Previous month:
January 2004
Next month:
March 2004

Union tells teachers to end all school trips

Telegraph Education, John Clare, 19 Feb 2004

The second biggest teaching union advised its 223,000 members yesterday to stop taking children on school trips because "society no longer appears to accept the concept of a genuine accident".

The NASUWT, which said the ban applied to "any excursion outside the perimeter of the school", has seen three of its members blamed for causing pupils' deaths.

One, Paul Ellis, is serving a 12-month sentence after pleading guilty to the manslaughter of a 10-year-old boy who drowned on a school trip to the Lake District. Two others were criticised after two teenage girls on a trip they were supervising in the Yorkshire Dales drowned in a beck.

"It is highly regrettable that we have been forced to advise members against taking school trips but our first responsibility must be to protect their interests," said Eamonn O'Kane, the general secretary.

"When something goes wrong, the leader bears a legal responsibility so the finger of blame will almost certainly point at the teachers."

An accident was no longer treated as an accident, he said. Instead, it led to lengthy inquiries by the police, the local education authority and the Health and Safety Executive, the suspension of the teachers involved and extensive publicity.

Because of growing allegations of abuse, the union has also advised members not to give children a lift in their own vehicles, not to place themselves in a "one-to-one situation" with a child and not to drive a minibus on an educational visit.

Should be interesting to see what the Government reaction to this one is...

Follow me on Twitter: @IanYorston

WiFi Finder

Kensington

Your life on the road just got a lot easier. With the first and only WiFi detector on the market today, you no longer need to cross your fingers as you wait for your notebook to boot up. Just press a button and the Kensington WiFi Finder lets you know if your location is "hot"...instantly. No software or computer needed. What could be easier?

Follow me on Twitter: @IanYorston

Giant space mirror's crucial step

BBC Science

Scientists have completed a significant part of what will become the largest mirror ever put into a space telescope.

It will be launched into space in the European Space Agency's Herschel Space Observatory in 2007 and will study the Cosmos by gathering infrared radiation.

The mirror is made of silicon carbide, an advanced ceramic material, and will be 3.5 metres across. This will make it lighter than if it was made of metal.

Follow me on Twitter: @IanYorston

Heading balls 'is risk to health'

BBC Health

Doctors have found more evidence to suggest that heading a football may be bad for health.

Doctors in Turkey carried out tests on 30 amateur footballers. Many were found to have potentially serious neck and spine problems.

These ranged from poor flexibility to damaged discs at the top of the spine, according to New Scientist magazine.

Interesting legal position created in schools now this information is in the public domain... Presumably it wouldn't be the end of the world to remove "head-ing" from the game of, (wait for it) "foot-ball"...

Follow me on Twitter: @IanYorston

Video game to help flood planners

BBC Technology

The planning of the UK's flood defences is to get a helping hand from a 3D virtual world-based computer game. FloodRanger, set in a fictional region over a 100-year period, helps planners and engineers work out strategies to cope with real-life flooding. As in other virtual world games, like SimCity, players have God-like control, so social, economic and environmental decisions have knock-on effects. It was developed as part of the DTI's Foresight flood defence project.

Expect a lot more such "applications" to arrive in the workplace and in Education over the next year.

Follow me on Twitter: @IanYorston

15 Minutes of Fame

newmediazero, Justin Pearse

The BBC has become the first broadcaster to launch in-bound MMS functionality to one of its shows.

The new nightly Johnny Vaughan vehicle Live at Johnny's, which launched on BBC3 on Monday, is integrating the use of in-bound MMS tightly into the editorial format, encouraging viewers to send in photos and images to form part of the show's content.

Brainstorm, which runs the service, is in talks with other large broadcasters and expects to launch further applications soon.

The first Live at Johnny's show on Monday used in-bound MMS to support its 'Theme of the Day' section, based around Rene Zellweger at the Baftas, encouraging viewers to send in via MMS photos of people with faces like hamsters.

'Initially we thought the use of MMS would be very difficult,' said Gregor Cameron, MD of the show's production company World's End. 'But it was incredibly successful and last night we got so many in we really stretched the system.'

'We're barely scratching the surface with MMS,' said Brainstorm CEO Craig Massey. 'We're saying to production and broadcast companies we can do anything you come up with creatively.'

Production company Endemol is also planning to introduce in-bound MMS into its shows. 'Using our audience to produce content is a dream relationship,' said head of interactive media Chris Short. 'We'll look at using in-bound for every major new show.'

Follow me on Twitter: @IanYorston

Smell-o-rama

BBC Technology

You could soon be able to spice up your e-mails with your favourite perfume. UK net provider Telewest Broadband is testing a system to let people to send aromatic e-mails over the internet.

It has developed a kind of hi-tech air freshener that plugs into a PC and sprays a smell linked to the message. Telewest say it could be used by supermarkets to tempt people with the smell of fresh bread or by holiday companies seeking to stir up images of sun-kissed beaches.

"This could bring an extra whiff of realism to the internet," said Chad Raube, director of internet services at Telewest Broadband."We are always looking at ways to enhance the broadband internet experience of the future and this time we are sure consumers will come up smelling of roses."

The technology behind the idea was originally developed by US company Trisenx. Scientists at Telewest's labs in Woking, Surrey, have built on that research to come up with the idea of a "scent dome".

The dome comes with a cartridge containing 20 basic aromas, which can be combined to produce up to 60 different smells.

This has been talked about for some while but is the first I've seen of a serious implementation. Combinations aren't great - yet. 60 options from 20 originals doesn't compare too well with "millions of colours" on my printer using just Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black!

The real market is in networked games, action movies and immersive environments (think cordite, burning rubber, etc) before the technology is good enough for "shopping" experiences. The smells don't have to be perfect if they are used in a multi-media/multi-sensory environment. Immersive Headsets with Bluetooth/wireless will help.

Follow me on Twitter: @IanYorston