Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Simon Mayo supports drive to get boys writing!

  • New National Literacy Trust research shows boys’ are half as likely to enjoy writing than girls
  • Simon Mayo joins the charity’s campaign encouraging boys to write

New research published last week by the National Literacy Trust reveals that boys are half as likely to enjoy writing as girls and almost a third never or rarely write outside of class. Broadcaster and children’s author Simon Mayo joins the National Literacy Trust in calling for a renewed focus both at school and at home on ways to get boys into writing.

The National Literacy Trust’s third annual literacy survey of 35,000 8-16 year olds shows that boys are much less enthusiastic about writing than girls. The charity’s report Children and Young People’s Writing in 2012, outlines that:

  • Almost a third of boys say they never or rarely write outside of class (30.2%), half as many girls admitted the same (17.3%) and a third of girls write outside of class daily (32.6%).

  • Boys are twice more likely than girls to say that they don’t enjoy writing at all (20.9% vs. 8.6%)

  • 1 in 5 boys (19.5%) admit that “I would be embarrassed if friends saw me write,” compared with 1 in 8 girls (12.7%)

  • More girls than boys say that “writing is cool” (girls 35.2%, boys 26.8%)

  • Boys are also more likely than girls to agree that “if you can use a spellchecker there is no point in learning spelling and grammar” (boys 30.6%, girls 21.7%)

The National Literacy Trust’s report also reflects a direct link between children’s enjoyment of writing and their results at school. Of those young people who don’t enjoy writing at all, over half write below the expected level, and two-fifths at the expected level. Only 7% of young people who don’t enjoy writing at all write above the level expected for their age.

Simon Mayo, author of the Itch series, whose protagonist is a 14-year-old boy obsessed with science and on a mission to collect all the elements in the periodic table, says:

“It’s so important for boys to find a topic that interests them before they pick up a pen and start writing. I wasn’t particularly interested in writing at school, I only started to enjoy it later on, but I was hampered by being fantastically slow. When I started writing the first Itch book, it was as a short story for my son, but then I was completely captivated by the plot and characters, and the story took over. If you can grab a child’s imagination in the same way, getting them to write about a hobby or something they really enjoy doing then the whole story writing world is open to them.”

This echoes findings from the National Literacy Trust’s report, showing that three quarters of children and young people (75.7%) claim “writing is more fun when you can choose the topic.”

Julie Gibbings, a Senior Programme Manager at the National Literacy Trust who lead’s the charity’s network for schools and literacy professionals says:

“Reading and writing go hand-in-hand and it is through writing that children learn to formulate thoughts and improve their creativity and thinking skills. Our research shows that we must focus on increasing boys’ enjoyment of writing, if we are to support them to succeed at school and throughout their future lives. It’s down to teachers as well as parents to nurture a love of writing in boys’ and help to develop positive attitudes towards it early on in their education.”

The National Literacy Trust has also today launched the results of its 2-year action research project: Transforming Writing. The project, sponsored by Esmée Fairbairn,has developed a systematic approach for assessing writing that aims to raise attainment among primary school pupils.

In summary, the Transforming Writing project increased pupil’s attainment in and enjoyment of writing in all of the 12 schools that took part in the two-year research project. Key results include:

  • 68% of children who were taught by teachers participating in the Transforming Writing project made more than expected progress in writing during one academic year.

  • Similar progress was made by all children, regardless of their gender. 66.7% of boys and 69.3% of girls made above expected progress.
  • The proportion of all children who said they enjoyed writing ‘Quite a lot’ or ‘A lot’ increased by 10% (percentage points).

Visit www.wordsforlife.org.uk to view tips for parents on how to support their children, particularly boys, in improving their writing skills.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

GPs prepare for cold & flu season

New research published this month has raised concerns about washing our clothes at temperatures below 60°C. Mums from across the UK were asked to donate washed and unwashed laundry for swab-testing and microbiologists found:

· 1 in 4 items washed at 40°C harboured traces of bacteria linked to faeces

· A washed bedtime cuddly toy showed the highest % of bacteria linked to faeces

· Washed laundry contained only 14% less bacteria than the dirty, unwashed laundry

Bacterial Soup

The laundry lab test results build on a growing bank of scientific research that shows how low-temperature washing is encouraging a ‘bacterial soup’ inside our washing machines with micro-organisms transferring between contaminated and uncontaminated items.

Winter bugs in our washing

Bacteria and viruses such as Influenza and E.coli can survive when you wash below 60°C.


From this research a new category of laundry detergents have been created to tackle the problem of bacteria in low temperature washing. Dettol’s Anti-bacterial Laundry Cleanser (£4.59, from all major supermarkets) kills 99.9% of bacteria even at 30°C.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Enjoy firework displays and stay safe - follow the Firework Code!

With Bonfire Night and Diwali just around the corner, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) is reminding families not to gamble with their safety when it comes to fireworks.

Each year, RoSPA hears about people being injured by fireworks - about half of these injuries happen at family or private parties and about a quarter in the street or other public place. A much smaller proportion - around 10 per cent - of the injuries happen at large public displays.

It is important that families have the necessary safety preparations in place if they are thinking of staging a fireworks party at home. A hastily prepared bonfire could spell disaster. Fireworks are explosives and should be handled by responsible adults. Young people should watch and enjoy fireworks at a safe distance and follow the safety rules for using sparklers.

Data collected across Britain in previous years shows that, on average, around 1,000 people visit A&E for treatment of a firework-related injury in the four weeks around Bonfire Night, with half of the injuries being suffered by under-18s. The minimum age for buying fireworks is 18 across the UK.

Amy McCabe, whose son Ben was injured at a street firework display, has called on the public to choose the safer option of attending an organised display. Ben was four years old when he was left with permanent scarring after he was hit by a firework at the display held in a residential cul-de-sac in Glasgow.

Amy said: “At our street display, all the instructions were followed and the crowd was kept well back from the display. Don’t think that this sort of accident will never happen to you - fireworks are an explosive at the end of the day. Going to displays that are properly organised is the safest option.

“Ben still suffers nightmares following the incident and is very apprehensive about hot water, candles and loud bangs. He gets very upset and doesn’t want any other child to go through what he’s gone through.”

RoSPA’s fireworks website - www.saferfireworks.com - has everything you need to know about planning a safe fireworks display. It provides details on UK law, tips for setting up a display and the Firework Code: 

  • Plan your fireworks display to make it safe and enjoyable
  • Keep fireworks in a closed box and use them one at a time
  • Read and follow the instructions on each firework using a torch if necessary
  • Light the firework at arm's length with a taper and stand well back
  • Keep naked flames, including cigarettes, away from fireworks
  • Never return to a firework once it has been lit
  • Don't put fireworks in pockets and never throw them
  • Direct any rocket fireworks well away from spectators
  • Never use paraffin or petrol on a bonfire
  • Make sure that the fire is out and surroundings are made safe before leaving.

Sheila Merrill, RoSPA’s public health adviser, said: “Firework season is always an exciting time of year and it is a fantastic event for bringing the family together. But we are appealing to families to ensure that fireworks are treated with respect and are handled only by adults. Adults can also help children and young people to understand the dangers, sharing the important message that fireworks are not toys or missiles.

“If you are planning a firework display at home, good planning is paramount, as is checking to see if your garden is big enough for the fireworks you are buying. 

“The safest place to enjoy fireworks is at properly-organised displays, but RoSPA recognises that not everyone can attend such events. If you are planning to have fireworks at home, we urge people to brush up on the Firework Code to ensure their celebration goes off without incident. It is important to be prepared and to not leave safety until the last minute.

“Only buy fireworks from a reputable retailer and ensure the packaging carries the ‘CE’ mark or is marked with ‘BS 7114’.”

Friday, 1 November 2013


Ronnie the Radiator is back to help homeowners in the South East of England get more from their radiators and combat increasing energy costs this winter following the launch of National Radiator Day 2013, which takes place on Friday 1 November 2013.

The national awareness day aims to highlight the simple, inexpensive or free steps that homeowners can take to retain the heat this winter.

Radiators are the main point of heat delivery for over 26 million homes throughout the UK. Despite this, an ICM poll of 3,397 respondents has revealed that a large proportion of homeowners are not taking the necessary steps to save costs during the winter months.

The survey revealed that in the South East of England:

·       12% of homeowners never service their boiler

·       34% never flush their radiators

·       Over a quarter (26%) bleed their radiators less than once a year

·       Over a quarter (27%) of homeowners do not use radiator reflector panels, thermostatic radiator valves or radiator covers or cabinets to reduce their energy bill

Ronnie the Radiator’s seven hot tips will help homeowners get to grips with their central heating and make sure that households are better equipped to tackle escalating heating costs.

1.     A serviced boiler is a happy boiler

Servicing your boiler well in advance of the winter months will put you ahead of the game and make sure that you and your family won’t get caught out in the cold snap. Not only will servicing your boiler make it run as efficiently as possible but it will help save on heating bills and prevent costly repairs in the future.

2.     Let it Bleed

Trapped air is a radiator’s biggest problem as it limits the amount of heat circulating around the system. Bleeding a radiator when the central heating is turned off using a bleed key is the best way to make sure that hot water circulates throughout the entire radiator – not just in isolated patches. Simply bleed the system until the air has left the radiators and your home will feel toasty in no time.

3.     Get a thermostat

Thermostatic Radiator Valves are an efficient way of preventing heat wastage. Once fitted to your radiators they will detect the air temperature in the room and, if required, automatically switch the radiator off. Remember, turning your heating down by one degree can reduce heating bills by up to 10%*

4.     Budge that sludge

Are your radiators not as warm as they used to be? Are they warm around the top and sides yet cold in the middle and bottom? If so, then you may have a build up of radiator sludge, which means a colder home, higher energy bills and an increased chance of damaging your central heating system. All you need to do is flush them with a few basic tools.  Alternatively, a plumber can quickly and cost efficiently flush them for you.


5.     Bust the dust

We hoover our homes, polish the furniture and dust the picture frames, but we rarely take a look behind our radiators. Clean radiators are more efficient radiators, so by simply cleaning the dust behind and between the convection fins of the radiators you could be saving money on your heating bills. All you need is an inexpensive radiator brush, which you can purchase from most DIY stores.

6.     Don’t block your radiator

Household furniture such as beds, desks and sofas all absorb heat and inhibit airflow, so make sure that they are not blocking your radiators. It’s a simple tip that’s easy to fix – although it often gets overlooked.

7.     Reflections of a radiator

Fitting radiator reflection products, such as HEATKEEPER Energy Saving Radiator Panels, to household radiators not only makes the house feel warmer by reflecting the heat back into the room but they can also significantly reduce energy bills. By reflecting heat back into the radiator the water returns to the boiler hotter, which means it needs to fire less often. They’re easy to install as you don’t have to remove your radiator and payback can be reached in a single winter.

Bob Shire is the creator of Ronnie the Radiator and director of Joulesave, manufacturers of the low-cost high-return HEATKEEPER Energy Saving Radiator Panels - metalized PVC panels that fit behind radiators and save up to 20 per cent on energy bills. HEATKEEPER Radiator Panels are now an Energy Saving Trust ‘Recommended Product’.

On Ronnie’s return Bob comments: “After a summer off it’s great to see Ronnie back in the hot seat helping homeowners get ready for winter. Whilst Ronnie represents a fun way of engaging with homeowners, the escalating cost of energy is no laughing matter. Despite this, there are ways that homeowners can save money by making a few small checks and changes. The cost of energy is only going to continue rising so homeowners must tackle this now.”

For more information and to download Ronnie the Radiator’s seven top tips checklist please visit http://www.heatkeeper.co.uk