History is never far from making headlines; newspapers frequently refer to some of the latest academic research being undertaken. Over the weekend ‘The Guardian’ had as one of its banner headlines, ‘Stonehenge remains a mystery as scientists ask: was it a health spa, or a cemetery?.‘ A further headline from the weekend of the 16th March focuses on the discovery of a number of skeletons from a plague burial site, ‘Builders unearth Medieval plague victims in City of London square’. Similarly in the Telegraph there are frequent headlines with a historical theme, for example, ‘Richard III: tests on skeleton could ‘rewrite history books’ says leading scientist’ or ’ The British Museum reunites Roman marble panels split for 2,000 years’. Consider the furore when Hilary Mantel’s words were taken out of context when she delivered her recent Winter Lecture at the British Museum- incidentally the full transcript and the lecture itself which lasts for around an hour can be accessed by clicking this link.
History is at the heart of our culture and there are some fantastic resources uploaded and freely shared on the internet by history teachers who have a passion for learning and a deep love of their subject.
Just as History is constantly in the headlines nationally, we are pleased that History is also making headlines at KEHS as we look forward to Dr Janina Ramirez joining us for the day on Wednesday 20th March. Her new TV series Chivalry and Betrayal has received excellent reviews: ” her new take on the war integrates cultural, political and military history wonderfully well and uses period artefacts and settings to stunning effect.” Dr Ramirez will be talking with our girls about her own career and delivering a lecture on ‘Illuminating the Dark Ages’. We are sure that it is going to be a fascinating day!
I really do dislike the snow. However I did spend a little time this evening researching facts about the weather and snow facts in particular. I discovered a fascinating site by Dr Richard Wild, who apparently wrote his PhD on snow! So here are some of the interesting facts from his website:
There is also an interesting article in the Telegraph that recalls the Big Freeze of 1963- well worth a read! And do check out this BBC site about Harsh Winters in the UK.
There is an interesting article in History Today written by Tim Stanley an associate fellow of the Rothermere American Institute, Oxford University which focuses on ‘false memory syndrome’. He writes a damning review of Downton Abbey dismissing it ‘as more of a well-informed soap than a piece of serious historical drama. The plot is pure Coronation Street, while the dialogue feels as if it is culled from Wikipedia.’ However he reserves his greatest condemnation for its false memory of class relations. In his article he juxtaposes the reality of Edwardian England with the Downton depiction of life in the early 20th century. He stresses that:
- Servants entered the household invisibly through their own doors
- Marriages and babies could lead to dismissal.
- One servant given authority over another invariably had to be cruel and distant in order to be taken seriously.
- The devotion that nannies were supposed to exert over their wealthy charges was very rare.
He believes that with many of the modern dramas the British like to ‘take comfort in a past that only seems so good because so few are alive to remember it well.’
Downton Abbey is good Sunday evening television drama, and if it encourages our students to carry out more research about the Edwardian period, then in my view it probably does no real harm at all.
We finished the Autumn term almost a week ago now with numerous festive treats and celebrations. Our Christmas Concerts were live streamed for the first time and led to family members being able to watch from the US, Canada, Switzerland, Poland and France as well as from various locations closer to home in the UK. Mrs Huxley and her food studies students treated the staff to some delicious mince pies, shortbread and coffee. It was lovely to see so many colleagues there talking with the girls and sampling the food. Mrs Huxley has kindly shared the recipe for mince pies which I am posting here.
240g / 8 oz Plain Flour
120g / 4oz Butter / block Margarine
1 jar Mincemeat (sweet)
- Oven on 200°c / gas 6. Flour a tartlet tin.
- Make shortcrust pastry – rub fat into flour until it looks like breadcrumbs
- Add 2-3 tablespoons cold water. Stir in with knife to form stiff dough.
- Divide into 1/3rd and 2/3rds. Roll out larger piece on floured surface.
- Cut out 12 bases and line tartlet tins.
- Put 1 heaped teaspoon mincemeat in each base.
- Roll out remaining pastry and cut out tops. Wet edges of bases to help tops to stick.
- Position tops and brush with milk or water. Make 3 scissor snips on tops (only if it covers base completely).
- Bake 15 – 20 mins until golden brown
Still in the festive mood? Check out the Roasts and Toasts of Christmas Past at the English Heritage Site and do have a look at the blogs mostly with a festive theme from our year 7 girls.
Enjoy the break and have a lovely Christmas!
Consultations are currently underway regarding possible changes to the GCSE examinations and one of those changes includes the proposal that teachers will only have limited access to mark schemes-a retrograde step in my view and one that will expose students to the very real probability that the grade a student achieves in an examination will not necessarily be based on their innate ability but more on the effectiveness of the teacher to interpret, understand and implement the intricacies of a ‘level of response’ mark scheme without actually having any access to that mark scheme. At least that is the situation in my own subject- History. As with a number of Gove’s proposed reforms to the education system there seems a misguided desire to return to the education system of 30 years ago!
My own secondary education took place in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s and now, more than ever, I am very much aware how dependent I actually was on the quality of the teaching. Indeed I owe a great deal to my History teacher Margaret Hodgson; she was detailed, meticulous and thorough in her approach to the teaching of History. She moulded her A level students into superb essay writers, insightful analysers of 16th century historical source material and effective independent learners. Looking back, without her input into my education I doubt I would have flourished so much at university and I certainly wouldn’t have become the teacher I am today. But she was the exception- my English teacher was a bright young thing from Cambridge who had lost his way in a large comprehensive school. Lessons were unprepared and he loved to be distracted by some of the more wayward girls in the class who wanted to talk about everything but the set English texts! In French our teacher, another Cambridge graduate, was on extended sick leave for the last two terms of our A level studies (she never returned) so we had to make do with the occasional supply teacher and work set, but not marked, by the Head of the French department. In the midst of such mediocrity, Margaret Hodgson was a shining light of inspiration. She was the teacher who gave me the wings to fly and for that I will be forever grateful!
This particular graphic comes from an excellent site - Teach Thought where the Director of Curriculum, Terry Heick, lists 9 key elements of 21st Century Learning. At KEHS our curriculum enables all girls to make tangible progress from one stage of their education to the next, allowing them to develop their individual strengths, talents and passions. We regularly review and update our curriculum both to meet the evolving needs of our girls and to incorporate the best of national educational developments. We provide opportunities to stimulate and challenge the most able both within the classroom environment as well as through the extensive range of enrichment opportunities including extended projects and national competitions. Encouraging girls to enjoy taking ownership of their own learning is one of the major curriculum aims of the school as a whole and as such there are a number of whole school initiatives to foster this including the Widening Horizons Initiative for year 9 girls as well as the AQA Level 2 and Level 3 extended projects for year 10 and sixth form students.
We are very interested at the moment in looking at the role of computing in the girls’ education and with this in mind we are keen to look at the role that coding could play in the curriculum. I have read with interest the latest articles about the need to offer more than just coding in education. Tom Crick comments, “One of the reasons that programming is increasingly perceived to be a 21st-century literacy is because it is ultimately empowering, developing the ability to manipulate and control your digital world.” Nevertheless he goes on to make a very important point: “But if there’s one lesson we should take away from the problems of the past 15 years is that we must not focus on transient and superficial technology skills. Computer science is not programming (and vice versa) – we should be wary of teaching programming just for the sake of teaching programming, without thinking about why we want to get students to program.”
I am really enjoying watching the Olympics on TV. I was, like a number of others in the UK, really not that interested in the build up to the events and I suspected that the Olympics would pass by relatively unnoticed. And then we were all transfixed by Danny Boyle’ s ‘Opening Ceremony’ ; it was just so magnificent that it completely captured the imagination and since then I have watched the swimming, the cycling, the tennis, the gymnastics, the rowing and most recently the athletics. Three gold medals in track and field on one day is quite unbelievable! Members of my own family were actually in the olympic stadium on Friday morning to watch Jessica Ennis begin her campaign for gold. The stadium certainly looks very impressive! Much has been made of the differences with the last London Olympics in 1948- aptly named the ‘Austerity Games’. Richard Cavendish, writing in History Today comments on the opening of the ‘Austerity Olympics’:
“July 29th, 1948: The sun blazed down on Wembley Stadium in London on Thursday, July 29th, 1948, when the fourteenth games of the modern Olympiad were formerly opened by George VI in the presence of a host of dignitaries and a crowd of more than 80,000 people. The King, in naval uniform, was accompanied by the Queen and Princess Margaret. Lord and Lady Mountbatten were there, as were the Shah of Iran and the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Trygve Lie. The members of the International Olympic Committee paraded on the turf in top hats. The games had attracted some 6,000 competitors from countries ranging through the alphabet from Afghanistan to Yugoslavia. The Germans and the Japanese were not invited and the Soviet Union stayed away. The Olympics of 1944 would have been held in Britain, but had been cancelled because of the Second World War, and there was a certain appropriateness in the fact that the 1948 games in London were the successors to the notorious 1936 event in Berlin, which had been employed for Nazi propaganda by the German regime.
Britain was still in a state of post-war bankruptcy, austerity and exhaustion. Bread rationing,as it happened, ended on the same day that the games began. There had been no question of building an Olympic village and no money to create new stadiums. Well-worn venues were used for the swimming in the Empire Pool at Wembley, the shooting at Bisley,the yachting at Cowes, the rowing at Henley. The competitors stayed at colleges and barracks in and around London. Because of rationing, many of them had to bring their own food.”
There are another seven days of competition, many more hours of TV coverage and certainly this is proving to be one of the best summers ever in terms sporting success. The legacy of these games will surely be that many young people will aspire to take up some of the sports receiving such extensive coverage. Youngsters will aspire to be successful whatever their background and irrespective of whether they have been educated in the maintained or the independent sector.
After the rather disastrous launch of Facebook shares on the stock market perhaps it comes as no real surprise that a hedge fund manager has recently predicted that Facebook will disappear before 2020. Avram Piltch has written a fascinating article entitled: “15 Current Technologies My New born Son Won’t Use”. According to Piltch , “A surprising number of the gadgets and technologies we have today are on the verge of extinction.” He includes some interesting items- remote controls, landline phones, desktop computers, hard drives, phone numbers, fax machines and even cinemas.
At the Hay Festival Nicolas Ostler, a leading linguist, even predicted that in the longer term English will die out like Latin. “One day English too, the last lingua franca to be of service to a multi-lingual world, will be laid down. Thereafter everyone will speak and write in whatever language they choose and will understand.” He also claims that half of the world’s languages are so endangered that they will die out by the end of the 21st century. According Ostler technology will play its part in killing off English as people will be able to translate written documents quickly and use hand-held devices to translate speech in real time.
In May I was fortunate enough to hear Professor Keri Facer speak about education and the need to adapt to a changing world in the 21st century. Keri suggests that schools should be reconceptualised; they should be places where students and teachers should imagine, discuss and start to build the futures that they would like to have. The clip below provides an opportunity to view Keri discussing the future of learning.
It’s that time of year again when students across the country are busy revising for their examinations. GCSE and A level students (as well as university undergraduates) enter the examination room hoping for successful outcomes. So I read with interest an article recommended by Kate Kieres from Pennsylvania (@KateK76) highlighting the benefits of drinking water in exams. A study by the University of East London of 447 students indicated that those who took water into the exam room— and presumably consumed the water — did better in the exam than those who did not. Chris Pawson from the university, who led the study, comments “The results imply that the simple act of bringing water into an exam was linked to an improvement in students’ grades”. He suggests that water consumption may have a direct physiological effect on students’ thinking skills as well as alleviating anxiety during the examination. Of course good preparation is also the key to success. Do have a look at our revision tips for KEHS students and good luck to all of our girls in the external examinations.
Apparently one third of British people under the age of 50 cannot remember their own phone number, according to a study conducted by the Institute of Neuroscience at Trinity College Dublin in 2007.
For those who have excellent recall skills there is actually a World Memory Championships, which Joshua Foer took part in recently and which is chronicled in his bestselling book ‘Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything.’
Success in examinations requires excellent recall skills and courtesy of the website ‘Ace Online Schools’, listed below are 10 sites to help to test your memorising skills.
- BBC: Explore Your Memory: Test your memory in a battery of tests involving shapes, colours, pictures, numbers, patterns and more during this 20-minute exercise from the BBC.
- BrainCurls.comMemory Q’s: See how well you can remember sequences of numbers, letters, tones and bars.
- Braingle Memory Tests: How many numbers, letters or words can you remember after looking at them for a brief period of time?
- Brain List Channel Word List Recall: Test your short-term verbal memory by memorising 15 words.
- The Cognition and Language Laboratory Memory Test: A 3-minute quiz that tests your short-term memory of visual objects.
- Essex University Online Memory Experiment: See how well you can memorise sequences of numbers.
- JakeMandell.com: Not only test your audio memory, but also find out if you’re tone deaf.
- Memory Loss Online Memory Self-Tests: Test your verbal and facial memory in two 10-15-minute experiments.
- Test My Brain: Test your memory of numbers, words and faces in a 15-minute quiz.
- Zefrank.com Memory Test: Like the game Memory, but with animated patterns. Can you beat the average score?
So, how good is your memory?