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Rise in number of state school pupils at Cambridge

The current proportion of state school pupils attending Cambridge University is nearly 68%, the highest number since the 1980s. Dr. Sam Lucy, Director of Admissions, says applicants have not been deterred by the perception that Cambridge is a socially exclusive institution. The University also states that a quarter of the current student body comes from ‘disadvantaged backgrounds.’ This year, the University reserved 100 places for students classified as ‘deprived’, with the aim of raising the number of students coming from disadvantaged backgrounds to one-third. Dr. Lucy, who supports these measures, is quoted as saying “it is deeply encouraging to see that our actions to provide educational opportunity for all those who have the potential to study here are paying off.” Read more here.

Department for Education to fund national mental health training scheme

The Department for Education has allocated £9.3 million towards helping students receive support for mental health issues. Directed by the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families and in partnership with the Link Programme, instruction courses are to take place throughout England with the goal of reaching all 22,000 schools across the country. Working to bridge the gap between NHS specialists and school staff, the scheme aims to erase stigma surrounding mental health concerns amongst students in all levels of education. It is also designed to improve the referral system should students require additional, specialist support. Backing the scheme is Education Secretary Damian Hinds, who believes the scheme will “build on the significant measures we’ve already put in place to improve children’s well being.”

Research shows participation in sport enhances children’s wellbeing

Children who take part in organised athletic activities between ages 6 and 10 are more likely to have enhanced emotional health by age 12. A study published by the Université de Montréal finds that children who play a sport at an early age are more equipped with the ability to be cooperative and collaborative, skills that are necessary in both school and adulthood. Linda Pagani, a researcher who worked on the study, says these attributes  help children develop social skills needed to navigate adolescence. Having these abilities can therefore prevent children and young people from social isolation and the possibility of an unhappy mental state. “It’s very important, especially in our ‘screen culture’,” Pagani says. “So much time [is spent] in front of their screens…they’re lax in terms of social interactions.” Read more here.

Youth activism and the new protest movement

Teenagers across the globe are taking action into their own hands by organising large-scale protests in Europe and the States against two very important issues: climate change and gun violence. But protesting is not a new phenomenon, today’s young activists are vocal on matters in ways that do not require them to vote since many are, in fact, too young to vote.

Thousands of teens marched through the streets of London, Brussels, and Berlin in early 2019 as part of a large scale effort to demand government action on global warming. Skipping school lessons in favour of attending demonstrations, young supporters have gained international attention for their dedication to changing laws around climate change. A standout of the movement is 16 year-old Greta Thunberg of Sweden, who has been very critical of political inaction: “I think enough people have realised just how absurd the situation is. We are in the middle of the biggest crisis in human history and basically nothing is being done to prevent it”. Her protests outside Sweden’s parliament quickly led others to follow in her footsteps, helping ignite a worldwide phenomenon with hopes of pressuring European lawmakers into agreeing on more effective climate regulations.

Across the Atlantic, American students have also protested their government’s inaction. With 2018 being a tumultuous year for violence in schools, teenagers from Florida organised March for Our Lives, a nationwide walkout demanding action from Congress to strengthen gun laws. Their persistence and advocacy paid off, as dozens of states have passed additional regulations since 2018.

As with climate change, the debate on school safety is far from over and protests continue. However, millennials and Gen Z supporters around the world have helped prioritise children’s protection in a way that is uplifting for generations to come. As teen activist Emma Gonzalez said: “We are going to be the kids you read about in textbooks…we are going to change the law”.

Written by Nyasha Nyamhondoro, Research Executive at Family Kids & Youth

African and Albino: “Not ghosts, but humans” by Zahra Dry

Albinism is a genetic disease, inherited from both parents, that causes a lack of pigmentation in the skin, hair and eyes. While praised in some countries, in parts of Africa Albinos are often highly discriminated against. Tanzania has the highest Albino birth rate, with one in every 1500 children born with the condition, but these children are at risk from birth as there is still a belief in witchcraft that can put these children in danger.

The UN has become actively involved in documenting and preventing the violence imposed on African children due to traditional witchcraft and with the emergence of Dr Abdallah Possi, the first Albino Deputy Minister, and a determined President Magalufi, attackers face harsher penalties for harming vulnerable Albino women and children. Tanzania’s Albinos have historically been deprived of education and alienated, but now specialised schools and communities, including the Ukewere Island Albino Sanctuary and Canadian NGO: ‘Under the Same Sun’, strive for equality.

While the journey continues, the previously silent torment and beauty of the Albino community grabs the world’s attention. Stories of survivors receiving prosthetic limbs, winners of Zimbabwe’s ‘Miss Albino’ pageant, and even Rihanna creating Albino-inclusive makeup, inspire thousands of Albinos to find their voice, amaze us with their bravery and let us know they are “Not ghosts, but human beings” (UN Human Rights Commission). Learn more about the movement here.

Zahra worked as a paid intern at Family Kids & Youth during her time following A levels before starting a law degree at UCL. Zahra ran some of the peer-to-peer focus groups for FK&Y’s Wellbeing and the Internet Study.

Global UN Study finds that giving condoms to secondary school students reduces sexually transmitted diseases

A study from the United Nations Population Fund has reviewed the consequences of giving out condoms in secondary schools. The review concluded that providing condoms to young people does not increase the likelihood that they will engage in sexual activity or lead to them engaging in sexual activity at a younger age. The introduction of condoms was also found to reduce sexually transmitted infections. However, the research also stated that teenage pregnancy rates are unaffected. The review of scientific literature found that the majority of research was from wealthy countries and recommends that this is an area of research that could be expanded upon in other countries. Currently these schemes tend to be in place in countries where rates of teenagers with STIs and pregnancies are low, and it’s possible that a greater effect would be found in researching where these are more common. Particularly in countries with high levels of HIV.

Rural and coastal UK schools struggle to engage with government interventions and can be left feeling educationally isolated

A report from academics at the University of Plymouth and Plymouth Marjan University has revealed that rural and coastal schools can feel isolated from government support. Specifically, these schools struggle to access externally-funded educational interventions. The researchers concluded that urban schools having higher levels of connection to national funding schools than rural and coastal schools, which increases disparities in school funding. These schools are more likely to express isolation from initiatives aiming to improve social mobility, research and improvements. There is also an issue of recruitment within rural and coastal schools who struggle to attract a high quality workforce. The authors recommend to policymakers that reform should take place regarding priority areas and target schools. They further urge funding agencies and organisations to work with school leaders in isolated schools to increase awareness and understand how extra funding and support could be best utilised.

Children continuously put at risk by American farm work

While the United States has strict rules regarding the type of environments children can work in, agricultural jobs for young people are still common with an estimated 500,000 labourers under the age of 18. A mixture of state and federal guidelines allows children to be employed in this sector as long as their work hours do not interfere with school and they are kept out of harms way. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration agrees, saying children as young as 12 can work in agricultural settings, but only if “a parent has given written permission or is working on the same farm”. Younger children under age 12 are also allowed to work, but only on farms where the owners are exempt from paying the minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 an hour in most states.

Farming is a risky occupation meaning children who work in this field can be exposed to harm. Some organisations have tried to make the occupation safer by introducing new regulations such as “[decreasing] pesticide exposure incidents” amongst labourers but unfortunately, the reality is children employed on farms are still vulnerable. There continues to be accounts of young people sustaining serious bodily harm while working in the agriculture industry, with a “disproportionately high” number never recovering from certain accidents.

Since child labour in this form is often ignored, a number of advocacy groups have worked hard to raise the public’s awareness and become more conscious of who harvests their food. Groups such as the Human Rights Watch, the National Farm Worker Ministry and the Child Labour Coalition actively encourage the abandonment of labour in this form. Even former child farmworkers have spoken out against the practice, citing the physical toll it has had on their developing bodies. Together these movements have the power to enact change and prevent future generations of children from taking on this type of work.

Nyasha Nyamhondoro

UK teachers becoming overwhelmed by additional tasks and unnecessary stress

Educational Review has recently published findings that highlight problems facing many teachers within the UK today. The in-depth research with 39 teachers from England and Wales found widespread  mental health issues were being experienced amongst the cohort. Demanding workloads, considerable paperwork, reaching academic targets and rapid policy changes were discussed. Many felt that these issues were getting in the way of their primary focus – the children they teach – by making them devote more time to mentally exhausting issues. Gerry Leavey, who led the study, explains that “[teachers] express a tension between the old view of what it means to be a teacher…and the new managerialist view – accountability, performativity and meeting standards in a new, corporate world.” He goes on to say that high numbers of educators are leaving the profession due to these issues, as the stress encroaches on their personal lives.

Tech parents’ views on education and future work

‘Preparing for change: How tech parents view education and the future of work’ is a new report by techUK. The study surveyed over a hundred parents working in tech companies and found that the majority are optimistic about technological job opportunities of the future. Despite public negativity surrounding automation and new technologies, 64% of tech parents were optimistic or very optimistic about the future job opportunities that would be available to their children. Having said this, 73% believe that the curriculum did not place sufficient emphasis on the types of skills that would become more vital in the future world of work. They also think that evolution of new technology will require frequent retraining. 90% believe their children would need to retrain throughout their lives to keep up with the pace of technological change.

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