News Views

A mixture of news items, events, comments and whimsies, including the threat of teenage cancer, tuneful toothbrushes, jigsaws, saying thankyou, unintended consequences, the role of professional associations, the Children’s Centre & Extended Schools Show, the Mulberry Bush and Haut de la Garenne.

From the Post Bag

We are contacted daily by PR agencies asking if we will advertise their clients’ products, and we occasionally turn their press releases into articles if we feel that they have child care content which might be of interest to people working with children and young people. We do not endorse products, but here are three snippets which caught our attention.

* Research revealed today by Teenage Cancer Trust, in conjunction with Superdrug, which polled 1,000 UK teenagers, shows a trend towards teenagers revolting against suntans as they don’t want to look chavvy. But despite teens shunning suntans, there’s clearly a lack of knowledge amongst them when it comes to looking after their skin in the sun. Nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of teenagers mistakenly believe that either wearing tanning oil or being in the swimming pool will protect them from the sun and decrease their risk of burning.

This is the very reason that Teenage Cancer Trust is launching a summer campaign, Shunburn, to educate teenagers on how to behave sensibly in the sun. As part of the campaign, the charity has set up an innovative free text alert service for teenagers. Text messages will be sent on hot days, giving useful sun safety tips, including reminders to wear sun cream and cover up and giving teens ten per cent off sun cream at Superdrug, the campaign’s partner.

Despite the fact that teens don’t want to look ‘chavvy’ it seems that looking good in their summer outfits on the beach is more important than protecting their skin from sunburn. Forty two per cent of teenagers surveyed by TCT said they are reluctant to cover up in hot weather – even when they’re at risk of burning – because they are too concerned with their image. Clearly they feel pressure from peers to wear the right outfit, but at what cost?

It’s vital that teenagers act now to protect themselves because skin cancer is one of the fastest growing cancers in the UK. There are 75,000 new cases diagnosed each year with over 2,300 of these people dying from the disease. The number of cases of melanoma in young people has doubled in the last 20 years and it’s the damage done to the skin in the younger years that can lead to skin cancer in later life.

* Tooth Tunes is the revolutionary toothbrush which plays music straight into your mouth as you brush your teeth. Ideal for encouraging youngsters to brush properly as well as being great fun, Tooth Tunes is a good quality toothbrush approved by the British Dental Health Foundation (BDHF).

Originally aimed at children between the ages of 7 and 12, the brush plays a song for two minutes while being used, which according to the BDHF is the recommended amount of time to spend brushing twice a day.

Now Grosvenor are launching a new Junior toothbrush. Designed specifically for pre-schoolers, this brush is specially developed for little mouths and hands. Tooth Tunes Junior is edited with friendly music that lasts for one minute and uses ‘talk to me’ technology. Encouraging phrases motivate and congratulate the children while they brush. Tooth Tunes Junior is set for a July launch with the first brushes featuring ‘If you’re happy and you know it, brush your teeth!’

* Jigsaws may well be one of the oldest toys around, dating back to the 1760s, but they continue to be great fun, educational and something all children can enjoy.

Just Jigsaws, run by the Trowsdale family, have been making hand cut hand finished wooden jigsaw puzzles for over 35 years and they offer a huge range of puzzles for all ages. They’re not only educational and great fun, but environmentally friendly too as each puzzle is made from sustainable wood sources.

Jigsaw puzzles can help children learn and develop, have fun and have real quality time with mum or dad too. So, how can the humble jigsaw puzzle achieve so much? Doing a jigsaw puzzle with children give them many benefits including:

  • Encouraging concentration, reasoning and dexterity
  • Developing logical and spatial awareness
  • Encouraging sorting, matching and problem solving skills
  • Improving hand to eye coordination
  • Improving the way children logically pick their way around the jigsaw
  • Recognizing shapes and colours
  • Enjoying learning
  • Becoming independent as children learn how to do the puzzles they loves to claim that they can do it “all by myself”
  • Increasing confidence
  • Tactile – can feel the different textures

Above all, jigsaw puzzles present a great opportunity for language development and a happy social interaction with your child.

Just Jigsaws have a range of over 150 different wooden puzzles and jigsaws available to buy online at

Stirring the Mud

It is a sign of a good column that it triggers other thoughts. If you contact the author, s/he may feel that you have not followed the line of logic or accepted the point made, but it is a mark of success in our book if the writer has made us think.

Take Keith White’s In Residence column this month for example, about children needing someone to say thankyou to, as well as having the means and right to complain. We had three quite separate trains of thought arising from his article.

1 Thanks, Praise and Criticism

It is said that children need to be praised four times for every time they are criticised, if the criticism is to be taken seriously. This was said to have been proven by a piece of research, though we couldn’t offer you the source. Still, it sounds right. But why only children? Some of us develop tougher skins, but why should it be different for the staff working with children? Child care workers may get used to being sworn at or even assaulted, but couldn’t the children be helped to see that they’ll get a lot more out of the staff if they throw in a few thankyous? When there is real appreciation expressed by a child, its impact can be tremendous.

2 Unintended Consequences

We are worried about the unintended consequences of many systems. Keith has highlighted a possible spin-off of the complaints systems that we create cohorts of unappreciative ingrates and whingers. What a sad outlook on life to inculcate! But there is another similar concern.

At one time the ruling was brought in that Social Workers should speak to children in care on their own when they visited, in case the children needed to disclose abuse by their foster carers or residential child care staff. Although they often knew their Social Workers less well than their carers (because of turnover, length and infrequency of visits etc.), the message from the Social Workers was implicitly, “Trust me; you may not be able to trust them”.

Since there has been a whole raft of other roles – Guardians ad Litem, independent visitors, Ofsted Inspectors and others – and in each case the implicit message is, “We are here so that you can share your confidences with us, in case the other lot whom you know better, are harming you. We’ve entrusted you to their care, but we’re not confident that they won’t abuse you”. Who is the child to trust with that sort of underlying message? Given, of course, with the best of intentions.

3 The Role of Professional Associations

When we started in this business a few decades ago, there was very little written down about good professional practice and there was a major role for professional associations in drawing up guidance, putting out publications and providing seminars about it. Now, things have moved forward. There are bodies such as SCIE and the GSSC who put out material and are funded by the Government, so that the task is no longer reliant on volunteers working in their free time. There is a lot more published material; there is more training; there are more support systems.

So, have the battles been fought and won? Is there no more need for professional associations? We think there is, but their roles should be different. We think that they have two key roles. The first is to collaborate with the Government departments, quangos and universities, to ensure that the material produced makes sense in practice and does meet best professional standards. The second is to be aware of the impact of developments, to identify overlooked needs and to be alert to the unintended consequences of good measures that have unforeseen side-effects.

This is where Keith’s concern about thankyous and our concern about undermining confidence in carers come in. So, over to the Social Care Association, BASW and the others.

“The Children’s Centre & Extended Schools Show has it all.”

That’s what the Press Release said. The Show, now in its second year, is to be held at the Royal Horticultural Halls in London on 24th and 25th June and it is organised by Children and Young People Now. The two-day exhibition will allow visitors to get up to speed on the latest policy developments, and pick up fresh ideas for working with children, young people and their families. It will pull together best practice and innovation from leading organisations through a dedicated exhibition, approximately 30 interactive seminars, and a one day conference on children’s centres.

One major new attraction is the Creative Play Space, a feature designed to educate visitors about the benefits of play, both indoors and outside. A wellbeing zone will feature interactive workshops on a range of activities for children including yoga, cooking, first aid and making exercise fun. Other workshops are organised into special zones on workplace issues, local communities, partnership working and sustainability.

As the Government’s target is to have 3,500 children’s centres, and for every school in England to be an extended school by 2010, there should be plenty of people who will want to go. Tickets to the show cost £10 but admission is free by pre-registering online at before 20th June 2008.

Issue 100

We received a lot of nice messages about the wealth of articles in our hundredth edition. Thankyou to everyone who emailed. We had one disappointment, though. No one wrote in to complain about the April Fool article. We only hope it has not been taken seriously. Otherwise we might have to buy a hasty ticket and escape to San Serif.

Did You See?…..

….. the award-winning programme about the Mulberry Bush School on BBC4 on 22 May 2008? It showed the disturbed behaviour of the children graphically in a programme where there was no commentary, and which presumably was intended to tell its own story, with children arriving, doing classwork, playing music, talking with staff, having tantrums, being held, being visited by their families, becoming more amenable and leaving. Despite the length of the programme and the dramatic scenes, we found it somewhat disappointing, for two reasons.

The first was that the staff did seem to have to restrain the children a lot of the time. Technically, they seemed to do it in a way which did not hurt or harm the children, but the kids certainly didn’t like it, and we were surprised that it was needed so often – and of course, if it was a part of the treatment method, it wasn’t explained.

Secondly, there was no explanation about the underlying theory, what they were trying to achieve, what their working methods were, how they knew whether they were succeeding or not and so on. It all just happened. We are, of course, remedying that shortfall, as the article by John Diamond in this issue gives an excellent description of what the Mulberry Bush is doing for children.

….. that more than 160 people have now come forward to say that they had been physically and/or sexually abused at Haut de la Garenne children’s home in Jersey between 1960 and 1986? John Stanbury used to say that if a confidential item was shared by more than twenty people, you could assume that it was no longer confidential. Yet in the case of Haut de la Garenne, eight times as many people did not complain or were persuaded to keep silent one way or another, demonstrating the powerful forces at work – shame, guilt by association, unwillingness to upset people, fear of retribution, a wish to bury the past and forget, and fear of being disbelieved. Thank goodness the issue is now out in the open.

From the Correspondence

I shall have to obtain permission from Her Majesty Chief Inspector X.

What a difference an apostrophe s makes! We do at times wonder if these mistakes are intentional, subconscious or unconscious.

Teenage cancer,Skin cancer,Toothbrushes,Dental hygiene,Jigsaws,Unintended consequences,Professional associations,The Mulberry Bush,Haut de la Garenne,Complaints

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