Teaching children to swim to save lives


There is often much discussion around which skills should be taught in school and which skills parents should take responsibility for.

Research from the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) has highlighted the vital role schools need to play in teaching children to swim and has warned that half of seven to 11-year-olds in England cannot swim the length of a standard pool.

These statistics are made more worrying by the fact that drowning is the third largest cause of death in under-11s. So should this matter of life and death be the responsibility of teachers or parents? It should be a bit of both, although The UK Government has emphasised the role of schools in teaching children to swim by recommending pupils have 22 hours of swimming lessons per year, although it is believed that only 2% of state schools delivered on this recommendation.

Experts believe that schools should be prioritising swimming and that Ofsted should focus its PE inspections on swimming, as it is the only sport that can save lives. There are of course many reasons why some schools struggle to meet the 22 hour guideline; the cost of transportation, as many primary schools are not equipped with a pool, lack of time in the school day and increasing pressures to deliver top exam results. These all impact negatively on schools’ swimming provision.

There is some hope however, in the form of £150m funding from the government, towards school sports. ASA is calling for the lion’s share to be spent on swimming and water-safety skills. Hopefully schools will seize this opportunity and the chance to ensure future generations are more confident in the water.

I am still surprised when my contemporaries admit that they cannot swim a full length of the pool or even keep themselves afloat for a prolonged period of time. I was fortunate enough to benefit from out of school coaching as swimming lessons were practically non-existent in my primary school. It is a skill that stays with you for life and as a result I feel confident that if I or someone else got into danger in the water, I would be able to help the situation. Unfortunately, assuming that all parents will teach their children how to swim is too unreliable, due to a number of variables; income of the family, proximity to a swimming pool and whether working parents have enough time to take their children swimming.

More awareness is being raised about the importance of swimming and with additional funding being made available in September 2013, schools are uniquely placed to make a difference.  


St Augustine’s Priory

Founded by an order of nuns in 1631 in France, St. Augustine’s Priory is steeped in history; one of the feisty nuns decided to became a suffragette. During the Second World War when the air raid sirens sounded, the cannonnesses would lead the girls down to the cellars where lessons would continue.

In 1790 it moved to the UK and is now an exciting, fulfilling and inspiring place to learn. Mango has recently been lucky enough to be given the task of reminding local families of the wonders of the school.

At its open day this week Mangos Rachel Womack, Rebecca Rocca and Rachel Mortell (you wouldn’t believe how many Rachels and Rebeccas we have on the team here!) were shown around the school by 6th former, and articulate poet, Rebecca (there’s always a job for her at Mango with a name like that!)

New headteacher Sarah Raffray has certainly transformed the school into the most wonderful world of learning experiences. Summarising the school’s ethos she says; “St.Augustine’s Priory aims to breed intellectual risk takers.”

The school focuses on valuing each child’s self-knowledge as well as their academic excellence. Their belief is that, if the school develops happy and respected individuals, this has a positive impact on their learning and on the rest of their lives.

During the tour of the school it was very clear that this is exactly what St Augustine’s is set to achieve. The new science block offers a learning environment set to inspire the next generation of female innovators, the art that the girls produce is of an incredibly high standard and the teachers are very committed to the ethos of the school and all its pupils.

But it’s not all about classroom learning. Set in the most beautifully extensive grounds with 12 tennis courts and a classroom within a woodland area, the school is also open to the girls’ parents and children for picnics at the weekend, tennis lessons or just a nature ramble.

It is an exciting time for St.Augustine’s Priory and we look forward to working with them over the next few months.

Spreading a video virus across the web

This week’s blog is inspired by the increasing number of shared video content which let’s face it, in this digital age, we can’t really avoid. The sharing and re-sharing of videos via email and through Facebook and Twitter have undoubtedly given rise to the phenomenon of theses ‘viral’ videos.

It goes without saying that shared video content is more popular than ever before, with more than 48 hours worth of video being uploaded to You Tube every single minute. Given that You Tube is the most popular video sharing website on the web and only six years old, there is huge potential for virtually any video content to go viral.

A viral video is quite simply a video that becomes popular through internet sharing. As a platform for sharing, social media lends itself and has certainly triggered the drastic increase that we have seen over the last few years. Two of the most viral You Tube videos last year were Kony 2012, which received more than 100 million views in six days, and Gangnam Style, which according to Unruly Media was shared 29 million times!

For businesses it has become a widely used marketing tool; viral marketing dates back to the mid-1990s when marketers wanted to create slogans or taglines that would be spread through word-of-mouth. The latest form of this ‘infectious’ marketing is viral video, which is commonly used as part of a campaign these days.

So what does it take for a video to go viral? I really don’t think there is an answer, there doesn’t appear to be any rhyme or reason if we look at some of the videos that have gone viral in previous years. It sounds obvious, but shareability is the most important element; the content needs to contain something that deals with topical subjects or characters of importance to people in a cultural context – someone or something that people would want to share and discuss. If the content relates to anything that people are already talking about then it’s bound to be a big hit. Additionally, it needs to be easy to share, so made in a format and tone that users would want to share.

Here are some interesting statistics about viral video, which are quite fascinating:

More than 3 billion videos are viewed each day on YouTube
71% of smartphone users have searched after seeing an online video advert
Fewer than 10% of the population will always skip online video advert
10 billion video adverts were viewed by Americans in May 2012
100 million people take a social action on YouTube every week
700 YouTube videos are shared on Twitter each minute
38% of online videos adverts are more memorable than traditional televisions adverts
243% of videos increase the time spent on a webpage

What’s your favourite viral video? Let us know!

National Autism Month

This April marks National Autism Awareness Month. First established in the 1970s, this campaign was created to keep the public informed about autism and how to support those with the condition.

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people and how they make sense of the world around them. It is a spectrum condition which means while all people with autism share certain difficulties, their condition will affect them in different ways. Whilst some sufferers are able to live relatively independent lives, others may have accompanying learning disabilities and need a lifetime of specialist support. There are more than half a million people in the UK with autism and the condition is thought to affect one in 110 children.

People with autism have said that to them, the world is a collection of people, places and events which they struggle to make sense of, leading them to feel highly anxious. The three main areas of difficulty which all people with autism share are social communication, social interaction, and social imagination.

People with autism have difficulties with both verbal and non-verbal language. Many have a very literal understanding of language, and think people always mean exactly what they say. Some people with autism may not speak, or have fairly limited speech. They will usually understand what other people say but prefer to use alternative means of communication, such as sign language or visual symbols. Others will have good language skills, but they may still find it hard to understand the give-and-take nature of conversations, perhaps repeating what the other person says or talking about their own interests at length.

People with autism often have difficulty recognising or understanding other people’s emotions and feelings, and expressing their own, which can make it more difficult for them to fit in socially. Difficulties with social interaction can mean that people with autism find it hard to form friendships – they may want to interact with others but are unsure how to.

Social imagination allows us to understand other people’s behaviour, make sense of abstract ideas, and to imagine situations outside our daily lives. Autistic people find it hard to understand and interpret other people’s thoughts and actions or engage in imaginative play and activities. However, difficulties with social imagination should not be confused with a lack of imagination; many people with autism are very creative.

With several of Mango Marketing’s clients operating in the Special Educational Needs (SEN) sector, I thought it would be worth compiling a list of toys, books, play equipment and games that teachers and parents may find popular with young children with autism.

Autistic children tend to prefer toys that involve visual-spatial skills. These could include:

• Bubble blowers
• Colour torch
• Jack-in-the-boxes
• Lego and other construction toys
• Jigsaws
• Train toys
• Drawing, colouring and painting
• Picture or word lotto
• Videos

Rather than just a book with plain text, try looking at some of the following:

• Books with flaps
• Books that encourage readers to touch and feel different textures and fabrics in them
• Puzzle books

It is useful to encourage physical activities that are enjoyable without the need for imagination and understanding or use of language. Physical exercise is reported to diminish bad behaviour and such activities are also helpful for improving problems of motor co-ordination. Here are some suggestions:

• Slide
• Climbing frame
• Swings
• Toys which children can ride: bicycles, toy tractors, etc
• Sand pit
• Paddling pool

It is worth trying to engage autistic children in simple games. Some of the more able autism sufferers learn to play chess very well because of their excellent visual-spatial memories. Board games may also prove successful as they teach the concept of winning and losing. Some games children with autism could play with others include:

• Snap!
• Skittles
• Connect 4
• Guess who?
• Snakes and ladders
• Chess

Charities such as the National Autistic Society aim to give people living with autism the support, education and training they need to help them to live as independently as possible and feel part of the community and wider society. So why not help raise money for this charity or others like it today?!