Why everything you think you know about internet safety is wrong

Digital technology has changed everything in our lives, including parenting. A whole new set of risks faces our children, from cyberbullying to pornography, sexting to self-harm. It’s not that young people have changed, particularly; but the internet amplifies many of the risks they face already and provide new, scary forms for their expression.

The result is that parents – and teachers – can feel that children’s lives are being conducted out of reach of supervision, in a frightening new context. The main response up until now has been to focus on filters, parental controls and on monitoring what young people are doing online. We have probably all seen instructions to ‘keep the computer in the living room’ so you can see what your children are up to.

This sort of advice continues to be trotted out even by organisations with some expertise in internet safety, which really should know better. In a mobile age, it is useless at best. Even a child who doesn’t have his own smart phone is only a couple of clicks away from seeing something you’d rather he didn’t on a friend’s device in the playground.

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Stand out by seeking out

Globalisation has increased competition in all sectors of society today, this includes education. The implication of this is that grades are not the sole stand out factor for university, or job applications anymore. Institutions are looking for much more in their ideal candidate.

Work experience is beneficial and necessary as a much needed reality check and learning curve for every individual. It allows one to gain first hand experience of their desired profession and provides good quality insight into whether or not it is the correct path for them to pursue. Taking myself as an example, in year 10 I was 110% sure I wanted to be a paediatrician because I wanted to save children. Though after shadowing the work of some of the best paediatrics at Great Ormond Street I realised I probably didn’t have the stomach for such a task (I fainted after seeing an open wound). Amusement aside, I learned that I had perhaps bitten off more than I could chew, but I knew that my goal to help people was a solid aim I could build upon.

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Big Fat Maths!

The new GCSEs are set to come into force from September 2015; with the first set of examinations due in the summer of 2017. The massively expanded syllabus has been dubbed ‘Big Fat Maths’!

This is the biggest shake-up in the secondary education system since the introduction of the GCSEs back in 1988. GCSEs replaced the old ‘O’ level examination system because it was thought not to cater for the less able pupils. In the early days of GCSEs a significant number of subjects included a high degree of coursework. This proved to be contentious as there was potentially no control over how much parental or teacher input was allowed. Year on year more and more pupils were passing GCSE with higher grades; thus leading to critics saying that exam papers were getting easier and subject matter was being ‘dumbed down’.

Our standings in the international league table (Pisa rankings) have stagnated[i], with the UK failing to make the top 20 in maths, reading and science. The new GCSE curriculum is intended by those in Whitehall to help rectify this.

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Practical uses of mathematics

Tim Prentice – BSc (Chemistry, Computer Science), NZCE Int (Engineering)

Whilst I enjoyed mathematics in school, it wasn’t until I could see the application in real world scenarios that I started to fully appreciate it. Learning about second derivatives to calculate the curvature of car panels or using the wavelength of sound and speaker dimensions to calculate the ideal speaker box were things I would never think of at school. Until I did a University Engineering Mathematics paper that is. I would’ve been much more interested in mathematics if I knew its application from an earlier date.

My career was to eventually fall into computer software development. Where maths and logic takes a crucial role between what is good written software and what is not.

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Mathematics in the real world

An article by Dr. Jamal Uddin, University of Birmingham

What is the relationship between determining whether your cereal remains crunchy and does not become soggy when lying in a bowl of milk, making chocolate Easter eggs, or in producing a uniform coating on your plasma TV screen or even determining the size of harmful pathogens in a sample of blood? The answer, and perhaps rather surprisingly, is mathematics. These are only a sample of problems that utilise the vast power of mathematical modelling. Almost every industry you can imagine will at some point require specialist mathematicians who will be able to simulate the problem at hand and produce answers to questions, which at times, are almost impossible to answer through experiments. A case study helps to identify exactly what mathematicians do and I have chosen this one as it is related to some of the work I am involved in.

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Mind the Gap

Mind The Gap

It often comes as a shock to students starting their A-levels to discover how big a step up in difficulty they are expected to take after completing their GCSEs. Nationally nearly 1 in 3 sixth-formers drop out of A-levels according to reported statistics (1), with drop out and failure rates being particularly high in maths (2). It is crucial to bridge that gap by having the right approach to study and the right support to be able to successfully make the transition.

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