Food Banks struggle in school holidays

Food Banks are struggling to meet the demand for food during the school holidays.  David McAuley, chief executive of anti-poverty charity The Trussell Trust, has warned that some hubs within the 420-strong network are running dangerously low on supplies.

“Rising demand in the summer holidays as families struggle to get by without free school meals” is at the root of the problem, he said.

Rev Chris Lewis who helps at a Swansea Food Bank said that last Friday,  “We got to a critically low level. The absence of free school meals during holidays contributes to a certain amount of hardship and pressure on food banks.  I wasn’t able to count exactly how many people came in on Friday because I had to go out and get a bag of large potatoes from off site to help with the demand.”

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We learn about the Trussell Trust as part of our GCSE in Religious Studies as we look at Christian Practices.

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In April 2017 Food Banks were in the news when Theresa May as part of her election campaign went onto BBC television and responded to the presenter Andrew Marr’s point that NHS nurses were having to go to Food Banks which was surely wrong.

Theresa May replied: “There are many complex reasons why people go to food banks and I want to create an economy where we have a strong economy where we pay for public services that we need but we are also creating secure jobs.”

Marr said: “The problem people have is that they haven’t got enough money to eat at the moment.”

The Prime Minister said: “Yes, and you’re only going to be able to do this if you have strength in the economy.”

Do the BBC over value men and under value women?

Professor Mark Learmonth from Durham University Business School, has said that the case of the BBC when male presenters are paid far higher than women presenters demonstrates “a phenomenon that social scientists have been going on about for years”, namely “how men are over-valued and women undervalued even when they do exactly the same thing”. On Wednesday the BBC had revealed that its top earner, radio presenter Chris Evans, is paid between £2.2m and £2.25m, which is more than four times the corporation’s highest earning woman Claudia Winkleman.

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Near the top of the list is Radio 4’s Today presenter John Humphrys, who admitted his salary of £600,000 was hard to justify. “What do I do? On paper, absolutely nothing that justifies that huge amount of money, if you compare me with lots of other people who do visibly. If a doctor saves a child’s life, if a nurse comforts a dying person, a fireman rushes into Grenfell Tower, then of course you could argue that compared with that sort of thing I’m not worth tuppence ha’penny. However we operate in a market place.”

Legal teams are saying  that the BBC may be in breach of equal pay laws if it is unable to show that men and women are being paid equally for doing the same or comparable jobs.

What is the gender pay gap? The pay gap is the percentage difference between average hourly earnings for men and women. Across the UK men earned 18.1% more than women in April 2016 according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). This figure is calculated on a 1% sample of employees’ jobs. It takes the median for men and women, which is the figure at the mid-point of the range of earnings. The pay gap isn’t the same as equal pay. Equal pay – that men and women doing the same job should be paid the same – has been a legal requirement for 47 years.

The gap between men and women’s earning for both full and part-time work has fallen from 27.5% in 1997 to 18.1% in 2016. With the pay gap getting smaller the unfairness is reducing. What is also quite interesting is that if you only look at full-time workers the pay gap drops to 9.4% whereas for part-time workers the pay gap favours women, who now earn 6% more than men. Statistics are never as straightforward as you think!

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There are other areas of discrimination which the BBC look to be foul of too, such as racial discrimination, with white employees appearing to earn more than BAME stars (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic background). Trade union Equity said in a statement: “The apparent pay gaps in gender and for those from a black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background are troubling.” George Alagiah, Jason Mohammad and Trevor Nelson are the highest paid BAME presenters, each receiving between £250,000 and £300,000.

Is Love Island harming the moral fabric of Britain?

If you haven’t stumbled upon the ITV2 TV series Love Island then I will leave it to the Independent to explain:

It’s essentially Big Brother – with contestants being slowly voted out of a house (in this case, a Mallorcan villa) by the public and the last pair standing winning £50,000 – only the road to victory is paved with Machiavellian gossiping and condom wrappers. Ostensibly, the ITV2 show is about finding love, but going far in it seems to require successfully walking the tightrope of being honourable without being boring. I should also note it’s quite meta in the sense that the rules literally don’t matter and are changed at the producers’ whim.

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This year’s Love Island has proved hugely popular. The show has become must-see viewing amongst mainly female (67.4%) viewers and under 35s (63.6%). It’s already appeared on the wordpress this year for its discussion on feminism. Last week the a contestant from the show, Chris, was praised for openly showing his emotions and breaking the stereotype that men shouldn’t cry. Chris had been involved with fellow contestant Olivia Attwood whilst in the villa, and was left in tears when she decided to cool things off. In one scene Olivia told Chris not to cry again; which led many viewers to accuse her of being “cold-hearted” and “harsh”. In fact some people went so far as saying that if it had been the other way round she would have been seen as a victim of bullying.

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On this Wednesday’s show the couples all became immediate parents with the show’s producers providing each couple with baby dolls. After just a short while Chris said,  “I think this morning he has already brought out an emotional side in me. With Olivia, we have stopped the mishaps we’ve had together and we’ve got to focus on the baby now, because ultimately he is our main responsibility.” I tell you this programme can be an interesting way to learn about life skills!

Laura Hamzic who works for Brook, a sexual health charity for young people, would agree with me, saying that shows like Love Island can provide young people with an entry point for discussion by reconciling sex with relationships.

“I think we’re still quite quick to judge young people as being sexually irresponsible and promiscuous and that’s something we would challenge,” she says. “They are starved of places to discuss sex and relationships in controlled environments like school, because sex education is very poor. Love Island isn’t exactly the best place to learn about sex and relationships, but it’s better than porn.”

Love Island’s commissioning editor Amanda Stavri agrees, pointing out that the key to the show’s success is relationships rather than sex. “Our feeling is if you’re inviting 12 singletons to live together in the sun, things are gonna get heated under the covers,” she says. “But it’s not salacious, it’s not grubby, it’s not explicit. We’re more interested in the story of the couple who have chosen to take their relationship to the next level.”

If you’re not down with the kids and their lingo then BBC Three have even provided a useful dictionary according Love Island so you can better understand the conversations.

If all this has whetted your appetite for Love Island you can catch up on episodes via the ITV Hub.

Holy Sites in Jerusalem Re-Opened

Last Friday three Arab Israelis opened fire from a sacred site in Jerusalem which is called Noble (Haram Al Sharif) Sanctuary for Muslims and Temple Mount for Jews. Using automatic weapons the three Arab Israelis killed two police officers and were later shot dead inside the compound. The Holy Sites were re-opened today with stricter security checks.

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The Arab-Israeli conflict is only studied a little in British schools as the focus is on modern wars such as World War I and World War II. We take an initial look at the subject in Religious Studies when studying about pilgrimages and how Jerusalem is contested and valued by Muslims, Jews and Christians. A short BBC video explains the importance of Haram Al Sharif and Temple Mount, and there is a BBC Pictures special about the holy sites, explaining how through modern history there has been unrest over who the site belongs to. The history of the sites brings you closer to understanding both faiths, with important stories for Jews such as Abraham almost sacrificing his son Isaac there, and Temple Mount being where people will receive redemption when the Messiah arrives. Compared to Muslim stories of Muhammad PBUH  having his Night Journey from Makkah to Jerusalem to hear in heaven from Allah about prayer (salah, one of the five pillar of Islam).

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Bread can’t be gluten free says Catholic Church

It’s not a hugely exciting headline. The Vatican (home of the Catholic Church) has said that the bread which is used to celebrate the Eucharist during Roman Catholic Mass must not be gluten-free – although it may be made from genetically modified organisms. Cardinal Robert Sarah explained that the bread can be low-gluten but should have enough protein in the wheat to make it without additives. What does make it exciting for GCSE Religious Studies students is that the article which explains these precise rules also refers to the fact that Roman Catholics believe the bread and wine served at the Eucharist are converted into the body and blood of Christ through a process known as transubstantiation.

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The Eucharist, which is also called the Holy Communion, Mass, the Lord’s Supper or the Divine Liturgy, is a sacrament accepted by almost all Christians. Most students have heard of the Last Supper and how Christians re-enact the key moment on at least a weekly basis when they celebrate the Eucharist.

The idea of transubstantiation helps explain why in the Catholic Church women can’t be priests, as the Eucharist has to be performed by a male priest for he is acting as Jesus ‘in loco Christos’ when the bread and wine truly become the Body and Blood of Christ.

Is the 1967 Abortion Act about to get an overhaul?

In our GCSE Religious Studies classes we learn that in England and Wales women have to prove to a doctor that carrying on with the pregnancy is likely to cause harm to health or wellbeing to get permission for a termination. Without this permission, abortion is a criminal offence. There might be changes coming the way of the Abortion law because doctors at the British Medical Association’s annual conference have just voted to scrap that rule.

At the doctor’s annual conference in Bournemouth they decided to stick with the 24 week limit on abortion, but thought the law making abortion illegal should be changed: the majority of doctors were clear that abortion should be treated as a medical issue rather than a criminal one. It will be interesting in the coming years whether the doctors are able to influence the politicians into the same mindset. Resisting such thinking is Dr Peter Saunders, chief executive of the Christian Medical Fellowship, who said “This decision defies common sense and will dismay thousands of ordinary doctors and nurses with their unprecedented decision.”

Boys Wear Skirts in Uniform Protest

A school in Exeter who has the school uniform rule that male pupils must wear trousers and female pupils can wear trousers or tartan skirts has been on the receiving end of a protest by about 30 male students who turned up to school wearing skirts.

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A mum of a male students at the school, Claire Reeves, said she’d asked the school about her son being able to wear shorts, but had not got anywhere.

“I feel extremely proud of them all for standing up for their rights. People are always talking about equal right for males and females and school uniform shouldn’t be any different”, she said.

The pupils from ISCA Academy in Exeter had asked permission to change their uniform and allow shorts because of the hot weather. One of the boys who took part in the protest said: “We’re not allowed to wear shorts, and I’m not sitting in trousers all day, it’s a bit hot.” The boys who are protesting are hoping that another 100 or so male students will join in the protest and wear skirts on Friday too.