Category

Education

Getting ready for a successful start at school

By | children's health, Education, fun for children, Playing, Relationships, Uncategorized
by Naomi Bartholomew
Headmistress, St Catherine’s Prep School

As you look forward with a mixture of excitement and nerves to your child starting school in September, here are some practical tips to help ensure that your child has a happy and successful start.

Forming links
Most schools now offer settling in days or part days for their youngest pupils. These can be very helpful and a good chance for you to put names to faces. As well as the all-important class teacher, I recommend getting to know the teaching assistant, Head, school secretary, and parents who are a part of the PTA. All of these will be key in helping both you and your child settle into new routines. It can also be handy to work out which other parents live near to you and who might be moving from the same nursery or preschool. Also involve anyone else who might be involved in your weekly routines – grandparents or child-minders so that they too have made some connections ahead of the start of term. I know of one friend who held a name labelling party in order to meet some other friendly looking parents – this is certainly one way to get to know each other and get the dreaded name labels sewn into as many items as you possibly can. Name everything!

Understanding expectations and routines
It seems obvious but make sure you have all of the essential information early on. Some schools have phased starts which begin with mornings only or alternate full days. This is certainly important to plan ahead particularly if your child starting school coincides with you returning to full-time work. Arrangements for drop off and pick up and what to look out for in terms of communication from the school whether that be weekly memos or newsletter or via the school’s website are also key. Getting dates into your diary for parents’ evenings, nativity plays and other things you won’t want to miss is also important.

Encouraging independence and self-help skills over the summer holidays is far more important than trying to teach your child letters and numbers. Can they dress themselves? If not, start to practise that as soon as possible.

Family logistics
Whether this is your first child to start school or a younger sibling, there will be an impact on all of your family. Consider the school run and daily family routines carefully in order to ensure that things run as smoothly as possible.

Extra-curricular activities and playdates
Even for those who have been used to a full day at nursery and a number of extra-curricular activities each week beware of signing up to any additional activities in your child’s first term. They will be learning in a whole new way at school and need time to rest each day when they get home, as will you! Similarly play dates and sleep overs can be very tempting but less is most definitely more in term one.

Younger pupils
Parents with younger aged children, those with summer birthdays in particular, can be anxious about their child being school ready. Trust the school to make the necessary adjustments and remember that age and stage of development can be different for each child.

The first day of term
Stay calm, allow additional time for the school run and cherish the moment – enjoy the photo on the front doorstep marking the occasion and don’t linger too long over the goodbyes. There is a very small window in which to see your child settled and interested in their new surroundings. If you linger and need further reassurance it is likely your child will pick up on that in a split second of doubt and have a wobble. So make a dash for the door as soon as you are able. Many children will have already been used to nursery school and playgroups so remember that you have left them before and all was well. You will have chosen a school you have confidence in and the staff will be able to reassure your child and make sure that the first day is a positive one. If you are the one whose child clings or cries, do not be embarrassed. They will settle once you have gone and the school will contact you to let you know that is the case. Have a plan for what you are then going to do next whether it be return to work or head for a strong coffee with a friend. The day will be one full of excitement for your child.

As your child settles
Remember that day one might feel like Christmas day, full of excitement but that as the weeks go on your child will become tired. The calmer and more prepared you feel as a parent, the more likely your child will also feel ready and willing to skip into school.

Hence, I recommend:
• Talking positively about going to school.
• Helping your child into the routine of managing their own clothing, school book bag and so on.
• Make sure your child gets a good night’s sleep.
• Getting into good habits of arriving in good time for the start of school.
• Listening to your child tell you about the school day but avoiding 20 questions.
• Trusting the school and their experience – they will allow your child space to grow and develop and it is important that you support them in that.
• Talking to your child’s teacher if you feel uncertain or unsure – communication with the school is vital and building relationships with school staff (admin, teachers and teaching assistants) is really important.

Good luck!

St Catherine’s Prep School, Bramley extends a warm welcome to parents who would like to visit the school.
Open Mornings: Wednesday 25th September and Thursday 17th October.
Please contact Sally Manhire, Prep School Registrar, on 01483 899665. www.stcatherines.info

Sun creams – the confusion

By | Education, environment, Health, Safety, Summer, sun safety
by Green People, ethical organic skin care and beauty product experts

We all know the importance of using sun protection, but a recent survey by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society shows that there is huge confusion around labelling on sun creams, with a significant percentage of the public unaware how much protection their sun creams offer.

The survey of 2,000 UK adults found that one in five was unaware that the SPF rating of a sun cream does not offer protection against all sun damage.

Only 8% of people surveyed knew that the SPF rating of a sun cream only refers to the protection from UVB radiation (the rays that burn), meaning that 92% of people had no idea that SPF ratings offer no indication of UVA protection.

What are UVA rays?
UVA rays cause long-term cell damage in the deeper layers of the skin and are the main cause of premature skin ageing and wrinkles.

UVA rays can still cause damage even if your skin hasn’t gone red and burned; this means that whilst you may believe you are getting good protection from your sun cream, your skin may still be experiencing damage.

To maintain high protection from both UVA and UVB rays it is more important to apply regularly and liberally than to choose a very high SPF sun cream.

Cancer Research recommends that two tablespoons of sun cream is applied every 2 hours; it is also advised that people avoid direct sun exposure between the hours of 11:00 and 15:00 when the sun’s harmful rays are strongest.

Recent media coverage about UVA protection advised the public to check the ‘star’ rating of their sun cream, however the star system is not the only way to tell if a product offers protection against UVA rays.

The European Cosmetics Association COLIPA has designed a symbol to indicate whether products offer UVA protection in line with the recommendations of the European Commission. This symbol, which consists of the letters UVA inside a circle, is used to confirm that products offer UVA protection in line with these recommendations.

How high is high enough?
There can be a tendency for people who use very high factor sun creams of SPF50 and above to reapply less frequently and stay in the sun longer than when they use lower factor sun lotions. This can dramatically increase your risk of sun damage because in order to get good UVA defence, you must regularly top up your protection no matter what the SPF factor.

All Green People sun lotions offer broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection and are suitable for sensitive skin and those prone to prickly heat.

Ballet isn’t just pink tutus!

By | dance & Art, Education, Uncategorized
by Tabitha McConnell
Dance Art Studio

Many children dream of becoming a ballerina, wearing the tutu and being right up on their toes. But there is so much more to the ballet curriculum than this. While these aspirations give children something to work towards, dance also provides achievable goals that can be met across a single lesson or across a term, teaching children self-motivation.

So why take your child to dance class when you can just put some music on at home? With the guidance of a qualified teacher, your child is not just learning dance but a variety of cross-curricular skills. Ballet, for example, teaches another language – French. Other subjects covered through the dance curricular include: history, religious studies, music and drama. Our modern-day society and multiple other subjects can be expressed through dance, giving children the opportunity to create their own movements and sequences, also known as choreographing.

There are many long-term benefits of continuing dance; your child is learning discipline through a structured environment, from a different mentor. Student’s uniforms must be smart, they must listen in class and be in time with the music. At competitions, points are deducted if the performer is seen to look untidy or messy in appearance. This teaches students the importance of
good appearance, therefore making them more employable in the future. Many studies
have suggested that a tidy appearance leads to a tidier mind and work ethic.

Encouraging your child to begin dance at a young age will increase their chances of staying physically active throughout life, therefore improving their overall health. Dance develops essential motor patterns that are a key part of many sports.

A shocking 80% of four year olds are showing a significant delay in their motor development. Through dance children gain the vital motor skills needed for everyday life. Simple skills like balancing, jumping and the transference of weight are learnt. These skills assist with everyday life with movements such as reaching for something on the top shelf and increase flexibility. Dance is also a suitable complementary activity to many other sports such as netball, as it assists with footwork, or javelin as it assists with balance. Dance skills are particularly beneficial when playing football, as they increases children’s mobility and therefore angles at which they can kick the ball. Dance is for both girls and boys, with many schemes in place to encourage boys to dance. Starting boys dancing at a young age is teaching all children that stereotypes can be defied and that they should do what they really enjoy.

Is dance really physically challenging my child? You may perceive ballet as a softer dance form and ask if it really challenges a child’s physique. Dance can be classified as vigorous exercise as student’s heart rates are elevated by more than 60% for over half of the lesson. This does not mean dance isn’t suitable for those looking for a more relaxing, less strenuous exercise form; with so many genres available under the dance bracket there is something for all. Dance is so versatile and inclusive that it caters for all capabilities. Ballet has also been shown to increase lung capacity and efficiency with only two hourly sessions a week. Dance is one of few sports to work nearly all the muscle groups counteracting the effects of repetitive strain injuries. Core strength is also developed, which permits good posture and facilitates ease of breathing.

Not only does dance positively influence a child’s physical development but also their cognitive development as they are learning both time-management and self-discipline. These skills are transferable to other parts of life, such as school work. Dance students are also asked to learn and recall patterns of movement, further challenging both their memories and mental capabilities. This challenge has been shown to reduce the effects of many cognitive diseases at an older age. Let’s not forget, dance classes are also where children make friends for life as they develop team skills through group work in a friendly environment.

Ballet offers so much more than just pointed toes; it offers children the opportunity to express themselves freely, whether that be using their butterfly wings to fly away, or joining the marching band and playing their favourite instrument. This is something very few other physical activity schemes offer. This creativity is so important to a child as it enables them to explore their inner selves in addition to the physical world, creating emotional experiences and memories that will remain with them for life. I would highly advise all children are given the opportunity to dance, whether this be something they wish to pursue as a career, perform as a hobby or just use as a regular class for fitness purposes. The positive effects on their social, cognitive and physical development are numerous.

Dance Art Studio is located in the Fiveways and Preston Park area of Brighton offering under 5s and graded ballet, tap and modern. Boys tap and jazz, teen jazz, adult tap and jazzfit.
We also hold summer workshops.
www.danceartstudio.co.uk

Far-reaching benefits of drama

By | dance & Art, Education, fun for children, Mental health

As the new school year beckons, many parents will be thinking about after-school clubs that their children will enjoy,and that will benefit them.

The reason for doing sport are well documented and shouldn’t be forgotten, but remember drama also provides many benefits that go far beyond the stage.

In a good drama class, children will do much more than remember lines and act. Children will learn about voice projection, improvisation and movement. Improvisation will help children to think quickly without panicking, and to use their imagination to think about what will happen next and how their character would react.

We often moan about teenagers who are monosyllabic and can’t look you in the eye. Children who attend drama classes, even if it is just for fun, will learn how to look confidently at their audience and project their voice clearly. Speaking clearly, without mumbling, will become instinctive and when they go into the work environment, they will be far more comfortable in interviews and public speaking.

Drama also encourages teamwork and confidence. A good teacher will instil an understanding that every part in a play is important and a play will only be as good as the whole team. Confident children go to drama classes as their parents feel they will be comfortable on a stage, but introverted children will also benefit. The confident children who tend to ‘takeover’ will learn the important skills of co-operation and how to listen, and everyone will be encouraged to contribute and take part. Gradually, the children who were less confident will find their voice and be happy to be heard in a safe environment.

Any class outside school increases a child’s social circle and allows them to meet new friends and build new relationships. Children who have been labelled ‘loud’ or ‘quiet and shy’ at school can start afresh without any pre-conceptions about them. This is important for all types of children and you may be surprised about how much your child flourishes in a new environment.

The benefits of drama are far-reaching and will help a child in so many areas of school life and adulthood. Children will learn not only how to project their voice and to feel comfortable when speaking in public, but the equally important skills of empathy and understanding, which are so important in today’s world.

How to help your child manage failure

By | Education, family, Health, Mental health, Relationships, Uncategorized

Does your child fear ‘failure’? It’s a frightening word isn’t it and one that puts a sinking feeling in our stomachs.

Today’s young people have to navigate their way through a long list of potential failures: What if I fail my GCSEs? What if I don’t pass my next swimming level? What if I come last in a race? What if I don’t pass my piano grade?

We can’t protect our children from the risk of failure and we shouldn’t try to. As parents, all we can do is help them to cope with and learn from all these situations.

Children’s charity, ChildLine, reports that one of the things children worry about the most when it comes to failing is disappointing their parents. So, reassuring them that you don’t expect them to excel at everything can go a long way.

It’s worth just taking time to think about whether you are passing on some of your own anxieties or expectations onto them. You can talk to them about possible solutions/courses of action if things don’t go as well as they would have liked.

Children’s health and well-being practitioner, osteopath Sheree McGregor, says the word ‘failure’ comes from seeing learning as a two-dimensional scale with success (good) at one end and failure (bad) at the other. A much more positive approach is to look at learning as more multi-dimensional.

Sheree believes we can help our children a great deal by teaching them to look at their results not as ‘success’ or ‘failure’, but as opportunities to explore. Exploration means a chance to discover.

In practice, this means encouraging your child to be curious of a result and ask questions such as:
• What have I learned about what doesn’t work?
• Can this explain something that I didn’t set out to explain?
• What can I do with these results?
• What have I discovered that I didn’t set out to discover?

The same approach should be applied to successful results, which can often be a missed learning opportunity – we rarely ask the child holding the trophy what they have learnt from their experience!

She also warns that ‘failing’ should never be swept under the carpet. Avoiding failure merely heightens the dread of it, so when it does happen it will be felt more strongly and deeply.

Sheree adds: “Helping a child to focus on learning in which there are choices and opportunities allows them to try different pathways so that learning remains a positive experience.

“We, as parents, are often tempted to step in when things become challenging but learning to deal with setbacks helps children develop important life skills such as creative thinking, and resilience.”

Sheree is a practitioner for the Sunflower Programme, which uses a pioneering approach to children’s health and well-being. The programme focuses on integrating the brain with the body to help children become the best that they can be. Sunflower has helped hundreds of children – many with diagnosed health, behavioural or learning difficulties, others who are underachieving at school and some, who for no obvious reason, need a little extra help to achieve their potential.

Sheree explains: “Resilience is a term that is used a lot at Sunflower. Sunflower believes that building resilience within children that extends to their body, brain and emotional state will enable them to cope better with life challenges and reach their potential.

“Often using the analogy of learning to ride a bike can be useful – when you fall off, you get back on until eventually you can ride without thinking about it. However, the absolute best way to deal with a child during challenging times is to make them feel supported and loved as much as possible.”

Mette Theilmann, from Parenting Success Coaching, says listening without saying anything can go a long way towards helping children cope with failure. She explains: “We want the sad feeling to go away so they can go back and be happy again, so we go into over drive to fix. But because of these feelings, we often find it hard to listen and accept what we hear or see.

“It is listening that gives them the greatest comfort to cope with the situation, their feelings and problems.

“Being listened to helps our children accept the situation better and allows them to problem solve themselves – since it’s our acceptance of their unhappy feelings/behaviours that can make it easier for them to cope with the situation.”

For more information about the Sunflower Programme: www.sunflowertrust.com

To read more Parenting Success tips:
www.parentingsuccesscoaching.com

Sion School advice

Mental health and emotional wellbeing

By | Education, Mental health, Relationships, Uncategorized

Anne-Marie Coe has been a teacher for over 20 years at Our Lady of Sion School in Worthing and is a mother with grown up children. Now in the role of Assistant Head, Pastoral, she has been instrumental in developing the Wellbeing Programme at Sion which has recently been recognised with an ISA (Independent Schools Association) award for Excellence and Innovation in Mental Health and Wellbeing. This programme successfully supports pupils and helps raise awareness about issues surrounding mental health with a whole school approach. Taking the stigma out of mental health is at the core of the programme so that students feel comfortable and confident in understanding and talking about their feelings.

Our mental health and emotional wellbeing is all about how we think, feel, and behave. It can affect daily life, relationships, and even physical health. It is our ability to enjoy life – to attain a balance between life activities and efforts to achieve psychological resilience.

The emotional wellbeing ofour children is just as important as t heir physical health. Good mental health allows children and young people to develop the resilience to cope with whatever life throws at them and grow into well-rounded, healthy adults.

Most children grow up mentally healthy, but surveys suggest that more children and young people have problems with their mental health today than 30 years ago. This can be attributed to changes in the way we live now and how that affects the experience of growing up.

The sad reality is that mental health problems affect about one in 10 children and young people. They include depression, anxiety and conduct disorder, and are often a direct response to what is happening in their lives. Sadder still is that 70% of children and young people who experience a mental health problem have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age (as cited by The Mental Health Foundation).

In our roles as parent, carer or teacher we are very keen to fix things, so what can we do to keep the children and young people in our care mentally well?

Technological advances mean there is the biggest gap in cultural understanding between adults (parents and teachers) and children since the 1960s. The challenge is to bridge the divide because communication is key to good mental health. In order to have an open and honest dialogue with our children, we need to understand their world and what is important to them.

Empathy versus sympathy
The ability to understand and share the feelings of children and young people is a way in to meaningful conversations about their lives and what may be troubling them. With younger children, empathic listening will help their previously unmanageable feelings become more manageable. Take, for example, the toddler who doesn’t want to leave the play park and starts screaming – by saying that you understand that they love that play park and that they don’t want to go home, they will experience the relief of being understood and no longer being alone with their feelings of loss.

Play is a great way for children to express themselves as well as through words. You can learn a lot about how they’re feeling by simply spending time with them and watching them play. Stressed and upset children often play fighting games with their toys. Commenting that there are a lot of fights going on, or that it seems pretty frightening, can pave the way for them to open up to you about what is bothering them.

Dealing with change can be as difficult for us as it is for the children and young people. Changes such as moving home or school can often act as triggers for anxiety. Some children who start school feel excited about making new friends and doing new activities, but others may feel anxious about entering a new environment. One of the most important ways parents, carers and teachers can help is to listen to them and take their feelings seriously.

Starting school, or a new school, can lead to separation anxiety in some children – excessive and persistent worrying at being separated from those the child is attached to or worry that harm will come to them. Following the ABC plan is a great way to prevent the anxiety from becoming overwhelming or unmanageable.

Step A – acknowledge and validate how they are feeling with empathic listening.
Reassure them that anxiety is normal and that the aim is not to have zero anxiety but to prevent it becoming overpowering.

Step B – build self-esteem.
What I am good at and my achievements; what I like about myself; nice things that people say about me; my happiest memories, people I am grateful for.

Step C – challenge and plan.
Where is the evidence? How likely is it to come true? What if it does come true? What is a suitable alternative thought? Choose a goal and break it down into small steps.

It is also a difficult time when your child is grieving as you may also be in a state of grief and coping with overwhelming emotional pain that this brings. If they seem tearful or withdrawn, encourage them to open up about how they’re feeling by talking about the person who’s died.

Young children have an awareness of death, but can see it as reversible. It helps to explain it by saying, “… has died … is not going to be with us any more”. They may also blame themselves and can become angry or have difficulty with changes in routine. They may even have psychosomatic symptoms. Older children (around eight years old) start to understand the finality of death so their anger and distress levels can be higher. They can also display younger behaviour or may try to be the perfect child and be brave. Their grief will make them feel different from their peers and it is important that they feel supported by their school community.

We need to remember that children and young people’s negative feelings usually pass. However, it’s important to get professional help if your child is distressed for a long time, if their negative feelings are stopping them from getting on with their lives, if their distress is disrupting family life or if they are repeatedly behaving in ways you would not expect at their age.

If your child is having problems at school, a teacher, school nurse, school counsellor or educational psychologist may be able to help. Otherwise, go to your GP or speak to a health visitor. These professionals are able to refer a child to further help. Different professionals often work together in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

To end on a happy note here are the top tips for keeping our mental health and that of our children in top shape.

Smile – pass on a smile to someone.
Optimism – self-fulfilling prophecy – thoughts and behaviours will follow.
Creativity – everyone needs a creative outlet, something which lets us exorcise difficult feelings, perhaps through sport, art, music or drama.
Kindness – a random act of kindness each day.
Mindfulness – meditation – focus on your breathing – think of nothing!
Gratitude – think of three things that you are grateful for each day.
Have fun! – make time to do things that you enjoy. Happiness is contagious!

Our Lady of Sion is an independent interdenominational school based in Worthing for girls and boys, ages 3 to 18. www.sionschool.org.uk

Make time for teeth

By | baby health, beauty, children's health, Education, family, Health, Safety, Uncategorized
by Lisa Costigan, Rottingdean Dental Care

Lisa Costigan from Rottingdean Dental Care has practiced locally for 27 years. During this time she has dealt with many dental injuries and is very keen that all parents should know what to do if their child damages a tooth.

What should I do if my child damages a primary (baby) tooth?
You don’t have to do anything yourself to the tooth. However it is important that you visit your dentist as soon as possible. NEVER put back a knocked out primary (baby) tooth as you could damage the permanent tooth below.

Why is important that I visit the dentist straight away?
Your dentist will want to assess the injury and monitor the tooth. If it has become very loose they may want to remove it as there could be an airway risk. If it has been mildly displaced from the socket they may be able to reposition it. Sometimes if the movement is very slight the tooth will reposition spontaneously.

How can I care for the injured tooth at home?
Avoid giving hard food for two to four weeks and if possible avoid use of a pacifier or nursing bottle. Remember to keep brushing the tooth as it is important to keep it clean. Look out for any changes around the injured tooth. Colour change is a common sign of primary (baby) tooth trauma and may range from yellow to grey to black. Always return to your dentist with any concerns.

Can an injury to a primary (baby) tooth damage the unerupted permanent tooth?
During the first years of life the primary (baby) teeth are very closely related to the permanent teeth which are forming inside the bone. When injury occurs in the primary teeth in this period it can affect the appearance of the permanent teeth, which could erupt with white or brown marks or a deformation in the crown. It may also disturb the eruption time of the permanent tooth.

What should I do if a permanent tooth is broken or knocked out?
• Find the tooth. Hold the
tooth by the crown (the white part), not by the root (the yellow part).
• Re-implant immediately if possible.
• If contaminated rinse briefly with cold tap water (do not scrub) and put the tooth back in place. This can be done by the child or an adult.
• Hold the tooth in place. Bite on a handkerchief to hold it in position and go to the dentist immediately.
• If you cannot put the tooth back in, place in a cup of milk or saline. When milk or saline or not available, place the tooth in the child’s mouth (between the cheeks and gums).
• Seek immediate dental treatment as your dentist will need to take an x-ray and place a splint on the adjacent teeth. Follow up treatment will depend on the stage of root development of the tooth.

Lisa advises that due to the frequency of the tooth injuries all parents should download the Dental Trauma First Aid App which is endorsed by IAPT (International Association of Dental Traumatology).

Rottingdean Dental Care was opened in 1982. It became the first practice in Sussex to hold both national quality standards BDA Good Practice and Investors in People.
Email: info@rottingdeandental.co.uk

Hitting the high notes!

By | dance & Art, Education, fun for children, Music and singing, play

Experienced music teachers Sam Dixon and Carolyn Hextall, who run the music department at Brighton College Nursery, Pre-Prep & Prep School, sing the praises for a subject that is becoming increasingly sidelined in many schools.

music for childrenMusic helps us learn
No one doubts that learning music is fun. Sometimes, however, this concept can belittle the advantages that learning music brings and leads to it being given less emphasis in schools than other subjects. Research has shown that being taught music enhances skills such as concentration, memory and focus as well as offering physical and creative benefits to children. Similarly, an increase in the number of teaching hours dedicated to music and the provision of instrumental lessons for pupils can result in overall school improvement.

Busting the myth
There is a common misconception that those who achieve great results in music are naturally talented or gifted. It is a myth that often discourages children, or parents from families without a musical history, to embrace music as a subject. Music is a discipline just like sport or, let’s face it, any subject where success is achieved by children because they enjoy it and are therefore happy to dedicate time and energy to it. Enjoyment and dedication; these are two essential ingredients.

An early start
It is never too early for children to enjoy music and to start performing. Children as young as three can start to learn written notation presented in a fun, active way. Introducing them to the ‘Musical Family’ of Grandpa Semibreve, Daddy Dotted Minim and Baby Crotchet help to bring the notes alive. They learn the musical value of each note by physically moving in a way that suits the different characters; slow footsteps mark out the four beats of Grandpa Semibreve, whilst Daddy Dotted Minim loves to waltz – the children absolutely love the characters and the information sticks.

Keep it moving
Methods such as this introduce the body as an instrument and our youngest pupils begin to connect music with movement, the mind with the body. Note recognition becomes physically embodied at a tender age and this helps to combat any trepidation surrounding their learning to ‘read’ music when they are older. Pulse and rhythm can also be embedded as early as possible through the use of dance along videos and regular opportunities to use simple percussion instruments or even the banging of a humble bucket. Singing is fundamental to the development of ear training
and use of the solfege system helps children to improve their vocal control and develop a strong understanding of the musical scale.

The show must go on
The fundamental principle of performance underpins music teaching at all levels and learning an instrument or singing gives children the opportunity to become involved in musical ensembles, performing with one other, and to explore a wide range of repertoire. Participation in ensembles as varied as orchestras, jazz and swing bands, percussion groups, pop groups, guitar, classical and piano ensembles are a brilliant ways for children to develop the important skills of listening, responding and analyzing. They allow children to work on the art of preparation and offer them vital performance opportunities on all scales.

Technology in music
When composition is introduced at a very young age, through call and response and simple improvisation children respond quickly to the introduction of songwriting, writing music to accompany films or music from particular genres. In a world where so much music is produced by technology, an understanding of notation and composition software such as Cubase and Sibelius is important and should be encouraged.

Making connections
Listening to a wide range of music and putting it into a historical and cultural context helps children to appreciate the links between music and other subjects being learnt at school.
So, when we listen to Baroque music and introduce pupils to the towering genius J.S. Bach, we consider what else was happening at that time. Who was on the throne in England and what was happening in Bach’s hometown? Was he a practical joker like Mozart or, like Handel, did he have a legendary temper? Researching contemporary pieces which use similar techniques, for example Goldfinger’s ‘Superman’ which uses a Baroque ground bass, makes their learning feel more relevant and accessible.

Onwards and upwards
Learning music is a three way process between parent, pupil and teacher. Each one relies on the other for their commitment, participation and development. Parents are key in providing a regular, realistic practice time for children who learn an instrument and ensuring it takes place in an appropriate environment. They can also help by exposing their children to a smorgasbord of different musical styles; it could be as easy as exploring the different channels on the radio, attending concerts or joining local choirs and community music groups. Music is such a wonderful thing to explore with children and parents really do not have to be the expert. If there is something you enjoy, share it with your children. An enthusiastic response to their practice efforts or dancing along to your favorite tunes is all it takes to get started.

Sam Dixon and Carolyn Hextall run the music department at Brighton College Nursery, Pre-Prep & Prep School educating over 500 pupils between the ages of three and 13 in curriculum music. Their provision is supported by a body of over 30 visiting instrumental music teachers who deliver individual and group lessons to the children.
www.brightoncollege.org.uk

shoreham college girl

Challenging the very young

By | Education, Mental health
by Richard Taylor-West
Headmaster, Shoreham College

Being challenged as individuals, in terms of learning, is immensely important for children. Gone are the days of Victorian desks, row on row, with pupils passively learning everything by rote to be regurgitated later. We no longer, in spite of Mr Gove’s recent reforms, shout “Fact, fact, fact!” at the pupils and expect a response, as Mr Gradgrind does in Dickens’ novel Hard Times.

There is a place, of course, for learning the facts; in some cases it’s absolutely necessary. We cannot shy away from that. There are types of mathematics that need to be memorised; there are scientific formula to learn and getting on in Spanish is not possible if the vocabulary is not captured and stored in the long-term memory.

There are though other ways to learn and it’s important that these are explored in schools. Learning should be like a mixed diet of fruit, carbs and vegetables. The antidote to the grind of memorisation is independent learning and good educational institutions have been doing this for some time.

I am particularly pleased to say that our pupils in our primary section, the Junior School, are adept independent learners and the staff are always setting them some quite tricky tasks to complete. We call these ‘challenges’ and we mean what we say on the tin. They are meant to be quite difficult to tackle.

The secret to an effective task is, of course, how it is set up in the first place. The theme or topic chosen should be exciting, leave room for discovery, within an age appropriate way, but have a clear set of criteria that the pupils understand are able to work towards. They may, in that case, tackle the tasks in their own way, but can achieve a great deal and have a sense of a destination point.

In our Junior School, we ask our pupils to be resourceful, mature thinkers who practise something often known as growth mind set. They are given key starting points, a set of pointers in terms of resources and then they are expected to go on a journey of learning. Will it be easy? No, of course not. We then expect them to grapple with ideas, to tackle tricky topics and to reflect on their learning journey along the way. We expect them to challenge themselves and say, “I can do this, even if it’s hard.”

We have had many challenges in our junior school; there’s usually one per term. We have seen them tackle ‘S for Seeds’ when they looked scientifically at the life-cycle of seeds, but how was largely up to them. We have asked them to choose a country, for ‘All Around the World’, and put together work that explores culture, language, culinary traditions and more. One of the key instructions in the project was: “You need to choose one country to research that you have not already covered at school.”

This outlines one of the key functions of this kind of work: the pupils are taken way beyond the dryness of SATS, which we do not do, and they are allowed the space to take ownership of their work and the direction they wish to take their work in. This is all about widening our pupils’ frames of reference and engaging them in the wider world which is key to our ethos as a College.

Organising and marking this kind of work is, of course, tough for the staff too. It’s not straightforward but it is most certainly worth it. These kinds of independent learning challenges, with elements of self-reflection and growth mindset at their core, are a little more complex than the old school project that I did in 1976. For a start, no one actually told me why I was doing it. There wasn’t anything like the same ownership of ideas. I did it because a teacher said so. Hmmmm. Only now, many years later, do I have sense of why. We are more explicit about this now and the pupils appreciate this.

One of my favourite junior challenges was set for our pupils this term: “Mindfulness and Happiness”. One suggested task was: “Write a set of instructions or recipe for happiness”. This might challenge many adults, in terms of planning and thinking. I, however, was treated by a Year 5 pupil to an expertly made film – an edited montage of powerful images of family, experiences, places and loved ones. The level of thought that had gone into the piece truly amazed me. It was also my hope, of course, given that one in 10 young people these days struggle with mental illness, that the young man in question will have learned a great deal about himself and achieved a degree of mindfulness that might not have been possible without the task he was set.

Challenge tasks such as these are much more than just about facts, or numbers. They are an opportunity for pupils to be enriched – and I must admit this was a word that used to make me cringe a little back in the 90s. Less so now. Living in an age of 20 second sound bites and Snapchat moments, there is a great deal to be said for being immersed in a task that takes one or two weeks to complete and being mindful in that moment too. More of the snail than a hare – but that’s another project I could write about, if I had the space.

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

Inspiring our girls

By | children's health, Education, Relationships

In 2013, Miriam Gonzalez, the wife of Nick Clegg former Deputy PM, set up a charity called inspiring girls.com. The aim of the organisation was simple, to make young women aware of the range of opportunities that are potentially available to them and to support that by gathering potential mentors to help them find and follow these pathways. Gonzalez’s organisation operates globally and in the UK has strong links with inspiring women.co.uk which has already established itself as an organisation that uses role models, motivational speakers and events to showcase equality in the workplace, on the sports field and beyond.

The subjects of defining the role of women, equality, gender pay gaps and harassment of women have rarely been out of the headlines in 2018. For young women of the next generation it potentially feels like a step forward towards greater equality. Making sure it is meaningful and sustained is the next challenge.

Change in societies’ outlook does have implications on education and many would argue that development of positive attitudes and values are one of the key elements of the education system. Extensive research suggests that girls from an early age have distinct attitudes to equality. A project in 2017 in the US looked at children as young as five and six and how they absorbed gender stereotypes. Andrei Cimpian, one of the co-authors at New York University, found that girls as young as six believed that ‘brilliance’ was a male trait and that unlike boys, girls did not believe that achieving good grades was related to innate abilities. Some of the outcomes from this research link with other work that found that parents and teachers attribute good grades in maths to hard work for girls, but to natural ability for boys.

In the Primary and Prep sector we have a huge responsibility
to try and open up opportunities to redress some of the stereotyping and possibly to work with parents to help them not to reinforce these attitudes at home. Most of us would be shocked and disappointed to think that our young girls don’t see themselves equally capable and yet it is evident that sometimes it is our attitudes that are compounding the problem.

The challenge then is to create a culture whether at home or at school, where girls feel that all subjects can potentially play to their strengths and that they can become natural risk takers and not fall into the ‘slipstream’ of boys who will often take this role with confidence. We all recognise that the work place of the future will be about people’s response to change, innovation and problem solving. If girls are to become more risk takers, we need to firstly create a culture of security from which they can take risks with confidence. Schools talk about creating resilience but this actively requires schools to allow children to manage disappointment, respond to unfamiliar situations and initiate problem solving and not rely on adults.

Role models play a particularly strong role in inspiring all of us and schools are recognising the importance of opening up opportunities for pupils to see the breadth of career options as well as examples of determination, resilience, performance and overcoming adversity. Inspiration is a rather overused word but there is no doubt that there are so many examples of ‘a spark being lit’ that inspires people to achieve more than they could imagine. Even at Primary and Prep level we are using parents and people in the community to give pupils an insight into their motivation, how they developed their skill set and the rewards their tenacity and hard work have given them.

In our experience, girls in particular respond to personal journeys and insights. Many of these women, rather like the suffragettes of the past, have been trailblazers, breaking down barriers and paving the way for future generations. Many have been real inspirations to others and while examples of people like Cressida Dick, Chief Constable of the Metropolitan Police or the UK Chief Medical Officer, Professor Sally Davies are exceptional examples we also need to consolidate that with more women at all levels. The workplace can be challenging enough so it really should be everyone’s responsibility to ensure that people at least join on an ‘even playing field’.

Girls’ natural strengths in negotiation, collaboration and empathy enable them to be great team players, inclusive and keen to work alongside others. Research shows that girls also respond well to establishing strong relationships with mentors, therefore projects that enable girls to access the full range of courses, training, apprenticeships and employment through mentors have to be encouraged and possibly funded. It is clear that stronger collaboration between education and the workplace will be of benefit in developing the right skills and qualities in all candidates, which employers often suggest is lacking.

We believe that if more young girls can link with or be exposed to mentors and role models, either in person or through social media, it could become the inspiration that they need to pursue their dreams.

Sian Cattaneo is the Head of Brighton and Hove Prep, the only girls Prep in the heart of Brighton & Hove.
For any enquiries please contact 01273 280200
www.bhhs.gdst.net
prepenquiries@bhhs.gdst.net