Talk PANTS and stay safe

By | children's health, Education, Relationships, Safety

From an early age we talk to children about how to stay safe. We teach them how to cross the road safely and not to run with scissors. But some subjects can be trickier to discuss than others. For example – sexual abuse. Where on earth do you start?

Talking about sexual abuse with children can feel like a daunting prospect. It’s something you hope you never have to discuss and you might feel that if you do; you’ll scare them or take away their innocence.

But the truth is abuse happens and we need to talk about it to keep children safe. During the year 2019/20, police forces across the UK recorded more than 73,500 child sex offences – an increase of 57% over five years. By talking about it from an early age, potentially before it even takes place, we can help children speak up if something happens that worries them.

But talking about abuse doesn’t need to be a scary thing and we can show you how. You can start by teaching them the NSPCC’s Underwear Rule, or PANTS. Since the NSPCC launched its PANTS campaign in 2013, it has sparked over 1.5 million conversations between adults and their children to help keep them safe from abuse.

PANTS stands for:
Privates are private
Your underwear covers up your private parts and no one should ask to see or touch them. Sometimes a doctor, nurse or family members might have to. But they should always explain why and ask you if it’s OK first.

Always remember your body belongs to you
Your body belongs to you. No one should ever make you do things that make you feel embarrassed or uncomfortable. If someone asks to see or tries to touch you underneath your underwear say ‘NO’ – and tell someone you trust and like to speak to.

No means no
No means no, and you always have the right to say ‘no’ – even to a family member or someone you love. You’re in control of your body and the most important thing is how YOU feel. If you want to say ‘No’, it’s your choice.

Talk about secrets that upset you
There are good and bad secrets. Good secrets can be things like surprise parties or presents for other people. Bad secrets make you feel sad, worried or frightened. You should tell an adult you trust about a bad secret straight away.

Speak up, someone can help
Talk about stuff that makes you worried or upset. If you ever feel sad, anxious or frightened you should talk to an adult you trust. This doesn’t have to be a family member. It can also be a teacher or a friend’s parent – or even Childline.

Next, you’ll need to pick the right time to start talking about it. The right time is… anytime! It’s important to make it part of everyday conversations you might have with your child so that it doesn’t feel forced or as though it’s a big deal. Some examples are:
• During bath time, when applying cream or when getting your child dressed.
• During car journeys – it’s a neutral space and it might be easier to get their undivided attention.
• Going swimming is the perfect time to explain that what’s covered by swimwear is private.
• During a TV show that features a sensitive storyline – you could ask them what they would do in that situation and encourage them to think about adults they trust and could speak to about a problem.

There’s even a video for you to sing along to with your child, to help them learn the Underwear Rule. The yellow, cuddly, pant-wearing dinosaur mascot, Pantosaurus, sings and dances his way through these important safeguarding messages but it’s fun and incredibly catchy.

Singing not really your thing? Don’t worry – you can always read the PANTS book together. Pantosaurus and the Power of Pants follows the story of Pantosaurus as he receives a new pair of pants. Dinodad tells him that they will give him special powers. Pantosaurus then experiences a problem at school and just as Dinodad told him, his super pants give him the power to speak up.

There are lots of other sources of support available on the NSPCC website – You can sign up for regular emails with tips and advice, download free PANTS guides in 16 different languages and sing along to the Pantosaurs video.

There are also PANTS activity packs, and Pantosaurus and the Power of Pants is available to buy in the NSPCC online shop –

For further advice and support, the NSPCC’s Helpline is available Monday to Friday 8am – 10pm or 9am – 6pm at the weekends. Trained professionals can offer tips and advice and can help you if you have concerns about a child. You can call them free and in confidence on 0808 800 5000 or visit

30 things to do before you’re five

By | Education, environment, fun for children

Following two years of disruption to daily routines, parents can now show their children new experiences they have missed out on.

Together with Nick Jr. UK Blue’s Clues & You series and a panel of celebrity parents, they have put together this ‘bucket list’ to get children out exploring and to help feed their curiosity.

From climbing trees and going underwater for the first time, to building a sandcastle on the beach and camping in the garden, the activities are all based around the simple pleasures that come with being able to explore.

1. Pebble painting
2. Feed the ducks
3. Write a letter to a family member and post it
4. Go underwater
5. Paddle in the sea
6. Get dressed up in fancy dress
7. Litter pick
8. Go to a castle
9. Have a water fight and soak your parents from head to toe
10. Go mudlarking and see who can find the grossest thing
11. Get some chalk and do some pavement art
12. Spend a night camping in your back garden
13. Ride on a scooter
14. Climb a tree
15. Go to the park
16. Explore the neighbourhood
17. Find stones and leaves and make a collage
18. Watch a film at the cinema
19. Go to the beach and build a sandcastle
20. Kick a ball around
21. Learn catch
22. Visit the farm/zoo
23. Host a picnic with your teddy bears
24. Bake something with parents or grandparents
25. Fly a kite
26. Face painting
27. Build a den
28. Blow dandelions
29. Make a mini beast hotel
30. Make pizza.


How to raise eco-friendly children

By | Education, environment

With the global population growing every year, it’s becoming more important than ever to raise children to care for the environment. Here, James Partridge from Greenshop, ( offers some tips on encouraging your children to be eco-friendly.

Data from Population Matters has shown that the global population is going up by 80 million every year, meaning it could reach 9.7 billion by 2050, meaning we might put more of a strain on the earth’s resources. This has led to a conversation around how to bring up the next generation so that they care for and prioritise the planet. To help you understand how to encourage your children to be eco-friendly and enjoy caring for the environment, we’ve brought together some tips to get you started.

By spending time outside with your children, getting them started in gardening, and showing them how much fun it can be to learn about the planet, you can ensure that your little ones will grow up knowing about the importance of preserving the environment.

Take your family outside
The easiest way to get your children enthusiastic about the environment is to get them outside and into nature. Not only does this encourage them to care about the planet, but it also brings a whole host of mental and physical health benefits, as noted by the charity Mind ( So, take the whole family for a walk, play in the park, or sign your little ones up to an outside activities group.

While you’re outside, you can also talk to your children about nature, and it’s a great time to get them learning about insects, plants, trees, and birds. This will introduce your children to the environment and get them into the habit of exploring the landscape around them.

Take your children out to see animals
Being able to be around animals is extremely good for children and can encourage them to take an interest in the natural world, teaching them to protect it for wildlife as well as ourselves. Some fun activities to take part in are visiting wildlife sanctuaries and going on bird watching trips. There are also petting farms that will let your children meet and learn about animals, and wildlife trails where they can look for beetles, snails, and squirrels.

When your children are old enough to help with an animal’s care, it can be excellent to get a pet. This can show your children how to be responsible for their four-legged companion and can be a fun way for them to get in touch with nature.

Do some gardening
Another great way to introduce your children to environmental awareness and enjoyment of nature is to start doing some gardening with them. They will enjoy planting seeds and watching them grow, learning about all the different tasks that need to be done in the garden throughout the seasons, and watering the flowers.

Spring is a good time to begin choosing seeds and plants to try out, and easy ways to start are with herbs such as parsley and basil, or fruit plants such as strawberries. Flowers are also an option, but edible choices such as nasturtiums are good options as children can enjoy tasting them when they have grown.

Teach your children to recycle
Recycling is another activity that’s accessible to children and can get them excited about the environment. Showing them which items can be recycled, and how to split everything up into categories (such as paper, glass, and plastic) is a fun way to start them on their eco-friendly journey.

You can also tell them about all the different things that can be made from the recycled materials, and for older children, it might be a good idea to make them responsible for one of the recycling sections, paper recycling for example.

Show children how to mend their things
Mending things is an important skill, and a key way to get our belongings to last longer rather than throwing them away. This creates less waste, and can be a fun DIY activity to involve your children in. You can also find patterns and new techniques to use when mending clothes and other belongings, in order to make them look unique and have more fun with the mending process.

These are all great activities for a rainy day and can keep children occupied for a while as well as teaching important skills. Try looking on YouTube for mending and craft projects – as well as repairing, you can try turning old clothes, cardboard, and paper scraps into new craft projects.

There are lots of ways to encourage your children to be more eco-friendly, so that they will have a lifelong love of nature. Getting them outside, involving them in gardening, and showing them how to care for their belongings and do simple actions like recycling, can all contribute to them growing up to be eco-conscious adults in the future. It will also open up some fun, engaging pastimes for you and your little ones to enjoy.

Greenshop is an ideal starting point to source organic, fair trade, free from and ethically sensitive products and we are passionate about conservation and reducing the use of plastic, bringing many solution products to our customers.



Why parenting with anxiety makes you a ‘super-parent’

By | children's health, Education, Mental health
The last couple of years have been tough for everyone. The COVID pandemic has left many adults and children feeling uncertain, stressed and anxious at times. Several pieces of research have highlighted the heavy burden this period has put on parents of young children. If you are a parent or carer you may have found things overwhelming at times. You are not alone in those feelings. Almost every mum and dad across the country will have done so at some point.

At the Parenting with Anxiety Team we specialise in supporting families. We hope that the following will provide some useful information and reassurance. But also remember that you are the expert on your family.

Parents with anxiety are ‘super-parents’
From our work with parents we know that almost all of them go to massive efforts to do what is best for their children and that they are doing this while managing their own anxiety. Think of Ginger Rogers doing everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards in high heels. It is not easy!

We know that all parents can think they are not doing a good enough job, so it was great to hear a mother we work with describe anxious parents as ‘super-parents’. And they are! Super at managing their anxiety at the same time as juggling the demands of parenthood. If you are in this situation, take a moment to recognise that you are super too.

You are just one part of what makes your child who they are
If you find yourself experiencing anxiety, you may worry about the impact it has on your children. You may notice that they express some anxious feelings of their own. If that is the case remember that a huge number of different factors contribute to making your child the amazing individual he or she is. It is not all down to you. It is also worth remembering that when your child is anxious your understanding of your own anxiety can give you special insight into what they are going through.

Your child’s anxieties are not your own
When you feel anxious, your child’s worries can be overwhelming. It can be useful to remember that all children worry at times and it is perfectly normal. Sometimes you might be tempted to step in and fix things for them, so they don’t have the same experiences you did.

School experiences can be a point when we transplant the feelings we have about our experiences onto our children. But their experiences are different and the things which worry us may not affect them in the same way. Similarly, when your child is worried about something you do not have to share those feelings. If you can step back a little from their worries you will be better able to help them cope with them. This is not always easy and don’t beat yourself up if you do find yourself sharing their fears.

If you are worried, encourage your child to talk, and listen
Just by noticing that something is going on for your child you have already shown real sensitivity. The next thing to do is support them to share what they are feeling. You do not necessarily have to solve things – you might not be able to and that is OK. If worries are coming up at bedtime focus on soothing them and try and have a gentle conversation about it at another time. Sometimes it can help to have a chat while you are both more relaxed, for example in the car, while playing or walking back from the shops.

To find out more about the project at the University of Sussex please visit


Everyone deserves the right to communication

By | Education, Language, Relationships

What is a speech and language therapist and how can they help your child? As a child develops there is an expectation that they will reach certain milestones in their development. This includes their speech, language and communication skills.

Sometimes, children can take longer to meet these milestones, often requiring a little extra time but sometimes they need some support. It is important to remember that no child’s communication journey will be the same, every child takes a different speed.

However, if a child is struggling on their communication journey a speech and language therapist (SLT) is there to help.

Who do we work with?
A SLT is focused on communication and all the different aspects associated with communication. From speech skills to language skills, comprehension skills, attention skills, eating and drinking skills, social skills and fluency skills. The list goes on and on, many people assume our role is similar to that seen in ‘The King’s Speech’. Focusing on a stutter or working on the pronunciation of a sound. However, a SLT works with children as young as two years old and with varying difficulties.

SLT’s work with children with a range of diagnoses such as:
• Speech and language delay
• Developmental language disorder (DLD)
• Speech disorders
• Autistic spectrum disorders
• Disfluency (stuttering/stammering)
• Cleft lip and palate
• Learning difficulties
• Developmental delay
• Down Syndrome
• Social communication delay
• Comprehension delay
• Attention and listening delay
• Swallowing conditions.

Why is a speech and language therapist just playing with my child?
Children learn best when they do not realise they are learning. Play provides vast opportunities for communication, whether that communication is expressed through eye gaze, gesture or talking. Play allows a child to explore the world around them, to share attention with you and to engage. So, whilst it may look as though a SLT is just playing with your child, every toy and activity will be encouraging and developing your child’s communication skills.

I have concerns about my child’s communication skills, should I just wait and see?
Often as a parent, we can become concerned about our child’s abilities. Naturally, we begin to compare them to other children. We can go back and forth with concerns around whether we should seek help or whether we should wait and see. Early intervention is key with communication difficulties – the longer a difficulty is left the harder it can be to resolve and the greater the impact on a child’s overall communication abilities. Diagnosing a delay or condition early can drastically improve the outcome of a child’s communication journey.

If you are concerned about your child’s communication skills, have a chat with a SLT. Most independent practitioners will offer a free phone call to discuss any concerns you have and offer advice.

What should I expect from my first speech and language therapy session?
Usually, the initial session is an assessment session. This is often an informal chat with the parents, finding out your concerns, your child’s developmental history and gaining insight into your child’s interests. Then, the SLT will play with your child, informally assessing their abilities holistically. A child is very unlikely to know it is an assessment – my initial assessment checklist includes bubbles, animals, a pop-up pirate and trains!

If you have any concerns about your child’s communication, no matter how small, don’t delay in contacting a SLT. Everyone deserves the right to communication. We can talk about your concerns and offer you tailored advice and plan the next steps in supporting you and your child. The longer a concern is left, the harder it is to resolve. So contact your local SLT today!

Help Me to Talk provide engaging sessions at home, nursery, school and virtually to families across Surrey. For children as young as two years old. Get in touch today! 07799 677262



The communication and capabilities of a newborn baby

By | baby health, Education, Language, play, Relationships, sleep
by Karen Emery
Founder of Haven & Base,
Perinatal Practitioner, Parent Coach & Children’s Sleep Advisor

It wasn’t too long ago that we thought newborn babies couldn’t do much at all, other than eat, sleep and cry. But the exact opposite is true. Newborn babies are born with amazing communication capabilities and are primed and ready for social contact with their parents and caregivers right from birth. More importantly, brain science has shown us just how important this early communication is between a baby and their parent for a baby’s brain development.

Many parents are unaware that a human baby is born with an undeveloped brain and that a baby’s brain and nervous system grows most rapidly in the first few years following birth. A baby’s brain grows and develops in response to their environment but crucially in response to the interactions that a baby shares with their parent(s) and caregivers. Communication is more than talking. It’s any form of message sent from one party to another through sounds, words, or physical hints like body language. From the first moment that your baby is placed in your arms, you and your baby will be communicating with each other. These first glances, sounds, and touches literally shape the way in which your baby’s brain will grow and develop.

Everyone knows that babies cry but did you know that every baby has their own crying repertoire? Every baby has a unique and different cry for a different reason. Unlike other mammal babies, human babies are born completely dependent upon their parent or caregiver for survival and their ability to cry is very important for alerting an adult that something is wrong, or a change is needed. Babies have different cries for different reasons: a hungry baby may cry in a low or short pitched tone, while a baby who is angry or upset may cry in a choppier tone. As your baby grows, you as a parent will be able to recognise and understand what need that your baby is expressing. Even if we as parents cannot always work out why our baby is crying and what our baby is trying to express to us, it’s always important to respond to your baby’s cry for help. Responding to your baby’s cries (even when we may not know what they are crying for) helps to make your baby feel safe, secure, listened to, and heard. You cannot spoil a baby when you are meeting their physical and emotional needs.

Babies love talking! Although a baby doesn’t say a meaningful word until they are about a year old, they love to ‘take turns’ communicating with you as a parent or caregiver with facial expressions, gurgles, coo’s and body language. Why not give this a try? Find a moment when your baby is quiet but alert and give this ‘turn taking’ a go. Position your baby in front of you gazing into their eyes. What ever your baby does – you copy. If your baby gurgles, you gurgle back. Always wait for your baby to respond. This is a beautiful way to connect with your baby but don’t expect a full-blown conversation for hours at a time. Newborns can only manage this type of interaction for a few moments at each sitting before it can become over stimulating for their immature nervous system. As your baby grows and develops you can spend longer gazing at one another and conversing for longer periods each time but it’s always best to follow your baby’s lead. When your baby has had enough, they may look away, grimace, arch their back or posset (spit up milk). Crying is usually the last signal that your baby has had enough, and a change is needed.

This is the second article of three in a series about babies. In my final article, which will be available in the summer edition, I will discuss sleep tips for babies aged from birth until three months old.

You can learn more about how to communicate with your baby by visiting

Karen Emery is available for VIRTUAL one-to-one parent-baby consultations.
You can email her for an appointment at

Unlocking independent education scholarships and bursaries

By | Education, numeracy skills, reading
by Tamara Pearson
Assistant Head, Head of the Junior School Our Lady of Sion, Worthing

Boaters? ‘Hogwarts’ campus? ‘Mallory Towers’ traditions? Maybe. Maybe not. My experience was decidedly different.

Growing up in South East London in the 80s, with a bird’s eye view of The Oval cricket ground, my primary state school was an eclectic and creative start to life. My classes were always large and busy; teacher time was generally spent with children who required additional help. Art projects for the Notting Hill carnival and a chance to perform at the National Theatre were certainly highlights.

However, after discovering my grandma’s Irish harp in her attic, music quickly became an all-consuming passion. Lessons on the edge of Battersea Park were a complete joy. I felt lucky to have found my ‘thing’ and was relishing the chance to play and perform. I played alongside professionals, appeared on television, performed at weddings and regularly played at local care homes. A solo recital in front of the Head of Music at a large public boarding school resulted in a top scholarship and a huge change in my education.

As a scholar, my harp was housed in the Headmaster’s House, where I practiced for hours each day. I sang in the choirs, performing at St George’s Chapel (Windsor), Winchester Cathedral and sang great choral works such as Haydn’s Creation. Orchestral opportunities and coaching in composition were hugely inspiring and further developed my musicianship. As a solo performer, I played at the opening of new buildings in partner schools, governor lunches and formal events – including large charity occasions. As the only harpist at the school (at the time), I was very happy to be literally wheeled out for any occasion.

My scholarship opened up a world of opportunities which far exceeded musical enrichment. Tutorials, workshops, enrichment days, visits and outings, productions, concerts, a huge array of sporting activities and life beyond the classroom. The experience of an independent education was life-changing. To this day, I carry the lasting legacy of my education. It was not just what I learned, but how I learned – the memories and how I was made to feel.

I am forever grateful to have been passed the key which unlocked this opportunity for me. Consequently, I am passionate about ensuring there are similar opportunities available to other families. To be truly known and nurtured by inspirational and passionate teachers, in an environment of ambitious academic discovery, where a joy of learning is fostered is what our children deserve.

Most independent schools offer scholarships for talented pupils. Whilst very competitive, scholarships may offer more in terms of prestige, rather than financial awards. Means-tested bursaries may also be available for families who need financial assistance with fees.

Independent school fees vary considerably and it is important to consider the full picture; additional charges, uniform costs and the full cost of an education through to senior school.

Scholarships can now take many forms. There are traditional academic, music, sport, art and drama awards, as well as more holistic and alternative offerings. Financial awards can vary, as can the complete package of fees.

Scholarships are rarely worth more than around 10% of fees these days. However, scholars may benefit from additional features, such as further coaching, trips/tours, mentoring and enrichment.

Scholarships at prep school level (primary phase) are less common. There tend to be standard entry points for these – usually being at the age of seven. Some prep schools offer ‘exhibitions’ which is the name given for a minor scholarship.

Scholarships may also be available for internal candidates. Again, these are usually made available at key intake points throughout the school at set times in the year.

Bursaries provide financial support for families with talented children who would otherwise not be able to afford full fees. These range in value from school to school – they can also cover additional expenses such as uniform and trips. Whilst based on a child’s ability or talents, bursaries are also means tested, which means that each year the family’s financial standing is inspected by the school bursar. The threshold for support can differ from school to school and it is important to remember that it may not be the only factor of consideration (schools may also look at the number of dependents, other assets and outgoings such as holidays).

It is important to note that schools can award scholarships with bursaries; providing the prestige of a scholarship, with the financial support of a bursary.

Whilst we all see the best in our children, it is imperative to dig deep and be realistic about whether they are ready to apply for a scholarship. It is also wise to carefully consider the school. It can be tempting to be lured by the largest ‘discount’, rather than looking at full costs and even if the school is a perfect fit for your child.

Some tips to consider:
• Research schools and their scholarship and bursary options.
• Compare full and true costs (including any wraparound, meals, uniform and additional expenses such as music lessons/extra-curricular opportunities).
• Check the timing of scholarships and be organised with deadlines.
• Be honest on all application paperwork – about abilities and finances.
• Do not push or pressure your child.
• Keep a sense of proportion and trust that you will find the right school for your child.

Tamara Pearson is Assistant Head, Head of the Junior School at Our Lady of Sion School in Worthing. She is also mother to an eight year old who attends Sion and she is passionate about helping the Juniors embrace every enrichment opportunity available.

Our Lady of Sion Junior School welcomes children from Early Years to Year 6 when children transition to the Senior School. Alongside its Bursaries and Senior School Scholarships, the school has recently launched a new Scholarship for children in Years 1 and 2.




The ‘Covid Cohort’

By | Education, Mental health, Relationships
by Sally-Ann Potter
Potter’s House Preschool and Forest School
I imagine many of us in the Early Years are adjusting to what should be the new normal – life after lockdown. As well as the logistical and financial impact that Covid-19 and various lockdowns has had on the Early Years, we are now faced with an altogether more alarming challenge – the ‘Covid Cohort’.

An entire cohort of children who are starting preschool are significantly lacking in vital areas of development. A global pandemic saw us losing so many support groups for parents that are vital to the development of children under five and we are now observing the detrimental effect it has had on their development.

By completing assessments of children in the Early Years we are able to identify and pinpoint areas where children may not be meeting targets. This enables early intervention and allows us the opportunity to help support those children to achieve goals and next steps. Recently, when observing children in order to assess them I have noticed first hand and also had reported to me a frightening number of our children who are unable to communicate effectively, are socially unaware and have no understanding of boundaries or keeping themselves safe. What was once around 5% not reaching goals is now closer to 85%.

As children’s brains develop the quickest within their first five years, it is fair to say that the negative effects of lockdown on children’s development could have lifelong impacts. Speech and language development are vital to a child’s ability to engage socially or in education and learning on the whole. Communication is the fundamental starting point for children’s learning.

Let’s look at all the positive interactions and experiences children have missed out on because of the pandemic – play dates, family gatherings, the library, the park, baby groups, singing groups. All of these experiences create opportunities for children to develop their language – they hear and learn new words as they are exposed to conversations, they learn to take turns speaking, this enables them to build social skills and mimic social interactions and, vitally, develop their confidence and self-esteem.

This lack of opportunity to develop their confidence and self-esteem means that the mental health of children in the Early Years is also negatively affected. On top of that the mental health consultations among new mothers went up 30% and is continuing to rise. Post Natal Depression has tripled! Mothers experiencing high levels of anxiety have gone up 43%. The ripple effect of this contributes to the decline in mental health of children in the Early Years.

So what do we do?
We need to look at how the pandemic has altered our ‘cultural capital’ and what we need to adjust in order to give every child an equal opportunity to grow and learn. With the introduction of a new EYFS, settings have the unique and long-awaited chance to construct their own curriculums. This couldn’t have been introduced at a better time and settings have a golden opportunity to build a curriculum that supports an entire cohort of children who need targeted support with communication. This is a time where Early Years settings can shine and make a real difference to the future of millions of children across the world.

How do we do it?
At Potter’s House we are fortunate enough to be supported by an incredible NHS Speech and Language team who offer training and advice to staff whenever necessary. In conversations with speech and language therapists and other practitioners supporting the Early Years, I’ve discovered how aware of this concern everyone is and how hard they are all working to combat it. We have a high level speech therapist attending our setting to deliver vital training, bespoke to our setting, in order for staff to fully understand and underpin the growth of our children’s vocabulary.

In addition to this we need to look at some ways we help children to develop communication and make it omnipresent in our practice. Go back to basics – make comments and statements when speaking to children, avoid asking lots of questions. Give children time to process what you have said and respond. Keep language limited and simple. Repeat back to toddlers what they say in order to model mimicking. If possible, reduce background noise. Build on what they have said, for example, “car”, “yes, and blue car”. Remove dummies and any other obstructions. Speak clearly and subtly correct their mistakes by repeating what they have said back to them correctly. Read to them and introduce visual aids in conversation. Play music and sing songs.

“From the earliest moments of life, children begin to learn the fundamentals of language. The most powerful influence for effective language development are the verbal interactions with caregivers.” – Dr David Perlmutter, Neurologist and Author of Brain Maker.

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


Choosing the right primary school for your child

By | Education, family, Legal, Relationships
by Emma Willing and Antonia Felix
Mishcon de Reya law firm

The choice of a child’s school is one of the most important decisions parents will make. For separated parents in particular, the decision can be more challenging, especially if living arrangements are not settled or if there is divergence of views as to the best educational setting for a child.

The deadline for parents (of children due to start primary school in September 2022) to apply for a state primary school place is 15 January 2022. Following the making of an application, the offer of a school place will be received from the relevant Local Authority on 16 April 2022.

Emma Willing and Antonia Felix from Mishcon de Reya’s Family and Education teams consider some of the common issues and questions which can arise when choosing the right school and making the application as parents.

Who has the ability to make a decision about where a child goes to school?
Provided both parents have parental responsibility, any important decisions in respect to a child, including regarding education, must be made by the parents jointly.

If agreement cannot be reached, or one parent has acted without the other parent’s agreement, it may be that a method of dispute resolution such as those discussed below can assist. Ultimately, if parents cannot reach an agreement, an application can be made to Court to determine the issue in dispute.

The Court’s primary focus in determining such a dispute will be an assessment of what is in the child’s best interests.

What is ‘parental responsibility’?
Parental responsibility defines the rights and responsibilities that an individual has in respect to a child, and determines who has decision-making power in matters such as education, religion and medical treatment.

The birth mother of a child automatically acquires parental responsibility at birth. This does not apply to the father or non-birth mother (in the case of a same-sex female couple), unless they were married or in a civil partnership with the mother at the time of the birth.

If the parents are unmarried, the mother is not required to enter the father or non-birth mother’s name on the birth certificate and if she does not, the father or non-birth mother will not then have parental responsibility. Despite this, if agreement cannot be reached, there are Court applications which can be made in order to obtain parental responsibility.

How can a disagreement about schooling be resolved?
While some separated parents will be able to reach a decision about the choice of schooling between themselves, others may encounter difficulties and the situation can become increasingly stressful as the application deadline looms.

There are various ways in which to resolve a disagreement:
Family member / mutual friend – A trusted family member or mutual friend may be able to assist parents in discussions. This can be particularly useful to diffuse a situation of conflict and involve someone neutral in the discussions.
Mediation – A mediator is a neutral facilitator. The mediator will be entirely independent from the parents and their respective solicitors (should the parents have them). While the mediator can facilitate and encourage discussions between separated parents, overall resolution can only be reached by agreement. Following an agreement reached by mediation, it is then advisable for both parents to consult with their own solicitors in order to formalise any agreement reached.
Arbitration – An arbitrator can be jointly appointed by the parents to make a decision in respect of the dispute. The advantage of arbitration is that resolution can normally be reached far more quickly than through the Court process. The arbitrator can impose a final outcome on the parents. However, unlike mediation which may result in an agreement, the parents may feel that they have less control over the eventual outcome.
Round table meeting/discussions between solicitors – There can be discussions between the parents’ respective solicitors either via correspondence or at a so-called ’round table meeting’ (which does not, despite the name, have to involve the parties sitting together) to resolve the issues.
Court – If agreement cannot be reached and parents do not want to use arbitration, an application can be made to Court. This should however be seen as a last resort.

What other planning can be put in place to avoid future disagreements?
It is advisable for parents to engage in discussions about the choice of a child’s school early. Where possible, parents should seek to meet or engage a third party to facilitate discussions around six to twelve months in advance of a school application deadline. Careful planning and thought is required, including attending school open days, considering up to date Ofsted reports and speaking to other parents. The earlier discussions commence, the sooner any areas of disagreement can be identified.

Parents should consider diarising future dates when applications are required to be made or assessments taken throughout their child’s education, and seek to approach the process together wherever possible.

Deciding between a mainstream school or a special needs school
Some children need more support than others to gain as much as they can from their education. A child may have been diagnosed with a medical condition, disability or special educational needs and there may be a professional assessment setting out what kind of educational help they need.

For children who need more help than a mainstream school would normally be able to provide, a plan in England called an Education Health and Care (EHC) Plan will be issued (following a formal assessment) by the local authority where a child lives. This will detail the child’s educational needs and the support they will receive.

Many children with an EHC Plan in place will go to a mainstream school, and the law gives children a right to a mainstream education if parents want this. However, parents may decide a child will be better supported in a specialist needs school. The local authority will discuss schooling options with parents when a child’s plan is drawn up, or reviewed, and must consider the parents’ views. The final decision rests with the local authority, however, if the level of provision is not agreed, an appeal to the First-tier Tribunal may need to be considered.
All mainstream schools in England and Wales will have a staff member, known as a Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO), who is responsible for arranging support for pupils with special educational needs (SEN).

Before making a decision – whether you are separated parents, a single parent or two parents together – the key is to do research in advance, and discuss your child’s needs. Try to talk to other parents at the school, and ensure you visit the school to see first-hand how it is run.

What steps should parents take if issues arise with a Local Authority once the offer of a school place has been made?
First, it is important to remember that there is movement with school places after offers have been made during the spring and summer period. If a child does not have a place in one of the schools selected on 16 April 2022, then contact should be made with the local council to obtain details of schools with places. The council may be able to assist, avoiding any need for parents to engage the appeals process.

It is also possible to put a child’s name down on a waiting list at a preferred school via the school or the council (the ‘admission authority’ for each school must keep a waiting list open for at least the first term of each school year).

Even if a child has a school place, it is possible to go on the waiting list for another school. Parents should not automatically reject the place offered, in case doing so may result in a situation of a child having no school place. It is important to be aware that for Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 the class size is limited to 30 so the school can refuse the appeal if the limit has been reached.

Tips for bringing up a compassionate child

By | children's health, Education, family, Relationships

Compassionate children are ones that naturally grow into kind-hearted adults, as the values instilled in them through their childhood will be carried into their later life.

The key to raising compassionate children is through being conscious of your parenting techniques and the values that they’re teaching them. Here, MindBE Education shares tips for bringing up a compassionate child:

• Use storybooks to frame ideas

When you read a story ask questions about how the characters might be feeling. How would your child feel if they were that character? What might the character have done differently to be kinder? By highlighting these actions and feelings your child will develop a greater sense of empathy and perspective that will carry forward into their own life.

• Use a persona doll or puppet to discuss issues

Sometimes children don’t like to talk about things but will happily engage through a doll or puppet or other forms of play. If your child is facing a situation or there is an issue in the air, talk to your child and discuss how the doll or puppet may be feeling. Discuss how it might make you feel and what strategies the puppet could use to feel better. By talking about issues and situations that come up we can instil the values of kindness and compassion in our child.

• Teach your child to be kind

Modelling kindness yourself is the easiest way to do this. Do you smile, hold the door open or help your neighbours? More than anything a child will pick up on the cues from the adults in their life. If you are kind and compassionate your child most likely will follow your lead. When you do something, you might explain why you tried to help another and how we can be of service to others.

• Create a sense of gratitude in your home

Being grateful is linked to being a compassionate person. When we are grateful, we can feel empathy for others who may not have something we do. We can ease fear and anxiety and focus on the good which leads to a more loving outlook in the world. Try to take turns every night at dinner to say three good things that happened that day or encourage your child to write a gratitude journal each day.

MindBE Education offers teacher and parenting training courses and resources so that they can better teach children to build compassion, courage and confidence. MindBE Education was founded by Dr Helen Maffini. An international educator, author and consultant who has worked around the world, Helen is a certified emotional intelligence trainer, a Neuro-Linguistic Practitioner and a positive psychology leader.