£550 back-to-school bill for parents of the gadget generation

The cost to parents of equipping a child to go back to school has reached £550 as school bags are filled with a bewildering array of electronic gadgets.

John Lewis said the days of children taking a lunchbox and protractor into the classroom were long gone as kids today take everything from an MP3 player to e-readers and smartphones with them into the playground.

The high street giant said the cost of today’s school uniform, school bag and its contents amounted to an average of £550.80. This compares, in today’s money, with £252.40 in the 1980s and £231.20 in the 1960s.

Matt Leeser, head of buying for communications technology, said the huge shift towards gadgets meant John Lewis expected to sell two computing devices every minute in the two weeks up to the August Bank Holiday. The chain also expects to sell two touch screen tablets to every one laptop or desktop as more kids take tablets into the classroom.

He said research suggested 45 per cent of kids take a smartphone to school, costing an average of £362, while 35 per cent carry headphones. Nearly fifth of kids take an MP3 player into school, 5 per cent take a tablet and 2 per cent an ereader.

It marks a stark contrast with school bag of the Sixties, when the most expensive items were two text books, costing around £45.10. Today, while the cost of lunchboxes, calculators, and pencil cases have come down, the rise in demand for technology means parents face having to find a small fortune for the Back to School rush.


Adults ‘reliant on calculators’ in their daily lives

Despite agreeing that maths “is important to them in their daily lives”, one-in-five adults failed to correctly complete an 11 times table without a calculator.group of adults maths

Around one in six (15 per cent) adults say they find the subject difficult, and sometimes feel embarrassed by their lack of maths skill.

More than a third of adults (38 per cent) say their job requires them to do a small amount of maths each day, and half agree that some of life’s most important decisions require the subject.

Yet in a random multiplication test commissioned by BAE Systems, one-in-five adults failed to correctly complete an 11 times table without a calculator.

Some 2 per cent of adults questioned in a related poll said that they tend to use a calculator to add or subtract numbers higher than 10, while 13 per cent do so for numbers higher than 100.

And around one in six (15 per cent) say they find the subject difficult, and sometimes feel embarrassed by their lack of maths skill.

The results follow a report this week by the Institute for Fiscal Studies which found that a decent grasp of maths at the age of 10 could add more than seven per cent to a child’s eventual earning power.

It found that a pupil who scores highly in the subject can expect to receive around £2,100 extra each year by the time they reach 30.

Last year the Telegraph’s Make Britian Count campaign highlighted this country’s poor performance in maths, pointing out for example that 17 million 16 to 65-year-olds only have the numeracy skills of a primary school pupil, a figure that has increased over the last eight years.

BAE Systems group managing director Nigel Whitehead said: “Maths and science are crucial to the success of Britain’s youth and our nation’s future but it appears that we start to lose arithmetic skills as we grow up.

“Good maths skills open up so many opportunities both personally and professionally. With increased competition for jobs it is more important than ever that students keep working at maths and the sciences – continued study of these subjects will likely lead to rewarding and sustained employment in the engineering and technology sectors.”

National Numeracy chief executive Mike Ellicock said: “Being numerate means being able to use numbers and think mathematically, which is essential for so many aspects of everyday life and work, and this poll suggests that many people recognise that.

“We are developing the National Numeracy Challenge to respond to this and enable everyone to start to improve their maths. To anyone tempted to say ‘I can’t do maths’, we say ‘Yes, you can’.”

A separate study by the National Numeracy charity found that many UK adults feel they were badly prepared at school for the maths they will need in everyday life.

It also suggests that many adults did not enjoy their early experiences of maths, with 30 per cent admitting they found the subject “uninspiring” at school and one in four (24 per cent) saying maths was their least favourite lesson.

Unemployed teenagers blame lack of computer skills

Almost one-in-five young people not in education, employment or training (Neets) believe their computer skills are not good enough for the job they want to do.teenagers at computer

A similar number (17 per cent) said they believed they would be in work if they could use a computer better, while one-in-ten are “embarrassed” by their lack of computer skills, according to a poll by the Prince’s Trust.

The figures follow Michael Gove’s announcement earlier this year that Computer Science will be added to the English Baccalaureate – a small group of approved academic subjects used as a key indicator in school league tables – in order to help plug the computer skills gap among young people.

Top technology firms including Facebook have also been asked to help design a new computer science training course for teachers.

The Prince’s Trust poll asked more than 1,300 British 15 to 25 year-olds – including 265 Neets – about their computer skills.

It found that about one-in-four (24 per cent) said they dreaded filling in online job application forms. More than one-in-10 (11 per cent) of the Neets questioned said they avoid using computers.

The survey was published to mark the launch of a new Prince’s Trust scheme designed to engage schoolchildren with science and technology. Under the initiative, staff from the Science Museum will visit Prince’s Trust clubs in schools to work with young people who are at risk of exclusion or underachieving.

Prince’s Trust chief executive Martina Milburn said: “A lack of computer literacy can hold young people back and this is damaging their job prospects. Without basic computer skills, young people will not be able to pursue career paths and passions because they can’t get a foot in the door.

“With youth unemployment on the rise again, we need to arm our young people with the skills they need in today’s tough jobs market. Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) skills are a crucial part of this.”

The scheme follows a £500,000 donation to the Trust last year by musician will.i.am.

Will.i.am said: “Inspiring young people through science and technology is a powerful tool and I am proud to see my donation to the Prince’s Trust being put into action to help engage disadvantaged youth who would not otherwise have access to technology and science education.

“These workshops are an amazing way to engage disadvantaged youngsters who don’t have this sort of access to technology and science otherwise.”

Nest – the Learning Thermostat

Visionary Tony Fadell who, back in the day, was in charge of the iPod at Apple *just* launched a brand new product called Nest, the world’s first Learning Thermostat.

Nest learns from your temperature adjustments, programs itself to keep you comfortable, and guides you to energy savings. You can control the thermostat from anywhere using a smartphone, tablet or laptop, and Nest never stops learning, even as your life and the seasons change.


Learn more at http://www.nest.com.

Mf, studio, dbda

SmartBird: improving efficiency in resource and energy consumption.

Festo, developed SmartBird, an avian robot that can take off and fly through the air just by flapping its wings.

An article on the Guardian website says:

‘SmartBird was inspired by the herring gull, Larus argentatus. It’s a bit larger than this gull species, with a two-metre wingspan and a carbon-fiber “skeleton” that weighs 450 grams (a bit more than one pound). Like live birds, SmartBird’s “torso” can flex, providing directional control. But unlike live birds, SmartBird’s movements can be radio-controlled and monitored from afar.’

‘The focus of this research is to learn how to maximise energy-efficiency and conservation of resources.’

“We learned from the birds how to move the wings, but also the need to be very energy efficient”, says Mr Fischer, Festo’s head of Corporate Design.

‘SmartBird technology is providing key innovations and fresh insights that can optimise hybrid drive technology. For example, the minimal use of materials and its extremely lightweight construction are already improving efficiency in resource and energy consumption.’

Gemma O’Brien, dbda

Check out Alzheimer’s ‘Brain Map’ for iPhone

Alzheimer’s Society iPhone app Brain Map has been developed so that everyone can learn more about the brain and dementia. You can snap a photo of your friend’s brain and then rotate our 3D model to examine the different parts of the brain and find out what each bit does.

What does the cerebellum control? Why is the brain stem so important? Just what is the limbic system? Find out the answers to all these questions and more by downloading our free Brain Map iPhone app.

Source: Alzheimer’s Society website – www.alzheimers.org.uk

O2 retains Carbon Trust Standard

Mobile network O2 has released figures today for carbon efficiency across its business.
According to figures released by the company, in the last two years it has cut carbon emissions by nearly 30,000 tonnes CO2.

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