Richard Garner: Food for thought in learning game

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The Independent Online

Paul Kelley's book, Making Minds, contains interesting food for thought as to how we could best set about ensuring all our pupils get maximum advantage from their schooling.

His theory that schools should be spending more time looking at neuroscientific research would seem to be bearing some fruit – particularly as a result of the school's own experience in developing a distance learning foreign languages package which is now being studied by 1,400 schools around the country. Youngsters have been able to obtain low-grade GCSE passes by the age of 11 or 12 – seemingly proving the theory that the part of the brain which develops language skills is more active between the ages of six and 13.

Similarly, it would be interesting to test the research findings which claimed that teenagers would be more capable of digesting learning if they started their school day two hours later.

I do not buy his conspiracy theory that GCSE and A-level results may have risen over the years because the rival exam boards want to keep their school customers sweet – and believe that the best way of doing that and avoiding controversy over so-called "dumbed down" exam standards is to allow for a modest rise in the pass rate every year. Other factors also come into force – such as teachers improving in their ability to coach youngsters for their exams.

Today's youngsters are harder working than those in my day because more stress is being placed on getting good exam results.

In a sense, though, that is irrelevant. Even if it is not true, it still makes sense to look at ideas which could help us get the best out of today's youngsters – such as the Every Child Matters mantra from the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

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