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The importance of empowerment

By children's health, Education, Health, Mental health, Relationships
by Project Female Dance Ambassador

Empowerment is a sort of internal permission, a confidence instilled by either yourself or the situations you find yourself in. It is defined as “authority of power given to someone to do something”. As a young person, empowerment can act as an important remedy to the societal pressures faced daily.

It feels like expectations of perfection lurk around every corner for young people. They turn on their phone and are bombarded with unrealistic images of perfection. In class there is the feeling that they would rather not raise their hand than answer incorrectly in fear of classmates and teachers thinking they’re stupid. Even at home there seems to be an expectation held by parents for their child to be a certain way. All of these experiences equate to a society of young people who are paralysed by insecurity.

empowering peopleEmpowerment has the potential to liberate young people from these expectations and pressures. Empowerment enables young people to find their voice, their place in this world and feel important and heard. Empowerment is the enemy of insecurity, and through engaging with activities and communities that make young people feel empowered, they grow in a confidence that can be applied to every aspect of their lives.

Inclusive spaces committed to creating a judgement free environment, allow young people the permission to be confident, to have fun without concern for what other people in the room are thinking and be empowered in a way they don’t often experience elsewhere. We see the relief young people experience when they are able to put all of those pressures and expectations aside and just focus on being in the room and enjoying the activity with people they feel respected by.

With a physical activity like dance, an inclusive space mobilises a type of empowerment that encourages creativity and freedom without the fear of judgement. Movement within dance is choreographed to be unique and can sometimes push you out of your comfort zone. Empowerment can be used as a tool to get over that feeling of awkwardness and express your individuality. Within an inclusive dance space there is no expectation of how you should look or act and a nurturing environment is created through the knowledge that you are surrounded by people who share similar interests and experiences. Empowerment in dance is extremely important as it gives the dancers permission to freely throw their bodies around, take risks and try new things confidently.

The young people we work with have said dance has made them feel more empowered. They’ve reflected that dance validates them when they’re feeling down or insecure. It distracts and offers them a creative escape when the pressures of society become too much. It motivates them to keep improving. The confidence they experience within the four walls of the studio becomes evident in other aspects of their lives such as school and socially.

Everyday we witness dance instilling and securing a sense of empowerment within the young people we work with.

Project Female offers a range of inclusive dance classes for 4 year olds to adults. Learn new routines, build confidence and develop creativity and expression in a fun environment.

forest girl

Benefits of outdoor, nature based play for children with autism

By Education, environment, Green, Mental health, Playing, Relationships, special educational needs, Special support needs
by Melanie Parr
Managing Director, Lymley Wood CIC

“My child has made a friend for the first time when he came to your Forest School, we are now planning a play date.”

Being a parent to a neurodiverse child can be a challenge and a struggle but also full of such joy. All parents want their children to make friends, have fun, learn and be able to explore new environments safely while knowing they will be respected and their individual needs will be accommodated and embraced.

Autism is not ‘one size fits all’ and every child with ASC (Autistic Spectrum Condition) has different presentations to others, but one thing we have found at Lymley Wood CIC is that being outside in a natural space provides children with ASC the chance to enjoy experiences just like other children do.

There isn’t currently a great deal of research into autism and nature activities but there is a growing body of evidence to prove a link between increased wellbeing, higher achievement and access to nature. There are many individual stories illustrating the positive influence which Forest School has had on autistic participants.

“This is the first holiday club my child has attended where I haven’t been called to take him home due to his behaviour.” One of our parents with a child aged eight with ASC.

Finding a provision that has a person-centred approach is essential for autistic children and with an autism-aware practitioner, ASD children have an opportunity to thrive. As well as physical activity benefits, outdoor sessions can help with motor skills, speech and language and aid emotional regulation.

So what can time spent in a natural space such as a Forest School offer:
1. A person-centred approach doesn’t only take into account any differences or difficulties someone may have, it looks at all children as unique individuals. Sit spots and favourite places for children to go to if they feel overwhelmed are easy in the woods.
2. Curiosity led play – special interests are welcome in the woods and are a great way to engage children.
3. Space to be safely sensorily stimulated – stimming, rocking, feeling the senses of nature all around is all OK in a natural space. Jumping in play nets or lying wrapped up in a blanket looking up through the trees allows for senses to be explored.
4. Encouraging an interest in nature – maybe our next Chris Packham, who openly talks about his own challenges with ASC and how nature has benefited him.
5. A chance to make new friends and connections with children and adults.
6. Physical and mental health benefits of being outdoors, leading to calmer children and a chance to overcome some triggers and decreasing sensitivities like windy weather.

“I loved everything but the mud was the best” boy aged 10.

Forest Schools are popping up all over Sussex as are holiday cubs in woodland spaces such as Lymley Wood near Crowborough ( They all offer a great place to trial a session for children with ASC or other SEND needs.

East Sussex Council also supports access to holiday clubs with funded places for SEND children as part of the HAF scheme, for further details see

Mel Parr runs Lymley Wood CIC based near Five Ashes, that has been challenging Nature Deficit Disorder in Children since 2019.
For upcoming events please visit

relaxed child

Calm not chaos!

By Childcare and Nannying, Education, Mental health, Relationships, special educational needs
by Sarah Fisher
Founder of Connective Family

Helping parents and children to connect

Parenting is easy – said no one ever! All parents and carers need a helping hand at some point or another, whether that’s from supportive wider family, friends or another source of help. Much heated debate and discussion exists on the merits of the ‘best’ or ‘latest’ parenting approach. But one thing’s for sure – there’s no one size fits all.

Parenting struggles come in all shapes and sizes – you might be struggling to connect with your determined three year old, trying to get your teen away from a screen or experiencing aggression from your child.

Dealing with challenging behaviour from your children is exhausting – you’ve likely already tried hard to sort things out on your own, you’re quietly worried and it can feel lonely at times.

What is Connective Parenting NVR?
Connective Parenting NVR is a therapeutic parenting approach with a firm focus on connection and presence rather than ‘traditional’ parenting. What does this mean? It means that it doesn’t try to change the child’s behaviour through using consequences or rewards, but through the presence of the parent or carer in the child’s life.

Let’s explain a bit more about it.

Connective Parenting is based on the principles of non-violent resistance (you might hear this called NVR) and draws on a wide range of therapeutic models. It’s a wholly ‘doable’ approach because it’s easy to adapt to whatever challenges you’re facing.

In a nutshell, Connective Parenting NVR can help you create a stronger connection, reduce meltdowns and feel in control. Connection brings positive change and works with all families – birth parents, foster carers, adoptive parents and kinship carers.

If we focus on building connections with our children, it starts to open the door to a different relationship, better communication and less disruptive behaviour.

So, where to start?
The Connective Parenting NVR approach is about us as adults looking after children and thinking about how we react and interact with them.

Start with you:
It takes energy to make changes and if you feel overwhelmed or like you’re running on empty, you need to work on this first, otherwise it’s hard or even impossible! Try some deep breathing, go for a short walk each day, read a few pages of a book, listen to music – whatever works for you.

Raise your presence:
Children need us to see them, hear them and acknowledge them, but if you’re feeling low or exhausted by their behaviours, it’s easy to back away. If this happens, their behaviours are more likely to escalate because they’re feeling a sense of disconnection. Think of it as connecting before correcting.

This is where you’re taking control of the situation as an adult in a calm and resolute way. Difficult, yes and even more so if you’re running on empty (note the point above!). There’s lots more on this but, essentially, by connecting before correcting you’re working on the relationship not the behaviour and through that reducing the challenges.

A bit about baskets!
Multi-tasking has become a way of life for many parents and carers. Add managing challenging behaviours from our child or children and it can quickly overwhelm the best of us.

Connective Parenting NVR helps to prioritise concerns using a simple basket technique. You can use three baskets, as below, or just focus on two – the small and the large one, it’s entirely up to you, whichever you find easiest.

Here’s how:
1. The small basket is your priority basket – no more than two behaviours you want to deal with, the things that must stop. Focus on this one first.

2. The middle basket is for those things you can negotiate on – things you’re not going to totally ignore, but will think about how to handle them at some point, like bad language. If there’s two of you, be consistent and agree what’s in each basket.

3. The large basket is for everything else – all the things that are annoying but that you’re going to ignore for now. This one will likely be full but ‘let it go’.

All of the above will help to build that stronger connection with your child. It might feel a whole lot like your child doesn’t want to connect with you – but don’t let that stop you from trying. Watch their favourite movie with them, send a text to say hi when they’re out, sit on the floor with them and play a game. Keep going and you’ll soon start to see positive changes.

Parents are often reluctant to ask for help in case people think they’re ‘failing’. But there’s absolutely no shame in reaching out. Often it’s good to try something new, learn a few practical tips and techniques and put them quickly into practice by adding them to your parenting toolkit. We all need one!

Sarah Fisher is a coach, author of two books and founder of Sussex-based Connective Family, an organisation supporting parents, carers and their families.


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.

autism laid out

Supporting children with Autism in school

By Education, Legal, Relationships, special educational needs
by Chloe Chapman
SEND Consultancy Services

An estimated 700,000 adults and children have a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in the UK – approximately 1% of the population. However, there may be many more who do not have an official diagnosis but have the same profile of needs. If your child has Autism or suspected Autism, school can be an overwhelming and challenging experience.

The NHS website details the common signs of Autism in young and older children. There are also useful descriptors of how Autism can present differently in girls and boys; with girls generally being better at ‘masking’ typical Autistic behaviours, making it harder to spot (and diagnose) in girls.

How do I obtain a diagnosis of Autism?
If you suspect that your child may have Autism you will need to make a referral through your GP or child’s school, which is then referred to a Paediatrician. A Paediatrician will meet your child in a clinic setting and discuss their developmental milestones, and observe how your child plays and interacts. It is important to share any reports written by other medical professionals, and your child’s educational setting. Following this you will receive a written report outlining whether your child meets the criteria for a diagnosis of Autism. It is important to note that waiting lists to see a Paediatrician are often a minimum of 20 weeks long, and in reality significantly longer. It is possible to pay privately for a Health Professional to provide an assessment of Autism; this can typically cost a minimum of £1,500 and sometimes significantly more.

What school support is available for children with ASD?
If your child is struggling with the demands of the classroom or the social aspects of the playground it is important to ask for a meeting with the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCo) in the first instance. You will need to check if your child is on the school’s SEN Support Register as this will allow the school to draw up to £6,000 funding to support your child (it is useful to note this is roughly 12 hours of support across the school week). You have the right to ask how this funding is being spent to support your child. Typical support for children with ASD might include a social skills group, structured social groups such as LEGO® therapy, sensory circuits and structured learning activities to support attention span in adult led tasks. Educational settings are able to seek advice from, and make referrals to, outside professionals such as an Educational Psychologist, Specialist Autism Advisory Teacher, Speech and Language Therapist or Occupational Therapist. These professionals will be able to provide individually tailored advice to the school in how best to support your child.

Autistic children can sometimes present with difficult or challenging behaviour in the classroom. This can be a response to the overwhelming sensory nature of the classroom, the number of social interactions that are required or because delayed social communication skills make it difficult to verbally communicate effectively. If your Autistic child is displaying dysregulated behaviours it is important to work with the school to identify possible triggers and support strategies. Difficult behaviours can be considered a means of communication (especially in non-verbal children) so it is important to work out what message your child is trying to get across. Providing alternative means of communication through; Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), Signing, Objects of Reference or other means) can help to support your child to communicate and reduce frustrated behaviours.

Do I need a diagnosis to apply for an Education, Health and Care (EHC) Needs Assessment?
If your child has ASD traits and is struggling to manage in the school environment it is important to note that you do not need a diagnosis in order to apply for an EHC Needs Assessment. An EHC Needs Assessment is a statutory process through the Local Authority to assess the type and amount of support a child needs in an educational setting (Information about how to apply for an EHC Needs Assessment is on the Local Offer for your area). The types of difficulties your child faces and the way they communicate and behave does not change upon diagnosis; however having a recognised diagnosis can help others understand more about why your child may find certain things challenging. If you are worried about how your child is managing in a mainstream school and would like the Local Authority to consider a special school place you may need a diagnosis of Autism in order to be considered for a space in certain schools.

What if things are not going well for my child in school?
If things are not going well for your child in school (whether or not they have an ASD diagnosis) and they are on an SEN Support Plan you could consider (in conversation with the school) whether to apply for an EHC Needs Assessment. If your child already has an EHC Plan in place you should contact the school and Local Authority to arrange an early Annual Review to consider if the provision in place is working or not.

You can also contact local support groups or SENDIASS (as outlined in the Local Offer) both of which can offer impartial advice. You could also consider contacting an independent SEN Consultant who would be able to discuss the individual concerns regarding your child and advise next steps accordingly.

If you would like more information and advice about supporting a child with Autism then please get in touch.


free running in nature

Nurtured by nature

By Education, environment, Forest School, Green
by Caroline Fairs
A Little Dose of Nature

Growing up in the ‘90s and early 2000s, I have many happy memories of spending long afternoons playing outside with the other young children on my street. Day after day after day of the long summer holidays was spent playing endless games of hide-and-seek, going on ‘wild’ adventures through the overgrown scrub and meandering alleyways at the back of our houses, foraging for leaves, twigs and tiny creatures with which we could concoct potions or make mini imaginary worlds. Hours would melt away. Time itself ceased to exist until we were brought back to sharp reality by the nag from our mums to “please come in, tea’s on the table” to which we would plead “just five more minutes”, so desperate we were to stay in our nature-filled, make-believe world. Days like these were pure magic.

I’ll always be grateful that I grew up just before the advent of smartphones and social media. Life seemed simpler back then. In just a couple of decades, our lives and especially those of our children have drastically changed – everything seems busier, more stressful and with more pressure than ever to be doing, achieving, progressing – whatever happened to slowing down, finding joy in simplicity and noticing things? Despite the fact we have more ways of distracting and entertaining ourselves than ever before, our children seem unhappier than ever. The results of the most recent surveys show that 1 in 7 five to ten year olds suffer with a mental health problem, an increase from 1 in 10 in 2017.

There seems to be an epidemic of poor mental health affecting our children and while there are many factors that are contributing to this, our increasingly sedentary, indoor lifestyles are clearly playing a role, with some going as far as saying that we are raising a generation of children suffering from ‘nature-deficit disorder’.

The American biologist, Edward Wilson set out his popular biophilia theory in 1984 in which he argued that as humans we are intrinsically drawn towards our natural surroundings with a desire to interact with other life forms. In other words, we are meant to be outside in nature – that’s where we thrive. As a mum of a young daughter, I’ve witnessed the seemingly magnetic pull of nature first-hand – she loves nothing more than playing outside, bounding from one muddy puddle to the next on our walks, giggling as she rolls down hills and collecting nature’s ‘artefacts’ with a look of such curiosity on her face, it makes my heart soar. This is where she’s happiest. And these are all simple things – no complicated toys or gadgets, just things that you can find right outside your door for free: nature’s gifts. Granted, my daughter is young enough still to be persuaded to turn off the TV but even older children, forever on their smartphones, still have it within them to find joy in nature – that innate pull to the natural world is still there, we just need to set it free.

So why is nature so good for our children? We can already see for ourselves that being outside in nature has an overwhelmingly positive effect but in her book, ‘A Little Dose of Nature’, psychologist Dr Alison Greenwood explains the benefits of nature’s five active ingredients: fractals (naturally occurring, repeating patterns), nature sounds, phytoncides (natural chemicals released by trees and plants), soil bacteria and sunlight. These intrinsic parts of nature not only help children feel happier and calmer, they can also improve focus, attention and sleep and boost their immune systems and even brain power! Engaging with the natural world can also improve confidence and inspire creativity and imagination as they explore new environments and find new ways of interacting with the world around them. Many studies have also shown that spending time outside can also help reduce ADHD symptoms. This is because being in natural green spaces engages children in such a way that requires little mental effort – many natural environments are highly fascinating to children and whet their inherent curiosity without them needing to think too hard. It is this fascination which has a restorative and calming effect.

There are many activities which you and your children can enjoy together in nature. Get them to use all five of their senses on a walk – can they spot any fractal patterns – clouds or leaf veins? Can they hear any nature sounds such as birds singing? Are their any flowers or plants they can smell? What can they touch – the rough bark on a tree or soft grass? Taste is a little trickier but maybe if you’re lucky you might come across some blackberries or even some wild garlic!

How about planning a forage or scavenger hunt and getting your child to make a collage or pretty mandala (a circular figure representing the universe in Hindu and Buddhist symbolism) using the natural objects they find? But you don’t even need to do this, simply encouraging your children to look more closely at the world around them is a great start. Children have an incredible ability to find joy in the small, simple things – they can often be found in awe of something like a tiny insect going about its business or by an unusual pattern on a leaf. Encouraging more of these “wow” moments as Dr Greenwood refers to them, will not only help your children to be happier and calmer, it might just help you too!

‘A Little Dose of Nature’ written by Dr Greenwood and published by Ivy Kids, is available now from all good book shops priced at £9.99

kids playing and learning

The ‘Power of Play’

By Education, fun for children, Mental health, play, Playing

Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity (GOSH Charity) has launched a new, digital learning and entertainment hub to showcase the ‘Power of Play’ and how it helps children cope with life’s challenges, big or small.

The hub is packed full of free inspiring ideas, spectacular stories and fun activities to bring the incredible power of play to children of all ages and families.

New stories on the Power of Play hub show play helping household names like Beano’s Dennis and Gnasher overcome difficult situations. Play features in re-imagined classics including the first new Peter Pan story from GOSH Charity in 15 years. Alice, with Tweedledee and Tweedledum star in a brand-new poem, narrated by Matt Lucas, and the campaign to inspire the nation’s families to explore play is supported with a TV advert voiced by Olivia Colman. A brand-new Horrid Henry animation, and an audio book from CBeebies’ JoJo & Gran Gran.

The free animations, audio-books and activities will help parents and children deal with themes including loss, loneliness, sadness, illness and isolation, which many children have experienced during the pandemic. Life’s everyday challenges like making new friends or moving to a new environment such as a new school are also addressed through the lens of play.

GOSH’s dedicated hospital Play team, the largest in Europe, use their skills every day to support seriously ill children from across the UK to understand and cope with their treatment and recovery. This expertise has shaped each story, activity and idea on the Power of Play hub.

Research released earlier in the year by GOSH Charity revealed 66% of parents polled said they were concerned that the Covid pandemic’s impact on how children play will have long-term impacts on their child’s wellbeing. 74% of parents said that play has “helped their child cope” as the world around them has changed beyond recognition – the new Power of Play hub shows how play can be a brilliant outlet for children to express themselves and their emotions.

Laura Walsh, Head of Play at Great Ormond Street Hospital says: “Play is a superpower at the fingertips of all children, and it’s especially important at times of change or worry, when building our children’s resilience can help them to cope with life’s challenges. While the last 18 months have seen children adapt to circumstances none of us could have imagined, this September they’ll also have the ordinary childhood experiences likes starting school and making new friends. Using our years of experience as play specialists at GOSH, we have teamed up with GOSH Charity and some much-loved children’s characters to create our Power of Play hub and bring to life the transformative power of play. We’re really proud to offer parents free, trustworthy, practical tips and resources to help their children embrace play to overcome their worries and discover all that life has to offer them.”

A great learning and entertainment platform packed full of original stories, ideas and advice. Explore


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

outdoor learning

Empowering our children to become change makers of the future

By Education, environment, fun for children, Mental health, Relationships
by Marcus Culverwell
Headmaster of Reigate St Mary’s School

The world is changing at a phenomenal rate and the education sector needs to respond effectively to this to make sure children are being properly prepared for their future. We need to equip young people with the right skills and knowledge to help them navigate a life where sustainability and protection of the planet are fundamental to the wellbeing of society as a whole. Schools must ask themselves – what will our children be doing in five years’ time? In 10 years’ time? Midway through their career – or, more likely, careers? How will they be changing the world for the better?

So, what can we do now to prepare them for the significant challenges ahead? It is important that children are encouraged to think ‘beyond the bubble’ of traditional schooling and we can help them do this by providing an education that includes:
• Giving back to society and the planet, more than they take – we live on a finite planet and we share our planet too.
• Taking sustainability seriously – practical application now and as future leaders in society.
• Recognising the personal value and economic importance of the natural environment – how eco-systems really work.
• Understanding how STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) can be applied, creatively, to tackle real world problems.
• Philosophy for children – to dig deep into why humanity has got into the ecological predicament we are in, and how we change the story.

At our school we have an Education for Social Responsibility programme (ESR) that encompasses all of the above and helps children to think about the core values that will lead to happy and fulfilled lives, within stable and caring communities while protecting the planet for the future. At the heart of it is a focus on the wellbeing of each of them individually, the wellbeing of teams they will work within and the wellbeing of the planet.

A community outreach programme provides children with opportunities to be part of helping and sharing with the wider community, whether locally or globally. We have a designated member of staff who oversees this and pupils run teatime concerts for the elderly, take part in a Make a Difference challenge in Year 5 and there is a whole-school sponsored walk to raise money to build water tanks in Southern Uganda as well as a dedicated charity day.

It is important that sustainability is taken seriously with issues such as climate change and caring for the planet being woven into all areas of learning. Becoming an Eco school is a good start to this and having dedicated pupil Green Leaders to discuss and implement ways to reduce the school’s carbon footprint is an excellent way to stimulate debate. We also use water butts for left over drinking water, we are careful about use of paper, recycle old pens, encourage walking to school and discourage motorists from leaving car engines idling. Children even build and code model systems such as solar panels which track the sun across the sky.

There is huge personal wellbeing value within the natural environment. To harness this, children should have the chance to take their learning outside as often as possible. Concepts can be taught in relevant and practical ways and often children can solve problems and grasp concepts outside that they have had difficulty with when in the classroom. Connecting with nature is important for wellbeing. Any outside space can be used as a nature reserve for the children to learn Forest School skills, build bug hotels, and generally feel the benefit of being closer to the natural world.

Philosophy for Children (P4C) offers a way to open up learning through enquiry and the exploration of ideas. Children learn that their ideas have value, and that the ideas of other children have value too. They realise that they don’t always have to be right, but they gain the confidence to ask questions and learn through discussion. Each lesson promotes dialogue whereby participants ask questions, sift statements and explore alternatives. Above all, children will generate a greater understanding of each other and appreciate that not everyone believes the same thing, or thinks in the same way – and that is alright. Philosophy calls on imagination and reasoning and puts these capacities to work exploring values, assumptions and vital concepts like justice, truth, and knowledge.

Ultimately, all educators need to support young people to be good citizens, with the confidence to make the right decisions and the skills needed to lead happy and successful lives – lives which are significant in a positive way. We want them to be ideas generators, good listeners, open-minded, considerate colleagues, positive influences, go-getters, self-starters, good neighbours, game changers and change makers of the future.

Reigate St Mary’s is a junior school of Reigate Grammar School (RGS), rated ‘excellent in all areas’ in an ISI Inspection in March 2023. Children enjoy busy days filled with imaginative teaching and exciting adventures focusing on teamwork, creativity, digital learning and communication.

girls only sdchool

The importance of a girls’ only education

By Education, girls school, Relationships
by Matthew Parry
Deputy Head – Curriculum, St Catherine’s Prep School, Bramley

As a father of two girls of primary school age, I have a vested interest in the educational options available to them. That being said, I think I’m safe in saying that I am not your stereotypical advocate of girls’ only education. As the son of a coal miner and having been educated in co-ed state schools in south Wales, girls’ only education was something that didn’t enter my consciousness until I moved to Surrey in 2013. Whilst I was aware that many of the highest achieving schools in the area were single-sex, I didn’t really stop and think about the benefits of a girls’ only environment until I came to work in a girls’ only school myself.

The first thing that struck me when I began teaching a class made up entirely of girls was that roles within the classroom that were almost always filled by boys in a co-ed classroom, (the joker, the loud child, the sporty child, and so on) were now occupied by girls. I know I never actively encouraged boys to occupy these roles in any of the classrooms that I taught, however, whether it be a result of unconscious bias or societal expectations, that was the classroom dynamic I was usually faced with. In a girls’ only environment, the girls were free of these expectations and could choose to occupy any role they wished without fear of judgement by others. This also extended to the academic subjects that they enjoyed and knowledge they pursued. Science, mathematics and PE were no longer ‘boys’ subjects’, they were just subjects that some of the class really, really enjoyed. At our school, 56% of girls took A Level maths in 2022, the most popular A Level subject option compared to 8.1% nationally.

The activities on the playground weren’t too dissimilar from those observed during my time teaching in co-ed schools, it was just that there were a dozen girls merrily kicking a football across the field together rather than a group made up primarily of boys.

It’s worth noting that the above observations are purely from my experiences and every school and child is different. But, and I think it’s an important but, when it became time for me to decide on my own daughters’ futures, I needed more than just my gut feeling to decide whether or not single-sex education was the right choice for them. Despite all the benefits I’d seen first-hand, I wanted it in black and white that girls’ only education was likely to be a good choice for them. It didn’t take long for me to discover a raft of literature that almost universally showed that girls in girls’ only education outperformed their peers in co-ed environments when all other factors (socioeconomic, geographical location and so on) were taken into account. (1)

Not only that, they were also far more likely to pursue careers in areas that have been traditionally dominated by men. One study found that girls at single-sex schools were 85% more likely to take advanced mathematics than girls in co-ed schools, 79% more likely to study chemistry, 68% more likely to take intermediate mathematics, and 47% more likely to study physics (2). I have no particular dreams of my daughters pursuing studies in these areas, but I do feel strongly that they shouldn’t be impeded in any pursuit that they choose for themselves. The benefits of single-sex education for boys is a lot less clear and that may be a factor in why a large number of boys-only schools have chosen to become co-ed in recent years.

But what about the ‘real world’ where girls and boys have to coexist? Are girls at girls’ only schools at a disadvantage? I would argue that they’re not. Whilst they may not mix with boys on a daily basis, single-sex schools offer opportunities for girls and boys to learn together when and where appropriate – this may be in mixed teams at maths, science or chess competitions. Furthermore, they have more opportunities to take on leadership roles than their peers in co-ed settings.

I truly believe that girls’ only education proves beneficial to the vast majority of the girls that come through our school gates. However, every child is unique and as a parent it is important to consider the needs of your child. I asked both my daughters whether they wanted to attend a girls’ only school before enrolling them. My eldest had attended our local co-ed infant school whilst my youngest was in a co-ed nursery. Both were extremely eager to join a girls’ only school and are having a wonderful time. I believe that the absence of boys gives my girls space to develop a strong sense of themselves and their values without the pressure of gender stereotypes. Girls schools were established to try and offer girls the educational opportunities that had long been afforded to boys and I believe that they still have an important role to play in further enhancing opportunities for women today.


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