News Views

A mixture of news items, events, comments and whimsies, including social pedagogy, trust in MPs, baby massage, barefoot walking, natal hypnotherapy, recruiting head teachers, Sir Al and the Mosquito

Social Pedagogy on Line

We’d like to bring to your attention a new website dedicated to sharing ideas about social pedagogy. It has been sponsored by Jacaranda, who recruit qualified social pedagogues from Europe for work in the UK. We have been pushing social pedagogy for a long while now (since the days when it was still a rude term) and we are delighted to see that it is being treated seriously in this country, as we believe it could provide a lot of the answers that British child care needs.

So have a look at and join the debate.

Young people don’t trust MPs.

We have been told that there is a lack of trust on the part of today’s youth in our MPs. Obviously there is always a tension between the old establishment and rebellious teenagers, but it is more than that. There is the risk that a large percentage of young adults are simply opting out of any form of politics as a waste of time, as they see MPs as self-serving and untrustworthy.

This is sad for everyone concerned. If the young people truly believe that MPs are only lining their pockets at public expense, they should be getting involved, questioning them, scrutinising their decisions, calling them to account and, if necessary, standing against them at election time. Opting out does not solve the problem.

It is sad for the MPs too. In our experience, almost without exception, we have found them enormously hard-working and concerned to serve their constituents, whichever party they are in. It was said of one acquaintance that everyone in his constituency knows someone for whom he has done something. It takes a lot of work to build that sort of reputation. And that would go for many others we know.

Obviously there are times when MPs overstep marks, behave injudiciously or break rules; they are human. But the extent of their transgression is nothing compared with politicians in the past or in some other countries today.

We blame the media. In an attempt to interest readers, they major on minor issues and focus on areas of conflict rather than convergence. They will blame their readers and viewers who, they will say, want this sort of material. It may be the way the game is played at present, but it is unhealthy for the community.

If our parliamentarians are guilty of misconduct, it is proper that the media should expose it, but it is not helpful if the outcome is that Parliament is unjustifiably mistrusted by the young. Rubbishing people who are in fact doing a sound job will eventually put good quality candidates off and, if we treat them like that, we will get the quality of politician we deserve.

In Our Mail Box

We really do get an extra-ordinary range of offers, invitations and announcements in our email in-box. Leaving on one side those that the spam filter deals with (which are not suited to a magazine about children), it is fascinating to see what people are getting up to.

  • How about baby massage in Corby? Apparently baby massage has been proven to “soothe and relax babies, aiding sleep, digestion and relief from colic. It is also lovely for the parents to feel so bonded with their children”.
  • Or how about a 1000-metre barefoot walk this summer on the Trentham estates across “stimulating surfaces including textured timber and wood, tickly bark mulch, smooth pebbles, soft grass and soil, squelchy mud, sun-baked rocks – as well as the cooling waters of a natural babbling brook and a special invigorating foot bath”?
  • Or do you have a little girl who is keen on Barbie Mariposa, and who would like to be a fairy for a day at Butlin’s? “These magical sessions will bring the world of butterflies and fairies to life for little girls. Budding fairies will be able to enjoy arts and crafts, face painting, hair-decorating, basic song and dance and fun fairy games.”
  • Or, if you’re just acquiring your family, would you like to try natal hypnotherapy? “Recent research has shown that natal hypnotherapy is the UK’s most effective approach, reducing caesarean rates to just 15%”.
  • Or would you like fun with Cobomobi?

As a service to readers, we will give out contact details if we are emailed. Often these advertisements come with a offer of prizes for competitions, which we don’t have time to run.

A Lateral View of a Shortfall

We have been told that there are major difficulties in recruiting head teachers these days. The employers have done everything they can think of to fill their vacancies. The Government have tried training people up to do the job. In desperation, head teachers have been shared between schools.

We have a different approach. If we want the job to be done, it must be do-able. At present the expectations placed on head teachers are so enormous that it is no wonder that people do not want the posts. How about reducing the number of Government Circulars they are expected to implement? Or creating additional management posts to share the burden? Or whittling down the targets they have to meet?

Perhaps they could do a survey in which, at the start of the day, heads could list what they were expected to do that day; then they should do a steady day’s work, focusing on what they saw as priorities; finally, at the end of the day’s work, finishing at a proper time, they should list what they have done and what they have not done, and question the necessity of doing the latter.

Sir Al on the Box

The Guardian has a regular leader column entitled In Praise of…. We hope they won’t prosecute us for pinching their idea if we do a little column in praise of Sir Al Aynsley Green. He’s managed to grab the headlines on behalf of kids again, and we’re impressed. It’s a matter of being alert to what matters to children and young people, identifying what is newsworthy, and then going for it.

He’s shown that in being the children’s champion, he’s not afraid to go for it and upset a few people. This time it’s the Mosquito box that’s his target. The point is that he’s not the Mosquito’s target; the young people are. It emits nasty noises that very few adults can hear, but children and young people can. Sited where youths congregate, it drives them somewhere that’s Mosquito-free. (It also affects babies, without their parents being aware.)

It’s discriminatory – intentionally – and people such as shop-owners who do not want a bunch of hobbledehoys hanging around in their doorways think that Mosquitoes are a Good Thing. It does not solve the problem of having somewhere that young people can meet, or offering them something to do. It simply irritates them and tells them that adults do not want them around.

The only real answer is providing good social facilities for this group. They are unique in that they need space of their own while not yet having the resources to own or rent houses. The community needs to offer them places where they can meet, socialise without bingeing, make friends, meet partners and learn to become responsible adults.

From the Case Files

Her childhood was marred by martial disharmony.

The eternal Battle of the Sexes?

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