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Issue:- 19 May 2009 / 20 May 2009

Relief for northern families struggling to pay for school clothing, books and outings

CASH-strapped families in the North can apply for financial aid for school uniforms, books and outings from grant-making trusts.  220 trusts offer nearly £3 million for a range of educational grants throughout the UK.

"Children who come from families that have severe financial needs can miss out on educational benefits such as books or school outings.  This often puts the child at a social as well as an educational disadvantage to his or her peers.  Grants from trusts can help to redress some of the balance." says Alan French co-author of a new educational grants guide. 

Trusts can also support children with disabilities or learning difficulties by funding disability-related equipment, extra lessons or encourage children struggling academically by supplying musical or sporting equipment. 

The trusts are listed in the 10th edition of The Educational Grants Directory 2009/10 published by trust funding experts, the Directory of Social Change (DSC).  The guide also includes tips for applying for grants and encourages parents to segment educational costs and apply to several trusts for smaller amounts to increase their chances of securing the right amount.

Mr French says:- "Parents can potentially save thousands of pounds throughout their children's education by securing much-needed funding from multiple funding sources listed in the guide."

Trusts can also help to relieve some of the debt students in higher education face by making grants for childcare costs, books, equipment and materials, and travel for field work and gap years.  The guide is an ideal resource for northern organisations that support families such as community groups, councils and schools.


UNISON, the UK’s largest public sector trade union, is calling for action after shock survey statistics showed that 49% of teaching assistants experienced violence or abuse at work in the last year.  The union is calling for better training to help teaching assistants cope with attacks at work, with clearer guidance and more comprehensive risk assessments.

The news comes as teaching assistants have been offered just 0.5% salary increase as a part of the local government pay award for 2009/2010, or just 3p per hour for 150,000 of the lowest paid staff.  Negotiators for the 3 local government unions will be taking 3 giant pennies to the next meeting with the employers body, where negotiations will continue. 

Christina McAnea, UNISON’s Head of Education, said:- “Teaching assistants work long hours, often on low pay.  It is shameful that they should also be expected to put themselves at risk of being attacked or abused.  Many of our members work with children with special educational needs, often with challenging behaviour.  Schools must have very clear policies and procedures in place to deal with this and to support staff.  There should also be more comprehensive risk assessments to anticipate dangerous and difficult situations.  It is time that the hard work, long hours and commitment that teaching assistants put into their jobs was recognised with higher pay.  It is a disgrace that they have been offered just 0.5% increase.  This will go nowhere near to helping them cope with the recession in the tough year to come.”

A summary of the results for teaching assistants includes:-

► 49% of teaching assistants experienced violence or abuse in the last year
► 7.2% of teaching assistants experienced violence requiring medical attention
► 17.5% experienced violence not requiring medical attention
► 16% were subjected to physical threat
► 31% experienced verbal abuse
► 14% were the victims of bullying

Ipsos MORI survey reveals the positive impact of Capital of Culture on Liverpool’s image

NEW research from Ipsos MORI, commissioned by the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA), has highlighted the important role Liverpool’s year as Capital of Culture has played in improving perceptions of the city and the Northwest regionally and nationally.

The research - Perceptions of England’s Northwest 2008 to 2009 is now in its fourth wave of the perceptions study.  The study was conducted by Ipsos MORI and is the longest regional piece of “place perceptions” measurement in the UK, with previous research undertaken in 2001, 2003 and 2006.  This year, the study also surveyed UK businesses for the first time about the awareness and benefit of Capital of Culture. 

More than 3,800 interviews were conducted across the country as part of the study with regional and national residents, businesses and opinion leaders.

Amongst UK businesses, awareness was high that Liverpool was Capital of Culture in 2008, with nearly nine in ten businesses (88%) claiming awareness.  Two in three of these UK businesses believe it has been beneficial for Liverpool’s image.

In 2008, awareness of Liverpool as the European Capital of Culture was high in the Northwest, with 86% awareness (up 78%
from 2006).  Awareness was also significantly greater outside the region compared to previous years, with 65% of UK residents outside of the Northwest aware of Liverpool’s status, which compares to just 46% in 2006.  UK residents were most likely to have heard about Liverpool’s designation via new coverage on TV (55%), and mentions in the local press (25%).

78% of Northwest residents felt that they had seen an overall benefit of Liverpool’s designation as 2008 European Capital of Culture (50% stating Capital of Culture has benefited Liverpool a ‘great deal’ and 28% seeing a ‘fair amount of benefit).  The vast majority of Northwest opinion leaders in 2008 perceive a great deal/fair amount of benefit to Liverpool.

Perceptions of Merseyside as business destination were also high, with 60% of UK businesses and 68% of Northwest businesses rating the sub-region as a good location for inward investment; that is a 21% point increase since 2003.

Amongst the region’s wider findings on the perceptions of England’s Northwest as a place to live, visit and do business, the
overall perception of the region amongst UK residents remains towards the positive (34% associate the region as being successful).  This is consistent with 2006 results and shows a marked improvement from the 2001 benchmark of 22%.

Northwest businesses are more likely to feel that their region has improved as a place to do business in the last two years – 45% compared to their counterparts in other UK regions (34%).  The main areas of improvement are availability of graduates, improvement in transport links and a perception that the image of the region has improved.

The region also rated highly as a place to live; the Northwest residents are more positive about the region as a place to live than they were in 2001, with just under 9 in 10 respondents claiming to be very or fairly satisfied with the area.

Northwest and UK opinion leaders continued to feel that the Northwest is at least as good a place to live as anywhere in the UK or Europe.  There has also been an increase in the number of UK opinion leaders who feel quality of life is the same or better than in other parts of the UK.

The region also performed strongly as a tourist destination, with 89% of residents agreeing that the Northwest is a good place for visitors.  However, due to the economic downturn, the economic health of the region has been more negative than in previous waves of the survey, with higher levels of pessimism towards the economic condition of both the Northwest and the country as a whole for the next 12 months.

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