News Views

Sunday, April 1st, 2012

Including truancy, social pedagogy in Ireland, the demise of the CWDC, church child abuse, Tony Newton, Herb Barnes, parental mileage, tablets, children’s clocks, spring-cleaning and flat panel TVs

Truancy

It is reported that the percentage of children who miss 15% of their lessons has dropped from 6.8% to 6.1%. That is still about 400,000 children. Children are meant to attend school and so any such fall is good news. Children who miss school underachieve and this can affect the rest of their lives.

But, as was commented when the figures were published, there are local communities where truancy is an endemic part of the culture and the children are reflecting what their parents did, and still do in some respects. In areas of high unemployment there are families who for generations have not worked. Why is it compulsory for children to attend school when it is not compulsory for adults to attend a place of work? Shakespeare referred to “the shades of the prison-house” when talking of school, and for young people where the local culture does not value education, leaving school is an escape to freedom to do what they want.

The much more fundamental issue, then, is how we encourage children to enjoy and value education so that they want to learn, not only because of the opportunities it opens up, but because of the inherent interest in discovery and finding out how things work, how we got here, how we can communicate with people in other countries and so on. Until we can crack this one, there is little point forcing children to “creep like snail unwillingly to school”, as without the right motivation they will simply be uninterested, incapable of absorbing ideas and even disruptive. Some of them solve this problem by truanting.

Social Pedagogy in Ireland

The Social Pedagogy Development Network is holding a conference in Sligo, the first on the subject in Ireland, on 25 - 25 May 2012. The evening seminar on Thursday, 24 May (6.00pm – 8.30pm) will provide a more theoretical perspective on aspects of social pedagogy. It is complementary to Friday’s SPDN full-day event (25 May, 10.00am – 4.00pm), which will have a more practice- and action-orientated focus.

Prof. Juha Hämäläinen from the University of Eastern Finland, author of The Concept of Social Pedagogy in the Field of Social Work and Developing Social Pedagogy as an Academic Discipline’ will address the conference, along with several other academics from university colleges across Scandinavia.

For more information, see www.thempra.org.uk/network.htm.

Children’s Workforce Development Council

Jane Haywood, Chief Executive of the CWDC, issued this letter on 16 March 2012:

You will be aware that CWDC will be closing on 31 March. As you would expect this is a sad time for of all of us in CWDC but also a very proud one as we reflect on our achievements.

Since our formation in 2005 we have sought to strengthen the children’s workforce

through improved qualifications and skills, increased support for employers, and wider integrated working. We have helped to transform some of the most challenged sections of our workforce – especially children’s social work and early years. We have supported local authorities to become much more effective in planning for their workforce. We have also set up new systems to allow voluntary and private sector employers to access workforce support.

We have done this in partnership with employers and the workforce. We have worked closely with children and young people to ensure that their needs drive our policy, strategy and delivery. We are deeply grateful for the support and trust that you have given us and we are clear that the sector will continue to give a strong focus to workforce development and integrated working.

We know that professionals and volunteers benefit from working in integrated teams. They remain longer in post, they record greater satisfaction with their job, and they have more opportunities for career development. In turn, employers benefit from the greater flexibility and cost-effectiveness. When professionals work together well, everyone benefits. Evidence shows integrated services keep children and young people safer. Outcomes for children are significantly better – they learn better; and they are healthier and happier.

It is now time for us to move on. In our final year, we have continued to focus on

delivering support to employers while finding secure homes for all of our work,

particularly our core vision of integrated working. In future, other agencies will pick up the baton we have carried, and we wish them well.

The Department for Education’s (DfE) Teaching Agency will continue our work with early years and educational psychologists. Our social work reform programme will transfer to DfE, alongside sector-led development across all other sections of the workforce. Some of the CWDC staff will move with this work which will help the transition of key areas of work.

Finally the leadership of integrated working will be taken up by the Children’s Improvement Board, in partnership with the Department for Education. The attached chart provides more details so that you can maintain and develop your key relationships in the coming months.

Our motivation in CWDC has always been to do what is best for children, young people and families and I know that you have shared this vision. I wish you well and thank you for all that you do.

We have included it in full because it demonstrates the volume of work undertaken by the CWDC and the pragmatic way in which they ensured that their workload was passed on. When the CWDC was set up it seemed that proper recognition was at last being given to the child care workforce, and its closure is yet another loss to the field of child care. We shall watch with interest to see if the Department for Education can provide a comparable lead, and we are sceptical about its likely success, though we shall be pleased to find our fears unfounded.

Stop Church Child Abuse

On Thursday 19 April 2012 at 2.00 pm at Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London, a campaign will be launched for a public inquiry into church child abuse.

 

Why do we need a public inquiry? The organisers say that members of church organisations hold influential and highly respected roles within the community and have had unquestioned access to children and the trust of the public.
They are aware of over 68 priests (Roman Catholic and C of E) who have been convicted of serious sexual offences in the recent past. Police investigations are ongoing. Church organisations have persistently ignored and in many cases covered up complaints of abuse. They say that they have seen clear evidence of cover-ups and believe these are the tip of the iceberg, with the culture of denial and cover up deeply embedded in these two churches.

They say that there is now overwhelming evidence that the churches are so compromised by their own failure to police themselves effectively that the only way to address the scandal of sexual abuse in the RC and C of E churches is through a comprehensive public inquiry, and they urge ministers to order this without delay.

Tony Newton

The news came out this week that Lord Newton had died. As a Conservative politician he showed consistent concern on social issues and came over to professionals in the service as conscientious, caring and knowledgeable. Even when seriously ill he was still busy in the House of Lords. CPAG spoke for a lot of people in saying that they felt they had lost a friend.

You can Google to see his obituaries. We have just one small story which won’t be in them. Some time in the early 1980s he was making a ministerial visit to the Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work, which was sited near King’s Cross, an area which was fairly insalubrious at the time. Tony Newton swept up in his ministerial car, leapt out and shook the hand of the young lady who, he assumed, constituted his welcoming party. She was somewhat surprised at the unusual greeting, and presumably he was too when he found out that she was actually a professional of another sort, standing in her pitch plying her trade.

Herbert Barnes

On 14 February 2012 Herb Barnes died in Florida, U.S.A., from a massive heart attack which he had experienced a few days before his passing. He was not well known in the UK, but he had contributed considerably to child care on the international scene.

Herb served on the AIEJI Board for a number of years. During this time he was a tireless advocate for bringing the ‘educateur’ philosophy of a holistic child care approach to the U.S. to strengthen services to young people. In this regard he had established the ILEX program a professional exchange between the U.S. and Europe. Numerous professionals from Europe over the years experienced a year or two in child care facilities across the U.S modelling the holistic approach for their American colleagues.

His wife, Liese, wrote about Herb, “His zest for life was infectious and he always was ready to take on a new challenge”. Arlin Ness, former president of AIEJ said Herb Barnes was not only a personal friend but a colleague who enriched you by his friendship and his creative mind. Emmanuel Grupper, Israeli AIEJI board member, wrote, “Herb was a unique and fascinating personality, always so optimistic on the one hand and realistic on the other. We will always remember him as a great humanist and professional and especially a devoted friend to so many who already miss him so much”.

We can echo these tributes from the times we spent with Herb. Child care is fortunate to attract such people, and he will be missed.

‘Research’

We keep getting results from surveys; sometimes they throw interesting sidelights on the human condition; sometimes they underline the obvious.

1 Mileage

Sainsbury’s car insurance have looked at the mileage clocked up by parents in taking children to school and sporting and social events. They reckon it adds up to 230 million miles a week, and that this comes to £32 billion in unpaid fares. While these are big figures, they are unsurprising and knowing them is unlikely to change anyone’s behaviour.

An interesting sidelight, though, is that parents welcome this chore, as it gives them a chance to talk without interruption to their children before they disappear to their computer screens, mobile phones etc.

2 Tablets

69% of parents would be happy if the use of tablets in school were compulsory, according to Magbooks. 66% of parents let their children use their tablets and 54% supervise them closely, but children still use them for 6 hours a week playing computer games.

Maybe the compulsory use of tablets would lure the truants back to school, so that they could play computer games all day. Bread and circuses they called it in Roman Empire times, to keep the populace happy and avoid riots.

3 Children’s Clocks

The Gro Company, makers of Grobag, commissioned research among 2,000 parents of UK children under the age of seven, which showed that three out of five UK parents felt controlled by their child’s sleeping pattern some or all of the time. The study also found 45% of them admitted to relying on their children to wake them up some or all of the time, with a quarter (26%) claiming never to use an alarm clock at all.

So the Gro Company developed the Gro-clock to help the entire family to manage its sleep pattern and aid children’s understanding of day and night. The Gro-clock has a variable, illuminated display that indicates when children should be sleeping and when they can get up, using friendly sun and star graphics. Once set, at night time the display glows blue and begins counting down the stars on the clock face until the sun comes up and the display goes yellow, at the desired time for waking.

Catherine Fairchild at the Gro Company, said, “We know how difficult it can be for children to understand when it is acceptable to get up in the morning. Often, they believe their day starts – and that of the whole family - when they first wake up, whatever time that is. All too often and particularly with lighter mornings that might be five or six a.m. The Gro-clock was created to provide parents with a useful tool to set parameters on sensible rising hours”.

We look forward to hearing what the 2,000 parents think of the Gro-clock in 12 months’ time.

4 Cleaning carpets

Did you know the average family of four sheds up to 3lbs of skin per year? Or that your carpet can hold up to 2lbs of dirt per square foot? Surprisingly, despite these shocking facts over 80 per cent of homeowners have never washed their carpets!

As well as this, 45 per cent of homeowners don’t remove their shoes before walking on their carpets and worryingly, four out of ten people eat food which has been dropped on the floor.

So says the Rug Doctor, advocating the re-introduction of spring-cleaning, and the involvement of children in the work. We were taught that everyone should have their peck of dirt, presumably as a sort of inoculation against lurgies.

Flat Panel TVs

Unless we have checked equipment we do not endorse it, and whether the product advertised solves the problem we do not know, but the advert below identifies a new safety problem which we had not come across before, and we thought readers should know about it.

There are now estimated to be over 30 million flat panel TVs in the UK, with roughly half sitting on a piece of furniture. The UK now has the highest penetration of large flat panel TVs in the world with more than 1 per household. With four child deaths in the UK in the last 12 months as a result of falling TVs and over 9,000 accidents last year, TV wall mounting specialist Peerless-AV is calling on owners of large flat panel TVs to safely secure their equipment.

In almost all cases when a TV is placed on a piece of furniture it will remain unsecured and easily toppled by an overactive toddler or household pet. Gordon Dutch MD of Peerless-AV Europe says, “Even with screens becoming slimmer many larger sets still weigh in excess of40kg, which if it was to fall edge first on a child the impact is the same as a hammer or metal pipe blow to the head. The move to put second TVs unsecured in children’s rooms is particularly worrying. Generally there is less space but far more movement, the huge success of the Wii and Connex and interactive family activity games has made physical activity around the TV a regular occurrence. Small children are particularly at risk as they reach for remote controls or pull themselves up and climb using the TV. A recent US study showed that three quarters of TV screen injuries logged happen to children under 7and tip over accidents are up 40%. Parents of young children wouldn’t think twice about fitting a stair gate, plug socket covers and a smoke alarm and yet they fail to buy a piece of kit which can anchor the television safely and prevent potentially life threatening accidents”.

The Peerless AV – Stabilis TM screen safety kit is an effective universal solution to secure a flat panel TV and protect families in the home. The kit has been manufactured and tested to prevent children pulling large screens forward on to themselves. The universal kit fits all LCD and Plasma screens from 32” to 60” with telescopic height adjustment. The kit rigidly clamps to all types and sizes of furniture and can be used to screw directly into a wall or cabinet. The rotational mounting plate allows screen to swivel while the rigid design also prevents the screen tipping backwards as well as pulled forwards.

From the Case Files

Mother was preparing the baby’s fees.

Charging the Health Visitor and Social Worker for his time when they visited?

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