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World must tackle intolerance and exclusion, says Social Progress Index

Finland came top and Central African Republic bottom of the index, which ranks 133 countries for how they meet citizens’ social and environmental needs The world has been broadly successful in harnessing economic growth to improve delivery of basic needs, but rising wealth is less effective in tackling more intractable, less tangible problems like intolerance and exclusion, and policies to tackle these are needed, according to the latest Social Progress Index.Finland came top of the index, which ranked 133 countries on the extent to which they meet the social and environmental needs of their citizens. It was followed by Canada, Denmark, Australia, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands, the UK, Iceland, New Zealand and Ireland. Continue reading...

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Reading should be about pleasure, not points or prizes

Children’s books site member Eligor was outraged on receiving a letter from school announcing a reading programme based on points, rewards and competition. Not only is it unnecessary, it may actually be turning children off reading for funI love reading for many reasons. It can be an escape from reality; a comfort for when you feel upset or fed up; nostalgic (I frequently reread my old picture books); just to relax; to think deeply about things (I’ve read a book called the Complete Philosophy Files and reviewed it on the Guardian Children’s book site!); to identify with characters; and also to savour the very words themselves.The physical side of reading also plays a part. The feel of books, turning the pages, and the smell of books... (If you have ever smelled the pages of an old book, you will know what I mean.) Continue reading...

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The problem with university open days

Students and parents turn up in huge numbers – but open days are often just a facade that hides the less attractive aspects of the universityA huge emphasis is placed on university open days. Every year, hundreds of thousands of students visit their chosen institutions to get a better feel of what they’re really like.The idea is that they’re a fantastic opportunity to learn about the university, accommodation and the local area, as well as to meet potential future professors. Continue reading...

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Herschel Prins obituary

Herschel Prins, who has died at the age of 87, had a long and distinguished career at the crossover between criminal justice and mental health.He began work as a probation officer in the 1950s and spent much of his life in teaching; throughout he remained faithful to the ideals of public service and the belief that one person can influence another for the good. He knew that effective social work was a craft that required real commitment by the practitioner; noble intentions and theoretical knowledge were not enough. Continue reading...

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Poll suggests privilege is key to landing internships1

Survey carried out for Debrett’s Foundation finds that 72% of privileged young Britons admitted to having used family connections to secure a work placement A privileged background, attending private school and who you know are key factors in landing an internship, according to a report that paints a bleak picture of social mobility in modern Britain.A survey of 5,000 people carried out on behalf of the Debrett’s Foundation found that 72% of privileged young Britons admitted to having used family connections to secure a work placement and those who attended private schools were twice as likely to get internships in London compared to state educated children. Continue reading...

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Campaign urges boarding schools to stop taking young children

After an article in last week's Observer Magazine about abuse claims, campaigners call for end to children being 'sent away'A group of campaigners, clinicians and academics are calling for boarding schools to stop accepting young children, claiming that boarding is mentally damaging and the product of an outdated class system.In a letter to Sunday's Observer, more than 25 signatories – including psychoanalyst Dr Susie Orbach, Labour MP Barry Sheerman, writer AL Kennedy and film-maker Don Boyd – say boarding is detrimental to children's wellbeing and a "British habit" that can lead to emotional deprivation. Continue reading...

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When political leaders are selected via elitism not talent, you get chaos | Ellie Mae O’Hagan

The EU referendum vote is just the latest disaster caused by a political class woefully out of touch with the country. Some humility now pleaseThere’s nothing quite like a constitutional crisis to expose what can only be described as the abject crapness of our political class.The parliamentary Labour party has largely decided it has had enough of Jeremy Corbyn and wants a new ruler, but seems categorically unable to suggest anyone. Who would fit the bill? Dan Jarvis, who promises to be “tough on inequality, tough on the causes of inequality”? What does that even mean? Or how about Hilary Benn? He gave one well-delivered speech to parliament about Syria and people seemed to decide that made him the new Winston Churchill, before forgetting about him a week later. Continue reading...

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Councils failing to protect at-risk children, says Ofsted1

More than a quarter judged ‘inadequate’ by social care report, and child protection system has too much mediocre provisionToo many vulnerable children face “clear and present risk of harm” because of serious failings in council child protection departments, Ofsted has said.More than a quarter of councils were judged “inadequate” by inspectors, with three-quarters in total rated as less than “good”, according to the latest annual Ofsted social care report. Continue reading...

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Project Bloks: Google's latest effort to encourage kids to code

From scribbling robots to music-making devices, tech giant’s initiative hopes to spark a new wave of ‘tangible programming’ toys and kits for children“How many robots can I control with this? In theory, up to 255 at one time. That really is a robot army.”I’m in a room at Google’s London headquarters listening to creative technologistZebedee Pedersen show off the company’s latest research project. Despite how it sounds, world domination isn’t on the agenda. Continue reading...

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Kneejerk restructures of children’s services are a recipe for disaster | Patrick Butler

Cornwall’s experience shows that you can turn round poorly performing services and deliver innovation without suspending children’s legal rightsThe first step on the road to recovery is always the most painful, according to Andrew Wallis, the lead councillor for Cornwall’s children’s services. Six years ago those services were on the ropes, judged inadequate by Ofsted inspectors. Failure triggered a period of harsh corporate self-reflection. “You have to admit you are not very good, and that is difficult,” he says.After the frank self-assessment came the improvement. This week Cornwall was rated “good” by Ofsted. Of the clutch of councils deemed to be failing in 2010, it has come the furthest. It is now among the top 25% of children’s services. Inspectors praised the quality of its work in key areas: children in care, adoption, care leavers and management. This is an authority, Ofsted noted, that “has enabled social work to flourish”. Continue reading...

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