Private Tuition Blog: Archive for May 2012
Posted on 31st May 2012
How to keep going during exam leave…
For some lucky students exam season is all over, but many of you won’t finish until the end of June, which can feel like aeons away, especially if you’ve been revising hard for a couple of months already. It is very easy to go a little bit crazy wile revising; all of those long days spent alone either in a library or at your desk, drinking in so much information and worrying about whether you’re preparing in the right way. If you feel like you’re going a bit doolally, here are some tips to help you out. Remember, if you’re really struggling it’s still not too late to give us a call and we can arrange for one of our very experience tutors to come and give you a hand with preparing for the exams in these final few weeks. Good luck!
1. Don’t beat yourself up if you are finding it hard to focus all day long. In fact it is pretty impossible to revise well for hour after our after hour. Find out when you work best and structure a sensible six to eight hours a day around when you can concentrate best. Perhaps you find it easiest to do three hours in the morning, spend the middle of the day doing other things and then a final few hours late afternoon, before and evening of relaxing and recharging.
2. Make your revision breaks actual breaks! There’s no point taking a break if you don’t stop thinking about your revision. Find things that really take your mind off your work; dance classes are great because you have to focus your mind on the steps so are distracted, and you get some exercise, which is always a good thing.
3. Steer clear of stimulants and pills that are said to help you focus. These really are not good for you at all.
4. Keep eating healthily! While you may want to boost flagging energy levels with sweets and junk food, these will cause havoc with your blood sugar. Eat plenty of protein, fruit and vegetables and complex carbs. It’s also good to eat little and often, rather than stuff yourself with huge meals every now and again.
5. Stay organised! You will feel so much more in control of your revision if you keep detailed lists of what you have done and what you still need to do.
6. Keep things in perspective! Yes, exams are really important, but they are also not a matter of life and death, and so you need to keep things in perspective. Nothing disastrous will happen if you don’t do as well as you hope, so just try and stay calm and do your best, and not get too anxious about the results.
7. Exercise really will help you feel better and perform better as well so go for walks, a swim, a game of tennis… whatever you fancy. Try and get at least an hour of physical activity each day. This doesn’t need to be an hour on a treadmill, but could be a 30 minute walk around the park with your dog in the morning and then a gentle cycle for 30 minutes in the afternoon.
8. Lastly, make sure you get enough sleep so that you can really rest at night. Having a warm bath, or listening to some classical music before you hit the hay will also help you to relax.
Posted on 31st May 2012
Every three years the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation carries out tests for pupils in reading, numeracy and science all over the world. The tests are known as ‘Pisa tests’ (‘the Programme for International Student Assessment) and are seen as an excellent indicator of a country’s strengths and weaknesses in education and schooling. This year China came top in every single area, prompting the question, ‘is China the cleverest country in the world?’.
The results of the tests have been described by Andreas Schleicher (who is chiefly responsible for Pisa) as ‘remarkable’. This is the first time a country has come top in all three areas (last time the top spots went to South Korea, Taipei and Finland). These extraordinary results show that China’s education system is running miles ahead of many western countries, and children from disadvantaged and wealthy backgrounds alike are doing brilliantly academically: “Even in rural areas and in disadvantaged environments, you see a remarkable performance” said Schleicher.
What is just as impressive as the results is the real commitment to education, which is heavily engrained in Chinese society. The idea that a good education will bring you social mobility and success is incredibly deeply rooted. There are thousands of fantastic school buildings all over the country and the students are really keen to learn. Schleicher pointed out the cultural differences between America, Europe and China, where attitudes towards education and employment are very different indeed: “North Americans tell you typically it’s all luck. ‘I’m born talented in mathematics, or I’m born less talented so I’ll study something else.’ In Europe, it’s all about social heritage: ‘My father was a plumber so I’m going to be a plumber’. In China, more than nine out of 10 children tell you: ‘It depends on the effort I invest and I can succeed if I study hard.’ “They take on responsibility. They can overcome obstacles and say ‘I’m the owner of my own success’, rather than blaming it on the system.”
These fantastic results prove that the Chinese attitude towards education and their serious investment in learning is really paying off, and that pupils are doing well and so are likely to have excellent career prospects. We, and the rest of the world, should take note of how the Chinese system works and see if we can learn a thing or two and improve our own results so that we don’t end up lagging far behind.
Posted on 31st May 2012
With British universities charging more than ever for tuition fees, students are starting to look elsewhere for better deals on degrees. There has already been a huge increase of applications to American institutions, but also to Dutch universities, where many BA courses are taught in English. Now British students will have even more choice, as one of Italy’s best academic institutions, the Politecnico di Milano, is going to teach the majority of its courses in English.
All of the graduate courses and many of the undergraduate courses at this top university will be taught entirely in English from 2014. This comes as a result of fears that the university will become too isolated if it continues to teach only in Italian. Giovanni Azzone, rector of the Politecnico di Milano, told the BBC, “We strongly believe our classes should be international classes - and the only way to have international classes is to use the English language”. Azzone predicts that many other universities will also follow suit, in order to keep up with the extremely competitive market.
The Politecnico is extremely highly regarded and is famous for its emphasis on science, engineering and architecture and many of Italy’s top architects trained there. The hope is that the students, who study there from 2014, will not only have top skills, but also be able to communicate extremely well in the international world of business.
Azzone is adamant that the institution will remain very ‘Italian’, but that it will be more attractive to international applicants and really benefit Italian students as well: “We are very proud of our city and culture, but we acknowledge that the Italian language is an entry barrier for overseas students…They can be Italian students, studying in an Italian culture, but in an international language”.
Overall the students seem pretty happy with the decision to switch to English, believing that it will improve their career prospects. Sean Coughlan’s report on the switch quotes current student Anna Realini as saying, “I agree with the choice… If our university gives us the tools to use our knowledge all over the world it is better.”
Across Europe there are now 4,500 degree courses being taught in English, and once Milan’s Politecnico makes the switch, this will increase yet again. What we are seeing is a radical change in higher education with a much more international and fluid geography. Surely it is only a matter of time before even more institutions make the change.
Posted on 29th May 2012
Think of yourself as a bit of a thesp?
Test your knowledge of theatre with our special quiz…
1. Name all of the past and present artistic directors of the National Theatre.
2. When were women first allowed to perform on stage?
3. Why did the Puritans close the theatres during the Commonwealth?
4. What is ‘Restoration Comedy’?
5. Name five comedies by Shakespeare
6. What is a ‘dsm’?
7. What is an ‘asm’?
8. Where would you find ‘prompt corner’?
9. What does ‘page a curtain’ mean?
10. What is ‘the half’?
11. Which play is known as ‘the Scottish play’?
12. Where is the Royal Court Theatre?
13. What sort of plays does the Royal Court put on?
14. Who was Stanislavski?
15. What is a cyclorama?
16. What is ‘kitchen sink’ drama? And when was its heyday?
17. What is a gobo?
18. Name three plays by Harold Pinter?
19. Who wrote Waiting for Godot?
20. What are the three theatres that make up the National Theatre called?
21. What is ‘greasepaint’?
22. What is ‘commedia dell’arte’?
23. Where would you find ‘the flies’ in a theatre?
24. What is a doublet and hose?
25. What is the difference between ‘site specific’ and ‘site sympathetic’ theatre?
26. In which play do ‘the mechanicals’ appear?
27. What does ‘deus ex machina’ mean?
28. Name three Greek tragedies.
29. How do you say ‘good luck’ to an actor before a play?
30. Who was Bertolt Brecht?
31. Name ten plays currently being performed in London.
32. Name five famous stage actors.
33. Who is the new artistic director of the RSC?
34. Name three Jacobean playwrights.
35. What is ‘up stage left’?
36. What happens during the ‘curtain call’?
37. If an actor ‘dries’, what happens?
38. If an actor ‘corpses’, what happens?
39. Name three plays by Anton Chekhov.
40. In which play does the character of Arkadina appear?
Posted on 29th May 2012
Here are the answers to yesterday’s English quiz.
How did you do?
1. Fourteenth century.
2. Charlotte Bronte
4. Edmund Spenser
5. Robert Browning
9. Mary Ann
10. Mary Shelly
11. Charlotte Lucas
12. The Lord of the Rings
13. The Odyssey and the Iliad
14. Ben Jonson
15. Samuel Taylor Coleridge
16. Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass
17. Julia Donaldson
18. Mark Ravenhill
19. Aphra Behn
20. Aphra Behn
Posted on 29th May 2012
Think you’re a book worm? Take out English quiz to find out how you score….
1. In which century did Chaucer write The Canterbury Tales?
2. Which Bronte sister wrote Jane Eyre?
3. What was the Bronte sisters’ brother called?
4. Who wrote the Faerie Queen?
5. Which male poet did Elizabeth Barrett marry?
6. In Macbeth who was ‘untimely ripped’ from his
7. In To Kill A Mockingbird, who tells Scout ““You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view - until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
8. Does Romeo describe Juliet as the moon, sun or stars?
9. What was George Eliot’s real name?
10. Who wrote Frankenstein as part of a ghost story competition?
11. Who marries mr Collins in Pride and Prejudice?
12. Which trilogy is about the quest to destroy a ring with evil powers?
13. What are the names of the two epic poems written by Homer?
14. Who wrote Volpone and The Alchemist?
15. Who wrote The Rime of the Ancient Mariner?
16. What are the three books in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy called?
17. Who is the current Children’s Laureate?
18. Who is the current playwright in residence at the RSC?
19. Who wrote Oronooko?
20. Who was the first professional female playwright?
Posted on 29th May 2012
While being in education is a wonderful, fulfilling, enriching thing for students, teachers and tutors alike, there’s no denying that things can get rather stressful. Only the other week I woke up having an anxiety dream about examinations, and I’m not even sitting any this year; helping my students to prepare must have had such an impact on me that my unconscious mind thought that I might be taking exams myself!
Students have the stress of balancing various subjects and preparing for examinations, and teachers are often extremely busy, and as a result of caring for and investing in their pupils find the rigours of their job stressful as well. However, Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw has criticised teachers who complain that their jobs are “too stressful”, according to a report by the BBC’s Hannah Richardson.
Wilshaw was speaking at an education conference, and as well as pointing out that head teachers have more pay and power than ever before, suggested that teachers don’t really know the meaning of stress and shouldn’t moan about it. In his somewhat controversial speech he said, ““Let me tell you what stress is. Stress is what my father felt, who struggled to find a job in the 1950s and 1960s and who often had to work long hours in three different jobs and at weekends to support a growing family. Stress is, I’m sure, what many of the million-and-a-half unemployed young people today feel - unable to get a job because they’ve had a poor experience of school and lack the necessary skills and qualifications to find employment. Stress is what I was under when I started as a head in 1985, in the context of widespread industrial action - teachers walking out of class at a moment’s notice; doing lunch duty on my own every day for three years because of colleagues who worked to rule; covering five classes in the sports hall when there was no-one to teach them. Stress was, in the days before local management of schools, writing letters in triplicate to the local authority asking for a brick wall to be built in the playground or for a bit of extra money to keep an excellent maths teacher - and not receiving a reply for weeks.”
Unsurprisingly, few people were thrilled by Wilshaw’s speech and Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers – in my opinion - rightly said, “It is really not helpful for Michael Wilshaw to rubbish the amount of stress teachers are under.” She acknowledged that “The pressures on teaching staff and heads are enormous and growing due to the constant churn of government initiatives, tinkering with the curriculum, introducing new tests, and pressure to get pupils through exams to prove their school is performing well. And Ofsted is part of the problem with its continual changing of the inspections goal posts, and ridiculous demands for lessons to be exciting at all times. Teaching is the occupation with the third highest amount of work-related stress according to Health and Safety Executive figures.”
Rather than criticising teachers for complaining about stress, and igniting a vicious circle where Ofsted and teachers are moaning about each other, shouldn’t the focus be on making sure that the teachers are able to provide the best possible lessons to their students, after all educational institutions exist for students? We need to make sure that teachers are able to do their jobs properly and that nobody feels too stressed to be able to do their best.
Posted on 24th May 2012
Over recent months there has been an alarming amount of new about poor literacy standards in British primary schools, and it has been made clear that drastic action needs to take place in order to improve children’s reading and writing skills.
Fortunately the Welsh Government seems to be taking literacy really very seriously and the National Literacy Programme has laid out a five-year plan to improve literacy in Welsh schools. As things stand, Wales is currently lagging behind England, Scotland and Northern Ireland when it comes to literacy standards in schools. The schools’ inspectorate Estyn has reported that 40% of Welsh pupils can’t read as well as they should be able to by the time they leave primary school. This is a shocking figure indeed and needs to be worked on as fast as possible so that we prevent thousands of pupils from lagging behind their peers.
One of the key areas of the plan is that teachers will receive more training in how to equip their students with literacy skills. Moreover, a banding system will help to highlight which pupils need more help in particular areas. New assessments will be created which will expose students’ strengths and weaknesses, which will in turn aid the teachers in developing their skills.
It is extremely encouraging to hear that the government is taking literacy so seriously and Education Minister, Leighton Andrews told the BBC, “I want to ensure that we get literacy and numeracy right in primary school because if we get it right, then it will have major advantages in teaching in secondary school, not just in the ability to learn, but also it will have an impact on attention, behaviour and attendance.”
There is a great deal of confidence in the National Literacy Programme, and Andrews is convinced that it “will introduce greater consistency and clarity into the way we track pupils’ progress while also providing the support, challenge and accountability needed in our schools.”
Here’s hoping that standards will begin to improve fast and that similar plans will be introduced in the rest of the UK as well.
Posted on 21st May 2012
There are all sorts of alarming figures about the percentage of children who can’t read or write to the expected level when they leave school, nor perform basic mathematical calculations, and now it seems that there’s another thing that children can’t do, but should: swim.
I was atrociously bad at sports at school, but the one thing I was reasonable at was swimming, and it’s something that I still really enjoy and do regularly, so I was alarmed to read that according to research carried out by the Amateur Swimming Association, a third of English children can’t swim by the time they leave primary school.
Swimming is part of the national curriculum, and so every child should have regular lessons, and yet there are thousands of children who have never had a swimming lesson in their life. According to the ASA’s research (carried out in association with Kellogg’s), 200,000 children leave primary school unable to swim.
Being able to swim could save your life, and since hundreds of people die from drowning ever year, it really is crucial that we teach children to swim. According to the National Water Safety Forum, drowning is ‘the third most common cause of accidental death in children’, which is extremely worrying, especially since many of these deaths could be prevented.
98% of parents involved in the ASA survey said that they believed that their children should be able to swim, but few arrange private lessons for their children, so the onus is on schools to teach their pupils to swim, particularly given the fact that swimming is on the curriculum and so really should be taught. A spokesperson for the Department of Education said. “Swimming is a compulsory part of the national curriculum, and all primary schools have a duty to provide swimming lessons for their pupils. By the end of primary school, pupils must be taught to swim 25m unaided using recognised strokes on their front and back and use a range of personal survival skills. We would expect that schools would take the needs of their children into account in making all decisions.”
Let’s hope that this alarming revelation about the number of children who can’t swim will encourage schools and parents to take swimming lessons for children more seriously.
Posted on 18th May 2012
Unless you’ve been living in an igloo somewhere extremely remote and without any access to the internet or newspapers, you’ll probably be aware of the fact that university tuition fees have been drastically increased. In 2006 there was the initial hike from around £1000 a year to £3000, and now most universities charge in the region of £7,500-£9,000. The big question of course is, ‘have teaching standards in universities improved as a result?’ Disappointingly the answer looks like a resounding ‘no’.
The average number of taught hours at UK universities is only around 14, which is almost exactly the same as it was five years ago. Moreover, some degree courses at certain universities provide merely seven taught hours a week, much to the frustration of the students. According to a recent report on university teaching, just under 50% of the students who receive less than eight hours of teaching a week are dissatisfied with their courses. I agree that for £9000 a year, anything less than ten hours a week is not at all sufficient, regardless of the course.
Bahram Bekhradnia, who wrote the report, told the BBC’s Hannah Richardson that universities have a responsibility to explain to students why they are receiving the amount of teaching time that they are. Furthermore, he pointed out how extreme the difference is between the number of hours students spend studying: “In some subjects, for example medicine and dentistry, study is the equivalent of a full time job. In others it resembles part-time employment.” Furthermore, he added that, “A medical student is studying for 37 hours a week on average and a media studies student is studying for an average of 20 hours a week. They all get a degree at the end of it, but it does raise important policy questions.” Ultimately Bekhradnia’s report concluded that there has been no improvement in “the provision made for students” as a result of the increased fees.
Despite this report, universities minister David Willetts is convinced that the reforms made have put more power in the hand of the students and that higher education institutions will respond to the students’ demands. Yet Liam Burns, the current president of the National Union of Students, has argued that “Whether we like it or not students going on to campuses this year will feel like they’re paying more and will have increased expectations to match, but there is no evidence that shifting the financial burden to students gives them more power.”
Although Willetts appears to be convinced that things have improved as a result of the government’s higher education policies, the current evidence suggests otherwise. Charging more for something that hasn’t improved isn’t good enough, and universities must provide more if they want to keep attracting students in the future.