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Cambridge student wins BERA Masters Award for second year running

Thu Thu
Thursday 26 March
“The Masters programme really shaped me as a researcher”

For the second year running, a student from the Faculty of Education has won the British Educational Research Association’s Masters Dissertation Award, which recognises academic excellence and rigour in research by a Master’s student.

The 2020 award was given to Thu Thu, who is 22 and studied for her MPhil on the Education, Globalisation and International Development ‘track’. She follows in the footsteps of Joyce Kim, who won the same award in 2019.

Thu was born and raised in Yangon, Myanmar. Here, she tells us a little bit more about her research – and what she hopes to do next.

Since 2011, the civilian government in Myanmar has brought in a wave of reforms. The primary aim is to modernise the country and make it competitive. Education plays a big part in this because the Government has stressed the importance of investing in human capital. I’m interested in the rationale behind these reforms, and their impact.

My research pushes for a new theoretical approach when it comes to the relationship between Government policy and education. Typically, when we look at these things we are interested either in the institutional structures and networks that enable the process of governing (the ‘governance perspective’), or the ideology behind certain policy agendas. But the way that we rationalise policy is important, too, because the work of governing is increasingly about inciting us, as individuals, to take on certain desires or anxieties, and to change the way we do things (the ‘governmentality perspective’). My argument here is that combining the governance and governmentality approaches allows for a far more nuanced understanding of the various ways in which the mechanisms of the state influence individual conduct, and vice versa.

One of the big changes we are seeing in Myanmar is the privatisation of education. That’s really interesting because if you look at their reform policies, they don’t mention a privatisation agenda. I think it’s a hidden privatisation and I have explored some reasons for why that might be the case. There has been a massive increase in the number of private schools. Suddenly, this has created an education market that enables students – or their parents – to invest in their education.

This is being presented as necessary, but it also creates competition and inequality. For my research, I consulted a large number of the relevant policy documents and interviewed some of the key players. It was really interesting to see how they rationalised it: all of them saw this as essential to helping Myanmar to modernise and move its citizens towards a better future. But privatisation also creates a competitive mindset: private school students get an advantage because they have access to better resources, and more social capital, perhaps, than those who just go to the local school. This, of course, has a lot of implications for social justice within the education system. 

I think people should see this bigger picture when considering these reforms. I want to do more research before drawing conclusions about whether the changes are for better or worse. Myanmar’s education reforms are ongoing and contested, and they are constantly developing in response to various political and economic influences. My work captures the processes of governing involved in the reforms at a particular stage within that development. And my hope is that this encourages readers to consider the rationalities, programmes and technologies of governing that seep into our lives and, consequently, to reflect on what is really going on and the possibility of thinking otherwise.

I’m now pursuing some of these issues in my PhD.  I’m exploring the emergence of new private schools and their efforts to internationalise with (and through) edu-businesses in the global North. Again, I’m interested in understanding the ways in which education in Myanmar is implicated within neoliberalism; taken not only as an economic, political and ideological project but also a governmental project aimed at constituting ‘ideal’ subjects. 

Winning this award made me feel that I’m making a valuable contribution. There is so much research in these areas, and what I’m doing feels like a drop in the ocean. I’m very thankful for this recognition, and delighted that someone considers it useful!

The Faculty’s Masters programme really shaped me as a researcher. I had a fantastic supervisor: Dr Liz Maber. The way she critiqued my work was really valuable, but so was her general advice and personal support. Beyond that, every lecture, seminar, even conversations during coffee breaks, changed the way I saw things and made me the researcher I am. I’m really thankful to the Faculty and to my College, Homerton, for everything that they have given me.

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Our buildings are closed - but the Faculty is open!

Faculty of Education
Friday 20 March
The Faculty of Education's buildings will be closed from 5.00pm on Friday, 20 March, 2020, as part of wider measures implemented by the University in the context of the Coronavirus outbreak.

Fortunately, the Faculty will still be very much open! From this date, we will be doing as much of our work as we can remotely.

If you are interested in finding out more about our courses or our research, please take a look at our website and do get in touch.

Current staff and students should check their email regularly for updates. The latest information about University-wide arrangements is available at:

Please do follow the latest public health guidance. We look forward to seeing and talking to you all soon!

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New title explores different approaches to researching educational dialogue

Research Methods for Educational Dialogue
Thursday 19 March
A new book which analyses various approaches to studying ‘educational dialogue’ has been published.

Research Methods for Educational Dialogue was co-authored by Ruth Kershner, Sara Hennessy, Rupert Wegerif and Ayesha Ahmed, all of whom are members of the Cambridge Educational Dialogue Research Group (CEDiR) in the Faculty of Education.

It aims to fill a gap in the existing literature by providing accounts of different research methods that can be used to study talk and dialogue between students, between students and teachers, and between professional colleagues, sometimes mediated by microblogging and use of video. Many research examples are included, with critical discussion of a wide variety of research methods in different face-to-face and online educational contexts. 

Alongside contributions from Faculty members, there are numerous other expert contributions from international researchers, who comment on the chapters and expand the methodological discussion with reference to their own research.

As the book’s introduction explains, the Russian philosopher Bakhtin, who inspired much of this research, suggested that: ‘if an answer does not give rise to a new question from itself, it falls out of the dialogue’. In keeping with this principle, educational dialogue is about how people can engage in conversations that allow speakers and listeners to explore, question, and build on, each other’s ideas. This leads to the creation of new ways of understanding the world as well as deepening social relationships.

In the broadest sense, educational dialogue is about how we can all be more open to learning, and develop new insights by allowing different perspectives to converge. The Faculty has a long history of world-leading research in this area and CEDiR exists both to develop this further and to work with international partners to extend the influence of this research on theory, policy and practice.

In addition to student-teacher dialogue in classrooms, many of the ideas in the book can be applied, for example, to the study of dialogue between parents and children, or between education professionals. And as the range of topics implies, dialogue is also not always verbal: interactive technologies have transformed the ways in which individuals collaborate and problem-solve in multimodal communication.

Research Methods for Educational Dialogue is part of a wider series on research methods (Bloomsbury Research Methods for Education, series editor Melanie Nind), It is aimed at researchers, at any level, with an interest in this subject. Among other topics, it includes chapters on dialogue in the classroom, technology-mediated dialogue, online dialogues, and dialogue in educational decision-making. 

“This book makes a distinctive contribution to the growing body of work on educational dialogue by focusing on research methodology in both theoretical and practical terms,” Ruth Kershner said. “There are many examples throughout of our own and other people’s research, expanded by chapter commentaries from a team of experts. We are making a case for developing a repertoire of research methods that are dialogic in themselves, and the book is built firmly on theoretical foundations.”

Research Methods for Educational Dialogue is published by Bloomsbury and available now.

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“As a BAME trainee teacher, I worried about fitting in. I’m glad I didn’t let my fears hold me back”

Tahmena Miah
Friday 13 March
For many people, applying to study for a PGCE at Cambridge can feel like a daunting proposition, and so can the experience of starting your course! Tahmena Miah, a current student at the Faculty, was no different. In a candid blog post, she discusses the nervousness she felt when she first arrived in Cambridge – and why she is glad that she took the leap.

Tahmena, 21, is originally from East London, and is training for a Secondary PGCE to teach English. She wrote about her experiences for a recent post to the PGCE English blog.

As a BAME student, she arrived in a state of nervous excitement, worried in particular about whether she was ‘here for the right reasons’.

“When I first got accepted onto the course, I did have people question if I had got into Cambridge to ‘tick the diversity box’,” she recalls. “I know that there are many others who are afraid to apply, because they are afraid that Cambridge is not for them.”

She soon discovered that her ‘imposter syndrome’ is something that all sorts of people at Cambridge go through. But from the very beginning, her lecturers made it clear to Tahmena and her fellow students that the only reason they had been accepted was ‘because we were going to make great English teachers’. “I can’t explain how much I needed to hear that, and I imagine it was what a lot of us needed at the time,” Tahmena writes.

She describes her PGCE group as a ‘family’, in which diversity is a strength, because people of different cultural, religious and racial backgrounds can bring a variety of perspectives to the classroom and the subject. Similarly, Tahmena is learning to encourage her own students to see the classroom as ‘a safe space’, where people can speak openly about their backgrounds.

The course is, she says, ‘probably the most difficult thing I have done in my life’ – but deeply rewarding. Tahmena adds: “Every day I am thankful for those who pushed me to apply for Cambridge and told me that I am good enough – because Cambridge is for everyone.”

You can read the full blog here. And if you are interested in finding out more about studying for a PGCE at the Faculty of Education, or on any of our other courses, please visit our 'Study With Us' pages.

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Cambridge creates new Professorship in education and mental health

Gordon Harold
Thursday 12 March
The University of Cambridge is creating a new Professorship in education and mental health, to further strengthen a growing research programme aimed at improving the wellbeing, and associated life chances, of children and young adults.

The post was announced by the University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stephen Toope, as he opened the Yidan Prize Conference: Europe, a major, international gathering of leading education researchers. The university, he said, had a ‘critical’ role to play in addressing the challenges of mental health.

The Yidan Prize Conference Series is linked to the Yidan Prize, the largest international prize in education, which is made annually to two outstanding individuals responsible for transformational changes in education research and development. The European conference is hosted by the Intellectual Forum at Jesus College, Cambridge. 

One of the Yidan Laureates honoured this year was Usha Goswami, Professor of Cognitive Developmental Neuroscience at the University, and a Fellow of St John’s College. She received the award for her work deepening understanding of children’s early language acquisition, which has created a basis for new, effective interventions for dyslexia.

The conference more broadly aims to profile world-leading research that demonstrates how education can address major global challenges, and this year focused on wellbeing and education as one of its main themes: examining how schools, teachers and the education system in general can support children with mental health problems. 

Opening the event, Professor Toope announced that the University will be creating a new role – Professor of the Psychology of Education and Mental Health – which will be based in its Faculty of Education. The first post-holder will be Professor Gordon Harold, currently at the University of Sussex, who has led several, field-changing studies into the relationship between domestic adversity and young people’s mental health, enabling schools and teachers to do more to support pupils with depression, anxiety and other mental health problems.

He will join a wider research network on wellbeing and inclusion within the Faculty of Education which is aiming to develop practical interventions and guidance for education professionals by addressing key, unanswered questions: such as how young people’s social relationships affect their learning, and how pupils and teachers can be better supported to cope with the various pressures of the education system.

“We must not lose sight of the fact that mental health, as well as a scientific challenge, is also one of social science and education,” Professor Toope said.

He added: “This goes beyond developing interventions for depression, anxiety, or other disorders. The promotion of positive mental health goes hand-in-hand with the task of helping future generations to enjoy greater opportunities and to become everything they can possibly be.”

Although many countries treat mental health as a matter primarily for health and social care services, education researchers and professionals have long highlighted its relevance for education. 

That relationship was highlighted again in February, in Sir Michael Marmot’s ’10 Years On’ review, which directly links poor physical and mental health in deprived parts of England to a pattern of social inequality that includes cuts to education funding and children’s services. His findings echo recent NHS research into children’s mental health, which suggests that 12.8% of five to 19-year-olds experience at least one mental disorder, and that these are more common among those from low-income backgrounds.

Professor Harold’s work has demonstrated the significant impact that adversity early in life – such as conflict between parents – has on depression, anxiety and behavioural disorders, and, through this, young people’s attainment at school.

He also led years of research that successfully challenged a thesis, popular among some education policy-makers, that young people’s academic attainment and behavioural development are principally governed by genetics. Professor Harold’s research has contested this assertion by studying the progress of children with biologically unrelated parents, such as IVF babies or those adopted at birth. This research has reinforced the significance of a child’s upbringing and environment for their mental health and development and how these experiences interact with and shape their genetic make-up.

He is now leading the national ‘enurture’ network, a UKRI funded initative, which aims to provide effective advice to parents, teachers and policy makers about how emerging digital tools and social media can be used to influence their mental health positively, rather than hinder it.

“One of the most exciting things about coming to Cambridge is that there is so much globally impactful work on education and wellbeing already being done here, offering a unique opportunity to complement and enhance the focus on families, schools and mental health that my research and impact activities represent,” Professor Harold said. 

“There are still big questions that we need to answer to help promote positive child and adolescent development, both from a scientific and a social perspective. By drawing on all of these different areas of research we can start to equip parents, teachers, practitioners, and policy-makers with the evidence, support and resources they need to promote positive mental health among young people today – and the adults of tomorrow.”

This year’s Yidan conference also honoured the work of the 2019 Laureate, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, who died in January this year. Sir Fazle was the Founder and Chair of BRAC, one of the world’s largest non-profit development organisations, which has set up hundreds of early childhood development centres, where close to 40,000 children are presently enrolled.

Dr Charles Chen Yidan, the founder of the Prize, said: “The 2019 Laureates represent two very different approaches to ensuring that our children go on to lead happy, productive lives, but they also intersect. Both point to the need to achieve a better, deeper understanding of children’s needs. Through their work, we now see promising ways to help millions of lives around the world.”

Further information about the Prize is available from the Yidan Foundation website

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Allocation system is source of socio-economic divide in schools access

School entrance sign
Thursday 27 February
A system that favours wealthy families because they can afford properties closer to higher-achieving schools is helping to fuel a socio-economic divide in schools access across England, a study has found.

The report, School Places: A Fair Choice? has been published by The Sutton Trust as part of a wider analysis of the social make-up of state schools. It was co-authored by Professor Anna Vignoles, Professor of Education in the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, alongside lead author, Professor Simon Burgess, and Ellen Greaves, both from the University of Bristol.

The study illustrates what the authors describe as ‘high levels of socio-economic segregation across schools’, caused, in particular, by flaws in the current allocation system. Among various possible solutions, they raise the possibility of schools reserving a proportion of their places to be allocated by ballot.

England operates a system of school choice, in which parents submit an ordered list of preferences, and places are then allocated. While there are enough places overall, the system means that some schools are oversubscribed, and decisions have to be made over final allocation.

For 15 years, the Sutton Trust has analysed the social make-up of the top-performing comprehensives. Last year, the Trust’s research found that the highest-performing schools accept around half the rate of disadvantaged pupils as the national average. 

To inform its work for 2020, the Trust has published School Places: A Fair Choice? The report provides new evidence showing that more children from disadvantaged families attend schools where a much lower proportion of pupils achieve the benchmark of at least five A* to C grades at GCSE. This points to a socio-economic divide, suggesting that students’ chances of attending a better school are in many cases determined by their family income. 

The researchers also find that a large proportion of parents across the socio-economic spectrum are using England’s school choice system to attempt to secure a preferred school for their child. They find that 65% of parents make more than one choice, and 27% make the maximum choices allowed (usually 3 or 6). Families on free school meals make, on average, just as many choices about school quality as wealthier families, and appear to be applying roughly the same logic in their decision-making.

This implies that rather than parents’ choices, the school allocation system is responsible for the socio-economic gap. When children are allocated to over-subscribed schools, the criteria used to choose between children tend to emphasise proximity to the school. This system favours wealthier families, because whoever can afford to rent or buy closest to the highest-achieving schools tends to ‘win’ under that system.

The study also examines the benefits and disadvantages of a number of proposals for reforming the system, including:

Ballots, where schools reserve a proportion of their places to be allocated by ballot.

Priority for disadvantaged families, where schools admit pupils based on their eligibility for free school meals.

Banding, where schools admit equal numbers of pupils from each attainment band.

Simplifying faith school admissions, tackling socio-economic gaps at faith schools by working with the various faith communities to assess barriers to entry and develop more straightforward criteria for parents.

“It’s clear that disadvantaged children are less likely to end up in a high-performing school,” Professor Burgess said. “Our research has shown that rich and poor use the school choice system in the same way. The problem is that the core element of our school admissions system, allocating places by proximity to the school, favours the wealthy. Better-off parents can essentially buy access to high-performing popular schools through where they can choose to live.”

“In this report, we review different options for reform, and believe that the use of marginal ballots offers a promising way forward.”

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Global coalition needed to transform girls’ education - report

Image: UNICEF/UNI175116/Vishwanathan
Tuesday 25 February
A ‘global coalition of parliamentarians’ needs to be set up to meet the urgent international challenge of delivering a quality education to millions of girls who are currently being denied access to any at all, a new report says.

The study, written by academics in the Research for Equitable Access and Learning (REAL) Centre at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, and commissioned by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, urges politicians to collaborate ‘across geographical and political divides’, in a concerted drive to ensure that all girls gain access to education by an internationally-agreed target date of 2030.

According to data gathered by UNESCO, an estimated 130 million girls are currently out of school. Over half of all school-age girls do not achieve a minimum standard in reading and mathematics, even if they do receive an education.

The call for collective, inter-governmental approaches to address this is one of seven recommendations in the report, which together aim to provide a framework for ‘transformative political action’. 

Among others, the authors also stress that marginalised girls will only be able to access education if governments adopt a ‘whole-system’ approach to the problem. That means addressing wider societal issues that currently limit women’s life chances beyond education – such as gender-based violence, discrimination, or social norms that force young girls into early marriage and childbearing.

The full report, Transformative political leadership to promote 12 years of quality education for girls, is being published on 25 February, 2020, by the Platform for Girls’ Education. It is being launched in Geneva, as ministers convene for the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council.

Co-author, Pauline Rose, Director of the University’s REAL Centre said: “Everyone – or almost everyone – agrees that improving girls’ access to quality education is important, but progress has been limited. The report aims to provide a framework so that governments and those in power can turn goodwill into action.”

“More than anything, we need to look beyond what individuals, or single Governments can do, because we will only address this challenge successfully through bipartisan coalitions and collective approaches.”

The need to improve girls’ access to education is recognised in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, set in 2015. These include commitments to provide inclusive and quality education to all, and to achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, by the year 2030.

With the clock ticking on that deadline, initiatives such as the Platform for Girls’ Education have been launched to lobby for quality education for girls. The Platform is part of the international ‘Leave No Girl Behind’ campaign, which calls for all girls to receive 12 years of quality education – an ambition restated by the present British Government in the December 2019 Queen’s speech.

In a statement accompanying the report’s release, however, the UN Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI), which provided feedback on the study, observes that: “Political momentum is not being sufficiently translated into reforms that will put us on track to achieve our Global Goals by 2030. The world is failing to deliver on its promise of quality education, and girls remain the most marginalised.”

Building on earlier studies, the new report identifies seven ways in which governments can take concrete, sustainable and effective action to resolve this.

It was based on a global review of current efforts, with a focus on low and lower-middle income countries. The researchers also carried out interviews with 11 current and former political leaders involved in championing girls’ education.

Its seven main recommendations are:

1.Heads of government, ministers and MPs must use their platform to demonstrate commitment to the development of policies supporting the aim of 12 years of quality education for all girls. Senior civil servants should be equipped to ensure that this continues across election cycles.

2.Women leaders should be represented at every level of government to improve gender-balance in decision-making and to act as role models.

3.A global coalition of parliamentarians should be established to advocate for girls’ education, working across political divides.

4.Senior civil servants should invest in and use data on education that separates out information on gender and other sources of disadvantage, so that this evidence can inform policy-making.

5.Political leaders must collaborate with key stakeholders in gender equality and education issues – such as women’s and youth organisations, civil society organisations, and religious leaders.

6.Government ministers and civil servants should take whole-system approaches to embedding gender equality in national plans and policies, given the multiple barriers to girls’ education.

7.Governments should implement gender-responsive budgeting, that ensure sufficient domestic resources are applied to girls’ education.

“Successful reform rarely depends on individuals acting alone,” the authors add. “It relies on alliances, collective action and advocacy. Networks and coalitions are vital to tackle issues that are beyond the capacity of individuals to resolve, as well as to provide a stronger, collective voice.”

The full report is available here.

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Faculty members appointed to Government advice panel

(Left) Riikka Hofmann and (right) Sonia Ilie
Thursday 20 February
Two members of the Faculty of Education have been appointed to the Government's What Works Trial Advice Panel (TAP) to improve the quality and quantity of impact evaluation across central government.

Dr Riikka Hofmann and Dr Sonia Ilie will both be part of the panel, which comprises around 50 experts from outside government (mostly academics) and the Civil Service.

The panel provides free advice to policy teams and analysts, helping them to design robust evaluations to test potential new policies, or changes to policy. TAP also provides training to civil servants on the benefits and technicalities of impact evaluations.

Since its launch in 2015, the panel has advised on 72 projects across 24 departments and public bodies, spanning policy areas including energy, adult social care, housing and family service. The members are all appointed for two years, starting from 20 February 2020.

Riikka is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Education, where she leads the Research Strand, 'Dialogue, Professional Change and Leadership' in the Faculty's Cambridge Educational Dialogue Research Group (CEDiR). Her research focuses on leadership and professional change in educational and medical settings.

She was selected as an expert member of the panel in at its inauguration in 2015 and has been selected to continue serving. Riikka has previously contributed to a blog post about her experiences on the panel.  

"Using academics to advise on policy trial design in such a centralised systematic fashion is very innovative," she said. "As academics, we often question how much our work matters, so having an impact on policy and professional learning in the Civil Service is really rewarding. It's shown me that education research has wide benefits, and given me a valuable insight into how policy-making works, as well as new relationships."

Sonia, who is joining the Panel for the first time, is a senior research fellow at the Faculty of Education and research leader at RAND Europe, an independent not-for-profit research organisation. She researches educational inequality and runs large-sale experimental and quasi-experimental evaluations of programmes tackling the socio-economic attainment gap in schools, and inequitable access and outcomes in higher education.

You can read more about the full panel here

More information and examples of TAP's work are available in its three year update report.

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Knowledge, Power and Politics in Education

Old world globes
Monday 9 December

Following a successful launch at the Faculty’s post-graduate open day, applications are currently being received for the Faculty’s new full-time MPhil route in Knowledge, Power and Politics in Education.

The course presents an exciting new offering in the Faculty MPhil programme, drawing on an interdisciplinary approach to examine the dynamics shaping knowledge formation in formal, non-formal and informal education settings around the globe – from governmental structures to social movements.

Coordinated by Dr Liz Maber, the course draws on the research and expertise of colleagues across the faculty including Dr Hilary Cremin, Dr Jo-Anne Dillabough, Dr Eva Hartmann, and Prof Susan Robertson to explore fundamental questions relating to:

  • the roles of education in societies;

  • transnational debates about the nature of knowledge formation and its circulation;

  • and the consequences for social justice. 

Drawing on varied theoretical perspectives and empirical approaches, the course engages with different understandings of the education/knowledge/power nexus, its implications for societies and the interactions with major global issues including social and spatial mobility, urbanisation, sustainability, and conflict.As underlined by Prof Susan Robertson, Head of Faculty, and Professor of Sociology of Education;

Knowledge, Power, Politics has to be at the top of your list – as a course which engages in cutting edge conversations about education in ways that matter

Find further information on our MPhil Kowledge, Power and Politics in Education and how to apply for the course.

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A Jar of Teddies - Live webinar introduces learners to mathematical problem solving

green jelly teddies stand around a red jelly teddy
Monday 18 November
NRICH is an innovative collaboration between the Faculty of Mathematics and Faculty of Education at the University of Cambridge, part of the University’s Millennium Mathematics Project. We are hugely proud of NRICH, its a brilliant example of cross-faculty partnership that benefits both faculties and ultimately the young learners of mathematics in the education system of today and tomorrow. 

Live webinar (Unofficially) breaks world record

No surprise then that last week the NRICH led team set themselves the hugely ambitious target of a live webinar that reached almost 200 schools and 15,000 KS2 and KS3 learners - unofficially smashing the world record for a live webinar of its kind (currently 4076 students over multiple locations).

A Jar of Teddies

Following the success of similar webinars in December 2018 and June 2019, NRICH hosted another event on 13 November 2019 as part of Maths Week England.  The team introduced problems, including this example of 'A Jar of Teddies' and invited students to work on them for between 5 and 10 minutes. During this time, teachers commented online and asked questions on behalf of their class and shared any ideas that have arisen in their classroom.

Watch the webinar

Huge success

The event was a huge success with some extremely positive feedback on social media from participating schools including:

'Great morning for our mathematicians in Year 8 and 9 @WorleSchool. They got involved with @maths_week by joining students all over the country to problem solve in a live webinar ran by @nrichmaths. Fantastic work!'

@WorleSchool (Twitter)

'So much problem solving and collaborative discussion among our pupils.  Who would have thought estimating teddy bears could create such a buzz!'

@Meadow_Balsham (Twitter)

Official world record attempt 2020

The NRICH led team hope to recreate this buzz and officially break the world record with another event planned for 2020. Your school can get involved or find more information on the NRICH resource of rich mathematics.

@nrichmaths #nrichwebinar

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Faculty partnership school wins Educational Innovation award

Nazarbayev International School in Kazakhstan
Monday 18 November
The 2019 Wenhui Award, Promoting University and School Partnerships in Advancing the Education 2030 Agenda, recognised successful university-school partnerships that have contributed to quality education and lifelong learning in preparing children and youth for life, work and global citizenship. 

We are delighted to announce that Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools (NIS) in Kazakhstan, a partnership school from the Faculty of Education, Education Reform and Innovation (ERI) Network, were one of two winners of the Wenhui Award for Educational Innovation 2019.

The partnership between NIS and ERI at the Faculty of Education was first established in 2011 and has gone from strength to strength. Their programme at 19 schools across Kazakhstan was developed in partnership with the Faculty as well as with Cambridge International and Cambridge University Press. We have hosted many of their teachers and principals in the UK on school placements and also run many teacher development workshops offered through NIS’ Centre of Excellence.

NIS beat some seriously strong competition and won the Wenhui Award for their building of 'School-University Partnerships for Students Benefit'. Since their creation, NIS have partnered with national as well as international universities to support their graduates and recognise students’ achievements. Congratulations to Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools for their fantastic achievement and winning this award.

Find further information about the work of ERI in Kazakhstan.

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Award-Winning EAL Assessment Framework (2.0) and Digital Tracker Launched

The EAL Assessment Framework logo
Friday 15 November
The Bell Foundation with Dr. Michael Evans and Dr. Yongcan Liu in the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge and Prof. Constant Leung at King’s College, London have launched new resources for teachers working with pupils who use English as an Additional Language (EAL).

The Bell Foundation has released Version 2.0 of the award-winning EAL Assessment Framework for Schools and a new, free, interactive digital Tracker.

These resources are designed to support teachers in establishing the English language proficiency of their learners with EAL and provide tailored support strategies so that learners can develop the language skills needed to fully access the curriculum, participate actively in school and finally succeed.

The resources, developed by a team of academics and The Bell Foundation staff, with input from teachers, have been designed with busy teachers in mind. The Digital Tracker includes three built-in termly reports that provide a snapshot of learning and progress and can be shared with teachers, pupils and parents. Find out more about the Framework.

The EAL Assessment Framework for Schools is the first empirically derived framework for assessing EAL pupils in England and received British Council ELTons Award for Local Innovationin 2018.

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PGCE 2019 off to flying start

Hot air balloons rise in to blue sky
Monday 4 November
Having battled through rigorous interviews over the last 12 months, yet another exceptional cohort has embarked upon the Secondary and Primary PGCE courses, comprising many of the very best new entrants to the teaching profession in this country.

They arrive alongside new course managers (Mark Winterbottom and Shawn Bullock) leading the secondary PGCE team. Jane Warwick and John-Mark Winstanley extend their fantastic leadership of the primary PGCE team into another year. And we’re also delighted to welcome Tabitha Millett (Art and Design – a former Cambridge PGCE student) and Daniel Moulin-Stozek (Religious Studies) to the secondary PGCE team while Kate Rigby has already made a valuable contribution to the primary team.

Since September, our trainees have been cutting their teeth in school, gradually building up their teaching in a personalised programme with their excellent school-based mentors. The level of commitment of those mentors was described by external examiners as ‘almost unique within PGCE courses nationally’.

On both primary and secondary courses, alongside and integral to their school development, Professional Studies is well underway, with trainees learning how to ‘Teach without Disruption’ from Roland Chaplain and getting stuck into behaviour for learning workshops.

And in subject studies on the secondary PGCE, our trainees have been thinking, and thinking hard, about teaching and learning in their subjects. From speed-dating workshops to a classroom crime scene, from inclusive design to engaging learners in Latin through video, and from whole class composing to preparing exhibitions of art work, our trainees have been very busy indeed. And that’s without even thinking about skateboards, lungs, and explosions in science, or the link between pie charts and trigonometry in maths!

On the PGCE Primary course, trainees have been getting to grips with understanding how children learn and the diversity of  the primary curriculum,  exploring the different teaching and learning approaches and practical ideas for each subject: making maps in geography, clay models in art, recreating the last supper in RE, designing pop-up books in DT, getting to grips with coding and programming in IT, launching rockets in science, teaching ball handling skills in PE, developing knowledge of children’s literature, reading comprehension and phonics in English. 

All that and inspirational speakers - Dame Alison Peacock, the CEO of the Chartered College of Teaching, on ‘Why teaching is the best profession in the world’ and Morag Styles, the first Professor of Children’s Poetry for a poetry at teatime event.

So, with the first few weeks of the PGCE term complete, our trainees head into the second half of term, ready to work hard and think hard in Faculty and in school. We look forward to finding out what happens next!

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Play Well - Hopscotch Project featured in new Wellcome exhibition

Data grid of numbers in coloured squares
Thursday 24 October
Play Well - a new exhibition from The Wellcome Collection opens on Thursday 24th October.  The exhibition features the work of Dr Jenny Gibson from the PEDAL Centre while working on the ESRC funded HOPSCOTCH (Hi-Tech Observation of Playground Social Communication Trajectories in Children) Project investigating children’s social interactions on the school playground using sensors that track position and movement. The research team on the project included Dr Jenny Gibson (Principle Investigator), Prof Stephen Hailes and Prof David Skuse (Co-Investigators) from University College London (UCL) and Dr Behzad Heravi (postdoctoral researcher).

The exhibition displays some of the hardware; 3D printed housing to make the sensors wearable, printed circuit board with accelerometer, Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) antenna and a visualisation of the data.

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Young women writers celebrated at BBC Awards

The shortlisted candidates for the BBC Young Writers' Award 2019
Thursday 24 October
October saw the collaboration between the BBC and University of Cambridge alongside charity organisation First Story for the Young Writers’ Award 2019 which was broadcast live on BBC Radio 4 Front Row and featured on BBC Radio 1 Life Hacks. Representing the University and Faculty of Education, Elizabeth Rawlinson-Mills, University Lecturer in English and Education and Subject Lecturer for PGCE Secondary English spent the day with the shortlisted young writers. We caught up with Elizabeth and asked about her involvement, what the Young Writers’ Awards mean to her and to the young people and their families.

The shortlisted writers for the Young Writers’ Award had a whole day at the BBC before the awards ceremony. During the morning, they spent some time in a studio, creating radio sound effects and working with an actor reading from Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. Elizabeth commented, "This was an apt text choice because, not for the first time – and like the adult award – the Young Writers’ Award had an all-female shortlist this year".
Later in the day, Dr Sarah Dillon from the Faculty of English and Elizabeth led a mini seminar. This gave the young writers an opportunity to talk through Woolf’s ideas about the conditions in which women’s writing can flourish, and to discuss the radical structure and style of Woolf’s prose. Elizabeth says, "Unsurprisingly, given the wonderful qualities of their own writing, the young people impressed both of us with their insight and sensitivity in this conversation".
Virginia Woolf was passionate about enabling access for women to education, as well as to the kinds of privileged spaces of protection from everyday household worries that enable creativity to flourish. Elizabeth reflects, "As a woman academic in the midst of the complex balancing act entailed by our commitments to research, teaching, homes and children, and aware of the gender pay gap in academia, it’s easy to feel acutely how far we are, as a society, from some aspects of Woolf’s idyllic visions. It was heartening to hear these young women’s conviction that their gender constitutes no limit on their voices and their writing".
Sarah and Elizabeth enjoyed a chance to talk more informally with the shortlisted young people and their families, about their writing, their future hopes and plans, and about university applications and admissions. "Several of them spoke warmly of the role of individual teachers in prompting them to pursue their ambition to write, to practise self-discipline in establishing effective writing habits, and to submit their work to competitions such as the BBC Young Writers' Award". As the Subject Lecturer on the Secondary English PGCE, Elizabeth spends a lot of time telling the Faculty’s PGCE students about their potential to influence people’s lives, she adds, "it was wonderful to have in front of me such inspiring examples of these positive teacher influences".

Elizabeth also speaks passionately about being a champion of young writers, the benefits of the competition and why it’s important for the University to support initiatives like the Young Writers' Award, "It’s vital that aspiring young writers have outlets for their creativity. The research is clear that an authentic audience – somebody outside a classroom – has an inspiring and galvanising effect on developing writers, at all levels. Their work becomes more than a school exercise intended to develop technical skills and is transformed instead into a chance for their voice to be heard, sending the message that what young people have to say is valuable to, and valued by, society. Competitions like the BBC Young Writers’ Award provide such opportunities for writers to share their work – and in the case of the shortlisted authors, whose stories are recorded by professional actors and distributed via BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 4 and the BBC website – with an extraordinarily wide audience. But they do more than this. By requiring young writers to comply with a particular set of rules – in this instance, the formal constraint of length – a competition like this challenges a writer to develop her or his craft. We know that creativity flourishes when it comes up against new tests and limits. The high standard of the writing in the BBC Young Writers’ Award is the result of talented and hard-working young people honing their craft in the encounter with a new set of formal requirements. That is why it is so important that the University supports such initiatives by working in partnership with the BBC, and alongside First Story, a charity dedicated to supporting the voices of young people growing up in disadvantaged communities around the UK". She adds, "I have no doubt we’ll be seeing the names of some of this years shortlisted writers again as they develop. It’s exciting to be involved in a competition which both celebrates and promotes this development".

Listen to all the shortlisted stories on BBC radio 4 Short Story podcast.

Elizabeth Rawlinson-Mills is the Subject Lecturer for PGCE Secondary English. Find out more about our PGCE courses and outstanding (Ofsted) teacher education at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge.

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Bridging the gap between theory and practice in a complex world

Barry Rogers
Wednesday 2 October
The pursuit of education, learning and research at the highest international levels of excellence is part of our core mission. Yet the application of ideas in a world increasingly defined by distraction is an increasing challenge. A recent industry award for a Cambridge doctoral student addressed this issue.

Faculty of Education EdD student Barry Rogers won a gold award for excellence at the 2019 Brandon Hall Group Human Capital Management [HCM] Awards for Excellence. The award, in the Best Results of a Learning Program category, was a joint submission with a leading European multinational company. It is based around Barry’s research on developing a visualisation tool for practicing post-program learning commitments in the workplace. The results were highly encouraging in terms of day-to-day impact and evaluation – a significant challenge for both theory and practice in the field. The learning program is part of the company’s ongoing strategy to redefine its relationship with wider society in an increasingly challenging and complex world.

On winning the award Barry said "I am delighted with this (award). It is a form of validation from industry peers who appreciate the nuance and messiness of putting knowledge to work in practice. It also comes at a time when the academic field surrounding the ‘transfer’ of knowledge is at a crossroads. Hopefully this research can contribute in some small way to moving that debate forward".

A Brandon Hall Excellence Award is fiercely competitive in the field of learning. It attracts entrants from leading corporations around the world, as well as mid-market and smaller firms.  This year submissions were received from 25 industries in over 30 countries. Now entering its 26th year, the Excellence Awards are the most prestigious awards program in the industry and are often referred to as the academy awards for their field.

The awards cover a range of categories including Learning and Development, Talent Management, Leadership Development, Talent Acquisition, Workforce Management and HR, Sales Performance and Corporate Initiatives.

Elaine Wilson, University Senior Lecturer in Education and EdD Programme Manager at the Faculty of Education commented 'For me this award displays the potential of the EdD to extend Cambridge’s reach into diverse fields education and learning. It provided the necessary rigor and relevance to explore grounded, creative approaches to real-world problems that have day-to-day impact across a wide range of settings. It also plays to what we do best at Cambridge - providing a nurturing environment that facilitate rich interdisciplinary connections, something many institutions talk about but few can deliver on’.

Awards are evaluated by a panel of experienced, independent industry experts, analysts and executives based upon the following criteria: fit the need, design of the program, functionality, innovation and overall measurable benefits. See the winners in all categories

Excellence Awards winners will be recognised at Brandon Hall Group’s HCM Excellence Conference in the USA on February 4-6, 2020.

Find out more about the Faculty of Education EdD programme and read more about Barry Rogers.

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