British Queen celebrates



Some 50,000 families are to be given free parenting lessons as part of the coalition's drive to make society more responsible.

The classes are being piloted for mothers and fathers with children aged under five in Middlesbrough, High Peak in Derbyshire, and Camden.

They will be offered £100 vouchers to pay for the sessions, and organisations will bid for contracts to provide them.

Issues covered are likely to include communication, managing conflict, discipline, and creating routine and boundaries.

Children's minister Sarah Teather said the trials would start next summer and run for two years. The scheme will cost £5 million for the vouchers plus set-up costs.

"The overwhelming evidence from all the experts is that a child's development in the first five years of their life is the single biggest factor influencing their future life chances, health and educational attainment," she said.



The union representing headteachers is to hold its first-ever strike ballot in the row over public sector pensions.

Members of the National Association of Head Teachers will vote from September 29 on whether to strike for the first time in the union's 114-year history.


Photo by ukhomeoffice


Students coming to the UK from outside the EU to study should be stopped from seamlessly moving into work in order to give British graduates the best chance of finding a job, Immigration Minister Damian Green has said.

Plans to reform the current system that allows non-EU students to work in the UK for up to two years after completing their studies will be part of the Government's crackdown on student visas.

Graduate unemployment hit its highest level for more than a decade last week, with a fifth out of work.

"It seems to me that to allow unfettered access to the jobs market for two years to anyone with a student visa from abroad is putting an unnecessary extra strain on our own graduates," saidMr Green.

"That's clearly an area where the current system is too generous. We want to encourage people to stay in education for as long as possible.

"If they think they are going to incur the expense of a student course and then not have a job at the end of it, then that will discourage people from doing the best for themselves, which is to be as educated as possible. It's quite important that we have a proper fair playing field for British graduates in the jobs market."

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) last week showed 20% of new graduates were unemployed in the third quarter of 2010. This was almost double the rate before the start of the recession, when it stood at 10.6%.

Graduate unemployment also increased faster than for the UK as a whole, the figures showed.


Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2010, All Rights Reserved.

Photo by Shawn Econo

Learning a foreign language can be a daunting task. But when we break it down, it's really a numbers game. How much time are you putting into it and how many words do you know? In most cases, you will require a few hundred hours of study time and overall 2000-3000 words of active vocabulary to be conversational with any hope of one day being actually fluent. Once you learn it to that point, it pretty much becomes self-sustaining, if you maintain it and continue to use it.

This sounds like too difficult a task for someone who casually says "hey i'd like to learn spanish!" but the reality is, you can learn to speak a language at a daily conversation level much more quickly if you apply a few additional techniques to supplement your language method or class. You can be functional with a lot fewer words and you can significantly reduce the number of hours necessary to learn the foundation of the language.

Flashcards Pound for pound the single best and most efficient use of your time when learning a language. Ten seconds of free time becomes a quick quiz - whip card number one out of your pocket "what is the spanish word for ... food? comida? flip the card over ... correct!" Two minutes is a major review session. Look at it this way - if you spent ten seconds on one word, for two minutes - that's twelve words in two minutes. Twelve words a day for five days a week is 3000 words in one year. All the words you need to be conversational in just two minutes a day. That doesn't account for grammar and pronunciation, but still - one year to learn all the vocabulary you need. Don't say you don't have time to learn a language. Remember this the next time you are on line at the bank or the grocery store, doctors office, waiting at a red light etc.

Read Once you have some basic understanding of the language, get some reading material. Here's the important part - something you are interested in. If you're into gardening then get a magazine or print out an online article on gardening in your target language. You'll be learning vocabulary and phrases that really interest you, and that will help you pick it up that much quicker.

Audio If your language method doesn't have an audio component then get one. If it does then get another one anyway. Hearing the language is the most important aspect of learning if you intend to speak it. Give yourself opportunities to use it during otherwise non-productive times like while driving or just relaxing.

Internet Radio Following the above advice, give yourself more (and free!) opportunities to hear your new language. Radio can expose you to new vocabulary and fresh content daily. Don't overdo it with your one audio cd. Mix up your audio with other sources, and constantly changing ones like music and internet news broadcasts from other countries. The more sources you have to hear from, the better.

Daily Contact This is probably the cardinal rule when it comes to learning languages. You must expose yourself to the language every day if possible. Studying ten minutes a day is better than cramming for an hour once or twice a week. Frequent review, even if only a few minutes, is essential. This is true for maintaining a language after you have learned it too. Long periods off are deadly.

Penpals Use the power of the internet to hook up with other people around the world who speak the language you are learning. They can help you immeasurably. You can help them with English and they can help you with your target language. There are plenty of free sites and forums to find people who will be happy to work with you.

Study With Others Studying and practicing with other people can give you instant feedback and interactivity that you just can't get from a book or even audio or software. Even if you only know very little, you will absorb it quicker and with more enjoyment than just studying alone. Ultimately, that's the purpose of learning a foreign language anyway - to communicate with other people.

So, try applying some different techniques to your language learning regimen. You will probably find that you can add a few techniques without requiring any more time from your already overtaxed schedule. You may find that you can actually use less time studying as you streamline your learning process. Learn to learn more effectively and remember to keep your eye on the goal whether you put a number on it or not.

Ron Tichenor



Police are warning that this week's anti-fees protests could be hijacked by "violent youths".

Thousands of students and lecturers are expected to take to the streets on Wednesday and Thursday to demonstrate against the Government's plans to treble university tuition fees.

But the Metropolitan Police raised concerns that troublemakers could use the protests as an "excuse" for violence.

Protests held last month against the proposals were marred by violent clashes and resulted in numerous arrests.

Commander Bob Broadhurst, head of the Met's Public Order Branch said: "We have seen groups of youths descending on the last few student protests as the day progresses, purely with the aim of using the event as a venue for violence and to attack police.

"It has been obvious that these particular elements are not genuine protesters and they have no intention of protesting about cuts to tuition fees or any other issue. They have turned up purely to take part in violence and disorder.

"We will work with all protesters who want to peacefully protest and we acknowledge and respect their right to do so, but I would warn them to be aware of this violent element, which could harm them and their cause."

Mr Broadhurst called for parents to advise their children of the dangers of attending a protest as youngsters are more at risk if violence breaks out.

Many school children, including some dressed in school uniform, attended previous demonstrations, and the Met was criticised after pupils were "kettled" for several hours during the second of a series of protests on November 24.

"Violence and disorder is often a result of a minority who are determined to cause trouble," Mr Broadhurst said.


Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2010, All Rights Reserved.



Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has confirmed he will vote in favour of tuition fee rises, as he tried to minimise damage from a three-way split in his party.

Mr Clegg said he had hopes MPs could "walk through the fire" together by collectively abstaining in the key ballot on Thursday, but it is clear that is not possible.

He accepted that all Lib Dems hold strong views on the issue, and praised the way they have conducted themselves in a "difficult" situation without showing personal animosity.

A significant number of the party's MPs - including potentially some Government members - are expected to go against the coalition agreement by voting no to fee hikes.

There could be repercussions if ministers decide to abstain rather than actively backing Government policy.

Addressing his parliamentary party, Mr Clegg said there had been a "lot of pressure" from the media and protesters.

But he insisted that "to govern was to choose" and, with money tight, the coalition had decided to pump funds into early years education.

The Deputy Prime Minister thanked Business Secretary Vince Cable for forging a "fair" policy that meant no-one had to pay upfront for their studies.

Mr Clegg also set out the mechanism for dealing with MPs and Government members who decided they could not support the fees measures - but aides refused to reveal those details.

Lib Dem grandees Lord Ashdown and Lady Williams have come to Mr Clegg's aid by appealing to the party's MPs not to vote against the reform package, which will treble the maximum annual charge to £9,000.


Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2010, All Rights Reserved.

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development

The UK has slipped further down world education rankings as teenagers fall behind their peers in reading, maths and science.

Countries including Poland and Norway have overtaken the UK in the last three years as education here has "stagnated".

Britain has fallen from 17th in 2006 to 25th for reading skills among 15-year-olds, according to a major study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

In maths, the UK has dropped from 24th to 28th place, it shows.

Around half a million 15-year-olds from more than 70 countries took part in the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) study 2009, with the results for 65 published.

The study assessed how students could use their knowledge and skills in real life, rather than just repeating facts and figures.

The findings showed that the UK's score for reading was 494, about the same as the OECD average, 493. The top performer for reading was Shanghai-China with a score of 556.

For maths skills, the UK's score was 492, again similar to the OECD average of 496. Shanghai-China was again top-ranked with a score of 600.

In science the UK received a score of 514, placing it 16th. The OECD average was 501, and Shanghai-China was again top with 575.

The UK's results remained similar to those in the 2006 PISA study, when the UK was ranked 17th for reading skills, 24th for maths and 14th for science.


Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2010, All Rights Reserved.


Talk by David Annal. Tracing your ancestors back to the period before civil registration and the Victorian census returns can present a genuine challenge to most family historians. But if your family came from London, the problems that you’re likely to face can be even harder to overcome.

The population of London doubled between 1801 and 1841 making it the most populated city in world. The administration of the area was enormously complicated - the City of London alone comprised over 100 parishes - and the records of the various authorities responsible for running London are now spread around a number of different record offices.

This talk will explain how to access and make the most of the capital’s diverse collection of records and will give some useful tips on tracking down those elusive London ancestors.

FREE - but you must book in advance

Young aspiring property owners leaving university could find that they may not be able to make repayments on a mortgage due to higher tuition fees, according to one expert.


 Schools face major disruption this week, with thousands of stranded students and teachers unable to return to the UK as classes resume after the Easter break.