Tag Archives: Claire Flynn

Is the Rise of E-Books Detrimental to Children’s Education?

A recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers has suggested that the E-Book will outsell print by 2018. According to the research, 50% of the UK population will own an iPad, Kobo, Kindle or similar e-reader device by 2018. It seems the allure of being able to cart around all your favourite books in a small, lightweight object has won over the pleasurable, but impractical, old-fashioned way of lugging around hard-copies in your backpack.

I, personally, still refuse to turn to the dark side and begin reading novels or short stories or even poems off a Kindle. I am too in love with the notion of sitting down with a paper book and turning the pages with my hands. However, I have, finally, accepted that for many people using an electronic device is a far easier way to read and many will see it as the natural progression of the writing and publishing industry.

In any case, it is undoubtedly better for people to be reading off a screen than not reading at all.

The one real area of concern I have, as do others, is the effect of the e-book on early years reading and education. As it becomes more popular it is likely parents may abandon trips to the bookshop or library in order to fill up the bookshelf, and simply read bedtime stories from an iPad.

Now reading to your child from any medium is great for their development. Plus these devices often have interactive settings, making the stories more entertaining and appealing for young kids.

However, the National Literacy Trust have recently come out with statistics that indicate that the printed word is still better than the electronic one in terms of early years literacy education. As early years education has been proven to be increasingly important, parents should be aware of this fact.

So while reading to your child in any ways is an excellent way to spend time together, it might be worth continuing to make the odd trip to the library to pick out a book for bedtime.

-Claire Flynn

-Image courtesy of unten44 (https://www.flickr.com/photos/unten44/)

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How Can We Eliminate Disadvantage in Education?

It’s graduation season and across the country students are leaving the realm of education behind, dressed in flowing black robes. For those graduating from a top university, it is likely to be one of the proudest days of their lives.

However, recent research may put a damper on the celebrations as it has been revealed that a child’s background can be a bigger deciding factor than their academic ability in how likely they are to get into top universities. A study suggests that around 2000 of the brightest but poorest children miss out on places at top universities. Even the highest performers may lose out to less-able but better-off pupils. Labour MP Alan Milburn claims we are “wasting young talent on an industrial scale.”

Disadvantage within the education systems across Britain has been widely examined and criticised in recent years. There has been much concern over the gap between deprived and better-off children, which can often become further and further exacerbated as they make their way through the schooling system.

While the problem has been identified, a solution has not.

It has been asserted that the education we receive in the first five years of our life is vitally important in our later academic achievement. A focus on preschool education, therefore, is an excellent way to develop children’s educational skills from the beginning allowing them an advantage in later life, possibly allowing them to attend a top university.

What do you think? How are we best able to eliminate such disadvantage in our schooling system to ensure children get to the universities they deserve?

-Claire Flynn

-Image courtesy of Richard Lee (https://www.flickr.com/photos/70109407@N00/)

Children’s Stories Need a Little Darkness

In recent years many theories have been offered to explain the increasing gap in literacy skills between girls and boys. One of the more interesting ones is that, as time has gone on, children’s books have become more and more cautious about being child- friendly. In other words the scary bits are being eliminated and boys are less attracted to reading as a result. I firmly believe that children’s stories need a little darkness, not just to encourage boys to read, but girls also, and to teach our children some important life lessons.

When I was a child I was terrorised by the idea of Little Rabbit Foo Foo being turned into a goonie. I tried to avoid being forced to bathe for a month after reading Roald Dahl’s The Witches. Even the family-friendly chant We’re Going on a Bear Hunt culminates in the family running for their lives after their search turns out to be successful.

The darker elements of these books scared me… but they also enticed me. I begged my parents to read me my favourite twisted tales. As I got older I would read well past my bedtime, unable to put books down, especially at the scary parts.

Books are there to entertain, but also, most of the time, to translate real life lessons to children. Little Rabbit Foo Foo taught me from not to be mean to others because it would come back to you. The Witches taught me not to trust strangers and We’re Going on a Bear Hunt taught me to… er… not hunt bears? You get the point.

By forcing sugar, spice and all things nice down the throats of children, we may not only be diminishing their interest in books, particularly boys, but also neglecting to teach them some pretty important lessons through fantasy that they will inevitably come across in reality. When they do they will not be cushioned by the stories they were told as a child.

Stories don’t just teach us that evil exists but that it can be defeated. Without that lesson, the ‘badness’ we are attempting to protect our children from may become undefeatable.

-Claire Flynn

-Image courtesy of Manchester City Library (https://www.flickr.com/photos/manchesterlibrary/)

Graduates are not the Solution

The Nuffield Foundation’s research recently found that the attainment gap between deprived and privileged children is exacerbated by private and voluntary nurseries in deprived areas, which are of lower quality than those in privileged areas. The gap is widest in language skills. As children who live in deprived areas are less likely to obtain  as much early years education at home, this means that those who are most in need of good quality education at nursery are less likely to receive it, leaving them at a double disadvantage, the researchers have discovered.

The assertion from the Nuffield Solution was that this problem is due to a lack of graduates in these nurseries. Whereas half of all school classes are led by graduate-qualified teachers, less than half of private and voluntary nurseries employ one and only 8 percent employ more than one. The team of researchers, led by Sandra Mathers, came to the conclusion that private and voluntary nurseries should hire more graduates in order to ensure children are receiving better levels of early years education, which should help to lessen attainment gaps.

However, this is not a comprehensive solution to this complex problem. While nurseries are to receive additional funding from the Government this year, it is unfair to pressure them to use valuable funds on graduate salaries when they are often struggling as it is, particularly in deprived areas. This additional funding is likely to be needed for other things.

Furthermore, the simple addition of one or two graduates to a nursery is unlikely to be enough to improve the early years education. What would be far more effective is to ensure that every member of staff receives a degree of training to ensure they are able to offer high quality early years education to children, in order to improve their literacy and numeracy skills. It would be far more worthwhile attempting this, for every member of staff feeling qualified to teach children would be much better than leaving it to one or two.

While I am concerned about the attainment gap and the problems of education in nurseries, I do not believe pressurising nurseries to use their funds for one or two graduates is necessarily the answer. They should be encouraged, instead, to ensure that all their staff feel capable and qualified to provide good quality education to children.

-Claire Flynn

-Image courtesy of Simone Ramella (https://www.flickr.com/photos/ramella/)

Nationalism and Diversity is Needed in our Reading

I’m going to go against the grain here and say I can, to an extent, understand Michael Gove’s recent encouragement for the GCSE syllabus to focus more on English novels, despite the abuse he has received for the action. Growing up in Edinburgh, I was always a little annoyed at the fact we got very few Scottish texts despite the plethora of excellent Scottish authors out there. We got Tennessee Williams, J. D. Salinger and Seamus Heaney but rarely Robert Louis Stevenson, Liz Lochhead or Lewis Grassic Gibbon. I wound up doing my Advanced Higher dissertation on William McIlvanney and I chose Scottish Literature over English Literature in my first year of University, feeling that my studies had otherwise been absent of a nationalist influence.

So if there is a consensus that teenagers in England are not reading enough English literature then it makes sense to alter the syllabus to focus on English authors, poets and playwrights, right?

The problem is, along with everyone else, including Meera Syal, one of the new English authors on the syllabus, I do find the exclusion of certain American authors strange and rather hard to comprehend. While I always felt a bit miffed at the lack of Scottish texts used in my school, it did not stop be from being devastated by the demise of the delicate Blanche Dubois in Tennessee Williams’ To Kill A Mockingbird, touched by the journey of the lost Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye and falling in love with the noble ideals of Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird.

These varied texts were so important in my teenage years, that I cannot imagine school kids going through high school without reading them, particularly those interested in studying literature to a higher level.

While I understand the desire for nationalism in syllabuses, there is also a need for diversity in our reading, especially in our younger years. We should offer our children and teenagers a variety of literature from different authors with different backgrounds, to afford them the same pleasures we had from reading our favourite books for the first time.

-Claire Flynn

-Image courtesy of Netzanette (https://www.flickr.com/photos/netzanette/)

Flipping Fairy Tales

Disney’s latest blockbuster Maleficent starring Oscar-winner Angelina Jolie is causing a bit of a stir amongst the masses by alleging that one of the most terrifying creatures in children’s stories is more of a victim than a villain.

Flipping fairy tales and children’s stories has become pretty fashionable in recent years, with several films and books looking at them from ‘the other side’ portraying the bad guys as not that bad and the good guys as not that good. Wicked began the trend with it’s opening assertion that ‘No One Mourns the Wicked’ before explaining the true, rather devastating, story of the Wicked Witch of the West. And let’s not forget about Disney’s latest success story, Frozen, which transformed the infamous Ice Queen into a loving sister who was oppressed by her parents and terrified of her own powers.

Part of me is irritated by this latest trend. When I was younger the appeal of reading and going to watch films, plays and pantomimes was the knowledge that you would have a good guy to support and cheer for and a bad guy to hate and jeer at. It was simple. It taught me that there are always going to be villains, but that there will also always be heroes to defeat them.

But a much larger part of my recognises that this is a silly way to see it. These reformed stories convey that, most of the time, the bad people haven’t been bad their whole life and the way they have turned out isn’t necessarily their fault. They also show that good people aren’t perfect, and can have far darker sides. They reveal that while the hero defeating the villain is necessary, it is not something we should all be entirely happy about.

In life, people that you love will let you down and those you hate may be the ones to come through for you in the end. It doesn’t matter how much you don’t like someone, you will never relish their downfall, for they are a human being too. These lessons are ones we should be teaching children. While they are confusing and, perhaps, not as satisfying, they will prepare them for later life.

For while we may enjoy teaching our children stories of monsters, we should try to remind them that monsters were once people too.

-Claire Flynn

-Image courtesy of Global Panorama (https://www.flickr.com/photos/121483302@N02/)

Dads, Please Read to Your Kids

I have just finished a degree at the University of Glasgow in History and Politics. I am an aspiring journalist, having just finished my time as editor-in-chief of a student magazine. I also recently completed an internship for a company that develops literacy programmes for nurseries.

If you haven’t already guessed my passion in life is reading and writing. I still regard this passion of mine as being down to my dad. One day he arrived home from a business trip with a book entitled ‘When I Was Little’, and at bedtime he read it to me. He did this every night for a few weeks, but with subtle changes. He got me to read it with him, we spelt the words and even acted out the story in my room. It wasn’t long before I was able to read it myself but I was having so much fun I decided to pretend I still couldn’t read, so that our bedtime story sessions would continue. He clocked me pretty quickly (subtlety isn’t a particularly common trait in three-year-olds) and our formal reading lessons were over.

However, when one door closes another opens so we began to read as a family, with my sisters and I viewing every new story as an adventure, making obstacle courses in our hallway, pretending to be princesses, witches and explorers with our beds invariably acting as castles, caves or temples. Every new book given to us brought new settings, characters and words to devour.

In my time researching for my recent internship, however, I have discovered the heart-breaking fact that, as time goes on, it seems fathers are less and less interested in reading to their children. Book Trust’s national survey last year showed that only 19 percent of 19 to 24-year-olds enjoyed reading to their children compared to 78 percent of over-55s. It seems that the notion of dads reading to their kids is fast falling out of fashion. Despite the overall increase in men taking part in child-related activities, mothers are still more likely to engage in reading and writing with their children.

In recent years it has also become increasingly apparent that early years education is vital for a child’s skills in the future, and, as well as nurseries and childcare centres, both parents are an integral part of that. Furthermore, studies have shown that children can benefit specifically from a male role model when it comes to reading and writing. Boys, in particular, are more likely to be interested in reading if their dads are. With the gender gap still persisting in literacy skills, and an increasing lack of interest in reading and writing generally, it is becoming more important for fathers to make the effort to read to their kids.

It should not, however, just be seen as a chore or something you must do in order to ensure your child is better at school or more employable in the future. It should be seen as the chance to open doors into untold realms containing heroes and villains, great battles and beautiful balls. It should be the chance to watch what happens when you light the fire of a child’s imagination. It should be the chance to get to know your son or daughter.

So next bedtime, enlist the help of Julia Donaldson, Dr. Seuss, Roald Dahl or any other of the many brilliant children’s authors, to go on a journey with your child to unknown kingdoms. They are adventures they will remember forever- trust me on that one.

-Claire Flynn

-Image courtesy of H is for Home (https://www.flickr.com/photos/h_is_for_home/)

An Unlucky Day for the GUHC

The Glasgow University Hockey Club were hoping for a day of dreams on the 5th of March when three out of the seven teams took to the mighty fortress of Garscube to play in important BUCS matches. However, that was not to be, as each team, unfortunately, walked away suffering a loss.

The GUWHC 2nd XI were the first to take to the pitch against the Edinburgh 3s. It was the semi-final of the BUCS Conference Cup meaning both teams came out fighting from the start. Edinburgh took the lead but Julia McGovern of Glasgow quickly scored an equaliser. However, Edinburgh managed another goal, which, despite their best efforts, the Glasgow girls were not able to match meaning the final score was 2-1 to Edinburgh.

The GUWHC 4th XI were the next to take to the pitch in the BUCS Conference Plate semi-final. The girls were entered the match with some confidence due to their high number of victories this year. However, the St. Andrews 3rd XI proved to be a formidable opponent. While this match again proved to be fairly even, St. Andrews clung to their lead in the final minutes of the game resulting in a 3-2 victory.

The GUMHC 1st XI were the last to play on the day in the BUCS Conference semi final. The was the most intense game of the day as it was against local rivals, the Strathclyde 1st XI. Again, it was a close and evenly paced match that saw the whistle blow with the two sides drawing at 3 goals to 3. In the end it went to penalty flicks, which Glasgow narrowly lost to their opponents on.

While the scores may have been disappointing for the GUHC on the day, the high standard of hockey, hard-work and dedication of the players is something to be proud of. There was also an incredible number of black and yellow supporters cheering from the sideline. While the teams may have not progressed further in their competitions, they still proved themselves as one of the most successful sports clubs on campus.

-Claire Flynn

Can You Make It?

I loved going travelling a couple of years back. Setting off to South East Asia with my uni pals made me feel independent, cultured and experienced- I have still not stopped talking about it. The only thing we had pre-booked was our flight to Bangkok and from then we were free to go as we pleased, crashing wherever we could and doing whatever we wanted.

However, in classic Gap Yah fashion, my seven weeks of travelling were cushioned by the knowledge that I had a bank card in my back pocket with wealthy parents that could transfer money at a moment’s notice. And with a smartphone in the other pocket I was in constant touch with my, rather overprotective, mummy and daddy. In seven weeks I didn’t go longer than two days without being in touch with one of them via text or email.

Red Bull, the caffeinated hyper drink that can give you wings, is offering people the chance for an adrenaline funded travelling experience, asking teams to see how far they can get across Europe using only the cans of sugary goodness as currency. Not only a clever marketing strategy, this ‘Can You Make It?’ competition offers people a true character-building holiday.

Red Bull don’t just limit it to no money, however. The code of honour forbids personal mobile phones and pre-arranged travel, forcing participants in the competition to use their powers of persuasion to get from place to place.

In a world where we rely on mobile phones and bank cards to live, it seems that this task is near impossible. Who would accept a can of red bull in exchange for a train ticket?

These kind of stunts scare the shit outta me. I get freaked out trying to fly down to London on my own. My seven weeks in Asia were hard enough even when I was armed with my Blackberry and bank card. However, there is something so tempting in this offer from Red Bull because it seems so difficult. The teams that are able to complete such a difficult journey would come out of the end mature, strengthened and with tons of cool stories to tell.

So each participating team travels across Europe using only cans of Red Bull for currency. Teams visit checkpoints, share photos and videos, via a prescribed team phone, and rally support from followers at home. The finish line is in Berlin- the teams that complete the adventure on time will be greeted with the party of a lifetime. The deadline for applications is Wednesday the 12th of March so what are you waiting for? If you think you can make it, then get involved. All the details can be found here: http://www.redbullcanyoumakeit.com/.

-Claire Flynn

-Image courtesy of Sterling Ely (https://www.flickr.com/photos/sterlingely/)

Student Elections at Glasgow University

I remember this time last year very well- the beginning of my fight for Libraries Convener. I was starting my daily (private) routine of crying hysterically in my room whilst punching my pillow at the same time. In public, however, I was all smiles. I soon had people spamming my manifesto and slogans across FaceBook and Twitter, alike. I even put a video of me dressed as Hagrid on YouTube in the hope of winning over a few extra people.

The year before last I was gearing up to help no less than five of my friends campaign to get their chosen position. The stress over whose profile picture I was going to use was intense. I eventually wound up swapping between my friends. On the actual days of the campaign I was out till the end, cold and miserable, flyering and chucking sweets at people just wanting to get to class. Everyone hated me.

In my first year, I was naive, sweet and innocent, with no idea of the kind of social media and campus frenzy student elections caused. I was still minding my own business and heading to class when the first pack of Haribo hit me in the face.

My point it this: whether you are going to be one of the innocent, unaware passer-bys on the day of elections, you will be throwing yourself right into the action by campaigning for one or numerous friends or you will be daring to run for a position yourself the upcoming student elections will affect you in some way. So let me give you the basics of the student bodies and their elections:

The Student Representative Council (SRC)

If you are a student at the University of Glasgow (which I’m assuming all of you reading this are) then you can vote in these elections, and you should. These guys represent the student body to the University and also help cater to many student interests and needs. With the dark days of Chizzy and Stuart Ritchie now past them the SRC have grown from strength to strength in recent years. This year the council, and particularly the sabbatical positions, prove to be hotly contested. And did I mention you can vote online? You don’t even need to leave your bed to have your say.

Glasgow University Sports Association (GUSA)

All gym members are eligible to vote in this one. These are the guys that represent student sporting interests to the SRS and do their best to ensure Glasgow University students have the best sporting opportunities possible. Last year positions on council were highly contested, with 7 out of the 12 positions opposed. Will this year be the same? There is already rumoured to be a presidential battle on the cards, automatically making it an interesting year for GUSA elections.

Queen Margaret Union (QMU)

Over the hill at the other Union, the QMU elections will take place. You must be a member of the QMU to vote in the elections. Pissed off about the name change of Cheesy Pop? Vote in someone that will change it back. Last year’s election was a mixed success for the QMU. Although many of the higher up positions were contested, there were some positions left unfilled and the voter turnout was rather disappointing compared to the other student bodies. What will this year have in store for the Queen Margaret Union?

Glasgow University Union

And lastly we have GUU’s Board of Management. You have to be a GUU member to vote in these elections. The Board run all the major events, deals and promotions at the Union so if you are a member you need to make your vote count. The difficult year behind the Union will doubtfully get better over the next so it is critical that a hard-working and innovative Board of Management is elected. Last year GUU elections were largely uncontested with only the PSM positions and Libraries Convener (just my luck) opposed but what will this year bring?

So read manifestos and make your vote count- it is likely one or more of these student bodies will matter a lot to you and your uni lifestyle. If you are a campaigner, try not to feel guilty about harassing people- you are doing it to help friends and ensure student involvement with elections. Lastly, good luck to those choosing to run for a position. As stressful and emotional the next month will be- it is all worth it in the end.*

*Please note that this is from a winner’s perspective. I have no idea how it feels to lose but I imagine it may not feel as worth the tears, money and time spent on campaigning.

-Claire Flynn

-Image courtesy of Chris Kueh (https://www.flickr.com/photos/chriskueh/)