Touch Typing…a great free program for schools

Touch typing is a particularity good way for children with special educational needs to take down information and do assignments.

bbc dance matLast year, for several children I used a rather old children touch typing aid called ‘BBC Bitesize – Dance Mat Typing‘. It is as good as it goes but is looking a little dated and tired now.

So, on the hunt for something good and free I came across this little beauty ‘Typing Club’
and it really is very good.

Setup your account within minutes, engage your students with TypingClub’s amazing lesson plans, and track their progress through your portal. Setting up an account is quick and free.

typing clubThe following is a summary of some of TypingClub’s key features:

  • TypingClub’s lesson plan contains over 600 lessons, guiding students from individual keys all the way through numbers and punctuation, and all the way to a goal of 75 WPM.
  • The carefully designed lessons includes instructional videos, educational games, practice of challenging, and commonly misspelled words and other interactive experiences.
  • TypingClub’s district dashboard allows you to easily manage multiple schools and track their activity within a single account.

    You can import and manage your student roster through Clever, Google Classroom, custom CSV files, or an automated SFTP sync. Regardless of the path you choose, we are here to support you throughout the process.

and there is more and this is free. I can’t recommend it enough.



My lovely 5 year old has now started in year one and she has homework. I found this article on line…it’s a good read.

wp16387a44_05_06Reformers in the Progressive Era (from the 1890s to 1920s) depicted homework as a “sin” that deprived children of their playtime. Many critics voice similar concerns today.

Yet there are many parents who feel that from early on, children need to do homework if they are to succeed in an increasingly competitive academic culture. School administrators and policy makers have also weighed in, proposing various policies on homework.

So, does homework help or hinder kids?

For the last 10 years, my colleagues and I have been investigating international patterns in homework using databases like the Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). If we step back from the heated debates about homework and look at how homework is used around the world, we find the highest homework loads are associated with countries that have lower incomes and higher social inequality.

Does homework result in academic success?

Let’s first look at the global trends on homework.

Undoubtedly, homework is a global phenomenon; students from all 59 countries that participated in the 2007 Trends in Math and Science Study (TIMSS) reported getting homework. Worldwide, only less than 7% of fourth graders said they did no homework.

TIMSS is one of the few data sets that allow us to compare many nations on how much homework is given (and done). And the data show extreme variation.

For example, in some nations, like Algeria, Kuwait and Morocco, more than one in five fourth graders reported high levels of homework. In Japan, less than 3% of students indicated they did more than four hours of homework on a normal school night.

TIMSS data can also help to dispel some common stereotypes. For instance, in East Asia, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan – countries that had the top rankings on TIMSS average math achievement – reported rates of heavy homework that were below the international mean.

In the Netherlands, nearly one out of five fourth graders reported doing no homework on an average school night, even though Dutch fourth graders put their country in the top 10 in terms of average math scores in 2007.

Going by TIMSS data, the US is neither “A Nation at Rest” as some have claimed, nor a nation straining under excessive homework load. Fourth and eighth grade US students fall in the middle of the 59 countries in the TIMSS data set, although only reported high math homework loads compared to an international average of 21%.

So, is homework related to high academic success?

At a national level, the answer is clearly no. Worldwide, homework is not associated with high national levels of academic achievement.

But, the TIMSS can’t be used to determine if homework is actually helping or hurting academic performance overall, it can help us see how much homework students are doing, and what conditions are associated with higher national levels of homework.

We have typically found that the highest homework loads are associated with countries that have lower incomes and higher levels of social inequality – not hallmarks that most countries would want to emulate.

Impact of homework on kids

TIMSS data also show us how even elementary/primary school kids are being burdened with large amounts of homework.

Almost 10% of fourth graders worldwide (one in 10 children) reported spending multiple hours on homework each night. Globally, one in five fourth graders report 30 minutes or more of homework in math three to four times a week.

These reports of large homework loads should worry parents, teachers and policymakers alike.

Empirical studies have linked excessive homework to sleep disruption, indicating a negative relationship between the amount of homework, perceived stress and physical health.

What constitutes excessive amounts of homework varies by age, and may also be affected by cultural or family expectations. Young adolescents in middle school, or teenagers in high school, can study for longer duration than elementary/primary school children.

But for elementary/primary school students, even 30 minutes of homework a night, if combined with other sources of academic stress, can have a negative impact. Researchers in China have linked homework of two or more hours per night with sleep disruption.

Even though some cultures may normalise long periods of studying for primary age children, there is no evidence to support that this level of homework has clear academic benefits. Also, when parents and children conflict over homework, and strong negative emotions are created, homework can actually have a negative association with academic achievement.

Should there be “no homework” policies?

Administrators and policymakers have not been reluctant to wade into the debates on homework and to formulate policies. France’s president, Francois Hollande, even proposed that homework be banned because it may have inegaliatarian effects.

However, “zero-tolerance” homework policies for schools, or nations, are likely to create as many problems as they solve because of the wide variation of homework effects. Contrary to what Hollande said, research suggests that homework is not a likely source of social class differences in academic achievement.

Homework, in fact, is an important component of education for students in the middle and upper grades of schooling.

Policymakers and researchers should look more closely at the connection between poverty, inequality and higher levels of homework. Rather than seeing homework as a “solution,” policymakers should question what facets of their educational system might impel students, teachers and parents to increase homework loads.

At the classroom level, in setting homework, teachers need to communicate with their peers and with parents to assure that the homework assigned overall for a grade is not burdensome, and that it is indeed having a positive effect.

Perhaps, teachers can opt for a more individualised approach to homework. If teachers are careful in selecting their assignments – weighing the student’s age, family situation and need for skill development – then homework can be tailored in ways that improve the chance of maximum positive impact for any given student.

I strongly suspect that when teachers face conditions such as pressure to meet arbitrary achievement goals, lack of planning time or little autonomy over curriculum, homework becomes an easy option to make up what could not be covered in class.

Whatever the reason, the fact is a significant percentage of primary school children around the world are struggling with large homework loads. That alone could have long-term negative consequences for their academic success.

From The Independent

Personally I don’t really think KS1 should have any homework because they are so young and tired after school.

The homework ends up being done by the parent or carer, if they have the time that is or have any understanding of phonics…simple for some but not for others.

What do you think?

Sadness as Primary School collapses during earthquake in Mexico

Very sad news as at least 30 people, mostly children, died at a primary school which collapsed in Mexico City during Tuesday’s earthquake, local media say.

The shallow, 7.1 magnitude quake killed at least 225 people in total and caused major damage across states in the centre of the country.

Desperate searches for survivors under the rubble are continuing.

Dozens of buildings were toppled, much of the electricity supply was cut and broken gas mains sparked fires.

The tremor struck shortly after many people had taken part in an earthquake drill, exactly 32 years after another quake killed thousands in the capital.

What about SATS?

The question I have asked, and been asked so many times is this:

What is the point of SATS?

Quite simply, there is no point of SATS.

SATS do not help pupils one iota, the pressure they cause has led to anxiety and stress for children who do not need it. SATS are used by the government to see how a school is doing and that is it, no more no less. So now the National curriculum tests for seven-year-olds in England are being scrapped, the Government confirmed yesterday. Instead, children will be assessed when they first enter primary school so their progress can be measured when they leave aged 11 which many school already do to help with streaming. Of course they could always look at the mountain of data that teachers have to give but that would be just far too easy.SATS (1).png
The axing of Year Two SATs follows campaigning by teaching unions and parent groups, who argued that children were being ‘over-tested and over-worked’ and quite rightly too. We currently have an education system that is run by people who have absolutely no experience and qualifications, the irony of it is laughable.

Instead, the Department for Education said a new ‘teacher-mediated assessment’ will be introduced in the reception year – for pupils aged four and five – from 2020 which quite frankly is ridiculous.

And the controversial Key Stage One tests and assessments will become non-compulsory three years later, so a great waste of time and money as many schools will drop this nonsense as soon as possible.

In a further change, youngsters will sit a new times tables check in Year Four – rather than in Year Six as originally planned by Ministers – from 2019-20…which most schools already do.

The Education Secretary Justine Greening, who is a trained accountant with no experience in Education whatsoever said yesterday: ‘A good primary education lays the foundations for success at secondary school and beyond. Our reforms are starting to raise standards and these changes will free up teachers to educate and inspire young children while holding schools to account in a proportionate and effective way.’

That remains to be seen, many of the teachers have ridiculous amounts of work leading to a 50 to 60 hour week for which they have been stuck on 1% pay rise for the last 7 years.

The Let Our Kids Be Kids campaign said the assessments were sapping ‘children’s happiness and joy of learning’ because schools were focusing too much on the tests and I tend to agree having seen children in tears because of the pressure on them to do well.

SATS do not count for anything when it comes to streaming or places at secondary schools and I for one will be glad to see them all go and to have a government that listens to head teachers who have the experience that this government clearly does not have.


The Schonell Spelling and Burt Reading Test

Download the Schonell Test here

You will more than likely come across many tests as a Teaching Assistant.

This one is used to measure the age of the child for reading and spelling. The tests are to see how much progress a student has already made and that it may be repeated, say, in about six months to see how much further progress has been achieved.

schonell spelling test

It is easy to do and as with all tests it is important to ensure that the child is at ease, and that the test conditions are as favourable as possible, paying attention to light, comfort and freedom from distractions.

The child does not need to know the score as they will not understand it. So I usually give them a smile with a ‘well done’ and if they ask the score simply tell them you have ‘yet to work it out’ or something similar.

Interpreting scores

The results of standardised tests can be expressed in several ways.

The raw score is the number of correct items.

The standard score relates the raw score to the student’s chronological age. The average or mean standard score is 100. Standard scores within the range 85 to 115 inclusive are usually considered to be within the average range. Most students obtain a standard score within this range.

Percentile scores range from 0 to 100, with the average score being 50. Scores from 16 to 84 inclusive are considered to be within the average range. Most students obtain a standard score within this range.

Stanine scores range from 1 to 9 with 5 being the average score. Standard scores and percentiles can easily be converted to stanine scores using tables published with reading and spelling tests.

Your SENCo will show you how to do the test but it is quite straight forward.

  • You will ask your child to read the words from left to right
  • Proceed until they are unable to read ten in a row
  • You can then stop and work out their reading levels


With the Burt spelling test is similar

  • You will ask your child write the words
  • Proceed until they are unable to write five or ten (check with your SENCo in a row
  • You can then stop and work out their reading levels

Christian couple to sue school for letting a boy wear a dress

From The Express 11/09/2017

inclusive or divisive?

A couple are to sue a Church of England School. Nigel and Sally Rowe said they had been bullied into “accepting a new moral framework which strongly conflicts with what we believe in”.

They raised concerns with the head after a six-year-old boy arrived at the unnamed school dressed as a boy one day and wore girl’s clothes on another.

But the school defended its behaviour, stating: “The refusal to acknowledge a transgendered person’s true gender” was ‘transphobic behaviour’.”

Today, Mr Rowe, 44, from the Isle of Wight, said: “I’m shocked that just because we question the notion that a six-year-old boy can really become a girl, we are transphobic.

The couple’s lawyers are expected to argue the school is discriminating against them by implying their wish to bring up their sons as Christian is transphobic.

Andrea Williams, of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “Six-year-olds are far too young to consider issues as complex as gender and sexuality.”

“As Christians, we believe that all people are loved by God. But the school’s behaviour has created a clash between our family’s rights and the imposition of this new ideology.”

What do you think?

For me, a six year old seems far too young to be trans anything, I may be wrong. I am not sure a child of 6 can barely tie their shoes laces let alone have any understanding of gender.

This immediate acceptance of something that we still don’t understand is baffling to me and must be baffling when children are told on one day to treat the child as a girl and then the next as a boy.

Is this really necessary for such a young child?

I don’t really see what this has to do with the faith of this couple but I can understand not wanting to have their child confused in such a way.

I am a little saddened that for a school that claims to be doing this to be inclusive cannot accommodate a different opinion…it doesn’t seem very inclusive to me.

I wonder what the school uniform policy says!