Oral language skills are critical for learning, and they matter now more than ever
Dr Ioanna, Bakopoulou, Lecturer in Psychology in Education, School of Education, University of Bristol
Capabilities such as vocabulary knowledge, narrative skills and active listening are foundational for young children’s learning. Developed both at home and in school, these capabilities are known as oral language. Oral language is essential for young children’s learning, in particularly their literacy development and their ability to access the curriculum.
Oral language skills have always mattered, but they matter now more than ever.
The Covid-19 pandemic has widened the already stubborn ‘language gap’, that is the difference between the language levels of children from poorer backgrounds vs their more affluent peers. Ofsted have raised concerns that children hit hardest are ‘regressing in basic skills and learning, including language, communication and oral fluency’1. Recent research found that 92 per cent of teachers think school closures due to the Covid-19 pandemic have contributed to a widening of the ‘word gap’ and that 94 per cent found it challenging to support pupils’ vocabulary development while teaching remotely during the first national lockdown2.
The likely increase in the disadvantage gap highlights the importance of school-based, early language interventions. Support for oral language offers an important means by which we can address the injustices worsened by the pandemic.
UNESCO estimates that around 1.5 billion children were unable to attend school in the spring of 2020. Closed schools mean lost learning, lower skills and reduced life chances and wellbeing.
A strategy for closing this learning gap needs to be rapid, school-based rather than online, and provided in addition to regular school. Given the size of the learning gap, it requires significant investment. Most importantly, there must be evidence of its effectiveness.
The policy that best fits these criteria is small-group tutoring, based in schools. This is the focus of the UK government’s new flagship catch-up programme, available to state schools in England.
André Hedlund, Chevening Alumnus, MSc in Psychology of Education from the School of Education at the University of Bristol
“Challenging. The Brazilian Educational System is Huge”
This is written on the website of Todos Pela Educação (All for Education), an NGO that provides information about the Brazilian educational scenario in order to help boost quality and access to basic education.
Brazil has a history of elitism and oppression. Education was used as an evangelisation tool by the Jesuits to convert Indigenous Brazilians in the early colonial years, between the 16th and the 19th centuries. Till this day, many schools are run by religious institutions. In the 19th century, the elite either had the luxury of private tutors or sent their children abroad, particularly Portugal, for their studies while slaves traded in from Africa were not allowed any type of education at all. Black people are still marginalised as a consequence of structural racism.
By Dr Albert Sanchez-Graells, Reader in Economic Law (University of Bristol Law School).*
In 2016, the EU adopted the Web Accessibility Directive, which aim is to foster better access to the websites and mobile applications underpinning public services – in particular by people with disabilities, and especially persons with vision or hearing impairments. Continue reading →
Perhaps the central policy question for those of us studying education is: how can we raise levels of attainment? For long, the focus was almost solely on cognitive skills, but a line of recent research has looked at the interaction between such skills and non-cognitive factors (also called psychological traits), motivations, and culture in generating higher student achievement. Continue reading →
One of the toughest subjects in classrooms at the moment is the recruitment and retention of teachers. Their level of pay is often cited as a problem – and possibly part of a solution.
In England, the public sector pay freeze of recent years has meant real terms pay cuts for many teachers. But another part of the picture is the procedure which decides how much an individual teacher gets. Until recently this has been the pervasive public sector approach under which pay has generally increased automatically over time. Continue reading →
Lizzie Fleming is Widening Participation and Student Recruitment Officer, and a postgraduate student, at the University of Bristol
On 29 June, the Office for Fair Access (OFFA), which monitors access to universities in the UK, published its outcomes for 2015-16. The report highlights a ‘crisis’ in part-time numbers, which have fallen for a seventh consecutive year, a decline of 61% since 2010-11. Since more than 90% of part-time students are over 21, this has also led to a significant decline in the number of mature students in the sector.
This also means that, overall, the number of students entering universities has fallen significantly since 2012. Continue reading →
Phil Syrpis, Professor of EU Law, University of Bristol Law School
Brexit will present the UK with a vast number of political, economic, social, and legal challenges and opportunities in the months and years ahead. In this short piece, Professor Phil Syrpis reflects on the steps taken within the University of Bristol to begin to tackle the challenges and exploit the opportunities.
From the time that it became clear, on the morning of Friday 24 June 2016, that the UK had voted to leave the EU, academics have been absorbing, reacting to, and in some cases seeking to shape, the political agenda. Events have been occurring at a dizzying pace. David Cameron was swiftly replaced by Theresa May; Parliament, after Gina Miller’s Supreme Court victory, voted to trigger Article 50 and begin the process of exiting the EU; White Papers and Negotiating Guidelines were issued; and we are now set for a General Election on 8 June, which looks set to be dominated by Brexit (that’s one of the very few predictions I feel able to make). Continue reading →
Tom Sperlinger is Reader in English Literature and Community Engagement at the University of Bristol.
A friend of mine recently posted a link on Facebook to a Wall Street Journal article, ‘Blue Feed, Red Feed’, which allows readers to pick a topic – Hillary Clinton, say, or abortion – and see how the ‘other’ side of Facebook is talking about it. My friend wrote:
“I and everyone I know (well, nearly everyone) finds Trump utterly disgusting, but this isn’t necessarily a good thing. For others worried that we all (mostly) agree with each other, this is a useful side-by-side comparison of liberal and conservative Facebook.”
The divides that were exposed by Trump and Brexit are complex. Yet, in both votes, two sides emerged that were incomprehensible to each other and they split, above all, along levels of education. Continue reading →
Dr Jo Rose, Senior Lecturer in Education, Bristol University
There are many bright young people who come from disadvantaged family or school contexts where university attendance is not the norm.
As part of the High-Potential Learners Project, we investigated how these young people could be supported in making decisions about university. In particular, we wanted to know how to encourage high-achieving young people to consider the highly-selective, research-intensive, Russell Group universities as an option.
Over a period of two years, we worked with a group of 44 sixth-form students from schools across Bristol, to understand how and why they made decisions about university. We also analysed a large-scale, nationally-representative dataset of 2290 high-attaining learners who had turned 18 in 2009/10.
Our project found that school context was highly important with regards to subsequent university attendance, and identified some of the ways in which schools and universities can work together to support students’ decision-making.