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Website of the Month

Parent Centre     www.parentcentre.gov.uk    


Value for ELT: knowledge of UK education/ source of texts/ culture background/ culture projects/ general interest/ British Studies

 

Producer of site (and intended audience)

The Department for Education and Science (DfES), a part of the UK government. It is intended to provide parents with information about all aspects of education from pre-school (under 5) to 18 and entry to higher education, with an emphasis on the social aspects. Here is how they introduce themselves:

 

The Parent Centre is the official Department for Education and Skills (DfES) website for parents and carers. We aim to act as a reference book about the education system, as well as directing parents to other sources of information and advice.

 

The Parent Centre has links to relevant websites, both governmental and non-governmental and has a special partnership with Parents Online, a DfES website to help parents understand the Internet, so that they and their children can use it safely.

 

Description of site

Perhaps best divided into side links, top-of-page links and bottom-of-page links.

 

Side links - these are divided by age, and the age ranges chosen immediately tell you how UK education is organised. Brief descriptions have been added as this is vital for understanding the whole site.

  • 0-3 - parental and childcare (including working and lone parents)
  • 3-5 - optional nursery school (including playgroups and childminders)
  • 5-7 - infant part of primary - national curriculum (NC) key stage 1
  • 7-11 - junior part of primary - NC key stage 2 (schools change at 11)
  • 11-14 - lower secondary (in some areas - middle school) - NC key stage 3
  • 14-16 - GCSE preparation (end of compulsory schooling at 16) - NC key stage 4
  • 16+ - sixth form and further education (FE) - vocational and academic qualifications, higher education (HE) applications

 

Top links - in two rows. The higher includes Publications (some online) - the choice of themes and the wide range of available languages tells a great deal about the needs of UK education - and Links (to organisations connected with children rather than education). The lower includes Special needs (learning difficulties, medical needs, children in care, disabilities etc) and Your rights (school choice, pupil records, attendance, how to complain etc) which have their own side links. Under School Life, School administration maybe of interest (uniforms, school meals, discipline, dates of terms etc).

 

Bottom links

Of particular interest are the Site map (unusually clearly laid out and useful) and the helpful Glossary - see comments below.

 

Accessibility *****

Very clear with the main sections on the left, and downpage links to get you quickly to where you want on individual pages. The link to the, for non-UK readers, very useful glossary is less prominent at the foot of each page. The search engine works successfully.

 

Range of themes covered ****

Within education, in terms of describing what is available, it is very wide - discussion of the many, often contentious, issues in education is of course not present. It is only for England and Wales - Scotland has its own education system (see http://www.ngflscotland.gov.uk/parentzone/index.asp) and there is virtually nothing on Northern Ireland. It includes very little on private (here called Independent) education, but as more than 93% of children go to state schools the experience common to almost all of society is in fact presented.

 

Language level

Native but very clear and straightforward. The main difficulty is perhaps the presumption of an understanding of UK education and society which is, in respect of education, very specific. However the Glossary with simple explanations of a wide range of terms and acronyms will help here. Do you know the meaning of SAT, childminder, GNVQ, PSE and sandwich course? Try the glossary and find the answers

 

Value for students††

Age: 13+ *** 16+ **** 19+ **** Lang. level:pre-int/ int **** upper-int/ adv ****

A very good source for answering the many questions students might have about education in England and Wales. If students wanted to do a project on education this would be the source to go to find the facts though it may need supplementing from other sources to get a more complete picture. A student perspective is lacking however.

 

Value for teachers ****

As a site for parents on education, rather than an educational site, it is not designed with the interests of FL teachers in mind. However it is a very reliable source of information, the texts can be downloaded and used easily without alteration, and it can be recommended to students when they ask questions. Teachers will have to devise their own activities in the usual way when using original sources.

 

It may be of considerable interest however to teachers themselves as it is describing equivalent institutions to those in which they work or send their children to.

 

Overall value ****

Perhaps the best simple, always kept up-to-date, site for finding out about education in England and Wales. Although it is from a parental perspective this in fact increases its value for learners as it shows how education fits into the rest of society via e.g. school meals, childcare facilities, issues facing lone parents and so on. Its attempts to bring parents into the debate however via its Feedback and Breaktime sections do not seem to be very successful.

 

Links will quickly take you to Scotland, with its entirely independent system, and also to Wales where there are a smaller number of specific differences within the same system. Its need to serve its huge audience of parents mean it is always up-to-date in a way not possible for materials written for an FL audience. In fact it provides a way those materials can be checked and updated.

 

As a government site it is not a complete picture, though fortunately with little of the policy promotion that limits other government sites when it can be difficult to distinguish it from fact. It does not give a pupilís or studentís perspective, nor that of teachers, it lacks individual voices and there is no indication of the enormous public debate which continually accompanies education in the UK. Education is never out of the public eye. Used in conjunction with other sites on educational issues, such as Guardian Unlimited www.guardian.co.uk, will result in a more balanced view.

 

Other sites

The education issue of the British Studies Web Pages http://elt.britcoun.org.pl/e_index.htm

Independent schools - the Independent Schools Council www.isis.org.uk

For issues that concern teachers - the National Union of Teachers (NUT) www.teachers.org.uk

Parentzone for information on Scotland www.ngflscotland.gov.uk/parentzone/index.asp

Learning Wales for information on Wales www.learning.wales.gov.uk

Childcare www.childcarelink.gov.uk

For early education - Sure start - www.surestart.gov.uk

The Department for Education and Skills (DfES) www.dfes.gov.uk


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