The Children’s Commissioner and other charities have called for England to follow Scotland’s lead in banning smacking.
Last week Scotland became the first country in the UK to criminalise smacking, bringing in new legislation which will see parents face criminal charges if found guilty of the offence. It joins 57 countries worldwide where the physical punishment of children is illegal.
The Children’s Commissioner for England, together with charities such as the NSPCC and the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children believe that it is now time for the rest of the UK to follow Scotland’s lead.
Currently, in England and Northern Ireland, parents are allowed to use ‘reasonable chastisement’ to discipline their children. However, in Ireland, smacking was banned four years ago.
Chief executive of the NSPCC, Peter Wanless, said: “We have long campaigned for this decision, which brings Scotland into line with dozens of other countries around the world.
“Yet this momentous vote creates a disparity in child protection across the UK. We now urge the governments of the other nations to do the fair and sensible thing and bring about the same changes for children living elsewhere in the UK.”
Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, said: “The current legislation in England is outdated. The Government should make time to update the law, so it reflects what most parents believe – that hitting children is wrong and there are better and more effective ways of disciplining children and encouraging positive behaviour.”
Be Reasonable Scotland, a campaign which supports parents’ choices on how to discipline their child, said: “The existing law protects children. It outlaws violence and abuse. The reasonable chastisement defence simply allows parents to use an occasional tap on the hand or smack on the bottom.
“If it is removed then, by definition, reasonable behaviour will be criminalised. Parents will be at risk of police investigation, prosecution, conviction – for giving their toddler a mild smack.”
Following a backlash from the local community, a nursery has been forced to return a counter-extremism grant from the Government.
The Stoke-on-Trent nursery had been awarded a grant from the Home Office’s ‘Building a Stronger Britain Together’ (BSBT) scheme. BSBT aims to support organisations to stand up to extremism and create more resilient communities. However, the nursery announced that it would return the funding and withdraw from the project “with immediate effect”.
A report by the think-tank Civitas, due to be published next week, examines the intimidation faced by Muslims who participate in such projects as BSBT. It contains testimonies about threats people have faced taking part in counter-extremism work.
One person who worked at the nursery revealed how he had to install police alarms in his home due to the threats he faced and how he feared for the safety of his family.
The nursery said on its Facebook page that it had “received some funding to develop projects in order to challenge the far-right political parties and thinkers in Stoke-on-Trent”.
Defending the funding it received for the project, the nursery said: “As many of you will be aware, in recent years, we have had a very strong BNP council. An ex-BNP councillor is the Deputy Lord Mayor.
“This city is a place where women have had their hijabs pulled off, nikabs yanked, and intolerable verbal abuse aimed at Muslims, including towards members of staff. Therefore we felt that this project was needed in this city.”
However, after coming under what was described as a “co-ordinated campaign of abuse”, the nursery decided to return the funds to the Home Office.
The report from Civitas says: “On the ground, British Muslims working with authorities or receiving funding for their work on counter-extremism are often subjected to immense and intense pressure.
“The resource deficit for tiny organisations working on integration and counter-extremism programs, compared to organisations tied to Islamist movements…is dreadfully obvious when these campaigns are underway.”
A spokesperson from the Home Office said:“We are proud of the valuable work that organisations and individuals across the country are doing to counter extremism in all its forms and, separately, support people through Prevent. We understand the challenges that individuals and organisations face in delivering this work.
“The welfare of people who work in this space is of the utmost importance to government and we will not tolerate anybody harassing or threatening an individual or group. We ensure there are robust safeguarding measures in place and offer personal support to anyone who is being targeted.”
BSBT have so far supported 233 groups across England and Wales to challenge extremism in their community.
A mobile nursery based in a double-decker bus will launch next year, with the aim of supporting parents working in the performing arts.
The idea for the bus was generated by businessman Mark Radcliffe and actress Charlotte Riley to help parents and carers working in the film and television sector.
Radcliffe said he could see the nursery being based at a central location in London, with performers and theatre employees working across a number of shows jointly using the facility.
The mobile setting, called WonderWorks, is described as a “fully equipped and professionally run” nursery.
Radcliffe said: “We are Ofsted-governed and because we are space-limited, and don’t have hundreds of children we can spread the costs. It is relatively expensive per head… So we would need decision-makers on various productions to buy into it.”
He added that the nursery would feature a full educational programme and stressed it was not a crèche as it would “be available throughout the day”.
Campaign group Parents and Carers in Performing Arts has welcomed the initiative.
Co-founder Cassie Raine said: “The challenges finding childcare for the performing arts workforce are as multifaceted and complex as our working hours. Any initiative that provides accessible, affordable and flexible support for families that can meet the irregular working patterns of our sector is a welcome step.”
She added: “PiPA partners have been providing pop-up crèches at events and we are currently trialling a UK-wide scheme for ad-hoc child and elder care provision. A mobile nursery could be a great solution for touring, working in remote locations or where space is limited.”
Radcliffe said he hoped WonderWorks would be the first of many offerings to families and that his aim was to see mobile nurseries made available across the UK.
Parents and children from Milton Hall Montessori school in Englefield Green collected dozens of items of food to donate to the elderly in Birchlands Care Home.
On Wednesday. 9th October, the children visited the care home and sang action songs to residents, while giving them the harvest gifts.
One of the elderly read a story to all the children The Bear Hunt’ the children listened and joined in with the rhyming words.
Sutindar Lal Principal and Dominique Patrikios Deputy from Milton Hall Montessori School said: “Kindness is an important value here at Milton Hall and every year our children enjoy collecting harvest gifts for the Day Care here in Englefield Green, where the donations are much appreciated.
“Many thanks to all our parents who contributed Harvest Festival donations.
There are so many people here who sit on chairs all day and just eat and sleep. But they seem to love it, even the grumpy ones,” she says, her face lighting up. “They seem to be rejuvenated by seeing the children. I think we’re very lucky to visit them on special occasions.
An industry poll has found that 27% of nursery managers and staff have seen a rise in children biting over the last 5 years.
Some nursery managers have suggested that this is due to children having too much screen time and parents being too busy to pay attention to their children.
The poll, conducted by review site daynurseries.co.uk, enlisted the feedback of 1,000 nursery owners, managers and staff in April and May.
More than 62 per cent of those questioned in the poll said they often have to manage children biting in their settings.
The news comes in the wake of a study from the BookTrust which found that over a quarter of parents now use technology such as home assistants, apps or voice notes to give their children a story at night.
Editor of daynurseries.co.uk, Sue Learner, said of the poll’s findings: “Reading books to your children and spending time talking to them builds their confidence, curiosity as well as their language and self-esteem.
“It is no wonder there is a rise in children biting at nursery due to them getting cross and frustrated over an inability to communicate as well as it being a cry for attention.”
Owner of Paint Pots nursery group in Southampton, David Wright, spoke of some of the factors which can contribute to language delay in children:
“There are many factors for this including screen time, particularly the use of screens as babysitters or parental substitute where children are not engaging in dialogue.”
He added: “Language delay, coupled with poor self-regulation, can lead to frustration in children who are unable to express themselves and this, in turn, can lead to distressed behaviours including biting. Biting is a very visceral experience for both parties. The biter is, in a sense, making an explicit attempt at connection with another person, bypassing language.”
As well as screen time, Mr Wright believes that other possible causes of language delay are mobile phone usage by parents, forward-facing buggies and parent’s lack of awareness of the need for dialogue with their children.
As a way of helping alleviate the problem of children who repeatedly bite, Tops Day Nurseries use ‘biting boxes’ in their settings. These are boxes filled with biting toys and teethers.
Operations Director at Tops, Amy Alderson, said: “We do have to support some children that are prone to biting across our settings. Mother Nature intended for us to find biting a pleasurable activity, hence the popularity of chewing gum.
“Therefore, once a child has bitten, they get an immediate and pleasurable sensation which often results in them biting again. At Tops Day Nurseries we have introduced bite boxes into our classrooms for those children that are prone to bite. The children learn that if they get the sudden desire to bite, that they can select a teething toy or similar to bite on, to release the urge. We have seen this work very successfully across many of our settings.’’
The National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) has advised of the need to talk to the child’s parents when any biting incidents occur.
Stella Ziolkowski, Director of Quality and Training at the NDNA, said: “There are many reasons why a child may bite another – young children who cannot talk or articulate their feelings can bite as a form of communication. It’s a way they can express difficult feelings such as anger, frustration or fear.
“For babies and toddlers, biting can help to relieve teething pain and is also a form of exploration. It’s vital a nursery has suitable resources to help relieve teething pain so they are less likely to bite a child.
“Some children, particularly those with sensory processing disorder, have a need to bite down on objects to help self-regulate, relieve anxiety and cope with stressful situations. Some children may see other children biting each other and imitate their behaviour. Some may just do it to gain attention and others may be acting in self-defence.”
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