This Thursday will see thousands of teachers striking as another row over diminishing pensions continues.
Education Secretary Michael Gove has encouraged parents to volunteer to help out in schools in order to keep them open and cause less disruption to children.
Of course, when schools close it can cause all sorts of headaches. Working parents have to take time off or make other childcare arrangements. The knock-on effect is not insignificant.
Regardless of the rights or wrongs of strikes, seeking help from parents raises some interesting dilemmas.
For as long as I can remember, parents often helped out on school trips and volunteered for certain administrative roles. Yet stepping in to look after classrooms of children is quite different.
Regular volunteers must all be police checked before they can work with or near children. However, ad-hoc volunteers (which parents helping out on Thursday would generally be) don’t require these checks so long as they are with a qualified member of teaching staff and are not left alone with children.
Unsurprisingly there has been a backlash from the unions. Mary Bousted of the Association for Teachers and Lecturers said that it was “very rich” of Michael Gove to suggest “anybody can come in and babymind” after describing teaching as a professional job.
In reality, that twists the issue. No-one is suggesting that parents have the skills and knowledge to teach a group of children. There’s no doubt that, whether a school remains open on Thursday or not, kids will face disruption. Lessons will not go ahead as on a normal school day. The issue is more about seeking help from parents who do have the time to volunteer, in order to help the whole school community, and particularly those parents for whom an unexpected school closure would present real difficulties.
That said, some parents aren’t happy about untrained strangers (albeit other parents) looking after their kids.
There was also some anger from a number of working parents on very low wages who don’t have the right to strike and are unlikely to get any decent pension.
There’s no ideal solution other than for the strikes to be called off. Children’s education won’t be irrevocably damaged by a single day’s strike action outside of major examination times.
What do you think? Should parents be allowed to help out in order to keep a school open, or is the disruption necessary in driving home the teachers’ cause.
Each Numbat (which we haven’t seen yet; we don’t know if they’ll look the same as the endangered banded anteater) has a number stamped onto its brightly coloured belly, so little ones will have no difficulty picking them out.
Each episode also features a ‘masked’ Numbat who sneaks out into the real world looking for numbers in every day settings, such as a door or telephone, so that children can learn to identify numbers in their own surroundings.
The series features a mix of live action and computer generated animation thanks to “green screen” technology — as will also be used in Andy’s Wild Adventures. This will allow the Numbats to interact with children (presumably in a more high-tech manner than The Hoobs).
It’s the age old problem. You really want to help your child with their homework (without giving them all the answers, of course) but you realise your own skills aren’t necessarily up to scratch. “It’s all changed so much since my day,” you mutter as you try to get your head around common subjects like maths, English and science.
A recent survey suggests that two-thirds of British parents feel they need help with their kids’ homework. It might seem easy at primary school level, but things can get tough later on. What exactly is a quadratic equation anyway?
Parents also admitted to not knowing much about their child’s educational potential and felt ill-equipped to find out more. Part of this comes from knowing that the education system’s resources are currently fully stretched.
While many fathers want instant “self-help” online resources they can trust, mums would prefer to speak to someone in confidence about their child’s performance. A new web site aims to meet both needs in one place.
Educating Together has been set up by two teachers, between them having 40 years experience, offering a one-stop shop for advice on the National Curriculum along with advice on social and behavioural issues which can impact on parents, children, school and family life.
“Parents are navigating an all too often complex educational landscape in trying to understand, and respond to their children’s educational needs at a time when education is in a state of flux, and household budgets are already too stretched to pay for additional individual tuition,” said the site’s co-founder Lorrae Jaderberg.
“We have developed a website which is easily accessible and what’s more affordable – costing less than a chocolate bar at 30p per day – staffed by professional teaching staff with vast experience in all matters relating to a child’s educational well-being,” she said.
Confidential advice is available seven days a week from 7am to 11pm. Even if membership isn’t affordable, there are a variety of free resources including advisory films and online talks, plus a fun, educational area for children to use.
British children are bombarded every day with overtly sexual imagery and references.
That’s the main conclusion of a six-month review into the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood by the Mothers’ Union.
Citing explicit music videos, overly suggestive magazine covers and many forms of advertising surrounding kids every day, the “Letting Children Be Children” report has some strong recommendations.
These include restricting certain music videos to late night schedules, covering up explicit magazine covers, rating advertising and videos in the same way films are, and making it easier for parents to block certain content from appearing on kids’ mobile phones and during their use of the Internet.
Many people would echo the sentiment that kids should be allowed to be kids, and may even go along with many of the recommendations. Implementing them is quite another matter.
As a case in point, Prime Minister David Cameron said he agreed with taking a central approach to tackling these issues but didn’t seem ready to try to introduce legislation.
Music Videos and TV
The notion of a watershed is a rather outdated concept in the days of the Internet, video on demand and time-shifting programmes via digital recorders.
Certainly refraining from TV advertising and explicit content during live primetime and kids programmes is definitely a good thing, but it takes education and discipline from parents to ensure kids don’t stumble across undesirable content.
It’s not the first time that lads magazines have come under fire for their content. Then shadow education secretary Michael Gove suggested they were “contributing to irresponsible behaviour and the breakdown of family and society”.
Covering up mags and ensuring they’re not sold to kids should be fairly easy to do, though many would be more concerned with a loss of revenue by not getting the free advertising a prominent place on the newsstands affords.
Internet and Mobile
Tackling the flood of detritus that comes over the Internet and, increasingly, via mobile phones, is not an easy one. No filters are 100% secure and even vigilance can only do so much.
Much has been written about keeping kids safe online. Finding a sensible balance between automatically blocking undesirable content and educating children on acceptable use of the net is what’s required. Some things can be left to legislation but ultimately it’s still the responsibility of parents to educate their kids.
Here are some resources and other articles that you might find useful:
- Tracy Beaker gets behind Safer Internet Day
- Porn star calls parents to protect their kids online
- Kids doing stuff online their parents wouldn’t approve of, survey finds
- Orange launches mobile and broadband advice site for families
- Full control of kids’ mobile phones now available to British parents
- Teens and pre-teens increase cell phone use during the summer
- Unique family-oriented broadband service offers peace of mind to schools and parents
Cyber-bullying — using technology such as computers and mobile phones to inflict some kind of hurt or embarrassment to a victim — is a fairly new phenomenon but one that’s set to increase.
“Sexting” is the process of sending sexually suggestive or explicit text messages and pictures via mobile phone. Some may argue it’s not bullying if it occurs between two (supposedly) consenting kids or teens such as a boyfriend and girlfriend, but it’s still illegal.
Even a minor caught sending pornographic images of either themselves or another child or teen could be hauled up on child pornography or sexual predation charges. Most of the time, that isn’t the intended desire of the offender. That’s why New York policymakers want to reform the law to create an “educational reform programme” for those who get into trouble for sexing, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.
“There are too many kids who are getting themselves into serious trouble for adolescent behavior,” said Alan Maisel, a Democratic assemblyman from Brooklyn and a co-sponsor of the bill. “I don’t know if they should be tainted with this evil brush for the rest of their lives.”
Such an education programme would let teens know the long-term repercussions of their actions. Despite being tech-savvy, many teens don’t understand that what they do online can stick around for a very long time. A five-minute moment of madness could hurt their future careers and relationships.
Of course, education also needs to begin at home and be reinforced in schools. Simply banning the technology in itself won’t help. Teaching kids how to use that tech responsibly is what’s really needed. More importantly, youngsters must be taught a holistic respect for other people and their privacy, and having the self-respect not to need to share lewd pictures with other people.
What do you think? Should ‘sexting’ involving only minors be considered a crime or are education programmes enough, particularly for initial offences?
The BBC has announced the immense success of The Lingo Show, a CBeebies online game designed to introduce young children to different cultures and languages.
Launched on the 14th February, and attracting over 135,000 visitors in the first week alone, The Lingo Show introduces French, Spanish, Mandarin, Welsh, Punjabi, Urdu, Polish and Somali to preschoolers using a number of colourful bug characters.
As children play online, the bugs enlist them to prepare for the Big Bug Show where, through a series of playful activities, they can learn new words in context and then use them as they sing their hearts out to the finale song.
The Lingo Show also features makes, audio clips and songs designed to stimulate creativity and celebrate diversity.
Lumley: Kids have slack morals
The children of modern Britain have morals that are on the rocks, according to Joanna Lumley.
Championing ‘old fashioned’ morality, she has spoken out against a perceived decline in standards, manners, and a respect for law and society.
“We are very slack with our moral codes for children these days. Nowadays, children find it laughably amusing to shoplift and steal,” she told the Radio Times.
“We smile when they download information from the Internet and lazily present it as their own work. We allow them to bunk off school and bring in sick notes,” she added.
Is Lumley’s attack justified?
A large part of the problem is that modern media loves to report bad news, gleefully rubbing its hands when standards are perceived to have fallen, or when they can report crimes involving children and young people.
Have standards really declined
She may have only witnessed “one ‘crime’ during the whole time [she] was at school”, but lets’ remember that this was a fairly well-to-do Catholic school in leafy Kent.
“Problem children” in schools may be a widening issue, but it was surely some sort of issue in the 1950s. I don’t believe that the only misdemeanours were of fountain pens going missing.
Copying from the Internet
I know the Net is blamed for many things, and that plagiarism is perhaps made easier nowadays (although so is its detection, ironically), but the world wide web opens up immense positive possibilities for our children.
It seems Ms Lumley may not be as clever as she’d like our kids to be.
When I was at school, I was taught to work out simple sums in my head, or to write down more complicated ones and work them out on paper.
Yet Lumley thinks laptop computers should be banned from schools until kids “can prove [they] can add up on [their] fingers.”
Good honest labour
Ms Lumley also believes that our kids are being mollycoddled, being sent into a ‘false paradise’.
“We’re not teaching them… how to accomplish a job and finish it… and actually achieve a trade.”
“I would like to see children involved in hearty-sounding pursuits, such as building a camp. Or getting an entire school to go and work in a farm, for a term, all together,” she said.
I have no doubt that Joanna Lumley’s intentions are honourable, and I believe there is some truth in what she says.
Our education system is rather confused, as successive governments backtrack on the other side’s policies, yet all claim to be returning ‘back to basics’.
Yet the message that seems to resonate in her outcry is that young people’s morality has been flushed down the toilet.
I just don’t believe that’s true.
There are sections of society where children haven’t been brought up to respect themselves and others, but there are also many honest, decent and hardworking families with amazing kids achieving all manner of incredible things.
The balance may have changed, certainly in perception even if not in actuality, but the youth of today aren’t all bad.
Technology has moved on. Computers and the Internet are here to stay, and our children must be taught to use this technology both skilfully and responsibly.
We also need to strike a balance between allowing children just to be children, and giving them responsibilities that will help them grow into mature adult citizens.
The danger with these sorts of reports is that children and teenagers are tarred with the same brush.
It sends a negative message to everyone, not least the young people themselves.
Do we think that kids and teens don’t know that we’re talking about them?
Do you think they appreciate the continual branding as potential immoralists, criminals, truants and delinquents?
I wouldn’t. Would you?
Let’s focus on all the positive things our kids give us, teach them well and… well, I’ll stop before I start quoting from that cheesy pop song, but you know what I mean.
What do you think? Do we need celebrities telling us about the state of our kids, or should they leave well alone?
BBC Learning is using the coming half-term to challenge families to find out more about the mysteries surrounding the creation of Stonehenge, travelling across the UK from Monday 21st to Friday 25th February.
This unique event will include a variety of fascinating ancient activities including an interactive mini-drama, where the Hands on History “archaeologists” will take audiences through the challenges of constructing Stonehenge using only the apparatus that would have been available over 4000 years ago. There will also be a near life-size inflatable section of the prehistoric monument standing at over four metres tall.
As well as the dramatisations, families will also be able to find out about ancient sites to visit nearby and can get hands on with the historical artefacts, on loan from the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum, including arrow heads and ancient tools.
There’s also interactive fun online at the Hands On History web site.
The tour is free to attend, suitable for all ages and there is no need to book in advance. Venues are as follows:
Monday 21 Feb: Queens Arcade, Cardiff
Tuesday 22 Feb: thecentre:mk, Milton Keynes
Wednesday 23 Feb: Swindon Designer Outlet
Thursday 24 Feb: Derby Westfield
Friday 25 Feb: Metrocentre, Gateshead
The Evolution of Sex Education
I’m no expert on how sex and relationships education in schools has changed over the years, but stereotypically things have become more liberal of late, with a focus much more on the process and physical repercussions of sex than on moral and societal issues surrounding the subject.
I can’t say that this is absolutely true, because schools can teach things in different ways, with more or less emphasis placed on issues beyond “how sex works”.
However, thanks in part to the way society has changed, particularly over the last decade or so, in its attitudes to sex and its portrayal in the media, the UK government on both sides is now looking at promoting familial and stable relationships.
Yesterday, the standard curriculum for sex education in English schools was updated to place more value on the moral and relational aspects of sex.
In an age-appropriate way, children will now be taught that it’s OK to delay having sex, and that they shouldn’t feel pressured by friends or the media into becoming sexually active as the “normal” thing to do.
Marriage and other stable relationships will be heralded as the “bedrock of family life”, with education on “the challenges and responsibilities of parenthood”.
Bullying and Pressure
Sexually-motivated bullying is sadly becoming more common. Mobile phone technology can be used to send compromising photographs which, apart from being illegal in the eyes of the law, could cause great distress to those victims caught on camera.
Other advice will warn about overtly sexualised imagery now prevalent in most types of media, including television, magazines, advertising and the Internet.
Children’s Secretary Ed Balls said, “Young people today grow up in a very different world to the one their parents knew as children.
“New technologies and a 24-hour media mean that young people are increasingly exposed to images and content that can make them feel pressure to be sexually active before they are ready and can give them misleading information about relationships and growing up.
“We also want young people to understand the importance of marriage and other stable relationships – these are the bedrock of family life, the best way to bring up children and the kind of relationships we want young people to develop as they get older.”
What do you think of the changes?
Photo credit: Made Underground
By Andy Merrett
Jan 12, 2010
Superstar Kylie Minogue has agreed to become patron of the newly formed StudyVox Foundation, a charity launched today to support British undergraduates seeking help with tuition fees.
Kylie, who has spent time at StudyVox’s headquarters, said, “Studyvox is such a fantastic site for students. It helps them to be connected with one another wherever they may be across the country. I would have loved to have access to this kind of thing when I was studying!”
An initial injection of £16,000 comes from StudyVox, with the first £10k award and three £2,000 awards being presented by Kylie this spring.
Joint CEO of StudyVox, Kevin Martin, commented, “Kylie’s support is a fantastic way of raising the StudyVox Foundation’s profile and getting the word out to students across the UK. Her patronage of The Foundation will add tremendously to its ability to make a difference to the lives of young people.”
The StudyVox Foundation’s aims are to:
- Advance education, and relieve poverty by providing or assisting in the provision of financial or other assistance to poor students;
- Relieve persons who are in need – by reason of youth, ill health, disability, financial hardship or other disadvantage; and
- Advance citizenship by assisting, encouraging or facilitating volunteering by young people to take part in projects, purposes or events that are carried out for the public benefit.
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is celebrating the delivery of the 100,000th book through its UK programme.
Four year old Thomas Donkin from Wigtownshire received the very special delivery, which included a personal letter from Dolly herself, from postman Alan McColm this week. In her letter to Thomas Dolly explained: “I love books and the adventures they bring; and it is my hope that children everywhere would be able to enjoy the fun that books offer.”
Children in Wigtown were some of the first in the UK to become part of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library – launched in the UK in December 2007 by the music star to encourage a love of reading in pre-school children. Its roll out in the UK built on the educational programmes resounding success in the US and Canada, where it has now delivered over 22 million books.
Thomas’ father Chris Donkin commented: “It’s a great scheme. We all look forward to the monthly arrival of Thomas’ books from the Imagination Library and share in enjoying the tales they contain. This month’s delivery was of course particularly special as it contained a letter from Dolly herself.”
Children in Wigtown have been receiving books through the scheme, which is part-funded and run by the organisers of the Wigtown Book Festival, since April 2008. Stena Line Wigtown Book Festival event spokeswoman Catherine Campbell said: “We are all absolutely delighted that a child from the Wigtown area received the 100,000th book, especially as it coincides with the start of this year’s annual book festival.”
“The festival runs 25th September to 4th October, with over 180 events taking place including a full children’s programme, so we’ll certainly be taking time to celebrate the book’s arrival.”
Since Dolly launched the library in the UK, the Imagination Library has been adopted by communities across the UK. Dolly Parton explained: It’s my dream that every child has a library of books which their parents can read to them from the moment they are born. I’m really excited that we’ve now shared 100,000 books with kids in the UK.”
Dolly Parton launched the scheme in her home county of Sevier, Tennessee, in 1996. The scheme works by local sponsors paying for children in their community to receive the books. In 2007 Rotherham Council became the first UK authority to join the Imagination Library, which is part of Ms Parton’s umbrella charity, the Dollywood Foundation, with more communities signing up in the past 18 months.
Hundreds of toddlers across the UK are participating in a new programme created especially for them, ‘TinyTalk Toddlers’. Developed by the team behind the successful TinyTalk Baby Signing Classes, TinyTalk Toddlers focuses on children who are starting to walk and talk with a more physical, interactive experience.
With new themes to explore each week, TinyTalk Toddlers encourages and supports the children’s speech and language understanding and expression through songs, signs, books and musical instruments. It also recognises that toddlers are always on the go so there is a wide range of language development activities, quality books and even a parachute!
“At the TinyTalk Toddler classes we have a lot of fun! Without the children even realising it, we’re also focusing on their understanding and development of speech,” says Katie Mayne, founder of TinyTalk, an ex-primary school teacher and a mother of two. “Signs still play a
valuable supporting role though, as everyone learns to talk (or walk!) at different stages! We also make time for communicational and behavioural ‘etiquette’, so teamwork, conversational turn-taking and that elusive concept of ‘sharing’ are also encouraged…..”
TinyTalk offers baby signing and toddler classes right across the United Kingdom and Ireland and is seeing a significant increase in demand. More and more families are seeking to experience the enormous benefits of early communication and understanding with their little ones. Mayne explains, “Contrary to popular belief, sign language actually encourages spoken
language rather than hindering it. Even tantrums are reduced! Families who attend our classes quickly find out that their babies and toddlers are little chatterboxes, full of so many things to say!”
In the Ministerial Foreword to “Better Communication”, the Government’s action plan to improve services for children and young people with speech, language and communication needs, Ed Balls, MP and Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, and Alan Johnson, MP and former Secretary of State for Health state, “Speech, language and communication are crucial to every child’s ability to access and get the most out of education and life.” They continue, “Creating an environment in which every child develops effective speech, language and communication skills….is a challenge for everyone working with children and young people, from speech and language therapists….to parents.”
So, at a time when serious concerns are being raised about the low level of communication skills of children entering pre-school, the TinyTalk Baby Signing Classes and now TinyTalk Toddlers are top of their class! Through them, thousands of families across the UK have the chance to give their babies and toddlers a strong foundation in communication, for a lifetime of language and learning development.
To join them or for more information about the classes, visit the TinyTalk website or ring 01483 301444.