Every good thing the internet has to offer!

by Richard Newson February 6, 2015

As Safer Internet Day approaches, Young NCB's Grace Garbutt call for both online safety and the freedom to enjoy the internet's benefits.

This year's Safer Internet Day will take place on Tuesday 10th February. The theme is: “Let’s create a better Internet together.”

It's an international event that aims to raise the awareness of the ways in which we, as children and young people, can protect ourselves from dangers online, while, at the same time, continuing to enjoy every good thing the Internet has to offer.

Safer Internet Day is not about making us do our maths homework by using shock tactics to stop us procrastinating on Facebook; it's about becoming more “street-wise” and using our time online productively.

As a rule, we should all be applying the same levels of respect towards each other in the virtual world as I hope we are doing in society, while bearing in mind the dangers of trusting strangers with our personal details. 

It is important that children are taught to realise new friends online may not be who they claim to be.

Safer Internet Day is also about the importance of getting parents and teachers involved in conversations about content that is unsuitable, that may be damaging to young minds.  

It is vital that parents know how to report their concerns to the police if their child has been inappropriately approached. Safer Internet Day provides this information.

Thankfully, stories in the media about succumbing to dangers online are relatively rare, but raising the awareness about staying safe is still needed.

It is evident that 40% of Internet users between the ages of 18-35 have regretted posting personal information and images of themselves in areas such as Snapchat. As well as being dangerous, it has proven to be embarrassing and has led to bullying.

Creating a better Internet together is about ensuring it can be used safely by all generations. It is about continuing to reap the rewards of innovation, bridging barriers to isolation, life-long learning, finding jobs and forming new and safe friendships.

The Internet has a huge potential to bring people together for the common good. Let's learn to stay safe together!

You can find out more and download information sheets by following this link: www.saferinternet.org 

Grace Gurbutt - Young NCB member



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Emerging policies on child mental health

by Richard Newson February 4, 2015

We must build on the momentum of recent policy announcements on children’s mental health, argues Keith Clements, Policy Officer at the National Children’s Bureau.

Children’s mental health services have been described as a ‘Cinderella service’ and in recent years we have seen evidence of cuts and shocking examples of children and young people being let down.

It will therefore be heartening for those working in the children’s sector that mental health and emotional wellbeing is turning out to be an area of significant discussion in the run up to the general election.

Earlier this month, the Labour leader, Ed Miliband welcomed the publication of an independent report commissioned by his party on this very subject. In his speech   announcing its launch, he indicated support for a number of its recommendations in relation to children and young people’s access to mental health services.

Mr Miliband stressed that both teachers and health professionals should have training in mental health. It is vital that all those working with children and young people know how to identify and respond to potential mental health issues, providing an appropriate level of support in their current setting, and being able to refer for more specialist help when needed. NCB has called for the early identification of mental health difficulties to be a core competency of the children’s workforce and highlighted the need for better training for GPs in children’s mental and physical health.

It has also been pledged that a Labour government would introduce a 28-day waiting time standard for children’s, as well as adults’, access to talking therapy and increase the proportion of mental health spending dedicated to children and young people’s services. Such action would go some way to supporting the commissioning of adequate services to meet children’s mental health needs.

As our submission to the health select committees inquiry into CAMHS, and the committee’s resulting report described, there is a ‘fog’ around the level of need and who is responsible for meeting it. The Department of Health is currently developing a survey on children and young people’s mental health and NCB is calling for this to be repeated regularly to inform the planning of services.

Last year, the coalition government appointed a children and young people’s mental health and emotional wellbeing taskforce and their report is expected soon. If this sets out ambitious and well-targeted measures, this will add to the probability that whoever comes to power in May, they will have a clear plan for improving support for children and young people’s mental health.

In the mean time, the Chancellor’s autumn statement announced £150 million more funding to tackle eating disorders, giving another clear sign that this issue may finally be getting the kind of attention it deserves.

It will be vital that this momentum follows through into the establishment of a comprehensive strategy that can stand the test of time, addressing issues from the systematic underinvestment and lack of data, to better training for professionals and support for young people to develop resilience. It is only with co-ordinated action that policy promises will result in children and young people enjoying better mental health.


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Assessing progress in the early years and primary school

by Richard Newson January 26, 2015

Academic progress or the needs of the child? Heather Ransom assesses changes to early attainment checks.

A CentreForum report out last week has stated that children’s academic progress should be the main criteria used to identify whether England's primary schools are performing well.

Changes to how primary schools are held accountable will have a knock on effect for early years. Children’s attainment at age five is currently measured through the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile. The Profile enables teachers to gain a full picture of a child’s stage of development through observing their progress during the reception year. In addition to literacy and mathematics, the Profile assesses children’s physical, social and emotional development, their understanding of the world, and how they express themselves through art and design.


The government has announced that from 2016, teachers will no longer have to use the Profile. A baseline assessment will be introduced in its place – this will be a computer test which children will sit on entry to school to gauge their current level in maths and literacy. Baseline assessment scores will be tracked against Key Stage 2 test results to determine how well each primary school has supported children’s learning between the ages of 4 and 11.      

These changes have raised a debate about how and when young children’s progress is assessed. The Profile is valued by reception class teachers in helping them to identify children with SEN and additional needs, and they work closely with Year 1 teachers to ensure that children have a smooth transition onto their next class. In addition, the Profile data is collected by local authorities and informs the commissioning and delivery of children’s services.

Given its narrow academic focus and application by computer, the baseline assessment will arguably not be able to meet these outcomes as effectively. This poses a fundamental question about the role of assessment – is its primary purpose to support children’s learning or to measure school performance? 

Under the new regime, schools will be held to account on their academic performance. But if they are no longer required to complete the EYFS Profile, valuable information about the needs and achievements of each child may be lost.

Heather Ransom is Senior Policy Officer at the National Children's Bureau.


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New year, new review: What does the integrated review at age two to two and a half mean for health visitors and early years practitioners?

by Richard Newson January 8, 2015

This September, local areas will be expected to integrate health and education child development reviews that are carried out at two to two and a half years of age. Susan Soar of NCB’s Early Childhood Unit (ECU) explains how this will affect early years practitioners, health visitors and others working with young children.

The year ahead will see the introduction of an integrated health and early education review for children aged two to two and a half. In September 2015 local authorities will be required to bring together the Healthy Child Programme health and development review with the EYFS progress check at two, with the aim of identifying any developmental issues early on and putting in place effective early intervention and support. A recent NCB study of the implementation of the review in local authority pilot areas explored a number of possible models: from joint meetings between parents, early years practitioners and health visitors, to integration via information sharing after separate reviews have taken place.

So at a point in the calendar when many people choose to reflect upon the past and look ahead to what the coming months will bring, it seems a good time to consider what integrating health and early education reviews might mean for early years practitioners, health visitors and others working with young children. Likewise, are there any actions, or possibly ‘resolutions’, that we as individual practitioners could take during 2015 to support the introduction of the integrated review?

Being ready to form new relationships and build upon existing relationships. The integrated review is likely to mean the formation of new working relationships for health visitors, early years practitioners and other professionals working with young children and their families. Existing relationships may be re-framed or we may find ourselves needing to work closely with new and unfamiliar colleagues, becoming accustomed to their strengths, weakness and way of working. We will need to have respectful and balanced relationships with parents, or build these where they are lacking, valuing their perspective and the vital information they hold about their child. While the central tool of the integrated review is a parent-completed ‘Ages and Stages Questionnaire’ (ASQ-3), face-to-face discussion about the child is equally valuable and forming a strong partnership with parents can only make it easier for them to contribute freely and openly to the review process.

Going to new places. One integrated review model trialled by local authorities is that of physically bringing together parents, health visitors and early years practitioners for a joint review meeting. For us this may mean working in new environments, whether that is a health centre, an early years setting, a children’s centre or the child’s own home, or welcoming other professionals into our day-to-day workplace. It can take time to get used to a new environment, yet by acknowledging this we can make it our priority to ensure that the child and their parents feel as comfortable as possible, by providing toys, books and welcoming surroundings.

Learning a new language. In our work with young children we often speak our own professional ‘language’; using technical terms as an easy shorthand for elements of practice or patterns of behaviour.  While we can be instantly understood by our own colleagues, working with other professionals to carry out an integrated review is likely to mean gaining some familiarity with new technical terminology, or helping others to understand our own. This might be particularly important in areas where local authorities plan to integrate health and early education reviews via professional dialogue and information-sharing between health visitors and early years practitioners, after separate reviews have taken place.

Building on what we already do. Finally, introducing the integrated review is not so much a case of ‘out with the old, in with the new’, but rather a process of drawing together the complementary expertise of early years practitioners and health visitors who are both already reviewing the development of young children around their second birthday. An early years practitioner brings the ongoing observational knowledge of the child; a health visitor brings detailed knowledge of health and development in young children. While this may mean changes to the way we currently work, when these dual perspectives are brought together with the parents’ in-depth knowledge of the child then a more complete picture will be possible.

Susan Soar, NCB Early Childhood Unit and adviser to NCB’s 'Implementation study: integrated review at age 2 to 2-and-a-half years'.

The full review report and a slide pack to support local authorities in implementation of the integrated review are available here.

To find out more about the ECU at NCB visit www.ncb.org.uk/areas-of-activity/early-childhood


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Young people take the reins for Children’s Commissioner’s Takeover Day 2014

by Richard Newson December 18, 2014

Last month, two of our Young NCB members had the chance to spend a day shadowing officials within government departments for Children’s Commissioner’s Takeover Day. Here, they share their experiences.

Eva Mannan, aged 17, spent the day shadowing Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service Sir Jeremy Heywood at the Cabinet Office.

John Hutton stated that “The Civil Service is a vital asset to the UK – in a way it creates a framework for excellence”.  On Friday the 21st of November, I was fortunate enough to embark upon a journey that enabled me to understand this. I was given the opportunity by the National Children’s Bureau to shadow the Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service, Sir Jeremy Heywood.

Eva with Sir Jeremy Heywood

The Civil Service is an “independent” or “neutral” body that is committed to serving the needs of the elected government. They are in fact a vital body as they provide the knowledge of their department to advise ministers, research and write reports and help form policy. Therefore, I believe that the Civil Service “creates the framework” for not only “excellence” but policy.

The first event of the day (The ACE event) gave selected civil servants and other companies the chance to express their views on the department and question Sir Jeremy Heywood about it. He aided them through their problems, providing them with a sufficient amount of advice. There was a clear sense of direction within the Civil Service which Sir Jeremy clearly laid out. He ensured that all were aware of the problems facing the UK; the economy, devolution and the EU. Furthermore, we visited HMRC where they discussed the ways in which they could tackle tax avoidance. Sir Jeremy was able to give positive feedback on their work and developments. Throughout the sessions it was clear that there was a great sense of unity amongst all, which highlighted the strength of the Civil Service as a community.

Next, I was given the chance to visit 10 Downing Street. When walking through the surpassing corridors a sense of admiration took over. We reached the staircase where I was greeted by the images of past Prime Ministers of the UK. I was left overwhelmed as curious thoughts drifted in and out of my mind. It was here I realised that I wanted to pursue a career in government. The visit enlightened me to a new world that I previously did not know of.

On the whole, the day provided me with opportunities that I could only ever dream of. The chance to shadow Sir Jeremy is something that I shall treasure as he truly illustrated the importance of the Civil Service and politics today. The day gave me a greater insight into the work of the Civil Service and how it benefits our society. Thus, this leaves me with the conclusion that: the “Civil Service does create a framework for excellence”.

Young NCB member Eva Mannan

Eva outside 10 Downing Street

Page Nyame-Satterthwaite, aged 18, spent the day shadowing Permanent Secretary Stephen Lovegrove at the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

The opportunity to meet one-to-one with the Permanent Secretary for the Department of Energy and Climate Change is not a common occurrence, even for those who work in DECC. So on Friday 21st November when I went to do just that and met Stephen Lovegrove, having been placed within DECC by the Cabinet Office for the Children’s Commissioner’s Takeover Day, I did not know what to expect. On reflection, it surpassed any expectations I could have possibly had.

My entire time at DECC was enjoyable. From the “Ministry of Magic” style security tubes in the entrance hall and the meeting with Stephen Lovegrove, Permanent Secretary for DECC, to working on challenges with the 2050 Pathways Calculator model and sitting in on a lunchtime mindfulness session, everything was interesting and I was made to feel very welcome by everyone in the department.

I learned a lot, not only about the roles and structure in the department, but also about what it actually means to be Permanent Secretary or Strategy Director on a day-to-day basis. Very quickly it became clear that there is no specific type of person on a ‘correct’ pathway who would be best suited to having a career in DECC, or the Civil Service more generally. Especially in a department dealing with such a variety of topical issues involving energy and climate change, which are a constant feature in the news, the variety of experiences that had led everyone into the department was ideal for the work. The value of different experiences and skills to prepare for a career has already been highlighted in the YNCB Advisory Group’s work on “Careers guidance” as part of this year’s priority, “Is school preparing us for life?” and so it was encouraging to see this in practice in such a high-profile working environment.

The real value of the takeover day was learning about the realities behind the titles. It was not shadowing the Permanent Secretary – it was taking part in discussions, having meetings and considering challenges. I would strongly urge any children and young people interested in having a unique work placement to take part in the Takeover Day next year – you could end up working in a government department!

Young NCB member Page Nyame-Satterthwaite

Page has signed up with the Children’s Commissioner’s office to be a Takeover Day Ambassador. If you are a young person and would like to contact her about the scheme, send your question to page.nyame@gmail.com.

Page outside the department


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Human rights close to home: children’s rights to healthcare in England

by Richard Newson December 10, 2014

On International Human Rights Day, Keith Clements from the NCB policy team considers child health and wellbeing as a priority for the new government.

Today is International Human Rights Day when people and organisations around the world remember and celebrate the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Eleanor Roosevelt, the driving force behind this blueprint for human rights, famously recognised that human rights begin:

in small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighbourhood he lives in; the school or college he attends . . . Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.” 

This year, Human Rights Day has an added significance for children as it coincides with the 25th anniversary year of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). In addition the UK government’s track record on children’s rights will be scrutinised by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in the next year.

Article 24 of the UNCRC commits the UK* government to strive to ensure that no child is deprived of their right access to health services. It gives children the right to enjoy the highest possible standard of health and facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation. In its report to the UN this year, the Government have expressed some positive aspirations for children’s health, but there are still many opportunities we are missing to ensure that children are supported to be as well as they can be.

Despite improvements in recent decades, the UK has one of the worst child mortality rates in Western Europe.

The current focus on the early years, including the increase in numbers of health visitors, is to be welcomed. It is well known that children’s life chances are influenced early on, and a recent report from NCB and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Why Children Die, underlined that the first year accounts for most child mortality. But we need to be more ambitious so that newborns and their families have the support they need across a wider range of services. NCB, through the Lambeth Early Action Partnership (LEAP), is leading one of five Better Start sites across England, working with parents and the statutory and voluntary sector to radically change the way agencies and services work with pregnant mothers, fathers, babies, their families and communities. In the longer term, Government must take responsibility for supporting the most effective multi-agency practice.

While the Government recognises the importance of the adolescent years in determining health behaviours and resilience, there is more that could be made of how school settings support wellbeing and access to services. The offer to this age group is reportedly led by school nurses but with around 1,200 school nurses spread across around 20,000 schools, other professionals and organisations will need to get involved to deliver this. Schools’ own efforts in this area are typically not recognised in inspections. A consultation on Ofsted’s framework for inspection which closed last week proposed an increased focus on personal development, behaviour and welfare. NCB is calling for these proposals to be strengthened to include better consideration of how physical and mental health are supported, and for young people to have an entitlement PSHE, including high quality sex and relationships education (SRE).

Mental health is a key area that Government were asked to report on to the UN Committee. The Children and Young People’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies Programme (CYP IAPT) is an important piece of work highlighted by Government, but it should be noted that its focus is to improve existing services and therefore it does not directly affect the capacity of services to open their doors to all that need support. Research by YoungMinds found that both NHS and local authority commissioners had cut their funding of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). Respondents to a survey that NCB and NHS Confederation carried out last year reported that such services were being squeezed and there was a lack of clarity regarding who was responsible for maintaining them. Government has established a taskforce for children and young people’s mental health, which is expected to report in the new year. For this situation to be genuinely turned around, a clear action plan is needed. This must be backed by resources and political priority continuing into the next parliament and beyond.

Children’s right to be listened to under article 12 of the UNCRC applies equality in the field of decisions made about health. Progress has certainly been made here, at least in terms of top-level messaging. National guidance on patient and public involvement makes it clear that children and young people should be involved, and the Friends and Family Test (a patient survey) is being extended to include children. Many of the priorities of the recently created health agencies in England may have been already set however research NCB carried out for the Children’s Commissioner found that under a third of local plans referenced children’s participation. Children’s views on primary care are still not regularly heard, despite primary care being a priority under UNCRC and the GP patient survey does not collect the experiences of those under 18. This has to change, especially as it is a major source of data used by the NHS as a whole to account.

Over the past couple of years, an independent group of experts, the Children and Young People’s Health Outcomes Forum, have helped focus and accelerate progress in key areas. Even they, however, have reported difficulties in triangulating the cross-government contribution to child health, and it is very telling that Government were unable to provide robust figures on expenditure to the UN.

Whoever takes up the mantel of leading Government in 2015 must make it a priority to have a clear plan for child health so that we can live up to the vision of the Universal Declaration and UNCRC and ensure that children’s human rights have meaning where they matter most - “in small places, close to home”.

*This blog focuses on English policy

Keith Clements, NCB’s policy and public affairs team.


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Integrated Review at age two – answering the questions

by Administrator December 8, 2014

NCB has launched a toolkit to support local early years and health teams design and deliver the Integrated Review at age two – here research officer Vanessa Greene explains the support available.   

From September 2015, local areas will be expected to integrate health and education child development reviews that are carried out and shared with parents when children are two years of age.

The NCB Research Centre has developed a toolkit to provide support to local areas when doing so.

It is based on findings from a research study commissioned by the Department for Education, in conjunction with Department of Health, and led by the NCB Research Centre. The research examined the implementation and effectiveness of integrated approaches taken by five pilot local authority areas. A full report is available to download.

What health and education child development reviews are expected to be integrated?

The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Progress Check at age two (delivered by early years practitioners in a child's early years setting) will be brought together with the Healthy Child Programme (HCP) 2-2½ year old health and development review (delivered by health visiting teams), where possible, in an Integrated Review.

Why integrate these reviews?

Age two is a key point in development where problems such as speech delay or behavioural issues may begin to emerge.

Integrating health and education reviews at this age offers the potential to provide better and earlier intervention to support children's future outcomes.

By drawing on the complementary skills and experiences of health and early education practitioners, as well as parents’ perspectives, it is expected that a more complete and holistic picture of the child’s progress will be gathered. This can help identify problems and can also reduce the risk of duplication and confusion in making referrals for those children who need more support.

What support does the toolkit provide?

The toolkit provides advice on some of the key factors local areas may consider in designing and delivering the integrated review.

It draws on practical examples given by pilot sites on how to plan for an integrated review, engage staff and early years settings, identify and engage parents and share information. 

It contains a set of slides as well as additional supporting resources, including case study examples of approaches and materials, such as: forms, practitioner briefing materials, letters, parental engagement strategies and other resources used by pilot areas from the implementation study.

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Are we doing enough to educate young people about personal finance?

by Administrator November 21, 2014

Young NCB member Chloe Lintern stresses the importance of compulsory financial education in all schools in a speech made at NCB’s AGM and Annual Debate.


Finance is everywhere, and the chances are it will dictate your day-to-day life without you even realising it. People these days are of course responsible for managing their own finances; however where they learn to do this is a question that needs answering.


Only recently was financial education included in the curriculum as part of maths and citizenship education. Pupils are now to be taught how to manage money and plan for the future along with how public money is raised through channels such as income tax. However problems still remain: what happens to the generations that missed out on these vital lessons? What's more, this curriculum is only compulsory for a small section of schools. Free schools and academies don’t need to follow it and so what happens to, once again, those young people who aren’t being taught?


Only once in my secondary school education was I taught financial education, and to me it wasn’t realistic enough. I mean, does anyone know where I can get a brand new BMW from for £2,000? Okay, so I was taught something, but do I know how to budget? Do I know how to pay a mortgage or even get one? The answer to both those questions is no. In my opinion, schools aren’t doing enough, and I think that’s where youth organisations come into action and help reach out to young people.


YNCB has also identified that we need to make sure that financial education is being monitored and that teachers have fun, interactive materials as well as suitable training. YNCB’s financial education sub-group is focusing on these problems, and one of our solutions is to create a supermarket game for young people. The idea is that young people work with their families to figure out the most cost-effective way of doing something, such as cooking a meal. We hope to use technology including scanners to make the game interesting and interactive and also hope to work alongside supermarkets such as ASDA.


The one thing I want you to walk away with from this is that financial education is crucial – and is needed. As I once heard someone say about students: “They’d rather be learning budgeting skills than doing simultaneous equations”.


16-year-old Chloe Lintern, member of YNCB