Category archives: training

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Family learning – sources of information, ideas and inspiration

De Bohun 10 - 3#

New research shows that pupils whose parents take little interest in their learning are far more likely to drop out of school than their peers – one further piece of evidence of the value of supporting family learning. I was a family literacy tutor for many years and saw first hand the massive impact a family learning approach can have not just on skills, but also on attitudes and well-being. The photo is of a session I was involved in. With several courses on family learning coming up (some of them open to all interested practitioners) I’ve been looking again at the benefits and at successful strategies for engaging parents, carers and the wider family. I have found these valuable sources of information and good practice:

Bookstart
Booktrust
Campaign for Learning
DfE Review of Best Practice in Parental Engagement
Discovering New Worlds: Linking Family Activities and Events to Further Learning
Early Literacy Practices at Home
Family Learning
Family Learning Works: The Inquiry into Family Learning in England and Wales
Family Maths Toolkit
Family Matters: The Importance of Family Support for Young People’s Reading
Getting Children to Love Reading
Kids and Family Reading Report
Kids in Museums
Learning and Work Institute
National Family Learning Network
National Literacy Trust
Quick Reads
Reading for Pleasure
Springboard Parent’s Little Guide to Helping Children Read
Talking Point
Teacher Network Top Tips for Engaging Parents in Learning
Top Marks Reading Tips
Top Tips for Engaging Dads
Words for Life

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Rhymes and rhyme times and their value

golders-green-rhyme-time-1I have lots of training coming up on supporting reading in the Early Years Foundation Stage, and on working with babies and under fives in museums. Preparing them has got me thinking again about how important rhymes and rhyme times are. Then just today, I had a request for a rhyme time course.

There’s no question that young children love rhyme times, and that parents and carers value them greatly. The photo here of a wonderful session I attended in a Barnet library demonstrates just how special they are. There is also no question about the support they give for children’s well-being, their learning and their overall development. Research and anecdotal evidence show that they benefit:

•    social skills
•    self-esteem and confidence
•    attention and concentration
•    memory
•    imagination
•    physical coordination and motor skills
•    cognitive development
•    understanding of the world
•    numeracy
•    communication skills
•    speaking and listening skills
•    literacy
•    phonological awareness
•    vocabulary
•    comprehension

Quite a list! You might also be interested to read a recent article on the value of music and rhyme for children’s literacy development and another one on how using stories, songs and rhymes can support mental health.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Diversity and inclusion in children’s literature – with some great quotes on its importance

inclusive booksIt’s the UKLA international conference this weekend. The (wonderful and important) topic is literacy, equality and diversity. I’m giving a workshop on using inclusive books with 3-7 year-olds, and I’ve been packing up lots of great books. If space and weight weren’t at a premium, I would be taking many more.

I totally agree with Alexandra Strick of Inclusive Minds: ‘A good inclusive book is never issue-led, but is characterised by a great story; fully rounded characters; incidental, natural representation of issues; authenticity.’

Malorie Blackman says; ‘First and foremost, our children need and deserve great, entertaining stories. My wish is for a more diverse pool of writers, illustrators and poets catering to our children’s needs. Our children require a more varied selection of protagonists having amazing adventures.’

I love these quotes too about the importance of diversity in children’s literature:

‘All children have a right to see themselves and their experiences reflected in the books they read, as well as having books which open up new worlds, real and imaginary. This is not about political correctness, but about the need for books that reflect the reality of children’s lives.’ Anna McQuinn

‘When children see their lives reflected in the books they read, they feel they and their lives are not invisible.’ Malorie Blackman again

‘Children need to feel they belong.’ Beverley Naidoo

‘Let’s make our bookshelves reflect the diversity of our streets.’ Phil Earle

‘Books give a child a lever with which to prise open the world.’ Amanda Craig

‘A book is a place where children can try on all the lives they haven’t got.’ Margaret Meek

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Supporting children with learning disabilities

I’ve just been putting together the handouts for a course for on effective provision and support for children with learning disabilities, a topic I feel passionate about. We will be exploring the needs of children with a wide range of learning challenges, the barriers they may face with learning and participation, and the implications, before going on to identify ways to maximise engagement, learning and enjoyment. This particular course is for a museum, but I also give lots of training on special needs for other cultural and heritage organisations, and for schools and libraries, and I find that many issues are common to all.

whistestop tourA Whistle-Stop Tour of Special Educational Needs by Clare Welsh and Rosie Williams is no longer in publication, though copies are still to be found. I have always found this section from it very pertinent and helpful:

‘As far as working with pupils with SEN is concerned, we must look at our assumptions and be prepared to challenge them.

  • the assumption that pupils will be at the same developmental starting point
  • the assumption that pupils will have the same knowledge
  • the assumption that because pupils have experienced something before, they will automatically remember it
  • the assumption that all pupils can understand the language that is being used around them
  • the assumption that pupils will have the gross or fine motor skills to carry out certain tasks
  • the assumption that all pupils enjoy social interaction
  • the assumption that all pupils will understand and respect standards of behaviour’

Wise words. Assumptions and stereotypes are dangerous things. Every child has different needs, even if they have the same diagnosis. A flexible, listening approach is vital. So is a calm environment in which every child feels safe and supported. Many children with learning difficulties have very high anxiety levels. Change, in particular, can be scary. For children on the autistic spectrum, and plenty of others, providing information – preferably with photos – in advance so they know what to expect from new experiences and new places makes a huge difference. Noise, crowds and clutter are very stressful for some. It’s great that lots of cultural and heritage organisations now offer specific activities or opening times to support children and families for whom these are a problem.

Like other children, most children with learning disabilities love getting involved. I will blog another time about inclusive participation strategies and the value of multi-sensory approaches.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Looked after children – reflections on recent training, the school role and useful links

Educational and other outcomes for looked after children are depressingly poor. While some thrive, all too many are let down by society. Last week I gave two courses on the role of the school and the designated teacher in supporting looked after children and ways to support LAC effectively, and one for carers and residential workers on the school role and how they can help children’s learning at home. All were for NSM, a training organisation I always enjoy working with.

I was immensely impressed with the dedication of everyone on all the courses – their determination to improve the well-being and educational attainment of the children and young people in their care was inspiring. There was a huge amount of good practice shared. One of the issues that came out loud and clear was the vital importance of good two-way communication, both formal and informal between school and carers, and not just at times of crisis. Aspiration was another common cause. Carers and schools must show LAC that they believe in them and have high aspirations for them, and need to put strategies in place to help LAC develop self-esteem and high aspirations for themselves. No two looked after children are the same, and all deserve individualised support. Sadly, there is still a stigma to the LAC label, so great sensitivity is crucial.

Below are some websites and reports I have found particularly useful.

I am very much looking forward to delivering more training on looked after children in the summer term. It’s a topic I feel very passionate about.

Adoption and Children in Care Update
All You Need to Know: A Guide to the Education of Looked After Children
Barnado’s
Care Leavers’ Foundation
CELCIS
Coram BAAF
Coram Voice
Educational Progress of Looked After Children
Fostering Network
Improving the Attainment of Looked After Children in Primary Schools
Improving the Attainment of Looked After Children in Secondary Schools
Looked After and Learning: Improving the Learning Journey for Looked After Children
Looked After Children
Looked After Children and Adoption
NSPCC Children in Care
Promoting the Education of Looked After Children
Rees Centre
Who Cares Trust
Young Minds

Those interested specifically in issues relating to looked after children’s reading, may also like to see this peer-reviewed article I wrote.