Sunday, January 29, 2012

Elocution thriving in Britain

Curious: In Australia, the very word is politically incorrect. There are no elocution teachers in the phone book. A few older ladies still teach it but they are listed as "speech and drama" teachers. I sent my son to one for a year but his teacher told me he had very "cultured vowels" anyway

The Essex accent has long attracted ridicule and disapproval. But primary school teachers say it also has a damaging effect on children’s spelling and grammar. So they have introduced elocution lessons in an effort to improve pupils’ written work.

The children are learning to say ‘computer’ instead of ‘computa’ and ‘aren’t’ in place of ‘ain’t’ as well as being told to stop ending sentences with ‘yeah?’.

Up to 200 seven to 11-year-olds are having weekly lessons with a private tutor at the Cherry Tree Primary School in Basildon, Essex.

Teachers say there has been great progress in their spelling and writing since the lessons were introduced a year ago. Some parents are even being corrected on their pronunciation at home by their children.

The spotlight has been turned on the Essex accent following the huge success of the reality TV show The Only Way Is Essex.

Terri Chudleigh, the school’s literacy co-ordinator, insisted: ‘This is not about being ashamed of the Essex accent – it’s about helping the children to speak properly so they can improve their reading and writing. 'They weren’t saying words correctly and were therefore misspelling them. ‘We had lots of youngsters writing ‘sbort’ instead of ‘sport’ and ‘wellw’ instead of ‘well’.

'They now have half-hourly sessions where they get taken through exercises and learn to use the "posh voices" in their heads.

'They really enjoy the sessions. The feedback we’ve had from parents has been very positive. We’ve had them tell us their children are going home and correcting them on their speech!'

During the sessions, children run through speech exercises and are encouraged to use ‘posh voices’.

Francesca Gordon-Smith, who runs the classes through her business Positive Voice, said: ‘When they’re writing, the children have their elocution voice in their head. ‘They speak clearer, they’re pronouncing their Ts and generally finishing sentences.’

The classes have also improved pupils’ grammar, for example by telling them to use ‘we were’ instead of ‘we was’.

Rising numbers of all ages from all over Britain are turning to elocution, according to research by the website.


British universities 'dropping science in favour of media studies'

The students concerned obviously don't expect to pay back their student loans

Universities are increasingly axing courses in traditional academic disciplines such as science in favour of the performing arts, media studies and photography, according to research.

Figures show a “major change” in the balance of subjects offered in British higher education since the mid-90s after dozens of former polytechnics adopted full university status.

Researchers told of a significant decline in the number of institutions offering degrees in the physical sciences, with chemistry courses dropping by a fifth and physics declining by almost a third.

Most subjects in the fields of engineering and technology also saw a “marked decrease”, it was revealed, and the number of universities teaching botany halved.

At the same time, it emerged that the biggest increases were in areas such as the creative and performing arts, media studies, publishing, journalism and cimematics and photography. The number of universities offering media studies alone tripled while courses in journalism increased four-fold.

The Higher Education Policy Institute, which published the report, also said that rising numbers of university places had been claimed by foreign students and a falling number of institutions demanded the very highest A-level grades for entry.

Researchers insisted that major changes in subject provision between 1994 and 2010 – the period covered by the report – matched shifting application patterns among students.

Last night, a leading academic also warned that the shift reflected the influence of school league tables as growing numbers of teachers push pupils onto “easier” subjects to boost their rankings – having a knock-on effect on higher education choices.

Alan Smithers, professor of education at Buckingham University, said: “Many students have been encouraged to try out these newer, sexier-sounding courses that are not as demanding at GCSE and A-level and this has fed through to the universities.

“Another thing to consider is that these courses are relatively cheap to put on so the newer universities have been able to expand their provision in these areas, whereas some others such as the sciences, which traditionally attracted a small number of students, would have been very expensive.”

A spokesman for the Royal Society of Chemistry said: "We're actually seeing a resurgence of chemistry: in recent months Kings College London, Brighton and Lancaster have all announced new chemistry courses and departments and several other institutions are considering doing the same.

"Vice-chancellors clearly see how a chemistry course offers great value for money to the university, the students and the UK overall."

Prof Peter Main, from the Institute of Physics, said the decline of science courses was an “unfortunate consequence” of funding mechanisms operated under Labour which appeared to penalise laboratory-based subjects. "This issue was addressed in 2007 and since then there have been no further closures, but we remain vigilant to ensure that nothing similar happens in the future,” he said.

According to the HEPI study, the overall number of higher education institutions has dropped since the mid-90s – from 183 to 165.

Some universities have been merged or taken over by competitors, although 18 new institutions have entered the sector in this period – mainly specialist colleges focusing on creative and performing arts.

The shift has coincided with a large number of courses either opening or closing, the report said. It emerged that chemistry is now taught in just 66 universities compared with 83 in the mid-90s, while physics has declined from 69 to 47.

Materials science courses have almost halved from 10 to six, maritime technology has dropped from 11 to just five and botany is taught in 11 universities compared with 22 in the mid-90s.

At the same time, other courses have significantly expanded. The number of universities offering media studies has soared from 37 to 111, while journalism courses have increased from 16 to 68.

Cinematics and photography degrees have more than doubled from 37 to 85, while drama degrees have increased from 70 to 102, music has grown from 71 to 96 and crafts has increased more than four-fold from four to 17.

But other more traditional courses have also expanded, with law, politics and English degrees increasing by around a fifth each. Maths has also bucked the trend by expanding.

In a further conclusion, the study revealed that a “diminishing number of institutions require the highest entry grades”, with fewer universities demanding at least two As and a B at A-level for entry between 2004 and 2009.

This suggests that the brightest students are being concentrated into a small number of elite institutions as the competition for places mounts.

Researchers also said that many more universities have enrolled “significant numbers of students from outside the UK” who can often be charged far higher fees than British and EU undergraduates. “It is now the norm for institutions to enroll more than 15 per cent of their students from countries other than the UK,” the report said.


Utah students arrested over 'plot for Columbine-style massacre'

Two teenagers [above] have been charged with conspiring to bomb their Utah high school in a plot inspired by the Columbine massacre.

Dallin Morgan, 18, and an unnamed 16-year-old accomplice were arrested on Wednesday at Roy High School after a fellow student alerted police to a series of ominous text messages. "If I tell you one day not to go to school, make damn sure you and are not there," the message read, according to court records.

Police said the pair had detailed blueprints of the school and had planned to try to steal a plane at a nearby airport after their attack. Both had logged hundreds of hours on flight simulators on their home computers.

The younger suspect was said to be fascinated by the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in neighbouring Colorado and last month travelled there to interview the school principal about the killings, which left 13 students and teachers dead.

Detectives said they were not sure how close the two students came to carrying out the attack but Morgan was released on bail, a sign that he is not considered a serious threat.

The charges laid out against the pair on Friday include conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction, but court documents did not indicate whether they had actually built a viable explosive.

The suspects told authorities they were inspired by Columbine, but were offended when compared to them because "those killers only completed one percent of their plan," according to court documents.

Student Bailey Gerhardt, 16, was credited with helping to avert a possible attack after she informed teachers of a series of text messages from the younger suspect.

"I get the feeling you know what I'm planning," read one of the messages. "Explosives, airport, airplane. "We ain't gonna crash it, we're just gonna kill and fly our way to a country that won't send us back to the US," another read.

Both students had "absolute knowledge of the security systems and the layout of the school," a police spokesman said. "They knew where the security cameras were. Their original plan was to set off explosives during an assembly. We don't know what date they were planning to do this, but they had been planning it for months."


No comments: