Safekids News/Blog

  • By: The DIG for Kids
  • Time to read: 10 min.
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So the new parenting voucher scheme has now been rolled out in the three trial areas, Middlesbrough, Camden in north London and High Peak, Derbyshire, if all goes well it could be rolled out across other areas of the country.

Although help for parents is always welcome, to me this scheme seems like another way for David Cameron to say he is helping families when we all know he’s not. Instead of plastering over parenting problems with £100 vouchers, which doesn’t seem to be the best use of taxpayer’s money, he should be tackling the problem via a more proactive route. David Cameron has said that the vouchers are in response to last years riots as a way of tackling bad behaviour with today’s youth. That’s great but the vouchers are for parents to be, and parents with children age 5 and under, so what happens if you need help and your child is over 5? How does he propose to tackle poor youth behaviour?

Handing out vouchers through high street chain Boots also seems a bit odd, surly a government scheme aimed at helping struggling parents would be best run via health centres, contact centres, schools and nurseries. I also wonder if these vouchers are going to reach the intended target market, or will the mothers who collect the vouchers already be the ones who are doing well?

Parenting classes are all well and good but they only make a difference if the whole course is completed, with some courses running for 10 weeks, they require dedication and persistence – will the parents who need the voucher most be that committed to attending?

A more beneficial option, and a better use of money, would be to employ more health visitors who can spend some hands on time with families showing them the relevant skills rather than relying on parents collecting the voucher and actually completing the course.

The National Occupational Standards for Work with Parents recommends that course providers have at least 18 hours training…that doesn’t seem like a lot. If the training requirement is only 18 hours then the course content can’t be all that impressive. Does David Cameron really think that attending a few parenting sessions is going to help Britain’s parents? I think not.

Tax breaks for families would be much better received as would tax breaks on childcare (I hope you’re reading this Dave).

GCSE Shake Up

11th May 2012

In an attempt to ‘toughen up’ (whatever that is suppose to mean) GCSEs the government are given them a radical overhaul. Over the past few years it seems that GCSEs have gotten easier with pass rates approaching 100% – currently they’re at 98.8%. You’d think the government would be pleased that children were getting better results and improving year upon year, apparently not because according to the government the exams are too easy. Ofqual, the exam regulator, claims that the qualification has been devalued as the pass rate nears 100%.

The new plans will see so called ‘soft subjects’ like Leisure and Tourism scrapped and more focus put on the three R’s.

Ofqual says: ‘Most people think GCSEs cover just academic subjects, but this is not the case at present. GCSEs are now available in over 70 subjects. We think that this range of GCSE subjects devalues the GCSE brand.’

It does seem to have gotten a bit out of hand, 70 GCSE subjects is ridiculous. Having a GCSE in Motor Vehicle and Road User Studies isn’t the equivalent of having a GCSE in Math’s or English, yet it’s classed as the same where the GCSE qualification is concerned. Some people believe that the vast range of subjects is confusing employers and that school exams should remain academic based.

The new system would also lose the grades F and G which are currently considered a pass. Scrapping grade F and G passes would be a welcome change as they’re recognised by employers or universities – employers and universities consider grades A – C a pass. School league tables are based on grade A – C passes of five GCSEs or more. Ofqual states the GCSEs may be brought into line with A levels where pass results are classed as A – E.

Ofqual will issue the new proposals today and outline what they expect to achieve from the new standards, meaning we could see new GCSEs by 2015.

We’ve spoken to a lot people who agree that the system needs a shake and pupils need to be sitting exams that are worth while, with many believing that the government should return to the old style exams. Most people also agree that the government should be looking at the standard of teaching as well, as many students are leaving school with a poor sense of grammar, punctuation and spelling – something which was taught religiously to their grandparents.

Shocking NHS Results!

11th May 2012

We read a report yesterday, and it’s not the first one, about the way children are being classed as clinically obese when they are anything but.

Anyone with children of school age will know that when the are in the reception class at primary school the NHS send some kind of professional in to measure the children’s height and weight. The information of each child along with their age and sex is processed by a very clever computer which then tells you that your perfectly healthy, normal child is overweight. All the computer does is work out the child’s BMI (body mass index) and from that decides if the child is overweight or not.

My child was one of the children classed as overweight, which he is not! But I was just as shocked to find that many of the children in his class were too classed as overweight, some clinically obese. After a search on the internet I was stunned to find that many parents were in the same situation as myself, so why are the NHS still conducting these obviously flawed tests?

When calculating the BMI of an adult the weight in kilograms is divided by the height in metres squared. However, working out a child’s BMI it is slightly different. It begins in the same way but at the end the child’s result is compared with other children’s results, of the same age and sex, in order to calculate the child’s ‘centile’. The centile is the position the child is at on a scale of 1-100 in relation to other children. If the child’s BMI is 91-97 then they are classed as overweight and anything over 98 is classed as clinically obese.

The way the results are worked out is shocking and bad practice in many people’s opinion. The results are generated solely by a computer. No other factors are taken into account such as a child’s build – as having a bigger build can cause a higher BMI. The letters parents receive are also very distressing, especially if your child is classed as clinically obese as the letter lists all of the possible outcomes such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease. We’re not saying that childhood obesity shouldn’t be tackled or that the dangers shouldn’t outlined, they should, but they should be targeting the right children who need help not the ones decided by a computer.

It’s not just the parents that are becoming distressed by these results but the children too. The children are not just measured in reception class when they are 4 and 5 but also in their final year, when they are 10 and 11. Age the age of 10 and 11 they are at a crucial stage in their life, they are approaching their teenage years where looks and weight are a constant issue – they shouldn’t be but they are. Surely these professionals need to consider the detrimental effect that these result are having on our children. At the age of 10 and 11 they want to know the result and if that result says they are overweight the child will believe it whether they are overweight or not. Telling a child they are overweight can lead to a range of eating disorders, lack of self confidence and a many emotional issues. The way the test is performed and results calculated needs to change, and fast!

13 and On the Pill

9th May 2012

Should 13 year old girls be given the pill? Well, as a pilot NHS scheme rolls out across Manchester and the Isle of White, apparently they should. According to an evaluation of an NHS report, pharmacists should be allowed to provide children aged 13 and over with the contraceptive pill if they want it. After a pilot scheme was launched in south-east London, aimed at girls 16 and over, they found that many girls aged just 13 where coming into the pharmacy and requesting the contraceptive pill. Supporters of this new scheme have argued that supplying girls of 13 with the contraceptive pill will help to reduce teen pregnancy. It’s thought by making the pill available in pharmacies it will be easier to access for young girls, as the only other way to obtain it is by seeing a GP which is something many young girls wouldn’t do.

There are rules to be followed by the pharmacist before they can supply the pill, the pharmacist must ensure that the girl is mature enough and that she understands the advice she is being given, the pharmacist must also try to persuade her to tell her parents. Since the introduction of the London scheme there has been a drop in the number of morning after pill requests, which is seen as a positive result and one which suggests that the scheme is working.

Although this seems like a step towards tackling the growing problem of teen pregnancy I can’t help but think the obvious point is being missed…sex under the age of 16 is illegal! Surely the parents should be informed? What if the boy is over the age of 16 and the girl under the age of 16, not only is that illegal it’s statutory rape. And what about sexually transmitted Infections? The pill stops pregnancies but not STIs. Should they not be handing out condoms with the pill?

All parents want their children to wait until they are old enough, mature enough and in a relationship before they have sex, but that’s the ideal and not the reality. In today’s society many teenagers see sex as not a ‘big deal’ and if everyone else is doing then why shouldn’t they. It’s our job as parents to educate our children as best we can against the dangers of underage sex and the risks our children would be exposing themselves to.

What do you think? Would you want your 13 year old daughter to be taking the contraceptive pill without you knowing anything about it? Would you allow her to take it if she asked you? Is it better that she is taking these precautions and protecting herself against an unwanted pregnancy?

Are You an Over Protective Parent?

1 May 2012

A recent study conducted by Winthrop University Hospital, New York, found that overprotective parents (or helicopter parents if you’re from the USA) who don’t let their children play on their own at the playground, actually cause more injuries than those who do. The study found that 14% of playground accidents occurred on the slide, with damaged caused to the lower leg bones. Out of all the reported slide injuries none of them occurred when the child went down the slide on their own, the injuries reported only occurred when a child was sat on a parent’s lap. Yikes, I think we’ll be sitting on the bench from now on!

The study also states that a parent’s anxiety and fear about certain playground equipment transfers to the child and can increase the chances of an accident. Which is common sense really, yet it’s hard to let that fear go or at least not let it show.

So by being an overprotective parent are you delaying your child’s development? Children learn by their mistakes and if we don’t let them make those mistakes then how will they learn? For example, if a child climbs to the top of a slide and falls off, if the parent then says never mind try again, the child will learn from the previous attempt and try again. If the parent fusses and becomes panicked this will make the child fearful of a second attempt thus inhibiting his/her development.

When a child climbs to the top of the slide successfully, they feel a sense of accomplishment instead of fear. Learning to overcome fear in the playground is something positive which children can apply to other areas of their life.

School Bus Fiasco!

27 April 2012

Yesterday we read, in the national newspapers, about a 6 year old girl who was dropped off 50 yards from the school gates 15 minutes early by the school bus. The school gates were closed and there was no teacher there to meet her. The girl was distraught, as any 6 year old would be having been left alone outside the school with no adult in sight. She was found by another parent soon after and was taken into school. When the head teacher found out what had happened she quickly rang the child’s mother (a full-time mum) to inform her about the incident. Obviously the mother was furious that her child had been left near a busy A road, on her own, 15 minutes early (and it doesn’t bear thinking about what could have happened to the child in the time she spent on her own). But who is at fault for leaving the child on her own? The child’s mother, for not taking her there herself? The bus driver? The school…?

The bus company, run by Dorset County council, did admit the girl shouldn’t have been dropped off at that time as it was not the time arranged between the school and the themselves. They said they are now working with the school to make sure that children are brought to school at the correct time and that someone is there to meet them.

That got us thinking here in the Safekids office, would we send our 6 year old kids to school on a school bus? We also wondered how many children are sent to school on a bus at 6 or younger? Are they really that safe? Also, what happens at the end of the day, do they go home on the bus too? What if there is no one there to meet them when they get off?

The thought of our children scared, alone, and upset is horrifying as it is for any parent no matter how young or old their child is. Would your child know what to do if they were left on their own?

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