Using insights from neuroscience in education: using the body to improve thinking skills

October 15, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Education Matters 

This guest blog is from Dr Elizabeth McClelland, who became a Fellow in January 2014.  Elizabeth has been working with RSA Education on plans to expand her programme Move4Words to many more schools in England. You can contact her at www.move4words.org.uk where you also find out more about the research evidence.

I was a research scientist in a former life – Royal Society Research fellow for 10 years at Department of Earth Sciences, Oxford University, then University Lecturer and Director of the Palaeomagnetism research laboratory at Oxford between 1997 and 2003. In 1998, I suddenly became very ill with an unknown virus which temporarily robbed me of the ability to speak coherently, to understand speech or written language or to control my muscles properly. All my facilties came back over the following couple of months, except my ability to read fluently. I could read single words, but couldn’t make sense of a paragraph. I was still lecturing at Oxford, I could do my numerical research, gave talks at conferences and even touch-typed a couple of papers (although was unable to proof-read them). It was incredibly frustrating. Eventually, I found a private physio who used a physical activity programme to help children with dyslexia, and she showed me that I’d lost the ability to control my eye movements, and had lost some cross-body muscular control. She showed me some simple physical and visual exercises, which I practised several times a day, and, remarkably, my reading started to improve after a couple of weeks, and within 2 months it was back to my original rapid reading. It was so dramatic, I vowed to find out more and to do what I could to help others in the same way.

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The Case for Compulsory Sex and Relationship Education

October 13, 2014 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Education Matters 

Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural (SMSC) education is back on the political agenda. Best defined as “…the training of good human beings, purposeful and wise, themselves with a vision of what it is to be human and the kind of society that makes that possible”, politicians in a post-Govian world are waking up to the idea that churning our children through an exam factory system of schooling may not be the best way to develop well-rounded citizens. And so SMSC is now in vogue, with the Lib Dems wanting Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education to include content on mental health and sexting, Nicky Morgan’s speech at the Conservative Party Conference commenting on the need for ‘character’ education and Labour recently reiterating their long-held view that Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) should be made mandatory (and you can also read the RSA’s own recommendations on SMSC education here).  Read more

RSA Live-streaming: GTA University Centre

This is a guest blog from the team at GTA University Centre, Guernsey who have been live-streaming RSA events and lectures on a regular basis.   RSA EVENTS

Many of the RSA events are live-streamed, aiming to reach those unable to make the regular trip to London. A great example of an organisation that uses this feature is the GTA University Centre, a not-for-profit training provider based in Guernsey, who regularly overcome the distance barrier and bring the RSA to their local community. Marketing Manager, Duncan Spencer, tells us about his experience.

“Guernsey may be a small island but it has a diverse economy and does business on an international scale, and we have found that there is a real desire to hear the latest ideas in business, technology and societal development.”

GTA began hosting livestream events from the RSA at the beginning of this year as a means of introducing new ideas to the Island’s community. We aim to provide opportunities for Guernsey audiences to listen to high quality, innovative and educational speakers and participate in a lively discussion on the subject, but with a local focus. RSA livestream programmes are available to all online, but we believe we can add extra value by bringing people together to share the experience and enjoy a stimulating debate and discussion prompted by the RSA speaker and the Q&As. Read more

UniverCities – making the most of our existing assets to power growth

October 2, 2014 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Education Matters, Enterprise, Social Economy 

The UniverCities report will be published 14 October with a launch event in Cardiff. If you’d like to attend, register here.

The UK’s higher education sector is worth over £73 billion to the economy. As many as 757,268 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs have been created by the sector, of which 320,000 are staff directly employed by universities. In 2011, higher education contributed 2.8 percent of UK GDP. Reeling off these stats together it is clear that the higher education sector already plays a strong role in economic growth. In our upcoming report, UniverCities: the knowledge to power metro growth, we will propose ways that universities can enhance their economic impact at a local level.

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The Big Idea: National Saturday Club

Support the UK’s next creative generation

This is a guest blog from the team at National Saturday Club. They’re looking for Fellows in the design, architecture and engineering industries who may be able to offer masterclasses, visits or creative career guidance, as well as Fellows who can introduce young people to their cultural institutions.

The National Art & Design Saturday Club provides young people aged 14-16 with the unique opportunity to study art and design every Saturday morning at their local college or university for free. Now in its sixth year, the Saturday Club runs in 41 locations across the UK, in colleges, universities and at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Read more

Every child should have an education in arts and culture

September 23, 2014 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Education Matters 

Guest Blog Column: Vikki Heywood, chair of the RSA, argues that a strong cultural education is vital for the UK’s social and economic future. This article was originally published on the Royal Opera House website.

It should, in the UK and in this day and age, be the case that education in arts and culture is something to which every child should be entitled, and enabled to access.  Who would disagree that this is a basic human right – it is enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states that children have a right ‘to participate fully in cultural and artistic life’.  However, the fact remains that cultural education remains the privilege of some, but not all our children.

So why aren’t all children accessing great arts and culture? Research provides irrefutable evidence that the benefits of cultural education extend far beyond opening students’ eyes to the vast array of the UK’s cultural riches.  Music lessons, drama groups and art classes enhance academic achievement across the curriculum. Add to that improved self-esteem and self-confidence, and you have a pretty potent and proven combination. Read more

Party Conference Season – the non-battle for education commences

September 22, 2014 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Education Matters 

In case you missed Tristram Hunt’s speech to Labour Party Conference yesterday, here’s a brief recap of the main points (and indeed much of the substance of what was a fairly brief speech). As is now a contractual requirement for Labour’s resident historian, Hunt opened with a bit of history, reminding the party of its proud historical association with the workers’ education movements that originated in civic Manchester and the industrial north. The speech also linked to wider Labour themes, notably standing up for ordinary workers, epitomised in the pledge to support the ‘hidden army’ of support staff in our schools by re-establishing a negotiating body to ensure fair pay for these low paid and lowlier status education workers.

The main substance was based around three main themes that will define Labour’s manifesto pledges on education as it goes into the next election.

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Education and social mobility: how the government is getting it wrong

September 15, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Education Matters 

Amongst the flurry of free schools, test tinkering and curriculum changes, there was at least one overarching purpose to Michael Gove’s constant battle against ‘the blob’; to turn schools into ‘engines of social mobility’, thus enabling  talented young people to rise above their social background. The logic here was that raising standards in education would send a much-needed ripple effect through the stagnant waters of social mobility. This has been the government’s adopted approach in response to a society where the wealth gap between rich and poor continues to increase and parental income is intimately linked to their child’s future educational attainment. However, new research into the effect of Gove’s changes, particularly his fervent acadamisation of schools, urgently points to this approach as ‘seriously flawed’.

Education and Social Mobility: Dreams of Success by Dr Kate Hoskins and Prof Bernard Barker is a case study of two high-achieving academies, with 88 interviews conducted with students between the ages of 15-18. Breaking this government’s approach down into three proposals, the research conclusions challenge each in turn: firstly, the characterisation of the talented disadvantaged youth as overcoming inheritance of deprivation is shown to be out of step with the thoughts and feelings of young people, who acknowledge family as an important source of guidance and support; secondly, that acadamisation will work by closing the attainment gap, which in this case has proved itself untrue, with the two high-standard academies still seeing 36% of students fail to get good GCSEs; finally, that academy students will be drawn into aspirational academic routes, aiming for high-level destinations when, in reality, these students did not value social mobility and rated job satisfaction and happiness as more important.

It is not as if the Department for Education have been completely misguided – the stats on education and social mobility are indeed stark: out of 80,000 students on Free School Meals last year, only 45 got into Oxbridge and only 21% of the poorest fifth achieved 5 GCSE A*–Cs (including English and Mathematics), compared with 75% from the richest fifth. There is clearly a link to be made between narrowing the attainment gap and thus narrowing the destination gap – as such, it is right to aim to widen participation at the very top. However, it is dangerous to create from this a complete social mobility narrative. There are only so many places at Russell Group universities, only so many high-level jobs to move into afterwards and only so many students from a socially deprived background who, problems of aspiration aside, would want to follow this very particular future path.

The revised government approach must move away from its current obsession with students achieving the right grades in the right subjects to attend one of a handful of top universities; instead, it must be seen to truly value the variety of skills and interests of young people by investing in all destination routes, including the woefully neglected vocational options. Let’s hope the new Secretary of State for Education is ready to make such revisions.

Roisin Ellison is the RSA Academies Intern

Creativity, learning and tigers in the Forest of Imagination

September 9, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Arts and Society, Education Matters, Fellowship 

The Forest of Imagination took place in Bath this summer and attracted over 2,000 visitors. It was a 4 day contemporary arts, creativity and learning event organised and led by RSA Fellows and hosted by Bath Spa University. Over the past year I’ve blogged a number of times about the ArtSpace Bath and the Forest of Imagination (from now on Forest) project and I had been involved in many meetings, discussions and communications about it. That said, when the Forest launched I still wasn’t quite sure what to expect. What I discovered was a creative world full of surprises and learning.

foi picThe journey to the site began in the centre of Bath with graffitied paths creating the start of the pilgrimage, when I got to the top of Sion Hill and turned the corner to see the amazing tiger gate I was already sold! Once in the site, I’ll admit it, I got a bit lost, but this was part of the Forest’s allure – discovering places for yourself and learning through uncovering different areas both visual and sensory. The Forest was made up of four action packed days of performances, workshops, installations and exhibitions. It managed to engage new and inter-generational audiences in the city whilst helping to pave the way for a permanent contemporary arts centre in Bath.

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If you love Academies, set them free

September 4, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Education Matters, Uncategorized 

It is the first week of the new school year and Academy chains are already back in the news.  Last week Ofsted wrote to AET (Academies Enterprise Trust) expressing concern that too many pupils were not receiving a good enough education, and yesterday the House of Commons Education Committee continued their scrutiny of Academies and Free Schools with an evidence session involving representatives of Academy sponsors and local authorities.

For all the controversy Academies are here to stay, irrespective of the outcome of next year’s General Election.  And good news that is too, given the growing body of evidence that some Academy chains are making a positive difference to outcomes for pupils – see for example the Sutton Trust report Chain Effects on the impact of Academy chains on low income students.  That said, yesterday’s Select Committee reminded us of concerns about the Academy programme as currently conceived that just won’t go away: limited local accountability; too much money being diverted from the classroom through top-slices; and signs that some academy chains are failing to provide sufficient support for school improvement.

A reluctance to address these issues risks damaging the Academies sector as a whole.  Three simple changes could improve the system dramatically. Read more

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    Joe Hallgarten is Director of Education. He was Director of Programmes for Creativity, Culture and Education from 2009 to 2011. Joe worked as a consultant to London 2012, and as an advisor for the Department for Education’s Innovation Unit and the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit. Joe is a founding trustee for The Ministry of Stories, a children’s creative writing centre in Hackney. Follow @joehallg

    Louise Bamfield is Associate Director of Education. Louise was previously a senior research fellow at the Fabian Society, a senior policy adviser at the Child Poverty Unit and head of education at Barnardo's. She is currently governor of a primary school and a children's centre in Croydon, and has a PhD in the Philosophy of Education from Cambridge University.

    Selina Nwulu is Research Assistant and works across several projects in the Education team. Selina has previously worked for a number of non-profit organisations, including the Equality and Human Rights Commission. She is also a writer and is studying for an M.Sc. in Education, Power and Social Change. Follow @SelinaNwulu

    Alison Critchley is Executive Director of RSA Academies. Having started her career in the Department for Education, she then moved to local government, working in education and children’s services in four London boroughs. Alison is skilled in school place planning and admissions, including work to enlarge existing schools and establish new schools and Academies.

    Georgina Chatfield is Communications and Business Officer of RSA Academies. Previously Programme Manager of Citizen Power Peterborough and Senior Developer Arts and Society at the RSA, Georgina has worked for the Arts Council and with creative industries for many years and is excited to be learning about the world of education. Follow @georginachat

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