Private Tuition Blog: Archive for March 2012
Posted on 30th March 2012
Although it’s hard to believe, given the bad press about Britain’s numerical skills at the moment, the number of students studying A Level maths is at a 35 year high. Yet fewer people study maths up to 18 in Britain than in any other developed country and millions of Britons struggle with even basic calculations. The Department of Education is extremely keen to improve the situation and the plans to make maths compulsory for students up to the age of 18 are now well under way.
The changes are being spearheaded by Sir John Holman, who is the senior education adviser to the Wellcome Trust and emeritus professor of Chemistry at York University. Holman told the Sunday Times “we need a qualification that is at the level of A-level but is designed for people who are going on to study a subject which is likely to be more in the medical, biological and social sciences than in the engineering and physical sciences – which is what the present A-level is eminently suited to.”
There are concerns at the moment that the current maths A-level is not as useful as it could be to people going onto study subjects other than pure maths at university, but who will require mathematical skills. According to the new plans, students will be able to choose from a variety of maths qualifications, so that they can study the subject in a way that will be most useful to them, according to their particular needs and ambitions.
I think that it is fantastic that there will be different options for students, rather than everyone having to do exactly the same qualification. As far as I’m concerned, ‘one size fits all’ does not work at all in the world of education, and so I sincerely hope that the new reforms will be hugely beneficial to all students.
Posted on 30th March 2012
After a hectic term it can be extremely hard to find the motivation to do homework and revision over the Easter holidays, particularly when the weather is so nice and it’s unbelievably tempting to just go and eat ice cream in the park. However, it is really important that as well as relaxing and having some fun, you get some coursework and revision done. The summer exams will come by sooner than you know it, and it is a terrible idea to leave all of your revision until the last minute. To help you to focus and get motivated, here are some little bits of advice that might assist in inspiring you.
1. Wake up early and get your work done in the morning.
Now that it is officially spring and there is more light and warmth it is easier to get out of bed. There are fewer distractions in the morning, I tend to find anyway, and your brain will be more alert and ready for action. Once you’ve got some work done then you can go out and do other things, and you won’t have the thought of revision hanging over you.
2. Make a realistic schedule.
It would be impossible and not at all efficient if you tried to revise too much all in one day. If you make a realistic and manageable schedule that you can stick to then you won’t feel too overloaded.
3. Arrange treats for after a work session.
Book fun activities or arrange to meet friends/go and get a frozen yoghurt/smoothie/other yummy treat of choice to reward yourself. If you arrange things in advance then you’ll have them to look forward to.
4. Think of creative ways to work.
Is there somewhere you can visit or something that you can do/see that will help you but that doesn’t feel like traditional homework. Seeing a foreign film will help with languages, visiting historical sights might help with a history project and go to galleries to inspire your art homework.
5. Set yourself targets.
Whether it’s getting an A, or just improving your essay writing skills, or being able to speak enough Italian to converse when you go on holiday, setting yourself a target can be a great way to help motivate you, otherwise revision can just feel like you’re doing it for the sake of it.
6. Get some help!
A tutor will be able to help inspire and motivate you and keep you company along your journey towards the exams. Academic work can feel lonely, but a tutor will save you from being all alone and will be able to guide and assist you.
Posted on 25th March 2012
What a glorious weekend we’ve had! I have been so enjoying admiring all of the gorgeous daffodils that have sprung up all over the place and have also been munching (probably too many) hot cross buns.
If you’re looking for some fun things to do and make over the holidays, here are some suggestions for you…
-Make your own daffodils using green straws, card and yellow crepe paper.
-Make a family of Easter bunnies by cutting rabbit shapes out of card, decorating them with beads, bits of material and sequins.
-You can create delicious Easter nests by melting chocolate, mixing in mashed up shredded wheat cereal and then forming little nests in cupcake cases. Once they’ve set, put in some small chocolate eggs. Yummy!
-Here’s a great hot cross bun recipe adapted from one by the Guardian’s Dan Lepard:
Ingredients: 150ml apple juice at room temperature, 1 7g sachet fast-action yeast, 75g wholemeal flour, 150g double cream, 4 tsp mixed spice, 2 medium eggs, 50g honey, 300g mixed dried fruit, 400g strong white flour, 25g cornflour, 1 tsp salt, Oil for kneading
For the cross: 150g plain flour_50ml sunflower oil_125ml water
For the spice glaze: Half a tsp mixed spice and 25g caster sugar
Mix the cider, yeast and wholemeal flour in a bowl and leave to bubble for 30 minutes. In a saucepan, whisk the cream, spice, egg and honey, put over a low heat and stir until just warm, about blood heat. Pour into the yeast mix and add the dried fruit. In another bowl, stir the flour, cornflour and salt, add the yeast mixture, combine to a soft, sticky dough and leave for 10 minutes.
Lightly oil a worktop, and gently knead the dough for 10 seconds. Return to the bowl, cover and leave somewhere warm for an hour, until risen slightly. Divide into 12 roughly 100g pieces, shape into balls and put on a tray lined with nonstick paper. Cover and leave to rise somewhere warm until almost doubled.
Mix the cross ingredients and spoon into a piping bag with a plain 0.75cm nozzle. Heat the oven to 220C (200C fan-assisted)/425F/gas mark 7, pipe crosses on the buns and bake for 15-18 minutes. Remove and leave until almost cool. Boil the spice, sugar and 25ml water until syrupy, brush over the buns and they’re ready to roll.
-Make some beautiful decorations by boiling an egg and then painting it with jolly patterns.
-Set up an Easter egg hunt for your friends. Make sure you remember how many eggs you’ve hidden though!
Posted on 25th March 2012
Before making big decisions it’s always a good idea to think things through thoroughly. There’s a time and a place for spontaneity, but on the whole I’ve found that education-related decisions need particularly careful consideration.
While it’s one thing to make decisions about your own life, making decisions that will directly involve other people is a whole other ball game, and sometimes we need a little help before landing on a particular choice.
Over the weekend I read that the Daycare Trust is going to publish an invaluable guide for parents who are in the process of finding the right childminder or nursery for their children. Ofsted do inspect nurseries, but their categories are very broad (‘outstanding’, ‘good’, ‘satisfactory’ and ‘poor’), so arguably not specific enough to be really helpful for parents. Sandra Mathers, who is a lead researcher at Oxford University’s Department of Education told the BBC’s Judith Burns, “Ofsted grades cannot necessarily be relied upon as a complete measure of quality, and may need to be completed by other measures”.
The Daycare Trust’s guide will be published on Tuesday, but here is a preview of some of the questions that they suggest that parents consider when looking for the right nursery:
How well qualified are staff?
What is the daily routine?
What if my child is unhappy?
Will my child’s culture be reflected?
Can I get involved?
How will I hear about my child’s progress?
What about emergencies?
What if I am late picking up?
What is the food like?
What about special needs?
Where do children sleep or rest?
Can I afford the cost?
It’s also a great idea to talk to as many parents with children currently at nursery school to find out about their experience of a particular nursery. However, what’s right for one child won’t suit another, so even if another parent raves about a certain nursery, make sure that you’re confident that it’s the best place for your kids.
Posted on 20th March 2012
My freshers’ week feels like aeons ago and it hovers in my memory as a blur of trying to remember people’s names, filling in forms, getting to grips with all sorts of college jargon and attending a whole host of fancy dress parties and events. I don’t think we even had a full week as we arrived on a Sunday and lectures began on Thursdays but it was probably a good thing, as there’s only so much ‘organised fun’ one can handle, or maybe that was just me. Students at Bristol University were outraged when plans to shorten freshers’ week were suggested, so for some people there really is a healthy desire for as many themed events as possible.
Bristol Union’s vice-president for education, Josh Alford was quoted in an article by Miles Coleman for the Guardian defending freshers’ week with the statement, “is a vital time for students to settle into a new environment, make new friends, get to know a new city and generally acclimatise to a whole new environment, one which many have not experienced before.” I agree that these are all important parts of freshers’ week, but equally no body is expected to fully do all of these things in just five days. The process of getting used to a new city and settling in takes longer than a week, surely?
Coleman argued that, freshers’ week is completely different to the rest of university life: ‘Ask any student and they will tell you that freshers’ is the only time when everybody talks to everybody, without any social hang-ups or pretensions. There is definitely something that changes once it is over. Cliques begin to form. The very large rugby boys all end up together endlessly discussing the complexities of protein powder. Girls studying English flock together in a sea of berets and roll-up cigarettes.’ I have to disagree here; it is absolutely not the case that for five blissful days everyone talks to everyone and then on the 6th day the social groups ossify forever. There will always be people who only feel comfortable talking to people that they have lots in common with and so form certain cliques early on, but university also exposes you to people from different parts of the country and backgrounds and many people will make new friends who are very unlike their old school groups back at home. It also takes times to find people you really connect with at university, and although I am still friends with people I met in my first week, many of my best friends from university are people I met in my second and third years.
One of the reasons Bristol University wanted to curb freshers’ week is due to concerns about the amount of alcohol that is consumed before term starts. But with nervous students in awkward social situations, often at least a pint of beer is going to be reached for. Moreover, it’s hardly like the drinking stops as soon as lectures begin, and I can’t imagine seeing an alcohol-free freshers’ week appearing at a university near you anytime soon. Although I think that it is important for organisers to plan events where the sole purpose is not to get completely sozzled with alcohol.
What are your thoughts on freshers’ week? Should Bristol have ignored the students’ petition and cut it short, or should universities preserve it in its current form?
Posted on 19th March 2012
The Easter holidays are a great time to eat chocolate, go for spring walks and appreciate daffodils; you definitely need to spend some time relaxing after a busy term, but it is also highly advisable to get some valuable revision done in preparation for the summer examinations, whether you’re sitting GCSEs, A Levels, finals, or internal school exams.
Although the exams may still feel like aeons away, you’ll be amazed at how fast they’ll come around the corner, and leaving all of your revision until May half term and study leave is far from sensible. As well as reducing the quality of your work, too much last minute revision will also cause you unnecessary stress and anxiety.
There’s no need to go totally overboard and revise all day every day over the Easter period, but a couple of hours a day will put you in really great stead for when things need to go up a gear in the middle of next term.
I would advise getting into a routine where you spend a few hours each morning going through key topics that you are going to need to have an in depth knowledge of for the exams. Pick a different area or text each day and spend a few hours making notes and diagrams, composing mnemonics and revision cards. I always used to find Easter a great time to make lots of revision materials that would also really help me out when I came to do lots of serious revision in the weeks leading directly up to the exams. If you get your revision done in the morning you can then spend the rest of the day enjoying yourself doing lovely holiday activities.
As always, the usual revision rules apply. The key things to remember are…
- You need to keep your notes in good order and stay organised
-Make a list of what you need to revise and tick things off as you go along
-Break things down into manageable chunks as it is impossible to do everything all at once
-Find a variety of ways to revise in order to keep your brain stimulated
-Take breaks (NB. Going for a quick stroll is a good idea, but watching three episodes from your favourite box set isn’t)
-Look after yourself by getting plenty of sleep, exercise and eat healthy food
-Test your knowledge by doing past papers and practice essays
If you are feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of revising alone, or if you just need a bit of help with a few subject areas, you can always give Enjoy Education a call and we will find the right person to give you a hand. There’s no denying that preparing for examinations is tough, and there’s absolutely no need to go through the process alone!
Posted on 19th March 2012
With the right preparation there are all sorts of things that you can achieve, and the way you prepare for challenges and experiences is absolutely key. It would be far from sensible to run a marathon without doing any training, sit an exam without doing any revision, or go on holiday without packing the right clothes, for example. There are some things that you can’t prepare for, and some that you can prepare for a bit, but have to allow for a certain amount of surprise and unexpected challenges. I am a real believer in finding the best ways to equip yourself for situations, tasks and opportunities, and I was intrigued to read about a school in Hackney that’s come up with an unusual way of trying to help pupils prepare for Oxbridge interviews…
Brooke House Sixth Form College is a state-run college in east London which has recently spent £10,000 making over one of the rooms in their building to make it resemble The Red Room, a professor’s study at Pembroke College, Oxford.
The principal of Brooke House, Ken Warman, said that the idea behind the transformation was to “give our students every opportunity to be properly prepared.” Three quarters of the pupils at his college come from families where no member has attended university before, and many of the pupils will have spent their academic lives so far in modern buildings. As a result, Warman believes that his pupils can be intimidated by the interiors of Oxbridge colleges, - many of which are hundreds of years old – and so not perform as well as they could at interviews.
A number of Brooke House pupils have aspirations of attending either Oxford or Cambridge and many are impressed by the transformation of the room at their college, where they will be able to spend time and get used to the previously unfamiliar interior style. Student Luke Pearce told the BBC, “The red room’s amazing. It’s elegant and beautiful. Just stepping in makes you feel quite inspired and privileged,” and Asta Diabate said, “It’s like stepping into university when we get there, it’s a completely different setting.”
Familiarity with antique furniture alone is not going to ensure that you are awarded an Oxbridge place, but if the Red Room inspires and motivates Brooke House pupils, and gives them greater confidence, then I think that the money will have been well spent.
Has your school done something unusual to help you to prepare for exams and/or interviews? Or have you got a quirky idea for getting ready for any type of interview? We’d love to hear from you if so.
Posted on 19th March 2012
I was extremely concerned when the government decided that it was no longer compulsory for GCSE pupils to study a modern language. Brits are famously lazy when it comes to learning languages and are notorious for expecting everyone else to be able converse with them in English, regardless of where they are from. Over recent years the number of pupils studying foreign languages has been steadily declining, but magically and encouragingly there has been a recent surge in language students. However, this has led to a shortage of language teachers, and there is now an urgent drive to recruit and train more language teachers in order to deal with the new demand. The Training and Development Agency (TDA) has set a target to train 1,575 language teachers this year after it was revealed that the number of pupils taking a foreign language at GCSE next year has leapt from 22% to 52%.
The English Baccalaureate has been credited with the responsibility for the surge in demand, as pupils are required to study certain subjects in order to fulfil the English Bacc requirements.
In order to attract more teachers, bursaries of around £20,000 are being offered to excellent linguists who want to train as teachers and the chief executive of the TDA, Stephen Hillier, told Hannah Richardson at the BBC, “With a renewed focus on engaging young people in languages from the government, we need the mind of highflying teachers who are going to help those pupils excel.”
Although it is fantastic that so many more pupils are studying languages and that there is a real push forward to recruit new teachers, re-staffing school departments can be a lengthy process, especially since the number of language teachers has been falling so drastically over recent years. The general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, Russell Hobby has said, “People really struggle with recruiting language teachers, so it is a concern - particularly after a long period of time when modern foreign languages were in decline. It can take years to re-staff your language faculty. It’s one of those subject areas where you definitely need a qualification - it’s one subject that you cannot fake.”
I very much hope that there will continue to be a rise in the number of pupils studying languages and that we can invest in training teachers properly in order to match the demand, and hope for long-term improvements in British students’ linguistic skills.
Posted on 19th March 2012
A few weeks ago I wrote about the huge increase in British sixth formers applying to study at American universities, where there are many fantastic universities offering students excellent value for money with their amazing facilities, high teaching standards and numerous scholarships on offer. With the recent changes to tuition fees, British students are reconsidering whether studying in the UK is the best option, and thousands are looking further afield for inviting degree courses.
Last week ambassadors from a number of Dutch universities visited schools and colleges around the UK in order to try and recruit applicants. Many higher education institutions in the Netherlands teach courses exclusively in English, and the fees are considerably lower than at British universities, with the price tag of a Dutch degree hovering at around £1500 a year. A three year course will thus cost you the same as 6 months at many British universities.
Spokesmen and women travelled from Tilburg University, Utrecht University, Maastricht University, the Roosevelt Academy and Leiden University, and gave presentations at a number of schools, telling pupils about life and culture in the Netherlands and what the universities can offer.
Engineering, architecture and design are particularly strong subjects in Dutch universities and there are lots of really lovely Dutch towns where you can have a high quality of life as well. It also isn’t that hard or expensive at all to go to Holland, so even though a plane ticket is probably more expensive than a train ticket home from a British university, with the much cheaper tuition fees, you’ll probably still be saving a lot of money.
Are you studying or considering studying at a Dutch university? If so, let us know, we’d love to hear from you. And remember, wherever you’re applying to study, if you want advice you can always give Enjoy Education a ring!
Posted on 19th March 2012
A couple of weeks ago it was Britain’s poor numeracy skills that came under fire, and in comparison, the literacy situation didn’t seem quite so bad. For example, after the Evening Standard revealed the extent of illiteracy in the capital, there has been a real effort made to improve provision for teaching children how to read and write. However, Ofsted’s chief schools inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, is concerned that literacy progress has stalled and that reading standards have not improved since 2005. According to Wilshaw, 20% of 11 year olds are not reaching literacy targets. He told BBC Newsnight that although standards improved between 1995 and 2005, “Since then, standards have stalled and other nations have been doing better than us.”
Japan, the Netherlands, Norway and Belgium are said to be speeding ahead of the UK in terms of literacy standards and according to the most recent Programme for International Student Assessment survey, the UK had slipped down to joint 23rd place in a global assessment of literacy.
Wilshaw is adamant that the key to improving children’s literacy is to engage their interest and equip them with skills when they are young. A number of studies have shown that children who fall significantly behind at school find it extremely hard to catch up with their classmates, so it really is vital to make solid progress with teaching children to read and write during their first few years at school.
In Sir Michael’s talk on Newsnight he said, “Our main concern is that too many pupils fall behind in their literacy early on. In most cases, if they can’t read securely at seven they struggle to catch up as they progress through their school career. Without reading and writing skills they find it difficult to access the curriculum and achieve well in their examinations. As a result, too many young adults lack the functional skills to make their way in the modern world. They are more likely to be unemployed, unwell, in prison, or supported by the state.”
While I’m sure nobody would disagree with Wilshaw’s thoughts on how important it is to be able to read and write confidently, not everyone agrees with Wilshaw’s statement about the progress ‘stalling’. Teaching unions are claiming that on the contrary, there have been great improvements over the past twenty years and that Ofsted and the government are “playing fast and loose with international data”.
Regardless of whether Ofsted and the teaching unions agree on how fast or slow progress is, teachers, unions and inspectors should all be committed to raising standards and keep students’ best interests and educational needs at heart.