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Close your eyes and breathe: schools sign up to mindfulness

The Guardian – Rob Walker

“It’s Wednesday morning and the children from year 5 at St John the Baptist primary school in Brighton are chatting noisily at their desks. A bell chimes and the chatter stops. Thirty children close their eyes and place a hand across their chest, breathing in and out slowly. It’s as if they’ve been hypnotised. “If your mind wanders away, let’s notice where it goes,” says Kerstin Andlaw, in a soothing voice. “Then bring your attention back to your breathing.” The pupils are practising mindfulness, a way of making them stop, relax and “be”. Classes like this used to be the preserve of independent schools, but this year more state than private schools have signed up to mindfulness classes, both at secondary and primary level. According to the Mindfulness in Schools Project, there are 1,350 teachers being trained in the technique this year, double the number taught last year and up from 90 in 2011. Nationally, more than 4,000 teachers are now qualified.”(more)

The truth about boys and books: they read less – and skip pages

The Guardian – Daniel Boffey

“Boys might claim it’s a simple matter of preferring to read magazines or the latest musings of their friends on social media rather than the classics. But two of the largest studies ever conducted into the reading habits of children in the UK have put those excuses to bed. Boys, of every age, no matter the nature of the literature before them, typically read less thoroughly than girls. They take less time to process the words, lazily skipping parts with abandon. And they choose books that are too easy for them, meaning they fail to move on to tougher material, it is claimed.”(more)

Multilingualism: Speaking the language of diversity

Al Jazeera – Khaled Diab

“As the United Kingdom heads for the EU exit, a recent survey bestowed upon Britons the unenviable distinction of being the worst at foreign languages in Europe. Although this survey is based on perceptions and is, hence, subjective, it does confirm an enormous and damning body of previous research. Despite the UK being one of the most multicultural societies in Europe, three-fifths of people in Britain cannot speak a foreign language, according to a Europe-wide survey. In the rest of Europe, more than half the citizens speak at least one foreign language. This dire picture is backed up by anecdotal evidence. When growing up in the UK, I was often regarded as a curiosity, and sometimes even a marvel, for being able to be speak Arabic fluently. In later life, I have noticed how Britons and Americans, with the exception of an impressively polyglottic minority, usually have the greatest difficulty of any nationality I know in acquiring another language, no matter how desperately they want to.”(more)

The unfortunate demise of language learning

Varsity – Charlie Stone

“For over a decade, the number of pupils taking foreign languages for A level and beyond has been diminishing rapidly. This is, in part, the government’s fault: around a decade ago, foreign languages were removed from the core curriculum, taking away many 14-year-olds’ motivation and impetus to speak another language. However, the falling popularity of languages is perhaps down to something more serious: a deep-rooted way of thinking; an arrogance even, that English speakers have no need to learn another tongue because their own is by far the most important.”(more)

Swiping on tablets is harming children’s ability to write – parents must limit time on gadgets

The Telegraph – Shirley Shayler

“Small children have always loved buttons they can press and knobs they can twiddle, so it’s no surprise that they’ve taken to playing on tablets as quickly as ducks take to water. All to the good, you might say, but I would urge parents to be vigilant in ensuring that high-tech gadgets don’t entirely supersede traditional and much loved pre-school activities such as drawing, painting and cutting out. Far from being a sentimental plea, my appeal stems from a serious concern that today’s children are less dexterous when they start school, with poorer fine motor skills than was the case a decade ago, which is a drawback for their learning of handwriting.”(more)

Pressure to look perfect hits girls’ confidence, say Guides

BBC – Judith Burns

“Girls in the UK are markedly less confident about their looks than they were five years ago, research by Girlguiding suggests. Just 61% of 1,627 seven- to 21-year-old girls polled for the 2016 Girls’ Attitudes Survey felt happy about their bodies, down from 73% in 2011. Girls as young as seven face “intense and unobtainable appearance pressures to be perfect”, say the authors. Girlguiding director Becky Hewitt called the impact “shocking”. “Girls have told us to stop judging them on how they look,” she said. “Every day in guiding, girls inspire us with their bravery, sense of adventure and their kindness. “We are calling on everyone to show girls that they are valued for who they are – not what they look like,” said Ms Hewitt. The report says body image is an issue which surrounds girls every day – in the media, via social media and in other people’s attitudes.”(more)