Graduates are not the Solution

The Nuffield Foundation’s research recently found that the attainment gap between deprived and privileged children is exacerbated by private and voluntary nurseries in deprived areas, which are of lower quality than those in privileged areas. The gap is widest in language skills. As children who live in deprived areas are less likely to obtain  as much early years education at home, this means that those who are most in need of good quality education at nursery are less likely to receive it, leaving them at a double disadvantage, the researchers have discovered.

The assertion from the Nuffield Solution was that this problem is due to a lack of graduates in these nurseries. Whereas half of all school classes are led by graduate-qualified teachers, less than half of private and voluntary nurseries employ one and only 8 percent employ more than one. The team of researchers, led by Sandra Mathers, came to the conclusion that private and voluntary nurseries should hire more graduates in order to ensure children are receiving better levels of early years education, which should help to lessen attainment gaps.

However, this is not a comprehensive solution to this complex problem. While nurseries are to receive additional funding from the Government this year, it is unfair to pressure them to use valuable funds on graduate salaries when they are often struggling as it is, particularly in deprived areas. This additional funding is likely to be needed for other things.

Furthermore, the simple addition of one or two graduates to a nursery is unlikely to be enough to improve the early years education. What would be far more effective is to ensure that every member of staff receives a degree of training to ensure they are able to offer high quality early years education to children, in order to improve their literacy and numeracy skills. It would be far more worthwhile attempting this, for every member of staff feeling qualified to teach children would be much better than leaving it to one or two.

While I am concerned about the attainment gap and the problems of education in nurseries, I do not believe pressurising nurseries to use their funds for one or two graduates is necessarily the answer. They should be encouraged, instead, to ensure that all their staff feel capable and qualified to provide good quality education to children.

-Claire Flynn

-Image courtesy of Simone Ramella (https://www.flickr.com/photos/ramella/)

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Children’s Stories Need a Little Darkness

In recent years many theories have been offered to explain the increasing gap in literacy skills between girls and boys. One of the more interesting ones is that, as time has gone on, children’s books have become more and more cautious about being child- friendly. In other words the scary bits are being eliminated and boys are less attracted to reading as a result. I firmly believe that children’s stories need a little darkness, not just to encourage boys to read, but girls also, and to teach our children some important life lessons.

When I was a child I was terrorised by the idea of Little Rabbit Foo Foo being turned into a goonie. I tried to avoid being forced to bathe for a month after reading Roald Dahl’s The Witches. Even the family-friendly chant We’re Going on a Bear Hunt culminates in the family running for their lives after their search turns out to be successful.

The darker elements of these books scared me… but they also enticed me. I begged my parents to read me my favourite twisted tales. As I got older I would read well past my bedtime, unable to put books down, especially at the scary parts.

Books are there to entertain, but also, most of the time, to translate real life lessons to children. Little Rabbit Foo Foo taught me from not to be mean to others because it would come back to you. The Witches taught me not to trust strangers and We’re Going on a Bear Hunt taught me to… er… not hunt bears? You get the point.

By forcing sugar, spice and all things nice down the throats of children, we may not only be diminishing their interest in books, particularly boys, but also neglecting to teach them some pretty important lessons through fantasy that they will inevitably come across in reality. When they do they will not be cushioned by the stories they were told as a child.

Stories don’t just teach us that evil exists but that it can be defeated. Without that lesson, the ‘badness’ we are attempting to protect our children from may become undefeatable.

-Claire Flynn

-Image courtesy of Manchester City Library (https://www.flickr.com/photos/manchesterlibrary/)

Dads, Please Read to Your Kids

I have just finished a degree at the University of Glasgow in History and Politics. I am an aspiring journalist, having just finished my time as editor-in-chief of a student magazine. I also recently completed an internship for a company that develops literacy programmes for nurseries.

If you haven’t already guessed my passion in life is reading and writing. I still regard this passion of mine as being down to my dad. One day he arrived home from a business trip with a book entitled ‘When I Was Little’, and at bedtime he read it to me. He did this every night for a few weeks, but with subtle changes. He got me to read it with him, we spelt the words and even acted out the story in my room. It wasn’t long before I was able to read it myself but I was having so much fun I decided to pretend I still couldn’t read, so that our bedtime story sessions would continue. He clocked me pretty quickly (subtlety isn’t a particularly common trait in three-year-olds) and our formal reading lessons were over.

However, when one door closes another opens so we began to read as a family, with my sisters and I viewing every new story as an adventure, making obstacle courses in our hallway, pretending to be princesses, witches and explorers with our beds invariably acting as castles, caves or temples. Every new book given to us brought new settings, characters and words to devour.

In my time researching for my recent internship, however, I have discovered the heart-breaking fact that, as time goes on, it seems fathers are less and less interested in reading to their children. Book Trust’s national survey last year showed that only 19 percent of 19 to 24-year-olds enjoyed reading to their children compared to 78 percent of over-55s. It seems that the notion of dads reading to their kids is fast falling out of fashion. Despite the overall increase in men taking part in child-related activities, mothers are still more likely to engage in reading and writing with their children.

In recent years it has also become increasingly apparent that early years education is vital for a child’s skills in the future, and, as well as nurseries and childcare centres, both parents are an integral part of that. Furthermore, studies have shown that children can benefit specifically from a male role model when it comes to reading and writing. Boys, in particular, are more likely to be interested in reading if their dads are. With the gender gap still persisting in literacy skills, and an increasing lack of interest in reading and writing generally, it is becoming more important for fathers to make the effort to read to their kids.

It should not, however, just be seen as a chore or something you must do in order to ensure your child is better at school or more employable in the future. It should be seen as the chance to open doors into untold realms containing heroes and villains, great battles and beautiful balls. It should be the chance to watch what happens when you light the fire of a child’s imagination. It should be the chance to get to know your son or daughter.

So next bedtime, enlist the help of Julia Donaldson, Dr. Seuss, Roald Dahl or any other of the many brilliant children’s authors, to go on a journey with your child to unknown kingdoms. They are adventures they will remember forever- trust me on that one.

-Claire Flynn

-Image courtesy of H is for Home (https://www.flickr.com/photos/h_is_for_home/)

An Unlucky Day for the GUHC

The Glasgow University Hockey Club were hoping for a day of dreams on the 5th of March when three out of the seven teams took to the mighty fortress of Garscube to play in important BUCS matches. However, that was not to be, as each team, unfortunately, walked away suffering a loss.

The GUWHC 2nd XI were the first to take to the pitch against the Edinburgh 3s. It was the semi-final of the BUCS Conference Cup meaning both teams came out fighting from the start. Edinburgh took the lead but Julia McGovern of Glasgow quickly scored an equaliser. However, Edinburgh managed another goal, which, despite their best efforts, the Glasgow girls were not able to match meaning the final score was 2-1 to Edinburgh.

The GUWHC 4th XI were the next to take to the pitch in the BUCS Conference Plate semi-final. The girls were entered the match with some confidence due to their high number of victories this year. However, the St. Andrews 3rd XI proved to be a formidable opponent. While this match again proved to be fairly even, St. Andrews clung to their lead in the final minutes of the game resulting in a 3-2 victory.

The GUMHC 1st XI were the last to play on the day in the BUCS Conference semi final. The was the most intense game of the day as it was against local rivals, the Strathclyde 1st XI. Again, it was a close and evenly paced match that saw the whistle blow with the two sides drawing at 3 goals to 3. In the end it went to penalty flicks, which Glasgow narrowly lost to their opponents on.

While the scores may have been disappointing for the GUHC on the day, the high standard of hockey, hard-work and dedication of the players is something to be proud of. There was also an incredible number of black and yellow supporters cheering from the sideline. While the teams may have not progressed further in their competitions, they still proved themselves as one of the most successful sports clubs on campus.

-Claire Flynn

Can You Make It?

I loved going travelling a couple of years back. Setting off to South East Asia with my uni pals made me feel independent, cultured and experienced- I have still not stopped talking about it. The only thing we had pre-booked was our flight to Bangkok and from then we were free to go as we pleased, crashing wherever we could and doing whatever we wanted.

However, in classic Gap Yah fashion, my seven weeks of travelling were cushioned by the knowledge that I had a bank card in my back pocket with wealthy parents that could transfer money at a moment’s notice. And with a smartphone in the other pocket I was in constant touch with my, rather overprotective, mummy and daddy. In seven weeks I didn’t go longer than two days without being in touch with one of them via text or email.

Red Bull, the caffeinated hyper drink that can give you wings, is offering people the chance for an adrenaline funded travelling experience, asking teams to see how far they can get across Europe using only the cans of sugary goodness as currency. Not only a clever marketing strategy, this ‘Can You Make It?’ competition offers people a true character-building holiday.

Red Bull don’t just limit it to no money, however. The code of honour forbids personal mobile phones and pre-arranged travel, forcing participants in the competition to use their powers of persuasion to get from place to place.

In a world where we rely on mobile phones and bank cards to live, it seems that this task is near impossible. Who would accept a can of red bull in exchange for a train ticket?

These kind of stunts scare the shit outta me. I get freaked out trying to fly down to London on my own. My seven weeks in Asia were hard enough even when I was armed with my Blackberry and bank card. However, there is something so tempting in this offer from Red Bull because it seems so difficult. The teams that are able to complete such a difficult journey would come out of the end mature, strengthened and with tons of cool stories to tell.

So each participating team travels across Europe using only cans of Red Bull for currency. Teams visit checkpoints, share photos and videos, via a prescribed team phone, and rally support from followers at home. The finish line is in Berlin- the teams that complete the adventure on time will be greeted with the party of a lifetime. The deadline for applications is Wednesday the 12th of March so what are you waiting for? If you think you can make it, then get involved. All the details can be found here: http://www.redbullcanyoumakeit.com/.

-Claire Flynn

-Image courtesy of Sterling Ely (https://www.flickr.com/photos/sterlingely/)

Student Elections at Glasgow University

I remember this time last year very well- the beginning of my fight for Libraries Convener. I was starting my daily (private) routine of crying hysterically in my room whilst punching my pillow at the same time. In public, however, I was all smiles. I soon had people spamming my manifesto and slogans across FaceBook and Twitter, alike. I even put a video of me dressed as Hagrid on YouTube in the hope of winning over a few extra people.

The year before last I was gearing up to help no less than five of my friends campaign to get their chosen position. The stress over whose profile picture I was going to use was intense. I eventually wound up swapping between my friends. On the actual days of the campaign I was out till the end, cold and miserable, flyering and chucking sweets at people just wanting to get to class. Everyone hated me.

In my first year, I was naive, sweet and innocent, with no idea of the kind of social media and campus frenzy student elections caused. I was still minding my own business and heading to class when the first pack of Haribo hit me in the face.

My point it this: whether you are going to be one of the innocent, unaware passer-bys on the day of elections, you will be throwing yourself right into the action by campaigning for one or numerous friends or you will be daring to run for a position yourself the upcoming student elections will affect you in some way. So let me give you the basics of the student bodies and their elections:

The Student Representative Council (SRC)

If you are a student at the University of Glasgow (which I’m assuming all of you reading this are) then you can vote in these elections, and you should. These guys represent the student body to the University and also help cater to many student interests and needs. With the dark days of Chizzy and Stuart Ritchie now past them the SRC have grown from strength to strength in recent years. This year the council, and particularly the sabbatical positions, prove to be hotly contested. And did I mention you can vote online? You don’t even need to leave your bed to have your say.

Glasgow University Sports Association (GUSA)

All gym members are eligible to vote in this one. These are the guys that represent student sporting interests to the SRS and do their best to ensure Glasgow University students have the best sporting opportunities possible. Last year positions on council were highly contested, with 7 out of the 12 positions opposed. Will this year be the same? There is already rumoured to be a presidential battle on the cards, automatically making it an interesting year for GUSA elections.

Queen Margaret Union (QMU)

Over the hill at the other Union, the QMU elections will take place. You must be a member of the QMU to vote in the elections. Pissed off about the name change of Cheesy Pop? Vote in someone that will change it back. Last year’s election was a mixed success for the QMU. Although many of the higher up positions were contested, there were some positions left unfilled and the voter turnout was rather disappointing compared to the other student bodies. What will this year have in store for the Queen Margaret Union?

Glasgow University Union

And lastly we have GUU’s Board of Management. You have to be a GUU member to vote in these elections. The Board run all the major events, deals and promotions at the Union so if you are a member you need to make your vote count. The difficult year behind the Union will doubtfully get better over the next so it is critical that a hard-working and innovative Board of Management is elected. Last year GUU elections were largely uncontested with only the PSM positions and Libraries Convener (just my luck) opposed but what will this year bring?

So read manifestos and make your vote count- it is likely one or more of these student bodies will matter a lot to you and your uni lifestyle. If you are a campaigner, try not to feel guilty about harassing people- you are doing it to help friends and ensure student involvement with elections. Lastly, good luck to those choosing to run for a position. As stressful and emotional the next month will be- it is all worth it in the end.*

*Please note that this is from a winner’s perspective. I have no idea how it feels to lose but I imagine it may not feel as worth the tears, money and time spent on campaigning.

-Claire Flynn

-Image courtesy of Chris Kueh (https://www.flickr.com/photos/chriskueh/)

My First Time… At the Ballet

I am not a regular attendee of ballets. It’s not really my scene- you are far more likely to find me jumping around a sweaty gig in King Tuts or cosied up in the back of the Grosvenor cinema watching the latest movie blockbuster. But the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival gave me the chance this October to witness Barrowland Ballet’s Tiger; a breathtaking and raw emotional rollercoaster of a performance.

As I entered the Tramway theatre, with its dark, cool interior, and saw the wire cage in the centre of the room, I knew this would not be your typical ballet with tutus and leotards galore. A twist on the famous tale The Tiger Who Came to Tea, it focuses on an orderly family stuck in routine and, as a result, each member feeling isolated and alone. The mother, father and daughter dance the same routine inside their cage illustrating their entrapment in their unhappy lives. With few words spoken throughout the performance, it is through the dancing that the story is told with the help of the live music played throughout. The issue of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is dealt with expertly in the tale, with it being evident that the mother suffers from it, dragging the family ever further into the depths of routine, unhappiness and loneliness.

When the unhappiness becomes so great that the father leaves, it is only the beginning of the story. The actor returns in the form of a tiger breaking into the lives of the mother and daughter and causing havoc. At first this upsets the mother greatly whilst entertaining the daughter, but soon the fun and unpredictable tiger brings happiness to them both making it clear to the audience that sometimes all life needs is an addition of colour.

This story is heart-breaking, enlightening and incredibly happy all at the same time. The performers unleash their emotions with their dancing, drawing in the audience for the full performance. Unusual and rather experimental, Tiger is a fantastic show and I would certainly recommend it.

So have I been transformed into a ballet lover yet? I’m not entirely sure but I can say that I will definitely keep an eye out for future Barrowland Ballet performances.

-Claire Flynn

-Image courtesy of Secretaría de Cultura Ciudad de México (https://www.flickr.com/photos/culturacdmx/)

Flight

Everyone loves a bit of Denzel Washington… I have tried to find a fault with him over the years and I just can’t. He is simply brilliant.

And no less so in his latest feature Flight, in which he plays William “Whip” Whitaker, a pilot who manages to, against the odds, land his crashing plane to avoid many casualties and becomes an automatic, old-fashioned, American hero.

However, he is also an alcoholic, cocaine user and generally messed up guy, having little contact with his former wife and son, who have both given up on him. The crash forces him to face up to his shortcomings as it is revealed that he had a high level of alcohol and cocaine in his system on  the day of the flight, leading to potential charges of manslaughter and jail time. As he fights with lawyers and co-workers to prevent being sent to prison his dependency on alcohol and drugs become more and more apparent.

Despite the film being overly long and arguably anti-climactic at the end, it is still a good watch. Both the writing and Denzel’s acting abilities manage to draw you further and further into a poor man’s fight- not against the authorities- but against the damage he does to himself. Managing to touch on religious influences and other American societal issues as well, the director, Robert Zemeckis, is able to keep the viewer engaged throughout.

So what are you waiting for? Go and get your Denzel fix for the week.

-Claire Flynn

– Image courtesy of Pam Morris (https://www.flickr.com/photos/35528040@N04/)

Don’t Let Exams Get You Down

It’s that time of year… coursework has been finished and handed in, the Easter Holidays are about to start and summer is only just around the corner. So everything’s great… right?

Wrong.

For students across the country this is probably the worst time of year for one reason and one reason only. Exams. Silly, stupid, stressful exams.

Yep that’s right exams are looming right behind the end of the Easter holidays for many of us here at Glasgow University. If you’re not already it won’t be long before you’re tearing your hair out or crying in frustration because you can’t find that set of notes that have suddenly become vital in your revision and without them you will, most definitely, fail everything.

The tears, the rants, the screams and even the panic attacks- I have experienced them all, from myself or from my friends. I understand the pain of exam stress.

The thing is we all laugh and joke about them, about how little we know and how we’ve done no revision and how we are completely and utterly screwed, maybe hoping that our smiles will hide the fact that we are freaking out on the inside.

Maybe you aren’t like that; maybe you are chilled out and confident about the upcoming assessments. However, I know, from personal experience, that this isn’t often the case.

Exam stress has become a far more serious and noticed issue in the last few years. The pressure students are under, either from themselves or from others has only increased if anything, making the weight of exam time all the heavier. It’s fine to joke but when students stress themselves out to the point of depression or panic attacks or worse, then things get a little less laughable.

So what’s the point in me getting all serious about this? After all you don’t need anything more to bring you down at this time of year and exam stress is an inevitable part of student life.

But we should all be aware of the potential detriments. Student Beans found in a survey of 1000 students that it affects a fair few even enough affect their health. They discovered that 92% of students said they felt worried during exam time whilst one fifth revealed they had suffered anxiety attacks before their exams as a result of the stress. Furthermore 61% cited lack of sleep or insomnia as a result of their worry, 51% claimed to suffer from headaches and migraines and 47% admitted turning to food to relieve their stress (53% obviously lied about that one).

There are even those that begin to suffer from depression as a result of the intensity of the exam period.

So, as we all knew, exams are not fun and games, in fact they are seriously stressful and can affect a student’s health and mental well-being.

So as hard as it is don’t let exams get you down. Do your best not to cry, scream or have a panic attack, either before the exam or during it, and having to be led out of the exam hall (that actually happened to a friend of mine last year). Get through them and I’ll see you for a drink on the other side.

-Claire Flynn

-Image courtesy of Xavi (https://www.flickr.com/photos/18614695@N00/)

Senior Men’s Basketball Scottish Cup Final

The Basketball Scottish Cup culminated in the Glasgow University boys taking on the City of Edinburgh Kings in an intense and heated match. Glasgow University made the short journey to Paisley with buses full of supporters following to cheer the black and yellows to victory. However, despite a strong start from Glasgow, it was the Kings who managed to ensure a cup final win ending the game on 81 points to 62.

The game launched with both sides fighting desperately to take the lead first. It was Glasgow captain Calum Nicol who took drew first blood scoring two points. From then he dominated the beginning of the quarter taking another six points in the next few minutes. But Edinburgh were pushing their offence through the Glasgow defence and gaining baskets keeping the quarter close. However, Glasgow remained the stronger side. The Kings, despite playing hard, were unable to push themselves into the lead with the first quarter ending on 21-17 to Glasgow.

However, the next quarter saw the Kings beginning to dominate more as they continually broke through the Glasgow defence. Although the beginning of the quarter saw Glasgow stretching their lead up to eight points, Edinburgh quickly came back taking advantage of the weakening opposition’s defence. Glasgow began to lose their cool fouling the Kings’ players, allowing them to extend their lead further with free throws. Despite the screams of support from the side and some ferocious banner waving, Glasgow were unable to keep up with the Edinburgh new found energy and skill leaving the second quarter at 42-30 to the Kings.

After half time, Edinburgh continued their winning streak, powering down the Glasgow defence to score a series of baskets taking them further in the lead. Despite Glasgow’s best efforts they were unable to prevent the Kings players breaking through their defence. The third quarter ended with Edinburgh storming ahead on 61 -41.

The final quarter saw Glasgow University come out fighting and playing hard, making for a very intense ending. A series of three pointers from numerous players saw the point gap beginning to close, signifying some hope for Glasgow fans. However, Edinburgh fought back hard to maintain their lead and so the game finished with the Edinburgh kings on 81 points and Glasgow University on 61 points.

After the game, captain of the Glasgow University squad, Calum Nicoll commented: ‘I’m very proud of our team for reaching a cup final. The team has developed a lot since entering into the national league, especially with players coming and going year to year. We have become a contender in the league and we will hopefully keep growing and win competitions in the near future. Being captain for such a great team is such a good feeling. Each player brings something unique that helps us develop into a better squad. As for the game we went out with the mentality that we could win. With the current form we have and the excellent crowd behind us it felt possible to beat a team that we had never beaten. After a strong first quarter, we felt like our dreams were coming true but Kings are a formidable opponent, any mistake you make, they will capitalise on fast. Edinburgh took the lead before the half and our team fought for the rest of the game. I’m proud to be part of a team that have achieved what we have. Even though we didn’t win we have a lot to feel proud about.’

So unfortunately dreams did not come true for the Glasgow side this year, losing out again to Edinburgh. But who knows, maybe some time in the near future they will finally knock the Kings from their thrones.