Red Rag to a bull

In one of my earliest posts, back when I thought I’d be writing about language as much as about teaching, I commented on the reporting of a science article and how the facts and truth of the matter were tucked away at the end of the article: Ben Goldacre calls this The Caveat in Paragraph 19.

So this popped up last week: an article, which starts off in the headline saying “Moving to rhymes may help children learn” before exploring this, then finally closing the article with the admission that this is one out of six being funded, and that the other 5 “include a study looking at how teaching assistants can be used more effectively and work on how teachers can best narrow the achievement gap between rich and poor pupils”.

Two things really: First the dubious claims (with a link to a study by Queen’s Uni in Belfast done 11 years ago) about learning represented by the article, which suggests all children benefit from this kind of activity. However a quick look at the organisation’s website (linked to at the bottom of the BBC page) suggest that they are interested in how these exercises can benefit those children with specific learning difficulties. So actually a different thing altogether. (For me, it does smack a little of Brain Gym (thanks again to Ben Goldacre there again) and the rest, but that’s another story.)

The second point is more generally about education reporting. As I mentioned above, tucked away at the end of the piece is an admission that this is but one of 6 projects and these “projects include a study looking at how teaching assistants can be used more effectively and work on how teachers can best narrow the achievement gap between rich and poor pupils.” There’s also a quote from Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the funding organisation (so not govt money then), saying “This is an incredibly exciting group of projects that have the potential to boost the results of children from poorer backgrounds.”

But of course, making best use of teaching assistants and increasing success for poorer children are not terribly sexy topics. They are rather dry for a general reader, perhaps, but for me those are the projects I want to read about, and these are the ones which should have been at the top of the article.

Maybe they’re not news, but they ought to be.

 

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