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What your child’s school report really means… July 30, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Independent Education.
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At the end of last year to celebrate our Golden Jubilee, with the help of Dr Nigel Richardson, former Head of The Perse School in Cambridge, Chairman of HMC and Editor of Conference & Common Room, we assembled a collection of anecdotes, jokes and stories from the world of education and published them in a special collection titled Catt in the Common Room.

With parents around the world currently digesting the end-of-year reports of their children, we thought it a good time to reproduce a short section, entitled:

What your report really means…in an age when the frank and fearless style of report writing has become very un-politically correct

Has a comprehensive grasp of the subject.
Smart ass.

Gets involved in extra-curricular activities.
Goes drinking with the U6.

Creates an informal atmosphere.
Rioting in class.

Satisfactory progress.
I can’t think of a single interesting thing about him.

Abundantly verbal.
Talks a lot.

Conversationally selective.

He’s a real little creep.

He writes lengthy and discursive homework.
Fed up with marking what the little swot churns out.

He participates in the discreet exchange of penned meditations.
Passes notes in class.

He rations his consciousness in lessons very effectively.
Asleep in class.

Energetically declined.
Unspeakably lazy.

Skilled in the art of transmitting near-factual information.
She’s a poisonous, manipulative little gossip.

He pursues test results tenaciously.
Mark-grabbing little tosser.

A rather solitary child.

Often appears tired.
Stays up half the night watching video nasties.

A sensitive child.
Never stops whining.

An active contributor to class discussion.
Never stops talking and I’d like to rip his larynx out.

A lively member of the class and is easily distracted.
The little bastard is totally unable to sit still even for two seconds.

A pleasant member of the set.
No idea what the little b****r looks like.

Jonny is making steady progress in music and always gives of his best.
He is tone deaf.

He is industrious, able and unfailingly polite.
If it weren’t for him, I’d machine gun them all to death.

Grasses on his mates.

All his homework is of a high standard.
Ambitious middle class parents.

A good sense of humour.
Never stops teasing the others.

A vivid imagination.
Never short of an excuse.

Enjoys extra-curricular activities.
Flogs cigarettes.

He has trouble concentrating.
We think he’s on pot, but we can’t prove it yet.

A mature young man.
Shows too much interest in U6 girls.

An accomplished and popular sportsman.
No hope of any A levels but the lst XV depends on him, and the Head knows it.

He has made real progress.
He has made no progress at all, but at the fees we charge, we dare not admit it.

Private universities to ease pressure on places? July 26, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Uncategorized.
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Here in the John Catt Educational offices, work has just begun on the 2011 edition of our ever-popular the gap-year guidebook. Released annually for the last 18 years, the guidebook provides informative and unbiased advice for all those considering a gap-year, time out from study or a career break.

We are planning a few minor modifications to help bring the guidebook in to line with the new-look website, www.gap-year.com, in addition to updating the editorial with all the latest advice from the gap-year sector.

This year is set to see another spike in interest in gap-years and career breaks, as thousands of youngsters find that getting university places in the UK is harder than ever before, with budget cuts meaning fewer places are being offered to a growing number of students.

A 12 percent increase in the number of UK university applicants this year mean that up to 200,000 youngsters may be denied the chance to enter higher education.

The government today made the first move in attempting to reduce the pressure on university places by revealing that Britain is soon to see its first new private university for more than 30 years.

BPP University College of Professional Studies, which will offer business and law degrees at 14 sites across the country and healthcare and teaching degrees in the future, is part of the group that owns one of the biggest universities in the United States, the University of Phoenix. The establishment will not receive public funding and will be allowed to set its own fees.

“It is healthy to have a vibrant private sector working alongside our more traditional universities,” said universities minister David Willetts. “I am delighted that, less than four months after coming into office, we are creating the first new private university college in more than 30 years.”

Of course, one new university isn’t going to have much of an effect on the bottleneck for higher education places this coming September, and the gap-year market may be buoyant for another few years yet as youngsters look to add some value to their CV.

Employers openly admit that they actively seek to recruit those who have taken a structured gap-year because they are more likely to have developed key skills such as teamwork, project management, risk assessment, languages and communication skills.

Skills like these on a CV are becoming increasingly important with the graduate job market also taking a big hit in the recession.  According to a report in the Daily Mail, one in three graduates is on the dole or working in stop-gap jobs.

Schools and Facebook: Spreading the message July 23, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Effective International Schools Series, Marketing.
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With the news that Facebook has recently signed up its 500 millionth member, we thought it might be a good time to bring you a little extract from one of our most popular books of the last six months – Effective Marketing, Communications and Development.

The extract below was taken from the end of a chapter written by Jon Moser and Clive Ungless, entitled: Tell your story: web and social media. Jon, President and founder of Finalsite, and Clive, Director for International Operations, used the chapter to explain how important the website is to a school and how to develop and enrich the content available.

Social networks – spreading the message
Perhaps the most pervasive and profound changes to the way the web is used have come in the last few years in the form of social networking sites. The web has moved from a place where, essentially, small numbers of larger organizations have been responsible for posting content, to a place where millions of individual users regularly post their own information, photos, and video.

The spur for all this content has been sites dedicated to social networking and sharing essentially personal, rather than official, information. There are innumerable social networking sites, good examples being Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn (a professional, business networking site), the video-sharing site YouTube, and the image-sharing site Flickr.

Although they were originally created as social environments, businesses now see the potential of social networking sites as a way of engaging with vast numbers of people. They recognize that building a presence on any of these sites is a powerful way to reach out to audiences in the virtual space that they return to on a regular basis. This approach can often be more effective than trying to attract people directly to your own site. Schools have thus started to set up Facebook pages, Facebook groups (very often for alumni), Twitter feeds with daily information, LinkedIn business pages, as well as posting their videos on YouTube.

Social networking sites can be seen as an integral and significant component of a school’s web presence. The main school site can be set to display links to the school’s presence on these sites, and conversely they can contain links back to the school’s main site.

Keeping information current on these sites need not be too time consuming, and if your site supports RSS feeds (a system of pushing notifications of content changes out to users), these can be embedded in the Facebook or Twitter pages, avoiding the need to duplicate one’s efforts. Also ‘teasers’ can be placed on social media sites with links to further content on your own site, thus drawing traffic in.

It should be said, however, that a school and its web staff should understand the nature of these sites well, and some schools, for a variety of philosophical as well as practical reasons, have made the conscious decision not to participate in social media sites at all.

The pace of change on the web has been truly dramatic in recent years, and it is a matter of some curiosity as to how this chapter will read in the near future. The key points at the moment are clear, however. A school should strive to have a professional looking website that embraces the key technologies of a modern site – a Content Management System with distributed authorship of a range of rich media, secure areas for key constituencies with data integration where appropriate, and an expanded footprint on the web, with a dedicated mobile presence, and seamless connections with a range of social networking sites that complement and extend the school’s digital presence and story.

UK ready to learn from IB Americas? July 20, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Conferences, International education.

Perhaps it is only in the attending of something like the IB Americas Conference that you can truly gauge the size, influence and enthusiasm of the International Baccalaureate organisation, its teachers and its students.

I am back in the office today following six days attending and exhibiting in Miami, where the IB put on another inpassioned and forward-looking conference, made up of respected keynote speakers and inspiring breakout workshops.

Some points made themselves immediate: most obviously that the IB is far more established in the Americas than it is in the UK. One or more of the three programmes (Primary Years, Middle Years and Diploma) are taught in around 2000 schools throughout North and South America – with a further 1500 in the process of authorisation.

By contrast, the UK has just 225 schools offering IB programmes – 219 of which are schools offering the Diploma in place of A Levels – with another 99 schools awaiting accreditation.

Listening to the confident and wholehearted testimonies of young IB students such as Alejandro Gomez-Barbosa, who spoke at the opening address, it is difficult not to come to the conclusion that our own education system might perhaps benefit if more UK schools looked to the IB.

All three IB programmes are based on developing the whole child, in an international context and in a curriculum that is eclectic, deep and demanding. They are the antithesis to curriculums that see sleepy students sit in classrooms, listening without interest to uninspiring material they are then expected to faithfully repeat on their exam papers as the “right” answer.

This development of  “citizens of the world”, young people who are responsible, active participants in their local, national and international communities, is central to the IB’s dedication to international learning. Their programmes focus on the development of critical thinking and language skills necessary for success in the global community.

So perhaps returning from Miami to news such as  this is encouraging: two teachers are planning to take advantage of the Government’s Free Schools Initiative to set up their own non-selective school for around 650 five to 18-year-olds in Greenwich, London – and in the process become the first state school in England to offer all three IB programmes.

Good luck to them – we will certainly keep an eye on their progress. Until the school is up and running, perhaps we will continue to see a slowly growing interest in the IB programmes in the UK. The IB Africa, Europe, Middle East regional conference in Liverpool, 26-29 September, might be a good place for interested parties to start their enquiries.


Alliance preach: International Learning, not International Education… July 14, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Uncategorized.
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From our MD, just back from an inspiring conference…

Please excuse the following ramblings but I’ve just returned from Melbourne with a miserable head cold but it didn’t detract from attending an inspirational conference .. although one could have called it a show with extensive audience participation. The speakers and presenters were
outstanding, highly qualified experts in their fields.

Alliance for International Education World Conference: International Learning: Learning to be International. A world of views (http://intedalliance.org )

The major sponsors were the Asia Education Foundation, the Centre for Strategic Education and the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.

For those who’ve not attended an Alliance conference, they take place over three days with keynote speakers presenting to all, and in breakout sessions each delegate remains in one of six strands; so at the end some clear crystallised summaries are made that are sufficient to formulate actions. They have taken place in Geneva, Dusseldorf, Shanghai, Istanbul and now Melbourne.

Emerging thoughts: In order to more easily embed internationalism and globalisation into the curriculum the term International Learning should replace International Education. Educators need to listen more to the students and provide as many opportunities they can for their interaction with others. Locally, nationally and globally.

East meets west, or don’t meet, bubbled to the surface and ‘Peace’ should replace ‘Tolerance’ was often quoted. It was felt there is a greater need for students to confront differences and not just try to understand them; educators should encourage more debate and more interaction.

Prof Yong Zhao from Michigan State University perceptively turned everything upside down and asked us to consider that the western approach of teaching creativity was wrong; as it has evolved we have to seek even greater creativity to solve the disasters creativity has given to the world…
history shows the Chinese in a simple technological society kept millions fed and happy.

Professor Fazai Rizvi (currently moving from U.Illanois to U.Melbourne) cleverly compared his two immigrations to Australia, once forty years ago, the other today. He demonstrated the how’s and why’s changes have happened to the flows and movement of  people around the world; how we need to focus on Global competences and the desire of parents for their children to have a more holistic education.

The musical and dance interludes were entrancing with fusions of different cultures. A student panel gave a strong argument for teachers to improve their language teaching skills. 

IB had a strong presence. There is a challenge for the Australian education ministries planning the new National Curriculum. The underpinning of which is the 2008 Melbourne Declaration which is an example to all nations. 

I think the conference empowered some heads to make changes and take some personal initiatives.

The strands summaries and papers should soon be put up on the website along with some videos that should give you an idea of the atmosphere. Norm Dean and Jack Levy have retired from the committee and the Alliance will be seeking nominations shortly (through the website).  Jeff Thompson, Mary Hayden and Lesley Snowball were missed, it was graduation at Bath University
UK with Lesley receiving a Phd. Beatrice Caston (executive secretary) did a wonderful job as ‘stage manager’ and Wilf Stout (Treasurer) in the ‘box office’ ran the registration. Walther Hetzer seemed to be everywhere but it was all wonderfully managed and Chaired by Terry Haywood.

Begun in 2002 in Geneva, this is the 5th conference. Taking place biannually, the next in 2012 will be announced in December. I for one will be looking out for it!

Jonathan 13/07/2010

PS Chookey Dancers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OdOeS_bJzE0

Prep School’s new editor! July 8, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Independent Education.
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The autumn issue heralds a new era for Prep School magazine, a publication John Catt have proudly published for a number of years.

We will let satips chairman Michael Denton explain…

Over the past 20 years, satips is proud to have been associated with IAPS in the successful publication of Prep School magazine, which has reflected the interests of both organisations. Now satips plans to continue with the publication on its own, with the help and support of many individuals and organisations involved in the prep school world.

Prep School would not be the success it is without experienced editorial guidance, and we owe an enormous debt to David Tytler, who has done a magnificent job as editor over the last 14 years. He leaves the magazine in good heart and we thank him warmly for everything he has done.

Stuart Thackrah, as chairman of the Joint Editorial Board, has led the team skilfully and with good humour. It has been a pleasure to have worked so closely with him and, as I take on the chairmanship, I hope that Stuart will continue to give advice and guidance in the future. On behalf of satips, I offer Stuart my grateful thanks.

The new editor is Michèle Kitto, whom many of you will know from her work organising professional courses and our annual Art Exhibition. We welcome her and wish her well with her brief, Reflecting the best in the prep school world.

Michele (pictured left, looking very happy) is currently working hard on her first issue, which will be out in UK prep schools in August, and I know she is very excited about her involvement in the magazine. We have been working on a slightly new look, a bit fresher and brighter, and I have been proofing the articles today – it’s all looking very exciting.

We would like to extend our thanks to previous editor David Tytler, who took over the magazine way back in 1996. David has done a fantastic job over the last 14 years and the current popularity and reputation of the magazine is in no small part down to his hard work.

A copy of the magazine are sent to every independent prep and junior school in the UK, but extra copies can be ordered through our bookshop: www.johncattbookshop.com

George Walker: Why diversity in education matters July 6, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in International education.

Professor George Walker, former director general of the International Baccalaureate, continues to shine as one of the leading lights in exploring, promoting and driving forward international education.

We are very fortunate to have published a number of George’s collections of essays and lectures in the past, including his latest title Challenges from a New World. The latest issue of International School (is) magazine also carries the first of two articles by George, considering identity and location.

I doubt if there is a single international school in the world that does not contain within its mission statement, strap-line or letterhead an encouraging reference to diversity.  So let me choose Washington International School as a random but typical example:

Global citizens proactively seek out those who have backgrounds different from their own, examine ideas that challenge their own and then enjoy the complexity.

Difference is something global citizens want to do and last year the magazine IB World (September 2008, issue 54) devoted a whole edition to examples of cultural diversity within IB World Schools under the title ‘Celebrating Difference’ with a cover photograph of Dr Lani Guinier, the first black female professor at the Harvard Law School.

So we are urged not merely to recognise and accept diversity as a fact of 21st century life, but to welcome it, to enjoy it, even to celebrate it. I am bound to observe that the series of really interesting articles in that IB World failed to give a single reason for such ‘celebration’.

So why should we? I see no clear moral reason for celebrating diversity but let me quickly suggest ten other reasons, in no particular order:

• We are fortunate to have such variety available to the labour market: economically we cannot afford to discriminate against any individual or group;
• Good public citizens, demonstrating leadership and exploring new ideas, are unlikely to emerge if they are part of a network of other similarly-minded people;
• By stepping outside yourself you can develop a more complex perspective that helps you to understand yourself better;
• Knowing people of different cultural backgrounds may reduce the chances of conflict at moments of tension;
• The concept of the ‘beloved community’ (Martin Luther King’s expression) or human family is a powerful image at times of social struggle;
• We come to understand better the interdependence of different human groups as a feature of a globalised world;
• Everyone’s lives are potentially enriched in a society of ethnic diversity;
• Diversity will strengthen serious political debate, so maintaining a healthy democracy;
• A more diverse genetic pool will ensure the maintenance of a healthy human species;
• In particular, all art forms are hugely enriched by exposure to different cultural practices.

So my point is this. Yes, there are very sound reasons for celebrating ethnic diversity (no doubt you can add some more of your own) but they are more complex than a touchy-feely experience of ‘getting to know you’, making friends and rubbing shoulders with other multi-national students, and they require careful, systematic thought, analysis and discussion in school.

Cultural understanding is taught, not caught, and it is not by chance that I have introduced my theme through two powerful novels, since world literature is a very effective way of extending students’ thinking beyond the walls of the school.

I recently listened to the distinguished musician Daniel Barenboim talking about his West-Eastern Divan orchestra which brings together Israelis and Arabs in a symphony orchestra whose quality has quickly acquired an international reputation. He insisted that it is not an ‘orchestra for peace’ but rather an ‘orchestra against ignorance’.  Similarly, I want to suggest that international schools are not schools for peace, but rather schools against ignorance.

Conference season: Melbourne and Miami July 5, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Conferences, John Catt Educational news.
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Two big red circles on the John Catt calendar over the next 10 days or so: first the biennial worldwide Advancement for International Education Conference, on July 7-9 in Melbourne, Australia; closely followed by the International Baccalaureate Conference of the Americas, from July 15-18 in Miami.

John Catt will have a presence at both: managing director Jonathan Evans is currently somewhere over the South Pacific on the way to Melbourne, while assistant editor Alex Sharratt will be heading over to Miami next week for the IB.

Attendance at the conferences of international associations is important to us for a number of reasons:  to show our support for those who are leading the way in global education; to meet face-to-face with people we might previously only have spoken  to over the phone or on email; to remind educators of our publications; and finally, because the speakers at such conferences are always worth listening to.

So if you are attending Miami or Melbourne, be sure to stop by the John Catt Educational stand and introduce yourself.