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OpenLearn Live: 28th July 2016

Updated Thursday, 28th July 2016

The Post Office service which delivers lovers alongside love letters; and what is the Named Person scheme? Free learning from across the day.

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OpenLearn Live sifts the world of learning and research, and plucks out the plums that are interesting enough to share. This page will be updated during the day.

Yesterday, we caught up with the Ice Bucket Challenge, said goodbye to Philae and discovered that newspaper archives might forget you, if you ask

A year ago today we marked World Hepatitis Day and visited the world's smallest park

See the complete collection of OpenLearn Live

Today's posts

Potter & Potter

The 31st July is, of course, Harry Potter's birthday. Whether you're spending it locked in a cupboard under the stairs, or wooshing about on a quidditch broomstick or... doing something from one of the later books that OpenLearn Live keeps meaning to getting around to reading at some point, you can celebrate with our collection of Harry-related things:

See our Harry Potter birthday collection

The other giant Potter of children's literature, Beatrix, is also celebrating - it would have been her 150th birthday. To mark the occasion, the Royal Mail have released stamps featuring her most beloved characters:

When she wasn't dressing kittens in shoes and anthropomorphising bunnies, Potter was a gifted naturalist and a noted mycologist (fungus expert). But, as a woman working in the Victorian science field, her skill wasn't always appreciated:

By her early 30s, Potter's enthusiasm was focused on how fungal spores reproduced — an issue that few British mycologists agreed on. During a holiday in Scotland in 1892, Potter had formed a botanical alliance with noted naturalist Charles McIntosh, who provided instruction in the microscope drawing of fungi in exchange for Potter's accurate watercolours of rare specimens. By 1895 Potter had gathered young forms of the mushroom Boletus granulatus, now known as Suillus granulatus, and drawn the spores and spore-producing structures, or basidia. Potter successfully germinated spores of several species of fungi, and made drawings of the mycelium at different stages.

She approached the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew with these findings, only to be rebuffed by its director, William Thiselton-Dyer. She noted in her journal that “he hadn't the time to look at my drawings”, even though he “indicated the subject was profound”. Her uncle — the chemist Henry Enfield Roscoe — encouraged her to continue her research, and in 1897 she offered to the Linnean Society in London (which did not then admit women, or allow them to attend meetings) a paper: 'On the Germination of the Spores of Agaricineae', which was accompanied by several of her microscope drawings. Although this paper has been lost, it seems from her drawings and journal that Potter had become intrigued with the possibility of hybridization.

Read more about Potter the naturalist

Study children's literature with The Open University

BBC Two, 8pm tonight: Full Steam Ahead

The second episode of Full Steam Ahead, which sees Ruth, Peter and Alex exploring how the railways developed, is on BBC Two tonight at 8pm, and on iPlayer thereafter.

Tonight's programme sees the trio discover how the early railroads decided that moving people might be more lucrative than just shifting rocks about.

Discover more about tonight's episode

What is the Named Person scheme?

The Supreme Court has ruled this morning that the Scottish Government overstepped its powers when it introduced the 'Named Person' scheme, which gave every child in the country a named person (outside of the family) who was responsible for their wellbeing.

Here's Alex Cole-Hamilton describing the scheme in 2014, as it was being shaped:


The Named Person scheme was part of the Scottish Government's GIRFEC project - Getting It Right For Every Child. The aim was simple, and apparently uncontroversial:

GIRFEC is the national approach in Scotland to improving outcomes and supporting the wellbeing of our children and young people by offering the right help at the right time from the right people.  It supports them and their parent(s) to work in partnership with the services that can help them.

The Named Person Scheme was designed to support, not supplant, traditional community and family support:

Most children and young people get all the help and support they need from their parent(s), wider family and community, but sometimes, perhaps unexpectedly, they may need a bit of extra help. Many parents say that when they need help it's not available and they don't know who to go to.  The Named Person ensures that there is someone who is responsible for helping them get the support they need if and when they need it.

From 31 August 2016, children and young people from birth to 18, or beyond if still in school, and their parents will have access to a
Named Person to help them get the support they need.

A Named Person will be a clear point of contact if a child, young person or their parents want information or advice, or if they want to talk about any worries and seek support.

Not everyone was happy about the way the policy was to work - Stuart Waiton wrote a paper, Third Way Parenting and the Creation of the “Named Person” in Scotland: The End of Family Privacy and Autonomy? which explored the concerns of opponents, including the group NO2NP:

In an interview with a mother, Anne Cannon, who opposes the Named Person makes the point that there is an assumption that the state has a right to know everything that goes on in the home. But this is not the case she argues. Children need to know when they come home it is their home and what happens here is private—“they have to know they’re safe.” For Anne Cannon, the safety and feeling of safety that her children experience is predicated upon the privacy provided by the family home—privacy she believes will be undermined by the Named Person.
In the end, it is the profoundly differing view of the family that separates the NO2NP supporters from those who promote the Named Person.
Historically, governments in the United Kingdom saw the autonomy of the family and the privacy it provided, as important. Furedi notes, “In the past, even radical thinkers who regarded family life as stultifying still believed that a private life was essential for the moral development of people” (Furedi, 2004, p. 70). 

Today, the tension between state intervention into the family and support given to it, and the potential for undermining the independence of parents is rarely present in policy discussions. At best, a nod is given to the notion of a private sphere, before the centrality of privacy and independence are gently pushed to one side: It is parents not governments who raise children, we are informed, but parents (all parents) need support. 

Replacing the agonizing attempt of previous centuries to maintain family independence (Ramaekers & Suissa, 2012), we get a plethora of government documents and initiatives promoting “support” as the new norm for parenting. Indeed, whereas for the 19th and (to an extent) the 20th century the ideal was to push the need for self-reliance and autonomy, and to argue that “to patrol the home was a sacrilege” (Cretney, 2003, pp. 628-695), today in comparison, the state is more inclined to see autonomy as a barrier to the third-party support necessary to maintain risk-free relationships in the family.

Those opponents have won their case in court - as BBC News reports:

The court said the aim of the Act, which is intended to promote and safeguard the rights and wellbeing of children and young people, was "unquestionably legitimate and benign".

However, judges said specific proposals about information-sharing "are not within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament".

The court has given the Scottish government 42 days to rectify the legislation, saying that in the meantime it "cannot be brought into force".

Education Secretary John Swinney said the government would move to "provide greater clarity" about information-sharing.

He said the government would start work immediately on the necessary legislative amendments.

Mr Swinney said it would be implemented nationally at the earliest possible date.

A spokesman for the group that launched the challenge said the "state snooper" scheme had been "blocked" and the government must go back to the "drawing board".

He called for "intrusive data-sharing powers" to be scrapped.

The Scottish government's instant reaction is that the scheme needs to be altered, but won't be abandoned:

Explore working with children & young people on OpenLearn

On the buses: Post Buses

This week, we're exploring some of the amazing buses of the world. Yesterday, we took a ride on various political battlebuses. Today, we're going to hop onto the Post Bus.

A rural post bus carries passengers through Wales in 2005 Creative commons image Icon Charles Rawding under Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0 license A post bus in rural Wales in 2005

The Royal Mail is known for its ability to deliver letters - birthday cards, love letters, angry demands for unpaid Council Tax that you're sure you settled years ago. But equally, it can deliver people, too. In some parts of the country.

Back in 1967, people living in the more rural parts of the United Kingdom were having trouble moving about. Not least because the rural rail network had been recently smashed up by the Beeching Report, if you lacked private transport, you could find yourself quite stuck.

The Royal Mail, meanwhile, operates under a Universal Service Obligation - to deliver to every house in the kingdom on the same terms. Someone had a brilliant idea - if the Royal Mail is legally obliged to send vehicles to far-flung parts of the country, why not allow those vehicles to take passengers as well? Passengers get to make their journeys; some of the expense of delivering to distant parts of the network would be offset by ticket purchases, and via a grant from local authorities for providing the service.

The Post Bus was born.

As times changed, though, demand started to fall - not least because private cars became more common. The service started to be trimmed back - a large number of services vanished in 2009, for example. The last Post Bus in England ran in 2012; the Western Isles reached their final destination in March this year.

But there are still Post Buses operating - six days a week, for around a fiver, you can travel between Tongue and Lairg in the Highlands. It's the last of the line, though.

At their peak, though, the buses provided a vital public service. It was an inspired matching of resources with demand.

And on the continent, Post Buses are still thriving and commonplace.

Got an idea as smart as the Post Bus? Discover entrepreneurship at The Open University





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