CrossTeach banned from Church primary school for being ‘extremist’

A primary school in Kent has cuts its ties with a Christian group after parents complained of religious extremism and claimed children had been distressed by comments about gay marriage and a demonstration of “God’s power” in assemblies.

Dan Turvey, the headteacher of St John’s Church of England primary school in Tunbridge Wells, told parents in a letter that he was ending invitations to the charity CrossTeach to lead school assemblies and take lessons, after what he called a campaign by parents.

One parent said children were being told ‘they would not go to a good place when they died’ if they did not believe in God, according to the Telegraph, and another said her son had been told ‘men can’t marry men’, according to the Guardian.

The parents group said in a statement:

‘We recognise and respect the school’s Christian values but think there is a brand of Christianity that is abusing that respect. The basis of [our] complaint relates purely to concerns over the welfare and safeguarding of children who we believe are being exposed to potentially damaging ideology.’

In a letter to parents on Monday Turvey said he was ‘deeply saddened’ to be severing ties but acknowledged children had been ‘upset and disturbed emotionally’.  He wrote:

‘After careful consideration I have decided that we will end our regular commitment to CrossTeach and that they will no longer lead assemblies or take lessons.’

But he added: I do not believe CrossTeach has done anything wrong.’

He said the group would continue to run a voluntary after school club. ‘They do not deserve the tarnishing of their good name and allegations of extremism that have taken place over the last few months,’ he told parents.

One parent who asked not to be named said:

‘I didn’t pull my mine out because overall I think it would do more harm than good to segregate them.

‘But I do know some of the children have been upset by what they have heard. No one minds Nativity plays and Bible stories but considering most of the parents at the school aren’t practising Christians I think the feeling is that it’s all too much.

‘In Tunbridge Wells the vast majority of primary schools are affiliated with the church so it’s not like you have a choice whether you expose your children to this.

‘Personally I want my children to learn about all religions. If you want them to be raised as Christians there are plenty of Sunday schools.’

But Turvey hit back at the parents’ complaints and said: ‘It is my view that the use of social media can be destructive and counterproductive. In this case I believe that the damage caused by the use of this media will take a very long time to repair.’

He added ‘relationships have been soured and trust eroded’, telling parents ‘the past few months have been stressful, tiring and a distraction from our focus’.

Wayne Harris, the national director at CrossTeach, said the group was a charity and worked with schools under constant supervision, observing school policies and national guidleines, where applicable. He added:

“Whilst we note the strong comments made by Mr Daniel Turvey, Headteacher, in support of our workers and activities, Crossteach is very disappointed that, after 16 years of supporting the school, our work will no longer be available to young people at St Johns CE Primary School, Tunbridge Wells.

“Wherever possible we work in partnership with local churches and we reflect their teaching, always aiming to be sensitive to the local context, and recognising that churches vary. We teach mainstream Christianity.

“In 16 years of Christian schools work no teacher has ever raised a concern that something has been said that could be interpreted as in any way ‘hateful’ or ‘extremist’.”

Young Carer’s Day: the stress of juggling multiple responsibilities

A group of young carers have made a hard-hitting film showing how stressful it can be juggling responsibilities both at home and in school.

The film, which was made by Fixers, the charity which gives young people a voice, is being launched today on Young Carer’s Day.

You can watch it here:

Jade Dyer, 17, has been the primary carer for her mum for the past four years and takes the lead role in the film.  It shows her being reprimanded by a teacher for failing to get an essay in on time as she struggles to look after her mum who has Grave’s disease – an autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks the body.

Jade, from Bourne End, Bucks, says:

‘Her illness means her moods can be very up and down – when she’s down I need to be there to console her and give her support.  She might not be able to get out of bed if she’s feeling like that, so I’ll need to do household tasks like cooking dinner.  If she doesn’t take her medication or is particularly unwell she becomes quite immobile, so if she collapses I need to be there to help her up.’

There were times when the teenager struggled to cope with school.  She says:

‘My secondary school attendance was very low, and the teachers didn’t realise what I was going through so there was a huge lack of understanding.  My grades were affected and teachers could be quite harsh about it.’

Jade, who is now studying for her A-levels at Henley College, plans to show the film at teacher training events.  She says:

‘We hope the film will show teachers just how much we have to do – we have a lot more on our plates than the average student and getting some leniency when it comes to things like essay deadlines could really help us.

‘Anyone can be in a caring role and it’s important that teachers are patient and understanding so they can help them. There are a lot of intelligent people who could miss out otherwise.  Focus on what that child’s needs are and help them in any way you can.’

 

Study finds Sex & Relationships Education doesn’t reduce STIs and teen pregnancy

Young Couple Relaxing Near River Enjoying Sunny Day

The following is excerpted from an online article posted on LifeSiteNews:

A new peer-reviewed study of multiple “sexual and reproductive health” educational programs in several countries finds no evidence of improved health outcomes in any program studied.

According to the authors of the study, “School-based interventions for preventing HIV, sexually transmitted infections, and pregnancy in adolescents,” published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, “There is little evidence that educational curriculum-based programs alone are effective in improving sexual and reproductive health outcomes for adolescents.”

The study’s authors reviewed eight studies that examined sex-education programs in schools in Africa, Latin America and Europe with a total of 55,157 participants, and performed randomized controlled trials on their data. They found the programs had no measurable impact on the rate of sexually-transmitted diseases among participants or rates of pregnancy.

“In these trials, the educational programs evaluated had no demonstrable effect on the prevalence of HIV or other STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections),” the authors write, noting that in addition to HIV infection they also looked at results regarding herpes and syphilis. “There was also no apparent effect on the number of young women who were pregnant at the end of the trial,” they add.

The authors note that many studies of adolescent sex-education programs measure the programs’ effectiveness by examining their “effects on knowledge or self-reported behavior” rather than “biological outcomes” such as the rates of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases among program participants. In examining biological outcomes, the authors could find no benefit from such programs.

The findings of the study are consonant with other studies of “comprehensive” sex-education programs that show them to be ineffective or even counterproductive, particularly in comparison with abstinence-only programs.

Christmas video 19: Jesus: Truth or Fairytale

“Jesus: Truth or Fairytale?” a Christmas video resource aimed at 16-19 year olds. For many young people Christmas is a fairytale, a nice story we repeat each year. This video asks the question, what if God really came to town?

The video features Meg Cannon reciting a spoken word piece that brings back the grit, humanity and truth into the nativity story, and then questions what that might change. If Jesus’ birth was a real event, what does that mean for me and what does that mean for you?

 

Christmas video 9: The Fake John Lewis advert

An A-level student whose Christmas advert fooled internet users into believing it was the John Lewis festive commercial has been offered a job off the back of his efforts.

Nick Jablonka made the video as part of his media coursework and uploaded it to YouTube in June, where it has now been watched by over 1.5 million people.  The 85-second-long video told the story of a snowman who fell in love after being trapped in a snow globe:

Some people had called for the student to be given a job for the John Lewis ad-makers after his work was mistaken for the retailer’s festive marketing campaign.  But early in November, PR agency W Communications tweeted at the 18-year-old and offered him a job.  A spokesman for the company said that Mr Jablonka seemed “very excited” at the prospect of the role which would be a “bespoke” job in the digital content creative team.

Sophie Raine, Director of W Communications said:

“Advertising agencies are paid billions by brands to try and replicate exactly what Nick, aged 17, has managed to do with his fake John Lewis ad.

“Nick’s work captured our attention  – we were all inspired by his ingenuity and creativity, especially given his age. It was a no brainer to create a bespoke role for him within our digital content team, offering him the chance to create content and emotive stories for huge household brands.”

John Lewis also praised his efforts, though there are no current reports of a job offer on the table.  A spokesman for the retailer said of the film: “Wow, what a great effort. Nick is clearly very talented, and we’d love to invite him in to spend some time with us behind the scenes to see how we create our TV ads.”

Mr Jablonka said he had no idea that the animation would prove so popular.

Tens of thousands of UK teenagers neglected at home, report says

Survey of year 10 pupils suggests one in seven experience some form of neglect, risking their physical and emotional health.

teenage-boys

A survey commissioned by the Children’s Society found that one in seven 14- and 15-year-olds had experienced at least one form of neglectful parenting, the equivalent of three to four students in every year 10 classroom.

Emotional and supervisory neglect were the joint most common forms reported by year 10 pupils and the former was associated with teenagers being more likely to engage in risky behaviour.

Those who said they had experienced emotional neglect were more than twice as likely than their peers to have got drunk recently, nearly three times as likely to have smoked and more than twice as likely to have skipped lessons.

Neglected teenagers were also significantly more likely to be dissatisfied with their lives, pessimistic about their futures and lacking confidence in their abilities. Children who reported frequent support from parents were more likely to have higher levels of wellbeing. Young people who were materially deprived were more likely to be neglected than their peers.

The Children’s Society said that the problems stem partly from an incorrect perception that teenagers needed less care and support than younger children. It wanted to see better support and advice for parents bringing up adolescents.

The Children’s Society chief executive, Matthew Reed, said:

“No child should be left feeling that no one cares about them. Teenagers are often seen as more resilient than younger children. But of course they still need care from their parents to meet their needs, support their education and keep them safe.

“Our research makes clear the central role of parental care and emotional support to the wellbeing of young people. With little dedicated advice readily available for parents of teenagers, we need to provide more support to parents bringing up teenagers, not to blame them. The government has a massive role to play in making sure the needs of teenagers, and their parents, are never forgotten. Society must not give up on teens.”

Recommendations in the report, published on Tuesday, include parenting classes for families with adolescent children, training on understanding adolescent neglect for frontline education, health and youth justice workers and more work to enable young people to recognise neglectful situations and know what help is available.

The University of York polled a representative sample of about 2,000 young people aged 12 to 15 in 72 schools for the report, asking them about their experiences of being cared for by their parents.

Singapore government say education is not about the grade, it’s about learning

Exams

Singapore’s education system has long been criticised for the emphasis on grades over the learning process. But it looks like the Ministry of Education wants to make a bold statement to counter that.

It just launched a touching commercial based on a true story of a student and her teacher Madam Phua:

The video shows how Phua guided Shirley through a failing grade with Geography lessons. Both student and teacher continue to keep in touch today, according to the ad.

Assembly: The Olympics and Friendship

rio-2016-olympics

Here’s an assembly I did this morning in our local junior school on the theme of the Olympics and friendship.  Here’s the PowerPoint if it’s useful.

 

I have loved watching the Olympics. One of the most famous moments was this in the heats of the 5,000m.

 

Runners Abbey D’Agostino and Nikki Hamblin may not have won their 5,000 meter heat in the Rio Olympics, but their attitudes are gold-medal caliber.

 

Hamblin, who is representing New Zealand in this summer’s games, tripped on the packed track partly through the race, taking American D’Agostino down with her.

 

After the fall, a a clearly discouraged Hamblin lay motionless on the ground for several seconds. Get ready to cry, though: D’Agostino instantly helped Hamblin get to her feet.

 

“This is the Olympic Games. We have to finish this,” D’Agostino reportedly said. And finish the race they did. Fortunately, the Olympic dream wasn’t over for either runner. Because they were tripped, both were allowed to run in the final later in the week. But talk about Olympic spirit.

 

The International Fair Play Committee (CIFP) and International Olympic Committee (IOC) presented D’Agostino and Hamblin with the Fair Play award, for their acts of selflessness and exemplary sportsmanship. The Olympic award recognizes the values of excellence, friendship, and respect in an athlete and both runners exhibited those values as they helped each other to the finish line.

 

An International Olympic Committee statement read : “The D’Agostino and Hamblin story is one of humanity and sacrifice which has already captured the hearts of people across the globe.”

 

Then there was the example this week of brothers Jonny & Alistair Brownlee at the World Triathlon Series. Video capturing Alistair coming to the aid of Jonny has gone viral and led to enormous praise for the elder Brownlee, a two-time Olympic champion who sacrificed his own chances of victory to help his sibling.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x241YWLKz1k

 

Let me share one last beautiful story of two Olympic athletes from Japan who knew exactly how to share with each other.

 

At the 1936 Berlin Games, Japanese pole vaulters Shuhei Nishida and Sueo Oe tied for second place. They were offered the opportunity to compete against each other for the silver medal, but because they were friends and respected each other so much they said they didn’t want to. In order to keep the Olympic rules, Oe agreed to take the bronze medal while Nishida took the silver.

 

When they returned to Japan, the other people in their team decided to do something different. A jeweller cut their two medals in half and put them back together, making two half-silver, half-bronze medals called ‘Medals of Friendship’.

 

The Bible contains a famous quote about friendship. It comes from the book called Ecclesiastes:
‘Two are better than one, because if one falls over the other one will pick him up.’

 

Ask the children what they think this verse means, and then allow them a few moments of reflection to think about how they can ‘pick up’ other people.

 

Time for reflection

Think about the words from the Bible and the words from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

‘Two are better than one, because if one falls over the other one will pick him up.’

 

‘The only way to have a friend is to be one.’

 

Think of a time when someone has been a true friend to you. Maybe you’ve been lonely or sad and someone has looked after you. Maybe you have been stuck with work and someone has helped. Think about opportunities that you may have to be a good friend to someone. Decide to be a good friend today.

 

Prayer

Dear God, thank you for our friends. Thank you for the fun we can have with them and the happy times we spend together. Please help me to be a good friend. Please help me not to be selfish but to think always of other people and their needs. Amen.

A-level results – how to help your teenager

Exam results

Here are some top tips on dealing with A’ level results:

For parents:

  • Don’t be afraid to talk about the results, either before or after.
  • Don’t shy away from the disappointment your child is feeling. Encourage him or her to talk about it.
  • Keep talking about the many possible future paths available.
  • Emphasise how hard they’ve tried and the work they’ve put in – and why this shows they have qualities that can take them far.
  • Explain – preferably with real examples – that many successful people have taken “a zig-zag route” to reach their goals.

For students:

  • If you’re worried, don’t wait till the last minute. Ring up and ask for an appointment with your tutor or careers adviser to look at options in case you drop a grade, so you have a real plan B. Find out too if there’s someone you can talk to at school or college in the days and weeks after results.
  • Be aware of the hype around A-levels day – TV images of ecstatic students, for example – which can inflate the importance of the results beyond the reality.
  • Develop a broader perspective on your future – talk to your friends, your family and especially your teachers or tutors, who may be well placed to help you think about alternative but equally rewarding ways forward.
  • Plan to do something positive on results day, whatever your grades. And stay in touch with people, to remind yourself that there is more to life than A-levels.

23 Ways To Communicate With A Non-Verbal Child

Non-Verbal-Communication

The key to working with children and young people often centres on communication.  But how do you do this with non-verbal (or mainly non-verbal) children and young people.

Parents of children and adults with special needs contributed their best tips to Scope leading to these 23 ways to communicate.  This is a really useful read for those of us living with or working with non-verbal (or mainly non-verbal) children.

Here’s a few of my favourites:

2. Level it up

Playing and talking are easier if you can see each other. Sit so you are at the same level.

3. Talk about it

Eddy can’t speak and also has limited understanding but it is important to keep talking to him about what’s going on.

4. Eye contact

I put stickers on my forehead as a target for my son to look at.  This reminds him to look at people’s faces, so people feel more like he is engaging with them.

8. Find other means of expression

Give your child an opportunity to express themselves. Dance, music, drawing, painting, messing with textures, banging drums, shaking maracas – and join in too. Don’t be afraid to lay down with them on the carpet and see the world from their point of view.

9. It’s not obvious

Therapist often ask you to keep eye contact with them.  We (Aspies – people with Aspergers syndrome) often avoid eye contact because it helps us to focus on what someone is saying.  I find it hard to process verbal information and think about signals from someone’s face at the same time.

11. Create social stories

I have been creating my own social stories using pictures of my son and clip art pictures. You can find images of most things through Microsoft Office and easily type up your own personalised stories.

12. Make ‘flash cards’

Take photos of a non verbal person’s favorite toys, family members, objects eg cup, biscuit etc. Choose the most motivating items to begin with. Print and laminate them postcard size. Giving a choice of no more than three cards at a time, encourage them to choose by pointing or touching. May also be helpful to put the relevant sign on the back of photo as a reference for others

19. Communication passports

A communication passport is a one page document that the child has with him or her all of the time. It gives the people they meet basic information about how they communicate and what support they need. You can find out more about communication passports at www.communicationpassports.org.uk

22. Personal portfolio

Cerebra provides a free service to help parents create a personal portfolio for their child aged 16 and under. A personal portfolio is a user-friendly booklet about your child to introduce them to others. It is especially helpful when your child has communication difficulties. Very useful for teachers & professionals. www.cerebra.org.uk

23. Intensive Interaction

I have two children on the spectrum, aged 7 & 5. Intensive Interaction helped me stay sane and unlocked the barriers so I could communicate with them. www.intensiveinteraction.co.uk

 

 

 

 

What is religious education for?

RE-heart-picture

Nigel Genders, Chief Education Officer for the Church of England has recently blogged on What is religious education for?.  He starts with:

It is tempting to see the primary reasons for good religious education as being combatting extremism and promoting community cohesion. This feeds nicely in to national political and news agendas but by doing this we confuse safeguarding with education, distort the need for a healthy pluralism in society and accept a simplistic narrative that says religion is the cause of most of the world’s problems. The primary purpose of religious education must in fact be to enable young people to make sense of themselves and the world in which they live and from these seeds will grow communities equipped to live well together.

It’s really worth taking a few minutes to read his take on the need for good quality religious education.