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House of Lords report highlights importance of teaching digital skills

‘Make or Break: The UK’s Digital Future’ the report published this week by the House of Lords Digital Skills Committee warns that the UK is facing a significant digital skills shortage and is currently unprepared for the impact technology will have on the labour market. The review, which included FK&Y research carried out for Tablets for Schools’, urged the Government to address the digital divide and make digital literacy a core subject at school alongside numeracy and literacy. It argued that young people must be prepared with the necessary skills for the future. This includes an understanding of computer science and cybersecurity, but also skills associated with creativity and innovation. Industry is urged to play a greater role in helping young people develop the skills necessary for the future labour force.

Stress of the school run

In a survey for road safety charity Living Streets 32% of parents of children who attend primary schools described the school run in the morning as ‘highly stressful’. 44% of the parents surveyed said they had feared for their children’s safety on the school run, at the school gates, or in the surrounding area. 14% of parents said they had feared for their own safety during the school run. The charity is therefore encouraging more parents and children to walk to school and is urging local and national governments to invest in transportation strategies that will make it easier for families to make at least part of their journey to school on foot.

Cost of childcare more than a mortgage

The Family and Childcare Trust this week published research showing that the average cost of childcare in the UK is now higher than the cost of mortgages for many families. According to the report the cost of childcare has risen 27% since 2009, while wages have remained stable. The trust suggests that this makes childcare increasingly unaffordable, forcing some parents to refrain from returning to the workforce after becoming a parent.

Every body is beautiful

An American high school student has started a petition to include plus-size female characters in Disney movies. In the petition, which is titled ‘Every body is beautiful’, Jewel Moore argues that young girls who struggle with low self-esteem will benefit from seeing positive role-models in the media. The petition has achieved over 22,000 signatures.

The end of toy gender labelling?

Critics have long criticised toy manufacturers and retailers for organising toys by gender, which has led Marks and Spencer and Hamley’s in the UK to desist labelling products by gender. Clients who have experienced our workshops will know that there is debate about the extent to which play and toys might influence children’s personalities and preferences. Psychologist Dr Amanda Gummer argues that children benefit from being exposed to many different toys and play scenarios which will appeal to different aspects of their physical, social and emotional development.

BBC research on goals and aspirations of children

Research carried out for the BBC’s children’s channel CBBC asked over 1,600 children aged 8 to 12 about their goals and aspirations for the future. According to the survey, the most popular future job for boys is to be a footballer (24%) followed by a police officer (6%), while girls most wanted to be a teacher (16%) followed by a hairdresser (13%). Although children are clearly thinking about what they want to do in the future, they are also quite worried about this. 55% of the children asked said they thought it would be difficult for them to get jobs when they grow up.

Google homework help

A survey commissioned by L’Oreal and EDF Energy presented this week at The Times Cheltenham Science Festival showed that more than half of British secondary school children trust Google over their parents for help with their Science homework. One teacher interviewed believed that this was not necessarily a negative development, as it can support children learning to work independently and develop critical research skills.

Link between exposure to pornography and risk taking among children

Last week the Children’s Commissioner for England released a report which argues that there is a link between exposure to pornographic images at an early age and risky behaviour, such as experimenting with drugs and alcohol, and expressing aggressive behaviour towards the opposite sex. Boys were found to be more susceptible to this than girls. Maggie Atkinson, the Children’s Commissioner, argued that children are more exposed to pornography now than ever before due to almost constant access to the internet through home computers, smartphones and Tablets.

UK’s first technology addiction programme

Earlier this week The Telegraph posted an article commenting on children becoming addicted to their device, such as Tablets. Dr Richard Graham runs the UK’s first technology addiction programme, and describes treating clients as young as four years old who have developed obsessive behaviour towards technology. Dr Graham expresses concern that children who are vulnerable to obsessive behaviour may develop a lack of social skills due to excessive use of technology, and argues that for parents it is important to find the right balance of screen time.

Honywood’s Celebration of Learning – Dr Barbie Clarke

Celebration of learning at Honywood is an emotional affair. Asked to present prizes for achievement to learners at the school this month, I met with some truly amazing young people. Honywood Community Science School in Essex was one of our first Tablets for Schools research partners; the leadership, staff, teachers and learners have contributed a great deal to our findings, as well as the development of the Tablets for Schools initiative. Despite the cold, and the snow that was slowly settling that evening, parents, friends and family turned out in force in support.
As with all the schools in our research, Honywood has inspiring leadership and staff. Many had been there since 7a.m. but were still upbeat, cheerful, and truly committed to their young learners some twelve hours later, and as proud as the parents there of what these young people had achieved.
Some learners gave speeches, and it was difficult to keep a dry eye. As deputy head Mark Williams explained, achievement does not necessarily mean getting the top marks; hearing some of the speeches such achievement could be described as ‘overcoming adversity’. All the prize winners had their own remarkable stories; young people are coping with disabilities, learning difficulties, broken limbs, and bereavement to name some. And yet they had persevered and achieved their goals.
It was particularly enlightening to hear the part that having their own tablet device, combined with the adoption of ‘honyskills’, had played in the young people’s experience of the school, and especially in the way communication with teachers and peers had been supported by this. Year 7 Wesley spoke of the technology helping him, in his first year at secondary school, to be more creative, and improve his communication skills. Year 10 Rebecca explained that she had been brought up in several different countries, but at Honywood had finally felt a sense of belonging, helped greatly by teachers who ‘extend their teacher roles far beyond the four magnolia walls of our classrooms’.
Equally movingly Year 9 Grace explained in a clear voice how she had been born severely deaf, and the way in which she had to rely on technology to help her learn, but also how supportive the staff had consistently been. And Alona, Year 9, described how she had arrived at the school from Israel, without a full grasp of English, and how the tablet device had allowed her to keep up in lessons by the use of translation and dictionaries. She too emphasised the support teachers gave her through her tablet, ‘it is very easy to contact teachers if I am not sure about the independent study, or what we have learnt. The teachers reply very rapidly and do what they can to help, even in their own time!’.
And Adam in Year 8 talks about the way his tablet device had assisted him in winning his prize for creativity, noting its function in collaborative learning. Adam explains ‘I like to present my work by mostly creating movies, eBooks or PowerPoint’s for my classmates benefit and mine’. He adds ‘I think that the iPad has made a huge impact on the learning at Honywood for everyone.’.
Hearing young people’s acceptance speeches was truly moving and inspiring, and as head teacher Simon Mason said, anything he had prepared to say would never do justice to them. A selection of some of the excellent speeches can be downloaded on the Tablets for Schools website. Congratulations to all the young people who received their prizes on that cold night, 13 March, 2013.

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