Tag Archives: Education

My Graduation Day

I was attempting to get to grips with video and audio editing, and feeling a little nostalgic, so I decided to work on a little project to remember my graduation last June. It’s really just a bunch of photos set to some Primal Scream music but feel free to post any comments/criticisms in the section below. Ta.

P.S. I know it looks really cheesy, but just wait until your graduation day. It’s one of the best, and saddest, days you will ever experience.

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/)

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/)

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/)

Don’t Let Exams Get You Down

It’s that time of year… coursework has been finished and handed in, the Easter Holidays are about to start and summer is only just around the corner. So everything’s great… right?

Wrong.

For students across the country this is probably the worst time of year for one reason and one reason only. Exams. Silly, stupid, stressful exams.

Yep that’s right exams are looming right behind the end of the Easter holidays for many of us here at Glasgow University. If you’re not already it won’t be long before you’re tearing your hair out or crying in frustration because you can’t find that set of notes that have suddenly become vital in your revision and without them you will, most definitely, fail everything.

The tears, the rants, the screams and even the panic attacks- I have experienced them all, from myself or from my friends. I understand the pain of exam stress.

The thing is we all laugh and joke about them, about how little we know and how we’ve done no revision and how we are completely and utterly screwed, maybe hoping that our smiles will hide the fact that we are freaking out on the inside.

Maybe you aren’t like that; maybe you are chilled out and confident about the upcoming assessments. However, I know, from personal experience, that this isn’t often the case.

Exam stress has become a far more serious and noticed issue in the last few years. The pressure students are under, either from themselves or from others has only increased if anything, making the weight of exam time all the heavier. It’s fine to joke but when students stress themselves out to the point of depression or panic attacks or worse, then things get a little less laughable.

So what’s the point in me getting all serious about this? After all you don’t need anything more to bring you down at this time of year and exam stress is an inevitable part of student life.

But we should all be aware of the potential detriments. Student Beans found in a survey of 1000 students that it affects a fair few even enough affect their health. They discovered that 92% of students said they felt worried during exam time whilst one fifth revealed they had suffered anxiety attacks before their exams as a result of the stress. Furthermore 61% cited lack of sleep or insomnia as a result of their worry, 51% claimed to suffer from headaches and migraines and 47% admitted turning to food to relieve their stress (53% obviously lied about that one).

There are even those that begin to suffer from depression as a result of the intensity of the exam period.

So, as we all knew, exams are not fun and games, in fact they are seriously stressful and can affect a student’s health and mental well-being.

So as hard as it is don’t let exams get you down. Do your best not to cry, scream or have a panic attack, either before the exam or during it, and having to be led out of the exam hall (that actually happened to a friend of mine last year). Get through them and I’ll see you for a drink on the other side.

-Claire Flynn

-Image courtesy of Xavi (https://www.flickr.com/photos/18614695@N00/)