Thirty-seven children on average are seriously injured and one fatally on UK roads every week* and worldwide, preventable road traffic accidents represent the second largest cause of death or disability for children aged 5-14 years old**. 

Furthermore, road safety is not currently part of the core curriculum in primary education. To help combat this, Dr Catherine Purcell from Cardiff University has released a virtual reality game to teach the next generation about road safety. 

The first of its kind free game called ‘Virtual Road World’ aims to educate children aged seven to nine in road safety.  The app immerses users in a virtual environment where they need to complete a series of quests requiring them to cross roads as they find their way around a virtual city. 

By playing the game children learn how to safely navigate roads, traffic and crossing points.  Whilst at University of South Wales Dr Purcell worked with students from the Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Science to consult with 100 primary school aged children about the look and feel of the game, and collected in-game data from over 200 children aged between seven and nine from schools in Newport. 

Dr Catherine Purcell said: 

“The app has been developed not to replace but to support and enhance existing road safety educational practices.  Through our research we know that educating children through the use of illustrated books or kerb side practices can be highly time and resource intensive.  We have utilised technology to upskill children in their understanding of road safety. 

“The more children get into the game, the more opportunity they have to understand the risks and make safer decisions about where and when to cross the road.  I hope that the app will now prove a fun and successful way of supporting road safety education for children of this age.”

Dr Purcell was awarded a grant of £67,468 from the Road Safety Trust to research and produce the app. 

Sally Lines, CEO of Road Safety Trust said: 

“Virtual Road World goes beyond 3D video and games for entertainment, offering a fun and accessible way to help children choose safe road crossing sites in the real world.  We believe it can make a difference to keeping children safer on the roads.” 

To access the app, simply search for ‘Virtual Road World’ on the Apple Store.

For more details about the Road Safety Trust, please visit  

Revolutionising Teacher Workload – Unlocking the Potential of EdTech to Facilitate Change

Research out this week from University College London shows that on average teachers work around 47 hours a week in term-time, around 8 hours a week more than comparable OECD countries. As many as 25% of teachers work more than 60 hours a week – this is both primary school teachers, (who work between 47-49 hours a week) and secondary school teachers (46-48 hours a week). This has come about despite promises from successive governments to cut back on teachers’ hours.  So what’s the problem and why have previous initiatives so far failed to help?

The paper, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, is the first piece of research to look at data from more than 40,000 primary and secondary teachers in England collected between 1992 and 2017. It turns out that whatever schools have tried, teaching hours have remained “broadly stable” throughout this 15 year period.

This period happens to coincide with one of the most progressive periods of digital innovation for the entire planet, which should have positively benefited the education profession. Over this time frame, we have seen some significant  technological innovation in teaching so the problem may in fact be that there has been too much emphasis on innovation and a failure to ensure that it’s coherent. It’s certainly not cutting the teacher’s workload and it may be that it’s actually slowing teachers down.

Another issue here is the impact of government policy. Consecutive governments have wielded the “solution” of technology to the problem, but in each case this has failed to make a dent in working hours for teachers. In our analysis this has largely been down to two factors; form and habit – let’s explain. It is the form each technological innovation has taken – and most of these have purely been the transfer of paper processes onto screens.

This has dogged every single stage of digital transformation from when computers were first invented. There are inevitably short cuts that the computer can bring, but each iteration of new computer system needs to “rethink” every step of every process. It is often the case that stages of the paper process can be eliminated, or the computer can offer suggestions or short cuts for each step, but when first generation systems of ANY kind are put forward their authors are in such a rush, they simply ape the paper system and don’t improve it.

Sometimes data can be input multiple times, by multiple people when there should be a single spelling of a name, or a single list of results.  This is what we call a single version of the truth – multiple inputs create several contradictory versions of that truth.

Let’s parallel this to the creation of cars. When Henry Ford developed the first car, the chassis was placed high because the previous engine i.e. a horse, needed to be pulled by something quite high. Suddenly they realised that the engine could go at any height.  This is what has happened in EdTech – products are introduced, and teachers get used to them – but some have failed to simplify unnecessary steps and this has resulted in no improvement to teacher workload challenges. 

Another vivid example of this is how tech addressed the learning without levels scenario which was designed to enable teachers to differentiate activities, refine their planning and provide support more effectively. But when it was automated all it did in the end was to replace numbers with words, and put tick boxes on a screen. Teachers actually ended up doing more formative assessments.

Secondly, what we witness is that teachers, who are genuinely overwhelmed within the classroom, really want to be convinced by a revolutionary tech solution, and they tend to embrace it enthusiastically, but without being able to take a step back and see if the system works for them.

The latest Teacher Tapp survey results show that almost a fifth of teachers spend more than seven hours a week marking. If you ask those same teachers if they would carry on marking if external factors like Ofsted were removed, this dropped very little, something like 5% across all teachers.

It is very apparent over the last 25 years regardless of colour of Government that there has been no major impact on teacher workload reduction.  In fact the current Government EdTech strategy, and the revised Ofsted inspection framework, should have provided some hope that there is recognition that teachers are overworked and that previously EdTech has had absolutely no impact on alleviating this. This is perhaps because the inspection framework talks about looking at “external assessment data” by allowing teachers to demonstrate how students are improving without the need to be constantly capturing internal tick box attainment data.

The best EdTech solutions are those that are easy to use, which save teachers time and which share data across multiple systems and this then enables a pupil assessment which fits within current policy and yet dramatically addresses teacher workload.  There are some good solutions on the market and teachers need to invest some time trying them, and looking at whether or not they cut the amount of time they use for pupil assessment. If they do they are a good thing, and if they merely mimic the past, don’t buy into them.

Author – Shehzad Najib, CEO, Kinteract


CONSTRUCTION has started on a new £6 million sports hub at a prestigious, academically non-selective state boarding school in Woking.

Award-winning construction firm Stepnell has been appointed by Gordon’s School to build a new sporting facility for the pupils and staff, which will be delivered over a 36-week programme.

The ultra-modern build – designed by NVB Architects – will include a 1,223 square metre sports hall with associated changing rooms and supporting spaces. Stepnell will also be installing a new all-weather pitch with the help of S&C Slatter to provide a high-quality playing surface for both football and rugby.

The company has a proud history of refurbishing, designing and building educational facilities and Gordon’s School will be a welcome addition to its large portfolio of both public and private sector clients.

Rob Speirs, regional director at Stepnell, said: “We’re delighted to have started on site at this fantastic school and we are really pleased to be involved in a project that will help sporting development in the school curriculum.

“Physical education teaches students the importance of teamwork, communication and discipline – attributes that are all essential for future employment and are used by our own teams on site.”

As specialist sector experts, Stepnell has significant experience of the complexities of educational construction and has been working to anticipate risks and opportunities to help Gordon’s School maximise the whole life value of its investment.

Rob added: “The team is highly experienced in negotiating live sites and has put special measures in place to ensure the safety of all staff and students is maintained whilst the work is taking place.

“Gordon’s School is an amazing establishment and we are committed to ensuring that the sports hub reflects the high standards that are already exceeded by the school.”

The sports hall – based on the recommendations set out by Sport England guidance – will combine with the new all-weather pitch, the school’s existing hockey pitch, netball courts and established playing fields to create a sports hub for the school to help promote and strengthen its ‘sport for all’ approach.

Susan Meikle, Bursar at Gordon’s School, said: “Gordon’s School selected Stepnell for our £6m sports hall and all-weather pitch not just because they tendered the best value bid, but because of the manner in which their bid was put together, as well as their experience of working in education.

“At every stage of the tender process, Stepnell sent all relevant personnel to site and clearly worked as a professional team together, and with their subcontractors; this meant that we knew they had really considered every aspect of the project carefully, putting forward suggestions for value-engineering and really wanting the best for us the client, and therefore our students.

“Stepnell have worked with us to complete any feasible preparatory work, ensuring once on site properly, the project can run without undue delay. We look forward to completion in summer 2020.” To find out more about Stepnell visit: or join the conversation at @Stepnellltd.

Wilsden Primary School receives certification for online safety

Bradford-based school ensures online safeguarding measures are in place

Wilsden Primary School in Bradford, West Yorkshire – part of the Focus Trust – has become a Certified School Community 2019 after implementing and effectively delivering online safeguarding measures set out by National Online Safety, an independent online safety provider.

This recognition from National Online Safety follows the school’s commitment to going above and beyond their statutory requirements in terms of online safeguarding outlined in the Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE), which was published in September 2018.

The academy has demonstrated this commitment through advanced training programmes which are not only focused at teachers but wider staff members, school governors and parents, as well as ensuring key personnel have received additional training.

Other initiatives set up by the school include the creation of e-safety newsletters which are shared with parents and staff, weekly ICT sessions held with the children on how to be responsible and work with the local police on best practice when it comes to safeguarding.

Wilsden Primary Academy operates as part of Focus Trust, a charitable multi-academy trust which is based in the North West of England, with a vision of providing an engaging and challenging learning environment where the children are happy.

Head teacher John Davison said in response to the accreditation: “Online safety for our children is of the upmost importance, we now live in a digital age and with young children having access to mobile phones and tablets it is important that teachers and parents alike understand how best we can protect children.

“It is our aim to ensure 100% of our staff receive training on safe practice and what to do if something goes wrong, ensuring a child is supported.

“What is important is that we should be embracing this new technology and helping children use these platforms positively, helping aid their learning and development instead of fearing these platforms due to security risks. I hope this training will empower our staff to achieve this.”

Wilsden Primary School joined Focus Trust in 2017 in order to be able work collaboratively with the 15 schools that make up the trust helping encourage the use of best practice ensuring the best learning environment for each and every pupil.

National Online Safety are an organisation who began life in 2017 who encourage schools to adopt a whole-school community approach as they believe combining awareness with education, through a joint approach through schools and the wider community. It is the best school-led approach to online safety.

New research reveals the cyber risks faced by UK school children as young as nine

  • Seven in 10 teachers have witnessed cyber bullying at school
  • 98% of teachers said parents should be responsible for keeping children safe online but agreed that everyone has a role to play
  • 59% of teachers said that children want to know more about online safety
  • Ecclesiastical Insurance launches toolkit to help teachers deliver online safety lessons

Cyberbullying, pupils posting things they will regret later in life and addiction to gaming or technology are among the cyber risks teachers are seeing in the UK’s schools.

Research undertaken by specialist insurer Ecclesiastical has revealed that seven in 10 (69%) teachers have witnessed cyber-bullying at their school, two-fifths (40%) have seen children posting things online that they may regret later in life and a third (34%) have seen children sharing personal information or showing signs of addiction to gaming or technology¹.

In February 2019, the Department for Education (DFE) published statutory guidance to accompany the introduction of compulsory health, relationship and sex education in 2020.  The changes will make schools responsible for teaching children about good physical and mental health, healthy relationships and how to stay safe online.

Ecclesiastical’s research suggests that teachers are concerned about the additional responsibilities they will face when it comes to online safety.

One teacher commented: “Far too much emphasis is placed on schools. This is a parenting role in the first instance. If parents allow their children access to online materials, especially through mobile phones, then they have to take the responsibility of teaching them how to use it safely.”

While 98% of teachers said that parents should be responsible for keeping their children safe online, they also agreed that the responsibility was a shared one. 84% of those surveyed agreed that ‘it takes a whole community to keep children safe on line’. This includes schools, the government and technology companies too.

According to Ecclesiastical’s research, 70% of schools are already running specific online safety lessons, but around half (45%) only teach the subject once a term. Teachers also raised concerns over the new PSHE curriculum; just 41% believe that the DFE will provide appropriate and adequate support, funding and materials to deliver the new online safety lessons.

“I don’t believe the new guidance will be helpful as it will become out of date very quickly because the internet and virtual world changes all the time,” one teacher commented, while another added: “Government wants schools to be responsible for all kinds of things but rarely provides any training or funding, they just pass the buck onto schools.”

In addition to this, a third (31%) of teachers admitted that students are engaged in the lessons at first but quickly lose interest. This is despite a recent study undertaken by The Chartered Institute of IT (BCS), which suggested that children between the ages of eight and 13 would welcome more education in schools on online safety2.

When asked why they thought students became disengaged, those surveyed suggested that children often think that they ‘know it all already’, that they don’t think it will happen to them or that the lesson content can be dull and repetitive.  

Teachers believed that the main barriers to engaging students in online safety lessons included the fact that students are often more tech savvy than the teacher (56%), it’s hard to keep up with the latest trends (50%) and that resources go out of date too quickly (35%) or are very dull (22%).

In order to address this, teachers would like to see online or interactive resources that are updated regularly and provide real life examples that the children can relate to, alongside support from external parties like the police and content that is delivered from the child’s point of view.

In response to the issues faced by teachers, Ecclesiastical has launched Cyber Ready, a new toolkit to help teachers engage children between the ages of nine and 13 in cyber safety lessons.

The Cyber Ready toolkit combines visual aids, scenarios that children can relate to and a creative approach to enable teachers to explore a range of cyber safety issues with their class. It aims to help raise awareness of cyber issues and empower children to come up with their own solutions to cyber safety. 

It features five real life scenarios for the class to work through, each addressing a cyber risk for children, including cyber bullying, spending too much time online and sharing personal information with others. It uses a range of characters, emojis, social media platforms and locations to help children bring the scenarios to life.

The Cyber Ready toolkit is available to download for free from the Ecclesiastical website:

Search for the nation’s best young maths minds returns! Explore Learning Mathematicians’ Awards open for entries

(25th September 2019) Do you know your Pi from your percentage? Your acute angles from your algebra? Your median from your multiples? If you love maths and are positive you’re up for a challenge, then it won’t be obtuse for you to have a go at entering this year’s Explore Learning Mathematicians’ Awards! 

Returning for its tenth year in 2019, the Explore Learning Mathematicians’ Awards is set to be the biggest competition yet – with primary and secondary schools invited to enter a team of enthusiastic maths fans, ready to battle it out to be crowned the best young mathematicians in the country by none other than University Challenge legend, teacher and maths genius, Bobby Seagull! Prizes up for grabs include the latest in mathematical engineering and robotics fun from Meccano, HEXBUG, Spin Master and ThinkFun! 

Free to enter, the teams will take part in two rounds, tackling a never-before-seen mathematical problem in an effort to make it to the Grand Final at the prestigious Natural History Museum on Wednesday 5th February 2020. 

Created and led by tuition provider, Explore Learning, in partnership with the NRICH project at The University of Cambridge, there are two elements to the competition – one aimed at Primary School children for those in years five and six, and a Secondary School competition targeted at pupils in years seven and eight.

Charlotte Gater, Head of Curriculum at Explore Learning says: “Maths is everywhere; you can find it in a musical masterpiece, in a work of art and all across the natural world. Our competition celebrates the magic that maths can bring – and the enjoyment that children can get out of it when they try their hardest! This is an awesome opportunity for pupils to show off their mathematical prowess, to build on their teamwork and problem-solving skills and for schools to celebrate their talented young students. We’re thrilled to have Bobby Seagull onboard as our inspirational ambassador and to be hosting the final at the Natural History Museum which we know will add an extra level of excitement to children as they descend on the capital in the hope of being crowned this year’s winners!”  

The first stage is called The Warm Up where a team from Explore Learning will visit schools to run a fun problem-solving workshop that the whole class can enjoy.  This is a fantastic opportunity for teachers to see their class in action and select their school’s team for the next stage. Register for the Warm Up by 11th October to be involved in the competition via

The real nitty-gritty begins with The Team Challenge held across 15th and 16th January 2020.  The team selected from schools’ warm ups will be invited into their local Explore Learning centre to compete against other young maths minds with a never-before seen problem created especially for the day by the NRICH project at the University of Cambridge.  

The top scoring five primary schools and the top five secondary school teams who have competed in The Team Challenge will descend on the prestigious Natural History Museum in London to take part in The Grand Final on Wednesday 5th February!  

Bobby Seagull, maths teacher, author of The Life Changing Magic of Numbers and co-presenter of the BBC2 series, The Genius Guide says: “I’m so excited to be an ambassador for the Explore Learning Mathematicians’ Awards. The competition inspires children to see the fun that maths can bring – pushing them out of their comfort zone and encouraging them to work together as a brilliant team to be the best they can be.  I have always loved maths because once you’ve gained confidence in the basics of numeracy, you then have licence to become truly creative!”  

This year, the prizes are better than ever with every child in the two winning teams being awarded with:

– A copy of the game Rush Hour from ThinkFun, worth £17.99 each

– A Meccano Motorized Mover Inventor Set Worth £39.99 each

– Boxer the Robot from Spin Master worth £79.99 each

– A VEX Robotics Motorised Robotic Arm by HEXBUG worth £49.99

– Sum Fun, the educational maths game worth £14.99 each

– A signed copy of The Life-Changing Magic of Numbers by Bobby Seagull 

And for the children in the eight teams who are runners up:

– A copy of the game Rush Hour from ThinkFun, worth £17.99 each

– A Meccano Quick Build Inventor set (£9.99 each)

– A Novie Robot from Spin Master worth £24.99 each

– A VEX Robotics Robotic Arm by HEXBUG worth £24.99 each

– Sum Fun, the educational maths game work £14.99 each

– A signed copy of The Life-Changing Magic of Numbers by Bobby Seagull 

Last year’s primary school winners were a team from St George’s Primary School in Weybridge while the secondary school winning prize went to the Lawrence Sheriff School in Rugby. 

Explore Learning is an award-winning English and maths tuition company with 145 centres located all over the country.  Over 35,000 children aged four to 14 attend their centres each week and, over the course of the last 18 years, have helped over 250,000 children. Explore Learning’s aim is to help every child reach their full potential and get the best results they can, developing a generation of fearless learners.    

NRICH at the University of Cambridge creates unique mathematical tasks that build students’ perseverance, mathematical reasoning and ability to apply knowledge creatively in an unfamiliar context.  Their ‘low threshold, high ceiling’ resources are designed to be accessible to all learners, encouraging exploration and discussion. 

To help schools prepare, Explore Learning and NRICH have put together a number of teacher resources, downloadable from the NRICH  website –  

For more information about Explore Learning and how it supports parents please visit or call 01483 447410.

320,000 book boost helps tackle accessible reading famine in education sector

A free service that helps print-disabled people in the UK access educational texts has tripled the number of titles available since last year – reaching more than a quarter of a million books overall.

320,956 books are now available through the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) Bookshare service, which has offered accessible education resources to students, schools and colleges across the UK since its launch in 2016.

It was established to help tackle the worldwide book famine, which sees less than 10 per cent of published works being made into accessible formats, such as braille, large print or audio. This low availability of accessible materials has a large impact in the education sector – alienating over 40,000 children and young people who are living with sight loss in the UK, as well as 1 in 10 people who have a print disability, such as dyslexia.

Since its launch three years ago, learners and teachers have accessed more than 196,902 titles via the RNIB Bookshare portal. Nine in ten learners (90 per cent) who used the service felt they had increased independence and inclusion, while a further 86 per cent felt they had improved literacy skills.

David Clarke, Director of Services at RNIB, said: “Learners with a print disability are typically denied access to key curriculum and educational resources because they’re not able to access the text of a printed book. Despite their ability, knowledge or skill, this lack of resources can restrict their potential within the educational system.

“With the incredible growth of our Bookshare library over the last year, we are in a better position than ever before to be able to address the imbalance of support for learners with a print disability. We are now allowing millions of people to literally open up their education with access to materials that allow for an entirely independent learning experience.”

Case study: “It would have been almost impossible to do my GCSEs without RNIB Bookshare”

Charlie Beeston aged 16 from Lincolnshire, has optic nerve hypoplasia (a congenital condition where the optic nerve is underdeveloped), nystagmus (which causes constant, involuntary eye movements) and ocular albinism (a genetic disorder causing reduced pigmentation of the iris).

Charlie is registered severely sight impaired but he can read large print. However, at school it was often difficult for Charlie to take part in education alongside his peers. He said: “My secondary school didn’t really know how to help at first, as I was the only visually impaired person in secondary school in the county at the time. I wasn’t able to join in several lessons, like art, technology, geography and ICT. Sometimes I had nothing to do.

“I always struggled on being able to get the kind of resources that all the other pupils had. Textbooks for school, revision guides. Basically, anything that any other student can get from a teacher. RNIB Bookshare changed that. Now, I’ll go to my Teaching Assistant and say, ‘can we get this off RNIB Bookshare, please’ and, she’ll put it on my laptop, where I can enlarge the font.

“Taking my GCSEs would have been almost impossible if I didn’t have RNIB Bookshare. Being able to come home and revise independently was a massive help for me.”

Last month, Charlie achieved one A**, three 3 A*s, four As and one B in his GCSEs. He’s now back in school studying for his A-levels (Psychology, History, Government and Politics) and he continues to use RNIB Bookshare.

For more information about RNIB Bookshare, please visit

Planning Learning Spaces by Murray Hudson and Terry White.

Can school design help us to realise a new vision for education that equips young people for life in a fast-changing world? How can we design schools for the next generation for jobs that do not yet exist? And can we help children to want to go to school in the morning with design? These are the big questions at the heart of Planning Learning Spaces, a new guide for anyone involved in the planning and design of learning environments.

Murray Hudson and Terry White have brought together educationalists and innovative school architects to pool their collective expertise and inspire the design of more intelligent learning spaces. The authors prompt readers to question common assumptions about how schools should look and how children should be educated: Why, they ask, have so many schools changed relatively little in more than a century? What form should a school library take in the internet age? Do classrooms really have to be square? The book also tackles vital elements of learning space design such as the right lighting, heating and acoustics, and explores the key role of furniture, fixtures and fittings.

With contributions from leading professionals, including Herman Hertzberger and Sir Ken Robinson, Planning Learning Spaces is an invaluable resource for architects, interior designers and educators hoping that their project will make a genuine difference.


‘A welcome and timely addition to the subject of school design at a time of great change’ – Professor Alan Jones President of the Royal Institute of British Architects, 2019 – 21

‘Builds a bridge from the simple to the extraordinary……awash in opportunity and inspiration’ – Professor Stephen Heppell – Chair in Learning Innovation at Universidad Camilo José Cela, Madrid. 

Discovering Sacred Texts: highlights from the British Library’s vast and unparalleled collection of sacred books, scrolls and scriptures now online

Discovering Sacred Texts is a new free British Library online learning resource, inviting visitors to explore the world’s major faiths through the Library’s extensive collection of sacred texts.

Available to all, the new website includes over 250 digitised collection items, teachers’ resources, short films and articles written by academics, faith leaders and practitioners, library curators and cultural leaders.

Texts range from some of the best-known and most beautiful manuscripts of the scriptures of various world religions, to an extensive collection of printed editions, both early and modern, including selections from over 100 texts that are newly digitised and available online for the first time.

Discovering Sacred Texts provides access to the richness and diversity of the texts from the world’s great faiths. Designed for Religious Education students, teachers and lifelong learners, it features the six most-practised faiths in the UK – Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Sikhism – as well as a number of other faiths including the Baha’i Faith, Jainism and Zoroastrianism.

Highlights include:

  • A copy of the Lotus Sūtra in a lavishly decorated scroll from Japan, written in gold and silver ink on indigo-dyed paper dating back to 1636, which will also feature in the Library’s upcoming Buddhism exhibition
  • The earliest surviving copy of the complete New Testament, Codex Sinaiticus, which dates from the 4th century
  • The Ramayana, an epic poem ascribed to the sage Valmiki, composed in Sanskrit in the middle of the first millennium
  • The Ma’il Qur’an, one of the very earliest Qur’ans in the world, dating back to the 8th century
  • One of the earliest surviving manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible from the 10th century
  • The Prayer Book of Rani Jindan, a manuscript including three hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib, prepared in the early 19th century
  • Tablet written by the Bab, co-founder of the Baha’i Faith in the 19th century
  • Adhai Dvipa, a traditional Jain cosmic diagram from 18th-19th century
  • A copy of the world’s oldest Zoroastrian manuscript, the Ashem Vohu, dating from the 9th century

Offering specially researched and curated content, over 50 discursive articles are available for audiences exploring and celebrating religious diversity. Original articles by academics, library curators and faith leaders cover topics such as Islamic pilgrimage and sacred space, Henry VIII and the Reformation, iconography, the Buddha and the Buddhist sacred text, Hindu deities, the illumination of Jewish biblical texts and the shared origins of the Abrahamic faiths.

Of the 250 diverse collection items on the Discovering Sacred Texts platform, over 100 of these are now available to the public online for the first time, including selections from:

  • Tyndale’s New Testament, the first complete edition to be printed in English and one of only three copies surviving from the 3,000 or more printed in 1526
  • The British Library’s oldest dated manuscript of al-Bukhari’s collection of hadith from the 12th century  
  • A woodblock-printed Illustrated Life of Jesus in Chinese, from 1637, one of thirty-seven surviving copies of the book

A curated selection of the spectacular collection items representing these faiths will be on physical display in the British Library’s free, permanent Treasures Gallery to coincide with the launch of Discovering Sacred Texts.

A series of public events and talks will take place associated with the launch of the new resource, including a special event with Karen Armstrong, one of the world’s leading authorities on faith and scriptures, who will explore the relationship with holy texts in the modern world in a special event at the British Library on 17 October 2019.

Alex Whitfield, Head of Learning at the British Library, commented:

“We are thrilled to be launching Discovering Sacred Texts, a new website drawing on the strength and diversity of the British Library’s faith collections. This site gives free access to an incredible range of texts, videos and curated articles relating to some of the world’s major faiths, which we hope will provide an invaluable tool for students, teachers and lifelong learners all over the world.”

The project has been generously supported by Dangoor Education since its inception and by Allchurches Trust, alongside other funders.

David Dangoor of Dangoor Education, said:

“Having been involved since its inception many years ago with the British Library’s hugely successful website Discovering Literature, Dangoor Education is delighted to be embarking on a similar new initiative Discovering Sacred Texts. The British Library, as one of the great libraries of the world, is expanding and redefining the role of a library in the digital age.  Millions of people around the world will be able to see and understand the impact of many of the documents and texts that have helped shape the cultures of the world we live in today.”

Chairman of Allchurches Trust, Sir Philip Mawer, said: “This new learning resource will enable far more people to discover the British Library’s wonderful collection of sacred texts, including some of the earliest examples of Christian teaching, while the insight from experts, films and teaching materials will help bring the story of the world’s major faiths to life.”

More information availalbe from the British Library website:

Getting the grades: three reasons why the further education sector needs a strategic view of data

The further education sector is changing. The introduction of T-Levels in September 2020 will provide another avenue for students to explore, with a mixture of classroom learning and ‘on-the-job’ experience creating the experience needed for students to open the door into skilled employment, further study or a higher apprenticeship. Additionally, Ofsted’s new framework is putting further emphasis on the curriculum, placing it back at the centre of the inspection to ensure young people and adults are provided with the high-quality training and support they need to succeed in their careers or next steps of education. Despite only contributing to one part of the Ofsted inspection, a year of above-average exam results could be critical to the success of a college looking to demonstrate its commitment to excelling the educational opportunities of its students. But how can progress be tracked throughout the year, and how can colleges ensure they have the data they need to report effectively?

Jacob Kemp, Head of Direct Sales, Dynistics, outlines three key reasons that all education establishments need a strategic view of their data throughout the entire academic year in order to get the grades they need to impress the regulators and set their students up to succeed.

1. Keeping students on track

First and foremost, a strategic view of student data throughout the entire academic year enables staff to keep their students on track and on the right path to progress. Looking at the exam results in isolation at the end of the year won’t paint a very clear picture. Yes, the student might have achieved their target grade, but how does it compare to their performance in the months or year before? Could the student have achieved even higher results with additional support, or, if they didn’t achieve their predicted grades, could additional tutoring sessions have enabled them to get back on track? Taking advantage of Government initiatives such as ‘Value Add’ is one way to keep high performers challenged; something that, historically, colleges have struggled to do.

Additionally, it isn’t only exam results that could be tracked throughout the year, but other aspects and KPIs such as attendance, engagement in Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs), extra-curricular activities, revision classes attended and additional work completed outside of classroom hours. This is particularly valuable for students at risk: if the student’s attendance is below average or has dropped since the start of the year, could this also be a sign that additional support might be required? Ofsted’s new inspection framework will be looking for tutors and leaders that do the right thing for their learners and resist the temptation to take shortcuts, meaning that tutors who can demonstrate that student progress has been tracked and measures have been put in place throughout the year, will be in a good position to impress.

A clear view of how students are performing, at the right time, indicated by strategic, visual dashboards, will arm academic staff with the insight they need to not only understand what support might be needed but to better forecast what grades the students might achieve.

2. Staying in line with the curriculum

The additional attention that will be given to the national curriculum also demonstrates the importance of not only keeping students on track, but staff too. Having access to data insights takes the guesswork out of staff performance and enables senior leadership teams and governors to ask the tricky questions.

Are staff not only meeting their targets, but delivering their lessons in an innovative and creative way to enhance student engagement? Are the attendance or retention numbers lower for classes taught by a particular tutor, or are there higher numbers of exceeding students in one class? In a school, are the student’s grades average across the subjects, or are there certain areas where all students are falling short? Asking these questions and identifying patterns in the data can not only lead to answers but actionable outcomes, making sure both staff and students are in the best position when exam time comes.

3. Reputation management

As with any organisation, colleges have a reputation to protect and uphold. News of an underperforming college will quickly spread throughout the community like wildfire, which in turn can have a detrimental impact on future funding, new student applications and staff recruitment. And, as with any organisation, education establishments need to be able to report accurately and timely to all stakeholders at any given point, meaning that having real-time access to data is essential. 

Being able to see from a single snapshot that student performance isn’t as high as it could be in one subject area after a mid-year exam could make the difference between getting on top of the issue or letting it get to the point where grades aren’t up to scratch, teaching strays from the curriculum and word soon gets out that the standards of the college have slipped altogether. Additionally, having this insight enables colleges to field Ofsted questions or challenges before they have been raised: what might not be going to plan, why, and what could be done to resolve the issue?

A moment in time

The point at which a student receives their exam results is a siloed picture of the academic year, but there is far more to it than that. Fully utilising the potential of data and how it is analysed and reported can make the difference between a successful academic year and a college entering crisis mode. A single, holistic view of data provides the ability for tutors and governing bodies to not only track progress throughout the year but to ensure they are hitting the Ofsted benchmarks. It’s time for the further education sector to become far more strategic in its data outlook; those that do will soar through the league tables and get that all-important Outstanding rating.