Private Tuition Blog: Archive for February 2012
Posted on 29th February 2012
Today is a very special day indeed… it’s February 29th, a date that only crops up once every four years in the Gregorian calendar. As it’s so special, I thought that it was probably worth a little explore. Here’s what I have discovered about this very unusual day…
February 29th happens in almost all years that are easily divisible by 4 and 400 but not evenly divisible by 100. So there was a leap year in 2000, but not in 1900.
The extra day is added to account for the fact that over four years an extra 24 hours have happened in the sun’s journey around the earth. It’s easier to add 24 hours every four years than add six every year. In fact getting my head around how the latter would work is starting to make my mind boggle somewhat.
In some countries children born on the 29th February are considered to have their official birthdays on non leap years on 1st March (UK and Hong Kong), whereas in others the legal birth date is the 28th February (New Zealand). So if your birthday is the 29th Feb, if you were in New Zealand on February 28th and Hong Kong on 1st March you could officially celebrate your birthday twice!
Sir James Wilson, Premier of Tasmania is thought to be the only person in history who was both born on a leap day and died on one too. He was born on February 29th 1812 and died on February 29th 1880.
There are some funny traditions surrounding leap years and marriage and it is widely thought that a woman may propose to a man on February 29th. However, if he refuses he is obliged to give the woman some money or buy her a dress. According to some tales, a man must buy 12 pairs of gloves to save the woman the embarrassment of showing that she isn’t wearing a wedding ring. In Scotland, women who propose to their boyfriends on February 29th are supposed to wear red petticoats for luck. However, over in Greece it is considered unlucky to marry on February 29th. Although I can’t seem to find out why!
A ‘leap year’ is so called because hundreds of years ago it was overlooked in English law and was just ‘leapt over’ and ignored. As the day had no proper legal status a break in tradition was allowed, hence why women are permitted to propose to men.
Posted on 28th February 2012
The GCSE English curriculum has been under fire for a while now as a result of the limited number of texts that students are required to read in order to pass the examination. Many candidates only answer questions on three texts: To Kill a Mockingbird, Lord of the Flies and Of Mice and Men. While these are very important literary works, there are lots of other classic texts that deserve attention. If you want to expand your knowledge of canonical texts then why not pick up a few books from the suggestions below. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it does contain some important and really rather brilliant literary works.
I’m particularly keen on encouraging people to read novels by Dickens at the moment as this year marks the bicentenary of his birth. I’ve recently stuck into The Pickwick Papers, which I hadn’t read before and am enjoying enormously. Let us know what your newly discovered favourites are and then we can pass on further recommendations via our Twitter feed.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
The Barchester Chronicles by Anthony Trollope
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
The Crucible by Arthur Miller
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
The Diary of Anne Frank edited by Otto Frank
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Emma by Jane Austen
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Middlemarch by George Eliot
The Odyssey by Homer
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
The Prelude by William Wordsworth
The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
Vanity Fair by William Thackeray
The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
Ulysses by James Joyce
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Posted on 28th February 2012
For many years now more and more pupils have been getting better and better A Level results. This has prompted a lot of people to say that A Levels are getting easier and not long ago the controversial new A* grade was introduced to help distinguish the most academic students, as so many school leavers were attaining straight As across their subjects. But do things need to get even tougher?
The examinations watchdog Ofqual has recently ordered the British examination boards to make the English literature, history, maths and geography exams tougher as a result of concerns that students are able to get good grades in GCSE subjects without actually knowing very much at all. Education Secretary Michael Gove has been particularly vocal recently about his opinion that too many students pass exams with only a very narrow understanding of a particular subject.
The Daily Telegraph recently launched an investigation into exam boards and found evidence that examiners were giving advice to teachers on how to make their pupils achieve higher grades. This scandalous discovery has prompted a serious tightening up of regulations and hopefully things will become fairer and more transparent.
As well as foul play between examiners and teachers, the GCSE curriculum has come under attack for only asking pupils to know a few topics before sitting the exams. For example, 90% of GCSE English literature exam questions are on only three novels: Of Mice and Men, To Kill a Mockingbird and Lord of the Flies. I took my GCSEs really quite a while ago now and indeed studied two out of the three of these novels which shows how stagnant the curriculum has become.
A spokesperson for the Department of Education said to the BBC “It is vital confidence is restored in the exams system. We are committed to raising standards for all pupils.” And indeed Ofqual appear to be trying hard to improve examination standards. The Chief Executive of Ofqual, Glenys Stacey, has said, “We are tightening GCSEs in these key subjects to make sure students cover the whole curriculum. We want our young people to have the best possible educational experience, with qualifications that prepare them for the future. The exam boards have welcomed this steer from the regulator and are to look again at these qualifications and how the rules are interpreted to make sure that young people taking them have to study an appropriate range and depth of the subject.”
First on the ‘to do’ list for improvements is geography GCSE, quickly followed by maths and then history and English literature will be given their spruce-ups by September 2013. Let’s hope the changes make the courses more exciting, challenging and enriching for students and the exams fairer and more stringent.
Posted on 28th February 2012
Like all of the cuts made by the government since the coalition was elected nearly two years ago, those made to the arts sector came under a great deal of criticism. The government’s spending on the arts is extremely small in comparison with other sectors, and yet the arts are highly profitable indeed. For every £1 spent by the Arts Council, a £2 return is made. Britain is famous for producing world class musicians, theatre practitioners, film makers, actors, designers, painters and writers, and we have an extremely rich and wonderful cultural heritage. As a result of spending cuts many valuable arts projects for young people have suffered and now the authors of a government-commissioned report have officially published their opinion that cultural education is ‘patchy’ and that the government needs to take the arts in education more seriously if the longer term health of British culture is going to thrive.
Darren Henley, who is the managing director of Classic FM conducted the review off arts subjects in schools. In the report it says that ‘there remains a great deal of patchiness in provision of cultural education in England.’ Some areas of the country have excellent provision for the arts, but this is certainly not the case across the board and so things need to be evened out.
The national curriculum is currently being reviewed, and there are great concerns that the arts are going to be sidelined, lose further funding and so seriously begin to dwindle. If the arts suffer at grass roots levels in schools, then Britain’s professional cultural industries will suffer further down the line. Moreover, the arts are vital in helping young people to express themselves, gain confidence, work in teams and work creatively. It would be a terrible shame if children did not have a chance to take part in cultural activities.
The review suggests that students should continue at least one arts subject (in addition to English and History) until they are 16: “If we are to create a generation of fully rounded individuals, then the government should consider whether an education in at least one cultural subject (aside from English literature and history) to at least GCSE level should be mandatory. This could be achieved through the creation of a sixth grouping of subjects included in the English Baccalaureate. This would include cultural education subjects such as art and design, dance, drama, design technology, film studies and music.” The review explicitly states how significant the arts are and should be to young people: “All children and young people, no matter what their background or family circumstances, should have the opportunity to develop their creativity, their relationship with society and to contribute to the economy in ways that are beneficial to them as individuals and to society.” I whole heartedly agree with the opinions presented by the review and look forward to seeing what the impact of it will be.
Posted on 23rd February 2012
A few weeks ago I found myself walking through the streets of east London, from St Paul’s to the Barbican and then on to Smithfield Market. As well as discovering all sorts of amazing buildings and brilliantly named streets, I chanced upon a London museum I’d never heard of before: the Clockmaker’s Museum. The museum lodges in the Guildhall library and holds an amazing collection of horological instruments. You can find out about extraordinary clocks made in London since 1600 and see watches belonging to many famous historical figures. For more information click here.
This curious discovery led me to wonder about all the other unusual museums that must be tucked away in our wonderful city. Here are a few I’ve found out about that are on my ‘must visit’ list for the next few weeks. If you’re looking for somewhere unusual to go this weekend, why not try out one of the following…
Medical students and aspiring doctors might want to go along to the Royal London Hospital Museum in Whitechapel, where you can see all sorts of early pieces of medical equipment.
They say that the ‘eyes are the windows to the soul’, and at the British Optical Association Museum you can find out all about your peepers, the history of spectacles and even see some eyes belonging to Egyptian mummies!
The Foundling Hospital was supported by many great philanthropic figures such as Handel and Hogarth and it looked after many thousands of abandoned children. Although the original hospital has long been demolished, there’s a museum near the original site, where you can discover stories about London’s abandoned children and see an amazing collection of art and Rococo interiors.
Children and the adults who are young at heart will be delighted and tickled by Pollock’s Toy Museum.
‘Money, money, money, must be funny…’ went the lyrics to the famous ABBA song, and at the Bank of England Museum you can find out all sorts of things about the history of British currency.
The Cuming Museum in Southwark showcases the collection of the Victorian Cuming family, who gathered a fabulous variety of treasures on their travels.
Animal lovers, explorers and historians will adore the Grant Museum of Zoology, which holds hundreds of creatures and specimens, including the skeleton of a Dodo and the corpse of a Tasmanian tiger.
Have you found an exciting and unusual museum or building? Let us know, we’d love to hear from you.
Posted on 22nd February 2012
After years of build up, London 2012 is almost here. In a few months’ time the games will begin and the city will be sports crazy. Having never been terribly adept at PE at school my sports knowledge is pretty terrible, but as a resident of this year’s host city, I felt it my duty to find out a bit more about the Olympic sports…
There are 26 different Olympic sports, which are broken down into 39 individual disciplines. There are some famous ones, such as athletics, rowing and swimming, and some more unusual sports such as handball and canoe slalom. Cycling breaks down into four categories: BMX, Mountain bike, road and track, and there are three different types of gymnastics: artistic, rhythmic and trampoline.
The event that sounds most impressive (and exhausting) to me is the Modern Pentathlon. Contestants have to swim, fence, ride, shoot and run! The Modern pentathlon was championed by Baron Pierre de Coubertin (the founder of the games as we know them) and is inspired by a 19th-century legend. According to the story a French cavalry officer had to deliver an important message and in order to do so ended up riding, fencing, shooting, swimming and running (it must have been a very special message!).
One of the more unusual venues this year is the Horse Guards Parade, which will play host to Beach Volleyball. Beach Volleyball began in the 1920s and became an Olympic sport in 1996. Out of the eight gold medals awarded so far for the sport, five have gone to Americans.
Although canoes have been around for hundreds of years, the 200m-canoe sprint race is making its Olympic debut in London this year. The canoe sprint is one of the fastest races and can be over in no more than 30 seconds!
Olympic sports are full of all sorts of jargon. Here are some new words that I’ve discovered…
‘Piaffe’: a trotting movement, performed almost on the spot (to be found in Dressage)
‘Judogi’: A judo uniform
‘Parry’: A defensive move found in fencing.
I was tickled to discover that ‘Taekwondo’ translates into English as ‘the way of foot and fist’. This martial art is all about powerful kicks and punches, so it seems it is a very apt name after all.
The Iranian athlete Hossein Rezazadeh, who lifted a staggering 263.5kg in Athens in 2004, holds the Olympic weightlifting record.
According to the official London2012 website, the organisers are estimating that 2,400 footballs will be used in the Olympic football matches!
If you want to find out more about the Olympics this summer, check out the official website, which is packed with lots of great info.
Posted on 16th February 2012
Hurrah! We love half term! If you’re staying in London this February, there are lots of wonderful things to see and do. Here are a few of our favourite opportunities…
Are you excited about the imminent arrival of the new James Bond film? If you need a bit of 007 in your life before then you can go on a themed Bond Duck tour.
Cadogan Hall is just a hop and a skip away from Enjoy Education HQ and the venue is putting on a special sea-themed family concert.
Celebrate Chinese New Year at the Maritime Museum in Greenwich. They’re putting on lots of fun activities to help you celebrate in style.
Keen swimmers and artists might want to attend an event at Dear Lido where you can decorate swimming caps, make bunting and attend a tea party in Tooting.
Budding musicians have got a great chance to go to workshops led by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra at the Barbican.
Celebrate the bicentenary of Dickens’ birth by going to the fantastic Dickens and London exhibition at the Museum of London.
Curious scientists should pop along to the Grant Museum of Zoology to take a peek at some fascinating skeletons and weird and wonderful creatures.
It’s a big year for the monarchy with the Queen’s diamond jubilee and you can find out more about the famous Household Cavalry (the Queen’s official guards) at the Household Cavalry Museum.
Are you a fan of the magical and fantastical? Maybe Balthazar’s Bazaar of the Bizarre is the show for you.
Young adventurers might want to go along to Holland Park where you can go on thrilling scavenger hunts.
Posted on 16th February 2012
Our fantastic capital city is going to be in the spotlight more than ever this year with the Olympics in the summer and the many events celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. And now London has another reason to be proud this year: we’ve been ranked second in a poll of the best cities for students. London just missed out on the top spot and was narrowly beaten by Paris, but I reckon 2nd is a pretty great achievement. According to Ben Sowter - the lead researcher on the study - London has more world class universities than Paris, but came second because the city is more expensive.
We’re really lucky to have so many fantastic schools in London, many of which come consistently really high up on national league tables, and we also have a number of superb universities such as UCL, King’s, Imperial and Birkbeck. But studying at these institutions can come with a very hefty price tag, particularly for overseas students. International students often have to pay around £20,000 a year to study at universities here, whereas fees in Paris are around the £1000 a year mark.
As well as looking at the quality of the universities and teaching, the researchers looked at student lifestyles and the variety of students. Unfortunately, as well as having expensive fees, London is also a costly city to live in. Liam Burns, who is the current president of the National Union of Students, told the BBC about his concerns regarding the finances of students in London: “If London is to continue to be such an attractive place to study we need to see urgent action to address the spiralling cost of student living. It poses a real threat to the affordability of studying in the capital and therefore to the future sustainability of this world renowned status.”
The study only looked at cities with a population of 250,000 or more, so many university towns were not included in the research. However, there were other UK cities that did well in the rankings with Manchester coming 35th, Birmingham 47th and Glasgow 50th.
The list of the top ten cities for students was:
Posted on 12th February 2012
Top accounting firm, Ernst & Young recently published a survey of over 1000 university students’ employability skills and the results are fascinating. According to the study, students today are excellent at making friends, cracking jokes, and taking pride in their work, but poor at managing their time and taking risks. Students are also not good at recovering from set-backs, which made me think about Wimbledon High Schools’ ‘failure week’, in which teachers are encouraging students to learn from their mistakes and not be defeated when things don’t always go to plan. Perhaps Wimbledon’s classes in failure should be implemented in more schools and universities in order to remedy our problem with graduates who are not resilient enough.
Despite not being as resilient as employers would like, and faced with a very competitive jobs market, 87% of the students involved in the study said they felt confident about their career prospects, so it is good to see that people are optimistic even in these difficult times.
Stephen Isherwood, who is head of graduate recruitment at Ernst & Young, said in article by personnel.com, “Although it’s encouraging to see that students remain positive, in a climate of rising unemployment and fierce competition there’s absolutely no room for complacency. To get that first step on the career ladder, students need to be building their CVs with experiences that will help to develop their skills. This process needs to start at secondary school, rather than the last year of university.” He also warned “A good degree from a respected university no longer guarantees students a job. We interview more than 3,000 bright graduates every year, but only about 25% have the all-round skill set that we recruit for. Relationship development and problem solving are key attributes that we look for in our trainees. But the candidates who end up with job offers also demonstrate determination and resilience, and are able to work hard and thrive in difficult situations. We need to know that they are going to be able to cope if they are sent half way across the world to work on a client project.”
Ernst & Young and the Centre of Applied Positive Psychology have offered these ten excellent tips to graduate job seekers:
1. Take some risks and make mistakes - employers are happy to hear about when things go wrong, as long as you have learnt lessons.
2. Do something that makes a difference - don’t just focus on your studies. Employers want to see that you’ve used your drive and initiative to do more than the average.
3. Shout about your part-time jobs - if you work on a checkout you are delivering client service, in a business and working in a team
4. Develop your commercial awareness - if you want to work for a commercial organisation you need to show you are interested in business.
5. Study hard - your academic results demonstrate your intelligence, work ethic and ability to solve problems.
6. Find out what you are good at - different jobs require different strengths and you will be much more motivated and successful if you are playing to your strengths.
7. Learn to work to deadlines - we don’t live in a perfect world and you will have to deal with time, budget and resource constraints effectively.
8. Develop people skills - rarely does anyone work in a silo, you need to show you can work well with others and deliver results collaboratively.
9. Be positive - organisations want people who can deal with setbacks and overcome challenges.
10. Become self-aware - if you know what your strengths and weaknesses are, your likes and dislikes, you can grow and develop effectively.
Posted on 12th February 2012
I’ve written quite a bit on the blog about how researchers have found a strong link between students’ physical activity and academic achievements, so was intrigued to read about the Primary Movement project, which is looking at whether nine-year-olds who do a set of physical movements to nursery rhymes each day will boost pupils’ brain power.
The exercises are based on the earliest physical reflexes made by babies and foetuses whilst in the womb. The idea is to help to release these reflexes, as it’s thought that they can hold children back if certain reflexes persist throughout childhood. The nursery rhymes and songs used with the movements will probably be well known to many of the children, however the physical movements will seem unfamiliar.
The project is drawing on research down by scientists at Queen’s University in Belfast about a decade ago. The researchers found that children who do a specially designed set of exercises each day achieve better academic results because the exercises can help their central nervous system to develop and mature.
Trisha Saul, who works for Primary Movement said to Hannah Richardson at the BBC, “Teachers may notice some pupils in the classroom as being disruptive or slow or a bit clumsy, but after they have done the primary movement training they are able to see that they are slightly different, there may be something in the way they move.”
I am very interested indeed to see what the results of the study are, and who knows, in a few years’ time we may have thousands of primary school pupils moving to rhymes first thing in the morning to help boost their brainpower! Or maybe I should start working out to ‘Ba ba black sheep’ in the morning to keep my brain in gear too!