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Comment & opinions

Expert commentary, insight and opinion from the University of Worcester community.

  • Early Years Qualified Teachers in Pre-School Settings

    A report published by the children’s charity Save the Children, has called for the Government to place an Early Year’s Qualified Teacher in all pre-school and nursery settings.

    Research by the Charity and University College London found that almost 130,000 children in England were falling behind in language abilities before they reached school.

    Senior Lecturer in Early Childhood at the University of Worcester, Rosie Walker, told BBC Hereford and Worcester that the report has raised some concerns.

    “The report is raising some very important issues about the need to stimulate children’s learning in the early years. As we know, the first five years of life pass really quickly and achieving the highest quality learning for children is absolutely critical.

    “What we aim to do in nurseries is to provide children with really high quality teaching and learning opportunities; and opportunities to develop their curiosity; and to develop the pre-requisites for learning.”

    She went on to say: “Schools do have a base-line of assessment for children and aims for children, but what’s important is that children start school ready to learn. That they have that disposition to learn, they have a curiosity, they want to ask questions and they’re in a place where they’re ready to learn and that’s more important than anything.”

    Attributing blame to the statistics is something that we should avoid says Rosie: “I think it’s not helpful to talk about fault. I think what we do really need to have is a very strong partnership between parents and pre-school and nursery settings to enable the best chance for children to develop the skills they need.”

    | 01 April 2016

  • The Syrian Refugee Crisis

    The Syrian refugee crisis and the many provocative images shown across the media has led to calls for Britain to open its arms and help those fleeing violence in their home country.

    Principal Lecturer in Human Geography, Dr David Storey, told BBC Hereford and Worcester that that is exactly what the nation needs to do.

    "It's worth bearing in mind, when we talk about this refugee crisis, that it's principally a crisis for the refugees themselves," he said. "The majority of the world's refugees do not end up in Europe, let alone within the UK, and if we think about the Syrian context specifically at the moment, the on-going violence at the moment in Syria has resulted in something like 10 million people being displaced from their homes. Now the majority of those are elsewhere in Syria but somewhere in the region of 3 million of those are outside of Syria, and the vast majority are in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, those immediately neighboring countries. So it's really only a very small proportion that reach the EU and of those, a smaller proportion reach the UK. So to talk about this as being a problem for the UK does not really make sense."

    He continued: "We need to be careful about the language we use. You [BBC presenter] use the term yourself, 'mass rush', and this in itself creates this image which almost dehumanises people and we must bear in mind that these are individuals we are talking about here - we are not talking about dis-embodied entities and I think primarily we are talking about a humanitarian situation here and as a relatively rich country on a global scales, we should be doing more."

    Dr David Storey | 05 September 2015

  • Welcoming the European Wheelchair Basketball Championships

    As Course Leader for the BSc Sports Coaching Science with Disability Sport degree, it gives me great pleasure to be a part of the European Championships for Wheelchair Basketball.

    The Championships are being held at the University of Worcester from 28th Aug – 6th Sept and it is events like this that sets the University of Worcester apart. Our students are getting the chance to work and volunteer alongside elite level athletes who are looking to qualify for the Paralympic Games in Rio 2016.

    As well as being the Course Leader for Sports Coaching Science with Disability Sports, I am also the Sport Psychology Consultant to the Great Britain Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Squad and its these experiences that I like to bring back into the classroom and share as part of my teaching of our students. Opportunities to work and research in the field of disability sport are growing and this course is an excellent platform for such work. It is a great course which also links closely with the main Coaching Science course and we still have a few remaining places for September 2015 so get in touch and be a part of it!

    Dr Andrea Faull Department Head for PE, Dance & Coaching and Principal Lecturer in Sport & Exercise Psychology | 25 August 2015

  • Dementia care report 'no surprise'

    A newly-released report suggests that GPs believe that people living with dementia aren't getting enough health and social care help. Professor Dawn Brooker, Head of the University's Association for Dementia Studies, gave her reaction to the BBC.

    'I’m not at all surprised. This comes off the back of a recent report from the King’s Fund saying something very similar. We’ve got to remember that, even in Herefordshire and Worcestershire, we’ve had two cases in recent years of family carers who took their own lives and the lives of the person that they were caring for – this is really serious stuff when it goes wrong.

    'I think there’s always an issue when you’ve got something as complicated as dementia that carries on over so many years, when people need different services at different points over the course of their illness. So co-ordination is always a real problem. We need to have a single point of access for all the different services that people need.

    'One of the main issues is that we’ve got an increasingly ageing population and it’s the volume now of people coming through. We had budget cuts of 12% last year to social care and we’ve got more in the pipeline, at a time when we’ve got an increasing number of people needing really good support and care.

    'There’s not an easy long-term solution. We’ve known that this problem has been coming for a long time. It needs funding, it needs training and education, it needs more skilled staff on the ground who are accessible 24/7. People with dementia don’t just have problems between 9 and 5, they have problems throughout the whole day.'





    Professor Dawn Brooker Director of the Association for Dementia Studies | 06 July 2015

  • How to improve your chances of a lottery win

    Earlier this week, National Lottery operator Camelot announced that the format of the game would be changing. The new rules will see players select six of 59, rather than the current 49 numbers. Mathematician Alun Owen explains the impact on players

    'The chances of winning the jackpot have greatly reduced. They were one in 14 million, but (with the rule change) the chances will go right down to one in 45 million.

    'To put that into perspective, the chances of winning the jackpot with the new changes are equivalent to tossing a coin 25 times and getting heads every time. In fact, you’re slightly more likely to get 25 heads in a row, because that stands at around 33 million to one.

    'There are about 54 million people in England and Wales, and in 2007, two of those people were struck by lightning. So that’s a two in 54 million chance, or a one in 27 million chance. So you’re more likely to be struck by lightning than winning the jackpot now.

    'There is research out there that can help with your chances of winning. If you’re going to win, you want to win when there are no other winners, so that you win the prize all to yourself. I think that’s part of the strategy behind the change; so that if there’s a winner, there’s likely to be only one winner.

    'You can improve your chances by picking numbers that aren’t so popular. For example, the numbers below 31 are the most popular, possibly because they’re the days that represent people’s birthdays. Numbers above 31 are less popular, because they’re not on the calendar.

    'This change introduces numbers in the fifties and opens things up to numbers that are less popular. It won't surprise anyone to know that number seven is the most popular number.'



    | 18 June 2015

  • 'They will look for people who feel disconnected from society'

    Earlier this week, news broke of 'Britain's youngest suicide bomber'; a 17 year-old from Dewsbury who had been groomed online by ISIS. Here, social media expert Peter Forster explains the recruitment tactics used by the terrorist group.

    Speaking on BBC Hereford and Worcester, Peter said:

    "They’re very good at selecting people that are potentially vulnerable, so they will look for people who are disenfranchised in some way, or who feel disconnected from society, and offer them a new way of life. They also worked very well at identifying people who are perhaps, minor criminals, and will offer them the opportunity for retribution, to put past wrongs right.

    "The recruitment process identifies potential types, and putting out there the right ‘glamorous’ image of ISIS, and the fact that you could live a more positive life. There are a lot of different roles within ISIS – some are appealing to people’s humanitarian instincts; you can become doctors within ISIS, for instance. They are very subtle, very sophisticated and they use social media in a way that Al Qaeda and some of the older groups can only dream of.

    "One of the most promising things though is that young people who have joined, found out that it was not the experience that they wanted and have left the organisation. That’s already been utilised in some parts of the world very effectively, as they talk to young people in a way that they understand and they know the realities, so that’s something that can be really built on."



    Dr Peter M Forster Senior Lecturer and Course Leader | 17 June 2015

  • Is the Women's Institute still relevant in 2015?

    The Women's Institute (WI) celebrates its centenary this year, but is the organisation still relevant in 2015? Cultural Historian, Professor Maggie Andrews, spoke to BBC Radio Kent on this subject.

    'As an organisation, the WI was founded by many people who were very strong in their suffrage support and feminist support in 1915. Lots of women who, in the Edwardian period, had been burning down football stadiums, were there in 1915/1920, forming the WI.

    'They sing Jerusalem because that was sung at the 1918 celebration of women getting the suffrage, and their colours are purple, white and green because those were the suffragette colours. That’s their history, and the campaigns that they have done over the last 100 years to improve the lives of ordinary, rural women are really important in feminist terms.

    'It’s shifted recently. It used to be that they wouldn’t open a WI in a town of more than 5,000 people, but of course now there are 50 WIs in London, and they are open in all sorts of urban areas. Young people who are working choose to go to a WI after they’ve finished work, there are WIs on university campuses. They’ve shifted so that they’re about a concern with the rural – the rural version of domesticity, but not in that same way limited to people living in rural areas. Many people who live in towns have got that rural background and a lot of people in Britain identify with the rural even if they’re not actually living there.

    'I think, on one level, the challenge is to bring together the very different groups involved. Nowadays, groups are formed where age groups don’t mix – you have young ones, then somewhere else you have the older ones, so the challenge is to try to bring together those groups, to get some of the conversations going, to get the interactions going.'



    Prof Maggie Andrews Professor of Cultural History | 09 June 2015

  • The 'invisible wounds' of war can last a lifetime

    The past week has seen events taking place throughout the country to mark the 70th anniversary of VE Day. Psychologist Peter Forster told the BBC about the extent to which those involved in war can be haunted by the invisible wounds.

    'The invisible wounds of wars and conflicts can be lifelong. The common effects would include such things as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, but there’s such a wide range of things. 'Survivor guilt' is also a very common experience – these abnormal experiences produce abnormal effects within us.

    'People used to be much less tolerant of people having mental effects from these kinds of conflicts, and yet they are so common. Thankfully, we can actually treat and help people if they do come forward to seek help; it’s very difficult to do it alone.

    'About ten per cent of those caught up in conflicts have post-traumatic stress disorder, where they simply can’t function in life, they can’t work, they can’t have relationships. Another ten per cent have major problems just coping and getting through. But the rest, with help and support from families and friends, can and do get through.

    'One of the effects for quite a lot of people who are badly affected by war is that a part of their memory gets cut off from the rest. It can stay like that for a whole lifetime. If they can come forward and get professional help, you can help them to get through that and integrate those memories so that they can live a healthier and more normal life.'



    Dr Peter M Forster Senior Lecturer and Course Leader | 11 May 2015

  • A small step down 'an encouraging path'

    This week, scientists at an American university have announced the discovery of a potential new treatment for Alzheimer's. Chris Russell, of the University of Worcester's Association for Dementia Studies, gave his reaction to BBC Hereford and Worcester.

    'What this research does is shows just how much we’ve still got to understand about the brain and how the brain works. However, it does move the very important issue of 'how we stop dementia happening' on a little bit further.

    'I think Alzheimer’s Research UK are cautiously welcoming this, but I think that their response is worth noting, because there are over 100 different types of dementia. This research is one trial which has been done with mice, therefore shows us something, but doesn’t give us the whole picture yet. However, it certainly takes us a little bit further down that encouraging path.

    'There’s been a target set by the Government that, by the year 2025, we will have or be well on the way towards a treatment for dementia. Without wishing to sound too pessimistic, we’re still a long way away from that due to the complexity of the condition. But this is another step towards that, potentially.

    'There are things that we can do now to improve the lives of people with dementia, to help people to live well with dementia. Primary amongst that is developing a good understanding of what it feels like to live with dementia, which we can do through good publicity and training and teaching immediately; we don’t have to wait until 2025.

    'We’re actually hearing from people with dementia and the families of people with dementia more and more, and when we hear people’s real stories – the positive as well as the negative – about things that people are still doing out there in the community, holding down jobs and going about their daily lives. Those are interesting stories and real stories.'

    Read the full story about the new research here.



    | 16 April 2015

  • How will this summer play out for hayfever sufferers?

    The University of Worcester is home to the National Pollen and Aerobiology Research Unit, which produces the national pollen counts for the MET Office. Chief Palynologist Beverley Adams-Groom explains how this summer is shaping up for hayfever sufferers.

    'Generally, the birch pollen season will run through April into early May and the grass pollen season from late May through to August.

    'Last summer was particularly bad for tree pollen – one of the worse we’ve ever seen in Worcester since records began - which is what we’re dealing with at the moment. The birch tree pollen season kicked off last week; we’re expecting that to go quite high, but it’s late in the season for birch trees, so it’s not going to be a terribly long season this year.

    'The grass pollen is what affects the majority of people, and we’ve had bad years for grass pollen two summers in a row, due to the nice weather. However, we don’t yet know how it’s going to play out this year. It’s very difficult to predict because it’s very much based on what happens with the weather in late April and early May and, as we all know, that can be very unpredictable.

    'You need the right conditions over the winter and the spring for the trees and the grasses to produce the pollen, and then of course you’ve got to have the right weather in season for the levels to go high.

    'I always recommend that people who think that they’re suffering from hayfever go and get a diagnosis from their doctor. If they’re suffering very badly, the doctor can help to find out what the allergens actually are and possibly send them to an allergy specialist.'



    Dr Beverley Adams-Groom Chief Palynologist and Pollen Forecaster | 13 April 2015

The views and opinions expressed here are soley those of the original author. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the University of Worcester.

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