Category Archives: General Articles

University of Bath launches first summer school to give people with autism a taste of university life

The University of Bath is running a new free summer school for young people with a diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) who are thinking of going to university.

The ‘Introduction to University life: Summer school for students on the autism spectrum’ will allow students with ASD to experience all aspects of student life at the residential summer school being held in September.

ASD is estimated to affect one in 88 people, representing about half a million people in the UK. The 1990s saw a surge in diagnoses of ASD in children who are now approaching university age.

Difficulties in dealing with change and transition are central to ASD, therefore the transition from home to university is often overwhelming and many potential students with ASD are deterred from attending or drop out.

The University of Bath ‘Introduction to University life: Summer school for students on the autism spectrum’ aims to reduce the stress and anxiety associated with the transition and will help prepare the students for university life.

While there is much focus on the interpersonal difficulties of people with autism, those with a diagnosis can also demonstrate great strengths and abilities that lead them to do extremely well in some aspects at university.

The University of Bath has a long tradition of excellence in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (the STEM subjects) in addition to Humanities and the Social Sciences and students with ASD can excel academically in these disciplines when their specific needs are supported.

The summer school aims to equip students with ASD with the skills required to support their own learning at university. It is open to all potential students with ASD, whatever their chosen discipline.

The summer school has been developed by the Department of Psychology at the University of Bath, led by Drs Mark Brosnan, Chris Ashwin and Alisa Russell. There are 30 places are available, free to those who wish to attend.

Dr Mark Brosnan said: “We’re very excited to be able to offer this opportunity to students with ASD thinking of going to university. Thanks to financial support from the Bath Alumni fund and the Widening Participation Office, we are able to offer this summer school free to those with a diagnosis of ASD.”

Dr Chris Ashwin said: “Going to university can be hugely stressful and we hope that the summer school will allow potential students to experience a little bit of student life and overcome some of the anxieties that may prevent them attending university.”

Dr Alisa Russell said: “The programme has been constructed to reflect ‘work, rest and play’, to ensure the students gain appropriate skills to negotiate the academic, personal and social skills necessary for successful university life.”

Annette Hayton, Head of Widening Participation added: “I am very pleased that the Department of Psychology has developed this pre-entry summer school. Successful transition to university for all students is at the heart of our approach to widening participation.”

The summer school will run for the first time at the University of Bath campus from September 10 to 12, 2013 (inclusive, 3 days and 2 nights). Attendees must have a diagnosis of ASD and considering going to university. The summer school is residential and students sleep in an individual student bedroom.

Drs Brosnan, Ashwin and Russell hope that regular funding can be secured to allow the ‘Introduction to University life: Summer school for students on the autism spectrum.’ to run every year.

Find out more about the summer school and view a provisional timetable here or email [email protected] for more information.

Book Buzz 2013 titles announced

Prize-Winners and Best-Selling Authors Fill the List of Titles for 2013’s Bookbuzz Programme

Titles revealed for the second year of reading programme aimed at 11-year-olds The selection of titles to be offered to secondary school children by the reading programme Bookbuzz has been revealed. Including prize winners and best-selling authors, it offers a brilliant array for 11-year-old students to choose from. The Bookbuzz programme offers secondary schools the chance to give their Year 7 students the choice of a book from this carefully selected list of 17 titles including fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Bookbuzz aims to support reading for pleasure and independent choice at the important transition stage from primary to secondary education. Last year the scheme delivered 200,000 books into 1,400 schools and this year there are already 38,000 children registered before the titles have even been announced.

The element of choice has proven to be vital to Bookbuzz’s success, with the report on the 2012 programme showing that young people have a need for their multiple reading identities to be taken seriously. Although encouraging motivation for reading is a complex challenge, it is one that Bookbuzz successfully meets. Excitement around the delivery of the books in schools is high, as you can see from this librarian at a participating school:

‘The amount of children that do come in and say ‘Where’s my book?’ ‘Why isn’t my book here yet?’…it’s immense the amount of people that ask me that – you wouldn’t believe it – kids that you don’t probably see from day to day just stop me in the corridor and say ‘When’s my book coming?’…Because we don’t do anything else like that… We are a governmentally recognised deprived area…just to be able to see that smile that day; it’s worth every penny…That reaction is worth millions.’

The price of the programme remains frozen at £2.50 per student this year, despite the challenging financial climate, thanks to generous support from participating publishers. The list of titles are carefully chosen by a selection panel, which this year includes CILIP Vice President Barbara Band, TES journalist Helen Ward and author Christopher Edge, whose book Twelve Minutes to Midnight was featured in last year’s list.

This year’s list includes a plethora of prize winning authors including a Roald Dahl Funny Prize winner, Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize winner and a Carnegie Medal winner.

The full list of titles for Bookbuzz 2013 is:

Soldier Dog by Sam Angus (Macmillan)
Butterfly Summer by Anne-Marie Conway (Usborne)
After Tomorrow by Gillian Cross (Oxford University Press)
Dear Scarlett by Fleur Hitchcock (Nosy Crow)
Young Sherlock Holmes: Death Cloud by Andrew Lane (Macmillan)
Sky Hawk by Gill Lewis (Oxford University Press)
Payback by Graham Marks (Franklin Watts)
Space: The Whole Whizz Bang Story by Glenn Murphy (Macmillan)
Gods and Warriors by Michelle Paver (Penguin)
Michael Rosen’s Big Book of Bad Things by Michael Rosen (Penguin)
Dark Lord: The Teenage Years by Jamie Thomson (Orchard Books)
My Best Friend and Other Enemies by Catherine Wilkins (Nosy Crow)
Killer Animals: The Wimp’s Guide by Tracey Turner (Franklin Watts)
Sir Scallywag and the Golden Underpants by Giles Andreae and Korky Paul (Penguin)
The Pirates Next Door by Jonny Duddle (Templar)
Oh Dear Geoffrey! by Gemma O’Neill (Templar)
Giggle Giggle What’s So Funny? by Ben Mantle (Macmillan)

Schools that register to participate in the programme by Friday 7 June qualify for the Early Bird promotion, meaning they receive an extra selection of titles for the library. All schools taking part will also receive free additional resources, including two sample sets of the titles to aid students’ choices and allow teachers to read along with their classes. The final deadline for registration is the Wednesday 24 July.

Booktrust CEO Viv Bird said:
‘Booktrust is pleased to announced the new titles in the 2013 Bookbuzz programme which, together, offer 11-year-olds a brilliant choice of 17 carefully chosen books, including books that make children laugh out loud or are simply cracking good reads. We are very grateful to children’s publishers for their generous support of Bookbuzz.’

The selection panel:
Barbara Band (Chair) – Head of Library & Resources at The Emmbrook School and Vice President of CILIP
Christopher Edge – Bookbuzz author, former English teacher and current educational and publishing consultant
Jean Hitchcock – Head of English at Chislehurst and Sidcup Grammar School
Laura Taylor – Librarian at Addey & Stanhope School and Schools’ Library Advisor
Helen Ward – Journalist at the Times Educational Supplement
Alexandra Strick – A specialist in the field of children’s books and disability
Charlotte Chamberlain – Literacy Specialist at St George’s C of E Foundation School, Kent
Lisa Myers – English teacher and librarian at Woodfield School, Brent
Zara Todd – Consultant on disability equality and youth participation

Chair of the selection panel Barbara Band said:
‘Being part of the Bookbuzz selection panel has been an absolute pleasure and has exposed me to titles I would not normally have read. It was very difficult to make the final selection and I’m looking forward to hearing what the students think. With many children coming from homes without books, the impact of this scheme is immeasurable; it creates excitement about books, turns reading into a shared, social activity and has a tangible, lasting effect.

Calling Mums and Dads

Calling Mums and Dads

Are you and your family at your wits end with tantrums and bad behaviour?

Is the dinner table a daily battle ground? Are you shattered from sleepless nights?

Are you plagued by potty training problems?

Perhaps you have exhausted the endless advice in blogs, forums, books and magazines and you’ve still not had the breakthrough you deserve.

Perhaps we can help.

In a ground-breaking new television series, Liberty Bell Productions are producing a new series for Channel 4 and offering families the chance to work with one of Britain’s leading childcare experts to restore harmony to households. With 20 years’ experience she can create a tailor-made and bespoke approach to your child’s needs and ultimately change family life forever and for the better.

If you’d like to know more, please email us with a little about yourself and your contact number at

 [email protected]



Schools across the UK are being encouraged to ‘go blue’ for the day to raise awareness among young children of the importance of our seas and rivers. 

The ‘blue day’ will take place on Friday 7th June – the day before World Oceans Day – and is part of the run-up to the 2013 Ecover Schools Blue Mile in Plymouth 17th-19th June.
The Ecover Schools Blue Mile, which this year has a new charity partner, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), aims to get more young people actively involved with our blue environment.
Schools are being asked to sign up and make a splash on 7th June by wearing blue and doing aquatic activities such as relay swims, rock pooling and waterside walks. Other ways of joining in are creating a sea monster, painting a fish collage or designing a swimming costume.
The blue initiative comes as the UN holds events to mark World Water Day on 22nd March and as studies suggest that being on or near the water is good for health and well-being.
Dr Mathew White is a researcher at the European Centre for Environment and Human Health in Truro and has been looking at the possible health benefits of engaging with our coasts and water.
In one study, some 90 youngsters went on a 12-week surfing programme, part of which involved learning about the marine environment. They were then put through a series of health checks, which showed that their resting heart rates had improved and their quality of life, self-esteem and relationships with others were more positive, compared to a sample group of young people who had not taken part.
Crucially, he said the sooner that children are introduced to an outdoor lifestyle, the better: “It has been shown that the earlier children get involved with their green and blue environments, the more likely they are to return to them after the ‘teenage dip’ years.”
In separate research carried out by the National Trust, the charity found that children in the UK are losing contact with nature at a “dramatic” rate, and their health and education were suffering as a result. The trust said youngsters were showing symptoms of ‘nature deficit disorder’.
One of the factors behind the ‘indoor’ culture was the anxiety among parents about the perceived dangers of their children taking part in outdoor activities.
The Ecover Schools Blue Mile is organised by Plymouth-based triple round-the-world yachtsman and ocean champion Conrad Humphreys. He hopes the event will re-engage the nation’s youngsters with their natural environment: “All the recent research really does show that this trend of children not being actively involved with green and blue spaces needs to be reversed.
“That’s what the Ecover Schools Blue Mile is all about. It’s about having fun with our blue environment and learning about it at the same time. Let’s get our children active and outdoors again.”
The programme includes a new science and marine conservation event with the National Marine Aquarium and Plymouth University  from 17th-19th June. Schools across the South West can register to take part in events on and off the water and in the aquarium.
The flagship event of the Ecover Blue Mile is a mass-participation swim and paddle event on the weekend of 14th-15th September, when hundreds of people will be taking to the water at Plymouth’s historic Barbican. Other events are being organised by participants across the UK.
It’s hoped that £50,000 will be raised for MCS, to help protect our seas, shores and wildlife, at a crucial time with mounting pressure on our marine environment. MCS is set to announce the 2013 Good Beach Guide next week.
The charity works closely with schools in getting the blue message across to children at a young age. Since 2005, its Cool Seas Roadshow has reached 100,000 children, raising awareness about the beauty and importance of the marine environment.
In the last two years the charity has delivered 157 roadshow visits and distributed MCS Cool Seas Action Packs to 26,971 children across the UK. Almost 60 schools have also taken part in the ‘Bottle Champions’ initiative – collecting and recycling 207,020 bottles and sending  bottle tops to be recycled so they could receive a brand new kit made from recycled plastic bottles for one of their school sports teams.
Sue Ranger from the MCS said: “We believe young people should be offered the opportunity to get to know our seas, appreciate and value this amazing resource and gain first-hand experience of the role we can all play in safeguarding it.
“If this kind of learning about our seas and wider oceans were a key part of all children’s education, from a very young age, this would be likely to influence their life-long decision-making about resource use – and this could change the future.”
Ecover recently announced their continued support for the Blue Mile. They have just unveiled plans to launch a world-first in packaging in 2014 – an entirely new form of fully sustainable and recyclable plastic, incorporating post-consumer recyclables (PCR), Plantastic – plastic made from 100% sugarcane and plastic fished from the sea.
Ecover’s chief executive, Philip Malmberg said: “As manufacturers we’ve got to take responsibility for sustainability very seriously – to take real action on climate change and the damage done by our over-reliance on fossil fuels, creating ‘green’ products that deliver more than a nod to sustainability.”
Schools can sign up for the Ecover Schools Blue Mile event or register their own Schools Blue Mile events by visiting the website.

Are our public libraries being forgotten?

Are our public libraries being forgotten?  ‘Use them or lose them’ says new online library service

Despite reports of possible library closures, 60% of us are still not visiting our local libraries, according to research conducted by Bookmark Your Library, a new online service promoting the use of libraries in the UK, launched today.

The survey of 2000 people found that almost half of those surveyed said libraries aren’t needed as much as they were a decade ago due to technological advances with the internet, tablets and Kindles.

However, when asked how they would feel if their local library shut down, one in five admitted they would be very disappointed, and one in ten said it would be a loss to the local community.

Almost three quarters of us have been to our local library at some point in our lives, but on average the last time we visited our local library was 17 months ago. The biggest driving force to visit a library is being a parent, with 14% saying they last visited their library to encourage their child into reading and 8% went to help a child with a school project.

Elisabeth Robinson, from Bookmark Your Library, an online service launched today to promote the use of libraries and raise awareness of what they can offer, said: “Local libraries used to be the cornerstone of many British towns and cities, but despite libraries across the country offering a diverse range of services, these appear to be unknown to a large proportion of the country.”

“The problem lies with a lack of general knowledge on the services that they offer and how precious a resource they really are. With Bookmark Your Library, our goal is to help promote the services of libraries around the country – as they provide support to everyone.”

Only a third know that their local library offers reading groups; only 1 in 10 know they offer genealogy services; and 60% didn’t know they offer music rental, something which was introduced to the majority of public libraries years ago.

Elisabeth continued: “Our libraries are a national institution, free to use, and they are not just about books, there’s lots more available in terms of services such as ebooks, free access to computers and the internet for example. People tend to use libraries when they are young, when they have kids and when they get older. People shouldn’t forget they are there in the intervening years. Our message is simple; use them or lose them forever.”

If you aren’t already a member of you local library then you can use Bookmark Your Local Library to find your local library and join in.

For further information visit

Foster Care Fortnight

This year Foster Care Fortnight™, the UK’s biggest fostering campaign, will run from Monday 13 to Sunday 26 May.

With more and more children coming into care in need of a stable foster home, and with the numbers rising for a sixth year in a row, the Fostering Network is asking people to ‘Get in the frame’ this Foster Care Fortnight™ and consider becoming a foster carer. The need is greater than ever.

Figures published by the Fostering Network have shown that over 9,000 new foster families are needed in 2013 alone.

If more people don’t come forward to foster it will be even harder for fostering services to find the right homes for children, who will suffer even more disruption and trauma than they already have as a result.

Media coverage can really help to raise awareness, so if you want to cover the campaign the Fostering Network can provide news and exciting opportunities for real life story features. Plus expert comment pieces/editorial copy and case studies of foster carers and young people who have grown up in foster care. The Fostering Network can also provide spokespeople with national and regional expertise on a variety of issues involving foster care.

For more information email the Fostering Network media team via, call 020 7620 6425 or follow us on Twitter @fosteringnet

People who want to find out more about fostering should contact their local fostering service, call Fosterline on 0800 040 7675 or visit

Child Safety Week

You don’t need to be superhuman to be a safety hero for your child

Child Safety Week 24 to 30 June 2013

Q. What makes the biggest difference to preventing children suffering the pain and misery of serious injuries or death?

The little things parents and grandparents do day in day out.

The Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT) is celebrating the love and care that parents and grandparents throughout the country put into keeping children safer from serious accidents. CAPT is calling on parents and families this Child Safety Week to think of a few simple changes that they can make, like moving a hot drink out of reach or checking the safety gate on the stairs is shut, and see how quickly they become everyday habits that take no time at all.

The week involves events up and down the country run by children’s centres, playgroups, childminders, schools, health centres, fire and rescue services, road safety departments. There are activities for children and parents to get involved with, demonstrations from fire and rescue and police services, car seat checking, CAPT information about preventing accidents is handed out, all to remind parents of the many simple things they can do to keep their children free from serious accidents whilst still letting them have fun.

Commenting on the campaign Katrina Phillips, CAPT Chief Executive said: “We are often in awe of the enthusiasm and drive we see amongst parents and grandparents, and people working with children and families to keep children safe from serious accidents. That’s why this year we want Child Safety Week to celebrate the wonderful things that happen on a daily basis that often go unnoticed and without thanks.

“We are calling on parents, grandparents and anyone caring for children to think about simple changes they can make that make such an enormous difference to the children they care about.”

Making a splash for Charity

Young swimmers from throughout the country have helped raise £17,159 for a children’s charity.

Puddle Ducks, a children’s swimming company, raised the money by getting involved in Humphrey’s Pyjama Week, an annual fundraising initiative for The Children’s Trust.

On December 12, Tracy Townend and Jo Stone, co-founders of the company along with one of the swimming teachers, Natalie Archer, visited the Trust in Tadworth to see how the money was used.

The group learned about the different services provided by the Trust, including its brain injury rehabilitation as well as residential care for children with severe disabilities.

Tracy said of the visit: “Our first stop was an amazing therapy pool with lights and music. It was great to see that every child has the opportunity to swim in the therapy pool every week.

“Our biggest impression was just how homely, relaxed and happy The Children’s Trust is. It has a beautiful atmosphere and we felt very privileged to be shown around.”

Puddle Ducks Franchises throughout the country got involved in Humphrey’s Pyjama week which ran in October, with youngsters and swimming instructors taking part in Humphrey’s themed activities.

As well as dressing in their pyjamas, activities during swimming lessons included Pool Tea Parties and Diving for the Teacup.

Katie Roberts, head of community fundraising at the Trust said: “We were delighted to welcome some of the Puddle Ducks team to the Trust so that we could show them firsthand how the money raised by their franchises will be used. We’re thrilled at the response we had from them this year and are looking forward to working with them again next year.”

To find out where your nearest Puddle Ducks classes are visit:

Computer mediation can help combat bullying in schools

University of Kent research has demonstrated how computer mediation could help combat bullying in schools.

The six-month study, published by Computers in Human Behaviour (Science Direct), focussed on students aged 12-13 and their use of technology, including ‘avatars’ or computer-generated images of themselves, to resolve potential conflict at school.

Key findings include the revelation that students using software which incorporates the latest gesture and facial recognition technology feel more positive towards other students. Specifically, students using avatars like and trust their partner significantly more. They are also able to produce better ideas to alleviate bullying issues.

Prior to the study, avatar-mediated communication was believed to be less effective than video-mediated communication. However, newer technologies, which have developed avatars that respond to facial and gesture cues, can improve social interaction. Avatar technology is of particular interest for tackling bullying issues because of its ability to protect users’ anonymity.

The research team was led by Dr Jim Ang and Ania Bobrowicz from the University’s School of Engineering and Digital Arts. They worked in collaboration with Kent Integrated Youth Service and Project Salus, with students from Borden Grammar School (Sittingbourne), the Archbishop’s School (Canterbury) and St Anselm’s Roman Catholic School (Canterbury).

Dr Ang, Lecturer in Multimedia and Digital Systems, said: ‘Advances in avatar technology have great potential to transform the way we connect and empathise with each other using computers. And, as our research has shown, it’s an excellent platform to help young people, who are very comfortable with all forms of technology, to resolve conflict in schools.’

Ania Bobrowicz, Senior Lecturer in Digital Arts, added: ‘It was exciting to see the enthusiasm with which the students embraced our project. We are planning to take the findings from the project into the next stage to investigate the effectiveness of using avatar technology with pupils with social interaction and learning difficulties in mainstream education.’

‘Effects of gesture-based avatar-mediated communication on brainstorming and negotiation tasks among younger users’ (Chee Siang Ang, Ania Bobrowicz, Panote Siriaraya, Joshua Trickey, Kate Winspear) can be viewed at:


Chris Roffey, Head of Science at Ewell Castle School, has been concerned about the lack of good programming books for children for some time; this in an age when computers are so important to everyone’s daily lives. He therefore set about writing materials for Ewell Castle School’s lunch time Coding Club to fill this gap. Thanks to some lucky timing he has been able to turn these initial ideas into a series of books that are being produced by Cambridge University Press. The first book, Python Basics, is out now with the next two available in early 2013.

Children in this country use programs and apps on computers and their phones every day, but they often have no idea how they are made: our children are become consumers rather than creators of software. Unfortunately, most computer books, aimed at the novice, are difficult to use: they try to cover everything in a specific programming language; are full of jargon; are immensely long; and are not aimed at kids. They teach how to write code but not why certain decisions were made or how to design programs.

The first book is attractive, short, costs little more than a magazine and covers the basics of the Python programming language. Although Python was designed as a teaching language, it is used extensively in industry and is one of only three languages that Google Apps can be written in. Python Basics is one of a series of short books produced by Cambridge University Press that, it is hoped, will be a little like a reading scheme but for coding. Each book encourages readers to experience writing code while building small, fun applications. The readers are challenged to hack the code and make it do new things. The aim is that students learn how to code well and become great coders through practice rather than the impossible aim of learning to program in a week – as some books promise.

Chris is not the only one who thinks this way. Google chairman, Eric Schmidt has said that he thinks the UK has been throwing away its computing heritage. The Raspberry Pi foundation is selling £30 computers to encourage children to try programming. The books get a technical edit from Alex Bradbury, the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s lead Linux developer.

Chris Roffey said:
“I was lucky to have been in the right place at the right time. What initially started as part of the lunchtime coding club at Ewell Castle has grown into a much bigger project. I realised that I had the same aims as the Raspberry Pi team at Cambridge University and they have been extremely helpful. I met with Cambridge University Press at last January’s BETT conference just minutes after Mr Gove made his keynote speech disbanding the current ICT National Curriculum.

Too many of the computer books available today end up as door stops! I sincerely hope that these books will provide a better way of learning to code that will suit many 10-14 year olds.”

Python Basics is currently available from Amazon at £6.95

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