Friday, November 23, 2012

Whaaat?  British schools 'to offer new qualification in body image'

What about a qualification in brushing your hair or washing your dick? Hair and dicks are important

Children will be given the chance to gain a secondary school qualification in "body image" under new plans, it emerged today.

Examiners have drawn up proposals for a new course focusing on issues such as positive and negative portrayals of bodies in the media and ways of "building confidence and self-esteem" among young people.

The qualification - for secondary school pupils aged 11 to 14 - will also cover healthy eating and how to keep physically fit.

The plans - backed by Olympic weightlifter Zoe Smith - are being led by an examination board set up by the YMCA in the late 90s to specialise in qualifications focusing on health and fitness.

It comes amid concerns that children are being left with eating disorders and other psychological conditions because of anxiety over their appearance.

Earlier this year, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on body image said that one-in-five people had been victimised over their weight, adding that physical appearance was now the number one reason for being bullied at school.

The new qualification could be accredited for teaching in schools - and other organisations such as youth clubs - from next September.

But the plans were criticised today by the former Schools Minister who insisted that teachers should use curriculum time to tackle academic subjects rather than social issues.

Nick Gibb, the Conservative MP for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton, who spent more than two years in the Department for Education, said: "We do have a proliferation of this type of qualification and I would be disappointed if schools devoted curriculum time to it.  "It is important that children understand healthy eating and exercise, but one way to cover that is to make sure schools are delivering an interesting academic curriculum that covers a range of subjects."

But Miss Smith, who has been the subject of offensive comments on Twitter for her muscular physique, said the qualification "should help young people gain a better understanding of their body image and that exercise is for everyone, no matter what your body shape or size".

Central YMCA Qualifications - the charity's exam board - has submitted outline plans to Ofqual to have the new course formally accredited. It would pave the way to offering it in state secondary schools.

The course is a Level 1 qualification and will take eight-to-10 hours' teaching and working time. But the CYQ insisted it was not intended to be equivalent to GCSEs and was seen as being "in addition to" mainstream qualifications.

Under plans, it will be split into two sections: understanding body image and exploring active leisure pursuits and healthy eating.  The first part covers issues such as positive and negative portrayal of bodies in the media, factors affecting self-esteem and ways of building confidence. The second includes an understanding of physical fitness, the principals of training, identifying the main food groups and planning and preparing a healthy meal.

Pupils are assessed through a series of tasks, including completing workbooks, producing a website article, creating a pamphlet and making a healthy packed lunch.

Caroline Nokes, chairwoman of the APPG on body image said: "We currently have a problem getting young people more active, and having a healthy relationship with food.  "Poor body image is part of the problem - if you don't value your body, then why would you look after it. Initiatives such as this which support holistic health and young people should be welcomed."


Reading test for infants 'significantly skewed' by teachers

A new reading test for six-year-olds is being effectively manipulated by teachers to make sure pupils pass, the exams regulator has warned.  Teachers "significantly skewed" results in the assessment this year to push the maximum number of children over the target threshold, it was claimed.

In a damning report, Ofqual said schools had been "influenced" by prior knowledge of the pass score needed to mark pupils out as good readers.   It suggests that the validity of the test - taken for the first time this year - may have been undermined.

This comes despite the fact that the results of the check are not being used to rank or measure standards at individual schools.

As part of the assessment, pupils are supposed to accurately "decode" a list of 40 words using phonics - the back-to-basics method of reading in which words are broken down into constituent parts.

The list includes a number of made-up words such as "voo", "terg", "bim", "thazz" and "spron" to ensure pupils are properly employing the phonics system.   It is intended to mark out pupils struggling the most after a year of compulsory education - allowing teachers to target them with extra help.

This year, pupils gaining 32 marks were deemed to have decent reading skills.

But in a report, Ofqual warned that prior knowledge of the threshold score led to manipulation of the results, with teachers effectively edging pupils over the pass mark.

Some 8,819 pupils gained 31 marks but 43,283 achieved 32 - the exact number needed to cross the threshold.

"The distribution of scores awarded by teachers is significantly skewed and appears to have been strongly influenced by this knowledge," Ofqual said. "For example, almost five times as many pupils attained 32 marks (the threshold) as attained 31 marks."

A spokesman for the Department for Education insisted the phonics check was helping teachers identify pupils who needed extra help, with 235,000 found to be below the expected standard this year.   But he added: "Ministers have been clear the phonics check will not be used to judge schools - it has been introduced to help every child become a strong reader.  "We expect teachers to take professional responsibility for the accurate marking of the test so that the right children can be helped."


Poor white boys 'lagging behind classmates at age five'

This is just the old, old correlation between social class and IQ.  It's not going away any time soon.  Girls do a little better because they mature earlier

White working-class boys are lagging dramatically behind other children at the age of five amid growing fears over poor parenting skills in the most deprived communities, it emerged today.   Official figures show that just over a third of white boys from the most disadvantaged families are developing properly in the early years.

Data from the Department for Education shows they are less likely to be able to read, communicate, use basic numeracy and show the necessary physical and social awareness as children from other groups.

It emerged that more white boys eligible for free school meals actually hit Government targets for early development this summer compared with 2011.  But figures show the gap between these pupils and the national average widened in the last 12 months following an improvement in standards across-the-board.

It will raise concerns that tens of thousands of disadvantaged white boys are not ready for school at the age of five, with fears that many will fail to catch up throughout compulsory education.

The disclosure comes after Ofsted launched a major inquiry earlier this year into the gulf in standards between rich and poor pupils in the English education system.

Launching the report, Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector, said one of its principal objectives would be tackle an "anti-school culture" among white working-class families.  He warned that thousands of poor children - particularly boys - were growing up with little hope of a good education or career after being raised by families that fail to set proper boundaries or fully understand the difference between right and wrong.

Today, a DfE spokesman said the the achievement gap between rich and poor children, and between boys and girls, had been "too big for too long".   "We are determined to give children from poor families the chance of a better start in life, which is why we will give 15 hours a week free early education to 260,000 of the poorest two-year-olds," he said.

"We must also ensure staff have the skills and qualifications they need to give every child a high quality early education. That is why we commissioned a review of early years qualifications and we will be responding in due course.  "By improving the quality of staff and raising the status of the profession, we will give parents greater confidence in the education their children are receiving."

The latest data was based on children's performance at the end of the Early Years Foundation Stage - a compulsory "nappy curriculum" for under-fives which must be followed by all nurseries, pre-schools and childminders in England.

Children's development is tracked in six areas - per sonal and social development, communication and language, problem solving and numeracy, understanding of the world, physical development and creativity.   Nationally, 64 per cent of pupils achieved a "good level of development" at the age of five this summer, meaning they can dress independently, count to 10, write their own name and other basic words and sing simple songs from memory.

But the data shows a significant gender gap, with 73 per cent of girls hitting the target compared with just 55 per cent of boys. The 18 percentage point gap was the same as 2011.

Among white boys eligible for free school meals, the proportion dropped to just 36 per cent. It represented a 28 percentage point gap compared with the national average - one point up on the gulf recorded in 2011.  By comparison, 56 per cent of poor white girls achieved the level this year.

Poor boys from other ethnic groups performed better, it emerged, with numbers rising to 50 per cent among Indian children, 42 per cent among Pakistani children and 44 per cent among black Caribbeans and 48 per cent among children from black African families.


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