Recently in Education & Life-Long Learning Category

pink calculator & spectacles caseSonia Sotomayor is the lawyer and judge who has been nominated by President Barack Obama to fill the vacancy on the bench of the American Supreme Court. This week Judge Sotomayor has been grilled at a senate hearing about her suitability for the post. She is also Hispanic and a woman. This it seems gives rise to fears by interrogating Senators that her judgements may differ from those made previously.

Social Inclusion & Diversity

The hearings on whether Sonia Sotomayor should become an Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court have been both predictable and in some ways depressing: her eleven inquisitors include just two women and the dialogue has reflected this.

Obama's broad church
On the other hand President Obama, in nominating Judge Sotomayor, has demonstrated again (as he has with other appointments, such as that of Hillary Rodham Clinton to the post of Secretary of State) that he intends his administration to be a broad church, inclusive of the talents of people of many sorts.

It's interesting that Sonia Sotomayor was able, in sworn evidence, to affirm that the President did not ask her personal views on matters such as abortion and gun control - issues which persistently appear in every hearing for appointments to the Supreme Court. Nor, apparently, do Sotomayor and Obama agree about the relevance or otherwise of 'empathy' in legal judgement (she says she puts it aside; he sees it as relevant).

The obstacles of gender and ethnicity - and class?
It looks increasingly likely that Judge Sotomayor's appointment will be confirmed. After the usual party political jostling, significant Republicans on the panel have indicated they will not oppose her nomination.

But why, and how, do these people think it appropriate to suggest that Sonia Sotomayor's gender and ethnicity are critical issues which might mitigate in the future against fair and transparent interpretation of the law?

Sotomayor's personal background is not unlike that of Obama; her early life, living in public housing in the Bronx, was uncompromisingly unprivileged. Perhaps social class also plays an unacknowledged part here. The Republicans amongst the Senators grilling her are not of the Grand Old Party (GOP) for nothing.

Privileged white men
But surely even they can see that the Supreme Court has thus far been an enclave of privileged white men? In its entire history it has been administered by 111 justices, only two of them so far women (the majority of the population), and none Hispanic (the fastest growing ethnic group in the USA).

Perhaps the Supreme Court has always adhered to interpretation of the law, with no fear or favour (though frightening statistics on what sorts of criminals are not excused judicial slaughter, for instance, might suggest otherwise).

But as far as I can tell, not many of these white, male, privileged nominations for the Supreme Court have been quizzed for days and days about whether their personal demographic provenance will endanger justice for all US citizens.

Politics and competencies
Assurances of propriety and competence are essential before any Supreme Court justice is appointed. Party political posturing is inescapably part of the game.

It's a ritual of Supreme Court nomination that questions have to be asked about every imaginable variable, and that Senators at the hearing go to extraordinary lengths not to set procedural precedence which they may later find uncomfortable.

Striking failures of insight
But, glaring omissions of insight about how and by what sorts of people the US law and constitution have been determined in the past.....?

Small wonder during her inquisition that Judge Sotomayor has stuck unservingly to the position simply that: "The task of a judge is not to make law. It is to apply the law."

I'm not a US citizen, but I am a citizen of a country which, like the US, seeks, in however flawed a way, to achieve fairness and equality. That fundamental - and perhaps intended? - apparent omission of insight on the part of Sonia Sotomayor's inquisitors I find downright bizarre.


Read more about Social Inclusion & Diversity and Political Process & Democracy.

09.03.27 Liverpool University Post-Graduate Poster Day: 'Poster Day is a rainforest of research diversity' The University of Liverpool has one Graduate School for all disciplines. The School's annual Poster Day (27 March, in 2009) enables all these fields to be showcased together. I had the happy task with a few other 'external' judges of selecting the first-ever prizewinner for the new 'North West Hub' award, to emphasise links between academia and the wider world.

Education & Life-Long Learning and Knowledge Economy.

The exemplary aims of Poster Day are to offer graduate students practice in the skills required to communicate to a degree educated public, and to provide an opportunity for them to learn more about research being undertaken in other parts of the University.

09.03.27 Liverpool University Post-Graduate Poster Day: exhibiting in Mountford Hall

The University of Liverpool Graduate School Poster Day exhibition was fascinating; the cross-faculty range of work under one roof would surely have taken months to get fully to grips with, but we had just a couple of hours. I used the time to talk to some very interesting people, all passionate about their work and the reasons they were doing it.

09.03.27 Liverpool University Post-Graduate Poster Day: No. 307 ~ Woolly Welfare? Reliably Counting Lame Sheep

09.03.27 Liverpool University Post-Graduate Poster Day: No. 270 ~ An Empirical Investigation of the Libyan Audit Market & No. 272 ~ Corporate Governance and Firm Value

09.03.27 Liverpool University Post-Graduate Poster Day: No. 31 ~ Achaemenid Egypt: 130 years of Mystery

The involvement of 'external' visitors was a new step introduced this year. Here we see some of the Graduate School Team, including Dr Richard Hinchcliffe (Director of Postgraduate Training) with my fellow judges:

09.03.27 Liverpool University Post-Graduate Poster Day: Dr Richard Hinchcliffe (Director of Postgraduate Training) with the Graduate School Team & Poster Day external judges (NW Hub)

But in the end we had to make a decision, spoilt for choice though we certainly were.

The general criteria for the North West Hub overall prize included visual impact, organisation of the material, the accessibility of and rationale for the research, and, last but not least, the enthusiasm and clarity of the researcher him or herself. It seems very fitting that the award was after much discussion made to Andrew Lee-Mortimer for his engineering research project around Design for Sustainability.

09.03.27 Liverpool University Post- Poster Day: No. 85 ~ Andrew Lee-Mortimer: Design for Sustainability (NW Hub prizewinner)


Read more articles about Education & Life-Long Learning and about the Knowledge Economy.

Happy baby The Government wants to set up 3,500 Sure Start Children's Centres by 2010; so it's good news that most Merseyside local authorities have hit their targets a year early, with a large majority of parents of under-fives expressing high satisfaction with the service. Early on there were concerns about councils 'taking over' the development of Children's Centres from the semi-autonomous Sure Start schemes. On reflection, integration of health, education and social services can in reality only be achieved with strong leadership from the top.

Early Years & Sure Start.

The next step is to embed this service so it's an essential part of the support all children require. That's a task which only concerted effort from the top can achieve.


Read more about Early Years & Sure Start.

Your views are welcome.

happy young people After much debate the Government has finally announced that Personal, Health and Social Education (PHSE) will be compulsory in schools at a level appropriate to each child's age. This decision has been widely welcomed - though strangely not quite by everyone. All children need to understand their own bodies and relationships. But only a few years ago some of us, as educators, were still battling to save this entitlement and embed it into the curriculum.

In 1990 the Cambridge University Press published a book entitled The New Social Curriculum. Edited by Barry Dufour, it was intended as a 'guide to cross-curricular issues', for teachers, parents and governors. I wrote the chapter on 'Health Education: Education for Health?'.

How different things were such a relatively short time ago.

Quotes from another era
Even as recently as 1990 I find, looking back, that I was obliged to write as follows (please forgive the self-plagiarism.):

[My first thesis is] that health education is far too weighty a matter to be left to the varies of visiting speakers, odd sessions, leaflets, films, etc... and the whims of individual teaching staff...

[The second thesis is] that meaningful (or even plausible) Education for Health can only be achieved in institutions where the teaching staff as a whole have a competent grasp of [these] curricular issues and where the mores of host institutions themselves support an alert and sensitive response to the social and personal needs of learners. Isolated 'lessons' on the 'nightmares of adults' (to use Chris Brown's apt term) are unlikely to meet effectively the aims of an informed and humane programme of Education for Health [where] health can be viewed as a positive feeling of well-being....

Any institution which means what it says about Education for Health will recognise the necessity for:
1. a curriculum which acknowledges the overlap between different aspects of social and personal experience;
2. an adequate allocation of resources - financial and personnel - to develop and deliver such a curriculum;
3. careful attention to the dignity and welfare of all who are involved in work or study within it....

But the majority of developments in Health Education continue to occur outside the context of the mainstream curriculum, and certainly outside the professional remit of those who manage formal educational organisations [which..] may account for the lack of impact which many health messages appear to have on their intended recipients.

Contentious issues
It has to be remembered - or retrospectively understood - that this was written in the context of what amounted to moral panic and the Victoria Gillick campaign on the subject of 'Sex Education', which had become the almost singular 'topic' focus of the then-Conservative Government's educational legislation.

Teachers had to contend with, and at their peril remain within the requirements of, the Education Act (Number 2), 1986, the DES Circular 11:87, and, until it was clarified, Section 28 of the Local Government Act, 1988. All these legal frameworks had the effect of putting teachers of anything to do with sexual education, not to mention student counsellors dealing with issues such as homosexuality, at personal and professional serious risk.

A wait eventually worthwhile
Much water has flowed under the bridge since then. In 1990 I ended my chapter by remarking that, whilst much good work was being undertaken, there was 'as yet little evidence to encourage the hope that national educational structures, combining the experience of health promotion personnel, health educators and classroom teachers firmly within the context of the National Curriculum, will soon emerge to encompass and consolidate this good practice.'

Now however the Government has at last announced that all pupils will Get Healthy Lifestyle Lessons, including age-appropriate information on sex and drugs, and a review by headteacher Sir Alasdair MacDonald will be carried out into the best way to shape and deliver this essential new core curriculum.

A positive step forward for children
This development, in the context of Every Child Matters, is enormously to be welcomed by anyone who wants every child to receive what is surely their basic entitlement - to understand, in ways suitable for their age and maturity, their own bodies and behaviour. How else can small people grow up to be sensible big people?

Across age, gender, social class and marital status, most adults have recently been found by a BBC survey to support this initiative. It's been needed for a very long time and at last nearly everyone seems ready for it.

Read more about Education & Life-Long Learning.

See also: 'Where do baby rabbits come from? Sex education to begin at five in all schools' (Polly Curtis, The Guardian, 24 October 208).

Mums & prams High Infant Mortality Rates (IMR) are a distressing measure, but they tell us a lot about the nation's health. In the UK today the risk of infant death is about one in two hundred live births. But still seven times as many babies die in some working class Northern towns as do in the wealthiest parts of the South East. The Sure Start programme, alongside the Government's IMR health inequalities initiative, shows promise in addressing these massive inequalities; but the next step must be to strengthen Sure Start's interdisciplinary framework.

Fundamental issues such as human health and well-being are rarely a challenge for only one part of public sector services.

The really big problems almost always straddle a wide range of service provision, which can add substantially to the difficulties of resolving them - no one service provider alone 'owns' the issue, and it is often unclear who should head up programmes to address the problem.

Differentials in life expectancy
A classic example of this is the challenge in the UK of reducing the gap between the life expectancy of richer and poorer people, to achieve the goal of everyone who possibly can enjoying a long and healthy life.

The better the start in life, the more likely a person is to have a good outcome also in the future. For this reason there has been much emphasis in recent years on Infant Mortality Rates, which are generally agreed to be amongst the most sensitive overall indicators of a nation's health.

Infant Mortality Rates (IMR) are usually stated as numbers of deaths per 1000 live births. The figures are often broken down into rates for the first four weeks of life (neonatal rate) and then for the rest of the first year of a child's life (post-neonatal rate), i.e. from the end of week four till first birthday.

Infant Mortality Rates in Britain
The national statistics show that even since the 1970s, in the UK IMRs have fallen by about 60%. In 1978 the neonatal (first four weeks) rate was 8.7 deaths per 1000 live births, and the post-neonatal rate, up to a child's first birthday, was 4.5.

By 1988 the rates were 4.9 and 4.1 respectively, and in 1997 they were 3.9 and 2.0.

In 2007 the UK neonatal mortality rate was 3.3 per 1000 live births, and the post-neonatal rate was 1.5 - in other words, a child born in the UK in 2007 had a probability of dying before his or her first birthday of just about one half of one percent. (You can see international comparisons here.)

Regional differences
Sadly, these national statistics include both good and bad news. The good news is that decent housing, income and environments can support people in long and healthy lives.

The bad news is that the opposite conditions can be lethal. There are parts of the North of England, for instance, where IMR is about twice that national average, and up to seven times that of the very best outcomes.

Specifically, high IMR and low life expectancy often go hand-in hand in the Spearhead areas; the 70 local authority areas with the worst health and deprivation indicators, and for which a programme of public service interventions has been developed.

High risk factors in health inequality
The target does not however take into account all dimensions of health inequalities in infant mortality. The statistics show e.g. that in 2002–04, the infant mortality rate of babies of mothers:
* born in Pakistan (10.2 per 1,000 live births) was double the overall IMR;
* born in the Caribbean (8.3 per 1,000 live births) was 63% higher than the national average;
* aged under 20 years (7.9 per 1,000 live births) was 60% higher than for older mothers aged 20–39;
* where the birth was registered by the mother alone (6.7 per 1,000 live births), was 36% higher than among all births inside marriage or outside marriage or jointly registered by both parents.

Improving life chances
Obviously, these significant inequalities are just not acceptable. The Government therefore introduced a Public Service Agreement (PSA ) Target in 2007 with the express objective of reducing the IMR gap, so that more babies will live to have long and healthy lives. (Healthy babies also have better long-term prospects, sometimes dramatically so.)

The deal is that the UK Treasury provides the money, and the public sector delivers the agreed outcome, to a clear timescale and against clearly measured outcomes.

Particular emphasis has therefore been placed in terms of health inequalities on achieving a ten percent reduction (between 2003 and 2010) in the IMR deficit between people in routine and manual (R&M) jobs, and the general population.

Practical steps forward
The practical ways in which the Health Inequalities Infant Mortality PSA Target Review (February 2007) can be achieved are focused on two things: sensible day-to-day actions and provisions, and interdisciplinary co-operation. In the words of the NHS summary of the Implementation plan for reducing health inequalities in infant mortality:

'The plan describes how commissioners and service providers can develop local services to help reduce health inequalities in infant mortality through:

* promoting joined-up delivery of the target with Maternity Matters and Teenage Parents Next Steps. This includes
* improving access to maternity care;
* improving services for black and minority ethnic (BME) groups;
* encouraging ownership of the target through effective performance management;
* raising awareness of health inequalities in infant mortality and child health;
* gathering and reporting routine data, including specific maternity and paediatric activity;
* undertaking joint strategic needs assessment to identify local priorities around health inequalities in maternity and infant mortality;
* giving priority to evidence-based interventions that will help ensure delivery of the target.

It emphasises the importance of partnership working; outlines the role of government departments, strategic health authorities (SHAs), primary care trusts (PCTs), local authorities and Sure Start Children’s Centres.'

Specific, realisable targets for practical action and delivery
Progress may be slow, but none of this is rocket science.

Large-scale studies have demonstrated that just a few health messages about avoiding early years risk can have a big impact. Indeed, the Review of Health Inequalities has been able to quantify four measures, and suggest another one, which would have appreciable impact on the ‘10% reduction in IMR gap’ target. These were:

* reduce prevalence of obesity in the R&M group by 23%, to current general population levels – 2.8% gap reduction
* reduce smoking in pregnancy from 23% to 15% in R&M group – 2% gap reduction
* reduce R&M group sudden unexpected deaths in infancy by persuading 1 in 10 women in this group to avoid sharing a bed with their baby, or letting it sleep prone (on its front) – 1.4% gap reduction
* achieve teenage pregnancy target – 1% gap reduction
* also, early booking and improved teenage pregnancy services – not possible as yet to quantify probable gap reduction, but positive impact on gap anticipated.

Getting it right
The scope for getting this right in very simple ways is therefore enormous. Whilst guidance at national level, such as the Department of Health's Child Health Promotion Plan (June 2008) is essential to provide a framework, much of the responsibility for success has to lie with the authorities 'on the ground', who have to co-ordinate the action.

In reality, only at the local level is it possible to get practitioners to work together well, to ensure that all those - including so-called 'hard to reach' minority ethnic familes, travellers and e.g. very young parents or parents with mental health problems - who would benefit from services, advice or support, in fact receive them. Although programmes such as the Family Nurse Partnership (a joint Department of Health / Department for Children, Schools and Families project whereby specially trained midwives and health vsitors work closely with vulnerable, first time, young parents) are starting to reach those with most disadvantage, in some places still this doesn't always happen.

It is disappointing therefore to read claims in this month's Regeneration and Renewal that the PSA Inequality target will be missed, despite the many billions of pounds (£9bn in 2007-8) which have been invested in Sure Start services to deliver early years provision.

An expected move
This probably why the Government is launching a public consultation on proposals to give Sure Start Children's Centres a specific statutory legal basis, as part of the forthcoming Education and Skills Bill.

Such a move was indicated as a possibility when The Children's Plan (the ten year programme for Every Child Matters) was introduced in December 2007. It would establish Sure Start Children's Centres as 'a legally recognised part of the universal infrastructure for children's services, so their provision becomes a long term statutory commitment and part of the established landscape of early years provision'.

The best way forward
This is a much better idea than the alternatives proffered in some quarters - more Health Visitors as a stand-alone, for instance. (What about the GPs / family doctors? How do they fit in?)

A review of progress has shown (as my own consultancy work also indicates) that the PSA infant mortality target was not known or understood by practitioners (NHS, local government and Sure Start staff etc) despite individual examples of leadership and good practice.

Reaching out
And nor, in my experience, do practitioners and policy makers automatically know that impact has to be measured across the whole relevant population of infants, not just those who attend particular service provision, be this Health Visitor clinics, Sure Start or whatever.

About 80% of early years formal care is actually undertaken by small private concerns, child minders and so forth, a 'group' which, whilst of course the subject of statutory regulation and monitoring, it is particularly difficult to bring together in any meaningful way. But what happens in small relatively isolated provision will have a big impact on children's future lives.

The PSA IMR Review has therefore identified the criticality of making the 10% gap reduction target part of everyday business – integrating into commissioning plans and provider contracts; taking responsibility and engaging communities; matching resources to needs; and focusing on what can be done.

Multi-disciplinary and future-facing
The challenges of equipping professionals to work together across disciplines are complex; not every practitioner would say, if asked, that they actually want to be so equipped and so far out of their comfort zone. But these challenges must be met, as is beginning to happen, with skills audits by NIACE which indicate the centrality in Sure Start provision of effective multi-agency leadership and partnership development.

The National Audit Office reports that, whilst most Sure Start Children's Centre managers understand they must approach the work in a multi-disciplinary way, this is not always so for local authorities, who 'had not all developed effective partnerships with health and employment services'.

The onus is now particularly on local government and NHS providers. If it takes more legislation to ensure they all collaborate properly with Sure Start Children's Centres (and vice versa), so be it. It's children's futures which are at stake.


Read also: Early Intervention In The Early Years

See also: 'Changes for the better?' - The Every Child Matters policy, published in 2003, was a landmark proposal for child social service reform. Five years on, Ruth Winchester asks the professionals how things have developed, and what progress has been made (The Guardian, 22 October 2008)

School children What are schools for? If they're intended to give every child a good start in life, how can anyone defend the old-style Secondary Modern Schools? And how can the other side of this equation, Grammar Schools, be justified? These are institutions defined only by the fact that their students 'passed' or 'failed' an examination at age 11; and the children know it.

The Guardian has reported that there are still 170 Secondary Modern Schools in England, as also 164 Selective Grammar Schools remain, the last few institutions from the Tripartite System commonly employed by Education Authorities the UK between 1944 Butler Education Act and the Education Act of 1974. (This Act heralded the arrival of Comprehensive Schools - though effectively only in name if selective state education also continued in any given County.)

Ed Balls MP, the Government's Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, does not like selection by testing at 11+, but has allocated substantial sums of money to help those 'SecMods' in need of extra support.

Selection and struggling students
Balls is right to do this, but it is right as well that the Guardian reminds us that the 14 County Councils which provide wholly selective state secondary education are also those with highest proportions of struggling schools.

Grammar Schools had their place in the post-WWII scenario of bringing forward the talents of children from less privileged backgrounds, at a time when there were few academically well-qualified and professionally trained teachers. The 'Grammars' were a well-intentioned strategy to nurture children deemed bright, and we knew far less then about how to teach and support children across the board to succeed.

Now, a school which does not support all its pupils or students is rightly judged inadequate; it is not the children who have 'failed', but the school. (What can I say about the school only a few miles from where I live, where just 1% of children gain five good GCSEs - the worst 'results' in the country? Despite its beautifully fitted-out new buildings, its results are simply an unbelievable disgrace.)

Failed students, or failed schools?
One of the reasons given for not closing dreadful schools - though that may happen - is that the children might think it's they who have failed, not their school.

But with the 11+, where only a small percentage of children gain Grammar School places, that's exactly what the message is: 'You, personally, have already failed'.

How counter-productive and downright cruel is that?

Success despite rejection
I know people who 'failed' at age 11, but have gone on to achieve considerable success in their careers.

None of them attributes that success to their Secondary Modern School; and most of them still rue the day when, aged just 11, they were pronounced 'failures'.

It hurts and damages for life.


Read more articles about Education & Life-Long Learning.

08.3.16a Cross arms 115x96 001aa.jpgSenior women leaders are often criticised for being less confident than the men, and for feeling unable to delegate. Is this any wonder, when those very men don't play fair? It's time for sexist attitudes in the corridors of power to be challenged head-on - which is exactly what Margot Wallström, Chair of the Council of Women World Leaders Ministerial Initiative, has just been doing.


The truth is, men choose men. It is as simple as that – not a question of lack of ambition, of interest or of aptitude from women.

So, in her article A thick layer of men, says Margot Wallström, Chair of the Council of Women World Leaders Ministerial Initiative, a network of current and former women presidents, prime ministers and ministers aiming 'to promote good governance and enhance democracy globally by increasing the number, effectiveness, and visibility of women who lead at the highest levels in their countries'.

Chaps' clubs
Well, I of course agree. There has to be some explanation of the neglect of women's (much-needed) talents, and the most obvious is that they're not part of the Gang. Until 90 years ago, women in the UK weren't even permitted to vote, let alone to be members of the UK's ultimate chaps' club, Parliament, where many of the really big decisions are made.

We all know that the dynamic of debate and decision-making changes as the gender ratio also changes, both for men and for women.

And of course some men are always fairminded and exemplary in their professional conduct and beliefs; but sadly not as yet in sufficient numbers to secure the fundamental changes essential for genuine gender (or other) equality.

Determined rather than confident?
Maybe this explains claims at the moment that there may now be more women taking leadership roles, but these women are 'less confident' than their male peers, and feel more obliged to 'check the detail' and don't like to delegate.

You can only let the detail go, and feel confident, if you know that what you ask to be done, is indeed being done.

The next step towards gender equality can only be taken by the male half of the workforce. When men (and some other women) are as amenable to women as to men issuing the orders, leaders who happen to be female will feel confident that they don't need to check up on everything.

Challenge the sexism, not the upshot
Until that's fully grasped - and until ungendered collaboration and compliance in the workplace becomes a required part of professional behaviour for everyone - criticism of women's leadership styles is, quite simply, unfair and out of order.

All power, I say, to Margot Wallström's elbow, as she puts the ball back firmly in the chaps' court.

Tutorial (small) 90x120.jpg This website seems to be used as a learning resource, as well as by a more general readership. Teachers and students refer to it for a range of reasons; and amongst these is the opportunity for people whose first language is not English to read short articles linked to other websites on the same topics. So, how do / could you use this site as an educational resource?

Your views and advice, as teachers and as students or general readers, about how this 'learning resource' facility might be extended, would be most welcome. As myself a qualified teacher who worked in education for many years, I am always enthusiastic about the development of new learning materials and ways of teaching. If only the internet had been available when education was my day job.....

I look forward to your ideas and contributions on this topic.

Thank you!

Rainbow 1 (small) 85x90.jpg 11, 12, 13, 14, 15? At last you can start making your own choices. Your parent/s have the final say, but increasingly you're trusted just to get on with it. You know how important school is, and maybe you have ideas about a career, but there’s still space for fun in with the serious stuff. Sometimes you can even combine the two....

And that’s the idea, along with some general Be Happy Rules, behind the list which follows of ‘Things To Do’. You can try them, or you might not, but perhaps the list will spark off more ideas to keep you trying out new adventures and developing new skills.

OK, here goes. Why don’t you:

Get physical
Learn to roller or ice-skate, walk to school, swim competitively, train for the 5 /10k. Take the challenge to try something different from your normal team game or school activities. Remember, exercise is for life, so to gain the full benefits start now and enjoy.

Annotate your friends
You’d be astonished how quickly time will fly! To remember your friends now for the future, make a book, video or other record of who they are and how they are part of your life. Get them to add their own contributions to your ’collection’; but do ensure that what you record is something they’d still like to see in ten years’ time.

Help raise environmental awareness
Learn to calculate your carbon footprint – and then help others to do the same. Can you predict what is most ‘carbon costly’? Might you / others change anything you do because of what you learn? That carbon score might just deliver some surprises!

Become a fashionista
Can you find a sewing machine somewhere? Why not design and make your own clothes, from scratch or by adapting gear you already have? Girl or guy, choose a style, fabric or colour you like, and go for it. It’s never too early to make your own style statement.

Find you way around
You’re well past the ‘Are we nearly there now?’ stage, so learn to map-read – street maps, rights of way, routes in or out of town, journeys to other places; all make more sense (and are much more interesting) if you can interpret the map.

Create a little happiness
Everyone worries and feels down sometimes, but you can decide now to start life as you mean to go on – by making the best of things whenever possible. Give yourself a private project to observe what makes people you care for and admire really, positively happy; and then see what you can do, as a part of your daily routine, to create more of this wonderful state of being for yourself and others.

Do your bit for the environment now
Plant a shrub or tree, or some vegetables or flowers, then nurture them and watch them grow. Maybe you can make this the beginning of your new 'green’ habit? Could you even, perhaps, share this activity with others in your family?

Gain skills for independence
Regardless of gender, you’ll need to look after yourself ‘properly’ in the not-too-distant future. Sure, you’re excellent on computers, but do you know how to operate the washing machine, redecorate a room or cook a decent meal? Having these skills is not only useful, they can also be the way to impress your family and friends. So if you’ve got it, flaunt it - think where cooking has taken Jamie Oliver!

Write your own ‘future diary’
You’re beginning to think seriously about your future. Now is the time to ’vision’ it, however straightforward or ambitious your intentions. Use your ‘future diary’ to imagine what life in your possible line of work might be like in five, ten or fifteen years. How might your workday go? How might you feel about it? And, most importantly, if you like what you ‘see’, what do you need to do to get there?

Do your own thing
Maybe you want to do things your way, no bright-ideas-from-elsewhere style? Well, within the boundaries of what’s sensible and positive, just go for it.

But whatever you do, please remember just to check with your parents first – plus, you never know, they may perhaps even
have just a few good ideas of their own!

Have you read....?
Things To Do When You're 16 - 18
What To Do At Any Age - Be Happy
* Life is not a rehearsal
* Smile when you can
* Do acts of random kindness
* Try no-TV days
* Be cautious sometimes, cynical never
* Use your pedometer
* Treat yourself daily to a 'Went Right' list

And why not add your own take on Things To Do When You're 11–15 via the Comments box below...

Rainbow 2 (small) 85x89.jpg 16, 17 and 18 are when it really starts to buzz. What you choose now will have impact for a long time to come. Horizons are expanding as comfort zones are challenged. Opportunities grasped now, at work and at play, will shape the adventure to follow. So go for it, looking forward and with a zest for life.

This is a time for action, but it’s also the time to set yourself some groundrules for the future – not ‘don’t do this’ restrictions, but an approach to life which will serve you well in years to come. If you haven’t already, check out the general Be Happy Rules for some ideas; happiness (or at least peace of mind) is often a matter of choice.

Then, future chemist, carer or caterer, you might like to give these suggestions a try.....

Get moving
You’re finally old enough to get a Driving Licence! So do it properly, and learn to drive with pride and care. Those driving lessons are about one of your first adult responsibilities; please take good advice and use your newly-won freedom skilfully.
And maybe you’d also like to sail, ski, horseride, hill-walk, who knows...? Get out and about, using your strength and stamina to explore a whole new world.

Keep what you’ve got
Perhaps you’ve been having football, music, hockey, dance, chess or other lessons along with your school studies; and maybe the demands of exams are pushing these aside. Fair enough, but don’t lose it altogether. Keep your hand in where and when you can.
These interests are investments in your future – and excellent ways to spend a bit of ‘me time’ now, if you’re feeling stressed out.

Plan and enjoy
Is there something you would especially like to have or do? Give this one a bit of thought, and plan how you’ll do it. Maybe you’ll do it alone, or maybe with others, but now’s the time to get the act together; manoeuvre, save, persuade – and then be sure to enjoy!
And, whatever it is, big or small, it will look good on your CV too.

Be vote-wise
Somewhen soon you’ll have a chance to vote. Make sure you are ready for this, that you know the actual practicalities of voting (where to go, which forms to complete etc) and that you understand the party-political options on offer.
‘They’re all the same’ is not an adult way to respond to politics and our hard-won right to vote; so if you don’t like what’s being said, be sure your voice is heard and do your best to make things better.

History B.Y. (Before You)
It’s never too early to start a habit which will serve you well for many decades.... get to know your neighbourhood, town or city and find out why it’s like it is. Who ‘made’ it? And who’s in charge now?
What’s behind the local names for streets and areas? Are there local stories passed down from generation to generation? There are some fascinating tales to be told, and it’s great to be in the know.

Become a people watcher
Late teens is a time when career choices loom large. It doesn’t matter whether your ambition is a steady job or a heady career, you need to know something about how it all happens – so remember to people-watch! How have people in occupations which interest you got there (or not)? What seems to make them happy, and what worries them?
It may be easy to find out, or it may require some work, but with luck you’ll discover everyone’s happy to share their personal take on chosen occupations. These are big career decisions you’re about to make.

Go camping
It might be your backyard (to practise), it might be a bus-ride away, or it could be another continent, but try life under canvas. In years gone by camping was a well-established and often very soggy part of growing up. Thankfully, modern arrangements are both more civilised and less regimented.
This is a brilliant way to adventures and self-sufficiency (plan before you plunge!), perhaps just for a day or two, perhaps for a whole summer somewhere really exciting and new.

Get involved
No matter what your background and experience to date, there are now comfort zones to breach and challenges ahead. Always value your family and friends, but also see where else you can go. Is there a ‘cause’ or charity you might support, or something you’d really like to help with? Are there younger children in your school you’d like to encourage? Or older people in your community who’d enjoy your company?
You’ll probably gain as much as you give, and it’s never naff to care enough to share.

Learn First Aid
This is a strictly practical aspect of your developing skills. If your school, college or workplace doesn’t teach First Aid, ask why not. And if it does, make sure you’ve done the course.
Learning how to save a life is a valuable investment of anyone’s time.

Get green gym-ing
Is there a green gym in your part of the world? A place with open-access exercise points, perhaps in the local college grounds or park, where everyone can get fit and enjoy fresh air at the same time? If there isn’t, are you going to get one installed, and then use it? ... maybe even help to construct it yourself?
‘Green’ themes are the future, and especially yours as a young person. If green gyms aren’t your thing, perhaps there’s another eco- / fitness project you would enjoy? Discuss and decide what’s best, and don’t take No for an answer! Good luck.

Have you read ...?
Things To Do When You're 11 - 15
Things To Do When You're 19 - 21
What To Do At Any Age - Be Happy

* Life is not a rehearsal
* Smile when you can
* Do acts of random kindness
* Try no-TV days
* Be cautious sometimes, cynical never
* Use your pedometer
* Treat yourself daily to a 'Went Right' list

And why not share your alternative ideas here, too? You can add your own take on Things To Do When You're 16 - 18 via the Comments box below...

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