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Ofsted reports to become more accessible for parents

The head of strategic development for Ofsted, Amy Finch, has announced that Ofsted’s new framework will make their reports more accessible for parents. From September 2019, Ofsted’s revised framework will aim to improve parental communication by using clearer language and removing any technical jargon in reports. According to Amy Finch, parents have also requested that reports should include the “experience of going to school, and how the school that they send their child to is different from others”. This shift acknowledges and promotes parents as important stakeholders in education. The director of campaign group Parents and Teachers for Excellence, Mark Lehain, said this would be welcomed if Ofsted “can find a consistent way to share useful insights on schools, that doesn’t place a burden on staff during inspection.”

Young people at risk of online fraud due to “sharenting”

Barclays Bank has forecast that “sharenting” will account for two-thirds of identity fraud among young people by the end of the decade, costing £667m per year. According to the bank’s security specialists, identity fraud has “never been easier” as a result of social media and parents sharing too much information about their children online. Parents often reveal names, ages, date of birth, home addresses, place of birth, mother’s maiden name, schools, the name of pets, sports teams supported and photographs online, all of which can compromise young people’s financial security. Barclays warns that details shared by parents will still be available and could be used for fraudulent loans, credit card transactions or online shopping scams when young people become adults.

Young people have never been unhappier

Young people’s happiness across every single area of their lives has never been lower, research by the Prince’s Trust has found. The national survey shows young people’s wellbeing has fallen over the last 12 months and is at its lowest level since the study was first commissioned in 2009. The survey was conducted with over 2,000 respondents aged 16 to 25 and revealed that three out of five young people regularly feel stressed amid concerns over jobs and money, while one in four felt “hopeless”, and half had experienced a mental health problem.

Chief Executive of the Prince’s Trust, Nick Stace, says the results show that the government and employers need to invest more in developing young people’s skills and promoting positive mental wellbeing. He said: “It should ring alarm bells for us all that young people are feeling more despondent about their emotional health than ever before.” Read more here.

Questions over whether technology is preventing young children’s ability to hold pens

Paediatric therapists fear that children are increasingly finding it difficult to hold pens and pencils because of an overuse of technology. FK&Y’s Dr Barbie Clarke, interviewed for the article which appeared in the Guardian, has pointed out that there currently appears to be a lack of evidence to confirm this however, and more research is needed to determine the impact of technology on a young child’s ability to write. “We go into many schools and have never gone into one, even those which have embraced teaching through technology, where pen and paper is not also being used alongside the tablets and iPads.”

The paediatric therapists interviewed for the article believe that using touch screen phones and tablets is preventing young children’s finger muscles from developing, not giving them the opportunity to develop dexterity and strength in their hands. Sally Payne, the head paediatric occupational therapist at the Heart of England foundation NHS Trust said: “Children coming into school are being given a pencil but are increasingly not being able to hold it because they don’t have the fundamental movement skills”. Read more here.

UNESCO’s international education report challenges accountability of education services

The annual education monitoring report from the United Nation’s education agency, UNESCO, has revealed that 264 million young people do not have access to primary or secondary school. The report suggests that this figure could in fact be even higher, estimating an undercount of 250 million in household surveys across developing countries and the likelihood of another 100 million outside the reach of official statistics, including those living as illegal immigrants in wealthier countries. This year’s report focuses on accountability but also highlights that holding governments accountable for failing to deliver education services depends on accurate knowledge of the number needing support. As a result, international goals to cut illiteracy and increase access to schools do not recognise the full scale of the problem, leaving no one held accountable for protecting the rights of the “invisible” millions. Education has also received a declining share of aid budgets for six successive years, with former education ministers calling for a greater commitment to aid for education. Read more here.

Children believe gender stereotypes by age ten

The subject of gender stereotypes is being much debated. A new six-year study has found that children are convinced by gender stereotypes by the age of ten. Examples include such beliefs as boys should be brave and adventurous, and girls should be beautiful and protected. The global study gathered data on 10- to 14-year-olds in 15 different countries of varying degrees of wealth and development from across the world, interviewing 450 adolescents and their parents. Researchers reported that a ‘uniformity of attitudes about what it takes to be a boy or a girl’ was prevalent among all societies, from the most conservative to the most liberal, with children internalising gender myths and expectations from a very early age.

Such “gender straitjackets” are believed to have negative consequences for children, since they create certain expectations and impact their ability to make their own choices or take risks. The research suggests that programmes which target pre-teens would help to readdress gender roles, and help to question why males and females should look and behave in a certain way. Read more here.

UNICEF calls for governments to prioritise early childhood development

A child’s early experience has a profound influence on their future development. UNICEF has published a report entitled ‘Early Moments Matter for Every Child’, which aims to raise awareness of the importance of children’s first 1,000 days of life for brain development. Its findings suggest that amongst 85 million children under five, the 32 countries taking part in the study do not offer what it calls the three ‘critical policies’ to support children’s early brain development. These critical policies include two years of free pre-primary education, paid breastfeeding breaks for new mothers in the first six months of a child’s life and adequate paid parental leave. According to UNICEF, governments worldwide spend an average of less than 2% of their education budgets on early childhood programmes, despite the fact that investment in this age group would yield significant economic gains in the future. Just 15 countries worldwide were found to guarantee all 3 policies, including Cuba, France, Portugal, Russia and Sweden Read more here.

The power of print – magazines boost children’s brands and increase a sense of belonging among fans

It seem that the kids’ magazine market is in a healthy position, with the latest children’s brands frequently being realised in print. Examples include Minecraft, Play-Doh, Frozen (Egmont) and Peppa Pig (Redan), all of which provide themed content, puzzles, colouring and cover gifts. Publishing houses such as Immediate Media and Redan Publishing are continuing to enjoy resilient sales, despite the growth of online media. Year on year growth has been recorded for titles including Girl Talk, Girl Talk Art and LEGO Nexo Knights (Immediate Media). The first and second ranking magazines in the pre-school ABC chart are Peppa Pig Bag-O-Fun and Fun To Learn Peppa Pig (Redan Publishing) which have sold over 77 and 64 thousand copies respectively per issue. Andrea Marsden, deputy MD at DJ Murphy (Publishers) commented “the power of print is undeniable. When a brand is ‘hot’, then the fans want to interact with everything to do with that brand.” She also suggests that magazines enhance children’s feeling of belonging to a club and that cover-mounted gifts are a key part of the offering, as seen with DJ Murphy’s magazine launch inspired by the collectable brand Shopkins. Read more here.

Pre-schoolers are more likely to apply social lessons learnt from human characters

Teaching young children social skills is seen as important to their future wellbeing. A Canadian study has found that moral lessons in stories have the biggest impact on pre-schoolers when the characters are human, rather than animals. This research was carried out by the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto, with 96 children aged four to six. Children were randomly assigned to read one of three books: a prosocial book with a human main character, the same prosocial book with an anthropomorphic animal character that speaks and wears clothes, and a control book about seeds. Sharing with others was the focus of the stories and children were assessed before and after the reading based on how well they were able to share 10 stickers with another child. The children who either listened to, or read, the book with a human character shared more after reading their book, unlike the children in the group with the animal character who shared less. The study concluded that many children do not recognise anthropomorphic animal characters as comparable to themselves and, therefore, such stories are less likely to influence their behaviour. Additionally, the more human characteristics that were placed onto non-human characters, the more the child shared after reading the book. Read more here.

Cartoon aliens help children to open up about traumatic experiences

Children often find it difficult to speak about their most difficult experiences, and child therapists frequently employ play and art techniques to allow children to share and make sense of traumatic events. Antennas is a cartoon alien, created by psychologist Julia Borbolla, to encourage children in Mexico to share traumatic experiences. The cartoon is voiced by trained psychologists but the voices are distorted to sound childlike. Antennas acts as though it does not know anything about life on earth in order to ask questions about children’s lives. Another character, Dulas, talks to children in hospital, while Bosty is used to gather evidence that can be used in court cases, and has even been used in a murder trial. Despite some public services in Mexico now using Antennas and other characters, there is currently no research that measures the effectiveness of these cartoons. Some experts have raised concerns over the use of such characters, questioning whether children will tell the truth to a fictional character or consider it fantasy. Julia Borbolla opposes these claims, based on her 35 years of experience. She suggests that psychologists use techniques to establish if children are telling the truth and that children do not lie about their feelings. She would like to see these characters used all over the world and claims that the cartoons quickly establish a rapport with the children, which helps to make them feel comfortable and free. See more here.

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