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Archive for the ‘Children’ Category

New year

It’s a new year, and I hope it’s a good one for you. The Tory-led coalition’s cuts are starting to bite now. Thousands of jobs are going in local councils, and soon we’ll be noticing the services going. In our local area the visiting music teachers are being cut from schools. If these aren’t front line cuts, I don’t know what is. What services do you know of that have been cut?

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Sex and politics

In a world where ‘temptress’ is an acceptable name for some childrens shoes, it might not seem surprising that children are on the pill at age 11. It is easy to glibly condemn the sexualisation of children, without understanding the myriad reasons that the pill may actually be prescribed, including PCOS, acne, and painful periods. But thats not such an interesting story of course.

On a related note, the Tories have decided that while its acceptable to force people to clean toilets in strip clubs, its not acceptable to advertise the better paid, “performance” jobs in job centres. The government said this was to prevent jobseekers feeling they had to accept jobs they felt uncomfortable with. I suspect though, many people would also be uncomfortable cleaning toilets! Its a strange moral standard that is being used, based on Victorian morality. I’m sure there are more pressing things the government should be concerning itself with.

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Vince Cable has the solution to the crisis about to unfold in higher education. Two year degrees! Those lazy inefficient boffins can teach 40 weeks of the year, and produce more graduates, with less resource.

Some courses, he claims, have a meagre 8 hours of teaching time per week! Of course students can work harder and get their degree finished sooner.

As one of those lazy boffins, this idea fills me with dread. Yes, our students could do the degree in less time. They have 20 weeks of teaching a year, of course they could have more. They have five weeks of exams, three weeks of revision, so study for a mere 28 weeks in total. Twenty-eight weeks x three years = 84 weeks; and so two years of forty weeks nearly adds up. However, we are not teachers. We are University Lecturers. Academics. Involved in teaching and research. Our research is at the heart of our teaching. University is not like school – we are not teaching to a set syllabus. Physics at Cambridge is not the same as physics at Oxford, or indeed physics at the University of Central Lancashire. The people who lecture to the students are those who have done the actual research and have generated knowledge. If this link between research and teaching is to be maintained, then the summer vacation, and 3 year degrees must be preserved.

However, it is apparent that Vince Cable does not appreciate this relationship between research and teaching. His proposal that any institution should be able to administer a university exam, and that universities should be brands, rather than necessarily delivering teaching themselves proposed a breakdown of th relationship between the academy and the undergraduate. Already in Europe and the US our 3 year degrees are viewed as insufficient, what value will a 2 year degree taught by a private institution be, internationally?

This attack, on one of our truely world leading industries, is short sighted, and will damage our economy and international standing.

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We’re back!

We can’t keep quiet any more! We’ve had a break in posting over the last few months, but its time to shake off the cobwebs and open the windows. Coalition government is upon us, and the pace of announcements coming out of Whitehall is astounding. Watch out for our reactions and thoughts over the next few weeks and months, as the impact of our new masters hits us where it hurts – education of our children, health of our loved ones, and of course the bank balance. We’ll look out for the good stuff too of course! Hopefully it won’t all be doom and gloom.

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I grow weary. Apparently, and despite being thoroughly CRB checked, I will need yet another check under the newly introduced Vetting and Barring scheme. I have yet to find any credible reason for this decision and find it utterly bizarre especially as the Criminal Records Bureau will oversee these new checks.. The necessity for a new CRB check to be carried out every time someone works for a new organisation already seems nonsensical. Despite already having a recent enhanced CRB for work the Local Authority still insist I have another one if I want to be a parent volunteer at the children’s school. I needed a fresh CRB check when I had a 20 year old student do a family placement in our home and have just been informed I need a further check if I want to continue in my role as treasurer for a small branch of a voluntary organisation. One can only presume the accounts have some sort of at-risk status that needs protecting. The fact that CRB checks are not transferable within a given time frame is absurd and the mind boggles that why after several clean bills of health to my integrity I need to submit myself to further vetting.

Midst all this red tape and procedure let us remember why these new safeguards were introduced ; to prevent another Soham tragedy. Yet many believe many believe these precautions would not have prevented that tragedy from occuring and it is simply penalising the innocent. There has been much outcry from voluntary organisations about the impact of the new Vetting and Barring Scheme with fears it could sound the death knell for volunteering. It will have consequences for other sectors too. The media is littered with stories about health cuts yet millions of health workers who have current CRB documentation will need to register with this new agency. Times are lean, is duplicating paperwork really a good use of the public purse?

I remain befuddled why after being well acquainted with the CRB form I need to jump through further hoops to register with this new body. Is this another example of the current Labour administration’s propensity for mindless bureaucracy? Is this simply a money spinning exercise under the guise of safeguarding to generate coffers for the Treasury? Or are we simply becoming more paranoid in our pursuit of a no-risk society? Answers on a postcard (or in the comments section!) please

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Baby Slings are still safe!

In the USA last week a statement was issued by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission regarding the safety of ’sling style infant carriers’, in particular regarding their use with infants under 4 months of age.

This news has now broken in the UK with the Daily Mail giving their usual unbalanced opinion under the shocking headline: Yummy Mummy Baby Slings May Kill! The Times ran a much more sensible version of the same story.    

While the death of any baby is an immense personal tragedy for the family involved, I think it is important to get some perspective.  We are talking about 14 deaths of infants over a 20 year period in the USA.  The USA is a big place, an awful lot of babies were born over that 20 year period.  This is a rhetorical question I know, but I can’t help wondering how many babies who were carried regularly in slings during that period would have died from cot death alone in a crib, or in accidents in buggies and prams had they not been slung by their parents?

Most importantly, all of the deaths were associated with one particular style of baby sling, one that is known as a ‘bag style’ sling.  In a bag-style sling the deep pouch where the baby sits puts the baby in a potentially suffocating curved or “C” like position. This design of sling may also cause the baby’s face to turn in toward a caregiver’s body, increasing the risk of suffocation. 

In my opinion the real tragedy would be if inaccurate and scaremongering news reports on this issue led parents to be afraid of carrying their babies in a sling at all. The many benefits of babywearing are well documented.  Using a sling is good for babies and a sling can be a godsend for parents, especially if you have a baby who hates to be put down!

The vast majority of baby slings and carriers are perfectly safe, as long as they are used correctly.  These ‘safe’ sling types include ring slings, shallow pouch slings, wrap slings and mei-tai style carriers.

 The golden rules for sling safety, especially when carrying a newborn in a sling are:

  • Your baby should be close enough to kiss
  • Your Baby’s face should be visible
  • The position should be high and snug
  • Your baby should never have his chin resting on its chest
  • Your baby’s back should be straight and supported
  • Your baby’s head should be supported until they have good head control

Further information on baby sling safety and the benefits of babywearing:

Press release in response to the CPSC statement sponsored by The Consortium of UK Sling Manufacturers and Retailers

Babies Need Touch – the benefits of babywearing

Babywearing – the real deal on safety – an excellent blog post on the subject

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It’s that time of the year again, the wedding anniversary. Seven or eight years? I really can’t remember, the early years all seem to merge into a great big foggy haze of babies crying, evenings exhausted, staring through the television at some mindless US show and sleepless nights. It can easy to allow the sheer difficulty of getting out of the house with children to cloud the parts of a marriage or long term partnership that are important and which do bring pleasure. Sometimes you can be just too bloody exhausted to stand back objectively and ponder on the value of what you are building.

A few things in the news over the past couple of months have paved the way for various musings in the press about the institute of marriage. On the one hand the tabloid coverage of the very dignified separation and divorce of Kate Winslet and Sam Mendes and on the other the broadsheets dissection of the Tory policy of rewarding married couples. Cameron’s assessment of labour’s opposition to the policy concluded that “Labour’s pathological inability to recognise that marriage is a good thing puts them on completely the wrong side of their own dividing line….I think marriage is a good institution. I don’t need an opinion poll to tell me whether it is or is isn’t. That’s just what I think.”

So what do I make of Cameron’s view? Just that it’s a view, a personal view and really not the type of view, in my view, that hard fought political campaigns should be fought on. There are much more important battles to fight. In any case, what about long term partnerships? Why should they be any less valid. Many people who don’t have loving partnerships marry, whilst those who do can stay together, happily, for years.

Anyway I digress, this is about marriage so back to it.

The most poignant article I read this week about marriage, was by Alice Thomson in The Times, with her natty title, “We Mustn’t Divorce Ourselves from Marriage”. Her lovely description of Michael Foot and Jill Craigie made me yearn for that type of companionship when I am old(er) and grey(er).

The best advice that came my way was my divorced mother thoughtfully reflecting on marriage the other evening after a bottle of  Merlot.  Listening to your mother is something that as teenager I would have baulked at, but in hindsight her advice was spot on and, as I get older, I find myself reflecting on her wise comments that evening about the institute of marriage.

Watching all those around her, go through difficult times, ups and downs, moments of falling out of love and back in love – more deeply than before, she firmly believes that there is something those people have that is immensely precious and a gift that in our thirties and forties we are very easy to dismiss.

Her reflections are to a certain extent based on Buddhist teachings. Mark Epstein, who wrote, Thoughts Without a Thinker, writes that “Like everything else in Buddhist tradition, the purpose of love and marriage is to be a vehicle for awakening.” Epstein looks at how we can engage productively with relationships. He writes that “Buddhism is about investigating all the different self-experiences with the ultimate goal of knowing true reality, knowing self and other – and in an intense emotional relationship like marriage the experience of the self is stretched.”

In Jungian theory marriage could be seen as an important component for the process of individuation, the emergence of self-awareness and the inner marriage of the self. Ultimately the marriage should allow you to grow as an individual by challenging you to go within.

Marriage may come easy for some, but for others it needs to be worked at, or worked through. I have friends who have been to Relate, friends who no longer have sex, friends don’t go out with each other, or don’t go out at all but they seem to mostly come through it, if they work at it, and are happier than ever.

So as this next anniversary rolls up,  the kids are older, my mother had offered to take them for a weekend, a whole weekend, I’m giddy with excitement and the biggest challenge facing this marriage right now it where we are going to go.

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