News Views

This month we are publishing in full an item sent to us by the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation about the way that girls lose interest in sport, thinking it too competitive and unfeminine. In view of the concern about the increasing level of obesity in the population this is an important issue and the WSFF research is timely. It is particularly worrying when it is reported that there is no greater take-up of sport by children and young people despite the ever-present images of the impending Olympics.We recall that when we were at school (a long while ago) we used to have about quarter of an hour of physical exercise (‘Swedish drill’?) during the morning break, using up most of the free time between lessons. For some reasons, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate did not like the idea and recommended that it should cease, so thereafter we spent the whole of our mid-morning breaks slouching around.

We think that the HMIs were wrong. Children need some regular exercise every day, and it should be re-instated in schools. By all means offer a variety of activities, so that girls can do something uncompetitive if they want. Which makes us think. What is sauce for the goose…. Why shouldn’t the staff join in as well, as role models? If the whole school community were to participate, it would offer a powerful message. We wonder whether this idea is in the WSFF kit for schools.

Great Teachers

The House of Commons Education Committee has published a report called Great teachers: attracting, training and retaining the best, in which it comments that “the current generation of teachers is the best ever”.

The teachers’ union Voice supports the Committee’s view that “it’s crucial that we have an educational system which celebrates great teachers, keeps more of them in the classroom, supports their development and gives them greater status and reward”, but remarks that unfortunately, the attitude of government ministers and the media towards teaching often seems to be negative.

Perhaps we need an extension of the Leveson Inquiry to look at ways in which the media have skewed our views. Generally, they don’t like good news stories. Young NCB have had a campaign to demonstrate how teenagers are bad-mouthed by the press, to the point that older people are fearful and suspicious of them, unaware of all the positive work undertaken by young people.

As for this generation of teachers being the best ever, if anyone argues to the contrary, remind them of the way the cane used to be wielded in many schools, of the boredom of some of the lessons, and of the regular absenteeism and not infrequent riots that there used to be. If you doubt it, just read the histories of our older schools.

Wales leading the way in the UK for Children’s Rights

Welsh ministers now have a duty to have due regard to the requirements of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). This means that ministers must consider the rights of children and young people in all the decisions they make about new legislation, policies and changes to existing policy.

To coincide with the new duty, which came into force on 1 May 2012, Gwenda Thomas, the Deputy Minister for Children visited Big Pit National Coal Museum in Torfaen to meet local school children and talk about how their lives and rights compared to those of previous generations. No more pulling coal tubs underground for the kiddies; no more injuries being crushed by falling rocks.

Now let’s hope that other countries follow suit.

Paying for Truancy

Charlie Taylor, government adviser on school behaviour, is advocating increased fines for parents of persistent truants, and the deduction of the fines from their benefits if they do not pay up. We think that this will be ineffective.

There might be a point to charging well-off parents who take their children out of school for holidays for the cost of the education missed. It would probably irritate them and make the cheaper term-time holidays less attractive. We have been informed by the deVere Group, who describe themselves as the world’s largest independent advisory firm which specialises in expat wealth solutions, that three out of four expatriate parents underestimate the true cost of educating their children privately overseas. We have no idea of the daily cost of state education in the UK. Knowing the investment being made out of taxation in their children might make some people value it more.

But people on benefits have very little in the first place; some of them do not value education, which may well be why their children truant. It is the children, though, who will lose out, and the families will risk being driven to offend in order to survive. Taking money from them is likely to make them more antisocial, conforming grudgingly, rather than valuing education.

What is more important, using stick rather than carrot will only embitter families who do not value education against compulsory schooling. Why not use carrot rather than stick? Ideally the carrot should be the enjoyment of learning and the increased opportunities arising from educational success, but a payment for attendance would at least be a start.

We received an email, which looked very official, with the royal coat of arms, only to find that it was a private company from the USA advertising its services. The arms had been added because UK Trade and Investment, a government agency of which we had not previously heard, had encouraged to set up its European HQ in the UK. say that they provide an online forum for UK families and carers to connect with each other, arrange care, and share advice. The company helps families address their unique lifecycle of care needs: childcare, special needs care, care for older people, pet care, and housekeeping. does not employ, recommend, or endorse any carers or care seekers nor is it a recruitment or other agency. provides information and tools to help members make informed decisions.

However, members are solely responsible for selecting an appropriate employer or carer for themselves or their family, and employers are solely responsible for obtaining and reviewing any necessary CRB or other identity, verification, background, or reference checks before hiring a carer and for verifying the age of the carer they select, as well as that carer’s eligibility to work in the UK. UK has a trained and dedicated team reviewing all carer profiles for suspicious and inappropriate content. also provides secure messaging, reference checking services, and a growing collection of articles and resources on the interviewing and hiring process.

It sounds like a good idea. We had heard of a similar system in the States whereby families with a member with learning disability were given a budget based on an assessment of need and used the internet to select the services of their choice, cutting out all the work which social workers would have done to evaluate possible placements and monitor progress.

Transport – a Priority for Young People

The British Youth Council, supported by the House of Commons, has launched the Youth Select Committee – a new body which mirrors the UK Parliament Select Committee structure and gives young people the opportunity to scrutinise and hold enquiries in to topics they’re interested in.

The group’s first inquiry, in July, will look at public transport – as identified as a priority by members of the British Youth Council and UK Youth Parliament in 2011. The terms of reference for the inquiry are “to inquire into issues and concerns around safe, affordable and accessible transport for young people and make recommendations to decision makers to address them”. This topic is one which Young NCB identified some time ago, and it is good to see pressure being maintained.

Family Story-telling

Blurb have emailed to encourage the sharing of family stories for the benefit of future generations. They point out that a lot of children find their grandparents’ stories boring and there is a real risk of losing a wealth of family information. Although 68% of parents want family stories documented, only 18% of children sit down to listen to their grandparents.

Blurb say they are the world’s leading self-publishing platform, and they are launching where you can submit a short synopsis of your favourite personal story. A judging panel will then select twenty of the most inspiring stories for publication, so they can be preserved forever.


Drinkaware report that 72% of young people aged 10 to 17 would turn to their parents to talk about alcohol. For half of them, their parents had given them their last drink.

Meanwhile, a survey by Dove found that 37% of girls looked to their mother as their role model, with Cheryl Cole coming in second at 8%. Kate Middleton only scored 3%, who were presumably the ones dashing to the shops for the look-alike dresses.

So we can rest assured that children still look up to their parents.

Nothing directly to do with children, but the Sun claims that 48% of Britons are seriously considering leaving the country, though another survey reports that 63% will be travelling abroad for a holiday, spending nearly £1k each.

From an article

The Government was literally throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

We hope that a passer-by from the Big Society was there to catch it.

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