News Views

Including training for social educators / social pedagogues / residential care staff, tombstoning, Ofsted, shaken babies, approved school scandals, therapeutic music, Siblings Together, educational apps, naming ceremonies, and ‘research’.

How are Social Educators / Pedagogues Trained?

We have received news from AIEJI (the International Association of Social Educators) that last year Susanna Volpin from Italy conducted a survey about the educational and professional requirements for social educators and people working in the field of social education. For this purpose, social education should be equated with social pedagogy. The survey was part of a thesis entitled: Education and professional profile of educators: Survey in a European context of higher education and professions.

So if you are interested in the way that people are trained as social educators / pedagogues in other countries, you may view the thesis on the AIEJI website –

And how are Residential Child Care Workers Trained in England?

Nick Johnson, Chief Executive of the Social Care Association, has pointed out to Michael Gove, Education Secretary of State, that of the overall training budget of £113 million for the children’s and young people’s workforce, a total of £25,000 is being spent on residential workers’ training (which we understand is for the completion of a project already in hand). Nick Johnson surmised that the government was expecting private owners of children’s homes to fund the training themselves. “It is a sector still recovering from a series of scandals going back to the 1970s and our concern is that this is letting that recovery slip and sowing the seeds of future scandals”, he said.

In the wake of the loss of NCERCC, the withdrawal of funding for the CWDC, the planned abandonment of the GSCC and the reduction in funding for SIRCC, it looks to us as if there is a compound problem, and its combined effect spells danger in years to come.


Anyone with a computer risks finding themselves on circulation lists which they did not request. The Coastguards have decided to keep us informed, among other things, of every time a spaniel falls down a cliff and has to be rescued. Recently, though, they sent us a release that is of relevance to the Webmag.

Two boys had jumped off Bridlington harbour wall, a drop of 10 – 15 feet, and because of harsh sea conditions, they were unable to get back to the steps. With difficulty, the inshore lifeboat rescued them. Lynda Bell – Watch Officer, Humber Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre, said.
“I am pleased to say the boys are now safe and well but this incident could easily have developed into something far more serious. Jumping from harbour walls or piers, often known as ‘tombstoning’, can be dangerous because:

– Water depth alters with the tide; the water may be shallower than it seems.

– Submerged objects like rocks may not be visible; they can cause serious injury if you jump onto them.

– The shock of cold water may make it difficult to swim.

– Strong currents can rapidly sweep people away.

Since 2005 there have been 10 deaths and 36 serious injuries due to ‘tombstoning’.”

We think that this advice is in one sense pretty obvious, and we would not dream of jumping into Bridlington harbour, whatever the conditions. It is, however, one of the fascinating aspects of the naked ape that we like to take risks and we find danger (either to ourselves or vicariously) thrilling. There are casualties, but this attribute no doubt also leads to successes, and is one of the reasons why, in daring to achieve, our species is dominant. It is also why the Coastguards are on a losing wicket if they hope to stop tombstoning. That is not, of course, a reason why they should stop informing people of the real risks involved.


Last month we criticised the frequent changes in the organisation of regulatory bodies. This month we are quoting Philip Parkin, General Secretary of Voice, who said, “Ofsted has become too broad and unwieldy and has lost its focus. A less bureaucratic and burdensome system would be welcome. Ofsted has been heavily criticised over the years for its methods and practice by everyone from educationalists to MPs and more recently by Plymouth’s Local Safeguarding Children Board. It has even been described as ‘not fit for purpose’. Ofsted suffers from a tediously repetitive habit of pandering to the Government and the media by being negative, instead of accentuating the many positives in education. This approach creates the impression of a culture of failure and gives a negative impression to parents.”

Despite all the changes we have a regulatory system which people are not happy about. Our views are:

1 The main purpose of a formal regulatory system is to make clear the standards which service providers need to maintain. The visits of inspection essentially underline the standards so that service providers are fully aware of them.

2 Very few serious scandals come to light as a result of formal inspections. Most observations by inspectors are about relatively minor matters. Scandals are brought to light mainly by concerned relatives or visitors or by disaffected staff. It is therefore important that inspectors should be local; a distant national inspectorate will not be so well informed.

3 If inspectors are really knowledgeable, it is a waste of their skills and knowledge if they do not advise service providers on ways to improve the services, even if they are excellent. Simply policing the bottom line is a marginal task in the overall task of ensuring service quality, and if the job is limited in this way it probably makes it less rewarding.

Challenging the Establishment

This month we are carrying an article by Robert Shaw in which he challenges the accepted wisdom about sex abusers, quoting one of our Editorials as one of the purveyors of error. It will be interesting to see if his remarks are picked up and cause a debate; it is hard to shift established opinion. Charles Pragnell has also challenged social work and medical thinking in articles in the Webmag. One of his concerns has now reached Parliament.

John Hemming MP is the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Family Law and the Court of Protection, and he has asked Sir Kenneth Clark, the Justice Minister, to order a scientific review of shaken baby syndrome. It is accepted thinking that shaking babies causes brain damage, and that certain symptoms are clear evidence. Three pathologists are challenging the evidence for shaken baby syndrome, and the three claim that there is a campaign to shut them up. In the end, the truth will out – whatever it is. In the meantime, we hope that the three pathologists do not suffer Galileo’s fate when he challenged established thinking.

The Causes and Impacts of Scandals

Jim Hyland’s column this month focuses on the scandals which led to changes in the approved school system. In his description of the Standon Farm Murder he mentions that the isolation of the school was one of the causes of the problems which ended with one of the staff being shot dead by boys trying to abscond. Standon Farm was sited in the wilds of Shropshire, a long way from any town and the isolation was made much worse by the harshness of the 1947 winter. The school was cut off for weeks, and no doubt the confinement of the school community to close quarters created a sort of cabin fever, compounding the boys’ resentment about their other grievances. The member of staff whom they shot was in fact quite popular, the son of the gardening instructor, and he just happened to be in the way of the absconders. One of the after-effects of the inquiry was that in all settings (not just approved schools) regulations about the storage of weapons were tightened up.

The Disturbance at Carlton House caused some ill-feelings within the approved schools service, as the press were said to have paid the boys half a crown each to throw bricks at windows in order to get a good story. Media harassment is not a new phenomenon. Again, the inquiry led to important changes. The Certificate in the Residential Care of Children awarded by the Central Training Council became the Certificate in the Residential Care of Children and Young People and included staff from approved schools. By the time that CCETSW abandoned it, over 1,000 staff a year were being trained.

Looked After Children and Music: Achieving Positive Outcomes

Youth Music is hosting a conference at the Royal Opera House, London on Tuesday 14 June 2011 from 10am-1pm, coupled with a live webcast for all those working with looked after children, to provide delegates with a unique insight into how music can transform young lives. Youth Music claims to be the UK’s leading charity using music to transform the lives of disadvantaged young people and believes that engagement and progression in music making enables young people to reach their full potential. As a tool for self-expression, therapy and personal growth, music is uniquely placed to help.

Delegates will:

  • learn about the latest findings and evidence from a range of national research projects;
  • be provided with know-how and practical tips to help them develop and commission effective music projects for looked after children;
  • have the opportunity to inform Youth Music’s policy in this area through discussion and debate.

Speakers include Professor Pat Petrie, Dr. Douglas Lonie, Dr. Alison Daubney, Lucy Stone and young people from Surrey Care Council talking about their positive experiences with music. The event will include discussion, performances by young musicians and networking opportunities. Refreshments will be provided.

Contact if you want to know more.

Siblings Together

This organisation is advertising its summer camps for the fifth year, to be held in Pembrokeshire from mid-August onwards. They provide a wide range of summer activities – walking in the mountains, horse-riding and bushcraft, for example – mixed in with craftwork and the arts. They offer an opportunity for siblings who may be in care or adopted and who otherwise see little of each other to meet up and share activities. If you want more information contact

Top Free Apps for All Phones

Research suggests that 40% of parents who have downloaded apps for their children believe that their children’s academic performance has increased as a result. We do not find this finding particularly staggering, but Getjar, who say that they are the largest open app store, have made five of the best free educational apps available free, and they point out that “there are literally thousands of free educational apps on GetJar, ready to help pupils with their homework, revision and improve their learning in every curriculum area!”

The five are:

Collins English Dictionary and Thesaurus 2010 : The perfect companion to improve spelling and vocabulary, featuring a wide range of quotations and idioms.

Scientific Calculator : With this handy app, students can practise even the most complex of sums including trigonometry, degrees and radians, algebra and more.

School Timetable : The perfect companion for becoming a more organised student. With this timetable, both parents and pupils can plan their week down to every hour.

Mobile Tutor : A fun app to test and improve maths, English, and geography skills, amongst others.

Periodic Table for Mobile : For those that are struggling to learn the symbols for different chemical elements, this periodic table on-the-go helps pupils to remember the difference between everything from Argon to Zinc.

For more information, please visit

Naming Ceremonies

We are told that naming ceremonies for children of parents without religious beliefs are becoming more popular. The Eureka centre in Halifax has linked with One-Life Ceremonies to devise a personalised approach.

Each ceremony is individually written by One Life Ceremonies following a meeting with the family, which means that every aspect is customisable and the family can choose exactly what they want to include, such as the meaning of the child’s name and why they chose it, readings, parents’ promises, words of commitment from grandparents and guide parents (or god parents), music and symbolic aspects such as lighting a candle or releasing balloons.

For more details about naming ceremonies at Eureka please visit or contact 01422 330069.

‘Research’ : Playing Outside

A survey of 1,000 children aged six to 16, by the Royal Horticultural Society, found that although 82% of children had access to a garden, only 40% used it at least once a week, 30% used it about once or twice a month and 20% rarely played in it. Making allowances for British weather, there is also the question whether gardens are child-friendly. This is not just a question of sand-pits, climbing frames and swings, but also the size of the garden and its state of cultivation. Is there room to play football without damaging something? Are there wild bits where children can make dens or indulge in role-play? If the garden is just a small square of paved patio with nowhere to hide or if it is full of prissy flower beds which must not be spoilt, it is no wonder that they don’t go out to play.

Of course, a question we need to ask at the same time is about public play spaces and their use. Lots of gardens are too small to be really useful for children to play, but there are parks in towns and if one is in the country there may be woods, streams and heathland. But do parents let their children go out of their sight these days – as they did forty years ago – or is there fear of assault, bullying and abuse, so that parents anchor their children at home? And are the parks and wild areas fit to play in, or are they full of used syringes and broken bottles?

‘Research’: Children’s Health

BUPA has gathered the opinions of future parents and is pleased by the positive findings. Children are going to have healthier life-styles and better diets because future parents are more health conscious.

The report’s key findings include:

– Just 4% of future parents will allow their children to eat junk food, compared with 29% of current parents.

– 4 million more children will participate in regular sporting activities.

– 2.5 million more children will walk or cycle to school, reverting to the practice of earlier generations.

– Children are currently wasting an average of 165 minutes a day watching TV and playing video consoles – the equivalent of 19 hours a week or 41 days a year. TV time will be culled by almost 25 minutes a day, regaining a full seven days of the year for children.

Maybe we are just cynical, but we look forward to reading the findings of a follow-up survey in thirty years’ time. Ask any slimmer; there is a difference between good intentions and actually losing weight. We suspect that parents will still be driving to school to collect their children, that children will still be glued to their consoles, and that obesity will remain a problem for a substantial section of the population, including children. We will be happy to be proved wrong.

‘Research’ : Children are Growing

The waistlines of pupils starting secondary school have increased by more than 8cm (3 inches), according to a study of 227 11-year-olds by Shape GB’s National Childrenswear Survey. The survey found that girls’ waistlines are about 8cm larger and boys’ nearly 7cm larger than the average measurements of 11-year-olds in 1979. The survey also found that the average 11-year-old is 3cm taller now than in 1978, up from 146cm to 149cm (4ft 9in). Boys on average are 148cm tall now, compared with 145cm in 1978.

According to the last item, children today are a lot of couch potatoes or are at their computers for hours on end. Do these activities enable them to grow more? Or, taking account of the first ‘research’ item, if they did play outside more, would they be even taller, and would their waistlines be smaller?

‘Research’ : The Cost of Easter

A survey undertaken by Lansons has shown that the Easter holidays and the Royal Wedding cost parents £3.5 billion in childcare and entertainment. They estimated that UK parents would spend £267 per child on Easter and bank holiday breaks, and that the extra bank holiday for Royal wedding would add £206 million. They say that UK parents face a bill of almost £1500 per child for childcare and activities during all of 2011’s school holidays (£18.8bn collectively). Rather than a holiday, parents will take advantage of free attractions and entertaining the kids at home. Over half (55%) of all families will not have a foreign holiday this year and nearly a third (29%) won’t have a break away in the UK.

How do those figures compare with bankers’ bonuses? And where will the bankers be going for their holidays?

‘Research’ : Make-up

My Voucher Codes has conducted a study of 1,312 parents of children under the age of three in a bid to discover their attitudes towards toddlers using beauty products.

The study found that almost a tenth, 8%, of the parents asked admitted to putting ‘fake tan’ on their toddler. When asked to explain their reason for doing so, the majority, 59%, said they did so as their ‘child had asked them to;’ whilst 17% had done so ‘for a special event.’ Respondents to the study were also asked if they had put make-up on their toddler, to which just over a fifth, 21%, said ‘yes’. When asked to stipulate why they had done so, the fact that their ‘child had asked them to’ was again the most popular reason, with 68% labelling this as the main motivating factor. Furthermore, 6% admitted that ‘boredom’ was the reason for putting make-up on their toddler; whilst 22% had done so ‘for a special event.’

According to the research, 18% of the parents asked admitted to previously ‘straightening the hair’ of their toddler; whilst 14% of the respondents claimed to have ‘pierced’ their toddler’s ears. When once again asked why they had done so, the majority, 52%, claimed that they had done so because they think it ‘looks pretty.’ Those who had pierced the ears of their child under the age of three were further asked if they were concerned about the safety element of doing so. Over half, 53%, stated “no.”

No comment.

‘Research’ : Losing

Children are unable to cope with losing and sulk, swear and throw tantrums after being defeated in sports, according to a poll by the Cricket Foundation charity and the MCC. Now there’s a surprise. The poll involved 1,000 parents of eight to 16-year-olds.

‘Research’ : Multi-tasking

Nelson’s Teetha, a homeopathic teething aid, have done some research which proves that women are better at multi-tasking than men. The test was planning how to find a lost key. We don’t doubt that women are better at multi-tasking, but we feel that the research was flawed because of the practice effect.

From the Case Files

She was involved in blue sniffing.

With a really cold nose?


Professional training

Social educators

Social pedagogues

Residential care staff

Social Care Association




Shaken babies

Approved school scandals

Court Lees

Therapeutic music

Siblings Together

Educational apps

Naming ceremonies


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