Archives for July 2011

Summer break for BBC Learning Parents

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Zoe E Breen Zoe E Breen | 13:08 UK time, Friday, 22 July 2011

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It's the summer holidays for most pupils now and we've decided to take a break ourselves this year. While we're away why not take advantage of these guides to learning activities for you and your family.

BBC Learning Parents: Holiday activities

Tips for educational days out together, how to have fun and give you and your kids a chance to explore new places and subjects, and spend quality time together.

BBC Things to do: Kids & family activities

Simply type in your location to find out about learning opportunities across the UK from the BBC and its partners near where you live.

Hope these give you lots of ideas for a summer full of learning.

Zoe Breen is the senior content producer on the BBC Learning Parents' blog.


Managing diabetes at home and at school

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Alison Whyte Alison Whyte | 09:00 UK time, Wednesday, 20 July 2011

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If your child is diagnosed with diabetes, there’s so much to get your head around – finding out what care is available and who’s going to provide it, that’s even before you think about insulin injections, managing blood glucose levels, let alone how they will cope at school.

If you’re unfamiliar with the condition, there are two types of diabetes. Type 1 is the most common one in children, and is where the body doesn’t make any insulin. Type 2, when the body makes some insulin but not enough, usually affects people over 40.

The main symptoms of diabetes are thirst, a constant need to urinate, weight loss and blurred vision. If this is something that concerns you, there’s more information about the condition on the BBC Health website, and you can get in touch with other families who are raising children with diabetes through the website Children with Diabetes in the UK.

Type 1 diabetes is treated by a healthy diet, regular physical activity and insulin injections. Children with diabetes need to inject themselves several times a day or go on an insulin pump (a device like a drip which is worn daily).

In the context of school, it’s vital to discuss this with staff and establish where and when the child injects themselves so that everyone is aware of arrangements.

Children with diabetes also need to be given time to test their blood sugars before and after exercise, so this issue should also be discussed with your child’s PE teacher.

Diabetes is life-threatening and a diagnosis can be traumatic, and there’s a trend for newspapers and magazines to stereotype children with severe illnesses as either ‘heroes’ or ‘just like everyone else’, but there are fewer reports on how tough life can be for them especially at school, or how sad they can feel. The myth that children get Type 1 diabetes because they’re fat isn’t helpful either.

Parents I’ve spoken to say the main challenge is that of keeping the condition stable, which requires huge organisational skills – starting with making sure your child has their kit with them at all times. This is hard enough for adults, never mind children who already struggle to remember their homework and packed lunch!

Managing diabetes and leading a normal life can be really hard, especially for young people. Unless they keep their condition stable they can suffer high and low blood sugars along with mood fluctuations.

The most important thing teachers need to know about diabetes is that the condition can cause hypoglycaemia, often called a ‘hypo’, which is when a person’s blood sugar levels drop dangerously low, and they need sweets, a fizzy drink or glucose tablet straight away, followed by a sandwich or cereal bar.

It’s worth checking out the Diabetes UK website, to find out what experiences other parents have of managing their child’s condition. Remember that if your child is diagnosed during the school year, you should discuss the condition fully with the school and how it will be managed with all the relevant staff at a school or prior to them starting at a new school.

One worrying development is that due to the budget squeeze on the NHS, the number of diabetic specialist nurses is now being cut.  These nurses, who work in hospitals and in the community, do a vital job in advising teachers and supporting young people with diabetes. This means that parents and teachers need to be even more vigilant in making sure children are supported at school.

Alison Whyte is a freelance journalist.

Getting ready to start school

Hannah Hunter Hannah Hunter | 14:19 UK time, Wednesday, 13 July 2011


My wildly sociable, soon to be five year-old is starting school in September. Far from having any worries about this momentous occasion, he is eagerly looking forward to spending all day at ‘big school’. When I mentioned that his sister and I would miss him, he replied “don’t worry mummy, I won’t miss you, I’ll be with my friends.”

I am pleased that he is so confident, and though I don’t think he really knows what’s in store, he’s had a fairly good preparation at pre-school and at home. Having taught KS1 children, I am well aware of the skills he will need to facilitate his first few weeks at school, and have tried to help him on the way to learning them.

classe @ Prod. Numerik -

If your child hasn’t been to nursery or pre-school, the idea of sitting in a classroom with other children, following instructions from someone other than their usual carer, can seem alien and frightening to them. Many schools have taster days, or provide some other opportunity for your child to see their prospective classroom, and meet their teacher. Playing schools with your child is a good way of preparing them, as well as reading one of the many stories about first days at school – your local library is certain to have a selection.

Make your child aware who to talk to when they need something or are in any trouble – it may seem obvious, but let them know that the teacher or classroom assistant is there to help them. Be positive when you talk about school, even if your own experience was otherwise.

Aside from social graces, children also have basic physical skills that they will need. You would be surprised how many kids go to school without being able to dress or undress, fasten their shoes. It’s worth making sure your child knows how to go to the loo unaided, wash their hands by themselves, and tidy up after themselves. With these skills in place, they will be able to navigate the school day much more smoothly.

As a fairly disorganised sort, I am planning to practise the school routine a little while before we start, as well as involving my son in getting his clothes ready the night before. I think we’ll also try a ‘dry run’, to time how long it will actually take us to get myself and both kids ready and out of the house by 8.45.

There are lots of guides for parents of school age children, looking at both the child and parent's feelings, such as this one from Mumsnet. I particularly like the advice from a teacher, on settling your child into their new classroom: “As a teacher there's nothing worse than snivelling parents making fond farewells inside the classroom. Children settle in much better if parents send them in confidently, smiling, wishing them well... Then you can go and weep round the corner. I did!"

Hannah Hunter is a member of the BBC Parent Panel.

Geography really does matter

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Claire Winter Claire Winter | 10:25 UK time, Monday, 4 July 2011


Whilst I am proud to have achieved a GCSE and an A-level in geography, nothing beats the experience of travelling first hand. My favourite memories as a child were going to France on holiday, living in Italy for several months and America for over a year and a half - all whilst I was still in primary school.

Buying croissants in bakeries in France, wandering the streets of Rome and visiting Cape Canaveral to see where NASA launched the space shuttle in Florida. The memories are etched in my mind. Trying figs from a market in Italy for the first time, I will never forget their colour, texture or taste.

Studying geography @ Pressmaster -

I also loved visiting my granny in Northumberland, enjoying days out at the vast white beaches and eating sandwiches nestled amongst the windswept sand dunes for protection against the howling wind. We even attempted a swim in the North Sea during the Easter holidays, which is not for the faint hearted!

The best way to learn about a country is to actually visit it. But good geography teaching is also needed. A recent Ofsted report has said that the teaching of this subject is not good enough in half our schools. The obvious fall-out from this is that some children have a woeful lack of knowledge about capital cities, continents, and world affairs.

According to one report, most primary school teachers lacked specialist knowledge in the subject, leading them to broadcast generalised stereotypes about different countries and cultures. Moreover the subject has practically disappeared in a tenth of primary schools.

Interestingly in the classroom children could talk about development issues in Kenya and Africa as a whole but could not find the country on the map. Perhaps going back to basics and teaching kids how to read a map is key to further their understanding of the subject and the world they live in?

Many secondary schools now teach geography and history in one humanities lesson. And worryingly 97 secondary schools failed to enter one pupil for Geography GCSE in 2007 and by 2009 that number had increased to 127. Whilst this is a relatively low number given there are 4,000 secondary schools in the country, there would be an outcry if it were another subject, like maths.

A report by the Geographical Association recommended better training for teachers, a stronger focus on geography during the first three years of secondary education and an increase in the number of fieldtrips for all year groups.

As parents, we don’t need to take our children to exotic locations to cultivate their interest in geography or the world. There are many online resources to stimulate their natural curiosity and interest in their surroundings. BBC Scotland has a great site for kids. 

Some simple practical things can really help too. Buy a map of the world stick it up on the wall so they know where they live in relation to friends and family. Teach your kids where countries are and the names and location of their capital cities. Talk to them about different countries, cultures and visit museums and places of interest in Britain and further afield, if you can.

The BBC's Things To Do site is also a great source of ideas for activities across the UK.

Claire Winter is a member of the BBC Parent Panel.

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