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Season’s Greetings from John Catt Educational December 22, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in John Catt Educational news.
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Writing for John Catt Educational December 20, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Independent Education, International education, New releases.
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The early success of one of our new book releases, Briony Taylor’s Empowering Kids to Shape our Future, has delighted us here at John Catt Educational and led us to thinking that we would like to publish more curriculum-based texts in the coming months.

We have some fantastic projects planned and in production for 2011 and we always love to hear from authors with interesting ideas for education-related publications.

Following the interest from around the world in Briony’s book of lesson plans, we will be  particularly interested to hear from teachers and administrators – both in the UK and internationally – who have exciting ideas for resources to help support curriculums across all age-groups.

We do welcome unsolicited proposals and ideas, from both  previously-published and new authors. Although you might find that your idea doesn’t fit within our current plan, it may well prove the inspiration for another idea that we can work on together. The publishing process may be new to you but we can help with every step, from editing services, to cover design, promotional tools and worldwide distribution.

We will always reply to your proposals, so do drop us an email: alexsharratt@johncatt.com

Independent Head backs “ingenious” fourth way on university tuition fees December 17, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Magazines.
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A steep rise in tuition fees will go ahead after the coalition government won a crucial vote in the House of Lords on Tuesday night, despite criticism from many quarters.
Read more from AFP here.

Many will argue that it is high time that Higher Education was debated more meaningfully in the UK: some 400,000 teenagers a year are now going to university –  but more than 140,000 others want to, have the grades and the cash to, but the places are not available.

The spring 2011 issue of Conference and Common Room, the magazine for the leading independent schools in the UK, carries a great opinion piece on university funding by Chris Ramsey, Headmaster of the King’s School, Chester and member of the HMC/GSA Universities Committee.

Chris speaks of the bygone days of free university tuition, a system which was affordable for the government as it was based on a predicted 10 percent of school-leavers chosing higher education. Unfortunately, “that sounds to today’s teenagers like a lost paradise, as in fact it is.”

No western economy, let alone one as indebted as the UK, can afford to fund the education and accommodation of close-on half its youngsters, for, as is often forgotten, university is essentially boarding education, for which parents are paying an eye-watering £30K + per annum at the independent secondary level.

Those of us who work in secondary education may not have noticed the battering that Higher Education has had over the last decade. If we think times have been tough, it’s worth sparing universities a thought: ill-judged targets (just where did 50% (school-leavers in higher-education) come from?); no long-term thought about funding; fines for exceeding targets.

Taxing higher education; the state footing the bill; or privatising the sector – they were the three solutions explored by Lord Browne, who wrote the report commissioned by the last government and accepted by this one as the basis for its controversial policy on tuition fees.

However, Chris – with a little help from the National Union of Students – has found a fourth, ingenious solution:

Why not free funding from government control, set up an independent fund to which graduates would contribute for a fixed term and on a fixed scale? A tax in some ways, but time-limited and, attractively, not going to the Treasury but to a dedicated trust. It’s a scheme which has been financially modelled by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, and it works pretty well.

It would cost graduates who do not go on to be high earners much less than the proposed tax – and a great deal less than tuition fees – and high earners no more. It saves money by cutting out the middlemen – the tax collectors and the government. And it is the clever brainchild of the National Union of Students, no less.

For the NUS to have commissioned the plan is in itself commendable – as they say, ‘unmanageable levels of debt…are bad for both the borrower and the lender’ – but for the plan to be as sensible as it is makes it worthy of consideration. Perhaps their ingenuity should not surprise us.

The full text from Chris’s article will be found in the spring 2011 issue of Conference & Common Room, which will be landing on Headmaster’s desks in early January. Two-year subscriptions for the magazine are available for £25, including postage and packing.

Preparatory Schools 2011 – thanks to IAPS, ISA, Bancrofts, Ardingly, Made for Mums… December 15, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Independent Education, New releases.
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Our hard-working team are in the final lap in their race to speak to each of the 1500+ independent prep and junior schools in the UK as part of our preparations for putting together the 14th edition of our annual Preparatory Schools guide.

Peter and Richard make contact with each and every one of the schools to ensure that we have all their details correct in the guide, and to offer them the chance to promote themselves further with a profile in the listings section. The 2011 issue will, for the first time, also be available as an eBook to be downloaded and read on all PCs, laptops and mobile devices such as iPads and iPhones (see pic).

As editor, I am also delighted with the editorial content I have managed to secure for the front of the guide – and I wanted to thank those who have agreed to contribute.

Graham Gorton, chairman of the Independent Schools Association and Head at Howe Green House school, will be writing about encouraging sensible risk-taking in children. Chris Calvey, Head at Ardingly, has sent me some insightful thoughts on the future of the Common Entrance exam.

Meanwhile, Bancroft’s School Head Mary Ireland has written on how independent schools cater for Gifted and Talented pupils, and writers at the Made for Mums website (sister website to Practical Parenting magazine) have contributed some great advice on how to prepare your children for starting a new school.

The introduction to the guide will be written by Andy Falconer, chairman of the Independent Association of Preparatory Schools and Head of St Olave’s School in York. Here is a little taster:

The benefits of a prep school education

Taking full advantage of knowledgeable and engaging teaching staff, well-equipped buildings and fantastic facilities, modern prep schools are far removed from the clichés of an old-fashioned independent education. Visions of Latin verbs, scratchy uniforms and leaky dormitories are long gone. Today’s pupils are more likely to view their school as a place where they can play a range of sports, indulge their passions and have fun with their friends, while getting the benefit of one of the best education systems in the world.

Despite the recession, 66% of IAPS schools are reporting a rise in pupil numbers for 2010-2011, demonstrating more parents than ever are willing to pay for their child’s education, regardless of external financial pressures.

So what does an independent prep school provide that a state education doesn’t?

Although the majority of schools place a strong emphasis on academic work, independent prep schools are renowned for their ability to develop and maximize the individual strengths of each child. If a pupil is brilliant at sport, or music, or even horticulture, then prep school staff see it as their duty to discover and nurture that talent.

Our schools focus on the child as a whole, not just their academic abilities. They instill a love of learning at a young age and a broad curriculum is delivered both inside and outside of the classroom. Through access to a wide range of extra-curricular activities, children at our schools develop confidence and social skills, as well as a healthy sense of competition. An emphasis on the arts, languages, humanities and sports give children a broader, well-rounded education…

Thanks to all those who have offered editorial and to all those schools who have taken the chance to promote their facilities and qualities in the guide. And thanks, too, to Peter and Richard for their efforts in contacting all 1500 schools up and down the UK to help ensure our guide remains the most comprehensive and accurate around.

Spring 2011 magazines: sneak preview December 9, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Magazines.
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Prep School spring 2011 issue

The run-up to the start of a new school term is always a busy time in the John Catt Educational offices. Amongst other projects, we are in the final stages of putting together the spring 2011 issues of our magazines, International School (is), Conference & Common Room and Prep School.

International School magazine will focus on global issues and feature articles including: What it means to be a global citizen, by Kathy Kirby; A partnership of understanding, by Dirayet Ulug and Dr Frederick Thompson; and Global, generous and green, by Jennifer Gokmen.

As always in the spring issue, we will also carry lots of photos from the recent ECIS Annual Conference in Nice. Plenty of pictures of attentive faces, inspiring speakers … and the odd photo of people relaxing with a glass of wine.

Issue number 70 of Prep School magazine, the second under the editorship of Michele Kitto, looks at some of the more traditional subjects taught in independent prep and junior schools in the UK. We are particularly pleased with the front cover (see left)!

It carries editorial from Dr Matthew Jenkinson, head of English and history at New College School, Oxford, sharing a moving family story to help illustrate World War I poetry to his class; Barbara Bell, a teacher at Haberdashers’ Monmouth School for Girls, reflecting on how the Primary Latin Project has developed over the last 12 years; and a nostalgic feature by Greg Tesser, looking back at his days as a pupil at the Hall School in the “austere fifties”.

Meanwhile, Conference & Common Room, as always rich in variety, sees John Newton, Headmaster of Taunton School, contemplating the work/life balance of a Head; and Geoff Lucas, the Secretary of HMC, drafting a personal ‘top ten’ proposals for the educational scene.

All three magazines will be landing in staffrooms around the world in early January. Additional copies can be ordered through the John Catt Bookshop.

Questions to ask when chosing a school… December 7, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Independent Education.
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One of our main aims at John Catt Educational is to help schools promote themselves effectively; to provide the platforms to enable independent and international schools to highlight their facilities and values.

Of course, a pleasant by-product of providing these guidebooks and websites for schools to show off what makes them great is the huge amount of information and support we are able to offer those parents looking for a suitable independent school or college for their child.

We use our guidebooks to further provide advice for parents researching independent education. The below is taken out of the front editorial section of the recently published Which School? 2011.

However much a school may appeal on first sight, you still need sound information to form your judgement.

Schools attract pupils by their reputations, so most go to considerable lengths to ensure that parents are presented with an attractive image.

Modern marketing techniques try to promote good points and play down (without totally obscuring) bad ones. But every Head knows that, however good the school prospectus is, it only serves to attract parents through the school gates. Thereafter the decision depends on what they see and hear.

When you choose a school for your son or daughter, the key factor is that it will suit them. Many children and their parents are instinctively attracted (or otherwise) to a school on first sight. But even if it passes this test, and ‘conforms’ to what you are looking for in terms of location and academic, pastoral and extracurricular aspects, you will need to satisfy yourself that the school does measure up to what your instincts tell you.

Research suggests that in many cases the most important factor in choosing a school is the impression given by the Head. As well as finding out what goes on in a school, parents need to be reassured by the aura of confidence which they expect from a Head. How they discover the former may help them form their opinion of the latter.

So how a Head answers your questions is important. Based on our research, we have drawn up a list of 24 points on which you may need to be satisfied. The order in which they appear below does not necessarily reflect their degree of importance to each parent, but how the Head answers them may help you draw your own conclusions:

•How accessible is the Head, whose personality is seen by most parents as setting the ‘tone’ of
the school?
•Will the child fit in? What is the overall atmosphere?
• To which organisations does the school belong? How has it been accredited?
•What is the ratio of teachers to pupils?
•What are the qualifications of the teaching staff?
•How often does the school communicate with parents through reports, parent/teacher meetings or other visits?
•What is the school’s retention rate? Do larger lower classes and smaller upper classes reflect a school’s inability to hang on to pupils?
•What are the school’s exam results? What are the criteria for presenting them? Are they consistent over the years?
•How does the school cope with pupils’ problems?
•What sort of academic and pastoral advice is available?
•What is the school’s attitude to discipline?
•Have there been problems with drugs or sex? How have they been dealt with?
•What positive steps are taken to encourage good manners, behaviour and sportsmanship?
• Is progress accelerated for the academically bright?
•How does the school cope with pupils who do not work?
•What is the attitude to religion?
•What is the attitude to physical fitness and games?
•What sports are offered and what are the facilities?
•What are the extracurricular activities? What cultural or other visits are arranged away from the school?
•What steps are taken to encourage specific talent in music, the arts or sport?
•Where do pupils go when they leave – are they channelled to a few selected destinations?
•What is the uniform? What steps are taken to ensure that pupils take pride in their personal appearance?
•What are the timetable and term dates?
• Is it possible to have the names and addresses of parents with children at the school to approach them for an opinion?

offers advice to parents looking for a suitable independent school or college for their child