News Views

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

Closure as a Point of Learning

With the sentencing of Morag and Anthony Jordan to jail terms of nine and six months respectively for a series of assaults on children in the 1970s and 1980s at the Haut de la Garenne children’s home, the Jersey Police say that their five-year investigation, Operation Rectangle, has now ended.

The whole sad episode throws up the question how we best protect children. Jersey is a small, stable and prosperous community, quite unlike the neighbourhoods associated with many child care scandals. Inner London boroughs, for example, are characterised by high population turnover, areas of desperate deprivation and poverty, and a raft of social problems. If things go wrong at times in boroughs such as Haringey it is hardly surprising, in view of the massive problems they face and the difficulties of attracting and retaining staff. But in Jersey?

Clearly there are some things which minimise the risk to children, such as the steady application of standard procedures, as one of this month’s Key Texts, the Monckton Report, shows. However, that on its own is insufficient, and there is nothing which is more important than people remaining constantly alert, observant and prepared to speak up if abuse is suspected. Even in a prosperous community such as Jersey the authorities have to be prepared to hear the worst and to act if they are to curtail the lifelong misery caused by abuse. This is a message for everyone, wherever we live.

Congratulations

We were pleased to see that Purnima Tanuku, Chief Executive of National Day Nurseries Association, was awarded the OBE in the New Year’s Honours List.

As always, the award is a reflection on the work of the individual, the organisation and the service represented. So, congratulations to all of them.

Key Texts

Elsewhere in this issue Robert Shaw has written about the reasons for selecting the Key Texts which we have published, and the reasons for excluding other material.  The series is now moving on to include reports. It is also going to cover books, research and reports up to 2000. It is intended that the series will end at that point, though it will be several months before the final contributions to the series will be published. If any reader wishes to suggest Key Texts, now is the time to do so, before the final selection is made. It is also hoped to publish the collection in book form.

The Importance of Being Kept in the Dark

We were sent the following email from Dr. Lin Day, founder of Baby Sensory.

“Children who sleep in the dark may be healthier than those who sleep with a night light on. In the dark, production of the hormone melatonin increases the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. Leaving a light on prevents the body from making the hormone efficiently. Some studies have shown that a night light promotes eye growth, which increases the risk of myopia, or short-sightedness even when the child is asleep. Children under the age of two are most at risk from developing the condition.

“Melatonin release is dependent on the light-dark cycle, or circadian cycle, which regulates the body’s internal clock. Even low levels of light can lead to difficulties in getting to sleep and more waking up in the night, especially between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. Disruption of the circadian cycle increases lethargy, irritability and tiredness and reduces concentration and mental ability during the day. Chronic disruption of the circadian cycle increases the risk of immune system disorders and certain cancers in later life.

“For children with anxiety problems, going to sleep in the dark can be very disturbing. A night light provides comfort and security, but turning it off gradually using a dimmer switch can help them adjust to the dark. In view of the protective benefits of melatonin, it is well worth encouraging children to sleep in total darkness.”

As a child I didn’t have a night-light but I recall a period when, at the age of about six, I used to wake at 2 a.m. and read for a couple of hours before settling to sleep again, but I can’t recall being irritable, lethargic or incapable of concentration as a result. I’ll have to ask the family.

To read more about Baby Sensory, go to www.babysensory.com.

Social Pedagogy

If you want to know about what is happening about SP in the UK, the Social Pedagogy Development Network is the body to contact. Their next meeting will take place on 1 April 2011 at Camphill Community in Glencraig, Northern Ireland. They are organising a social pedagogy evening the night before (March 31) and have invited Professor Pat Petrie (Thomas Coram Research Unit) and Mark Smith (Edinburgh University) as well as a colleague from one of the Camphill Communities as speakers. Contact Gabriel Eichsteller if you are interested: Gabriel@thempra.org.uk

Social Pedagogy in Slovenia

We have to hand the two latest issues of Social na Pedagogika, the journal of FICE-Slovenia. The October 2010 issue is in Slovenian with summaries in English, but the December 2010 issue is in both Slovenian and English in full. In our experience the quality of work with children in Slovenia is high, and the material they produce merits attention.

The October subjects were:

  • Private and public kindergartens: a comparison of programmes in terms of financing and quality
  • Independent living programme- from the point of view of youngsters and their care workers
  • Characteristics of students of primary-level teaching and social pedagogy
  • Co-operation and co-creation: community project in the field of prevention within the school context, and
  • Confrontation in supervision.

The December contents were:

  • Youth delinquency in Slovenia in international comparison
  • Subjective well-being in adulthood and connected factors
  • The experiences of social in/exclusion of young people during long- term unemployment
  • They are young; they are healthy, so why do they go to work?! Examining society’s view on youth homelessness.

Research: Breast-feeding

During the last month or so we have had contradictory findings published on this subject. In Australia boys are better at maths if they are breastfed for six months, perhaps because of the extra attention involved. The World Health Organisation has also put out advice arguing for six months’ breastfeeding, as it leads to better health.

On the other side of the argument Dr Mary Fewtrell has concluded that babies should be introduced to solids sooner so that they become accustomed to bitter tastes. If fed exclusively on breast milk, she argues, babies have a greater chance of iron deficiency anaemia “known to be linked to irreversible adverse mental, motor or psychosocial problems”. Other evidence suggests that babies not introduced to certain food before six months may have a higher incidence of food allergies. She points out that the WHO advice may be sound in countries where good water supplies are not available.

We suspect that this may be one of those multi-factorial subjects where it is unclear what is cause and what is effect, and it is only through research such as Dr Fewtrell’s that we come to understand the complexity. Alternatively, to simplify things, one could resort to the TV Burp method of resolving conflicts to decide whether six months’ breastfeeding is best.

The Big Society

We find it intriguing that there are news stories claiming that people do not know what the term ‘Big Society’ means, alternating with people saying that they believe in it or are applying the concept already. (Do those of you who are old enough recall similar discussions about what ‘New Labour’ meant?) The piece below was sent to us by the Montessori organisation.

“New figures released today from a survey run in conjunction with Montessori and Netmums reveal that the overwhelming majority of parents are happy to give more time (than money) to Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ ambition. Although there is still a lack of understanding when it comes to Cameron’s flagship manifesto election policy, parents do want to take a more active role in their communities.  54% of parents said they want to be more involved at their children’s school, a quarter are prepared to volunteer at a local charity, and one in four want to attend more community meetings.

“The survey also shows that in order to make positive change a reality, 82% of parents want government to prioritise spending on education, and believe that we need to focus on improving opportunity for a future generation. This was followed by employment, with healthcare in third place.

“When asked about their child’s schooling experience so far, the child’s emotional fulfilment, good teachers and a nurturing and supportive environment all featured at the top of the experience. Only 25% cited good OFSTED reports as one of the reasons why they are happy with their child’s school experience.”

We do not find it surprising that parents argue for finance to be directed at education. As a child care magazine we agree. Although we are pleased that NHS budgets are being protected in view of some previous governments’ neglect of health care, the NHS was treated very generously by the last government and should be able to make quite a lot of efficiency savings by using the extra cash it was awarded better.

When Maria Montessori was a little child in the 1870s she would have had no inkling that teaching systems, organisations and even websites would have been named after her. Montessori the organisation claim that Montessori the psychologist would have backed the Big Society with her emphasis on holistic education. Perhaps we should start a list of historical characters who would have signed up to David Cameron’s big idea. Any suggestions?

To learn more about Montessori, see www.montessori.org.uk .

‘Research’

We are still being bombarded by small-scale research findings, funded mainly by organisations trying to sell things. Here are some of the more intriguing.

* According to Babychild more than a fifth of parents would like designer babies if they could afford them, mainly to choose the sex of their child. Nearly half, though, did not want to interfere with natural processes. See www.Babychild.org.uk.

* In another Babychild survey it was found that 32% of parents bribed under-ten-year-olds with cash to keep their rooms tidy and eat their vegetables.

* A Playmobil survey concluded that parents wanted their children to be involved in learning and discovery and over 25% felt that academic pressures were exerted too early and that play was more important. See playmobil@onechocolatecomms.co.uk.

* In pushing their kiddy gear Asda reported that “An alarming but true fact is that new parents face a £9,152 bill during the first twelve months of their new baby’s life!”.

* The UK Babysitter Trend Report, conducted by Parentchannel.tv, reveals that parents are more likely to turn to their mother (63.6%) and father (33.8%) for babysitting duties and least likely to turn to professional babysitters (4%) and babysitting circles (1.4%). See www.parentchannel.tv.

* MyVoucherCodes asked 1,211 parents what their resolutions for 2011 were.

Of the parents who took part in the study, one in three, 33%, admitted that their New Year’s Resolution for 2011 was to “be a better parent”. These respondents were then asked to stipulate exactly how they intended to fulfil this resolution. The majority, 52%, explained that they intended to “spend more time with their children” in 2011; whilst one in five, 21%, admitted that they intended to “get to know their children better”. One in ten, 11%, of these parents explained that they intended to “tell off their children less”, whilst 7% intended to “tell off their children more often”. The study was conducted by www.MyVoucherCodes.co.uk as part of research into parenting techniques.

* Arla foods found that 20% of children could not distinguish between a wasp and a bee, and more than a quarter did not know what a mouse looked like.

* Halfords report that fuel price hikes mean that families are making savings. The 35 - 44 age group are most likely to look to change their cars or take other actions to save fuel. 44% of parents say they are talking to friends about sharing the school run and travelling to out of school activities. Three quarters, 78%, plan to drive less, with daily short trips to local shops the biggest casualty of the attempt to save on transport costs. Instead people plan to be more organised and stock up just once a week in one “big” shop at larger supermarkets.

If it means fewer 4×4s gumming up the roads round schools it must be a good thing. And come to think of it, we’ve noticed that we are overtaken less on motorways these days….

Research: TV

Exeter University and Freesat have studied television viewing patterns, and have found that the opportunity to catch up on programmes has meant that viewing time has been freed up and families are involved in more shared activities outside the home.

Research: Poverty

And, to end with a serious finding, new research carried out by Save the Children has found that families on low incomes are paying nearly £1,300 more each year for basic goods, services and heating their homes than the better off - a rise of more than a fifth since the survey was last carried out in 2007.

Around 20% of this ‘poverty premium’ is the additional costs paid for by the poor on fuel bills. Poorer families pay hundreds of pounds extra to keep their homes warm with an average cost for gas and electricity of £1,135 annually - compared with £880 for other families. These figures do not even take into account the recent hikes in heating prices - which it is feared could reach as much as £1,800 per year by 2020 for a typical household.

The reason for the difference is that gas and electricity companies routinely charge considerably more for prepayment meters than direct debits - and low income families are often forced to use prepayment meters (smartcard, keys or token meters) as an easier way to manage their budget. If they were able to swap to direct debit they would save on average £250 a year.

See www.savethechildren.org.uk.

Children’s Mental Health: Sustaining Improvement, Building Capacity

A day conference is to be held on 2 March in London on emerging policy and practice for children and young people’s mental health. Organised by NCB in partnership with YoungMinds and NCSS, this conference will set out the future agenda for children’s mental health, incorporating perspectives on GP commissioning consortia, Public Health, health and well-being boards, and the role of the voluntary sector and the importance of local partnerships.

See www.ncb.org.uk for more information.

Young People and Faith

Youth and Policy are holding a conference at Hinsley Hall in Leeds from 27 to 28 June 2011 to consider the practice implications of current and recent research for youth work of young people and faith as their third Thinking Seriously conference. For more information contact them at conferences@youthandpolicy.org or see www.youthandpolicy.org.

(By the way, do you think that they have a separate series of Thinking Flippantly and Facetiously conferences - rather like the ancient Persians who, according to Herodotus, considered all their plans twice, both when drunk and when sober?)

From the Case Files

I arranged to take mother for an anti-natal appointment.

For contraceptive advice?

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