving that.

I went first of all to Haslemere Prep School in Surrey and then, after Common Entrance, I went on to Stowe. Sport is not the exclusive domain of the independent education sector, but I think that sport and extracurricular activities in general play a much more important part in independent schools than they do in state schools. I was very lucky in that both schools I went to took their sport very seriously and had great facilities.

The independent sector has increasingly been conscious of the need to provide quality sports facilities, particularly over recent decades as they find themselves in an increasingly competitive market. Sporting facilities are one of those additional areas that can influence people when they come to make a decision where to send their children.

I was recently invited back up to Stowe for the opening of the new athletics track with Sebastian Coe. They have now got the most fantastic facilities, state-of-the-art facilities which upgraded the track that they had there for many decades. This constant development of facilities in independent schools is striking.

There are some important factors in this disparity between the independent and state sectors. First of all, the financial independence that the independent sector enjoys is key: they are able to spend their own money on developing not only their own academic facilities, but also their extracurricular facilities as well. Of course in the public sector that is much more constrained; any funding that is available is spent mainly on academic facilities.

There is also a very clear understanding in the independent sector that the schools operate in a highly competitive environment and they need to attract custom. One of the ways of doing that is improving the facilities at the school from a holistic point of view.

The physical development of the individual is a major part of the holistic approach that I have to education. I take a very broad view about education, in which I see the development of the  whole individual as more important than just academic qualifications. Education should be about preparing children for life after academia and therefore one needs to think about not only their academic development but also their physical and social development as well.

To me, sport is a factor when it comes to choosing an independent school. Considering the career path that I have enjoyed, where sport played an important part first of all when I was in the Army, then when I was on the national ski teams in the mid 1980s, through to my involvement with the British Olympic Association and now with my role at Ipswich Town Football Club, that perhaps is not surprising.

But I have always looked at education from a holistic approach, where one needs to balance not only the academic aspects but also the sporting aspects, social aspects, and the pastoral aspects. When all those areas come together, a child is sure to have an excellent education.

It is impossible to look at any one area in isolation, and of course different parents will have different priorities to myself, but from my point of view sport is an integral part of the holistic approach, and independent schools in this country should be applauded for the importance they place on the benefits associated with kids getting active.”

Chris Woodhead: Academies plan “in principle, excellent” June 11, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Independent Education.
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As Tribune Magazine report today, teachers are voicing their concerns about the government’s plans for more academy schools.

All three teaching unions – the National Union of Teachers, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers – have come together to oppose plans they believe are being “rushed through” Parliament.

The recently released issue of Which London School? & the South-East contains a forward written by Chris Woodhead, former HM Chief Inspector of Schools, and leading commentator on educational policy.

As you can read below, Chris generally approves of the academies plan – although he does have some reservations…

“More children are educated in independent schools in London and the south-east than in any other part of the country. Why? Because more parents in the south-east can afford to educate their children privately, but equally, because in London in particular, demand for a good education outstrips supply.

Your guess about the continuing affordability of private education is as good as mine. We may or may not be escaping the recession and those responsible for setting fees in independent schools may or may not have realised that the annual above-inflation hike is unsustainable. What I do know is that demand for private schooling will continue. In the south-east, as in every other region of England, there are some wonderful state schools, but there are not nearly enough of them. If you live within spitting distance of the front gates, you might stand a chance of securing a place in a successful and therefore over-subscribed school. Otherwise, forget it.

The previous Labour Government would, of course, like us all to believe that the number of failing schools has been reduced, that the Academy and Specialist Schools initiatives have resulted in many more highly effective schools, and that you only have to look at each year’s record GCSE and A level statistics to realise that all is rosy in the world of state education.

In real terms we spend two thirds more on education than we did in 1997. As the Public Accounts Committee has pointed out, there has not been a commensurate improvement in educational standards. The truth is that billions of pounds of public money have been poured down the drain and many parents have and will continue to have no option other than to dig deep into their pockets and go private.

All may, perhaps, change following the election. In principle, the Conservatives’ plan to enable parents to set up their own schools is excellent. The more schools we have competing with one another to meet the aspirations of parents as consumers the better. Any initiative which undermines state monopoly provision must be good.

But, in practice, how independent will these so called ‘independent state schools’ be? They will still have to teach the discredited National Curriculum. They will still be inspected by a discredited Ofsted. They will not, crucially, be allowed to set their own admissions policy. So, if you want your academically-able child to attend an academically-selective school, a change of Government will leave you no better off than you are now.

And how many parents have the time, energy and knowledge to set up their own school? The jury is, I am afraid, very much out on Mr Cameron’s flagship education reforms…”

Web 2.0 and language learning June 10, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in International education, New releases.
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The summer issue of is (International School) magazine is back from the printers and is on its way to subscribers around the world as I type. is magazine is the official magazine for ECIS members and serves to promote and highlight education in an international context.

One of the themes of the summer issue is the use of technology in the classroom: we featured an article on this blog recently about the use of mobile phones in the teaching of music, and here we follow it up with the beginning of an article written by Victor Gonzalez Guzman, the Spanish and ICT teacher at the International School of Bremen.

Web 2.0 and language learning

Victor Gonzales Guzman explores possibilities the internet may have for language teachers

Let’s imagine that a surgeon of the 19th century travels through time to a 21st century operating theatre. Where would he start to work? Everything would be new, the methods, and the tools, and he would have to learn fast in order to catch up with the new developments.

If a teacher takes the same time machine, the final experience might be different. He or she would immediately recognize the board, the chalk box, the student books  and the duster and would start to do the job in less time than the blink of an eye.

This example, posed by Sebastián Barajas, the Spanish expert in virtual learning, illustrates how little teaching has changed in the past 200 years, in spite of the rapid development of technology. In education, blended learning (a mix of online and face-to-face instruction) has become a necessary trend not only for language teachers but also for all school subjects.

Its authenticity stems from a multifaceted way of presenting content where students can take the role of explorers discovering the world around them through sound, image and text. Communication in ICT-enhanced lessons permits us to take the leap from static text books to the fluidity of web 2.0,  boosting students’ confidence through constant updating, self-development and participation in  society.

Technology-enriched lessons are dynamic and demand networked-dynamic teachers. This means that every language teacher in class should strive to be a creator, facilitator and supervisor in order to let students construct their own learning styles and preferences with the aid of computer mediated tools.  Twenty-first century learners learn by doing, not listening to a static centred classroom teacher.  Their independence and self-reliance makes them take and active role in class, share their knowledge with their classmates and adapt fast to new forms of communicationa and mash-up culture.  Faster than their teachers sometimes!

This shift from lecture to student-centred instruction is not only a matter of technology but also of being convinced about its intrinsic value.  The enormous potential that digital technology has to offer is directly linked to the imagination of the educator…

To read the remainder of this article, visit our ezine website where you can browse the latest issue in full.

Which London School? and the South-East 2010/11 June 7, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Independent Education, John Catt Educational news, New releases.
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Which London School? & the South-East is our guide to independent schooling in and surrounding the UK capital – and the 2010/11 edition is now back from the printers and being distributed nationwide and beyond.

The book is available to buy from all leading internet bookshops, including www.johncattbookshop.com, and is also distributed to major reference points in the UK and around the world – such as libraries, British Councils and the HR departments of Blue Chip companies.

In addition to a comprehensive directory of day, boarding and nursery schools, international schools as well as specialist sixth-form schools and colleges, the guidebook also contains a useful editorial section.

In this 21st edition, our editor Alex Sharratt has included articles from Simon Clegg CBE, former chief executive of the British Olympic Association; popular parenting website Mumsnet on Coping With The School Run; Edward Elliott, Head of the Perse school in Cambridge; David Boddy, Head of St James Independent School for Senior Boys; and Go4It and Northwood College.

We were also fortunate enough to feature a forward from Chris Woodhead, chairman of the Cognita group, and former HM Chief Inspector of Schools.

We would like to express our thanks to all those who contributed editorial and photographs to the book, and of course to all the schools who took the time to help us ensure that Which London School? remains the most comprehensive and accurate guide to independent education in the south-east.

The physical book is, of course, backed up by its sister website www.whichlondonschool.co.uk, which has also been fully updated and revised.