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Education

Three things a school can do to prepare children for the 21st century

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by Sarah Partridge
Early Childhood Leader, International School of London in Surrey

High on a prospective parent’s checklist is often a school’s Ofsted rating, but with over 80% of schools in the UK being judged as ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ what other factor>s should be considered in choosing an education for your child? Key questions to ask are: how are schools preparing students for the 21st century and how are they developing the skills our children need to be ready for life beyond the school gates?
ISL London

As an educator and a parent of two teenagers, I would like my children to develop as confident, tolerant, well-balanced citizens who have critical thinking and problem solving skills, plus the resilience necessary to succeed in a challenging world. This article outlines three ways in which schools can develop these attributes in their students: use of the outdoors, service learning/community engagement and a well-being focus.

Outdoor Learning

The physical benefits of time spent outdoors are well known, however, there are other positive impacts that being in a natural environment can have on children. For example, I recently observed a group of primary children in the school’s forest working together to figure out the best way to erect a tarpaulin, despite wet weather and limited resources. To be successful, the children needed to demonstrate
resilience and use problem solving skills in a way that would have been difficult to replicate in the classroom. These skills link with the following OFSTED statement: “When planned and implemented well, Learning Outside the Classroom contributed significantly to raising standards and improving pupils’ personal, social and emotional development.”

Learning Outside the Classroom – How far should you go?
OFSTED report 2008.

Service Learning/Community Engagement

An emphasis on real life learning opportunities allows students to connect what they are learning with taking action. At the same time, this plays an important role in developing their understanding of the positive impact they can have on the world around them. A four year old in my school, who was initially nervous about an upcoming visit to an elderly care home, came back bursting with enthusiasm to tell me he had made a ‘new friend’ there. This now confident young student then explained to me, step by step, how he had taught this new friend to play a ladybird game and asked when he could go back. These real-life experiences allow our children to develop the skills to become well-balanced, responsible and tolerant individuals; skills so important in these uneasy times. This is echoed by a quote from the Kellogg Foundation: “Educators are drawn to service-learning because they believe it produces important educational results for students, schools and communities. In individual interviews, they can clearly articulate their observations of the effects. They give many examples of students becoming more altruistic and caring, growing more concerned about their community and community issues, and learning more in specific content areas.”

The Impacts of Service-Learning on Youth, Schools and Communities,
W.K. Kellogg Foundation

Well-being

According to global rankings on student well-being published by PISA in 2017, UK pupils are amongst the unhappiest in the world. The study found that one in six of its students are unhappy, ranking the UK 38th out of 48 countries in its happiness study. It also reported that UK students were more anxious about testing than students in other countries. The high stakes testing culture in UK schools seems to be affecting the well-being of our children. Schools need to find a way to respond to this. Well-being should be given a central place in a school’s programme and not just be seen as an add-on. Mindfulness programmes, therapy dogs and opportunities for exercise are just some of the things that schools can do to support good mental health. But schools can also take action by not over-emphasising to children the importance of testing. Education is not just about examination results, as highlighted in the following report: “It is widely recognised that a child’s emotional health and well-being influences their cognitive development and learning, as well as their physical and social health and their mental wellbeing in adulthood.”

Promoting children and young
people’s emotional health and wellbeing – Public Health England report 2015

My own children are coming to the end of their time in school and I am fortunate that they attended schools that placed importance on all of the areas outlined above, as well as many more aspects of what I regard as a well-rounded education. I
urge any parent looking for a school to take a moment to reflect on what they really want for their child and how the school they choose can prepare them for this.

ISL Surrey is an independent primary school in Woking, for children aged 2 – 11. The school provides an outstanding education, with a curriculum based on the principles of the International Primary Curriculum (IPC).
There is in addition extensive wrap-around care and a focus on student well-being.
www.islsurrey.org

Getting the grown-ups to agree

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by Richard Taylor-West
Headmaster, Shoreham College

A senior manager in education once said to me, “Of course, one of the most difficult things is when we are trying to work with a young person, but the grown-ups don’t agree.” I cannot remember when it was said, or who said it, but I do remember being struck by the force of it.

What interested me about this proclamation was that although it seemed at the time to be a comment on agreeing practicalities like homework, or who has achieved a prize or prefects’ badge, it has, when true, more far-reaching implications than it might at first seem.

The headmaster of a well-known school in the north of England recently wrote that he feels that “right now there is certainly a job to do with the health and well-being of young people in our care”. He is right: there is and I cannot help feeling that this may have something to do with the statement I have quoted above.

More than ever, we live in an environment which seems to be giving rise to an astonishing level of opinion about almost anything and everything. Social media, for example, seems to lend itself to the publishing of a view point about all things under the sun and instantly. And, of course, so many people have become experts overnight, haven’t they?

I haven’t even begun to touch upon the increasing notion that knowledge is highly negotiable and it really depends whether or not you are in the possession of ‘fake news’ or ‘alternative facts’. These two cosmic forces can throw a whole new spanner in the works too.

Someone asked me recently what I was giving up for Lent and I answered ‘opinions’, as there are far too many of them, I think. Yet, of course, ironically, here I am writing something for a magazine. That fact does not escape me, but I’ll do my best to observe, rather than judge.

We only have to think about how many different reports and viewpoints we have seen in the last few years on the benefits, or not, of red wine to see that bringing education into the picture is bound to elicit quite a few perspectives – from ‘experts’ and non ‘experts’ alike.

If I proclaimed “homework is good for you”, you will find teachers who will argue about that quite loudly. They usually begin with, “well that depends”. If I said that pupils should be rewarded with prizes on sports’ day, I have known different families respond in markedly variant ways. If I said pupils must take responsibility for their actions, most parents might agree, although I have seen parents disagree with each other about this, when it comes down
to the nitty gritty of it – and that is a challenge too.

Here’s one observation: it seems to me that whilst there is something to be said for diversity in life, it might also be true that for young people developing their ideas and values, utter confusion might not be the way forward. In fact, I suspect it is wholly unhelpful. It destabilises them and can be isolating. It can create a kind of moral loneliness.

So, what about schools? What can we do to work against this potential chaos, which does not help young people? That is a tricky question, of course, but I think there is one starting point. Each school has to form its own ethos and attempt to persuade parents that it is a reasonable one, even a good one, to stand by and uphold.

It is then up to the parents to buy into that ethos, quite literally for independent schools, and for the school and the parents to work hard together to create as much consensus as possible for the good of the young people they are jointly nurturing. From my observations, confusion and a lack of clarity in what the ‘grown-ups’ think is rarely helpful. The school and the parents really should collaborate on what is a challenging and complex project.

If I were to sum up our ethos it says that we strive to provide an excellent academic education, which enables all of our pupils to be realistically ambitious and make confident informed choices, in a safe environment that is in keeping with a Christian tradition whilst widening pupil horizons as people who have a place and social responsibilities within a local, national and global community. We say that we encourage and promote a strong partnership between pupils, parents and the school, recognising that each member of the school community has an equally important role to play in contributing to the success of the individual and to the overall ethos of the College.

Naturally, of course, there is going to be the vexed question of interpretation. What does being ‘realistic’ mean or ‘informed’ in terms of our statement above? This is definitely problematic. (We would have thought the Ten Commandments might have been fairly straightforward, after all. And look what happened there.)

Good schools also strive hard to prepare young people to make choices in terms of their values and moral standpoints. Schools can offer the pupils real choice and understanding. That said, a school should make a stand in terms of values. It should expect pupils to show respect to others, take part, work hard, engage with their own working lives with a great deal of ownership and self-discipline. Schools should expect young people to be honest, have integrity and take on their share of the hard work and responsibility that making a living breathing community entails. Surely, no one could disagree with these simple things?

I am concerned, however, when I see young people being brought up to think of number one first and to believe that life is simply a consumer experience to be had and for the benefit of individuals only. In other words, an approach that says “this is for me and I would like it my way” and “all things are negotiable, aren’t they? After all, who knows what is true?” This seems doomed to me and not helpful at all to schools. It is socially unhealthy too.

Well, that’s my opinion. I didn’t quite manage to give them all up for Lent, after all.

Please call 01273 592681 to find out more about what Shoreham College can offer you, or to arrange a personal visit at any time of the school year.
www.shorehamcollege.co.uk

Cognitive Behavioral Hypnotherapy?

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What is Cognitive Behavioral Hypnotherapy

and what can it do for me?

by Ian Mackenzie (Dip.CBH, Cert Hyp, GQHP)
Alliance Therapies

Cognitive Behavioral Hypnotherapy is primarily a talking therapy that incorporates a variety of proven techniques and procedures including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), mindfulness, neuro linguistic programming (NLP), hypnosis, mental imagery and visualization work. Having a variety of approaches allows the CBH therapist tremendous flexibility when providing treatment. We are not all the same, so it makes sense that we will respond differently to certain treatments so having a number of options can greatly enhance the likelihood of achieving a successful outcome to therapy. All treatments are proven to be both safe and very effective in reducing or eliminating many of the issues that we experience in today’s busy society, for example.

Stress: Stress is becoming more and more prominent in today’s society – why? Because in the busy world we live in we are constantly bombarded with activities and information, time restraints, work, money, family pressures and more; all of which can cause stress. Sometimes our brains and bodies need a break in order to relax and recalibrate; mindfulness and relaxation techniques are wonderful at doing just that. Reducing stress levels is very important as it can often be stress that is the root cause of many other problems.

Insomnia: Around a third of all people experience insomnia at some time or other and its effects can vary from mildly irritating to devastating. In serious or longer term cases, many turn to medication for help and whilst sleeping tablets may work for a little while, they become less effective over time and can become addictive.Quite often, if you are stressed or worried about something then your sleep will be the first to suffer and if allowed to continue, poor sleeping habits can develop. Most long-term poor sleepers have, over time, developed poor sleeping habits and it is these habits that need to be changed if one is to create a lasting solution.

Anxiety: Public speaking, sports or performance anxieties, fears and phobias; these are just a few of the issues that can lead to worry, rumination, panic or avoidance (fight or flight).From general to acute issues, the majority of these problems are caused by a perceived lack of confidence or ability. CBH specifically targets these areas, challenging your fears and boosting your self-confidence to allow you to achieve (within reason) whatever you desire.

Weight control: Many people know the misery of being on and off diets on a regular basis; yo-yoing between trying the latest fad diet and maybe losing a bit of weight, only to see it pile on again as soon as they return to their old eating habits. CBH addresses the root cause of the problem which is why the person is under or overeating in the first place. It is only when we understand the answer to that question that we can progress to address those eating habits and bring about lasting, sustainable change.

Smoking cessation: Everyone knows that smoking is expensive and not exactly good for your health, and about 79% of all adult smokers would like to quit if they could (Gallup poll). Of course you have to be motivated to stop smoking and the CBH approach incorporates different elements to boost that motivation, to question and then eliminate your desire to smoke, because you can only have a craving for something if you have a desire to do it. If you remove the desire, you take away the craving allowing you to stop completely, easily and forever. Hypnotherapy has been proved to be the most effective treatment available (New Scientist Magazine (Vol 136); in fact you are about six times more likely to stop smoking using hypnotherapy than by willpower alone.

If you think you could benefit from CBH why not give Alliance Therapies a call and arrange
your free initial consultation?
Contact Ian Mackenzie on 01273 840382 or email info@alliancetherapies.co.uk

A Second Language Improves Brain Power

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by Meritxell Franco at Buenos Dias

A very common question amongst parents is “What is the ideal age for my child to start learning a second language? The answer is easy…the earlier the better!!

Several articles in science and research magazines have described the amazing brain power that children are naturally born with. You have probably seen television programmes describing how brain cells work. They show the way children experience life (by seeing, listening, touching, smelling… sensorial) can make 100 billion brain cells hook up with each other!! (not bad for such little ones…)

The more sensory input (such as the unique sounds of a language), the more brain cells connect to each other and the faster the brain is capable of learning.

There is scientific evidence that children who are exposed to a second language from an early age not only achieve much better results in languages, but also in maths, science and music, and in general helps build brain power and cognitive skills.

Any toddler can easily learn that “cow” and “vaca” have the same meaning, and that one is English and the other Spanish. But that understanding will trigger the essential abstract thinking skills that are the basic tools for further learning.

The American Academy of Pediatrics stated that “there is abundant evidence that the best time to learn new languages is relatively early in life.”

Mr Harry Chugani of Wayne State University’s Children’s Hospital of Michigan quotes “the optimum window of opportunity for learning languages lasts until about the age of ten or twelve, yet most US districts wait until secondary school, after the windows are closed.” In the UK – and in many other countries – the teaching of a second language has also been delayed until secondary school. This is now proven to be detrimental as learning a language becomes increasingly difficult.

A young child is able to hear the “pure sounds” of a language, but just before becoming a teen, that ability will be gone. He or she might still be able to learn a second language but will definitely have an English accent (that’s if he/she is English, of course…!!)

Here are some quotes from different field experts, to illustrate the facts:

“Research suggests that learning a second language at an early age can enrich mental development.” (Business Week, Edward Baig, Bringing Up Baby – Bilingually.)

“… children who receive even small amounts of second-language instruction are more creative and are better at solving complex problems.”(SmartKid online)

“The learning of languages other than one’s own provides a unique conduit to higher-order thinking skills.”(Annals of the American Academy of Political & Social Science, C.Brown.)

“A study of 13,200 primary school children was revealing. Regardless of race, gender or academic level, children taking a foreign language did better in the English section of the Basic Skills Test. Maths scores of children studying a second language improve, too.” (Child, Lynne S.Dumas, Learning a second language.)

It is very satisfying to see little children naming animals and daily objects, or counting and singing in Spanish, knowing that this will help them in their studies for the rest of their lives.

The benefits of learning a second language are countless; just make sure that your child has fun whilst learning!

For more information please telephone
Meritxell on 01273 323431
or visit www.buenosdias.co.uk