Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Forget lessons in 'resilience', a daily jog will shake up today's lazy weak-willed kids


Teachers often complain about being made to solve all of society’s ills, when all they really want to do is inspire their pupils with a love of maths or science. Trouble is, school really is the only place that the state can get the nation’s young people all in one place. So whether staff like it or not, there will always be a presumption that some of the bigger nanny-state projects will involve schools.
The Daily Mile – a UK-wide project which encourages schools to get children running a mile a day – is one that might provoke sighs of dismay from hard-pressed teachers. As if it wasn’t enough to cram Sats results perfection, a range of arts and sports, anti-bullying and anti-racism messages, healthy-eating classes, recycling awareness and “resilience building” activities into the day. Now we have to take them out jogging as well?
But, as a parent worried about the downward trajectory of the nation’s fitness, I think this can only be a good thing. The Chinese have collective exercises before class and don’t question it. It’s not like running costs anything and it only takes around 15 minutes of time.
All children – whatever their ability – should be able to get out there and take part. And schools and pupils should think of ways for disabled pupils to take part too, everyone can have a go.
This project has been called a “fad” by some, which fails to address our obesogenic (great word) culture of computer games, cars and trash-stuffed cut-priced supermarkets. But these things aren’t going anywhere fast and I think it can really work to get the nation fitter and moving again. Striking early, in primary school, with a compulsory daily 15 minutes of running could transform the country. Obviously, it could be a whole different ball game in secondary, but if it is ingrained early enough, I believe pupils will carry it on into their teens.
At my son’s school the outing is currently optional – I don’t think it should be as this means it is often restricted to the children who are fit already – but it is a great start. Schools shouldn’t be afraid to make it compulsory. At a young age, when children run without thinking about its hardships, all will take part (and those with mobility issues should be helped to do as much as they can).
My constant refrain over childhood obesity and the decline in sports participation is that far too much is optional (in the form of afterschool clubs) now…the daily run has to become as normal as lunch or playtime or assembly and then it could really work.
The participating schools are keen to vaunt the success of the Daily Mile as boosting academic results. I don’t think this is necessary and you could be wandering into the pseudo-science territory to make such claims.
It is enough that young people are out there, getting fitter every day, without even really having to think about it.
Schools obviously need to be encouraged and supported to instigate the Daily Mile, and find ways to minimise it impacting on teaching time…and governments and councils need to give it their wholehearted support.
Given that it involves no special extra resources, they are missing a trick if they don’t.
Pic: rjp

Monday, 23 January 2017

'We are not disembodied screaming vaginas': 10 things the hospital could have done better when I had my first child

Birth is an amazing experience, I promise. But it’s not what you might call “fun”. It’s as scary and dramatic and earth shattering as it is normal and every-day. A report out last week from the National Childbirth Trust and the National Federation for Women’s Institutes found that some women felt “like cattle” or “on a production line” when giving birth. It is hardly surprising given the very nature of the NHS, which treats illness, not patients, and values the “wait” and the “queue” above all else. 

Many women’s negative reports highlight why midwives, maternity unit managers and governments need to constantly remind themselves that they are dealing with more than a four-limbed lifeform springing from a screaming, disembodied vagina. Birth is about a new person emerging, miraculously, from another person – who might have very very strong feelings about the whole shocking and often undignified process.

Just because 85 babies can be born per week in a single hospital, it is so important to remember how massive each and every birth is to the women there. Giving birth is not the same as having a mole removed. There are distinct mental health implications, so the overall well-being of the mother – beyond how well her stitches are healing – is vital.

I gave birth on two occasions in an extremely rickety NHS hospital, the first time was awful and medicalised and anonymous (indeed, I felt like cattle). The second was quite straightforward in a midwife led unit with very supportive staff. My third child was born on the way to the same hospital in the car, for which I am forever extremely grateful.

I don’t wish to moan too much – my babies were fine and I’m extremely lucky and grateful to the staff that saw (most) of them into the world. This is not Sierra Leone, after all, and we are fortunate. But there are several things that would have helped me when I was having my first baby, at least, that should not be too much to ask for:

1.    When my waters broke in the night, for someone on the maternity unit to bother answering the phone. Come on guys, I'm having a baby here.
2.    When I arrived at hospital saying my waters had broken, not to be looked at with a level of suspicion seen only in spy dramas. “NO I HAVE NOT PISSED MYSELF. WHAT IS THIS OBSESSION WITH WOMEN’S WEAK BLADDERS? (I blame those adverts for Tena Lady)
3.    To not be placed – in terrible pain - in a bed directly under a hot heating vent, in a cubicle the size of a toilet booth for six hours. God it was sweaty and I hadn't even got to the pushing stage.
4.    To not be told to “stop vomiting”. What do you want me to do? Swallow it?
5.    To not be asked constantly what pain relief I wanted then be given none. Ouch.
6.    To not be treated with suspicion because I asked for the midwife’s name (I quote: “She’s a journalist, she’s taking notes”). She was right. I was.
7.    To not be told that I was screaming and grunting in an inappropriate fashion. Higher? Lower? Which would suit the appropriate protocols? I have an excellent vocal range.
8.    To not be told, in a threatening voice, that if I didn’t get a move on then the doctor would have to be called (with no medical reason given). There was increasingly angry talk of suction cups.
9.    To not find myself, afterward, fending for myself on an abandoned ward with no heating and a torn curtain and an unadjustable bed from the 1950s. Well, at least I had the place to myself.
10.  To, in the days following the birth, as I struggled around the house recovering from a excruciating episiotomy, be able to get in touch with a midwife to discuss my worries about the baby (yeah, ok, I was worrying too much, but still).

Just saying... 

Pic:Uber Prutser