Education system neglects early years values, say experts

Education system neglects early years values, say experts

Only two per cent of early years professionals think the education system is child-centered, fosters creativity and emphasises the importance of play, according to a survey.

More than 170 childminders, nursery and primary school teachers, head teachers, school governors, lecturers and academics responded to the poll, which suggested a disparity exists between the values teachers feel are important and what is implemented on the ground.

Conducted by the Save Childhood Movement, which campaigns on issues related to societal values and wellbeing, the results showed 67 per cent of respondents thought education should be child-centred as a matter of priority.

It also revealed that 60 per cent of respondents thought creativity should be prioritised within teaching, and 50 per cent believed that early education should emphasise the importance of play.

Source: CYPNow

Study exposes extent of ‘sexting’ among children

Study exposes extent of ‘sexting’ among children

Primary school children view pornography and are regularly “sexting” explicit pictures of themselves to others, a study has found.

A survey of 7,000 children found that on average children first see pornography aged 11, while girls as young as 12 agree to requests from their boyfriends to send revealing pictures or photographs of themselves carrying out sex acts.

The survey, carried out on behalf of a preventative education project run by Southampton Rape Crisis, also found that boys frequently send pictures of their genitals to female pupils.

The findings have led to calls for action to tackle the issue.

Claude Knights, director of anti-bullying and child abuse charity Kidscape, said there needs to be more education projects for both children and their parents.

She told CYP Now that children can easily access hardcore pornography through mobile phones that can influence their sexual development.

“Parents must be educated about talking to their children about the issue and ensuring content filters are applied to mobile devices,” she said.

“I think sexting is something that anyone working in the area of safeguarding is worried about – it is a growing trend and is beginning to descend into primary schools.

“Young people need to be helped to understand the consequences of what they are doing, both for their relationships now and in the future.

“There is work going on to do this but it isn’t enough.”

The survey echoes findings of the NSPCC, which last month said it had recorded an increase in the number of children it supports who have been involved with sexting.

The apparent increase in sexting comes despite efforts in recent years to tackle the issue.

In February 2011, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop) warned of the threat of emerging technologies, revealing it was ploughing resources into raising awareness among children about the dangers of taking revealing photographs of themselves on mobile phones.

It produced a short video, to be shown in schools, advising children of the risks.

Source: CYPNow

Government unveils plan to make children’s homes safer

Government unveils plan to make children’s homes safer

Children’s homes will be required to notify local councils when children move in from other areas, under new government measures to tackle child sexual exploitation.

The changes will also oblige homes to carry out a risk assessment of their local area alongside police and the local authority to make sure children are safe from sexual exploitation, gangs and other threats.

Children’s homes could be closed down or refused registration if their local area poses too many risks.

The reforms will also require decisions on placing children in care far from their home to be made by a senior official.

The measures are a response to the Office of the Children’s Commissioner’s inquiry into child sexual exploitation in gangs and groups, which followed the sentencing last May of nine men who groomed and abused young girls in Rochdale.

The Department for Education said the measures will help develop “strong, constructive relationships” between children’s homes and the local authority area they are located in.

In addition, the DfE will review the effectiveness of children’s homes provision and test alternative ways of delivering support.

There will also be a comprehensive review of the training, qualifications and career pathways for both new and exisitng staff in children’s homes.

Ellen Broome, policy director at The Children’s Society, said last year’s parliamentary inquiry into children going missing from care identified that thousands of children were being failed by the systems and professionals tasked with keeping them safe.

“Changing these damaging professional attitudes, alongside measures to address the poor quality of care too many children receive, is key to making sure these vulnerable children are kept safe,” she said.

“We look forward to seeing more detail about the plans and working with the government and professionals to make the system better.”

Jonathan Stanley, chief executive of the Independent Children’s Homes Association, said that while his organisation is committed to “comprehensive transformation of children’s homes”, there is a need to reform the entire looked-after children system.

“We hope that these are the start of many more announcements,” he said.

“If these are all that results then it will be too little, too slow.”

The DfE will also release a data pack in the summer that will include detailed information about each children’s home in England by local authority and area.

It hopes the data will make it easier for local authorities to find good quality placements.

Source CYPNow

Treat 17-year-olds in police custody as children, court rules

Treat 17-year-olds in police custody as children, court rules

The High Court has ruled that 17-year-olds who are arrested and taken into police custody should be treated as children.

In a landmark judgment, judges Lord Justice Moses and Mr Justice Kenneth Parker ruled that treating 17-year-olds at the police station in the same way as adults is unlawful.

Police are currently obliged to contact a parent or an “appropriate adult” to offer support and advice for young people in custody aged 16 or under.

But for 17-year-olds, the decision on whether to contact an adult is down to the discretion of the officer, unless the young person is deemed to be “vulnerable”.

In many cases parents are not told that their son or daughter has been arrested.

The judicial review, brought by Just for Kids Law, was based on the case of a 17-year-old who was held in a police station in London overnight for 12 hours on suspicion of robbery.

The boy, who had no previous convictions, was not allowed to phone his mother or offered the services of an appropriate adult.

He was eventually released without charge.

Moses and Parker said it was “difficult to imagine a more striking case” where the rights of both children and adults were affected.

Shauneen Lambe, director of Just for Kids Law, said: “A pressing concern is how this protection can be implemented to protect 17-year-olds immediately, given the court’s ruling that they have a right to be protected.

“We have asked the Home Secretary to issue immediate guidance to the police while she begins her consultation. Just for Kids Law would be happy to assist in the drafting of this.”

The Howard League for Penal Reform and the Coram Children’s Legal Centre were both allowed to make representations to the court.

Carolyn Hamilton, director of international programmes and research at Coram Children’s Legal Centre, said: “We are very pleased with the judgment and Coram Children’s Legal Centre now calls on government to rectify this unlawful, discriminatory anomaly in the criminal justice system and its codes of practice, to bring them into line with children’s rights without delay.”

Tabitha Kassem, legal director at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “Allowing 17-year-olds the right to this protection is not complicated or unduly expensive; in fact, Avon and Somerset Constabulary already provide 17-year-olds with access to an appropriate adult as a matter of course.

“We are delighted to see that the Association of Chief Police Officers has announced its support for a change in the law, and we hope that the Home Office will respond appropriately.”

Maggie Atkinson, Children’s Commissioner for England said: “I am delighted the high court has ruled today that it is unlawful to treat 17 year olds in the same way as adults when they are in police custody and that they should be considered to be children and allowed contact with parents or carers.

“I have previously raised concerns about this matter with the government and look forward to seeing what measures will be put in place to protect the interests of 17 year olds in police custody.

“I am sure today’s decision will result in better protection for all children who are arrested.  I hope it will also reduce the likelihood of 17-year-olds turning to suicide when they have been in trouble with the law.”

Across England and Wales, 75,000 17-year-olds are held in police custody every year.

Source: CYPNow

Children’s commissioner exposes extent of illegal exclusions

Children’s commissioner exposes extent of illegal exclusions

An average of 10 schools in every council area have sent pupils home without recording them as exclusions, England’s children’s commissioner has claimed.

Evidence about the scale of the problem, published by the commissioner today, found that schools have been illegally excluding pupils because they do not know the law.

The commissioner’s report included a survey of 1,000 teachers that found 6.7 per cent of schools had sent children home illegally and 2.1 per cent had recorded pupils as being “educated elsewhere” or “authorised absent” when the school had actively encouraged the child not to return.

When asked about the legalities of falsifying attendance records, 24 per cent of teachers said they did not know the law and 31 per cent were unaware that it was illegal to encourage a parent to educate their child at home.

Commissioner Maggie Atkinson said the majority of illegal exclusions were due to “low-level, persistent bad behaviour” and most occurred in secondary schools.

She said school governors should play a key role in ending the practice and called on the Department for Education to empower governors to challenge head teachers over informal and formal exclusions.

“When I stand up in front of a group of educationalists anywhere in the country and say, ‘does illegal, casual and informal exclusion take place in your area?’, the whole room says, ‘absolutely, yes it does’,” said Atkinson.

“Because it’s illegal, it’s hugely under-admitted to.

“Governing bodies that have uncovered illegal behaviour should have the right and the duty to sanction the head teacher to make it clear on their disciplinary record that this has been uncovered and is unacceptable.”

Atkinson’s report said local authorities and the Education Funding Agency were not doing enough to address the issue, and suggested that Ofsted increase its efforts to identify illegal exclusion practice during school inspections.

Emma Knights, chief executive of the National Governors’ Association (NGA), backed the report’s recommendations for governors.

“While some governing bodies are not willing or able to challenge head teachers, others do it extremely well – we need to equip other governing bodies to do the same,” she said.

The commissioner’s report also uncovered evidence of children with special educational needs (SEN) being illegally excluded because schools could not cater for their needs.

The teachers’ survey suggested that 2.7 per cent of schools have sent children with SEN home when their carer, classroom support or teaching assistant was unavailable.

The charity Contact a Family said the findings confirmed its own research.

“For disabled children who already need more support than their peers, this withdrawal of education is having a devastating impact on their progress and attainment, as well as their mental health,” he said.

“Parent carers of disabled children told us that illegal exclusions mean they are unable to work or are forced to take a lot of time off work.”

Source: CYPNow

Thousands repeatedly run away from care, police figures reveal

Thousands repeatedly run away from care, police figures reveal

Nearly 3,000 children repeatedly went missing from care in 2012 according to police figures obtained by the NSPCC.

Freedom of Information requests made by the child protection charity revealed that police in England and Wales recorded 28,123 incidents of children running away from residential care homes and foster care.

A total of 7,885 children went missing during the year at least once and 2,959 ran away more than once.

In one case a young person went missing from care 67 times.

Tom Rahilly, head of the charity’s looked-after children programme, said the figures were concerning.

“Repeatedly going missing should be a big warning sign as this kind of behaviour can put children at serious risk of harm such as grooming or sexual exploitation,” he said.

“The state needs to be a parent for these children. If any other child went missing their parents would move Heaven and Earth to find them and to understand why they did it. It should be no different for young people in care.”

Most of the young people who went missing were aged 13 to 17 but some were as young as six.

Some were not seen again for more than a week and one police force said that six children were still missing.

The charity warned that the figures would underestimate the extent of the problem since only 29 police forces responded to the charity’s inquiries and many cases were not reported to the police.

The NSPCC said professionals should regard repeat disappearances by children in care as a sign that they are at greater risk of harm and more needed to be done to prevent young people running away from care in the first place.

The charity also said care homes should do more to find out why children ran away rather than punishing them for going missing.

Source: CYPNow

Young people embrace online campaigning

Young people embrace online campaigning

Nearly a third of young people believe online campaigning is more effective than street protests, a survey by youth volunteering charity vInspired has found.

A poll of 1,364 young people aged 16 to 21 found that 28 per cent thought social media was the best way to get campaigns heard, while 10 per cent opted for protesting in the streets.

Just one in five said they believed politicians could improve the country, although 45 per cent felt their generation could change things.

Terry Ryall, chief executive of vInspired, said: “Young people have always been at the forefront of social change. Their creativity, passion and energy is truly world-changing.

“Digital technology has made it easier than ever to harness all that energy to create positive change. Even elections are already being won and lost through the power of social media.

“We want young people to understand this power and learn to use it to do something about all the things they really care about.”

The survey also asked young people to pick out issues and policies they would most like to see.

High levels of unemployment came top of the issues that concerned the young people, with 29 per cent selecting it as the most pressing issue facing the UK.

The young people’s favourite policy, picked by 18 per cent, was to make people work for their benefits, followed by 16 per cent who wanted the banks to repay the bailout money they had received faster.

The survey was carried out to mark the launch of vInspired Live, a music event run by vInspired that is designed to encourage young people to make their voices heard and campaign on issues that matter to them.

The charity intends to use the 6 July concert to kickstart three campaigns, which young people are being asked to propose as part of its Change Something programme.

The winning campaigns will be selected ahead of the event and the young people who proposed them will get to work with celebrity mentors to help create a buzz about it on social media.

Source: CYPNow

Scotland increases free childcare

Scotland increases free childcare

The number of hours of free childcare for three- and four-year-olds in Scotland is to rise, the Scottish government has announced.

A clause in the government’s new Children and Young People Bill will increase the free entitlement by more than 100 hours to 600 a year.

Looked-after two-year-olds and those with a kinship care order will also be eligible for the allowance.

The announcement followed a pledge made in March last year by First Minister Alex Salmond to include a legal guarantee of 600 hours of free nursery education in the bill.

At the time, Salmond said Scotland would offer “the best package of free nursery education on offer anywhere in the UK”.

Anand Shukla, chief executive of the Daycare Trust and Family and Parenting Institute, credited the initiative to a campaign run by the Daycare Trust and Children in Scotland in February 2012.

The organisations’ Scottish Childcare Lottery report found some local authorities in Scotland were charging twice as much as others for daycare, and that only a fifth of councils had sufficient childcare places to meet local demand.

Salmond’s pledge followed two Scottish parliament debates prompted by the research.

“We are delighted to see the introduction of this bill, which has the potential to make a great difference,” said Shukla.

“It’s important that this is a real entitlement that it is structured to meet parents’ needs. We need it to be available and flexible.”

Shukla noted that the increase would raise Scotland’s childcare offer above that offered in England and Wales.

“This is slightly more than the 575 hours available in England and Wales,” he said.

“Scotland has now set the benchmark for free early years provision and we would like to see governments in England and Wales follow suit as quickly as possible.”

The Children and Young People Bill, which was published yesterday, also includes measures to provide every child and young person from birth with a named person to safeguard and support their wellbeing.

An extra £10m was also announced for third sector organisations working with children, young people and families.

But Jackie Brock, chief executive of the charity Children in Scotland, said the bill needed to go further.

“There are significant gaps in supporting improvement for all vulnerable pre-school children and children with additional support needs,” said Brock.

“Children in Scotland believe a more effective framework for children’s rights is needed and we will be calling for improvements to the bill in these areas.”

Source: CYPNow

More than 500,000 children suffer cruelty, says NSPCC

More than 500,000 children suffer cruelty, says NSPCC

More than half a million children in the UK are abused or neglected at home every year, the NSPCC has claimed.

Research released today by the charity estimated that 520,000 children were maltreated by their parent or guardian in 2011, but only 58,000 were subject to a child protection plan.

The report also concluded that 260,000 children have been maltreated by an adult away from home.

The charity said the findings highlight the need for more services designed to prevent the abuse and neglect of children.

“The hidden extent of child abuse and neglect revealed in this report is a national scandal,” said Lisa Harker, head of strategy at the NSPCC.

“When we discover abuse we must do everything we can to protect children from further harm and help them recover.

“But it’s vital to prevent abuse from happening to so many children in the first place.

“We need to shift policy across the UK towards early intervention – and set a new course that can stop cruelty blighting so many children’s lives.”

The charity’s estimate was based on 19 indicators, including youth suicide rates, sex offences against children, calls to ChildLine, exposure to sexual images online and child protection plan data.

The report also used the data to identify nine risk factors that the figures suggest are linked to child abuse and neglect.

These include having parents with mental health problems, living in poverty, domestic violence, being in care and belonging to a black or mixed ethnic community.

Source: CYPNow

DfE to spend £5m on early years research

DfE to spend £5m on early years research

The cost benefits of early education and its impact on children are to be investigated as part of an eight-year research project.

The Department for Education (DfE) will spend £5m on the study, which will track thousands of children from the age of two until they finish their second year of primary school.

NatCen Social Research, the charity 4Children and the consultancy Frontier Economics will carry out the research, which begins in September.

They will start by interviewing parents of the children involved, whose development will be tracked in nurseries, pre-schools, nursery schools and with childminders.

Jane O’Brien, director of children and young people at NatCen Social Research, said although much research on early education for three- and four-year-olds had already been done, little was known about its effect on younger children.

“We know that attending early years education alone isn’t enough to improve outcomes – the quality of the staff and the setting is critical, as is the child’s home learning environment and the type of parenting they receive,” said O’Brien.

“This study looks at all these factors to see what are the long-term effects and benefits of early years education – particularly as it is extended to younger children.”

O’Brien said the research was necessary to inform the DfE’s future spending decisions on early education, particularly as it will have spent more than £1.5bn on free childcare for disadvantaged two-year-olds by 2014/15.

“Very little is known about the long-term cost benefits of early education and how quality and use affect this,” she said.

“To make sure it is getting the best value from this investment, and so that the DfE can inform its policy development and spending decisions in this area, the National Audit Office has highlighted that more needs to be known about the cost benefit and value of early education.”

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association, backed the study.

“The last major study in this area was the Effective Provision of Pre-school Education (EPPE) study which began in 1997,” she said.

“Since 1997, early years education has changed and developed significantly, so we must invest in research to measure the impact of these changes. It is important that future early years policy and investment is informed by what works best for our children.”

Jane Payler, chair of TACTYC, the Association for the Professional Development of Early Years Educators, agreed that fresh research was timely.

“We are pleased to see investment in large-scale early years research, but sorry to see that it does not include the under-twos. Details of the nature of the study will be important,” said Payler.

“We hope that ‘impact’ looks beyond economics to consider long-term as well as short-term outcomes across children’s holistic development and dispositions towards learning, in addition to the quality of children’s, families’ and practitioners’ experiences.”

Anne Longfield, chief executive of 4Children, said: “There is now an unprecedented political consensus about the importance of the early years and we have the opportunity – with this piece of work – to ensure that future policy and practice is strongly grounded in what works.”

Source: CYPNow