School · startup

PRESS RELEASE: AttendApp appearance at NY EdTech Week

AttendApp has been invited to have a presence at NY EdTech Week 2017

London, 9th December 2017

The AttendApp Team, have been accepted to take part in EdTech week in New York City for the week 18th -23rd December.

For more information please see: https://www.nyedtechweek.com/

About AttendApp

AttendApp is a Parent Relationship Management (‘PRM’) tool which allows schools to inform, interact, measure and increase parental engagement in a simple, secure and social way across mobile technologies

For more information please contact: info@attendapp.org

School · startup

PRESS RELEASE: AttendApp successfully accepted on to Web Summit Alpha Program 2017

AttendApp has been successfully accepted on to the Alpha Program of Web Summit 

London, 9th October 2017

Attendapp has been selected as one of the few hundred startups which will be present on the SaaS specialist day at Web Summit 2017, which is taking place in Lisbon between 6-9th November 2017.

https://websummit.com/saas-monster

About AttendApp

AttendApp is a Parent Relationship Management (‘PRM’) tool which allows schools to inform, interact, measure and increase parental engagement in a simple, secure and social way across mobile technologies

For more information please contact: info@attendapp.org

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Parents · School

PRESS RELEASE: AttendApp successfully accepted on to UCL Institute of Education’s EDUCATE program

AttendApp successfully accepted on to UCL Institute of Education’s EDUCATE program

AttendApp has now successfully piloted its application and helped schools to improve parental engagement by providing analytics on the most and least engaged parents. Furthermore, the application helped schools to streamline communications, save administration time and reduce costs. During it’s incubation phase at on the Educate program, AttendApp is now looking for scale up school partners.

London, 19th September 2017, AttendApp is a ‘PRM’, the leading Parent Relationship Management tool; the application takes away the admin burdens of maintaining parent engagements, by allowing schools to easily and securely publish communications on one platform, measure engagement in real-time, and send automated reminders and notifications when engagement drops. AttendApp also helps parents to stay on top of all their children’s needs on a simple and secure mobile application.

Features tested in closed beta: news and events, messaging, letters and events 

AttendApp successfully ran its closed beta launch with three schools, a select group of parents who said:

“AttendApp helped us drastically reduce the admin time required in sending out newsletters”

Secondary School

“We could finally see which parents were engaging, and target those who were not., this allowed us to focus our efforts on the parents (and students) that needed the most assistance.”

Primary School

“We were looking for a very long time for a solution which could give us viability on engagement, but also a secure way to share information with only parents at our school, without having to resort to twitter.”

Secondary School

“It was so easy to use! I could finally see what homework was being set”

Parent

“I absolutely loved that I could easily see the most up to date information at my son’s school, especially the school calendar, it really helped me organise my very busy calendar and free up many hours.”

Parent

“It was just so easy to get the latest information, and not get stressed out about what’s due when”

Parent

“There is finally a way to ensure my husband never missed parents evening or important dates!”

A very happy mother 🙂

AttendApp is available on iOS, Android and web. AttendApp are now looking for scale up partners (schools who want to test new features across multiple year groups and whole schools) to be the first to test its exciting new features!

Please contact the AttendApp team on info@attendapp.org or call 0208 144 7372.  You can also book a demo with us below:

About AttendApp

AttendApp is a Parent Relationship Management (‘PRM’) tool which allows schools to inform, interact, measure and increase parental engagement in a simple, secure and social way across mobile technologies

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Parents · School · Teacher

GCSE and A-level results: it’s not just the grades that matter

Source: Institute of Education

GCSE and A-level results: it’s not just the grades that matter

File 20170810 27655 1a279l5
Why GCSE and A Level subject choices matter. shutterstock

Jake AndersUCL and Catherine DilnotOxford Brookes University. 

A-level results will soon be out, with more than 300,000 students eagerly waiting to find out if they’ve made the grade. Then come GCSE results, with even more students keen to find out how they’ve done.

Whether students are heading to university, into an apprenticeship or straight into employment, chances are they will all be wishing and hoping and dreaming and praying of a set of grades that will reflect their level of academic accomplishment.

For would-be university applicants, there is often a requirement that students take a particular set of subjects at A-level – and achieve a certain grade – to be in with a chance of getting a place on a degree course. To study medicine, for example it’s often required that an applicant has taken chemistry and biology at A-level.

In this way, the subjects a student chooses to study at school can have long term consequences. In England, young people start making decisions on subject choice at the age of 14 when they pick GCSE options. For many pupils this may seem far too early to be thinking about what they want to do with the rest of their life. So given the fact that many students may not have decided what career path they want to take, are there subjects that are “better” to study than others?

The current advice

The Russell Group – which is made up of 24 leading UK universities – publishes an annual guide to A-level subject choice for 16-year-olds known as “informed choices”. This suggests A-levels in science, maths, languages, history and geography are good choices for students to take if they want to keep their options open.

This is also in part why the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) – which aims to give students a wide background in a variety of subjects at GCSE level – was introduced in 2010. According to the schools minister, Nick Gibb, it includes subjects the Russell Group identifies as “key for university study”. To count towards the EBacc, a pupil must achieve GCSE grade C or above in English, maths, history or geography, two sciences and a language.

Keeping career options open.
Shutterstock

With this in mind, our research set out to understand the implications of subject choice and if these choices then play a part in whether students go to university – and where they end up studying.

We looked at the subjects chosen by young people at the age of 14 and 16 and found that pupils who study the full set of EBacc subjects are slightly more likely to go to university than those who don’t.

Our research also revealed that studying certain A-level subjects often leads to a place at a better ranked university. So a student who studies some combination of science, maths, languages, history and geography is more likely to attend a higher ranked university, than a student who chooses A-levels outside of these subjects.

Vocational vs traditional

Our research also revealed that studying more vocational subjects at both GCSE and A-level may be less helpful in terms of getting into a higher ranked university. We found that those who studied applied GCSE subjects (which are more vocational) were less likely to attend university.

These vocational style GCSEs were introduced in 2002 and include subjects such as applied business and applied home economics. But their introduction has since been criticised, as many of the qualifications have been downgraded in performance tables.

Making the most of your A-levels?
Shutterstock

There was found to be a similar picture at A-level. Students who studied the more vocational study subjects – such as accounting or business – were more likely to go to a lower ranked university.

The most striking results were in law. Consistent with anecdotal evidence that higher ranking universities “don’t like” law A-level, our research shows that studying law at A-level is associated with attending a lower ranked university. So although a 16-year-old who aspires to have a career in law, accounting or business might think that an A-level directly related to the profession would help them take their chosen path, this may not actually be the case. But whether this is because law A-level is perceived by universities to be an easier A-level, or because those with law A-level are applying to lower ranked universities is unclear.

Either way, what all this shows is that while the subjects young people study in school are important for next steps in education, there are some subjects that can be more important than others in helping to further horizons.

The ConversationAlthough that said, it’s important to emphasise that the differences are not large. Ultimately, it’s far more important to perform well in whatever subject studied. But still, when it comes to students deciding what subjects to choose at A-level or GCSE, it might be worth them trying to keep their options open, where possible.

Jake Anders, Senior Research Fellow, Department of Learning and Leadership, UCL Institute of Education, UCL and Catherine Dilnot, Senior Lecturer, Oxford Brookes University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

School · Teacher

Give teachers in poorer schools subsidised housing – MPs (Guardian)

Source: Guardian

Cross-party commission headed by Nick Clegg recommends incentives for more experienced teachers to work in most deprived areas

Children in class
 ‘It is unacceptable that children in poorer areas are taught by less experienced teachers,’ said Clegg. Photograph: Barry Batchelor/PA

Teachers should be offered subsidised housing as a reward for working in deprived areas in order to tackle geographical disparities between England’s schools, a cross-party commission has recommended. The Social Market Foundation’s commission on inequality in education, headed by former deputy prime minister and MP Nick Clegg, said the government should experiment with subsidised housing to raise the quality of teaching in worse-off areas.

The group, which also includes the Conservative MP Suella Fernandes and Labour MP Stephen Kinnock, also recommended that aspiring headteachers be required to spend time in senior positions in struggling schools before they qualify for promotion.

The commission’s analysis found that schools in deprived areas were much less likely to have specialist teachers and were more likely to employ less experienced staff.

“Despite all the changes in education policy over the years – under governments of all persuasions – inequality in our school system has sadly remained a constant,” Clegg said before the report’s launch. “It is simply unacceptable that poorer children are generally taught by less experienced teachers and that their life chances are shaped by the postcode in which they live.

“In the end, this report confirms something that everybody intuitively knows already: the best education relies on good-quality teachers and supportive parents.”

The commission found that geographical differences that were absent in children born nearly 50 years ago now rank alongside wealth and ethnic background as a major factor in explaining pupil outcomes.

“For two children of similar income and ethnicity born in 1970, it did not matter significantly if one went to school in London and the other in Yorkshire,” the report said. But it found that for children born in 2000 – currently sitting GCSE and A-levels – the attainments of those in the capital now outstrip those in Yorkshire.

While geography has become an increasingly significant factor in the past few decades, the gaps in performance between the richest and the poorest children have persistently remained large since the mid-1980s.

The commission also called for parents and teachers to sign annual “homework contracts”, whereby teachers pledge to set pupils “high-quality homework” and parents agree to support their children’s efforts to complete it.

Rebecca Allen, a member of the commission who heads the Education Datalab research unit, said evidence suggested that homework given to primary school children was often ineffective. “Rather than see primary school distribute homework that is rather tangential to learning, we’d like to see schools take the best evidence about how to practise important skills such as reading, arithmetic, handwriting and spelling, and ask them to carefully teach parents how to support their children so that time on homework is not wasted,” Allen said.

Another recommendation called for schools with a high proportion of deprived pupils to get funding for parenting classes, so that schools could run after-school classes in “family literacy”.

David Blunkett, the former Labour education secretary, described the report as “a stark reminder” of failures to spread best practice among schools. “For so many children, the fight against inequality begins at birth. We have an obligation as a nation to provide them with the means to win that battle,” he said.

James Kirkup, the SMF’s director, said the report showed “how sensible politicians can come together to make a difference”. “The general election result showed no party has the complete confidence of the voters, so all parties should learn from this commission and find ways to work together in the national interest,” he said.

School

Games are the largest provider of critical thinking education in the world

Source: GamesIndustry

“Games are the largest provider of critical thinking education in the world”

With the Near Future Society, Improbable’s Oliver Lewis and Nick Button-Brown want to unlock the potential of games as an antidote for “fake news, bias and extremism”

Matthew Handrahan

Editor-in-Chief

At the Develop conference in Brighton this week, the team behind a new charitable foundation called The Near Future Society asked developers to embrace games as a tool for critical thinking; an antidote to a cultural landscape in which “fake news, bias and extremism” are increasingly powerful forces.

The Near Future Society was initially conceived by Oliver Lewis, a former diplomat and the current VP of corporate development at Improbable. Lewis was joined onstage by Nick Button-Brown, the COO of Sensible Object and one of Improbable’s advisors, who became intrigued by The Near Future Society’s belief in the positive influence games could have on society.

“We wondered whether games can develop critical thinking, and help us understand how to think about moral reasoning,” Lewis said. “We started having this conversation, and we decided that it’s much more complicated than ‘can they?’, and that perhaps they already do.”

“People are becoming more extreme. The centre ground is disappearing. It has now become okay to ignore opposing viewpoints, it has now become okay to shout them down”

The Near Future Society’s first meeting took place before GDC this year, on the Warner Bros. lot in Los Angeles. “The idea was to get together government, technology, education and entertainment people to talk about how to address the problems of the world,” Button-Brown said. “When we met the government people, the thing they were most worried about was fake news, and the impact fake news has on people’s opinions.

“People are not questioning. We see it, and we see it in our own lives as well. People are becoming more extreme. The centre ground is disappearing. It has now become okay to ignore opposing viewpoints, it has now become okay to shout them down.”

One of the distinctive qualities of games as a medium is the ability to empower players to make choices, and to show the consequences of those choices. Lewis and Button-Brown cited some well known examples of this technique: the admittedly “simplistic” moral split in a game like Knights of the Old Republic, the “Would you kindly?” reveal in Bioshock, and the creeping realisation of The Brotherhood of Steel’s true nature in Fallout 4.

“Having spent a lot of time with the UK and the US military, I have an affinity for this group,” Lewis said, referring to his experiences embedded with the military in Afghanistan. “[The Brotherhood of Steel] have some really cool kit. But the more you interact with this group it starts to get a little uneasy, then you start to realise that they’re a little bit fascist.”

Games afford players the freedom to arrive at such realisations, encouraging a degree of critical thinking absent in linear media. This power, Lewis argued, gives developers a responsibility to carefully consider how they present difficult subject matter to the world. Call of Duty, for example, depicts “a type of warfare that’s unrecognisable to the modern Western soldier,” one where the Geneva Convention and “the reality of the law of armed conflict” are not strictly observed.

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“If you go into a mission and your objective is to kill the enemy, you are murdering wounded and potentially surrendering soldiers. That is illegal,” he said. “You are potentially using a flamethrower as a weapon. That is illegal. You are told to destroy civilian property and religious buildings. That is illegal. To some extent you’re also committing war crimes.

“A lot of game depictions of war are not accurate emotionally, are not accurate operationally, even if they’re accurate visually. And as we get towards ever more immersive experiences we have a responsibility to represent that moral reasoning.”

“A lot of game depictions of war are not accurate emotionally, are not accurate operationally, even if they’re accurate visually”

However, while there are examples of games that don’t take that responsibility seriously, The Near Future Society was mainly inspired by the games that already do.

“There are just so many games where, fundamentally, we teach players to think analytically,” Button-Brown said. “We teach them to question their environment, and to expect that the people that are talking to them are not necessarily telling the truth all the time. That’s what we do in our stories. We’re already doing it, and we’re actually quite good at it.”

“In the earlier part [of the talk], we deliberately held up some of the areas where we could do better,” Lewis added. “But only as foreground to say that the games industry writ large is already doing so much good in terms of encouraging critical thinking, and encouraging moral reasoning.”

Button-Brown discussed State of Decay and EVE Online as examples of games that use persistence to encourage players to think about the consequences of their decisions. In the case of the former, when one of your companions dies there is no option to restart or bring them back. “I then had to start making decisions about which of my companions I could sacrifice,” he said. “That’s uncomfortable, even in a virtual world.”

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Lucas Pope’s Papers Please, which puts the player in the role of a border guard in a fictional country, was also singled out for praise. “It teaches people that there’s a grey area,” Button-Brown said. “Good decisions in Papers Please can end up with bad outcomes. You’re teaching moral action, and also connecting that to the consequences.”

Lewis discussed 11 bit Studios’ This War of Mine as a kind of counterpoint to games like Call of Duty, in the way that it depicts the experience of the people who suffer the most as a result of conflict. “It induces empathy with the displaced person, the people left behind after war,” he said. “Ordinary, normal people who have to try and eke out an existence; to survive and protect the people that we fought for.”

“There’s a decent chance we’re going to have much more influence as an industry over people’s morals”

Lewis and Button-Brown aren’t the only people to have noticed the potential for games to explore difficult subject matter. Last year, 11 bit Studios launched a publishing division with a stated aim of drawing attention to “meaningful games” like This War of Mine and Papers Please. “There are a lot of players who want those experiences,” publishing director Pawel Feldman told GamesIndustry.biz. “We know how to talk about these games. All we need are talented developers.”

The Near Future Society has a similar goal, albeit as a charitable organisation rather than a commercial one. Lewis expressed his belief that “social and political taboos” are ideally suited to games as a medium because, through play, “people are much more likely to engage with them.” An open brainstorming session at the end of the talk proved that developers are eager to explore this new territory; the Near Future Society will attempt to serve as a conduit between interested studios and bodies that might fund and support their work.

“One of the partners that we’re going for is the Roddenberry Foundation,” Lewis said, referring to the organisation established by the son of Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek. “We want many of the early projects that we do support to be deliberately utopian. If you want a living wage and [universal basic income], then let’s use popular culture to explore that, rather than just having a declaration from Mark Zuckerberg.”

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Both Lewis and Button-Brown acknowledged that the games industry has a “left-wing bias”, and they were very clear that the goal of the Near Future Society is not to tell people how to think. “In the forum in Los Angeles, one of the greatest concerns of the US and UK government that came along…was that this would be propaganda,” Lewis said. “What we had to make very clear is that any projects that we do, we’ll be very open on who the collaborators are, and indeed what any overt political message is going to be.

“You could say that, within this broad idea of making games more political, you have to state what the politics are rather than hide it with subterfuge.”

Button-Brown added that simply reflecting the bias of any given side of an issue would could be “dangerous”, and it would also ignore the unique strength that games have to allow the player to explore ideas from multiple angles, and make their own choices. “That’s why we ended up at teaching critical thinking,” he said, “rather than ‘Get Trump out’.”

“Games are already the most accessible, arguably the most effective, and the largest provider of moral reasoning and critical thinking education in the world,” Lewis said. “Almost without realising it, that’s one of the things that you’re providing to the global community.”

Understanding and embracing that idea will only become more important over time, Button-Brown said. “There’s a decent chance we’re going to have much more influence as an industry over people’s morals. We’re going to have much more influence over the way that they think. As people become more immersed in these worlds, it’s going to matter more.”