Skip to main content

numeracy skills

make maths fun for children

Incorporate maths into playtime

By Education, fun for children, numeracy skills, play
by Lucy Alexandra Spencer
Tutoring and Alternative Provision Director at Education Boutique,
part of the Eteach Group

When we incorporate maths into play, we create curious problem-solving thinkers who are ready to explore the world.

Incorporating maths into play is a well-evidenced catalyst for developing capable mathematicians, who are comfortable using maths skills in their everyday lives. The National Numeracy Organisation reports that half of the working-age adults in the UK have a numeracy level below the expected abilities for an 11 year old. It’s therefore vital that educators and parents work together to find ways to link maths to enjoyable everyday life events, in order for children to build a positive relationship with the subject and reduce the chance of developing maths-based anxieties and low self-esteem.

The Early Years Foundation Stage Framework sets the standard for providing early play-based maths experiences. It is supported by a report from the Education Endowment Foundation which found that play-based learning can be particularly effective at raising attainment in learners from disadvantaged backgrounds.

So, drawing on the evidence of the benefits, what can busy parents do to easily incorporate maths into play and everyday life routines?

Empowering every home to have a maths role model
By showing enthusiasm for maths and demonstrating resilience to problem-solving, parents can shape a child’s mindset for life. You don’t need to be ‘good’ at maths to be a positive role model. Even if you have had a rocky road with the subject yourself, now is a great time to draw a line in the sand and embrace the opportunities to form a collaborative partnership with your child. Together, you can help them to have fun and explore the wonderful world of numbers, shapes and statistics.

Don’t label the practise
Being ‘good’ at maths is so much more than buying your child every workbook on the internet or learning times tables. Don’t feel like you have to give maths at home a label, especially with younger children. What sounds more appealing to you – “Let’s do 20 minutes of maths” or “Let’s investigate the different quantities of ingredients needed to make the perfect banana smoothie?”

Learning through doing, will help a child develop many skills that link to a range of subjects, reaching much further than just the maths curriculum.

Utilising time efficiently
When your child has number facts or times tables to memorise, you can buy yourself some neon chalk pens and write the information on the bathroom mirror, for example. This means your child will be looking at and thinking about the content regularly, sometimes without being cognisant of the fact they are absorbing information. It’s an excellent routine to establish.

Additionally, creating a car journey routine where iPad maths apps, such as ‘Hit the Button’, ‘Prodigy Maths’ and others could be incorporated can work well. Don’t worry if your car journeys are device-free zones, play some of these great car journey maths games:
• Number plate maths
Make the largest or smallest number out of the numbers on passing registration plates.
• Guess the number
One player thinks of a number and the others in the car ask numeral questions to guess what it is.
• Number tennis
Choose a rule such as ‘add seven’ and go around the players in the car until someone gets out.
• Rule master
Count from one upwards and every time you get to a multiple of 10, create a new rule such as ‘clap instead of saying 10’.

Here are some of my other top tips for integrating maths into play:
• Cooking
The kitchen is a great place to incorporate numbers. Asking children questions such as: “How can we double this recipe?”, “What can we do if this ingredient is missing?” or “Can we cook it at double the heat for half the time?” are exciting ways for them to engage in maths.
• Shopping lists
Giving your child agency over shopping lists by using online supermarkets is another good way to incorporate maths. For example, you can challenge them to find where they can get items for the best price and ask them to organise the weekly shop while not exceeding a certain budget.
• Games
Gamifying maths is often talked about, but some of these may exist in your house already! Dust off Monopoly, a Lego set or try orienteering and geocaching on a sunny day.
• Collecting data
It can be helpful to consider how you can involve your child in collecting data. Family decisions such as holidays or meals can be a great opportunity to do this and for them to present their results.
• Sports
Dart boards can be an excellent resource to learn how to read the minute hand of the clock. Create a clock dart board and when you throw a dart read the minute hand value. How about quick mental calculations with three darts? The possibilities are endless!
• Music
The rhythm and beat of the music is an exciting way to incorporate counting. Games which involve counting in numbers in time to the beat of the music, for example, can work well, as well as counting how many times a certain word is repeated. Investigating speeding up and slowing down as well as recording audio messages may also capture your child’s interest.

Lucy supports children with emotional-based school non-attendance and helps families access LA funding, offering tutoring for children with additional needs.

early years play

The importance of early years play

By children's health, Education, fun for children, numeracy skills, Playing, reading, Relationships
by Jasmine Holbrook
Imogen Ruby

Playing underpins all aspects of a child’s development and keeps infants active and happy. Through play, children develop their language, emotional, social and motor skills, as well as their creativity, problem solving abilities and imagination. Alongside the benefits for your little one, playing together with your child can strengthen your bond and allow you to join their world. Play develops through a series of commonly observed stages and by altering your play style and the toys offered throughout these stages, you can continue to support and encourage this development.

Play can begin right from birth. Those early movements of a baby’s arms and legs that seemingly have no purpose are actually helping them to learn to move and you can join in by gently encouraging movement. This could be through baby massage, swimming or laying your baby on your chest, tummy to tummy, a great opportunity for eye contact and kisses.

Babies love interaction with another human face, allowing your little one to study your facial expressions. Talking and singing can make this fun for both of you. Tummy time will strengthen their arms and necks and help prepare them for crawling. Using high contrast flash cards and toys, as well as baby safe mirrors, will continue to develop these skills, as well as their visual and brain development and encourage them to continue learning about the world around them.

As a baby begins to move and explore their world further, they are able to engage with toys in a different way and will start to play alone, showing not much interest in other children’s play but developing an increasing focus on what they themselves are doing. Warm interactions from the adults around them, playing alongside whilst still allowing space to enjoy some independence will enhance their understanding and enjoyment. Board books, rattles and sensory toys such as ribbon rings and musical shakers are all great choices for this stage of development.

Commonly, around two years of age children become more curious about what other children are doing, observing without joining in. As your child begins to observe other children playing, you may feel that you want to encourage them to join in but there is no need. This stage is important for children to learn about social cues and to understand the behaviour and rules within social play. Their vocabulary continues to develop rapidly, with discussions about what they are seeing.

Children at this stage will benefit from opportunities to be around other children, but will very much enjoy activities with you such as singing, story telling, early role-play toys and of course, outdoor and indoor physical play.

Social skills continue to develop as children begin to learn to share toys and copy activities, whilst still playing alongside each other without much involvement. Age appropriate toys that can easily be shared and interacted with are important, for example wooden animals, vehicles, chunky puzzles and building blocks.

Children will become more interested in playing with others, in talking and engaging and this develops their problem solving skills as well as their co-operation as they begin to navigate a shared space. During this stage, play is not very organised or focused but they are learning teamwork and communication skills as well as beginning to recognise other children’s boundaries. The best way to encourage this type of play is by creating shared spaces with similar toys, such as several dolls in a shared dolls house, a variety of vehicles on a play road map, or a mixture of animals or dinosaurs within a woodland themed playzone.

Co-operative play is the last stage of play and is vital for social and group interaction. This usually begins around the age of four and continues throughout childhood, bringing together all the skills already learned. This is where imaginative play becomes a key focus of a child’s play as they take on different roles within their imagination. You can encourage and enhance this stage of play in so many ways; for example, playing shops with a shopkeeper and a customer, playing kitchens and tea parties, directing ‘traffic’ in the garden, dressing up, the possibilities are endless.

Playing with your little one can create deeper connections and stronger emotional bonds as well as foster trust and open communication between you. It provides valuable insight into your child’s development and interests, and allows you to better understand their world. Through shared play, you can create treasured moments, enhance your own stress relief and boost your overall wellbeing – there are benefits of play for all of us!

Imogen Ruby has sustainability at its heart; through our organic clothing choices, environmentally conscious toys and passion for reusable cloth nappies.

mindfulness, primary to secondary school change

Navigating the transition

By Education, numeracy skills, reading, Relationships, Special support needs
by Mrs Sarah Bakhtiari
Principal of Shoreham College

As a headteacher I have witnessed countless children embark on the exciting journey from primary to secondary education. This pivotal moment can be both exhilarating and daunting, not only for the children but also for their parents. In this article, I aim to shed light on this significant transition, emphasising the importance of collaboration between parents and schools, and offering guidance on how to navigate this new chapter with the aim of making it the best it can be for the young person.

Parents: The experts in their child
Parents, you are the experts when it comes to understanding your child. You have nurtured them, watched them grow and know their strengths and areas for development better than anyone else. As your child embarks on this new adventure, remember that your insights and observations are invaluable. Share your knowledge with their new school, as it will help create a holistic understanding of your child’s abilities and needs.

Schools: The experts in education
Schools, on the other hand, are the experts in education. We have dedicated our lives to understanding how children learn, grow and thrive academically and socially. Trust that we will provide the necessary support and guidance to ensure a smooth transition for your child. By working together, we can create an environment that nurtures their potential and fosters their personal growth.

Listening to each other
It is essential to recognise that children can present differently at home and at school. They may exhibit behaviours or emotions that are unfamiliar to you, as they navigate this new environment. It is crucial for both parents and schools to listen to each other, sharing observations and insights to gain a comprehensive understanding of the child’s experiences. By doing so, we can collaborate effectively and provide the best possible support for your child’s development.

The emotional roller coaster
It is natural to feel a mix of emotions as your child moves to secondary school. However, it is important not to let these emotions overwhelm you or your child. Getting on an emotional roller coaster with your child can hinder their ability to adapt and thrive in their new environment. Instead, focus on maintaining a positive outlook, offering reassurance, and celebrating their achievements along the way. Your calm and uplifting presence will provide the stability and confidence your child needs during this transition.

Embracing the journey
Moving from primary to secondary school is a significant milestone in your child’s life. It is a time of growth, self-discovery and new opportunities. Encourage your child to embrace this journey with an open mind and a positive attitude. Remind them that they are capable, resilient and ready to take on new challenges. Encourage them to make new friends, explore new interests and seek support when needed. By doing so, they will develop the skills and confidence necessary to thrive in their secondary school years.

The transition from primary to secondary school is an exciting and transformative period for both children and parents. By recognising that parents are the experts in their child and schools are the experts in education, we can create a true partnership that supports the child’s holistic development. Remember to listen to each other, celebrate achievements and maintain an open and honest dialogue. As a partnership, we are best placed to ensure that this transition is a warm, friendly and uplifting experience for all involved.

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.

Finding the joy in numbers

By Education, fun for children, numeracy skills
by Junaid Mubeen
mathematician turned educator

The prospect of helping children with maths is daunting for some parents. Many may have struggled with the subject at school and, with a fifth of adults in the UK afflicted with ‘maths anxiety’, it’s not always obvious how to provide encouragement and support for our little ones.

Recent research commissioned by non-profit, Teach Your Monster, found that 72% identify maths as the most important subject for their child. In contrast to Rishi Sunak’s quest to make children continue to study maths until they are 18, 67% of parents believe the focus should be on helping younger learners to get to grips with the subject. As both a mathematician and parent, I wholeheartedly agree. If we can embed core maths skills – and a love of the subject – from a young age, then we will set them up for success in the subject for the rest of their lives.

The survey also revealed that 40% of parents find maths intimidating. Sadly, our own attitudes can filter down – when we say things like “I can’t do maths” (which we do not say for any other subject), children readily adopt the same beliefs about themselves. But there is a flipside: by adopting a more positive approach towards maths, we can ensure that children develop a love of the subject.

The good news is that our relationship with maths is never beyond repair. There is nothing to fear when it comes to numbers. Memorising times tables and performing calculations at speed – these elements of the subject, which fill so many people with dread and anxiety – are only a tiny part of what maths has to offer. At its core, maths is about playing with ideas, exploring the patterns inherent in them, and making new discoveries. It promises the same thrill that comes from solving a jigsaw and seeing how all the ‘pieces’ fit together.

A numerical exploration
Take 24 counters (or M&Ms, if you can resist the urge of eating them) and arrange them into a rectangle. Here is one way – how many more can you come up with?

What you’re actually doing here is working out the factors of 24 – the numbers that divide into it (the rectangle above is 4 by 6, so these are both factors are 24). But you’ve done so in a tactile way that strengthens your ‘feel’ for numbers. You may also have confronted some interesting questions along the way – for instance, is the following rectangle the same or different to the one above (it’s debatable!)?

We can keep exploring: what happens when we remove a counter (or succumb to eating an M&M)? We have 23 left, and it seems we can’t make any rectangles except the longest ones, 23×1 and 1×23.

This is an example of a prime number, and you now have a good visual sense of the indivisibility that makes these numbers so intriguing. Notice how play is at the heart of this type of learning. We are connecting several different ideas – numbers as shapes, for instance – that deepen our understanding of these concepts.

There are lots of ways to explore concepts in this playful way from a young age. With the right resources, maths can be made far more creative and fun than parents may have experienced in school.

Free online games like Teach Your Monster Number Skills, which is a major hit with my four year old daughter Leena, are designed to help young children master core number skills in a way that is fun. It teaches essential concepts like number bonds and addition/subtraction using compelling visuals and game-based activities. Each number is brought to life through a range of representations – I can see Leena developing an intimate relationship with numbers as she learns to recognise them in different contexts.

As a mathematician I see the learning shine through; the game provides a secure foundation in maths that will have a lasting impact. And as a parent I can see how much fun my child is having – she can’t get enough of the game!

Crucially, Teach Your Monster Number Skills is designed with parents in mind – parents can play along too and discover that maths can be fun (they can also take a step back – everything is flexible). Instead of the fear and dread that often surrounds maths, parents can look forward to playing the game with their child, and seeing how, when taught the right way, maths is for everyone.

It’s never too late to develop healthy attitudes towards maths. When we say we can do maths and that we are maths people, we send a profound message to children that they too can develop mastery of the subject.

Junaid Mubeen is a mathematician turned educator, series winner of Countdown, author of Mathematical Intelligence (, and expert advisor to to non-profit children’s online game, Teach Your Monster Number Skills

kids learning

Why send your child to preschool?

By Education, numeracy skills, reading, Relationships

by Marsha Dann
Lead Teacher, Play B C Preschool

A quality preschool, where there are well-qualified and experienced practitioners who give high priority to interacting with children and observing them closely in order to chart their development, responding to their needs and confirming and extending their learning, will enhance your child’s potential and give them an early advantage.

Supporting early childhood development
The Early Years are a crucial time in your child’s development. Scientists tell us that the brain develops rapidly in the first three years gaining up to 90% of its final mass and although the brain continues to develop into adolescence the best time for shaping brains is in the Early Years.

What your child learns in the Early Years is just as important as what they will learn in later years. Perhaps even more so because a good learning environment now can have a positive impact upon social, educational and behavioural outcomes that will last throughout their school years. Choosing a high quality preschool for your child can make a real difference to their future.

Building relationships
Look for a setting which focuses upon relationships rather than resources. The importance of relationships cannot be overemphasised. Attachment theory suggests that humans are born needing relationships with others. Secure attachments lead to independence and well-developed social skills. Social interaction helps to develop the brain and capacity for learning. A good preschool will value social development as highly as intellectual development. Positive relationships formed with caregivers, help develop a sense of security and provide a safe and secure base from which to explore the world.

The key person system helps children to feel valued and cared about by someone in particular while they are at preschool. It allows them to have someone, as developmental psychologist Bronfenbrenner puts it, who is ‘crazy’ about them. It has been acknowledged that people working in Early Years develop strong feelings for the children they care for and my opinion that is as it should be. Your chosen preschool’s team cannot be the same as family, but should come close.

Play based learning
It is widely agreed, that children learn best through play. Childhood pioneers, such as Froebel and Montessori, identified play as being central to early learning. However, free play does not always move learning on, and a balance needs to be struck between spontaneous and structured play and also between child-initiated and adult-initiated learning experiences. Close observation of your child by practitioners will support development and help in planning developmentally appropriate, yet challenging, learning opportunities.

Narrowing the word gap
‘Reading and writing float on a sea of talk’. Lots of warm loving interactions and ‘serve and turn’ conversations with adults and peers will help to build vocabulary. Daily opportunities for songs, stories and rich structured talk at preschool will have a positive impact upon educational attainment and future life chances.

What does a quality preschool look like?
Educationalists identify two main aspects of quality in Early Years’ provision. The first aspect, which relates to processes, has the greatest impact upon outcomes. It is to do with adult interaction, responsiveness and appropriateness of activities. The second aspect, which relates to structure, has less of a direct impact upon outcomes but is important because it influences the processes identified above. It is to do with ratios and qualifications. Research shows that a well-qualified team is important and children make even more progress where a trained teacher is present.

Research evidence shows that quality preschool provision has a significant and lasting effect on educational, social and behavioural outcomes. Sending your child to preschool will get their education off to the best start.

Teacher-led Play B C in the Wallington and Carshalton area offers fun, yet challenging early education. More than just a place, at Play B C every day is a learning adventure. Contact to arrange a visit.



family finance early

Five things to tell your child about the cost of living

By family, Finance, numeracy skills, Relationships

by Brean Horne, a personal finance expert at NerdWallet

As the rising cost of living continues to stretch budgets with little signs of slowing down, it can be an extremely worrying time for many people. This is especially true for families and can create questions that are difficult for parents to answer. Parents should be setting time aside to engage in conversations with their children about the cost of living crisis in order to lessen their concerns. Below, Brean discusses how parents can tackle the topic of money when talking to children, and stay realistic about any financial sacrifices that may be needed.

Strike the balance
Honesty is always the best policy, and while ensuring your child is aware of the realities of the rising cost of living is important, it is also crucial to avoid unnecessary panic or worry, and strike the right balance between explaining the seriousness of the situation with not alarming them.

At the moment, while it is not necessary for a child to be too concerned about the intricate details of budgeting and saving, it’s a good idea to make your child aware of the increase in the cost of heating, petrol, groceries, and other essential items.

Be clear with children if the current climate means you have to cut back on some of their favourite brands at the supermarket, or if you need to take them to more budget-friendly clothing stores to pick out new items. Reassure – but don’t promise – them this should
only be temporary and help them to understand how important it is to appreciate all that they do still have, rather than what they don’t.

Be realistic
In the lead-up to the Christmas period, many children may start sharing ideas with their parents of the gifts they want to see sitting under their tree come 25th December. However, this year many may struggle to create a similar festive experience for their own families whilst dealing with ongoing financial pressures.

In order to still create a fun and memorable Christmas for your children, it’s wise to prepare them sooner rather than later that certain sacrifices need to be made if they want certain Christmas presents or experiences, such as swapping pricey weekend activities like cinema trips for a day exploring local walks or visiting a local free-entry museum. Not only will this hopefully help children to realise that parents don’t have access to unlimited wealth to treat them with, it should also emphasise the magic of Christmas and how lucky they are to have a family willing to cut back so they don’t go without.

Be wary of shock value
More often than not, children will consume a lot of information from their peers or from unsourced articles shared to social media platforms written to shock and generate headlines. Both of these are notorious for exaggerating or expanding on the facts of a story or subject, and should not be the way a child is gaining knowledge of the current crisis.

Depending on their age, sit your child down for a frank and honest conversation on the issues that are most concerning to them, and try your best to reduce any panic or worry that they have heard through others or online. Point them in the direction of child-friendly websites that can outline the most pressing issues in easy to digest language, and reassure them that you are always available to answer or tackle any questions or concerns they have.

Teach them about budgeting
Parents can use the cost of living crisis as an opportunity to educate children on the importance of budgeting and saving for a rainy day. Highlighting different issues surrounding inflation, energy bills, how interest rates affect things like mortgage repayments and credit card loans, and even how inflation works, will give them a better perspective on the crisis and is something that they are unlikely to be exposed to within school settings.

For older children, this is also an opportunity to help guide them to set up their own financial accounts, such as a children’s bank card or a prepaid card. This will help them learn how to budget, manage their finances, and understand the satisfaction associated with saving up to purchase something for themselves.

While some children are simply given pocket money or a weekly/monthly allowance, now is a great opportunity to give children age-appropriate chores in order to earn some money themselves.

Involve children in making cost-effective savings around the house
Budgeting doesn’t have to be boring, and there are a multitude of useful and fun ways you can involve children with budgeting tasks around the house.

Set children a task to plan budget-friendly meals with a certain amount of money or ingredients you have in the fridge and cupboards as a Master Chef style challenge, or get them involved in cooking/baking large batches to freeze for a later date – a great way to save money and reduce food waste.

In order to help them understand the energy crisis a little more, it’s also worth setting them the task of ensuring no electronic devices or switches are left on unnecessarily around the house – which can of course be incentivised with rewards.

Article supplied by NerdWallet

SEN learning

What should you do if you think your child may have Special Educational Needs?

By Education, Mental health, numeracy skills, reading, Relationships, special educational needs

by Chloe Chapman
SEND Consultancy Services

The term ‘Special Educational Needs’ describes learning difficulties or disabilities that make it more difficult for children to learn than most other children of the same age.

What is the first step I should take if I think my child has Special Educational Needs?
It can be a worrying time if you are concerned that your child is not developing in the same way as other children or doing as well as they could be in nursery, school or college. Each educational setting will have a SENCO (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator) responsible for providing additional support for children with additional needs. If you have concerns, you should arrange a meeting with the SENCO and other key staff who work with your child frequently (for example, the class teacher or form tutor), to discuss where you feel your child is struggling and what support is already in place to help your child.

The school (and you) may feel that your child needs more support, and this should be reflected within a SEN Support Plan.

The SEN Support Plan should include clear outcomes that it is expected your child will meet, and the support they will need for that to happen. For example, if your child is struggling with writing, support may include an intervention or support group that your child will attend, and during writing activities a staff member will support them. The SEN Support Plan should be reviewed regularly to ensure that your child is making good progress and the support is working well.

What is the next step if a SEN Support Plan is not working?
If your child has a SEN Support Plan, but they are still not making as much progress as would be expected, they may need an Educational, Health and Care (EHC) Plan. A parent/guardian, educational setting or a professional working with your child can apply for an EHC Plan, using the link available on the Local Offer for your Local Authority.

You do not have to use the forms provided by the Local Authority, but they will guide you as to what information to include. It is important to include as much evidence as possible – this can be information from the educational setting such as; a copy of the SEN Support Plan, results from standardised tests and examples of your child’s work. If your child has received additional care from Health Professionals such as your GP, a Paediatrician or Consultant, then include any corresponding paperwork. You can include reports from other professionals who may have worked with your child, such as: Educational Psychologist, Occupational Therapist, Speech and Language Therapist, Behavioural Support Worker or a Physiotherapist. Where possible, evidence should be dated from the last two years so it is still relevant to your child. For your child to receive the help they need it is important for reports to reflect how they might be on their worst day; this can make for difficult and emotional reading. Please remember that this is a means to an end and with the correct support in place the good days should far outweigh the more challenging days.

Once this information has been submitted to the Local Authority, they will make a decision about whether your child will undertake an EHC Needs Assessment. This is a 20 week assessment process, where the Local Authority gathers further information on your child to make a decision about what level of support is required. At the end of this process your child may receive an EHC Plan, or they may remain on a SEN Support Plan.

How to find information about services available through my Local Authority?
Local Authorities have an obligation to publish information relating to services and support for children on the Local Offer. The Local Offer will include information about how to apply for an EHC Plan, who to contact for help and what the process will look like for your area. If you are thinking about applying for an EHC Plan it can be useful to discuss this first with your local SEN Team, a local support group or an independent SEN consultant.

Aside from an EHC Plan, what else should my Local Authority be offering? –
The Local Offer should explain what schools are expected to provide as part of a universal offer for every child. Teachers should be regularly assessing children to identify which children may need additional help. In any one class, the teaching staff (with guidance from the SENCO), could be running a number of catch up or intervention groups for children with skills or knowledge gaps. The expectation is that if a teacher identifies a gap or delay, that the school should look to their own existing groups and resources to support a child in the first instance. As a parent, regular communication with school staff is key to making sure that you are both on the same page and your child is getting access to the support they need.

If you would like more advice about your child and their individual circumstances, then please do get in touch. SEND Consultancy Services can talk through possible next steps, attend meetings, read over reports, SEN Support Plans or EHC Plans and be an advocate for you and your child.

`Xtraordinary people

The seven dyslexic archetypes How to spot, support and empower your dyslexic child

By Education, numeracy skills, reading, Relationships
by Kate Griggs
Made By Dyslexia

How can you tell a child is Made By Dyslexia? As many as 1 in 5 children are dyslexic but research suggests that 80% of dyslexic children leave school without being spotted. This proves that in order for parents and teachers alike to spot, support and empower dyslexic children, there needs to be more awareness about what the signs of ‘Dyslexic Thinking’ are.

Dyslexic brains are wired slightly differently, which means they have a different way of processing information. This difference results in a pattern of challenges, but extraordinary strengths too.

Children with dyslexia have trouble learning to read, write and spell as well as remembering lots of facts and figures or concentrating and following instructions. Tests are particularly tricky for dyslexic children as they are a combination of all these things and can make them feel embarrassed or even stupid, which they are not! This can make school particularly frustrating for dyslexic children. But if spotted early, and given the right support, they can and will do well.

How to spot your child’s dyslexic superpower
• Think about what your child loves to do and would do for hours, if left to their own devices. These are usually their ‘Dyslexic Thinking’ skills.
• Find out what they are passionate about, what they love to talk about, watch or learn about.
• Encourage them to do both of the above, lots and lots. Skill + practice + passion = superpower.
• Easy-to-spot strengths include sport, art, music and dancing. But empathy, kindness, imagining, listening and questioning are all incredibly valuable superpowers too.
• Acknowledge their expertise. Dyslexics often don’t realise how good they are at these things, so may not recognise them as their superpowers.

To identify ‘Dyslexic Thinking’ skills in children, we conducted one of the largest research projects of its kind. Our extensive research with dyslexic people, teachers, psychologists and parents, helped us to gather a unique insight into dyslexic strengths and thinking skills in children. These are the things that dyslexic children are naturally good at, and love to do. Because they love to do them so much, they practise them a lot and become extraordinarily good at them and these things become their ‘superpowers’.

From this research, we developed seven dyslexic archetypes:
1. Storytellers
2. Makers
3. Entertainers
4. Movers
5. Imaginers
6. Questioners
7. ‘People’ people

Dyslexic children have a natural ability in some or all of these seven archetypes. While all children will show ability and interest in these areas, dyslexics tend to immerse themselves and become very good, often ‘expert’ at them. You can develop resilient confident learners by nurturing these natural abilities, which can develop into valuable skills in work and life.

Here are some of the signs for each dyslexic archetype in children:
• Storytellers:
Persuasive. Tell tall tales. Elaborate explainers. Invent stories. Love stories and films. When they grow up, Storytellers often become journalists, teachers, writers, filmmakers, politicians or campaigners.

• Makers:
Jigsaws. Puzzles. Lego. Building things. Making things. Cooking. Crafts. Art and painting. When they grow up, Makers often become architects, craftspeople, chefs, designers, gardeners, artists or programmers.

• Entertainers:
Music and rhythm. Singing. Dancing. Jokers. Expressive arts. Like putting on a show. When they grow up, Entertainers often become actors, musicians, comedians, salespeople, PR people or presenters.

• Movers:
Fidgets ‘on the go’. Physical risk takers. Sports/ball skills. Balance. Climbing. Skateboarding. Gymnastics. When they grow up, Movers often become musicians, sportspeople, dancers, sports coaches, choreographers or firefighters.

• Imaginers:
Daydreaming. Making up games and fantasy/imaginary worlds. Create dens and ‘worlds’ out of things. Get lost in their imagination, immersed in activities. When they grow up, Imaginers often become scientists, inventors, entrepreneurs, artists, actors, photographers or filmmakers.

• Questioners:
Constantly ask ‘what if?’ and ‘why not?, Challenge norms and rules. Have an answer for everything. Always curious. Problem-solvers. Explain things to everyone. When they grow up, Questioners often become detectives, spies, entrepreneurs, journalists, writers or real change-makers.

• ‘People’ people:

Peacemakers. Social organisers. Busybodies. Helpers. Charmers. Carers. Leaders. When they grow up, ‘People’ people often become nurses, doctors, teachers, care workers, managers or presenters.

So, by far the most important thing we can do for any dyslexic child is to identify their strengths and place as much importance on them
as we do on their challenges. With help, our children will learn to do all they need to do well enough, but it’s their dyslexic strengths that will help them to excel in life.

Early identification and the right support is vital for dyslexic children, so that’s why Made By Dyslexia has created our free online dyslexia awareness training films, so parents and teachers around the world can gain the knowledge they need to begin to support their children.

Kate Griggs is the founder and CEO of global charity Made By Dyslexia and author of dyslexia guide This is Dyslexia (Penguin, £11.99) and children’s book Xtraordinary People: Made By Dyslexia (Penguin, £6.99).


This is dyslexia

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.



Talk Talk! Knock, knock. Who’s there? Kanga. Kanga who? No, it’s kangaroo!

By children's health, Education, environment, Language, numeracy skills, reading

Jokes often narrowly miss the mark, but children love them. In amongst the less serious context of joking and any play on words, is a more complex business which plays a much bigger role in our children’s early development than we could ever believe.

Children who are taught about the complexities of the English language through language-rich conversations with their parents or siblings are the same children who get ahead of their peers. As a child soaks in the rich talk at home, they become more adept at sensing intonation, playing with tone, using words in the right context and increasing their chances for a vocabulary advantage in their school. In the last ten years, there has been extensive research about language quality and early talking and how they significantly impact each other. The quality of a child’s language environment has a huge impact on their relationship building, their early reading skills and therefore their access to the curriculum.

“Yes, yes” we hear you say, “but how can we help?” we hear you say. Before they even step through the school gates, some children have been exposed to five times as many words as some of their peers. There are many reasons for this, and we could analyse the amount of time a parent/carer spends on their devices whilst ‘humouring’ a child, or how long a child plays on a device, or plays alone. However, analysing is not the vital thing here, talking is! So significant is this issue that the government have launched an initiative on helping to close the vocabulary gap. Helping every child to have the early advantage of successful language development is likely the best educational priority we can select.

So, what can we do about ensuring every child sees the benefit of the early vocabulary advantage? The remedy is actually so much simpler than you might think. You simply cannot talk too much to your children. I used to explain it as a running commentary when asked what I meant about lots of talk. As breakfast is being prepared, a commentary on the routine will expose your child to the most commonly used vocabulary and when you later go for a walk and see all the natural things around you, your vocabulary may become more complex with new words starting to penetrate their sponge-like brain. For example, “Look Louis, the deer are rutting and making extraordinary noises. Can you see how their antlers can be used to warn away the other male deer? They are called stags.”
This introduces more infrequent words, helping their vocabulary grow more quickly.

There are many activities that you can do with your children in order to help them with their vocabulary:
• Turn-taking.
The quality of our talk is obviously crucial and balanced turn-taking is vital to not only holding the attention of young children, but seeing them develop their language.
• Expanding and modelling.
When your daughter/son says “It’s big car” – you can expand upon it and model the grammar a little too, “Yes – it is a big, red car – isn’t it enormous?”
• Extending and explaining.
Explaining events, such as what is going to happen at the shops, or what happened on holiday last year, is the type of extended talk and language that has a positive impact on a child’s vocabulary developing successfully.

For many of us this is a normal part of parenting life, but for some of us we realise all too quickly the times when we are not talking or even more importantly, actively listening to our children. A really useful tool is using picture books as a stimulus or prompt. Story structure, pace, prediction and vocabulary are all useful spin-offs to a picture book. How often have we as parents flicked through a story at bedtime, our eyes almost closed, skipping pages so that we finish earlier. We have all done it. But, some of those conversations are vital to that ever-growing vocabulary sponge in every child and it is our job to water it. There is no such thing as too much talk.

Tracey Chong is Head at Surbiton High Boys’ Preparatory School, an academic independent IAPS School.