Schools that are using a wide range of activities to help broaden children’s learning experiences and boost character can now receive a share of £6 million to boost that work and share it with others, Children and Families Minister Edward Timpson announced.

This year’s character grants – a scheme that began in 2015 to fund schools and organisations promoting traits such as resilience and respect – are aimed at schools that use activities such as sports, debating or music to provide a rounded learning experience for children. From today, schools, colleges and organisations can apply for a share of the £6 million fund.

Children and Families Minister Edward Timpson said:

”Instilling positive character traits and academic excellence are 2 sides of the same coin – children that develop resilience are far more likely to succeed, not only in school but in later life, too.”

”Whether it’s fencing classes, debating clubs or drama societies, I want schools across the country to seize the opportunity to help their pupils thrive by broadening the range of activity that they offer.”

This year’s grants also include up to £2 million earmarked for projects with a military ethos, following the success of initiatives like Commando Joe’s and Challenger Troop, which use the expertise of former armed services personnel to instil resilience in children.

Further information

Who can apply for character awards grants:

Applications are open to:

  • schools
  • colleges
  • universities
  • local authorities
  • voluntary, community or social enterprise (VCSE) organisations or other profit or non-profit organisations

Proposals must be provided on a ‘not-for-profit’ basis and must be designed to work within or in partnership with school(s) and/or college(s) in England.

What they are looking for:

They want to fund a diversity of approaches that will achieve the following outcomes:

  • increasing the number of children aged 5 to 16 involved in activities and environments that promote character education
  • developing key character traits, attributes and behaviours in children aged 5 to 16 that:
    • support academic attainment
    • are valued by employers
    • enable children to make a positive contribution to British society

They expect all projects to be able to demonstrate that they:

  • could in future be adopted or adapted by a school or schools that wish to increase the range of high-quality activity that they offer
  • involve joint or consortium working, with involvement of several schools. They expect all projects will involve at least one school rated good or outstanding by Ofsted in the design and delivery of their project
  • are sufficiently replicable and scalable to be rolled out across a very large number of schools nationally

Grant level

Up to £6 million is available to grant-fund projects in the 2016 to 2017 financial year. As part of this, they have allocated up to £2 million to fund projects that have a military ethos approach to develop character. There is no pre-determined level of grant award, but, as a guide, grant awards are expected to be in the region of £50,000 to £750,000.

How to apply for funding

Organisations have until 23 June to submit a proposal for grant funding. Grants are expected to be awarded by the end of September.

For a full specification, application form and further guidance go to Contracts Finder: character education grants.

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The amount of sugar in fruit juices, juice drinks and smoothies targeted at children is “unacceptably high”, researchers and campaigners say.

They found an average of five teaspoons of sugar per 150ml serving in the 24 smoothies they surveyed – close to the daily limit for a young child.

In the journal BMJ Open, they argue such drinks should no longer count as one of the UK government’s five-a-day.

But manufacturers say juices can make it easier to reach this target.

‘Free sugar’

Current NHS guidelines state a 150ml serving of fruit juice or a 150ml glass of smoothie can count as one of the five fruit and vegetables people are encouraged to eat each day.

At the same time, parents are advised that children between four and six years of age should consume no more than 19g (about five teaspoons) of sugar a day, while children between seven and 10 years old should have a maximum of 24g (six teaspoons).

But researchers from the University of Liverpool, together with members of the campaign group Action on Sugar, say the way drinks are currently sold can make this very difficult to stick to.

They looked at a range of fruit juices, juice drinks and smoothies sold at seven UK supermarkets between July and August 2014, focusing on drinks they felt were targeted at children – for example, those on the children’s section of a shop’s website or cartons that would generally fit in children’s lunchboxes.

Of the 203 fruit juices, fruit drinks and smoothies they found, they say the free sugar content ranged between zero and 16g per 100ml.

Among the 158 fruit drinks analysed, the average sugar content stood at 5.6g/100ml (just over one teaspoon).

Among the 21 fruit juices, they found an average of 10.7g/100ml (just over two teaspoons).

And in 24 smoothies there was an average of 13g/100ml (just over three teaspoons).

The term “free sugar” refers to sugar naturally occurring in honey, syrups and fruit juices, or added by a manufacturer, rather than that found in whole fruit, vegetables and milk.

NHS experts say these free sugars are broken down by the body in a different way and can be harmful to health.

Dr Louis Levy, at Public Health England, added: “We know that juice and smoothies are high in sugar, which is why PHE recommends limiting them to a combined total of 150ml glass per day, to be drunk with a meal to protect your teeth.

“However they also provide some fibre, vitamins and minerals so count towards one of your five a day.

“The other recommendations for individuals in this paper support current government advice.”

Meanwhile, Gavin Partington, of the British Soft Drinks Association, said:”Only last week Public Health England confirmed that 150ml of fruit juice or fruit juice smoothies can contribute to the five-a-day target.

“Very few people reach their five-a-day target, and given the positive contribution it has to the diet, it is counterintuitive to suggest that 100% pure juice should not contribute to it.”

The NHS Choices website on the other hand, has specific advice about juice drinks, warning people to “watch out for drinks that say juice drink on the pack, as they are unlikely to count towards five-a-day and can be high in sugar”.

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Following the change of law that came into force on 5 October, requiring large companies to charge 5p for carrier bags, Tesco will use the money raised for grants to improve green spaces in communities across England, Wales and Scotland. Projects working on green spaces will be eligible for funding.

Groundwork will administer the funding and will be working with greenspace Scotland to support successful projects in Scotland.

Six grants will be awarded per year in each of the 428 Tesco regions.

Groundwork will shortlist applications, and Tesco customers will then have the opportunity to vote in store for the project that they would most like to see receive funding. The project with the most customer votes will receive a £12,000 grant, the project in second place will receive £10,000 and the project in third place will receive £8,000.

Projects will be eligible if they are applying for capital funding for facilities that provide community benefit. The facility must have free and open access to all members of the community for a minimum of six days a week, during daylight hours.

There is no match funding requirement. The grant should be the majority of your funding, and projects must be completed within 6 months of being awarded funding.

The first round of funding is currently open and will close on 27 November 2016.

Visit http://www.groundwork.org.uk/sites/tescocommunityscheme for further details.

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Getting children to play outside for 40 minutes a day could be a way to curb growing rates of short-sightedness, according to Chinese researchers.

They asked six schools to test the strategy over three years and it appeared to be beneficial.

The findings in Jama support the theory that children need to balance “close up” work, like reading, with activities that use distance vision.

Experts say although myopia is now very common, the cause remains unknown.

Short-sightedness or myopia is thought to affect up to one in three people in the UK and is becoming more common.

In myopia, the eye is unable to focus in the normal way which makes objects in the distance appear blurred.

It runs in families but environmental factors, such as spending lots of time on a computer or reading, have also been linked to the condition.

This has led researchers to question whether changing a person’s early environment might cut their risk of myopia.

Dr Mingguang He and colleagues recruited 12 primary schools in China to take part in a three-year-long study to test this.

Six of the schools were asked to timetable a compulsory 40-minute session of outdoor play each day, while the other six stuck to their usual classes.

The children and their parents were also asked to keep a diary of how much outdoor play time they clocked up on weekends – this did not differ between the two study groups.

The researchers then set about testing the schoolchildren for any signs of myopia. At enrolment, fewer than 2% of children in each group had myopia.

Over the course of the study, 259 children out of 853 (30%) in the intervention group and 287 out of 726 (40%) in the control group were judged to have myopia – a refractive error of at least minus 0.5 Diopter on an eye exam.

Although this percentage difference is not huge, it is significant, say the researchers. And it remains even when you take into account other factors, such as family history of myopia.

“This is clinically important because small children who develop myopia early are most likely to progress to high myopia, which increases the risk of pathological myopia. Thus a delay in the onset of myopia in young children, who tend to have a higher rate of progression, could provide disproportionate long-term eye health benefits,” the researchers say in Jama.

In an editorial in the same journal, Michael Repka from Johns Hopkins University, says more work is needed to confirm and understand the findings.

It may be that spending time outdoors limits how much time is spent doing “close up” activities, or that getting more daylight helps with eye growth and function, he says.

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Smoking should be banned in public places such as parks and outside schools, according to a new report on how to cut the number of people who smoke.

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) is calling for new measures to tackle smoking such as a smoking exclusion zone around certain public spaces. It says that a third of smokers would be more likely to use safer forms of nicotine in these areas if the measure was adopted.

Stopping smoking by using other sources of nicotine states: ‘The appearance of individuals smoking combustible tobacco products in public places arguably gives the deeply misleading impression that smoking is a largely safe activity to be universally enjoyed. By reducing the prominence of smoking in public locations, particularly those visited by children, we can ensure that smoking is no longer seen as a normal or safe activity.

‘The RSPH therefore calls for the smoking ban to be extended further to include school gates, the outside areas of bars and restaurants and also, all public parks and squares, mirroring the calls made by Lord Darzi in the 2014 report by the London Health Commission.

‘This could be achieved through legislation to introduce smoking exclusion zones, in which smoking combustible tobacco products is prohibited, but the use of an e-cigarette in this zone is permitted.’

The report highlights the fact when smoking was banned in doorways to bars, cafes and restaurants and in Central Park in New York, smoking rates were cut from 22% to 15% in 10 years. It says a similar policy in Hong Kong also saw a 7% reduction in smoking rates.

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Lack of outdoor adventures and too much electronic screen time damaging children’s health.

By spending more than 86 hours of the summer holidays staring at electronic devices, children are missing out on traditional outdoor activities, according to a new study published by Go Ape, an outdoor adventure facility.

The study surveyed 2,000 British parents and found that the average child spends at least two hours and four minutes every day gawking at tablet devices, playing computer games and watching television, which can have a negative impact on their physical health, imagination and social interactions.

The study revealed that traditional outdoor activities such as fruit picking, den building and playing conkers could soon become a thing of the past as the average child spends at least 14 hours every week playing computer games and watching television.

Although half of the surveyed parents felt guilty that their children have less traditional outdoor play experiences than they previously did, only one in two parents would permit outdoor play if supervised by an adult.

Further findings found that three quarters of parents would prefer their children to spend more time outside, however one fifth admitted that they regularly allow their child to watch television and play computer games for ease and convenience, with a quarter of parents allowing extra ‘screen time’ to keep their children occupied.

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Supplied and installed in June 2015 – a Budget Trail 2 and Travel Mat safer surfacing.

 

 

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In July 2015 – PlayQuest supplied and installed 4 items of Outdoor Gym Equipment for Haughton Green Young People’s Centre, Denton – along with our PlayBond safer surfacing.

The area was then opened by the local Sherrif the following weekend.

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Installed in June 2015 – Knebworth Recreation Ground is the second place to benefit from our modified 4-Tower Activity Centre – re-designed to suit older children and to make play more exciting and invigorating.
This multi-play adventure play frame was combined with a trim-trail around the perimeter – and contained within our heavy-duty timber fence.
Our PlayBond recycled rubber mulch safer surfacing was installed (along with Eco-Base) in a Redwood colour – which looks brilliant when combined with the play equipment and local surroundings.

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ust two weeks of not using their legs causes young people to lose a third of their muscular strength, placing them on par with someone 40-50 years their senior, new research has found.

A new study by The Center for Healthy Aging and the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Copenhagen has shed fresh light on the dangers of not exercising. Their findings, published in the Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine, conclude that a fortnight of inactivity also causes ‘rapid loss of muscle mass’.

The study – which sought to explore the impact of high inactivity caused by being injured, ill or take a very relaxing holiday by immobilising a participant’s’ leg in a pad – also demonstrates the dangers of simply spending excessive amounts of time on the couch.

“Our experiments reveal that inactivity affects the muscular strength in young and older men equally,” said Andreas Vigelsø, PhD, one of the researchers.

“Having had one leg immobilised for two weeks, young people lose up to a third of their muscular strength, while older people lose approximately a quarter. A young man who is immobilised for two weeks loses muscular strength in his leg equivalent to ageing by 40 or 50 years.”

The research also found that young people lose twice as much muscle mass as older people over the two week immobilisation period, while physical fitness was also reduced.

Another striking finding was the amount of time required to recover from such a period of inactivity. After two weeks of immobilisation, the participants bicycle-trained 3-4 times a week for six weeks, but although this helped return muscle mass, it was found that additional weight training is required to regain muscular strength.

“It’s interesting that inactivity causes such rapid loss of muscle mass, in fact it’ll take you three times the amount of time you were inactive to regain the muscle mass that you’ve lost,” said Martin Gram, PhD, another of the researchers. “This may be caused by the fact that when we’re inactive, it’s 24 hours a day.”

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