News Views

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

Scotland Street School Museum

Glasgow is a good place to hold a conference and a good city for a weekend break. With Kelvingrove, the Burrell, St Mungo’s, the Necropolis and the spandy new Transport Museum there is plenty to see and there are lots of good restaurants and shops.

For Children Webmag purposes, we are focusing on the Scotland Street School Museum. It is a school on the south side of the Clyde, just across the road from the Shields Road Subway Station. It was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh - with recognisable features of his style - and it cost £34,291 to build. Built between 1903 and 1906 for boys and girls, it is a three-storey building, designed for 1,250 pupils, but when inner city decay blighted the area, there were fewer than 100 on the roll, and in 1979 it was closed.

Which provided an excellent opportunity for it to become a museum, with traditional classrooms which are laid out to show how things were in Victorian times, in the 1950s and so on. There is a room displaying all the designs and working drawings, and of course there are a café and shop. We can recommend it to anyone interested in the history of education, or the older visitors who want to remind themselves about what schools were like in their day. It is regularly visited by parties of school-children, though we suspect that they are not subjected to the use of the taws to make their visits realistic.

In passing we noted a sign to the effect that the headmaster had two infant mistresses. It is amazing what difference a slight change in intonation can make to meaning. English has so many nuances to trip up a non-native speaker.

The Impact of the Individual

In his overview of the Key Text series this month, Robert Shaw concludes, “This all suggests that a key source of good practice is a good model and therefore that perhaps the route to improving the quality of care is not more training but the identification, as in a number of artistic professions, of those who are masters or mistresses of their art and the creation of opportunities for those who also wish to become top practitioners to work alongside them.”

This rings true for us. Back in the early 1970s the quality of training in residential child care related highly to the tutors who ran the CRCCYP courses. It was they who not only gave their students the factual material they needed but encouraged them as professionals and challenged them in their personal growth. One could see the impact of the tutors as individuals; fortunately they were an excellent group. They also acted as a group and were highly influential in pushing up standards of residential child care.

Developments at CCETSW did away with the CRCCYP and there has not been a group of trainers with comparable influence since. In any case, CCETSW felt that it was wrong for trainers to be individually influential and that it was more in keeping with equal opportunities for them to stand back, selecting students and assessing them less subjectively.

Tell Us Once

In a single appointment at their local authority, a person can notify all the relevant government departments and service authorities of their circumstances - births, deaths, changes of address and so on. Under the scheme, up to eleven different services can be notified on users’ behalf, making it a much easier way for them to report to the relevant authorities. Tell Us Once is already in place in many UK regions and should be rolled out to 96% of the country by March 2012.

Tell Us Once claim to be saving the government and the individuals who need to provide information both time and a lot of money. Overall, if the current arrangements were continued, the savings to customers and government are estimated to be £1.1bn over 10 years. We do not, of course, expect to see where the savings go.

For more information about Tell Us Once, please visit: Reporting a birth: www.direct.gov.uk/birth-tellusonce Reporting a bereavement: www.direct.gov.uk/death-tellusonce

Why Adoption?

As a minor sideline in the political scene, it is intriguing that John Major, Tony Blair and now David Cameron have all taken a direct interest in adoption. Tony Blair even took the highly unusual line for a Prime Minister of chairing a committee on the subject. Far be it from us to deny the importance of adoption - it can be life-changing for both the adopters and the adopted children, - but in terms of volume it is a relatively small-scale service within children’s services, and there are plenty of other services which also have a dramatic impact on the lives of individuals but which do not get the PMs’ attention, such as treatment for self-harming or secure accommodation.

We suspect that adoption has the image of being a discreet and straightforward service, which can be readily grasped and the PMs may feel capable therefore of having a personal impact and being seen as providing a positive helpful service, if only the idle and stupid professionals can be exposed to their politically honed leadership, drive and magnetism.

Character

In his In Residence column this month Keith White writes of the importance of character. For the last thirty years in child care in the UK we have emphasised policies, standards, criteria, systems and procedures at the expense of character, personality, motivation, commitment, values and attitudes. There have been good reasons for trying to be explicit in our policies and trying to set higher standards but this approach has also resulted in a sort of emotional and spiritual dumbing down.

Keith points out that some of the great names in child care did things for which they might now be disciplined or dismissed. In the electronic age massive amounts of information are available, and one danger is that if professionals feel that they are under perpetual scrutiny they may do only the things for which they will not be criticised, and they will probably do much less that is really creative, imaginative or risky in children’s interests.

Do we want child care professionals who are grey and unrisky, or lively and perhaps at times making mistakes? Research done by a team from Brunel University in the early 1980s in the residential care of people with learning disabilities showed that it was the units’ own practices which were limiting the scope of the residents. This surprised staff and enabled them to review what they were doing and to take greater risks in the interests of the residents. Are our national policies now limiting what can be done for children and young people by hobbling the imagination of the workers?

Thinking Seriously about …Youth Work and Policy

Youth and Policy’s fourth ‘thinking seriously’ conference, at YMCA George Williams College, Canning Town, London, on Thursday 15 March 2012, will explore current youth policy and consider its implications for the youth work field. The conference aims to bring together political, academic, managerial and practice perspectives for open dialogue about policy affecting young people and youth work.

Over recent months, many events have taken place with subsequent policy implications for youth work organisation and practice. Following the implementation of Coalition spending cuts, the Select Committee on Services for Young People, and the riots of summer 2011, a conference to reflect on these events and their consequences in early 2012 is timely and useful. Youth and Policy hope that the conference will present a challenge to practitioners, managers and academics to consider the new landscape, and how policy and practice might be better shaped in the light of evidence and experience.   Contact Tracey Hodgson (Y &P) at conferences@youthandpolicy.org.

Hoping to do a PhD?

A significant proportion of young people leaving care at 18 go back to their parents or move to live with another relative. In making the move, the young people may be turning to someone whom they see as caring and reliable, though some do return to abusive parents (probably on a different footing, however, as they are now young adults).

A retrospective study of these moves might usefully show whether such placements might have been successful if the young people had been able to move there earlier. If so, why were the placements not made? And are there any messages for social workers placing children now?

‘Research’

We have had another crop of findings from surveys, and if you want a Ph D subject but don’t like the last suggestion, how about a meta-analysis of all these small surveys, to see what they tell us about bringing up children today.

1 Busy Mums Milk&more, the local delivery service from Dairy Crest, have discovered that “hardworking mums spend 27,250 hours and 31 minutes running around after their families in their lifetime, meaning that after having kids, women spend a third of their waking life looking after them”.   (This is broken down as Food shopping – 4,155 hours 49 minutes, Cooking – 3,603 hours and 36 minutes, Tidying – 2,620 hours 48 minutes, Washing – 2,442 hours 57 minutes, Washing Up - 2,180 hours and 42 minutes, Ironing – 1,787 hours 45 minutes, School Run – 1,740 hours 57 minutes, Cleaning the oven – 1,694 hours 9 minutes, Helping with homework – 1,544 24 minutes, Cleaning the bathroom – 1,506 hours 57 minutes, Appointments – 1,432 hours 4 minutes, Running kids to after-school clubs – 1,301 hours 2 minutes, Paying bills and sorting repairs – 1,240 hours 12 minutes.)   We like the apparent precision of the findings and their implications. Do mothers really spend 10% more time on cleaning ovens than helping with homework? Does food shopping take so much more time than cooking? And if these are the figures for “hardworking mums”, when are they producing the figures for the lazy ones?

2 More Busy Mums   Meanwhile Argos, advertising their Mums’ grottos (or should the plural be grotti?), have found out that nearly one in four buy their own Christmas presents. You may think that is sad, but their survey also revealed that 31% of mums start preparing for Christmas before October, 56% buy between 11 and 50 presents in total at Christmas, while 67% receive 10 or fewer in return. Even sadder. Nearly one in five spends more than 24 hours in total shopping for Christmas presents, so it’s no wonder then that 48% say they find Christmas shopping a tiring experience. Really sad. And what happened to Christmas shopping in the milk&more survey?

3 What Recession? Computershare Voucher Service found that despite increasing financial pressures, parents are refusing to scrimp on gifts, with 16% revealing they expect to spend over £300 in total on their kids’ presents this year, a further 19% shelling out between £200-£300 this holiday and 5% saying that they are planning to spend over £500. HSBC, though, found that 21% of parents were going to have to borrow to cover the cost of Christmas.

4 Waste Food   While British surveys focus on busy mums buying food and presents, an American survey points out that between Thanksgiving and Christmas Americans generate an extra 5,000,000 tons of waste. What is more, Western countries throw away 222,000,000 million tons of food each year - about the same as the total food production of sub-Saharan Africa. The Worldwatch Institute offers ten bits of advice to reduce food waste, all of which are pretty obvious to anyone in the UK who was around in World War II, such as portion control and re-using left-overs.

5 Hygiene   Another jolly seasonal research finding from the Hygiene Council was that 48% of Britons are wary of greeting people by kissing them on the cheek if they look ill, but 55% of respondents admitted to having used a dish cloth for longer than they should, resulting in the potential spread of bacteria round the home, and 40% of 16-25 year-olds admitted to having not washed their hands after going to the toilet. Is there room here for a Sugar-style entrepreneur to set up sensors in toilets which tell people off if they try to sneak out without washing - or perhaps squirt purple dye over them so that we know not to shake their hand?

6 Favouritism   Bounty, an advice service for mothers, has found that most parents have a favourite child. “Parents of two children treat their youngest as the favourite”, they say. “The study of 1,803 parents shows that 59 per cent of the time, parents will subconsciously choose the youngest child over the eldest”. And we were taught at school that when there were two, there was a younger and an older one. Our own survey indicates that a high percentage of press releases contain grammatical errors.

From the Case Files

(About a four and a half year old boy) Fines and gross motor developments within normal limits for age   Been caught speeding in his pedal car?

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Scotland Street School Museum Education Influence of individuals Tell Us Once Adoption Prime Ministers Character Youth and Policy Kinship care Housework Waste food Hygiene Favouritism

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