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New campaign launches in Kenya and the South Bank today

An international campaign to support the end of FGM opens on the South Bank and Nairobi, Kenya today. The Girl Generation: Together to End FGM is an African led movement to support the social and behavioral changes needed to stop violence against women and girls.

The campaign in the South Bank Center will gather together experts from human rights charities, the media, ambassador programmes and Government programmes to support the end of FGM

"My niece is the first girl in our family to be free from FGM. When you break the cycle of abuse once, you break it forever: Save a girl, save a generation. The solution to ending FGM is in empowering girls to be themselves. We are at a point where this is happening but we need to speed things up and get the financial resources to where they are needed."

– Nimco Ali, Girl Ambassador, The Girl Generation


The Met raises awareness of child abuse linked to religion

The Metropolitan Police Service have collaborated with the Churches' Child Protection Advisory Service to host an event tonight raising awareness of child abuse linked to faith or belief. The event at City Hall from 8pm will bring together representatives from education, social care, healthcare and faith organisations.

The Met have seen an increase in allegations relating to ritual child abuse which range from child neglect, common assault, ABH, administrating noxious substances to sexual assault offences. Some examples include dunking children to wash away evil spirits, parents removing children from school to take them out of the country for an exorcism ceremony and chilli peppers being rubbed in children's eyes to remove evil spirits.

"Abuse linked to belief is a horrific crime which is condemned by people of all cultures, communities and faiths....Families or carers genuinely believe that the victim has been completely taken over by the devil or an evil spirit, which is often supported by someone who within the community has portrayed themselves as an authority on faith and belief. Often in the perpetrators minds, any abuse is not going to affect the victim because he or she believes the child is effectively not there any more and the abuse is directed at whatever has possessed the child. The victim is often convinced that this is the truth and that the abuse is 'normal' behaviour.

"Regardless of the beliefs of the abusers, child abuse is child abuse. Our role is to safeguard children, not challenge beliefs. We investigate crimes against children, but our main aim is to prevent abuse in the first place. This is a hidden crime and we can only prevent it by working in partnership with the community. Project Violet aims to build trust with communities and emphasise that child protection is everyone's responsibility."

– Detective Superintendent Terry Sharpe, Met Sexual Offences, Exploitation and Child Abuse Command

BookBenches to be seen all together for one final time

The BookBench celebrating Laura St John's The Laura Marlin Mysteries book series. Credit: Jack Graham/PA Wire.

The capital's colourful BookBenches are returning for one last trip to London this weekend - where they will be gathered together in one place.

The seats spent the summer dotted around the city to celebrate the area's literary connections and encourage more people to read for fun.

Today and tomorrow, all 51 will be gathered all together at the University of London's Gordon Square Garden for the final time before a charity auction on Tuesday.

The benches - which celebrate stories including The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Through the Looking Glass, and the Gruffalo - will raise money for the National Literacy Trust when they are sold at the event at the Southbank Centre.

The BookBench celebrating Anthony Horowitz's Alex Rider's Stormbreaker books. Credit: Jack Graham/PA Wire.

Education Secretary approves 17 new free schools for London

17 new free schools have been approved for London. Credit: Barry Batchelor/PA Wire.

The Education Secretary has approved plans for dozens of new free schools including 17 in London.

The schools include a bilingual primary in Harrow, a sixth formed aimed at students from low-income backgrounds, and an all-through school which plans to encourage children and their families to shape and improve their community.

Nicky Morgan made the announcement at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham.


Two London boroughs top for child development

Greenwich and Lewisham have been named as the best places in England for child development.

A report by University College London's Institute of Health Equity found just half of the country's five-year-olds had reached a "good" level of development by the time they started school.

In Grenwich and Lewisham, it is almost 70 per cent.

Hounslow was among the local authorities with the worst records for child development, according to the report.

Just 40.3% reach a "good" level by the age of five.

133,000 more school places needed in London by 2018

London needs to create 133,000 more primary and secondary school places by 2018, according to the London Assembly. A report predicts the crisis in places will be felt most acutely in secondary schools as thousands of additional 11-year-olds look to secure places each year.

Credit: PA

A report predicts the crisis in places will be felt most acutely in secondary schools as thousands of additional 11-year-olds look to secure places each year.

London ranked world's top city for leading universities

London has more top rated universities than any other city in the world- according to a new league table released today by QS World University Rankings. Imperial College London came second place joint with Cambridge while University College London tied with Oxford for joint fifth. King's College London, London School of Economics and the Queen Mary University also made the top 100.

London's Imperial College Credit: PA

Welcoming the results, Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: "These rankings consolidate London's position as the education capital of the world. Nowhere else will you find such a critical mass of top universities within just a few miles of each other, all providing an excellent education and producing graduates who go on to be leaders in their fields. From accountants to zoologists, I'm proud to say that London universities are at the forefront of teaching and research."

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