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The power of informed teaching June 29, 2011

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Uncategorized.
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Julie Booth, head of independent schools at Capita SIMS, examines why getting pupil data into the classroom is critical to delivering educational excellence at St Benedict’s.

Can teachers in your school quickly identify the reasons why a child has stared to fall behind in English? Do they know whether, with a little extra support, high achievers in Maths could be doing better? The need to ensure every child achieves all they are capable of is becoming increasingly important in the competitive world of private education. Schools are expected to be able to demonstrate to parents, governors and school inspectors the quality of the teaching they provide. And importantly, that it is adding value to children’s learning.

Virtually every school has a management information system (MIS), which can be used to store data such as students’ attendance, attainment and conduct. But few realise how powerful their systems can be for supporting students’ learning in the classroom.

Getting student data into the hands of teachers has been a key objective at St Benedict’s School in Ealing and they are already starting to see some of the benefits. Last year students achieved the highest A Level results ever recorded in the school’s 100 year history.

Getting information out of data

To have the greatest impact, data must be used to inform decisions made in the classroom. Teachers at St Benedict’s are regularly provided with data reports, which they use to plan lessons and monitor their students’ achievement.

Charles Windmill, the school’s Director of Assessment, explains, “Having good access to data makes it easier for teachers to track the achievement of individual students or groups from the classroom. They can use it to identify those children who might need some additional support to boost their attainment; whether they are high achievers or perhaps not progressing at the rate they were expected to. It can also be used to monitor whether the extra support teachers are providing is helping to raise attainment.”

When used well, data can help teachers discover why girls are doing better than boys in English, for example. It can also help identify those students who are doing well in one subject but might need some extra help in another. This makes it easier for teachers to target their interventions to ensure every student reaches their full potential.

Putting data in teachers’ hands

The leadership team at St Benedict’s has been looking at ways to get the goldmine of data stored in the school’s MIS directly into teachers’ hands, rather than reports being produced by the technical team. “We wanted teachers to have the freedom to scrutinise student information themselves,” says Charles, “This saves time and ensures the power of data can be unleashed where it will have the greatest impact on students’ achievement – by teachers in the classroom.”

They have trialled a new piece of software that allows teachers to simply drag and drop student data from the MIS and display it in a variety of formats, such as a Venn diagram, student progression line, bar or pie chart. Teachers can flick through different ways of displaying data just like they would photos on a mobile phone and click on the graphs to view the names of individual students who were falling below expected targets. Alerts can also be set up to let teachers know when a child’s attendance or achievement drops below a certain level.

“We have huge amounts of information in our MIS that we want teachers to be able to access easily,” says Charles. “We have found that the ability to display data in such a visual way makes it simpler for teachers to spot where issues exist for individual students or groups than viewing the information on a spreadsheet. This is fundamental to ensuring every child gets the support they need to succeed.”

Teachers at St Benedict’s will use SIMS Discover to analyse student data in the classroom from September 2011. http://www.sims-independent.co.uk 

Postitive risk-taking: the view of an independent school head of boarding June 22, 2011

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Independent Education, Magazines.
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We hear and read a lot in the UK about the need for children in school to experience and develop their risk-taking and risk-assessing abilities. There are continuing concerns that the compensation culture and fears over so-called “stranger danger” are, for example, stopping children playing outside, undermining their long-term development.

Headteachers are often at odds with politicians regarding risk-taking, with the Heads and teachers insisting that schools should allow children to flourish instead of constantly judging their development against a target driven educational system.

It is a subject tackled in one of the leading articles in the summer 2011 issue of Prep School magazine, in which Richard Mace, head of boarding at S. Anselm’s Preparatory School in the Peak District reflected on the benefits of education beyond the classroom. Below is an extract from his article: GOING THE EXTRA MILE…

The children of our country need this all-round education more today than ever before and it is one of the greatest failures of past Governments that many schools neglect the extracurricular. Some schools open their doors at 9am and close them at 3pm and this is a crying shame. The teachers’ strikes of the 1970s reduced the expectations on teachers in the state sector to provide extracurricular activities and the administrative pressure on teachers has led to a decline in the number of hours that teachers are prepared to put in beyond the classroom.

The final nail in the coffin has been the strict health and safety constraints that have burdened schools. This would be acceptable if the Government had invested enough in local clubs and activities after school hours but there are still thousands of youngsters whose minds could be actively engaged who instead are lured towards substance abuse, gang culture and crime.

Children need risk and they need to test the boundaries – if these natural instincts are not steered in the right direction and channelled into productive and life-enhancing activities, children will naturally divert their energies into reckless or destructive pursuits. Tranquilising children with Xboxes and TV is no answer either. Thankfully, there is a greater national acknowledgement of the need to educate the whole child and increasingly all schools, both state and private, are starting to invest more in education beyond the school gate thanks to the energy and commitment of teachers and Headteachers who recognise the inherent wisdom in such an educational philosophy. However, it is an uphill battle, the movement is slow and Government cuts threaten to undermine the progress before it has taken root.

The summer issue of Prep School magazine is available now. The magazine is published three times a year, at the start of each school term.

Fantastic review of The Following Game in The Observer June 20, 2011

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in New releases, Peridot Press.
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It is wonderful to see The Following Game, by Jonathan Smith, getting the recognition it deserves since its publication by our imprint Peridot Press last week.

Robert McCrum wrote a lovely piece in leading UK Sunday broadsheet newspaper The Observer yesterday (June 19), entited The best teachers will always bowl you over. Below is an extract:

There’s a cruel jibe that teaching is for those who can’t, but Jonathan Smith is hardly an also-ran. He has had a distinguished career as a writer as well as a teacher, notably with Wilfred and Eileen, a novel set in the Great War, and The Learning Game, an acclaimed memoir about teaching.

In 2006, Smith was diagnosed with cancer, put the novel on which he was working aside, and embarked on a trip to India with his son in quest of a deeper paternal understanding as well as the realisation of a dream: to see cricket played on the subcontinent.

The Following Game, just published by Peridot Press, is the outcome of Smith’s journey; a touching, episodic memoir about the way in which cricket and literature can take over your life and how, through poetry and cover drives, Smith found a way to accommodate the complexity of his paternal pride in his son’s sporting prowess. This beautifully produced little book says more about family, books and the game of cricket than many flashier volumes by well-known names. It is modest, candid, personal and brief, but full of surprises.

An excellent review for an excellent little book, one that we can’t recommend highly enough. We anticipate lots more media attention over the next few weeks as more and more people become aware of what a beautifully written book this is.

John Catt to launch Academy magazine in autumn 2011 June 20, 2011

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Magazines, New releases.

We are delighted to announce that in the autumn we will be launching a new education magazine, Academy, to celebrate the exciting, fast-growing academy and free school sector.

For this venture, we have partnered with FASNA, the Foundation, Aided Schools and Academies National Association. FASNA’s strong links to the Department of Education and their status as one of the foremost associations in the sector will ensure that Academy will be recognised as the leading voice for academy schools in the UK.

Paul Strong, Headmaster of one of the highest performing academies in the UK, has been appointed as editor of the magazine and will bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the publication. Aimed at and written by the senior management teams at UK academies, the magazine will be published three times a year and reflect all that is great about this exciting sector.

Editorial will focus on:

  • offering objective advice to schools thinking of converting to academy status
  • helping those in the process converting, with guidance written by those who have been through the procedure and experts in the field
  • news and opinion on political developments from Westminster
  • case studies reflecting the ups and downs of academy status
  • Heads, senior staff and teachers sharing examples of good working practice to help academies and free schools continue to strive for high standards

Anyone interested in contributing to the magazine can learn more by contacting Alex Sharratt, managing editor, on email here. Organisations interested in marketing themselves to this vibrant sector should get in touch with Madeleine Anderson on 01394 389855 or via email here.

The Following Game, by Jonathan Smith: NOW AVAILABLE June 13, 2011

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in New releases.
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We had a fantastic launch party on Thursday evening for Jonathan Smith’s wonderful new book, The Following Game. Many thanks to all who attended and to Jonathan’s daughter Becky for hosting the event.

Early reception of the book has been universally positive, as we knew it would. Some comments:

“Can I congratulate you on the beautiful production of the book. Everything about it looks and feels just right.”

“The breadth and depth of Smith’s emotional shot-making – his timing – is simply first class. An extraordinary and brilliant book!”

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if The Following Game became one of those rare and strange success stories for good books? A success just because it is a well-written book by a very nice man on a very touching set of subjects… No celebrity involved, no scandal, no PR campaign: just old-fashioned quality. “

“Sanity, wisdom, passion (restrained beautifully), eloquence.”

The book is now available to buy via our Bookshop. Orders will be sent out the same day.

Prep School photographer of the year competition June 6, 2011

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Magazines.
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The 2011 Prep School photographer of the year competition has now closed and the magazine steering group will this week begin the process of selecting a winner.

We have had hundreds of entries again this year, the competition proving it remains as popular as ever with prep and junior schools up and down the UK.

Thanks to all who entered: we will be letting the winning schools know as soon as possible, with the results announced in the autumn issue of Prep School magazine.


Internationalizing schools. New book by Dr Steven Carber published July 2011 June 1, 2011

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in International education, New releases.
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We are in the final stages of production on a new book, Internationalizing Education, focusing on the growth, importance and challenges of international education, edited by Dr Steven Carber.

Steven, who co-edited Taking the PYP Forward with Simon Davidson, currently works as an independent educational consultant in California, USA. The contributors’ efforts in completing the book have been severely hampered by the recent storms in the States, and especially the violent tornado in the Tuscaloosa, Alabama, area where four of the contributors live.

John Catt Educational will be making a contribution to http://helptuscaloosaschools.com/ to help restore the schools affected by the storms. Please do contribute if you can.

Internationalizing Education, schedule for publication in the middle of July this year, is a collection of chapters addressing the many challenges experienced by the international school community, written by some of the best and most experienced minds on the planet.

As Dr Joel A Freeman, acclaimed speaker at international education conferences around the world, writes in the foreword:

Mark Twain once said: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrowmindedness and many of our people need it sorely on those accounts. Broad, wholesome and charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one corner of the Earth all one’s lifetime.”

I agree.

Hitchhiking off Twain’s statement, I’d like to add that this book is fatal to stupidity, fuzzy logic, and lazy thinking.
It is my belief that once you have read this book, you will be rewarded with:

• A rich repository of excellent ideas for internationalizing your classrooms or schools.
• Increased clarity on what is meant by ‘international education’.
• A sense of solidarity that others share your interest in internationalizing education. Several chapter contributors standing ready to help, along with thousands of teachers around the world.
• A range of ideas from a variety of voices from settings spanning from India to China to Senegal, to name a few.
• Ideas on how to spread the best practices of overseas ‘international schools’ to national settings.

I hope you leave the book with at least three or four brand new, out-of-the-box ideas to be implemented in your setting – ideas that are genuinely international – so that the international school is not just ‘international’ in name only.

Internationalizing Education will be published by John Catt Educational in July 2011. Please contact our Bookshop to pre-order: booksales@johncatt.com