News Views

Conferences

It’s the conference season, and here are three or four promising events which we recommend to you.

From Coalface to Facebook

An intriguing title for the Child Care History Network’s Conference on the use of new social media and technology to remember child care experiences.

  • How will the history of child care be recorded as the new online social networks gather momentum?
  • Can we embrace these new forms of communication which are considered by some to be truly democratic and by others as an avenue for the exploitation and abuse of children and young people?
  • Is there a resistance among child care professionals to embrace these new forms of communication?
  • Can this new media technology be helpful for children, child care professionals, historians and archivists  in remembering, recording, gathering and archiving child care experience and history?
  • What online communication networks and facilities are available now for children and child care professionals alike to record their experiences and make them known?
  • How far are experienced child care professionals resistant to these new forms of communication ?  And if this is so what experiences and insights may be lost?
  • What is being achieved already by projects such as Therapeutic Living With Other People’s Children, which have an array of new media built into them?

These are among  the questions delegates and speakers alike will be addressing at the conference. The conference speakers and fees will be announced very shortly. It will take place at the Planned Environment Therapy Trust, Toddington, Gloucester on 11 November 2010. To express an early interest to book a place at the conference email Trust@pettrust.org.uk.

Putting Theory into Practice

This is the title for a pair of conferences, one in Leeds on Monday 4 October 2010 and the other in London on Friday 8 October, using more or less the same programme. The focus is the use of high quality residential care to meet the real needs of children and there is an excellent programme, with the top speakers on the subject. For details of the programme and booking details at Leeds click here, and at London click here.

Youth Care Congress in South Africa

The first ever FICE child and youth care congress in Africa will be held in Cape Town from 7-9  December 2010. This should be a fascinating occasion. If you can attend we can promise that you will never have been to a conference like it. In the face of massive needs, South African child care workers have devised systems and ideas from which the rest of the world can learn.

Parallel to the main congress a youth conference will be held from 3-9 December 2010. If you think you could take a party of young people to participate, get in touch with the organisers quickly, as time is getting short. More information on the youth conference is on the website:  http://www.fice2010.org.za/youth/index.html .

ASASWEI

Finally there is a conference for social work educators and practitioners, to be held under the title Partners in Teaching and Learning. Time is now short, as it is to be held on 26-28 September 2010 at Southern Sun Garden Court Eastern Boulevard, Cape Town.

We have not been able to find out from their website what ASASWEI stands for but presumably the middle bit is to do with social work educators. On the other hand we may have disgraced ourselves for failing to recognise one of South Africa’s many ethnic groups.

Cuts

It was predictable. The Government has started to make cuts and some of them are unwelcome. No doubt there are going to be a lot more cuts, and the people affected will argue their corners. Of course everyone will have to bear some pain, so how do we determine what should be protected and what may regretfully have to be sacrificed?

In this case it is plans for playgrounds that are being axed. One hundred and thirty-two local authorities have been told that their schemes for one thousand three hundred play areas have been scrapped. The Labour Government had an ambitious plan to improve play facilities across the country.

This might sound to some people like a bit of icing on the cake, with play being seen as a peripheral extra pleasure for children, and suitable as a sacrifice for children to make. But when we face the danger of an ever-increasing percentage of obese children who spend their time in solitary screen-based pursuits, it is a vital investment both for children as individuals and for the health of the country as a whole if the provision of play facilities helps them to be active. Without active play children’s health – perhaps as adults – and their ability to contribute economically will both be affected, entailing loss of productivity and extra expenditure on health care and benefits.

Michael Gove has spoken of the previous Government’s “unrealistic spending commitments”. We cannot comment on either the past or the present Government’s overall spending plans, but we fear that the ultimate price to pay for failing to provide good play areas will be much greater than the savings made.

Of course, children don’t have the vote. They won’t demonstrate against the Government. So it’s an easy cut – but a mean one – “like taking toffees off kids”.

Research

We get quite a lot of press releases announcing the findings of ‘research’. We have no idea whether the research has been properly conducted or whether the findings should have any weight attached to them. The surveys are mostly carried out to provide an opportunity for companies to get a bit of publicity and push their wares. Nonetheless the outcomes are at times interesting, so here is a bit of free publicity for Savlon, Bounty Parenting Club, Drayton Manor Theme Park, Travelodge, Nintendo and the British Science Festival.

Research: Playing Outside

  • 92% of kids would be ‘very upset’ or ‘upset’ if they weren’t allowed to play outside.
  • 62% of youngsters would rather play outside with friends than stay indoors watching TV or playing computer games.
  • 52% of kids think playing outdoors is more exciting than playing indoors.

Savlon says, “You might think that play habits have changed over the years with the advent of TV and computer games dominating today’s society.  But the research … just goes to show how much good old fashioned fun the great outdoors can actually be for our youngsters, as over half of the kids surveyed revealed that playing outside was ‘more exciting than playing indoors’ and a third saw it as a ‘a big adventure’.

“It seems the findings turn the idea of Britain’s ‘couch-potato kids’ on its head as the virtual world does not cut it for youngsters today who would much prefer to be outdoors at play.   There is a whole world outside that can provide much needed learning and developmental opportunities as well as bundles of fun and excitement.”

And when they fall over, and their grazed knees need attention, you know what will help.

Research: Names

Bounty, who describe themselves as the UK’s favourite parenting club, have been surveying children’s names, and they have found that a growing number of babies  are named after places. Florence comes top (2,207 in the last ten years), followed by Rio, Paris, India, Sydney, Lucia, Brooklyn, Savannah, Devon, Phoenix and so on. They appear to attribute this to increased travel or to people wanting to copy the Beckhams.

We were always told that the practice was based on naming children after where they had been conceived, but maybe that was a myth. Certainly we never came across anyone called Behind-the-Roxy, and we’d like to think that Florence’s popularity is connected with Miss Nightingale or the Magic Roundabout as well as a surge of interest in the gem of Italy. Maybe the Camerons will set a new trend with naming children after the place where they were born, but would millions of people really want their children called London?

We have some questions to ask about the quality of this research. None of the top ten listed above are in the top hundred most popular names which Bounty give on their website, but their list does include Kyle (63rd) as in Lochalsh, Ashton (66th) as in under Lyne, Brandon (75th) as in Suffolk, Bradley (85th) as in Wolverhampton and Cody (95th) as in Wyoming.

Bounty’s website, incidentally, gives some parenting information as well as lists of names, but maybe they would like to let us know who voted them the favourite parenting club. We couldn’t access the page on the Bounty Trust.

Research: Arguments

The average family will endure 84 arguments over the summer holidays, a study commissioned by Drayton Manor Theme Park, near Tamworth, Staffordshire, has revealed. Bust-ups over money, what to do with the kids and bored youngsters mean the average family bickers twice every day. That works out as 14 each week or 84 over the six-week holiday. But while the majority of arguments are between the children in the family, more than one in five rows are involving mum and dad.

Colin Bryan, Managing Director of Drayton Manor Theme Park, said, “The summer holidays are traditionally a fraught time for parents but it’s staggering to see exactly how many arguments will happen over the six weeks. And the traditional British weather often doesn’t help with rain keeping children trapped indoors and getting in each other’s way, instead of playing outside”.

Families in Northern Ireland were found to be well in the lead as the most fractious, while Yorkshire, Humberside, East Anglia and the South East of England were the least liable to row. Interestingly the most popular times to argue were about 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., varying slightly in different regions. Altogether families were asked nineteen questions, but the list of possible causes of disputes did not include children being compelled to join in supermarket shopping, an important omission to judge by the number of howling children we encounter. The size of the sample was not given.

Research: Bears

Next a really important piece of research commissioned by Travelodge. A total of 75,000 bears have been left at Travelodges in the last twelve months. There may be 452 Travelodges, but we still find the statistic hard to believe. It means that on average every Travelodge has a bear left behind on (approximately) every second day. Are Brits that heartless or forgetful?

Anyway, Travelodge decided to conduct a poll about the most popular bears, and here is the outcome:

  1. The classic Teddy bear such as Little and Big Ted from Playschool
  2. Winnie the Pooh
  3. Paddington Bear
  4. Tatty Bear
  5. Sooty
  6. Care Bears
  7. Yogi Bear
  8. Fozzie Bear
  9. Rupert the Bear
  10. Super Ted / Baloo

Next, the sort of information you need for pub quizzes:

  • 25 % of men take teddy bears with them on business trips.
  • 51% of adults still possess their childhood bear.
  • The average age of teddy bears is 27 years.

Corrine Sweet, Psychologist, commented on the research findings, “Cuddling a teddy bear is an important part of our national psyche; it evokes a sense of peace, security and comfort. It’s human nature to crave these feelings from childhood to adult life. … A bedtime bear evokes feelings of home, warmth, and can help you nod off, just like in babyhood.”

Research: Art

According to a survey commissioned by Nintendo to mark the launch of their new skills game Art Academy, art-based activities such as painting, drawing and visiting galleries are losing popularity with young families, meaning that a generation is growing up lacking basic art knowledge and skills,

Over a third of children (39%) aged 11 and under said they had never been to an art gallery or exhibition, either with their parents or their school. This lack of exposure to art history explains how over a quarter of children (27%) had no idea who Vincent Van Gogh is, with 10% believing he is a footballer. Almost 1 in 5 (16%) children thought an easel was a kind of animal and a further 12% thought it was something you could eat. Parents admitted their child’s poor awareness of art was largely due to their own lack of knowledge, with 15% saying they wouldn’t even know where to start in showing them the basics about art at home.

According to the research findings, the simple enjoyment gained from painting a picture is being lost by today’s children with a quarter (28%) stating that they only paint or draw with their parents a few times a year or less. A lack of communication between parents and their children can be blamed for this, as 44% of children cited painting and drawing as one of their favourite things to do with their parents, while 46% of parents admitted they don’t bother painting or drawing with their child because they think they prefer more modern pursuits like watching TV.

Nintendo say that Art Academy is a simple way for parents and children to get involved in art. Featuring step by step lessons that take learners of all competencies through the basics of art it offers a modern twist on an age-old pastime. Nintendo’s Head of Communications, Rob Saunders, said, “Art is a great activity for parents and kids to perform together but it can be intimidating as so many of us feel we don’t have the necessary skills or knowledge to give it a try. We really hope Art Academy will open up a whole new generation to the joys of art and give them the confidence they need to kick start a new hobby.”

Research: Babies

Finally, there is advance news of research which should be unimpeachable. The British Science Festival is meeting in mid-September and its message is that babies are more aware than we might have thought. New techniques have uncovered evidence that babies recognise faces and objects, count small numbers, learn words long before they can say them and even perform remarkable feats of imagination, causing us to re-consider what thoughts babies can and cannot think.

For information about the Festival, book in at www.britishsciencefestival.org or call 0207 019 4947.

From the Case Files

Mother was admitted to a Women’s Refuge after martial violence.

The kick-boxing went too far.

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