LGBTQ+ issues on the school curriculum, Sesame Street helping Syrian refugees and an alternative Christmas message from the children survivors of Grenfell.
Five children who survived the Grenfell Tower fire will deliver this year’s alternative Christmas message. The message, broadcast on Channel 4 on Christmas Day, will urge people to “love and cherish” their families, while talking about the fire and also sharing happier some happier memories.
The children, aged between seven and 12, will also speak about the importance of having a home and their experiences on the night of the fire. One of them, Luana, will say: “My Christmas message is that everybody should love and respect each other because you never know what tomorrow will be like. And it is important to love and cherish your family.”
Children who survived the tragedy also recently took part in a service at St Paul’s to mark six months since the fire.
Issues surrounding sexuality and different genders could be taught in classrooms for the first time ever as part of the biggest shake-up of relationships and sex education (RSE) in almost 20 years. Parents, teachers and pupils themselves are being called upon by the government to help shape a new RSE curriculum that will equip young people with the knowledge they need to properly navigate the pitfalls of modern living, including issues such as pornography, sexting, mental health and consent.
It marks the first opportunity for LGBT+ issues to be written into the national curriculum Margaret Thatcher’s government in 1988 explicitly forbid the “promotion of homosexuality” by local authorities – including schools. Since then, it has never been compulsory for local authority schools to offer education and guidance on different sexualities and genders. LGBT+ campaigner Peter Tatchell said: “LGBT+ pupils are some of the most vulnerable and under-served pupils in the school system… They mostly lack affirmation of their identity and the provision of life-saving safer-sex advice. Nearly half suffer bullying, which can have negative knock-on effects, including truancy, academic under-achievement, depression, anxiety and self-harm.”
Ruth Hunt, chief executive of LGBT+ charity Stonewall, also said she welcomed the government’s move to deliver an “inclusive education” by bringing LGBT+ issues into RSE, while Education secretary Justine Greening also praised the move.
Bright students from poorer backgrounds are more likely than their wealthier peers to be given predicted A-level grades lower than they actually achieve, putting them at a disadvantage in their university applications, according to a new report by The Sutton Trust.
Under the current university admissions system students make their applications based on predicted A-level grades from their teachers. Low predicted grades mean they may end up applying for degree courses with lower entry requirements than those which they are capable of getting. Every year, as many as a thousand high-achieving students from disadvantaged backgrounds are given under-predicted grades – potentially not only affecting the university and course they choose but also their future employment prospects. these students are at a further disadvantage because they may lack the information and guidance required in the university application process to make the best decisions for their future.
Characters from the children’s television programme Sesame Street are going to be used to help teach children displaced by war in Syria. The Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee have won a $100m (£75m) grant to help with the “toxic stress” on child refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria. Jeffrey Dunn, head of Sesame Workshop, said Syria’s refugee crisis was the “humanitarian issue of our time”. “This may be our most important initiative ever,” he said. It’s one of the biggest single philanthropic donations to such an education project – and will fund efforts to provide early years education and tackle the trauma of millions of young refugees created by Syria’s conflict. It will produce a customised version of Sesame Street for the young Syrian refugees, available on mobile phones, which will support literacy and numeracy, help to teach about relationships and encourage respect for others. Julia Stasch, president of the foundation, said, “The longer-term goal is to change the system of humanitarian aid to focus more on helping to ensure the future of young children through education.”
Sounds good to us.
Mindfulness training helps build resilience in university students and improve their mental health, particularly during stressful summer exams, according to research from the University of Cambridge. The study involving just over 600 Cambridge students, concluded that the introduction of eight-week mindfulness courses in UK universities could help prevent mental illness and boost students’ wellbeing at a time of growing concern about mental health in the higher education sector, and when university mental health services are under enormous strain, experiencing an ongoing surge in demand – up 50% between 2010 and 2015. The Cambridge students were randomly assigned to two groups. Both were offered access to the university’s usual support and counselling services, as well as NHS services. One of the two groups was also offered the mindfulness course, which consisted of eight weekly, group-based sessions, plus home practice including meditation, “mindful walking” and “mindful eating”.
Researchers found the mindfulness participants were a third less likely to score above the threshold commonly regarded as meriting mental health support. Even during the most stressful period of the year, summer exams, distress scores for the mindfulness group fell below their baseline levels, as measured at the start of the study. The students without mindfulness training became increasingly stressed as the academic year progressed.
Check out Minerva’s blog on how mindfulness and meditation can improve your school life
UCL has been forced to apologise for a carelessly worded tweet, after sharing ‘Dreaming of a white campus?’ during the snow. The tweet was intended to notify students that the campus was still operational, but the ethnically dubious wording prompted harsh criticism from some corners. Others, however, saw the link to Bing Crosby’s song, and took no offence, even criticising UCL for apologising to the er…snowflakes, in question.
David is a Minerva Pro Tutor who specialises in humanities subjects at A Level and is a trained expert in the 7 + and 11 + exams. Outside of tutoring, David writes blogs about everything that’s trending in education.