British Science Week will next take place between 8th-17th March, 2019.
The application process involves thematic grants for school, community groups and one for theBritish Science Association branches. You can see the detail for each sectoral award below…
The deadline for applications is 5pm, 12 November 2018.
Kick Start Grants
This scheme offers grants for schools in challenging circumstances to organise their own events as part of British Science Week. There are three options available:
Kick Start grant: A grant of £300 for your school to run an activity
Kick Start More grant: A grant of £700 for your school to host a science event or activity which involves your students and the local community.
Kick Start Youth grant: A grant of £150 for your school to run an activity during British Science Week organised by students.
This scheme offers £500 to £1000 grants for community groups that work directly with audiences who are traditionally under-represented and currently not engaged in science activity. Our definition of groups that are underrepresented in science includes:
people who are Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME)
people with low socio-economic status (SES), including people disadvantaged in terms of education and income
young people facing adversity, including those not in education, employment or training (NEET)
people with a disability, defined as a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term effect on someone’s ability to do normal daily activities (Equalities Act 2010)
people living in a remote and rural location, defined as settlements of less than 10,000 people
girls and women
BSW Grants for BSA branches
This scheme offers up to £500 of funding for British Science Association branches to take part in our national celebration by running local events during British Science Week.
This scheme is open to BSA volunteer branches only.
The University of Glasgow – a ‘mooc’ point in the making…
Glasgow University have a new massive, open on-line course (MOOC) under way, courtesy of the FutureLearn network. It seeks to engage educators, adult learners and those broadly interested in the countering of inequity in the provision of education.
Entitled The Right to Education: Breaking down the barriers, there is much to support the aims of IETT within its modules. Particularly useful is the course delivery of international perspectives from educators, policy makers and other contributors to the on-line debate around the globe.
The work of the Univerity lead educator, Dr Margaret Sutherland (Senior Lecturer: Social Justice, Place, and Lifelong Education), and her team, delivers this pan-global perspective to help contexualise the relative educational riches and the deficits whch we enjoy in the UK.
The Unesco Education for Allprogramme had promised that all children would have access to school by 2015. This progress had halted by 2008, as can be seen from the UNESCO video below…
Today there are, it is estimated, some fifty eight million children not in school. That is one in ten of all children who are denied access to schooling, with that earlier target of universality extended now to 2030.
Half the educationally deprived children live in sub-Saharan Africa. They are predominantly poor, female, already at work whilst young or are excluded by a disability. The supply side of the educational equation has equal paucity, as some 27 million teachers will be needed, it is estimated, to fill a new full demand by 2030.
So we are able to see that, despite the constraints and inequalities, both social and economic, that dog education in the UK, in the global, aggregate view conflict, caste, faith and gender can all drag a child away from life affirming educational experiences.
You can take a look at the brief programme details here, or you can register with FutureLearn to be notified when the next iteration of the course from The University of Glasgow is available. See more here.
On this evidence, there is by 2030, perhaps, still much for all of us to do globally?
The web pages contain new resources for CS education, including prgrammes and resources for learners, as well as programmatic resources for teachers. The educator material offers the visitor free online courses, as well as access to software programs like Pencil, in order to grow basic practical skills.
The coding and tools section of the web site makes available open source resources like Blockly, IDE’s for Chrome apps and practical collaboration techniques to explore coding through drawing art, playing music and creating games.
The research, diversity and scholarship sections of the new site are, perrhaps narturally coming from Google, very heavily influenced by U.S. curriculum and learning opportunities. However, the Open Source and collaborative software elements of the coding platform are universal.
If you have a laptop, a well motivated CS teacher and a school network then you should be able to benefit from the Google CS Education Platform wherever you are located.
Prime Minister James Callaghan made a speech to an audience at Ruskin College in Oxford on the 18th October, 1976. A speech that, some would argue, launched the Great Debate about education.
Certainly some of the issues and challenges, that James Callaghan raised that day at Ruskin College, remain as pertinent and telling as ever today. Callaghan emphatically stressed, in his speech, the value of the Trade Union movement, not a view often embraced by a Prime Minister today for sure, but also lucidly saw children as delivering an endowment for a future society.
Speaking on that day in 1976, a detailed reading of the full text saw Callaghan giving long credit to Trade Union education energy, highlighting the role that unions and social activists play in energising human capital, often sailing against the pre-dominant elitist and exclusive educational cultural wind.
Callaghan saw the wide and emphatically important debate abroad in the country in his time about the economy, political or otherwise, but ventured to say ‘…not as important in the long run as preparing future generations for life. RH Tawney, from whom I derived a great deal of my thinking years ago, wrote that the endowment of our children is the most precious of the natural resources of this community. So I do not hesitate to discuss how these endowments should be nurtured‘.
Fiona Millar, writing in The Guardian in December 2016, has revisited the 1976 Callaghan postulation and has teased out many facets of the Callaghan analysis that often leaves the contemporary liberal, educated, education-aware reader in despair, when education is viewed down the long telescope of history.
‘Do we have a curriculum that promotes basic standards while allowing a child’s personality to “flower in its fullest possible way” as Callaghan put it?’
‘Would he (Callaghan) have envisaged systems of oversight so fragmented and convoluted that some headteachers can become proprietors of small business empires from which they directly profit?’
‘Would Callaghan have wanted good heads and teachers suffocated by hyper-accountability, wrestling with what is best for their schools against what is best or their pupils, while the less scrupulous boost performance by weeding out the most challenging pupils?’
Millar has chosen a good time to revisit this educational clarion call from a Labour Prime Minister who, on a detailed reading of this speech, represents the gold standard of education analysis and is deserving of perhaps a kinder view from history than he was previously afforded.
Flotsam: an occasional series of education ideas from other places.
An interesting time to be re-visiting this article, of Spring 2015, from Pasi Sahlberg which illustrates the latest Finnish thinking on the convergence , a blending, of the curriculum. ‘To replace the teaching of classic school subjects such as history or English with broader, cross-cutting “topics” as part of a major education reform .’
Educationalists need not panic is the Sahlberg message, despite our current government persistence with testing and rigid curriculum application. We visit Finland in this article, but with a side trip to Singapore too, in the interests of compare and contrast. (Ed.)
Finland’s plans to replace the teaching of classic school subjects such as history or English with broader, cross-cutting “topics” as part of a major education reform have been getting global attention, thanks to an article in The Independent, one of the UK’s trusted newspapers. Stay calm: despite the reforms, Finnish schools will continue to teach mathematics, history, arts, music and other subjects in the future.
But with the new basic school reform all children will also learn via periods looking at broader topics, such as the European Union, community and climate change, or 100 years of Finland’s independence, which would bring in multi-disciplinary modules on languages, geography, sciences and economics.
It is important to underline two fundamental peculiarities of the Finnish education system in order to see the real picture. First, education governance is highly decentralised, giving Finland’s 320 municipalities significant amount of freedom to arrange schooling according to the local circumstances. Central government issues legislation, tops up local funding of schools, and provides a guiding framework for what schools should teach and how.
Second, Finland’s National Curriculum Framework is a loose common standard that steers curriculum planning at the level of the municipalities and their schools. It leaves educators freedom to find the best ways to offer good teaching and learning to all children. Therefore, practices vary from school to school and are often customised to local needs and situations.
The next big reform taking place in Finland is the introduction of a new National Curriculum Framework (NCF), due to come into effect in August 2016.
It is a binding document that sets the overall goals of schooling, describes the principles of teaching and learning, and provides the guidelines for special education, well-being, support services and student assessment in schools. The concept of “phenomenon-based” teaching – a move away from “subjects” and towards inter-disciplinary topics – will have a central place in the new NCF.
Integration of subjects and a holistic approach to teaching and learning are not new in Finland. Since the 1980s, Finnish schools have experimented with this approach and it has been part of the culture of teaching in many Finnish schools since then. This new reform will bring more changes to Finnish middle-school subject teachers who have traditionally worked more on their own subjects than together with their peers in school.
Schools decide the programme
What will change in 2016 is that all basic schools for seven to 16-year-olds must have at least one extended period of multi-disciplinary, phenomenon-based teaching and learning in their curricula. The length of this period is to be decided by schools themselves. Helsinki, the nation’s capital and largest local school system, has decided to require two such yearly periods that must include all subjects and all students in every school in town.
One school in Helsinki has already arranged teaching in a cross-disciplinary way; other schools will have two or more periods of a few weeks each dedicated to integrated teaching and learning.
In most basic schools in other parts of Finland students will probably have one “project” when they study some of their traditional subjects in a holistic manner. One education chief of a middle-size city in Finland predicted via Twitter that: “the end result of this reform will be 320 local variations of the NCF 2016 and 90% of them look a lot like current situation.”
You may wonder why Finland’s education authorities now insist that all schools must spend time on integration and phenomenon-based teaching when Finnish students’ test scores have been declining in the most recent international tests. The answer is that educators in Finland think, quite correctly, that schools should teach what young people need in their lives rather than try to bring national test scores back to where they were.
What Finnish youth need more than before are more integrated knowledge and skills about real world issues, many argue. An integrated approach, based on lessons from some schools with longer experience of that, enhances teacher collaboration in schools and makes learning more meaningful to students.
Students involved in lesson design
What most stories about Finland’s current education reform have failed to cover is the most surprising aspect of the reforms. NCF 2016 states that students must be involved in the planning of phenomenon-based study periods and that they must have voice in assessing what they have learned from it.
Some teachers in Finland see this current reform as a threat and the wrong way to improve teaching and learning in schools. Other teachers think that breaking down the dominance of traditional subjects and isolation of teaching is an opportunity to more fundamental change in schools.
While some schools will seize the opportunity to redesign teaching and learning with non-traditional forms using the NCF 2016 as a guide, others will choose more moderate ways. In any case, teaching subjects will continue in one way or the other in most Finland’s basic schools for now.
Our readers may also be interested in another recent article from The Conversation.
David Hogan, an Australian academic, argues that despite the adoption of Singapore’s ‘Asian’ education model by Conservative governments, reflecting as it does the full embrace of rigid, testing and prescribed curriculum activity, the benefits of this more ‘fixed’ approach is still waiting to be proven.
As a counterpoint, it is the antithesis of the Finnish model in the Sahlberg article above. In fact for Hogan, this adoption in the West of a Singaporean model is a mistake.
Published this month on the web pages of Age of Awareness is an insider view of the education system in Singapore, which also recognises the strength of ‘Asian’ education in the most recent PISA standards rankings.
The article, Singapore’s Education System: A Local Perspective, argues that learning by rote, which it is claimed is the basis of the success featured, denies learners the ability to think creatively and makes finding answers to problems that do not have ‘pre-defined solutions’ very difficult for students in the Singaporean system.
(Editors Note: We like Age of Awareness. With its strapline, ‘Another World is Possible‘, and its content providing an international view on the ‘…creative, innovative, and sustainable changes to the education system‘, we recommend it. See more here… )
Following the ‘Brexit’ referendum and the recent series of affrays across the political landscape, with a resultant refreshed exposition on the economy, the topography of industry is now littered with claims for an upsurge in economic flexibility, innovation, challenge and growth.
We revisit Sir Ken Robinson talking about ‘How to Change Education?’ as a consequence.
What better time in the current climate to look again at the education reform focus of the Robinson arguments about schools as Enlightenment driven, rigid, formulaic and command and control industrial systems.
The RSA Animate, featured above was a wonderful synthesis of those arguments and offers a direct challenge to some more traditional ‘informed thinking’ about the educational process for our children.
You can see the full, original RSA talk (24 mins) by Ken Robinson in July 2013 here…
With the socio-political present focus on ‘the other’, isolation and insularity – the call to arms for fresh thinking about creativity embedded in the Robinsonian education reform argument, to secure the future of all our children, becomes now doubly telling, we think.
‘…Ofsted’s chief inspector of schools, warned that there is a continuing crisis in the education of the poor white working class. Some don’t like to hear that, because they think concentration on difficulties experienced by the white working class detracts from the attention owed to disadvantaged minority students also left behind. But I have little time for that zero-sum game. I think we should address all underachievement‘.
The concept of the working class as a distinctive cohort is problematic. Whether white or dosadvantaged the label attempts t make a singular ‘mass of people’ from a bewildering variety of experience, expectation and shades of outcome.
In her recent article in The Guardian, ‘Why Class Won’t Go Away’, Lynsey Hanley powerfully reflects upon the schisms revealed by the recent referendum and the Brexit debate. The vote, she argues, was split by class and geography.The rising wave of social and economic inequality which has been tolerated for so long at last, in the referendum process, found an outlet for its harboured discontents.
In her work, we would argue, she defines a much more granular and subtle mapping of the working class experience.
Hanley declares that the epithet ‘white working class’ has been a way to define an amorphous cohort in society certainly, ‘…who sort of look like us but who don’t seem to be like us, and we can’t work out why’. ‘The idea that, in a group as heterogeneous as the British working class, it is only the white members who have been “abandoned” has proved magnetic to both columnists and politicians‘, as referenced in the opening remarks from Ofsted above.
Even the Labour Party, Hanley argues, has embraced the singular entity of the white working class as a means to aggregate reasons for the failure of the party at the polls. She nicely evidences the distance of The Labour Party from its ‘working class’ electorate with a narrative of how, pre the 2015 election, Labour Central Office had been unable to find a ‘worker on the minumum wage’ for commentary recording as no-one in the office knew any.
Perhaps it also highlights the vast distance between Party machines of all colours from their grassroots members lived experience.
‘Far more than in other western European countries, if you are born poor in Britain, in a poor area, the chances are that you will remain poor for the rest of your life. If you are born rich, in a rich area, the likelihood is that you will find a way – or will have ways come to you – to stay wealthy and privileged throughout your life, and your children will do the same’.
Hanley describes living in Solihull in the West Midlands in the 1980’s, where the term ‘working class’ was never used. Instead ‘people like us’ or ‘the likes of us’ held sway she says. This is the working class, arguably, defining itself as separate, as a methodology to protect individual and family from the depredations of ever mounting scoial and economic inequality.
‘It needs to be acknowledged that “helplessness” or “dependency” – as defined by politicians seeking to blame individuals for structural failings – is an adaptive stance rather than an innate fact of character’ Hanley says.
In a recent article in The Huffington Post, Sarah Newton argues that class persists too. The schisms defined by Hanley are securely entrenched by the use of, what Newton calls, ‘constructive cultivation’.
This is a framework of social, economic, educative and psychological processes that push middle class children to engage with and perpetuate a class based educational and expectational life landscape.
‘Until we accept in this country that the class system is having an impact on education choices later in life and face it head on and challenge it, then nothing will ever change’.
Equally important for Newton is the cultural legacy of the working class. This neatly chimes with the Hanley thesis of identity as defence. The layering of approaches to low expectation and social prejudice that condition the individual’s approach to life progress. They are, she argues, inherited from generation to generation.
Class has not gone away, it has become bound to the rocky strata of education, politics and economic behaviour. It is bound to the bedrock of inequality. It is this restraining shale which education reform should try and shatter, permanently.
To make the phrase ‘…I think we should address all underachievement’ a la Hugh Muir really mean something.
Read Lynsey Hanley’s book and explore her argument about working class culture and the enduring nature of class inequality – Respectable: The Experience of Class, Allen Lane, April 2016.
Why is class still so central to the experience of living in Britain? It is an urgent question, evaded through a kind of collective shame, but Lynsey Hanley approaches it with wit and passion.Respectable is pithy and provoking, spiced with the personal but solidly grounded in a lifetime’s experience of analysing the world around her. It is one of those valuable books that enables the reader to re-think her past and re-experience her own life. (Hilary Mantel, a review))
Flotsam: an occasional series of ideas from other places…
Bill Gates is in conversation with Nate Bowling, the Washington State Teacher of the Year for 2016 in the US. In the dialogue, the teacher tells Bill Gates that for many students learning ‘…is a matter of life and death’.
“If my students are not successful in school, they end up in the prison-industrial complex.”
The conversation reveals that in the US public school system, half the students enrolled live in poverty. With more than 70 percent of students qualifying for ‘…free or reduced price meals’.
In a separate publication Nate Bowling had published a blog article which has garnered a lot of attention. In it he declares that ‘…America does not care what happens to poor people and most black people‘. The article, entitled The Conversation I’m Tired of not Having, Mr. Bowling goes on to decry the lack of simple political will, in the US, to effect change and re-balance equity in educational opportunity and achievement.
‘Polite society has walled itself off and policymakers are largely indifferent. Better funding for schools is and will remain elusive, because middle class and wealthy people have been conditioned over the last 35 years to think of themselves as taxpayers, rather than citizens’.
In both the conversation with Bill Gates, and in his own article, Nate Bowling has some profoundly strong and supportive comments to make about teaching as a profession and the nature of the role his professional colleagues play, in the disenfranchised school system he works in.
The narrative has a strong resonance in the UK, with the laborious ebb and flow of educational policy, coupled to outcomes that continue to widen, not alleviate, the inequality gap for the many.
Bill Gates conversation with Nate Bowling originally appeared in Gates Notes. Nate Bowling’s reflection on teaching and the development of his profession originally appeared in natebowling.com .
Read both articles to get insights into the US public shool system from the perspective of a black teacher. It is interesting, and provocative, to those who would press for the continuance of the status-quo.
Using the Freedom of Information Act, the newspaper has revealed the level of taxpayer money spent on salaries, meals out, travel in comfort, private health insurance and the use of leased luxury cars.
The article reveals the expense clams of a Midlands based chain Chief Executive, who whilst drawing a salary of £180,000 p.a. leases a top of the range Jaguar car and dines in Marco Pierre White restaurants. It is a deep irony that the samed named individual is quoted as explaining how education in the UK faces stringent financial challenges and is seeking to reduce his school chain costs by £500,000.
In total, The Guardian claims, some one million pounds of public money has been spent on executives pay in the last twelve months. This tally includes one chain Chief Executive of a Trust, drawing a salary of £195,354 a year, who claims for the wi-fi costs of her French holiday home.
The Chief Executive of one Trust, The Guardian reports, which runs 12 schools, pays its chief executive and founder, a total package of £225,000, while his wife receives £175,000 as executive principal and founder.
Of more concern is the issue of ‘related party transactions’. This is where Directors of Trusts use companies, with whom they have a ‘close relationship’, to charge for services to the Trusts they are responsible for.
It is difficult, from the continuing Guardian article, to see how the Education Funding Agency (EFA), the body charged with oversight of Academy finances can have the resources, time and attention to detail to adequately police this tide of public money.
‘Academy numbers have risen from 600 to 5,000…the EFA dealt with 125% more financial returns in 2014-2015 than the previous year, despite having 20% fewer staff…’
We leave the last word to Head of Education at Unison, Jon Richards. “There are huge amounts of public money being shovelled around in the schools system, and unless the EFA ups its game, plenty of unscrupulous people out there will help themselves.”
The Sutton Trust have been tracking the progress and effectiveness of Academy chains since the inception of the Academy programme in 2000. Chain Effects 2015 is the latest updated report, superceding Chain effects 2014, which looks at questions of effectiveness and service to disadvantaged pupils.
The 2015 report tells a patchy story of delivery, and how Ofsted inspection grades actually mark a level of achievement that falls below excellent in many cases.
The report notes that, in an analysis of all secondary schools and sponsored academies, the academies achieve lower inspection grades generally. As educational entitites they are twice as likely to fall below the ‘floor standard’.
The findings across the two reports (2014 and 2015) also make noteable the contrast between ‘the best and the worst’.
It is clear that there are exceptional achievements, where schools with high attainment levels for their disadvantaged pupils have improved faster than the average, in terms of supporting disadvantaged children. However, those chains who did less well, achieved significantly worse outcomes that comparable schools, using baseline data for 2012 as a starting point for the analysis.
Where data has been captiured for pupils with low prior attainment, it is true that academy chains have been successful in ‘…significantly improving the attainment of this group, an important demonstration of value’.
Using a ‘range of government indicators‘ for attainment, it is clear that most academy chains still underperform their mainstream average ‘competitors’ in supporting disadvantaged pupils.
The report makes six main recommendations for improvement to inspection, process and delivery. They are…
The DfE should expand its pool of school improvement providers beyond academy sponsors, including developing new school-led trusts and federations…
New chains should not be allowed to expand until they have a track record of success in bringing about improvement…
Ofsted has had its ability to inspect chains extended but these fall short of the formal powers they enjoy over academies individually and other education providers. Ofsted should be empowered to undertake formal inspections of academy chains…
Agreements for new sponsors should be shortened to five years from seven. Renewal of funding agreements should only be granted where improvement has been demonstrated…
The DfE should include a measure of progress for disadvantaged pupils in their definition of coasting schools…applicable to all schools…
Sponsor chains, with a demostrable need to improve, should seek out successful practice and reflect on what their own chain could learn from this experience…
Source: The Sutton Trust http://www.suttontrust.com/researcharchive/chain-effects-2015/ Accessed: 10.07.2016
In order to map progress across the broader educational landscape you can find the detail of Chain Effects 2014 here.