happy student

How to nurture independent learners

By | Education

Anna Dalglish, maths and English Instructor at Kumon Guildford North, sets out ten ideas for developing independence in students.

1. Individualised instruction
Every student is unique and should be set work appropriate for his particular needs and abilities, regardless of age or school year group.

2. ‘Just right’ level of study
Students should start with work at a comfortable level in order to develop confidence, fill gaps in knowledge, and buildthe foundations to address more challenging work.

In due course, work should always be set at the appropriate level for each student -neither too easy (leading to loss of interest) nor too difficult (leading to discouragement) but ‘just right’ for the student’s current ability.

3. Logical progression of topics
Just as a child must learn to walk before he can run, there is little point in introducing punctuation to a child who has not yet learnt to read, or fractions to a student who has not mastered division.

Topics should be introduced in a logical progression, each building upon concepts previously covered. In this way, students learn independently in small steps.

4. Mastery
Students should master each topic fully before moving on.

‘Mastery’ does not denote perfectionism but acknowledges that each step must be fully understood before moving on.

Mastery builds students’ confidence, increases their willingness to have a go and persevere, and enables them to overcome fear of failure.

5. Daily study habit
Students will not always feel motivated to learn, but by developing a daily study habit they will nevertheless make progress.

Daily study allows students to develop knowledge steadily through small steps, to retain and build upon concepts and topics previously learned, and to avoid the ‘Summer Slide’.

6. Study skills
Without the necessary study skills, students will struggle to learn independently. Desirable skills include: focus and concentration, rhythm and pace, willingness to ‘have a go’, perseverance, time management, careful reading of instructions, the ability to organise one’s own work and to correct and learn from mistakes.

Students should be encouraged to develop their study skills while working on relatively easy work.

7. Set high (but achievable) expectations
Why should a student stop learning simply because he happens to be at the desired level of attainment for his age? Students should be encouraged to work above their school level – until they are doing so, they are not truly ‘independent learners’ but merely practising what they have been taught at school. By going beyond school level, they are using all the study skills and concepts previously mastered to learn new concepts and continually develop their skills and academic ability.

8. Feedback
To ensure mastery and maintain work at the ‘just right’ level, each student’s progress should be continuously measured by prompt marking of work and corrections, regular achievement tests, and monitoring of daily performance.

We should give constructive feedback to students, but we should also listen to feedback from students, ensuring they are each valued as independent learners and encouraged to take ownership of their own learning process.

9. Learning from mistakes and ‘failures’
Learning from mistakes is an essential component of independent learning, and leaving mistakes uncorrected will erode confidence and delay mastery of a particular concept.

Students should identify where they went wrong and correct errors themselves. They are then less likely to repeat the error, will learn the relevant concepts more quickly, and gain confidence from ‘owning’ their work and knowing they are capable of perfect scores through their own efforts.

10. Coaching, not teaching
Parents and teachers should avoid ‘over-teaching’ students, instead aiming to act as ‘coach’ or ‘guide’.

Whether learning to walk or learning to do long division, a child learns better from doing a task rather than listening to a detailed exposition on how to perform the task.

The parent’s or instructor’s role is to:
a) provide the appropriate environment – a quiet time and place; b) assess students’ current ability level and set work at the ‘just right’ level; c) promptly mark work and corrections, monitor progress, and act on feedback; d) emphasise and model desired study skills; e) encourage and praise students; f) guide students towards the answer rather than giving answers; g) keep positive and focused on the long-term.

Even preschoolers can begin the journey towards independent learning. The earlier they take ownership of their study – turning the page on their own, writing or tracing independently, organising their work, writing their own start and finish times – the sooner they will build the confidence in their own abilities that will take them far.

The word ‘education’ comes from the Latin ‘educare’ which means ‘to lead forth’. Our role is to ‘lead forth’ our students from dependence to increasing independence and equip them with the necessary tools to become independent and well-adjusted adults.

The importance of learning to share

By | Education, family
by Stephanie Hope
Author of “I Don’t Have to Share”

Commonly used phrases in any childhood social setting are ‘Can you share?’ or ‘Sharing is caring’. Sharing is seen as an obligatory attribute that our children must implement from a very young age.

The pressure within society to raise kind, generous children that always share can result in caregivers forcing children to share before they’ve learnt empathy or self-regulation.

If sharing is forced it can feel like a punishment, consequently, the word share is no longer understood as an act of kindness and generosity, rather something unenjoyable.

Sharing is an important part of friendship forming; learning this skill allows children to play co-operatively by taking turns, developing patience and managing disappointment. Allowing children to experiment with sharing and not sharing will contribute to understanding compromise, fairness, and conflict resolution.

It is crucial we recognise and accept that sharing is difficult, even for adults and especially for young children. Some children will be more likely to want to share than others and all children develop at different stages. Ergo, a child who is more possessive is not being bad or unkind.

So, what can we implement as caregivers to organically instil sharing?
1. Keep sharing optional
Adults can decide which of their belongings to share and with whom. When an adult is using something, another person waits until they are finished, children should be taught and given the same respect.

If we force children to share, they will leave the encounter feeling aggrieved, not generous. Unsurprisingly, they’re less likely to share after that.

2. Model generosity
Copycat behaviour in children is universal, so when sharing it’s important to label it. If we model frequent generosity and sharing it is likely our children will implement the same.

3. Encourage
Give plenty of specific praise when you observe your child sharing with their peers, “That was really kind of you to share your snack with Toby, did you see how happy it made him?”

Specific praise will encourage repetition of the behaviour and help identify how sharing made them and others feel. Eventually children will take the initiative to share without influence to reap its positive rewards.

4. Make exceptions
There are many scenarios a child not sharing should be accepted and respected. Some examples include; if a certain toy is special to them, if they are still focused on an activity, or if they have set up their own imaginative game.

5. Guide children to come up with solutions
When we intervene in a social interaction by insisting that a child shares, we are also interrupting a learning experience. If children are refusing to share, rather than insisting that they take turns or give up a toy, instead, guide them to finding their own solution or compromise. “There’s only one car and you both want to play with it, what could we do?”

6. Teach assertive responses
It would be beneficial for children to learn a handful of phrases they can use repeatedly in social situations where they don’t have to share and have decided not to. Pairing positive assertiveness with kindness will help them develop respect for themselves and for others.

To summarise, learning to share with grace is progressive. With plenty of opportunities to practice, conflicts included, children will discover the importance of sharing and respectively when it is okay NOT to share.

To help children identify some situations in which they shouldn’t have to share, award-winning authors Toni McAree & Stephanie Hope have released a bright, rhyming book controversially titled ‘I Don’t Have to Share’. Readers follow a fun character, Haz the Monster, through different scenarios where he is asked to share. How Haz the Monster responds to his peers teaches children assertiveness, confidence, and respect in regards to sharing.

“My Mum says I don’t have to share this toy, it’s my special one you see, I’ve had it all my life and don’t want anyone touching it but me.”

‘I Don’t Have to Share’ is available now on Amazon. £5.27

The very best start

By | Education

With excellent facilities, smaller classes, outstanding teachers and specialised learning, pre-prep is a great introduction to education, writes Naomi Bartholomew, Head of St Catherine’s Bramley.

As headteachers we often work hard to share with parents what is unique and special about our schools. Many prep schools are very fortunate to have excellent facilities, plenty of space, smaller class sizes, outstanding teachers and plenty of subject specialism amongst the staff. This means that teachers can relay their passion and expertise in subject areas such as PE, music, art, computing or modern foreign languages. In turn, children are inspired to achieve and are given excellent learning opportunities from day one.

As we emerge from a very challenging time and an extended period of schools being closed due to the global pandemic, parents are certainly taking stock and considering what it is that they want for their children as they choose their future schools. Many are now considering an investment in independent education and looking for a place at a pre-prep or prep school. They are recognising the enrichment that comes from a varied extra-curricular programme where pupils can explore their hobbies and interests and foster friendships with children who have similar interests, where small classes mean that every child is well known and where resources enable schools to provide dynamic provision both in school and online.

Every phase of a child’s education is also about building character, resilience and a core set of values as well as skills. School websites and prospectuses will promise much in this regard. But how do we really measure the true value of a prep school education? With a list of impressive destinations, scholarships and awards to excellent senior schools? Through what children then go on to achieve? With lists of achievements and outcomes gained along the way?

I would argue that the true value of a pre-prep education is an investment in an exceptional start to school life where children are given the space and time to be individuals, where they form strong and lasting friendships and work very closely with their teachers. Starting school life in an environment which allows each child to discover their own unique talents and potential is proven to provide all children with very strong foundations on which to build. At each step there are dedicated staff who know both you as parents and your child well. Teachers and teaching assistants will be ready to celebrate achievements and instil self-belief and build the confidence needed to meet challenges with an open heart and mind.

Here are St Catherine’s we pride ourselves on providing our girls with the strongest of foundations for their future learning in the formative pre-prep years. Miss Jefford, Head of Pre-Prep, will always comment on the benefit that she sees from day one of small class sizes where each child is nurtured as an individual. “We see the girls forming relationships, learning about themselves and they blossom into confident and motivated learners.”

At the age of seven, girls transfer seamlessly into Year 3 ready to embrace all the rich experiences of the prep school curriculum. We know that we have succeeded when we see our girls leaving the school aged eleven happy and motivated to learn, ready for the challenges ahead and with a sense instilled that girls can do anything they set their minds to. We are also fortunate in that we are truly independent and can set our own agendas and goals for the children. I often hear now from parents looking to move their children away from excellent state primary schools due to undue pressure of testing at Year 2 and Year 6.

Pre-prep and prep schools are able to go above and beyond the curriculum and foster each child’s individual interests and strengths. This has also been demonstrated during lockdown where we have seen individual music lessons continue, class and whole school assemblies, online chapel and singalongs as well as chess tournaments. The list of what is on offer both in school and remotely is extensive and such enrichment brings the best out of every child and provides them with opportunities to learn beyond the classroom and to truly be themselves.

Every experience in a vibrant pre-prep or prep school enables children to build a large bank of happy memories which inform and shape their education in the broadest possible sense. This is something we pride ourselves on and have huge fun in providing at St Catherine’s.

St Catherine’s Prep extend a warm welcome to parents who would like to see what this actually looks like here at St Catherine’s, Bramley with regular Open Mornings.

eco warrior ABC

How to inspire a ‘green’ mindset in your children

By | Education, Green
by Fleur Wells
Parent, Teacher, Young Climate Warriors Trustee

To paraphrase Whitney Houston; the children are our future! A cliché perhaps, but like all good clichés, it’s rooted in truth. In a short while, our children could be the independent decision-makers, teachers, activists, enthusiasts, policy-makers, and catalysts-for-change we hope they will be. The onus is therefore on us, as parents, the main educators in their lives, to inspire, teach and provide the toolkits to live in an eco-positive and sustainable way.

So, no pressure then.

How can parents help their children have a green mindset?

No one wants to be a nag; we all get sick of hearing the sound of our own voices doing that, and it is only a short-term approach, enforcing uninspired, duty-boundness. If we want our children to inspire others, we must, of course, inspire them.

Perhaps some shock factor, to get the sustainable juices going? There’s plenty to doom-scroll online if you’re looking for something to jolt them into action, in the hope of inspiring them to be the next Greta. While alarmism is often a very effective stimulus, it is not the only and certainly not the best tool in your kit. Great for attention grabbing, but it can also contribute to a great deal of counter-productive anxiety, and even worse have a negative impact on mental health.

So, if as a parent you are looking for positive messaging about climate change – to encourage and empower, rather than potentially trigger eco-anxiety, Young Climate Warriors is one of a number of fun, matter-of-fact and practical resources available to you, and for free.

Its purpose is to inspire young people to want to get involved and to give it a go, whilst amplifying their voices in a way that suits them; there’s no dry whitepapers to slog through, neither are there the angst-inducing clickbait articles. Set up in February 2019, by Katrina Judge – with a child-friendly website ( and weekly challenges, it encourages children and families across the country to choose that ‘green mindset’.

Katrina explains; “I felt compelled to convert my feelings into actions and channel my energies into a venture to try and help combat climate change.”

By offering children fun, weekly climate-change related challenges the initiative inspires carbon-busting action around the home, encourages climate change discussion, and sparks creative and imaginative activities in nature.

The team of children and families who subscribe for free (who are affectionately referred to as Young Climate Warriors) are making a positive impact through individual actions, tweaks and lifehacks. The collective power and good-feeling generated by these micro-actions are shared and amplified within their communities, through school assemblies, often featured in local press, and of course celebrated on the YCW social media channels (Instagram: @youngclimatewarriors and Facebook: /youngclimatewarriors).

Speaking from personal experience, my own two children (10 years and 7 years), take great pleasure in planning family meals using locally-produced and in-season vegetables. This was originally inspired by an activity set by Young Climate Warriors in June 2020, and has now become something of a Sunday afternoon ritual as they flick through cookbooks, do a little research on a nearby device, create a colourful meal plan and scribble out shopping lists for the week. This has two major benefits. One, it saves me a job. Two, it gets us chatting and thinking together so we can make the best environmentally friendly decision we can.

Some Young Climate Warriors challenges are easier than others, the ebbs and flows of life mean they don’t always present the easiest option, and we don’t always get it right. Back to the family meal analogy – the produce of the week may not be everyone’s favourite, or the final dish not something any of us think we fancy, it’s not the most convenient option, but we do our best, and we discuss it. The very act of mindfully planning our meals in a sustainable way is both cathartic and it allows us to slow down and think about how we shop and eat.

It’s very real and practical, and it involves the children in such a way that they enjoy ownership and not feel they are being preached to. It’s real, it’s local, it’s immediate and it’s relevant. It’s not crusty grown-ups and politicians talking around a nebulous concept. It helps to connect the dots.

Young Climate Warriors helps to do just that with all of its challenges – connect the dots between the very real effects of climate change and what we do, and can do better in our day-to-day lives. Young Climate Warriors believes that the best way to engage and activate our children is to make it fun and satisfying to be part of the change.

Children always learn by example and early behaviours and beliefs will be ingrained and carried through into adult life. However, by taking part and subscribing to Young Climate Warriors as parents and primary caregivers, we may also learn a thing or two from the children as well.

The natural nativity

By | Christmas, Education
by Sally-Ann Barker
Potter’s House Preschool

It’s that time of year when Early Years practitioners are beginning to think about how to make Christmas magical for the children in their care. For a vast number of children Christmas doesn’t look like the John Lewis adverts – it’s a time of year that has the potential to spark a lot of emotions that are difficult to process and even more difficult to vocalise. So, when we think about putting on a nativity this year it’s worth asking ourselves who we’re doing it for? It’s a question I prompt my staff to ask themselves in every area of their practice several times a day. Who am I doing this for? Why? Who does it benefit? The nativity is much the same.

Many moons ago early on in my career, I assisted with nativity prep for my preschoolers – aged two to four. I watched as my manager wrote a script, sourced costumes, coached the children with lines, taught the children songs and definitely lost her mind for a good month. We all know that feeling. The children were superb; they were shining examples of confidence and resilience during every run through. I couldn’t tell you if any of them actually had any idea what was expected of them, let alone understood the nativity story at all. After a gruelling three weeks of nativity prep – during which time there was a vastly limited amount of natural learning going on – the day came for the children to perform. The little girls with blond hair were angels, the boys were shepherds and wise men, the little girl with dark hair was Mary – we’ve seen it a thousand times, let’s not even begin to talk about the politics of casting roles.

The parents, grandparents and younger siblings filled the big hall and the anticipation and excitement were palpable. I’ve always loved the buzz of a good ‘show’ and it was lovely to see the pride on the parents’ faces.

The curtains opened and the music started and the children stood stock-still. Nobody sang. Some waved at their parents, some cried, one ran off the stage and sat with their baby brother, one had an accident and one started screaming at the top of her voice in sheer terror. After a few minutes and some reassuring cuddles a few started to sing. The rest is a blur, I have vague memories of parents thanking the staff and taking pictures of the children but in between I think I probably have deliberate memory loss.

It was the last day of term so I spent the next two weeks recovering from the stress and confusion. With it being so early on in my career, I didn’t have the confidence to ask why on earth we put them through that but I’d love to go back in time and ask all the questions I should have asked then. Why did we do this? What developmental benefit was there? What message is this sending to the families who don’t celebrate Christmas? Because when you ask yourself those questions as a practitioner, it changes your perception. Our responsibility isn’t the cute photo of a little boy dressed up as a donkey for his grandma’s mantlepiece. It’s not making sure the children are able to sing ‘We wish you a merry Christmas’ word perfectly.

Our responsibility is the physical, emotional and mental wellbeing of the children in our care – their learning and development too.

For as long as the responsibility has been on me to ensure Christmas is acknowledged and celebrated within a setting, I have made an effort to remove all pressure on the children, staff and parents. I try to make it as natural as possible, there are no expectations of anyone and nobody is asked to ‘perform’. For story time we read versions of the nativity and books about how other cultures celebrate – but it’s just story time. We have a small world play nativity scene on offer and some traditional costumes available for dressing up. We have Christmas songs playing in the background and offers of card making on the table but as always, they are all offers and not requirements.

We often see a natural nativity and if we are quick enough, we can catch glimpses of it on film. We see the children decide to dress up and act out what they heard during story time because they made the connection on their own. We see the way they’ve interpreted the story and the wonderfully imaginative additions they’ve made to it – Joseph wasn’t a carpenter, he was Spiderman. We see them putting Mary on the donkey in the small world play and dinosaurs on the roof of the stable roaring loudly at the baby Jesus in the crib. Most importantly of all, we see the learning outcomes – the development of language, sequencing and imaginative thinking. We have happy children, relaxed staff and parents who aren’t up until the early hours gluing cotton wool onto a t-shirt for their baby’s sheep costume.

There is no right or wrong way to celebrate anything in your setting, provided you’re doing it for the right reasons.

For more information please contact Sally-Ann at or call 07375 379148


Is open conversation the key to online safety?

By | Education, family
by Jennifer Grey and Hasna Haidar
Freelance writers

When we all retreated into our homes last year, many of us relied on social media and the internet to connect with the outside world. From using apps to catch up with the grandparents to finding ways to keep entertained without going out, the internet was a lifeline enabling us to have fruitful days at home. It also allowed our children to continue to study remotely, to keep in touch with their friends or to stay occupied while stuck indoors.

But, while all these positives about the online world may hold true, it’s an unfortunate fact that lurking within the digital space are predatory individuals and problematic behaviours. With research finding that abusive online behaviour towards children increased during lockdown, it’s important that we educate ourselves – and our children – on online safety. After all, the digital world will likely continue to be a presence in our lives long after lockdown. Below is a list of some of the potential dangers your children might face as they navigate the web – and how you can help.

Cyberbullying, and why empowerment, trust and honesty are needed to tackle it.
Cyberbullying refers to harassing or intimidating behaviour, or behaviour intended to embarrass someone, that takes place over the internet. The Office of National Statistics found that one in five children in the UK experience cyberbullying, while two in five experience bullying in person. Over the course of the pandemic-related lockdowns, it’s possible that this has shifted further towards the former.

If your child is experiencing cyberbullying, they may be feeling ashamed, worried, uncomfortable, scared or confused. What’s more, they’ll likely be reluctant to tell you what’s going on. Fostering an open and welcoming environment that starts when your child begins to use internet-connected devices can help your child feel comfortable coming to you for help when things go wrong.

Three major aspects that’ll help you do so are empowerment, trust, and openness.
• Empowerment
While your first instinct may be to monitor your child’s social media usage to help you spot warning signs, it can be more effective in the long run to ensure your child has the tools and knowledge to navigate the digital world safely. This includes learning how to block or report people online, using and coping with comments on social media.
• Trust
When discussing cyberbullying or any other online safety topic, keep your comments positive and non-accusatory so your child feels trusted instead of defensive. Your child needs to know you appreciate how they might be feeling, and that you’re on their side.
• Openness
Make sure your child knows your door is always open for further discussion, approach conversations with an open mind, and reassure them that they don’t need to hide what they’re experiencing online.

Issues with inappropriate content
Another unfortunate reality of using the internet is exposure to inappropriate content. Your child could watch poor-quality shows that aren’t created with the proper educational milestones in mind, play games that are unsuitable for their age, or even stumble across age-inappropriate content. A phenomenon that’s been recorded recently is content that appears child-friendly, but has been created by shady individuals specifically to trick children and their parents.

Inappropriate content could also take the form of your child receiving – or indeed sending – nude or sexually suggestive imagery online. This may happen due to predators coaxing, tricking or threatening underage children to send inappropriate photos, or could take place on a peer-to-peer level with children sending and requesting nude photos to and of their friends. A recent survey found that 17% of those aged 15 or over had shared a nude photo of themselves online. Yet, it may not be commonly known that being in possession of a nude photo of an underage person – even if that person is yourself – is a crime in the UK.

How to broach the issue of inappropriate online behaviour with your child
It’s important that your child understands the principles of safe internet usage. You may want to have a conversation about online safety – tailored to their age group – as soon as your child begins to use internet-connected devices. When doing so, keep in mind that, for many children, the line between their online world and their offline world is often blurred, with both worlds being equally real. In order to have a true conversation about online safety, it’s important to take into account how your child views the online world.

It’s also worth approaching your conversation as a general one about your child’s life – both online and offline. If you take a relaxed and gentle approach, it’ll help your child feel more relaxed too, and more willing to come to you if they do have issues. Some of the things you may want to talk about include:
• What they enjoy doing online.
• What apps they’re currently using.
• Who their online friends are.
• How being online makes them feel.
• If they’re worried about anything in particular.
• Whether they can trust what they see online.
• What they should do if they saw or heard something they didn’t like online.
• How to identify when they’re overusing apps.
• How they can stay safe online, any tips they have for you, and any tips you can give them.
• How to maintain a healthy balance between the offline and online worlds.
• Where the privacy settings are, and how to report or block users.
• What types of content are appropriate for them to view.
• What types of content are okay for them to share, and what is not okay.

Switching to appropriate social networks
While some social networks are aimed at a younger age demographic than others, all social networks have the potential to allow children access to inappropriate content. It may be worth ensuring your child only uses social networks designed – and exclusive to – their age group, such as Spotlite and GoBubble. These can be safer spaces for younger internet users; allowing them to gain an insight into social media use without the added risk of encountering inappropriate content or questionable users.

Through helping them find safe ways to navigate the internet, fostering an open dialogue with your child, and demonstrating to them that you understand and are supportive of their online world, it’ll be easier for you to ensure your child has a happier experience online. Having honest conversations about online safety while celebrating all the good that the internet can bring can help ensure you’re taking a positive and productive approach to this aspect of your child’s life.

Hasna Haidar is a freelance copywriter and data researcher, covering topics in technology, education, and parenting. Jennifer Grey is a freelance writer, covering the internet, social justice and lifestyle.

Learning a second language – it is never too early

By | Education
by Rebecca Branton
Burgess Hill Girls Pre-Prep and Prep School teacher

There is plenty of research to support the benefits of learning a foreign language as early as possible. Studies by Harvard University, for example, suggest that the creativity and flexibility of the mind are enhanced when young children are exposed to a range of ways of communicating, including through two or more languages. Some academics suggest exposing children to other languages as early as their preschool years, as this is when the child is establishing patterns for thinking and learning.

Young children enjoy learning. They are keen to jump in and have a good time whatever the activity and can pick up a lot through nursery rhymes, silly songs, games, and puppets. The brains of the very young are used to developing new means of expression. They learn new words every day and benefit from exposure to broad, extensive vocabulary in their native tongue as well as new words and expression in other tongues. Concerns about children not having the ‘bandwidth’ to pick up two or more languages appear to be misplaced – it seems that the wider the experience the better in this area.

The Harvard study compared the verbal and written test results of pupils who had learned a foreign language and those who had not. They concluded that the foreign language-learning cohort had not just superior linguistic skills but also better cognitive skills altogether.

Children who learn a language when they are very young have a much better chance of not having a foreign accent. The younger the learner, the better they are at mimicking new sounds and adopting pronunciation. The brain is most open to new sounds and patterns in pre-adolescence.

Young children are undaunted learners. They are not yet self-conscious and are happy to try out their newly acquired language skills without fear of embarrassment. They are eager to see what response they will get when they try out new words and vocabulary because they are programmed to delight in communicating. Parents of teenagers know that unfortunately this does not last! So, schools must make the most of the window of uninhibited learning opportunity.

Teaching a modern foreign language to a young child catches their enquiring mind and satisfies their natural thirst for new experiences as well as their curiosity about language itself. It exposes them inevitably to other cultures and therefore inoculates against insularity and intolerance. Most of all, they enjoy it, if the teaching is crafted to appeal to their sense of fun and relates to their interests.

It is therefore my privilege to teach KS1 foreign languages at Burgess Hill Girls Pre-Prep and Prep School. We are fortunate to be able to offer a foreign language from Year 1 and offer enrichment opportunities such as special French Days and after-school clubs.

To find out more about Burgess Hill Girls visit

Promoting positivity

By | Education
by Mrs Sarah Bakhtiari
Principal of Shoreham College

Some people appear to have a naturally positive personality, gliding through the ups and downs of life more easily than most; their glass is half full, their outlook is full of optimism. What if those of us who are not naturally quite so positive, perhaps our glass is half empty, could grow the positive parts of our personality? What if we could help our children and young people to do the same?

Studies show that positive people perform better under pressure, have better concentration and can cope with uncertainty. Optimism has a positive impact on wellbeing and positive people also tend to report greater levels of happiness. This article will explore some of the ways that we can encourage children and young people to grow their positive outlook, reaping benefits for their mental health and wellbeing.

How we think, how we feel and how we behave are all closely aligned with our brain’s interpretation of events which in turn fuels our emotions and behaviours. The situation itself is less important in determining how we feel, more important is the way we view that situation. “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” as Shakespeare said, in Hamlet.

So, how can we help children and young people to develop a more positive outlook?

Expressing feelings
It is normal for us to experience a range of feelings and emotions, from happiness to sadness to anxiety and anger. Encourage your child to speak about how they feel and help them to understand that these feelings pass: “So I may have missed the ball, but everyone misses sometimes and I did the best I could” replaces “I never catch the ball, I’m not playing that again”. Maya Angelou is quoted as saying “Do the best you can until you know better, then do better” and her wisdom applies to sports and friendships and exams and well, actually to everything – even parenting, perhaps especially parenting!

Helping others
Doing things for others helps us to feel better about ourselves and grows our positive outlook. Encourage your child to help others, in a way that is enjoyable for them. Perhaps they could bake a cake for someone who needs cheering up, or help a sibling with their homework or show their kindness in the playground. There are many ways to help and the feel-good factor from helping others will fuel your child’s positivity. It helps them to understand that they, and their actions, can make a positive difference.

The power of ‘wow’ Encourage your child to record ‘wow’ moments – perhaps in a journal, perhaps in a scrapbook – whatever works for them, moments from their daily life that they find beautiful or extraordinary. It could be a kind act, it could be a crazy cloud formation in the sky, or the family pet doing something silly. Whatever it is, it will mean something to them and when they look back at the ‘wow’ moments, they will feel uplifted and positive.

How we talk to ourselves can have a significant impact on how we live our life: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.” (Henry Ford). Help your child to practise noticing their self-talk. A really good way to help grow positive self-talk is to think of someone warm and compassionate who your child admires. It might be a teacher, a cousin, a coach or simply someone they look up to. Then think what that person would say to them instead, so for example“of course I always fail” becomes“I might still have a way to go, but I’m proud of how far I have come.”

Schools play an important role in supporting children and young people’s wellbeing and positivity. From celebrating children for the unique individual that they are, to knowing and listening carefully to them, to developing activities that encourage children to be active and enjoy the world around them. There is plenty of support. Small activities can have a significant impact on positivity, thereby building the resilience which leads to success. Pond-dipping with our Year 3s recently, I was struck by how the activity worked on so many levels – there was ‘wow’ – the children discovered a ‘mini beast’ (a newt!) named it Wiggle Squiggle and created a narrative about the mini beast, which they excitedly worked together to develop. They helped each other by sharing nets and magnifying lenses, they expressed their feelings and reflected how those feelings changed (some were initially not so keen on Wiggle Squiggle, but through dialogue began to see the newt for the fascinating little creature that it was). A charming activity which our children so enjoyed, and which works on so many levels – from an appreciation of our natural habitat to collaboration and reflection.

Not all schools are lucky enough to have a pond or forest school, but every school will work cleverly with the resources they do have, and every school will welcome a dialogue with parents about their child. I hope I have given you some ideas that you could try with your child to help grow their positivity. Perhaps you have already tried these and are looking for more specialist help? If this is the case I encourage you to speak to your child’s school, or your GP, for additional sources of support.

Shoreham College, like many independent schools, has been offering continuity of education for its pupils and their families for generations. Established in 1842, as a grammar school, where pupils were “liberally boarded and carefully educated.” Shoreham College is proud of its traditions and proud of the many and varied achievements of pupils.Whilst the Shoreham College of today is most definitely a day school, the forward thinking liberal culture of its founders continues to resonate.

Reclaiming practical education

By | Education
by Dinah Hatch
Brighton Girls

Ever since former prime minister Tony Blair set out his priorities for office back in the 1990s with the clarion call “education, education, education”, British schools have ploughed an ever more academically rigorous furrow in a bid to widen access to university amongst 18 year olds.

But many commentators, including the influential Lord Baker, a former education minister in Margaret Thatcher’s government, fear the pendulum may have swung too far, with the pursuit of highly academic subjects often resulting in practical, hands-on skills being kicked off the curriculum.

Lord Baker has even called for GCSEs, the very qualification he introduced in 1988, to be abandoned, saying that examining 16 year olds has become largely pointless and unduly stressful now that none of them leave education at that age and do not need proof of their capabilities to show employers.

But his calls have so far fallen on deaf ears in government. Michael Gove’s commitment to axing the course-work component of exams and focusing on on-the-day performance further swung the pendulum towards rewarding academic skills when he was education secretary and nothing has changed since.

Yet a growing number of educationalists are calling for a rethink, saying that Britain has fallen behind other countries when it comes to manufacturing and engineering because the skills needed to excel in these fields are simply not being taught as much.

If you look at Austrian, Swiss, German or Dutch students, by the time they’ve reached 18, some 70-80% of them have had some experience of technical education. In Britain, it’s just 30%.

The social commentator David Goodhart addresses the theme of focusing on academia to the detriment of other paths in his book Head, Hand, Heart: the struggle for dignity and status in the 21st century. He talks about how education in the last century in the UK has become ever more focused on the ‘head’ (academics) and left behind the skills of the ‘heart’ (those needed for social care, for example) and the ‘hand’ (practical skills). The result has been that those who did not naturally excel in the first category but who were gifted in one or both of the other two were not valued as much in society.

This has led to a disproportionate amount of people heading to university to pursue academic subjects, he says, at the cost of other pathways that the economy and society needs.

At last, however, schools are starting to take note, particularly independent schools which have their own budget and are not led by government edicts on education policy.

There has been a growing push from this sector to acknowledge that the teaching of many practical skills have been neglected.

Brighton Girls recently hit the headlines with the news that its headteacher had introduced extra-curricular lessons in the use of power tools, as part of a wider remit to encourage more creativity and problem solving.

Head Rosie McColl has hired welder, blacksmith and creative metalwork upcycler Charis Williams, known on TV as The Salvage Sister having featured on Channel 4’s Fill Your House For Free and BBC One’s Getting The Builders In, to hold workshops and run weekly sessions for her pupils aged 11-18.

The school is also in the process of revamping its DT offering and has appointed a head of design and innovation who will start at the school in September.

Ms McColl said: “When I was at school, DT and the like were seen as non-academic and people were a bit sniffy about it. I think that’s changed now – people realize that children need to have lessons that allow them to explore their creativity and lateral thinking, which is exactly what these sessions with Charis are doing. Currently, we are undergoing a huge school revamp which will include areas called Maker Spaces where pupils will have supervised access to power tools, 3D and laser printers, sewing machines and the like and we are hoping it will unleash a side in the girls that they might not know they even had. I believe 21st century schooling needs to be so much more than exam grades and remembering when the Battle of Hastings was. It’s about problem solving, working in teams and thinking creatively.”

And the power tools lessons have been a hit with her pupils.

Esme McGrath, 14, took part in one of the first classes held by Ms Williams where pupils were shown how to use the tools with the goal being to create outside furniture for the school from wooden pallets.

The Year 9 pupil said she felt much more confident about the prospect of creating furniture, having never really used tools like this before. She said: “It’s been really fun learning something like this and it makes it real when you actually get shown how to do it. It opens up new possibilities about what I could do and it makes a lovely contrast to my academic studies.”

Year 11 pupil Kirsty Gallagher added: “I think it’s great that we are trying our hand at something practical and useful. Who knows where it will lead to and what we will learn along the way.”

Ms Williams added: “I aim to change the stereotype and make 3D creative skills available to everyone. Pupils learn to use tools which will be massively helpful if they like to make things or go into a creative career – and most importantly it’s really good fun. Many adult students come to me to learn to use basic power tools skills because they have never had the chance before and have always wanted to learn.”

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It’s all in the balance…

By | Education, family
by Russell James
Glide Balance Bike Classes

Most children learn to crawl before they walk and to run before they bike. So it is therefore surprising that some people expect children to progress from tricycles and bicycles with stabilisers to bicycles, without having had the opportunity to master all aspects of static and dynamic balance.

Why is balance so important?
Physical inactivity in children can not only lead to health risks such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and coronary artery disease, but can also lend to poor motor skills, having a detrimental effect on cognitive function and academic performance.(1)

Without effective transition from basic balance and sensory integration, learning and reading development can be significantly delayed.

Although balance maturation is not generally achieved in children until the age of 12, improving balance and sensory processing skills early in life will help children to excel – those with challenges like dyslexia, Down Syndrome, ADD and ADHD, improve dramatically.

What is balance?
Balance is the ability to maintain control of a particular body position whilst performing a given task with minimal postural sway. This could be achieved simply by sitting at a table, standing on one leg or riding a bike. Maintaining control of body positioning requires good static and dynamic balance reducing the energy required to perform a host of tasks and activities whilst minimising fatigue.

Static balance is the ability to maintain control of a position whilst remaining stationary – for example, balancing on one leg or holding a headstand.

Dynamic balance is the ability to maintain balance and control of the body whilst moving, such as hoping, jumping, riding a bike or snowboarding.

Developing skills
Fundamental motor skills are the building blocks for engagement in physical activity and aid all aspects of the learning process. If these skills are underdeveloped in childhood, a child’s ability to participate in and enjoy physical activity can be greatly diminished. In practicing gross and fine motor skills, children not only gain intellectually, but also grow in strength, develop new skills and enjoy increased confidence levels in the face of new challenges.

Balance bikes promote symmetry, particularly with the upper body being encouraged to hold the handle bars steady whilst the lower part of the body is able to move freely and evenly. Balance, postural control and symmetry all help children develop the basic skills for any future physical activity.

Balance is vital to achieving success in almost every sport or physical activity and is fundamental in the process of learning to ride a bike. Through practice with balance equipment and balance bikes, children gain the ability and confidence needed to ride a pedal bike with confidence.

A recent study by the Child Growth Foundation concluded that 1 in 10 children never learnt to ride a bike.

Balance bike classes provide a safe introduction to address the need to get children at a young age exposed to cycling for fun, to encourage active lifestyles and to adopt alternative transport methods in the future.

Glide Balance bike classes are based on the Balanceability programme which has been specially designed by child development experts and cycling professionals. Classes are aimed at 2-4 year olds and last for 45 minutes. Led by a qualified instructor, children will learn the fundamental skills of cycling through play and adventure.

1. Medical Daily Oct 28 2014 Source: Balanceability course training and delivery manual.