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Cheers to the grandfather of educational yearbooks! November 30, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Independent Education, New releases.
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At John Catt, we are naturally proud of all our exhalted publications – but there is one we think deserves special respect and reverence.

Which School? 2011 has just returned from the printers and is currently being packed up and distributed to major bookstores and key reference points around the world. Amazingly, this is the 86th edition of this fantastic guidebook to all independent schools in the UK – which we think must make it amongst the longest-running educational yearbooks in the UK, if not the world.

Of course, if you know of any education publications that have been around for longer, then do get in touch and let us know. It will be interesting to learn of any others that might have stood the test of time, as Which School? has.

We have some way to rival the longest-running non-educational publications. A quick scout on Google turned up The Statesman’s Yearbook, now in its 146th year. Meanwhile, the UK Football Annual is in its 123rd year.

Thanks to all those schools who opted to promote their facilities and values in the 2011 edition of Which School?, certainly the biggest and most comprehensive edition that anyone in the John Catt offices can remember.

So, here is a cheers to Which School?, the still-sprightly grandfather of educational guidebooks.

the gap-year guidebook 2011 November 29, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in New releases.
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The latest edition of the gap-year guidebook has landed back from the printers and is heading out to leading bookshops around the UK. The 2011 issue is the 19th version of this popular guide providing informative and unbiased advice for those considering spending time travelling, studying, volunteering or working at home and abroad.

With all the uncertainty and controversy surrounding higher education in the UK at the moment, gap-years are a topical subject for youngsters and their parents. Here’s what Richard Oliver, chief executive of the Year Out Group said in his introduction to the guidebook:

In general terms university admission tutors look favourably on applicants who can demonstrate that they have a considered plan for their year out programme. Universities know that students who have taken a well structured gap-year arrive refreshed and focused and have a very high probability of completing their chosen course. These students are more mature, more globally aware and have acquired skills and experiences that enable them to make a fuller contribution to their course and university life in general. Some universities have capped the percentage of applicants they will allow to defer in order to take a gap-year. This suggests they have seen through the recent trend for gap-year participants to sign up for very short placements just to get a tick in the box.

The same applies to employers. Employers actively seek graduates who can demonstrate that they have gained valuable skills and experiences during their gap year. Employers are looking for signs of commitment, team work, project and risk management and negotiating skills, global awareness and ideally language skills as well. Recent research by Year Out Group has shown that 60 percent of those taking gap-year placements with a Year Out Group member are female. In the UK only 11 percent of female graduates were unemployed one year after graduating compared with 17 percent of their male counterparts. One message from these figures is that young males could benefit more than they realise by committing to a structured gap-year programme.

Thank you to all those companies who took the opportunity to showcase their products and services to our readers, and thanks also to the organisations who provided information to help make the guidebook as up-to-date as possible and the most comprehensive on the market.

They are: GapAid; GirlsTravelClub.co.uk; Fair Trade Volunteering; CSV; Career Sage; Hope for Harambee; Tourism Concern; Medic Alert; Cancer Research; Volunteer England; Careers Partnership UK; Tick Alert; Studential; Interhealth; Travellers Worldwide; Enternships; Year Out Group; Caroline’s Rainbow; Sport Lived; NUS; SusTrans.

Thanks also to those gappers who shared their adventures with us and offered advice to those newbies planning their first trip. And finally, special thanks to three gappers who provided us with some excellent images from their travels to help make the book and website beautiful: thanks to Annie Rice, Pamela Sam and Rachel Gibson.

Here are a selection of Annie’s images: the perfect antedote to the snowy weather we are currently experiencing in England!


Higher education and the liberal arts November 25, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in International education.
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Here we profile Dr Ian Newbould, President of Richmond, the American International University in London, who believes that the liberal arts prepares students to adapt to the ever changing world in which they find themselves.

Students do not just attend a university to acquire a degree. Rather they develop a set of skills that enable them to meet the complex challenges that they will face when they leave the security of the classroom.

Dr Newbould has a fascinating perspective of the different educational systems of Canada, the United States and now Britain, where he has been president of three different universities. The similarities among the student bodies repeatedly impresses him, as the students, no matter what their background, are all pursuing degrees to place them on the first rung of the corporate ladder. One constant in his career has been his professional involvement, first as a historian teaching in Holland and Canada, and then as a university administrator, in smaller learning environments that emphasized the liberal arts model.

His strong belief is that students flourish in smaller universities that are primarily undergraduate in nature. In this environment, the university is able to nurture each individual student and help him or her develop, from an academic, social and cultural perspective. Student support systems have a real meaning when groups of hundreds, rather than thousands, of students come under the university’s guidance.

From the outset, highly qualified senior faculty members teach in classes that rarely involve more than two-dozen students. In large universities, many undergraduate students are taught by graduate students, and never see a full-time professor until their third or fourth year. When faculty members make themselves available outside of class times, as has been his experience, they are able to make a real difference for students who seek them out for academic guidance.

A liberal arts undergraduate program is an ideal academic structure for students. While there are many descriptions of the meaning of liberal arts, the essential feature is the ability to study a wide range of academic subjects in the first and second years before specializing in one or two academic disciplines. There are a number of advantages in this approach. Firstly, most students do not know what it is that they plan to do in life. The ability to study a wider range of subjects opens their minds to areas of study that they might never have discovered. The same holds true for students who have a good idea of what they plan to do.

Increasingly, one reads of British students who study at an American university and marvel at the ability to taste a wide spectrum of subject areas, something that is not possible in British universities, where students have been forced to make career and academic decisions at the age of 15.

A student who is intent on studying international finance learns a great deal by being able to study some history, photography or foreign languages along with their finance courses. As the president of a large Canadian insurance company said, this is the one time in a person’s life when they can learn about civilizations and societies, about history and ideas, about religions and philosophy. It broadens the mind; it widens the ability to think and to analyze. It makes a person fit for life, no matter what profession the graduate chooses. Business leaders are virtually unanimous in looking for graduates who can think clearly, understand wider notions of thought, analyze issues, and demonstrate the ability to master large amounts of information. A liberal arts education provides an opportunity to so develop.

One of the great strengths of Richmond, the American International University in London, is the international character of its student body. With students from over 140 countries, there is another dimension to the learning and teaching experience. Students learn to appreciate other cultures in a way that studying at a university with a single national culture cannot provide. A class in political science or international relations might have as many nationalities as it has students. Differing perspectives in discussion become the norm rather than the exception. They learn to share and respect others opinions and coexist in the same classroom.

Moreover, the decision to leave the comfort of one’s culture, to break away from the cocoon of home and friends, has profound importance for that student’s future. Students at Richmond stand out from the norm because of their adventurous desire to experience a wider world.

Graduate schools and employers are looking for exactly that trait to separate the wheat from the chaff. It is this spirit that attracted Dr Newbould to Richmond. All of the students have this quality, and students who have experienced international lives feel at home in this environment.

Students are young people with goals, dreams, hopes and insecurities. They are developing as young adults. A small, liberal arts, university is the ideal setting for that maturation, both academically and personally. Put together with an international environment such as exists at Richmond, or Paris, or Rome or Tokyo, and the ingredients of a productive future are there. Students who can achieve their goals in this caring environment are most assuredly ‘fit for life’.

This editorial was first published in The John Catt Guide to International Schools 2010/11.

Nice to see you, to see you Nice… November 23, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Conferences, International education, New releases.
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The John Catt team have been back in the office after a late return to the UK on Sunday night from the ECIS Conference in Nice.

The feedback was good all round, from exhibitors and delegates alike – and we’d like to thank ECIS  CEO Jean Vahey and her team for a great job in organising everything so it went so smoothly at the Acropolis.

We would like to personally also say thank you and well done to Caroline Ellwood and Briony Taylor.

Caroline is the editor of two of our publications, International School (is) magazine and the International Schools Journal, and hosted a session on Sunday morning outlining the professional benefits of writing for such publications and gathering suggesions for improvements and future editorial ideas.

Briony, meanwhile, is our newest author and presented a well-attended session outlining the lesson plans and ideas in her new book, Empowering Kids to Shape Our Future. It must have inspired those who attended – there was a mini-stampede to the John Catt stand as people rushed to take a closer look.

It was also great to meet many of the other contributors to our past publications – and greet those who are writing for us in the future.

For those on Twitter, you can follow the stream of comments using the tag #ecis10.

ECIS Conference in Nice November 16, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Conferences, International education.
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A four-strong team from John Catt Educational will be heading to the ECIS Autumn Conference in Nice on Wednesday. Publishing Director Derek, Account Executive Maddie, Accounts guru Cat and Editor Alex will be spending this evening scrabbling around in long-unopened draws to find their passports before flying out from Gatwick tomorrow evening.

If you are lucky enough to be attending, do stop by our exhibition stand and say hello.

The ECIS Conference is traditionally a fantastic event for exhibitors and delegates alike – and this year’s programme of speakers should ensure that we are in for another enlightening and inspiring few days.  The programme of speakers looks to again be full and varied, with over 30 different subject areas.

It is also a great chance for us to meet with some of the many fantastic writers and editors who contribute to John Catt publications – and on that subject International School (is) magazine editor Caroline Ellwood will be presenting a session on Sunday entitled: Writing for publication; opportunities in ‘IS Magazine’ and ‘The International Schools Journal’, an informal session outlining what is expected from contributors and gathering suggestions for future issues.

If you are attending the conference in Nice and doing research for an advanced degree, working on an exciting and innovative project, or have a bee in your bonnet about some aspect of education that you wish to share with others, then head along to explore the possibilities.

If you are not attending but do have an interest in writing for any John Catt publication, drop a line to editor Alex: alexsharratt@johncatt.com

“If you’re not doing it, your rivals are…” November 12, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Conferences, Independent Education.
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I am back in the office following Wednesday’s ISC Marketing Conference in London, where over 160 delegates listened to presentations on how independent schools can take advantage of the growing number of platforms available to promote their schools.

A number of the presentations  explored the idea of schools learning to embrace emerging platforms such as Twitter, blogs and apps. Mark Steed, Principal at Berkhamsted School, gave an excellent presentation on how schools can integrate their strategies to form one strong promotional push: “Even if you’re not doing it, your rivals are…”

Meanwhile Kevin Fear, Head at Nottingham High School, spoke about the importance of “embedding marketing into everything you do as a school”. As a contributor, he also gave a little plug to our PR, Marketing and Development book, which prompted lots of interest on the John Catt Educational stand. Thanks Kevin!

Independent schools have not always been alive to the need to promote and publicise themselves, but it does seem that most have now woken up to the fact that they need to work harder than ever to stay competitive – and that most schools were represented at the conference by marketing professionals certainly highlights that fact.

You can view the presentations from the conference via the ISC website here.

The Trenches Trip: Radio 4 play on schools trips… November 8, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Independent Education.
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Jonathan Smith, a good friend of us here at John Catt Educational, has written a new play which will air on BBC Radio 4 on Wednesday at 2.15pm GMT.

In The Trenches Trip unexpected conflicts emerge within a group of teachers and sixth-formers as they walk through the WWI trenches, tunnels and cemeteries of Flanders, trying to step into the boots of those who died there. More details can be found on the BBC website here.

Sounds like it will be a very interesting listen for teachers – especially those involved with leading school trips abroad (read more in a previous blog post: part of an article that featured in the autumn 2010 issue of Prep School magazine).

Jonathan taught English for many years at Tonbridge School and has published six novels and written many plays for radio. His memoir The Learning Game became a bestseller and was Radio 4’s Book of the Week. Peridot Press will be publishing a new book from Jonathan in spring 2011…


John Catt Guide to International Schools 2010/11 November 4, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in International education, New releases.
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We are delighted to say that The John Catt Guide to International Schools 2010/11 is back from our printers, Bell and Bain. They have done a great job: at 665 pages it is a huge book, but it is bound beautifully and looks and feels fantastic.

It is the eighth edition, but it has been completely revamped and updated since the last release. The guide now features details of over 2000 international schools, and also contains a useful editorial section and appendices of international and independent school associations; ministries of education; curricula, examinations and tests; and acronyms and abbreviations.

In addition, the guide also contains the official ECIS International Schools Directory 2010/11. In previous years, we have published the ISD on behalf of the European Council of International Schools as a stand-alone directory of their members. However, this year we have integrated the information into our own guide, making it the true worldwide authority on international education.

“We must help children feel empowered…” November 4, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in International education, New releases.
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Briony Taylor is a primary science teacher at at the Collège Du Léman International School in Geneva, Switzerland. John Catt Educational have this week released her first collection of lesson plans help primary years teachers to fill young minds with information, skills and procedures that can be applied to shaping our planet’s future.

This is the second part of our interview with Briony. Click here to read the first part, posted last week.

JCE: Explain about the format of the book.

I like teaching books to be easy to use so I tried to keep the instructions to the activities very simple and short. Teachers are busy people and we want to open a book and get inspiration for our lessons quickly. Each of the lessons in the book starts with a one-page lesson plan and then it is followed by short and sharp instructions for the various activities. This means it caters for those who want the extra detail of a lesson plan and those who just simply want some quick ideas. The activities cater for different learning styles and can be taught across all academic disciplines at any time of the day, which should make incorporating global issues into any teaching program easy and stress free.

JCE: Are you encouraged by the new generation of children learning about internationalism? What effect can learning about these global issues have on their future?

BT: Absolutely, I think it is vital that children are given the opportunity to learn about global issues. Global issues concern us all and children are exposed to them daily through modern technology and the media so as teachers we must help children to feel empowered to help solve these problems rather than being uninformed and fearful of them.

In my experience I have been very happy to see how passionate my students are about discussing global issues and how much they enjoy the challenge of thinking at a very high level while we examine each issue. Teaching global issues can help prepare children to become happy and responsible adults by teaching them how to be critical thinkers, problem-solvers, cooperative players, decision makers and excellent communicators.

JCE: What are your hopes for the book?

BT: As educators we have a responsibility to all human beings to help shape society. I hope that the book will encourage other teachers to incorporate more global issues activities into their lessons so that children can better understand the issues facing their world and the role they can play in it.

JCE: You will be presenting a session at the ECIS (European Council of International Schools) Conference in Nice from November 18-21.

BT: Yes. I have been presenting at the ECIS conference since 2007. A colleague of mine first gave me the opportunity to present in the Science Milkshake session. The Science Milkshake is a great session where teachers can share their favorite primary science lessons, it is a lot of fun and it is very hands on. This year I will also be doing two other sessions titled “Funology – Making Primary Science Fun” and “Teaching Global Issues to Primary School Children”.

ISC Marketing Conference: How to stand-out from rivals (and friends!) November 1, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Conferences.
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Next Wednesday I (Alex) will be attending the Independent Schools Council’s 2010 Marketing Conference in London.

The ISC are expecting approximately 175 attendees at conference, the vast majority of which will be directors of marketing and marketing managers at UK independent schools. Around 20 percent of registered delegates are Heads, deputy heads and governors.

The growth and popularity of the conference shows just how important marketing and PR has become in independent schools in the UK; a fact highlighted by sales of our recent book in the Leading Schools in the 21st Century series, Public Relations, Marketing and Development.

The Association for Marketing and Development in Independent Schools (AMDIS) are one of the most important organisations in the field, having been promoting best practice in the independent education sector for over 15 years and representing over 400 member schools.

AMDIS chair Kit Bithrey-George will be giving one of the keynote speaches at the conference, and their general secretary Tory Gillingham was one of the editors of our Public Relations, Marketing and Development. Here’s what Tory wrote in the introduction.

In schools, most of our marketing practice is (thankfully!) a world away from the highly commercial, aggressive win-at-all-costs-and-no-holdsbarred style that increasingly dominates the promotion of goods and services. In contrast, wise schools act in a more measured way, continuing to eschew the temptation to produce ‘knocking copy’ that does down their competitors.

There is a recognition within the sector that our rivals are often also our friends, and that schools, whilst competing against each other, find that unity and some solidarity and professionalism can be a strength rather than a cop-out. However, none of this reasonableness and reticence should deflect us from the challenge of marketing our schools more efficiently, more purposefully and more sophisticatedly. There is a balance to be struck.

It should be an interesting conference. Kevin Fear, Head of Nottingham High School and contributor to Public Relations, Marketing and Development, is giving a speech in the morning on A Head’s View of Marketing — Aligning your Marketing Strategy with the Strategic Goals of the School.

His is just one of a number of really enticing presentations. If you are heading along, do pop by the John Catt Educational stand and say hello!