You are currently browsing the daily archive for December 7, 2008.

Elder Daughter has to do a dressage display on Sunday evening – to music.  We spent several hours listening to Christmas tunes, trying to find music that would fit well with the walk, trot and canter.  We found the Little Drummer Boy, in hundreds of versions, but liked this wonderful one best:

It’s from Raspberry Silk and is guaranteed to get you in the festive mood.  Even with the intervention of the owner of the wonderful voice, Kim Novak herself, we couldn’t find a copy that we could download and burn onto a CD, so we had to settle for Boney M instead after a tortuous introduction to iTunes and QuickTime that left Elder Daughter and I at each other’s throats far too late into the night.  Boney M works well though.  Elder Daughter is going to wear her red jacket with gold braid that she normally wears for troop displays, and she’s going to guide her horse with reins fixed to her stirrups so that she can enter playing the drum in time to the music, sticking the drumsticks down each boots as she increases her speed with the music.  She’s trained her horse since he was little more than a baby, and I love him and his wobbly bottom lip to bits.  He smells like heaven, especially just above his nostrils.  He came from a dealer, with protruding ribs and in poor condition.  He windsucks, so he’s worth nothing except to a knacker.  He’s a bully in the field, to other horses, but he hardly ever puts a foot wrong for Elder Daughter and would jump over the moon for her.


Oxford University Press has removed words like “aisle”, “bishop”, “chapel”, “empire” and “monarch” from its Junior Dictionary and replaced them with words like “blog”, “broadband” and “celebrity”. Dozens of words related to the countryside have also been culled.

The publisher claims the changes have been made to reflect the fact that Britain is a modern, multicultural, multifaith society.

But academics and head teachers said that the changes to the 10,000 word Junior Dictionary could mean that children lose touch with Britain’s heritage.

“We have a certain Christian narrative which has given meaning to us over the last 2,000 years. To say it is all relative and replaceable is questionable,” said Professor Alan Smithers, the director of the centre for education and employment at Buckingham University. “The word selections are a very interesting reflection of the way childhood is going, moving away from our spiritual background and the natural world and towards the world that information technology creates for us.”

An analysis of the word choices made by the dictionary lexicographers has revealed that entries from “abbey” to “willow” have been axed. Instead, words such as “MP3 player”, “voicemail” and “attachment” have taken their place.

Lisa Saunders, a worried mother who has painstakingly compared entries from the junior dictionaries, aimed at children aged seven or over, dating from 1978, 1995, 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2007, said she was “horrified” by the vast number of words that have been removed, most since 2003.

“The Christian faith still has a strong following,” she said. “To eradicate so many words associated with the Christianity will have a big effect on the numerous primary schools who use it.”

Ms Saunders realised words were being removed when she was helping her son with his homework and discovered that “moss” and “fern”, which were in editions up until 2003, were no longer listed.

“I decide to take a closer look and compare the new version to the other editions,” said the mother of four from Co Down, Northern Ireland. “I was completely horrified by the vast number of words which have been removed. We know that language moves on and we can’t be fuddy-duddy about it but you don’t cull hundreds of important words in order to get in a different set of ICT words.”

Anthony Seldon, the master of Wellington College, a leading private school in Berkshire, said: “I am stunned that words like “saint”, “buttercup”, “heather” and “sycamore” have all gone and I grieve it.

“I think as well as being descriptive, the Oxford Junior Dictionary, has to be prescriptive too, suggesting not just words that are used but words that should be used. It has a duty to keep these words within usage, not merely pander to an audience. We are looking at the loss of words of great beauty. I would rather have “marzipan” and “mistletoe” then “MP3 player.”

Oxford University Press, which produces the junior edition, selects words with the aid of the Children’s Corpus, a list of about 50 million words made up of general language, words from children’s books and terms related to the school curriculum. Lexicographers consider word frequency when making additions and deletions.

Vineeta Gupta, the head of children’s dictionaries at Oxford University Press, said: “We are limited by how big the dictionary can be – little hands must be able to handle it – but we produce 17 children’s dictionaries with different selections and numbers of words.

“When you look back at older versions of dictionaries, there were lots of examples of flowers for instance. That was because many children lived in semi-rural environments and saw the seasons. Nowadays, the environment has changed. We are also much more multicultural. People don’t go to Church as often as before. Our understanding of religion is within multiculturalism, which is why some words such as “Pentecost” or “Whitsun” would have been in 20 years ago but not now.”

She said children’s dictionaries were trailed in schools and advice taken from teachers. Many words are added to reflect the age-related school curriculum.

Words taken out:

Carol, cracker, holly, ivy, mistletoe

Dwarf, elf, goblin

Abbey, aisle, altar, bishop, chapel, christen, disciple, minister, monastery, monk, nun, nunnery, parish, pew, psalm, pulpit, saint, sin, devil, vicar

Coronation, duchess, duke, emperor, empire, monarch, decade

adder, ass, beaver, boar, budgerigar, bullock, cheetah, colt, corgi, cygnet, doe, drake, ferret, gerbil, goldfish, guinea pig, hamster, heron, herring, kingfisher, lark, leopard, lobster, magpie, minnow, mussel, newt, otter, ox, oyster, panther, pelican, piglet, plaice, poodle, porcupine, porpoise, raven, spaniel, starling, stoat, stork, terrapin, thrush, weasel, wren.

Acorn, allotment, almond, apricot, ash, bacon, beech, beetroot, blackberry, blacksmith, bloom, bluebell, bramble, bran, bray, bridle, brook, buttercup, canary, canter, carnation, catkin, cauliflower, chestnut, clover, conker, county, cowslip, crocus, dandelion, diesel, fern, fungus, gooseberry, gorse, hazel, hazelnut, heather, holly, horse chestnut, ivy, lavender, leek, liquorice, manger, marzipan, melon, minnow, mint, nectar, nectarine, oats, pansy, parsnip, pasture, poppy, porridge, poultry, primrose, prune, radish, rhubarb, sheaf, spinach, sycamore, tulip, turnip, vine, violet, walnut, willow

Words put in:

Blog, broadband, MP3 player, voicemail, attachment, database, export, chatroom, bullet point, cut and paste, analogue

Celebrity, tolerant, vandalism, negotiate, interdependent, creep, citizenship, childhood, conflict, common sense, debate, EU, drought, brainy, boisterous, cautionary tale, bilingual, bungee jumping, committee, compulsory, cope, democratic, allergic, biodegradable, emotion, dyslexic, donate, endangered, Euro

Apparatus, food chain, incisor, square number, trapezium, alliteration, colloquial, idiom, curriculum, classify, chronological, block graph

From the  Sunday Telegraph, 7th  December 2008




“Religious schools should be stripped of their right to select pupils according to faith or lose their state funding, according to a two-year study into church and other faith-based state schools.

The Runnymede Trust charity concludes that many  faith schools‘ admission procedures are too selective.

The sector educates a “disproportionately small” number of children from the poorest backgrounds, it says.

The trust, founded to promote social justice, says this contradicts the historical mission of faith schools to challenge poverty and inequality and serve the most disadvantaged in society. “Currently the intake of faith schools is wealthier and higher achieving on entry to secondary school than average,” the report states.

“If faith schools become a means of preserving privilege rather than challenging injustice, then this undermines their espoused vision of ‘lived faith’.”

The report into the way faith schools operate in England, based on interviews with more than 1,000 people over the past two years, calls for faith schools to be forced to return to their original mission to education the poor. Religious education, covering all religions, should become part of the national curriculum, it argues. It suggests faith schools should become open to all either by “setting quotas, ballot selection or emphasising catchment areas over faith affiliation”.

The proposals, launched at a conference yesterday, will reopen the debate over the role of faith schools and whether they are too selective.

The government yesterday published a new admissions code designed to prevent covert selection after the chief schools adjudicator last month reported that one in five faith schools had asked improper questions on application forms, including about parents’ jobs.

The proposals make clear that schools cannot interview pupils or ask parents for financial contributions. But schools will be able to require parents applying for a place to ask their children to “respect” the school’s ethos.

Under the code authorities must consult with parents and the community to make sure their arrangements meet local needs. They will also have to improve the information parents receive on the admissions process. A new appeals code will allow MPs and councillors to support parents at admission appeals hearings.

The schools secretary, Ed Balls, said: “It is my intention that the measures set out in this revised code will ensure parents are listened to and their views shape school policies, he said.

Rob Berkeley, the trust’s deputy director and author of the report, said: “It’s time for a shift so that schools that are funded by taxpayers are responsive and reflect the needs of all pupils and parents, not just those of a particular religion.”

Anthea Lipsett in The Guardian on Friday, December 5th 2008

Link to Right to Divide, the report of the Runnymede Trust

Six Key Recommendations of the Report

1. End selection on the basis of faith
Faith schools should be for the benefit of all in society rather than just
some. If faith schools are convinced of their relevance for society, then
that should apply equally for all children. With state funding comes an
obligation to be relevant and open to all citizens.
2. Children should have a greater say in how they are educated
Children’s rights are as important as parents’ rights. While the debate
about faith schools is characterized by discussions of parental choice of
education, there is little discussion about children’s voice.
3. RE should be part of the core national curriculum
Provision for learning about religion is too often poor in schools without
a religious character. Provision for learning about religions beyond that of
the sponsoring faith in faith schools is also inadequate.
4. Faith schools should also serve the most disadvantaged
Despite histories based on challenging poverty and inequality, and
high-level pronouncements that suggest a mission to serve the most
disadvantaged in society, faith schools educate a disproportionately small
number of young people at the lowest end of the socio-economic scale.
5. Faith schools must value all young people
People cherish facets of their identities beyond their faith, and these also
need to be the focus of learning in faith schools – and valued within them.
Similarly, religious identities should be more highly valued within schools
that don’t have a religious character.
6. Faith should continue to play an important role in our education system
With these recommendations acted upon, faith schools should remain a
significant and important part of our education system, offering diversity
in the schooling system as a means of improving standards, offering choice
to parents and developing effective responses to local, national and global
challenges in education.

Previously: “No Jews or Muslims”