A blog for students on the FDLT and BALT courses at the University of Northampton

at Leicester and UN

September 22, 2017
by Jean

Changes to assessment in primary schools

Last week the government published plans for changes to the way pupils are assessed at primary schools. You can read the announcement here.

“The reforms will:

  • improve the way that writing is assessed, so that teachers have more scope to use their professional judgment when assessing pupil performance
  • introduce a new assessment at the start of reception from September 2020 to act as the start point for measuring progress, so we can give schools credit for the progress they help pupils make in reception, year one and year two
  • remove the statutory status of end-of-key stage 1 assessments at the earliest possible point, from the 2022 to 2023 academic year, once the reception baseline is fully established
  • reduce burdens for teachers by removing the requirement to carry out statutory teacher assessments in English reading and mathematics at the end of key stage 2 from the 2018 to 2019 academic year onwards
  • improve the early years foundation stage profile, including revising the Early Learning Goals to make them clearer and align them more closely with teaching in key stage 1
  • introduce an online multiplication tables check, to be taken by pupils at the end of year 4, from the 2019 to 2020 academic year onwards.”

(DfE, 2017, lines 8-24)

The announcement also refers to the Rochford Review (2016). This will be of interest to those of you working with pupils working below expected standards.  It also provides links to revised teacher assessment frameworks, with further guidance and exemplification materials available later in the year.

If you are in FDLT year 1 you will be exploring assessment in the coming term so you will be interested to read the DfE announcement and follow the links to the Rochford Review and the teacher assessment materials.


DfE. (2017) Improvements to the primary assessment system announced. [online] Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/improvements-to-the-primary-assessment-system-announced [Accessed: 22/09/17]

Rochford, D. (2016) The Rochford Review: final report. Review of assessment for pupils working below the standard of national curriculum tests. London: Standards and Testing Agency.


March 17, 2015
by Jean

20th March – Solar Eclipse!

On Friday March 20th (if it is not too cloudy) we will be able to view a solar eclipse. An solar eclipse is when the moon passes between the earth and the sun blocking the sun’s light from reaching the earth. This is the only total solar eclipse of 2015 and the last total solar eclipse on the March equinox occurred  in 1662 on March 20th

solar eclipse

Meteorwatch 2015a

The picture on the right shows what a total solar eclipse looks like. This will be visible in the North Atlantic. In the UK we could see a partial solar eclipse similar to the picture below.


Meteorwatch 2015b

A partial solar eclipse is when the sun, moon and earth don’t quite line up from the observer’s location.

The timing of the eclipse over the UK is around 9.30 to 9.35am on Friday 20th March. You can read more about the timings and see the progress over the UK on a map at this link.

This week, starting on Wednesday 18th March, on BBC 2 the Stargazing programme is focusing on the eclipse and includes a live broadcast on Friday morning from 9am.

If you are going to observe the eclipse it is important to do some research and make sure that you are properly prepared. There are some useful resources and activities at the Stargazing website that can be used at school or at home.

It is most important that we do not look directly at the sun, but rather use special glasses, a pinhole camera or other projection devices. Below is an idea from the Radip Times Magazine website for viewing the eclipse through a colander.

Projection through a colander

Simply hold up a kitchen colander during an eclipse and you will see that myriad small crescents – corresponding to the eclipsed phase of the Sun – are cast in the shadow. Each hole acts in the same way as a pinhole camera, projecting an inverted image of the Sun, and this works even if the holes are not round. This effect can also be seen when sunlight shines through leaves on a tree or other foliage, with the gaps between leaves acting as pinholes and creating crescents of light in the shade on the ground.

Casting the image onto a white piece of card held about 50cm away will increase the contrast, making the event easier to see, however any light-coloured surface will work. Try varying this distance to find the sharpest image, as the size of the holes in different colanders will affect the view. This method is the cheapest and easiest way for a group of people to simultaneously view the eclipse and its progress with no risk to either eyesight or equipment.

The results can be easily photographed using any conventional camera. The only downside is the size of the crescents are quite small. Increasing the distance between the colander and the projection screen will make the crescents larger, but also less defined. As such, other than the crescent itself, no details such as sunspots can be seen.

Pros: Cheap and easy, great for large groups of people

Cons: Views are quite small, no detail can be seen apart from the crescents (Radio Times staff, 2015)

If you or your school are doing anything special for the eclipse do let us know by posting in the comments below.

Reference list:

MeteorWatch (2015a) Total solar eclipse. [online] Available from: http://www.meteorwatch.org/solar-eclipse-march-20th-2015-easy-guide/#more-5998 {accessed: 17/03/15]

MeteorWatch (2015b) Partial solar eclipse. [online] Available from: http://www.meteorwatch.org/solar-eclipse-march-20th-2015-easy-guide/#more-5998 {accessed: 17/03/15]

Radio Times Staff (2015) Experience the Eclipse. [online] Available from: http://www.radiotimes.com/news/2015-03-09/how-to-watch-the-solar-eclipse [Accessed: 17/03/15]

March 6, 2015
by Jean

Two perspectives on Autism

Over the last few weeks on the One to One programme on BBC Radio 4 John Harris, a journalist on The Guardian, has been talking about autism. His son is autistic, in these two programmes he talks with an expert on autism (Professor Simon Baron-Cohen) and an adult who was diagnosed as autistic in her thirties (Penny Andrews).

one to one 1In the first programme John Harris talks with Professor Simon Baron-Cohen. In this conversation the development of understanding about what autism is is discussed. Its interesting that he talks about discovering people with autism who could talk about the experience, something that at the time was new as it was assumed that people with autism would not be able to function in day to day life.

In the conversation John Harris discusses how difficult it is for him to conceive of how his son understands the world. Simon Baron-Cohen suggests that we do inhabit the same world in some respects and that we do have things in common. He uses the example of structure, repetition and routine where he comments that many people with autism need but so so many other people, something John Harris agrees with.

Simon Baron-Cohen discusses the concept of neuro diversity – there are different types of brains in the population rather than a single ‘normal’ brain, similar to the concept of biodiversity, that we encounter in the classroom. He talks about how some of the traits or qualities of autism can be seen as areas of strength – remarkable attention to detail, fascination with patterns and an ability to persist and go deeply in one topic.

one to one 2In the second programme John Harris meets an adult who has been identified as autism in adulthood and who works as a university researcher – Penny Andrews.

This is an interesting conversation – John Harris picks up on some of the points made by Simon Baron-Cohen and that he has notices in his own experience with his son. He is keen to have her perspective as his son is to young to be able to articulate and explain his feelings and needs.

Towards the end of the conversation they talk about how Penny’s employer is able to adjust and support her so that she can work effectively.

It is also interesting how Penny explores the connections between herself and people who are not autistic and people who are considered to be severely autistic.

For many of you who work with children on the autistic spectrum both these programmes are of interest, giving you some background and perspective on autism historically, theoretically and personally. From a student point of view it is interesting for you to notice how John Harris compares the research of Simon Baron-Cohen with experience of Penny Andrews – we often ask you to make these connections between research and practice in your academic work.

Both programmes are available on iplayer here They were broadcast on 17th and 24th February 2015 and  can be found in the episodes list. They are also saved in Box of Broadcasts if you are a university student.

If you listen to these programmes and have any comments please add them below.


January 13, 2015
by Jean

Next ECY Book Group January 26th

curiousThe next meeting of the Book Group will be on Monday 26th January at 17.30 in S036.

Light refreshments will be provided.

The book to be discussed will be ‘Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime’ by Mark Haddon.

Copies are available for you to borrow by emailing Academic Librarian, Hannah Rose – hannah.rose@northampton.ac.uk

Please also follow on Twitter – @BookGroupUoN  and look out for the live Twitter feed from 18.30.

You may be interested to know that the National Theatre production of this book is coming the Royal and Derngate in Northampton from the 24th to the 29th March. I have seen this and I do recommend it. You can find out more about it at this link.

October 28, 2014
by Jean

Introducing Lisa Shepherd

Hello! I’m Lisa Shepherd and I am one of the tutors on the FDLT course.

Lisa-Activities Co-ordinator.webI will be working with year 2 groups in Oadby and at the University on completing the small scale school based research projects. I have already met with both of the groups and heard some of their great ideas and am very much looking forward to supporting them on their research journeys. I also teach on the SEN and Inclusion course and am very pleased to be a BALT dissertation supervisor for the first time this year. It is such a privilege to support students completing their important and inspiring research projects in education.

I am a Creative Practitioner and Dramatherapist who works with children, young people and adults in a variety of educational and community settings. I devise and deliver projects in schools and specialised educational settings, day centres and residential homes, prisons, libraries, community organisations and charities. I enjoy the process of research and write up my own work regularly. I was very pleased to get my article on the use of comedy as a creative vehicle for expression with young people for whom English is an additional language published in the Support for Learning Journal recently.

My passion is theatre, drama and the creative arts and I enjoy writing for performance, directing, puppeteering and on occasion performing myself without a puppet friend to hide behind! I also enjoy travelling and have worked with children and young people with SEN in the USA and Romania. In my spare time I enjoy making just about anything…sewing clothes and furnishings, up-cycling furniture, making puppets and puppet films and making a variety of strange props for performances by local youth theatre and amateur dramatics groups.

You can follow me on twitter @TheatreTherapy and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Imaginary-Ordinary/403267633048038 where I post about what I am up to and all things creatively and socially minded which interest me.

June 26, 2014
by Jean

Celebrating HLTA

Nick Petford, Vice-Chancellor of the University

Nick Petford, Vice-Chancellor of the University

This week teaching assistants who gained Higher Level Teaching Assistant (HLTA) this year were welcomed to a presentation and celebration at Park Campus. HLTAs from all over the East Midlands came along, with the people who had supported them as they worked to gain the status. Ken Bland, who until recently led the programme, and Wendy Yarnall, who leads it now, reminded them of the learning journey they had taken and thanked their schools and families for supporting them. The Vice-Chancellor of the University, Professor Nick Petford, gave a short speech to the audience highlighting how their roles in school exemplified the University’s own vision ‘transforming lives…inspiring change’.



Each HLTA was presented with their HLTA badge and a teddy bear to mark their achievement, and received a huge round of applause from the audience!

After these presentations the nominees for the East Midlands HLTA of the year were introduced and their nominations read to us – it was clear from the range of activities they were leading that they make a significant impact on children’s learning and well-being.

The Vice Chancellor, Nick Petford, and Azmeena Abdulla, East Midlands HLTA of the year.

The Vice Chancellor, Professor Nick Petford, and Azmeena Abdulla, East Midlands HLTA of the year.

Azmeena Abdulla, from Ash Field Academy in Leicester, won the HLTA of the Year (East Midlands) and she will go forward to the national presentations which includes a tour of  Houses of Parliament and a presentation in nearby Central Hall  in the Autumn. All the finalists were given framed certificates.

HLTAs of 20123-14

HLTAs of 20123-14

The new HLTAs and their guests ended the celebration with refreshments in The Hub, and a chance to catch up with each other and reflect upon their achievements.

You can read more about East Midlands HLTA of the year here

If you are interested in gaining HLTA status contact: emma.stephenson@northampton.ac.uk.




June 23, 2014
by Jean

A visit from Mr Drew

Last week the University of Northampton hosted an event at which Stephen Drew, from ‘Educating Essex’, spoke to local teachers about education.

Stephen Drew @StephenDrew72

Stephen Drew

The room was full of more than 200 teachers, teaching assistants and university staff. Stephen Drew’s talk was entitled ‘The Endless Learning Journey’ and he spoke about his beliefs and approach to learning and teaching with a great sense of commitment and a sense of humour. He showed us the values poster that his school uses to support behaviour – this was arrived at through discussion but his suggestion ‘dance every day’ did not make it to the poster! He reminded us of some important principles such as ‘every day with a child is a new day’ and ‘unconditional positive regard’ and asked us ‘why do we expect children to behave like adults?’ – we have to let them get it wrong and learn from this.

Lorraine, from FDLT Y2, with Mr Drew

Lorraine, from FDLT Y2, with Mr Drew

It was great to hear him refer to teaching assistants and support staff in his talk. He explained how he includes all staff on the learning journey – giving them opportunities to learn and develop and involving them fully in the life of the school. His team of coaches to support teachers includes support staff, providing an valuable alternative view of learning and teaching. Its great to hear someone so passionate and positive about learning – and he reminded us we need to keep ourselves refreshed. I liked his idea of the away from school training day ‘go where you want to’ INSET, where all staff went off to learn elsewhere.

Mr Drew, the endless learning journey

Mr Drew, the endless learning journey

Stephen Drew reminded us that children only get one chance to learn what we are teaching – we might teach it to another group this week, next term or in subsequent years and we might improve – but the children only have that one chance so we must prepared and able to do our job well.

The audience had the chance to ask questions – males in primary schools; support from other agencies, the parental role and other current issues. Stephen’s commitment to inclusion and supporting children to learn was apparent throughout his talk. It is so important that we hear from passionate and committed teachers like Stephen to remind us of the bigger picture and inspire us in our work.

You can read more about Stephen’s visit here – Educating Northamptonshire

June 19, 2014
by Jean



2014-05-30 21.35.10A few weeks ago @TeacherToolkit posted an article exploring some issues around handwriting – you can read it here – The Importance of Handwriting

On Twitter during that day a number of people tweeted examples of their handwriting. In the evening I tweeted this photo which led to the 1st of July being named #PenATweet day.

Below are my reflections on how my own handwriting has developed and changed over my life in education – what is your handwriting time line like?

hw1a 001 hw2a 001 hw3a 001 hw4a 001

BqfPIZZIcAAkOcO29th June

We’re just days away from #PenATweet day now!

Ross (@TeacherToolkit) has written a great blog post to get everyone started and you can read it here:

#PenATweet by @TeacherToolkit

I’ve made a ThingLink pointing you in the direction of some interesting links related to #PenATweet and handwriting generally:

Handwriting ThingLink

So here’s what to do on Tuesday:


I’m looking forward to seeing all the Tweets – don’t forget the #PenATweet in your tweet!

May 27, 2014
by Jean

TA TeachMeet at the School of Education

TMphotoOn Thursday 22nd May we held the first ever TeachMeet for Teaching Assistants (TAs) here at the School of Education, University of Northampton. Our aim was to use the ethos and structure of a TeachMeet and use it to allow TAs to share ideas, resources and enthusiasm for supporting learning.



We were sponsored by a range of companies and organisations who support learning and teaching including: Toshiba, Ecokids, Twinkl, Thinking Child, SEN Magazine, Crick Software, Teaching Assistant Focus and Springboard Stories. They gave us things to give away, raffle prizes and contributions to refreshments for the event. these all added to the sense of fun and excitement at the event.

At the event we had forty eight people, including teaching assistants and HLTAs from local schools and from further away including a party from Cambridgeshire. We had TAs and HLTAs who are also students on the FDLT course both Years 1 and 2. It was also good to see some of our applicants who will be joining FDLT Y1 in September. We were supported by staff from the School of Education including Julie Jones, Leader of the Education, Childhood and Youth Division and Wendy Yarnall, HLTA Programme Leader. Our FDLT Advocates were also present – April Bosworth, David Tristram and Chris Gilkes, talking to attendees about the course. The event was supported by Emma Stephenson, our Administrator and Stephen Bryant, our IT support who set up and managed a huge amount of IT including the bits I forgot, such as the guest login!

We were lucky enough to attract a range of speakers including:

Processed with MoldivSue Dixon, from Thinking Child, who shared ideas around ‘What can we do when children have switched off to literacy?’; Kevin Hewitson from ACE-d introducing strategies to teach multiplication; Junior and Edwina from The Fix Up team who shared ideas about self belief and motivations ‘you are amazing’; Greg Yarnall from Beanstalk Reads telling us about volunteer reading in schools; Joy Judge who sent a Prezi outlining the role and support offered by TA Focus and Dr Estelle Tarry from the School of Education who shared her research about TAs in an international context. I gave a presentation about how TAs can use Twitter to made contacts and share ideas.

Processed with MoldivAs well as this we were well supported by our own FDLT students who took the brave step of volunteering (or saying yes to my invitation) to share their practice at the event. James Underwood, our compere, made the important point that these presenters had come along after a day of being TAs and HLTAs and were immersed in the day to day activity of supporting the learning of individuals and groups of children.

We enjoyed presentations from:

Leonie Cox – Cued Articulation

Joy Davies – Everyone can have fun with geography!

Teresa Foster – QR Codes

Kim Bastin – using digital media and green screen

Louise Fordham – taking children to the Chelsea Flower Show

…and it was great to see a former student of ours, Dawn Parker, who shared a presentation about ‘Smart Through Art’ and the experience of  her pupils from a special school taking part in European exchanges based on art.

All the presentations were filmed and clips will be available soon, so if you weren’t able to come along you can view some of the event online. You can also look up the event using #TATMUN to see the tweets from before and during the event. At the end we evaluated using Padlet – a great classroom resource for class participation. We asked two questions – ‘what did you learn?’ and ‘what would you like to do next?’ We got some useful feedback and we’d like to build on the enthusiasm and positive reaction to this event in the future.

Feel free to add any of your comments about the event – we’d love to know your thoughts now you’ve had time to reflect.

Jean Edwards





April 1, 2014
by Jean

World Autism Awareness Day (2nd April)

Tomorrow (Wednesday April 2nd) is the seventh annual World Autism Awareness Day. You can read more about it here.

This evening there is a Horizon programme on BBC at 9pm. It is repeated on Wednesday 2nd April on BBC 2 at 11.30pm and will also be available via the BBC iplayer and Box of Broadcasts.



Professor Uta Frith was also interviewed on Radio 4’s ‘The Life Scientific’ a few years ago, a very interesting interview where she discusses her interest in Autism and her life as a psychologist. You can listen to it at this link and via Box of Broadcasts.

Today at 10 a.m. EDT, the Permanent Mission of Bangladesh to the U.N., Permanent Mission of the State of Qatar to the U.N. and Autism Speaks  co-hosted a panel discussion, “Autism: Awareness to Action,” at the United Nations in New York.  The discussion was co-sponsored by the United States Mission to the U.N., Permanent Mission of India to the U.N, Permanent Mission of Chile to the U.N and Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the U.N. This included the following statement:


“It is with great pleasure that I acknowledge the 7th annual World Autism Awareness Day on April 2nd and the incredible work of Autism Speaks in calling greater international attention to autism and other developmental disorders that affect millions of people globally. In epitomizing the message of “turning awareness into action,” Bob and Suzanne Wright are beacons of blue light, radiating across our global community. Let us continue to work hand-in-hand, side by side. Now is the time to strive for a more inclusive society, highlight the talents of those on the spectrum and ensure opportunities to realize their potential. International attention is essential to address stigma, lack of awareness and inadequate support structures.”

You can watch a video of the UN panel discussion here.

You can watch the UN Secretary General’s message here.


If you’re on Twitter, use #LIUB to share your experience helping light the world up blue this April and if you’re on Facebook there is a page with more details here