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Primary school classes to protect children from harm

Children in Oxfordshire are being given classes in how to protect themselves against bullies and anyone else who may mean them harm. The new initiative called 'Values Versus Violence' is being trialled at twelve primary schools across the county.

Among the problems they are being taught to deal with are trouble at home, and how to speak up if they or their friends are victims of abuse.The authorities in the area have come under criticism in recent years over how they tackle child protection. Kate Bunkall was at the launch:

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Families struggling to meet school costs

Families in our region are spending more than £800m a year to meet the basic costs of their children's schooling.

That's according to new research by the Children's Commission on Poverty.

It found more than eighty six thousand families in Hampshire are now struggling to cover costs.

"Children are supposed to be benefiting equally from a free education. Yet the reality is that families in the South East are paying millions of pounds each year towards the cost of school. Children are being penalised and denied their right to an equal education simply because their parents cannot afford the basics. This is just not right. The Government needs to listen to this crucial report by young commissioners and act to make sure no child is stopped from getting an education equal to their peers. It must stop children from being made to suffer because they are living in poverty."

– Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children's Society

Hundreds of places unfilled at new Thames Valley schools

Hundreds of places remain unfilled at three brand new schools in the Thames Valley that are at the forefront of a pioneering government education policy. A special investigation by ITV Meridian has discovered that University Technical Colleges in Aylesbury, Reading and at Heathrow have more then 250 empty spaces between them - one is only just over half full. Those in charge of running UTCs - which have strong links with employers and aim to fill the skills gap - say the idea is new and they're confident numbers will continue to rise. Christine Alsford talked to Bev Flanagan, Principal, UTC Buckinghamshire; Paddy Marshall, National Union of Teachers, South Region; and Joanne Harper, Principal, UTC Reading.

Crackdown on dangerous parking around schools

The crackdown on parents in Brighton parking illegally outside primary schools is continuing today.

Yesterday a parking warden was pushed to the ground by a parent outside the Rudyard Kipling school when they were asked to move their car.

Parking enforcement officers and police are issuing fines to parents who park dangerously.

"Our Safer Routes to School programmes are encouraging more and more children to travel to the classroom on foot, bike or scooter. Therefore it is vital to ensure that nearby pavements and junctions are kept free from obstruction, and motorists behave considerately to enable everyone to travel safely to and from school."

– Councillor Pete West, chair of the Environment, Transport and Sustainability committee

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Free school meals for young pupils in the South

Free school meals Credit: ITV

Schools across the region will be rolling out free school meals from today as children head back for the new academic year. New rules - announced by the Government last Autumn mean that all pupils in reception and Years 1 and 2 will receive them. It's aimed at improving concentration in the classroom and promoting healthy lifestyle but many schools say they don't have the space or facilities to cope. And some local authorities say they are struggling to find the money to fund the scheme.

No such thing as a free hot lunch? School children to go without

Hundreds of schools are getting ready for the new rules Credit: ITV Meridian

Primary school children may not get a hot meal when they return back to their studies in September, despite a new law requiring all schools to provide them a free lunch.

The law applied to all children in reception and children in Year 1 and 2 and is being introduced across the country.

But some schools say they do not have the kitchens or dining halls in order to facilitate the new rules and so will have to rely on other schools to provide them meals.

Several schools say they are planning on giving children sandwiches to eat in their classrooms.

In Kent, the Government provided £2.7 million to fund the scheme but councils say this will not be enough to cover the costs. Our reporter Abigail Bracken visited one school in Benenden, south Kent, to find out more.

Do you think primary schools should have to provide free meals to school children? Let us know your thoughts by tweeting us @itvmeridian.

Bournemouth needs extra 1,800 school places

Bournemouth council are meeting today as part of a discussion into finding nearly 2000 extra school places.

The new places are needed from September 2018 as a continued rise in pupil numbers is expected - due to both an increased birth rate and immigration.

The plan to increase secondary school places will be discussed by Bournemouth councillors to cater for the extra pupils.

Forecasts show that over time the increase in pupil numbers that we have seen at primary age will transfer to secondary and we are already working hard to put in place suitable measures to ensure that there are enough secondary school places in Bournemouth in the future.

We anticipate that around 1,800 extra school places across year groups 7 to 11 will be needed from 2018 and so it is important that we start early, working closely with the secondary academies and their governors to look at possible options to expand as well as seeking appropriate funding."

– Councillor Nicola Greene, Cabinet Member for Education and Children's Services

Crumbling school buildings need urgent work

Four years after a major rebuilding programme was scrapped, schools in the South are still waiting for urgent work to begin.

Nine schools in our region have been accepted onto an alternative rebuild programme after being identified as a high priority. But many remain in a poor condition with no plans drawn up - and no idea when exactly work will begin. They include King Richard's in Portsmouth, Wyvern College in Salisbury and four on the Isle of Wight.

Of those, so far work has only started at The Cedar School in Southampton and Montacute Special School in Poole. The government says work is ahead of schedule and that all schools will be completed by 2017.

Montacute is now finally looking forward to a six million pound purpose-built building - they've been desperate for a new school for as long as 20 years. Their current buildings leak, there are cracks in the walls and pupils who use wheelchairs struggle to negotiate narrow corridors.

Our social affairs correspondent Christine Alsford spoke to headteacher Jill Owen and the school's Chair of Governors, Pam Henderson about their long wait.

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