lunedì 15 dicembre 2008

Teachers train in dyslexia-friendly practices

Teachers Grace Camilleri and Susan Gatt have recently returned from a two-week visit in Wales where they underwent training in dyslexia-friendly practices. Mrs Camilleri and Mrs Gatt, who teach and support dyslexic pupils and students, visited various state and Church schools which form part of the Dyslexia-Friendly Schools Initiative Award in Swansea and Newport.The aim of the visit was to observe methodologies being practised across the curriculum, in a whole classroom and school approach. Apart from multisensory teaching, the curriculum in the schools visited included philosophy for children, emotional literacy and outdoor learning.The visit was supported by the Specific Learning Difficulties Service, a unit within the Curriculum and eLearning Department, and sponsored by the EU (LLP-LdV).Both teachers will be disseminating the knowledge and insights gained through their visit with stakeholders in the local education scene.

Students from the Three Cities perform badly in exams - again

Students from the Three Cities - Cospicua, Senglea and Vittoriosa - were again among those who achieved the lowest pass rates during the junior lyceum entrance examinations.As the lowest pass rates continued to be concentrated in the south, figures obtained from the Education Division show that this year Cospicua had the lowest pass rate with just over a quarter managing to make it, less than 2007 when 37 per cent successfully sat for the exams.Last year Vittoriosa students had registered the poorest performance with a 27 per cent pass rate, increasing to 44 per cent this year. As for Senglea, the pass rate dropped from 40 per cent last year to 30 per cent.This might not come as a surprise to most as it is a known fact that the area is a nucleus of social problems that are inevitably reflected in school performances.Sociologist Carmel Borg, a specialist in curriculum studies, said poor exam performance in these areas was due to a mixture of deprivation and structural problems in the educational system. He said the area attracted people with multiple problems and low income, due to low rent rates. This scenario, coupled with "a history of structural problems in the education system", made it very difficult for children from the area to do well academically.There is also a high turnover of teachers and headmasters in schools in the area so they do not get to integrate with the community, Dr Borg said.A spokesman for the Education Ministry said the set of schools that made up the Santa Margerita College was working on issuing an educational strategic plan to address various aspects that ensure that the majority of students acquire basic skills in the first years of primary school. It also aims to provide support and help to children with behavioural problems.As thousands of children started school this week the government announced the launch of a consultation document aimed primarily at exploring alternatives to the current streaming system - under which students are allocated to state junior lyceums or area secondary schools following a an entrance examination. Even though the Education Division's figures show that during the past eight years the overall pass rate in junior lyceum exams has progressively increased from 52 per cent in 2000 to 61 per cent this year, this system has long been criticised for increasing stress on young children (usually aged 11) and promoting a sense of failure.The figures also showed that, once again, Gozitan students performed better than the Maltese on average. A total of 70 per cent of students from the sister island obtained a pass rate in (243 of 346 students passed) compared with 60 per cent in Malta (1,960 of 3,279).The highest passes this year were registered by students from Xemxija, Lija, San Lawrenz and Xlendi. These were followed by Kercem, Iklin, Burmarrad, Munxar and Attard.While this may be interpreted as highlighting the north-south divide, one must take note of the fact that the percentages are worked on the number of applicants and passes and that applicant numbers ranged from one student to almost 200 in different localities.It is also important to note that not all children in localities would have sat for the junior lyceum examinations as some may attend Church or private secondary schools.

Kids 4 Kids charity races

This year's edition of BMW Kids 4 Kids is being held in aid of the children of Angela House in Pietà.The children are being looked after by the Ursuline Sisters who are currently raising funds to finish a newly built gymnasium and therapy rooms.BMW Kids 4 Kids is a charity event held yearly to raise money for children in need and organised by BMW Malta Limited and Muscats Motors Limited.The event consists of a series of two events and a final, where children aged two, three and four years race against each other around an inflatable track on BMW Babyracers.Their times are taken and the winner from the final round gets his very own BMW Babyracer and two flight tickets to travel to Munich to visit the BMW factory. The aim is for children to learn to support others less fortunate than themselves while having a great time.The next events will take place on Saturday in front of the law courts in Valletta between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. and on October 12 at the BMW showroom, Gzira.

Chief Justice proposes independent body to study judicial system

The Chief Justice said yesterday that an independent body should look into the judicial system, see what difficulties exist and propose remedies.Speaking at the opening of the Forensic Year, Chief Justice Vincent De Gaetano said it was evident that the Commission for the Administration of Justice and the Judicial Studies Committee lacked the resources to carry out such a study.The ceremony, held at the Law Courts in Valletta, was attended by all the judges but only six of the 17 magistrates were present.Chief Justice De Gaetano spoke of the time it takes for cases to be heard and decided upon. A lot of progress had been registered in reducing the backlog of cases and this was mainly thanks to the big sacrifices made by the judiciary.In the case of the Civil Courts, he said the situation with regard to the backlog was different and this for various reasons, including prolonged sickness, the absence of support staff and the volume of work.Action also had to be taken in order to avoid summoning witnesses in court unnecessarily because their case would have been put off. "It is unacceptable that a case is put off and the witnesses called in for nothing because the defence lawyer decides at the last minute that he cannot make it to the sitting," the Chief Justice said. A system should be put in place whereby three or four days before the case is due to be heard witnesses are notified whether to attend or not.Referring to legislation regarding what the media can and cannot publish, the Chief Justice said it was time for the old law to be changed.There have been many complaints not just by the media but more so by the public about court orders to ban the publication of names of the accused. "I am of the opinion that if the publication of a name is banned by the court there would be sufficient procedures in place for any interested party to contest that decision," he said.He added that the Maltese courts, especially the Magistrates' Courts, can at times be insensitive to the social implications of certain sentences. Giving examples, he highlighted cases dealing with the protection of the environment and loitering for prostitution purposes. In these and other similar cases, the punishment considered as a deterrent should prevail over other considerations, the Chief Justice said.The president of the Chamber of Advocates, Andrew Borg Cardona, said it would be in the courts' interest to appoint an independent body to see whether things could run a little more smoothly and have cases heard and decided upon within a reasonable time.Referring to the recent media coverage of the legal aid system, Dr Borg Cardona said that because a few lawyers threw a bad light onto the system this should not reflect badly on the others involved.He said he felt obliged to remind members of the judiciary about the most vulnerable members of society, namely children. He knew that the members of the judiciary who handle such cases exercise great compassion but they should always keep in mind the fact that there are no games to be played with the future of children.

Gzira primary school wins ICT award

The project Rescue La Vallette: An Adventure in Time of St Clare College, Gzira Primary School, won the Young Digital Planet Award for best use of ICT at the seventh eLearning Awards.The eLearning Awards, organised by European Schoolnet, are one of the leading competitions for schools in Europe.The project is a game for late primary and early secondary students in which a team of young secret agents have to rescue a national hero from slavery while learning ICT skills in a fun and challenging way.The game was the brainchild of the school's assistant head, Emmanuel Zammit. Piotr Mroz, a board member at Young Digital Planet, presented Mr Zammit with a crystal trophy and a cheque for €3,000 for his school, which he presented to the school's headmaster Joseph Micallef. Additionally, he also won a Smart classroom technology package donated by Smart Technologies. This package includes an interactive whiteboard, USB devices, Senteo interactive response system and Smart's Ideas concept-mapping software. Moreover, Strand Electronics, representing Interwrite Company, also donated a second interactive whiteboard.An interactive whiteboard is a large interactive display that is connected to a computer and a projector. The board is mounted onto a wall or a floor stand. The projector projects the teacher's computer desktop onto the board. The teacher and students can manage this computer by means of its pens or their own fingers.Even students in pre-school and kindergarten levels can make use of the interactive whiteboard as it can be lowered according to the students' height.This resource replaces the traditional whiteboard since apart from writing on it; the teacher can show students educational software, video files and PowerPoint presentations.It can be also used for digital storytelling, reinforce skills with the help of educational websites, teach vocabulary, and help with math problems.Students can interact during the lesson and save their own work for further use. Their work can then be used to revise a topic for students who were absent for the lesson or for struggling learners. Thus this resource makes it ideal for differentiated learning.Professor Derrick de Kerckhove, director of the McLuhan programme at the University of Toronto and president of the jury, said: "This site introduces young learners to the e-skills of the European Computer Driving Licence through an engaging storyline mixing fun and learning at the right dosage for beginners. High production values, innovative format and clever didactics make this project the best in all categories."
The game can be found online at:

Healthy Children in Healthy Europe

For the past two years, Zejtun Primary A School together with other schools in Germany, England and Romania have been working on a Comenius Project called Healthy Children in Healthy Europe. The fourth meeting of this project was organised recently at Intorsura Buzaului in Romania.Malta was represented by assistant head Marlene Mercieca and teacher Mariella Farrugia. The aim of the meeting was to evaluate the work carried out by the respective schools during the second year of the project during which the schools worked mainly on healthy minds.This meeting was an enriching experience for the participants as they learned about the differences and similarities in the methodologies and school pedagogies among all participating countries.During the visit, the head mistress of the host school Mihail Sadoveanu, Sylvia Bumbac, took the participants around the school. Among other activities the participants had the opportunity to work with the Romanian students while carrying out activities in English in the computer lab.

UN tells Britain to improve child protection

A United Nations panel called on Britain to stem persistently high rates of violence and sexual abuse against children at home and in school.British authorities should also ensure that no one under the age of 18 is deployed to combat areas, and raise its minimum age for armed forces recruitment from 16 to 18, it said.The UN Committee of the Rights of the Child issued its conclusions after examining the records of seven countries, including Britain, at a three-week session that ended today.In Britain, the 18 independent experts said they remained "alarmed at the still high prevalence of violence, abuse and neglect against children, including in the home, and at the lack of a comprehensive nationwide strategy in this regard."Mechanisms should be set up to monitor the extent of violence, sexual abuse, neglect, or mistreatment, including within the family, at school and in institutional care, it said.Corporal punishment of children should be banned explicitly in the home as well as elsewhere, it added.The UN body monitors compliance with the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by 193 countries including Britain. Britain has also ratified an optional protocol on children in armed conflict.Tom Jeffery of Britain's department for children, schools and families, told the panel that authorities were committed to securing the health and wellbeing of every child in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.Britain's delegation also said that new guidelines ensured that military personnel under age 18 were withdrawn from their units before deployment to areas of hostilities. No child had been deployed into such areas since July 2005, it said.The committee said it was "concerned that children may still be potentially deployed to areas of hostilities and involved in hostilities." British forces serve in both Iraq and Afghanistan.The Convention defines children as those aged under 18. The committee expressed concern that one in three recruits in the British regular armed forces was under 18, and that recruitment could target vulnerable ethnic minorities and poor families.The panel also urged British authorities to fight discrimination and social stigmatisation of minority children, including Roma and migrants. Asylum-seekers under the age of 18 should only be detained as a last resort, it stressed.Britain should also end the use of harmful devices on children, including taser guns, which the experts said police are authorised to use in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.And the panel said authorities should also reconsider the use of so-called "mosquito devices," high-pitched sonic gadgets used to disperse unruly teenagers. These may violate their right to freedom of association and peaceful assembly, it said.There are an estimated 3,500 mosquito devices, which emit a piercing noise only detectable by the sharp ears of the young, in use outside shops and businesses across the country.The experts voiced concern that six children have died in British custody since 1999. There was a "high prevalence of self-injurious behaviour" among children in custody, it said.

Friday, 3 October, 2008 in World News