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Youngsters could be missing out on a stash of cash

By family, Finance

Tens of thousands of teenagers in the UK who have not yet claimed their matured Child Trust Funds savings could have thousands of pounds waiting for them, reminds HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

Child Trust Funds are long-term savings accounts set up for every child born between 1 September 2002 and 2 January 2011. To encourage future saving and start the account, the government provided an initial deposit of at least £250.

The savings accounts mature when the child turns 18 years old. Eligible teenagers, who are aged 18 or over and have yet to access their Child Trust Fund account, could have savings waiting for them worth an average of £2,100.

If teenagers or their parents and guardians already know who their Child Trust Fund provider is, they can contact them directly. This might be a bank, building society or other savings provider.

Alternatively, they can visit GOV.UK and complete an online form to find out where their Child Trust Fund is held.

Many eligible teenagers who have yet to claim their savings might be starting university, apprenticeships or their first job. The lump-sum amount could offer a financial boost at a time when they need it most.

Angela MacDonald, HMRC’s Second Permanent Secretary and Deputy Chief Executive, said: “Teenagers could have a pot of money waiting for them worth thousands of pounds and not even realise it. We want to help you access your savings and the money you’re entitled to. To find out more search ‘Child Trust Fund’ on GOV.UK.”

An estimated 6.3 million Child Trust Fund accounts were set up throughout the duration of the scheme, containing about £9 billion. If a parent or guardian was not able to set up an account for their child, HMRC automatically opened a savings account on the child’s behalf.

Teenagers aged 16 or over can take control of their own Child Trust Fund if they wish, although the funds can only be withdrawn once they turn 18 years old.

Where children have a Child Trust Fund, families can still pay in up to £9,000 a year tax-free. The account matures once the child turns 18 and no further money can be deposited. They can either withdraw the funds from the matured Child Trust Fund account or reinvest it into another savings account.

Until a withdrawal or transfer the money stays in an account that no-one else has access to.

The Child Trust Fund scheme closed in January 2011 and was replaced with Junior Individual Savings Accounts (ISA).

To find out more visit

happy schoolgirls

How to get your child to tell you about their day

By family, Mental health, Relationships
by Pre-Prep & Prep School Teachers at Burgess Hill Girls

How was your day darling? Did anything good happen? Who did you play with? What lessons did you have? What did you learn? If you are a parent of a school age child, it is likely you have fired these questions at your child immediately after they get out of school. It is also more than likely that the response was simply; “good,” “yep” or “OK”, or just complete silence as your questions are ignored in favour of the TV, tablet, toys, or a combination of all three!

So, what is the secret? How can you get them to tell you more about their day? Here are some of the strategies we suggest you try.

Give them time
If you think about how you feel after a day of work, you probably want nothing more than to get home and zone out for half an hour or so. Children are the same. You can talk about something else other than their school day or just let them initiate the conversation if they want to. Otherwise give them some space and time to reset and unwind.

Model talking about your day
After some down time, when you think there is a good opportunity for conversation you can initiate discussions by modelling what happened in your day and how you feel about it. They may choose to follow your example and share something about their day. But try not to push it. They may decide to share tomorrow instead.

Vary the focus and frequency
You might be concerned about a particular aspect of your child’s interaction at school. For example, what they are learning or whether they are playing regularly with others. Often this concern will reflect in the questions you ask. To avoid your child clamming up ensure your questions are varied, especially if it is an area that they might not be comfortable talking about. Try to have days when you do not ask any questions at all. Maybe they will choose to volunteer information on their own. If they do, try to keep the conversation going with open versus closed questions.

Give them confidence
You leave the most precious thing you have at the school gate, and it requires you to openly trust those who care for your child. If you over focus on elements of the day or over question, the child might pick up on your apprehension which in turn might lead them to worry that something is wrong at school.

Try the positive sandwich method
The sandwich feedback method offers positive feedback before and after negative feedback. When engaging your child in conversation about their day, ask them to share something positive. Then ask them if anything worried them about their day. Ask them who they shared their worry with. If they did not share at school, model how they might share with their teacher in the morning and reassure them you have every confidence in their teacher to help them resolve their worry. Finally, finish off with another positive. This approach will help your child to feel confident that school is a safe place and that you trust the adults who work in it.

While we are talking about food, you might want to try making them their favourite snack or drink and sit down to enjoy it with them. As they happily munch or slurp, they might feel more in the mood to chat and share.

Focus on them
Remind your child you are interested in what they did at school not what others may have done or not done. This will avoid them becoming hypervigilant of others and help them to recognise their own gifts and talents.

Make links to their timetable
It is possible you know that they have a particular subject or activity on a specific day so you can make the discussion more focused and relevant by linking to that topic and open the conversation from there.

Be tactical with bedtime
In our experience, bedtime is often the time when children want to talk. They are clever little things, anything to delay bedtime! But you can exploit this opportunity by making bedtime a little earlier, so you allow time to chat if the situation arises. If it is an area of worry for them, they are also likely to sleep better once they have got it off their chest so try not to worry if they go a little bit over! But do not forget the positive sandwich method.

Not sharing can be a good thing!
Children will take the lead from your questions and will respond accordingly. If your questions are probing and you focus on the negative, your child might learn this is your area of interest and so will give you more of the same. Some parts of a day may not always go as your child would wish them to, but it is exceedingly rare for a child to have a totally miserable time. Try to bear in mind that happy children often do not share much about their day and that is OK.

To find out more about Burgess Hill Girls, visit
forest school education

Childhood development and the benefits of Forest Schools

By Education, environment, family, Family Farms, Forest School, fun for children, Gardening, Green

Forest Schools are an exciting opportunity for children to learn with their hands. The sessions, which are non-academic and led by a qualified instructor, encourage outdoor education in a controlled setting. This can come in a range of forms, from group treasure hunts to woodland building exercises.

These schools encourage children to ditch the computer screen and spend more time outdoors – and considering children aged five to seven years old spend an average of four hours behind a screen every day, the need for outdoor education has never been clearer.

In fact, Forest Schools are actually becoming an increasingly popular choice for parents across the UK. According to a survey of 200 establishments by the Forest School Association (FSA), two-thirds have seen a rise in requests for places since March 2020.

Here, we will explore four skills that children develop when attending Forest Schools. If you’re a parent searching for ways to stimulate your child’s development, these schools may be the solution for you and your family.

Social and communication skills
Forest Schools are a great way for children to socialise with their peers. Whether they’re jumping in muddy puddles or foraging for wild berries, children are able to work within a team and complete their tasks. In fact, research from Plymouth University found that 93% of Forest Schools believed children developed their social skills whilst enrolled.

Moreover, Forest Schools are an opportunity to meet new children. The average number of pupils in Reception and KS1 classrooms is 26.6, according to GOV UK. Forest Schools introduce a new selection of children who may be from different backgrounds or be of different ages. This better prepares children for meeting more diverse groups of people in later life.

Confidence and independence
If your child exhibits any signs of social anxiety, it may be harder for them to take part. However, participating in Forest Schools can actually boost confidence. This is a slow process that will progress over time, and it is different for each child.

A sense of independence is particularly important for children. As well as building the social skills to work well within a team, Forest Schools offer children the chance to complete tasks by themselves. This includes a range of activities, such as charting the species of plants or flowers they find in a specific outdoor area.

Motor and cognitive abilities
More often than not, traditional schools focus on academic education. There are physical education (or PE) lessons, but these do not make up the bulk of the day. Instead, children practise their literacy and numeracy skills within the confines of a classroom.

In comparison, Forest Schools allow children to stay active. Not only is this regular exercise important for bone and muscle strength, but it is also instrumental in developing childhood motor skills. It doesn’t matter if the sun is shining or rain clouds are looming, children are able to boot up in wellies and let the outdoor learning commence.

Physical activity could also improve cognitive function in children. These include the ability to recall information and flexible thinking. This is beneficial for many areas of life, including excelling in traditional schools.

A sustainable mindset
Sustainability is at the forefront of society. As the nation strives to achieve net-zero, teaching children about the environment has never been more important. After all, they are the future minds of tomorrow, and we should continue to educate them as best as we can.

Forest Schools may be the answer. During these lessons, children develop a sustainable mindset. This is a lot more likely than a child who spends most of their time inside, whether this is at home or in a classroom.

These are four skills children can attain after attending Forest Schools. In addition to the many benefits, this is a time for children to have fun. If they learn something along the way – from the importance of ecology, to the ability to work well in a team – that is a welcomed bonus. When will you enrol your child in Forest Schools?

Article supplied by

Sources: – – – –


birth advice

Do I need an antenatal class?

By Education, family, Health, prenancy, Relationships

by Jackie Whitford

“I’m pregnant with my first baby and all is going well. My sister has just had a baby and has told me all about it and given me the books she found useful. I think I have all the information and support I need.” I’ve heard this sort of viewpoint expressed ever since I started holding antenatal classes (over 40 years ago) but now followed by… “And of course I can get any other information from the internet!” So why indeed would you need an antenatal class?

Firstly, you will meet a group of women and their partners who are at the same stage in their lives and chances are you will meet your new friendship and support group. My own antenatal class pals are still great friends, meeting up regularly some four decades later!

Early parenthood is a time of big changes and transitions (like starting school or leaving home) and it is great to meet others on the same journey sharing all its excitement and uncertainty. My antenatal classes usually form their own WhatsApp groups – it’s good to chat to someone else who is in exactly the same boat when you are doing a feed at three o’clock in the morning!

Secondly, regardless of what worked (or didn’t) for your sister/friend/mum, labour and birth are as individual as you are. What was OK for them, may well not be for you. A good class will set out your choices. It should give you knowledge, skills and confidence as to where you have your baby and the options available to you. Through looking at the latest research and discussing with others, you can choose what feels right for you – whether it’s an elective caesarean or a hypnobirth.

A good antenatal class should also prepare you for Plan B – what if your labour doesn’t go as you had hoped? In a recent class, one of the women had planned and booked in for an elective caesarean. She was attending classes to make local friends and wasn’t really engaged with discussions about physiological labour. However, her baby decided to make an early and rapid entry into the world. She said, “Although I was shocked, it’s not what I had planned, I knew what to do. Somewhere I could hear you saying breathe out, relax, you can do this.” Labour and birth can be unpredictable and you need to be knowledgeable and confident to cope with all possible variations.

Which class?
I would recommend choosing a class that runs once a week over five or more weeks ideally to start from week 30 or 32 of your pregnancy. This gives you a chance to really get to know others in your group and a chance to practice the many comfort techniques introduced plus plenty of time for questions. Ideally your class will be run by someone with a breadth of experience both personally and professionally and be committed to supporting you in the birth experience that you want.

“I think attending a good antenatal class will prove to be one of your best decisions, with the benefits of ongoing support and friendship.”

Jackie Whitford runs Birth Wise classes in Lewes and Henfield. For further details please visit

boy on a bike

Cycling is ‘jogging’ for your child’s brain!

By children's health, Christmas, Education, family, fun for children, Toys

by Russell James
Glide Balance Bike Classes

Sometimes it’s the simple things in life that are the most rewarding. Learning to ride a bike without stabilisers is one of them. Once your child has a bike, cycling is a fun and free activity that they can enjoy with friends and family for life.

It’s easier to learn to cycle when you’re young and it’s a life skill that your child will have forever.

Encouraging your child to ride a bike while they’re young helps to establish healthy exercise habits that are likely to stay with them for life.

Bike riding is a skill that comes with a whole range of benefits. While most of us know that regular cycling contributes to better physical health, there are plenty of other reasons why learning to ride a bike is more important than ever. Here are just a handful of them.

Bike riding is a great way to get your children excited about outdoor exercise from an early age.

Getting outdoors is wonderful for children. They get natural sunlight, which gives them vitamin D, and they get a lot of fresh air, which allows them to get a good sleep at night. The better sleep they get, the healthier they are and the more their body will be able to grow.

Physical activities like cycling have a positive effect on your children’s brain. There’s a very simple reason for this: during physical activity, your child’s whole body, including the brain, is supplied with more oxygen-rich blood and nutrients. This enhances your child’s ability to concentrate and think creatively.

Cycling plays an important role in the overall growth of your child. Riding a bike not only improves physical fitness, it also benefits your child’s learning development and mental health, allowing them to grow mentally and emotionally, gaining strength in their decision making ability. Research shows that students who ride a bike to school are more focused and ready to learn, compared with those who are driven to school by car.

Taking part in regirl unsteady on bikegular physical activity also has links to increased happiness, as well as giving children more opportunities to make friends and social connections.

Cycling is an activity that all ages can enjoy. Mums, dads, children and even grandparents can take part in a family bike ride. It’s a great way to share some quality time, and it’s good for you too. Remember, the key to family bike rides is to have fun. So start slowly and take plenty of breaks to give little riders time to rest.

Teaching your child to ride a bike has long-term benefits for the environment. Using active transport like cycling instead of driving reduces carbon emissions, eases traffic congestion and eliminates parking problems. Less pollution and less traffic means our communities will become greener, healthier and less stressful places to live.

Bikes could be described as the perfect vehicle for transport. Once your child gets older, riding a bike becomes a quick and healthy way for them to get to and from school, sporting and play activities. Even better, it saves you time because your child won’t have to rely on you for lifts – now that’s a benefit every parent can relate to!

Jump on a bike and cycle with your children and you could see the kind of health benefits gym members dream of. Cycling raises your metabolic rate, helping you to keep the weight off. Regular cyclists are as fit as an average person 10 years younger. Cycling firms the thighs and bottom, and can even help tone the tummy muscles.

According to a recent survey a third of primary school children have not learnt to ride a bike. Glide wants to change this. Glide, teaches children from two to four years old to ride their balance bikes confidently in a group environment on a weekly basis during term-time. Glide then teaches primary school children to ride their bikes without stabilisers in two hour sessions during term-time (five children max) and three hour sessions (10 children max) during the school holidays. Lets make Britain stabiliser free!

happy parenting

Parenting hacks no one tells you

By Childcare and Nannying, family, fun for children, Mental health, Relationships

by Richard Templar
author of ‘The Rules of…’ series.

Being a parent is always going to be tricky at times, and while there’s no magic wand to make it run smoothly all the time, there are strategies that will help make it easier and more enjoyable. I’m not talking about tips and hints for potty training or getting them to sleep, useful as some of those can be. I’m talking about mindsets that will help frame your attitude to the whole parenting thing, in ways that make your life – and the kids’ lives – easier.

Do not be afraid of a bit of boredom
There can be pressure nowadays to run your kids around to countless after-school and weekend activities – football, swimming, drama, martial arts, dance, music classes and sessions. It keeps them busy, and boy does it keep you busy. However, the best thing for kids to do with their free time is nothing at all. That’s because it frees up their imagination and encourages real creativity. It’s actually better for the kids to run around together with sticks making up games, or look under stones in the park for insects, than to be organised by someone else. Being bored is the best stimulus the imagination can have, and most kids – especially if you can get them together with siblings or other kids – won’t stay bored for long. Our kids are going to grow up into a world where creativity and imagination are hugely valued, yet they risk having had less chance to cultivate it than previous generations. So give them a head start by incorporating loads of empty time into their week. That’s not to say all extra-curricular activities are a bad thing – they can be great – but while your kids are young a couple of sessions a week is plenty, and it’s healthier for them to fill the rest of their time themselves, while you settle down with a cuppa.

Sibling squabbling is healthy
I mentioned siblings back there, and if you have more than one child you’ll probably have experienced your share of sibling squabbles. So know this: squabbling is really healthy. It’s better than not squabbling. Yes I know it doesn’t always feel that way, and sometimes less is more, but next time you hear the kids bickering or fighting, smile and tell yourself it’s a good thing. Why? Because until you squabble, you can’t learn how to resolve an argument. Your kids are learning how far they can push someone, what helps get the other person on their side, how to control their anger, what works and what doesn’t – and all with someone who can’t just walk off and say “I’m not your friend any more.” Most of the world’s best diplomats grew up with siblings. So appreciate the squabbles despite everything and, above all, don’t impose solutions on them – make them find their own. You know the sort of thing: “I’m taking it away until you both/all come and tell me how you’re going to play with it without arguing.”

Lead by example
A good friend once asked me, “How do I get my kids to understand do what I say, not what I do?” The answer is very simple: you can’t. You have to set the example and if you can’t do it, why would you expect a child to be able to? Especially when the person they most love and respect isn’t doing it. So, if your child forgets their pleases and thank yous, or is always interrupting, or shouts at you a lot, it’s worth checking your own behaviour. I’m not saying it’s always down to you – lots of kids go through these phases without any help – but if your record isn’t a hundred percent, you’ll improve their behaviour much faster if you can change your own. And it’s surprising how many parents give their kids instructions without a please, or forget to say thank you to them. It’s understandable in the hustle and bustle of parenting, but you’re making your own job harder than it needs to be.

Healthy parenting – not perfect parentingrules of everything
And finally, always remember that you shouldn’t even try to be perfect. Can you imagine what a burden it would put on kids to have perfect parents? Parents who were always right, who gave you nothing to kick against? Who couldn’t model how to apologise for mistakes because they never made them – or how to make up after an argument because they never argued? A perfect parent gives their child no clue how to be human, how to be flawed and imperfect but accept themselves as they are. If you can be a bit forgetful, or short-tempered, or neurotic, brilliant! That’s just what your kids need to see – that normal healthy adults can function perfectly well, and have great relationships, without having to be entirely prefect in every way. So next time you think you’ve messed up, don’t berate yourself. Just think, “Phew! I’ve dodged being perfect!”

Richard Templar is the author of the global best-selling ‘The Rules of…’ series. The Rules of Everything is published by Pearson, priced at £12.99, and is available from Amazon and all good book stores.

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

Lion king actor

More than just a story… The importance of drama

By Christmas, dance & Art, Education, family, Music and singing, Theatre

by Jess Wittert
Prep School Head of Drama, St Catherine’s Prep School

Each summer term, many primary and prep schools end their Year 6 KS2 journey with a public performance of a musical, play or even a pantomime. This is not because teachers have run out of curriculum content at the end of Year 6, or that we want all students to go on to be actors! So, why has this become a convention? In short, ‘putting on’ a play can be an incredibly rich learning experience for young people, whilst it is also an opportunity to stretch and challenge students in a range of capacities.

Stories have an important place in helping children and adults alike to understand the world we live in. Through stories we are invited to explore different cultures, characters, relationships and emotions. We can travel to new places and realms. They aid us in evolving an enhanced appreciation of ourselves and the roles we can adopt amongst our peers. Every year, I choose the story that my students will discover through our production with great care. Often, coming-of-age tales seem incredibly relevant; stories where characters go on rich adventures, face complex challenges and have no choice but to learn and grow from their mistakes. Tales where characters must work together to achieve a common goal, or where children’s voices hold important messages that are heard by the adults around them are also subjects that young people connect with and are inspired by.

If every opportunity is seized, there is wonderful scope for creating a powerful cross-curricular approach to developing a show. By learning about the literature, history, art, music, and dance that surrounds a story, we cultivate an appreciation for traditions, beliefs, design and stagecraft. As part of the preparations for our school’s recent production of The Lion King this term, the girls studied the patterns, designs and colours used in African prints before creating their own designs for fabrics, masks and marketing materials. They studied each character in the script and crafted symbols and emblems to represent them; meticulously forming links between characters who were related or belonged to the same group. Later, these were hand printed onto fabrics using block printing techniques so that they could finally be made into the cast’s costumes. Through workshops with external educators, they learnt about the importance and significance of symbolism in Adinkra printing; the rhythms and collective energy used in African drumming; and the storytelling techniques, as well as traditional movements, that can be generated through dance. We focused on the importance of recycling materials and made masks and props out of plastic milk bottles. This process was amazing – our girls were captivated by the transformation achieved with these simple objects. In addition to this, by singing songs in African dialects, we enhanced our understanding and appreciation of sounds and languages. The opportunities for extending the students’ learning through stimulating and interlinked topics are boundless.

One of the most significant aspects of all the productions that I have been privileged enough to be involved with has been the way in which the whole school community comes together to contribute towards the show. All who take part bring their own zeal, interests and attributes; we encourage everyone to become involved in an aspect of the show which they are passionate about or challenged by. Not all students, for example, want to take part as performers so they choose to acquire talents as stage managers, puppeteers, or technical assistants. Watching everyone discover what they can achieve as part of these ventures is brilliant.

It is always my hope to inspire confidence in all my students so that they leave the prep school feeling that they can achieve anything that they set their minds to. By working together as a large team with their peers, teachers, parents and helpers, they appreciate that a broad breadth of skills should be brought to any project. That being part of a community, creating links in one’s learning and sharing rich experiences is not only life enhancing but also empowering.

Before our most recent production, an 11 year old student came to my desk. “Thank you,” she said, “I really didn’t want to do it but now, it’s my destiny.” She was referring, rather effusively, to our recent Year 6 theatre production and her calling to be part of future theatrical casts. Why was she so gushing, you may ask? One could make many assumptions as to where her enthusiasm stemmed from, but simply, the experience of being part of an ensemble cast, rehearsing, crafting and performing our musical had given her a deeper sense of self-confidence, a keen interest in stagecraft, a wonderful feeling of accomplishment and team spirit, whilst she had learnt a great deal. Yet, most importantly, the event had brought real joy. Understandably, she wished that she could relive this process all over again, moving from perceived dread to elation!

“I’m going to audition for everything I can,” were the last words my student said to me as she left my desk. What a wonderful metaphor for life.

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. Please visit our website for further dates and information

dicvk whittington actor

Is live theatre the key to empathy and academic achievement in children?

By Christmas, dance & Art, family, Music and singing, Party, Theatre

by Summer Jeavons
Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

During the past few years countless children have missed out on trips to the theatre – whether with their family or on school trips – due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Many things have changed during that time, but can we afford to let children and young people miss out on the experience of seeing live theatre? Dr Natasha Kirkham, a professor in Developmental Psychology at Birkbeck University doesn’t think so. She conducted a study in 2017 which that found taking children to see theatre can significantly positively affect their academic performance as well as allowing them to develop their social, emotional and cognitive skills.

In terms of the benefits of theatre on academic achievement and comprehension of set texts, seeing a play live in the theatre rather than on a screen has been found to improve children’s academic performance and engagement with set texts, as well as allowing them to achieve a deeper understanding and appreciation of the material. A two-year study conducted by the Brookings Institute found that increases in arts learning, such as engagement with theatre, significantly affect students’ school engagement, university aspirations and their likelihood of drawing on works of art as a means of empathising with others.

Exposing children and young people to theatre was also found to be a powerful tool for facilitating their self-efficacy (an individual’s belief in their capacity to act in the ways necessary to reach a specific goal) to promote positive social change, improving their ability to discuss complex and difficult subjects as well as developing their empathy.

Children’s empathy and emotional intelligence are developed through everyday interaction but they are also nurtured by music, books, and in particular, watching live theatre performances. When watching characters interact on stage, we as the audience connect with them and experience what they are thinking and feeling as if we were thinking or feeling it ourselves – we are practicing how to understand others. Having a safe space to explore difficult emotions is essential to strengthening empathetic muscles and live theatre provides the perfect platform for this. Bill English, founder of the San Francisco Playhouse, states that: “Theatre is like a gym for empathy. It’s where we go to build up the muscles of compassion, to practice listening and understanding and engaging with people that are not just like ourselves. We practice sitting down, paying attention and learning from other people’s actions. We practice caring.”

Theatre nowadays is more accessible to children and young people than ever. With shows to cater for all ages – from theatre designed for babies and toddlers, to stage adaptations of the nation’s favourite children’s books – the world of the stage is increasingly one that children and young people are welcomed into and inspired by. For older children and teenagers, theatre can start to rationalise and provide context to the complex world around them, often representing their own experiences and allowing them to feel heard and that their voices have value. At a time when they are likely to be struggling to establish their identity, theatre can be absolutely invaluable.

Taking your family to the theatre can be a fantastic way of making lasting memories and spending real quality time together. For children (and grownups!) going to see a play feels like something special, something out of the ordinary. Whether it’s the grandeur of the building itself, finding your red velvet seats or begging for a tub of ice cream in the intermission, the experience of going to the theatre is something unique before the play has even begun.

And when it comes to Christmas, there’s nothing quite as magical as taking the kids along to see a festive pantomime. Local pantos have become an institution for many families, coming along every year for adventures with all the sparkles, songs and slapstick silliness you could ask for with everyone from children to grandparents in tow! At a time when everyone is being brought together, there’s nothing quite like a panto to get the whole family humming festive tunes and full of cheer ready for the big day. With true love, a comedy dame, a grand adventure, spectacular dance routines and a heart-warming moral at the core of the story, there’s something for everyone.

Whatever age your kids are, there is always something valuable to be found from seeing theatre. Whether it’s engaging their imaginations and allowing them to dream, opening their minds to others’ perspectives or helping them to engage with and enjoy the texts they are studying at school, the experience of seeing live theatre is unequalled.

The magic of pantomime is something the whole family can enjoy and at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre it’s always wonderful to see multi-generational families in the audience. The theatre has lots of upcoming family shows, including festive panto Jack and the Beanstalk!



Have you heard about the latest trend in childcare?

By Childcare and Nannying, children's health, Education, family, Relationships, Work employment

by Adele Aitchison
GrandNanny Founder

New childcare services in the UK are offering families the chance of reliable, flexible, part-time childcare from experienced over-50s. From mental wellbeing, to being a substitute grandparent for families, the benefits of intergenerational childcare are becoming clear to parents, children AND older workers.

Parents can all identify with the strain of stretching their time to cover work, home admin, the school or nursery run, and after-school activities. Twenty four hours in a day don’t seem enough! ‘The juggle is real’ and whether your child is in nursery or school, finding the right childcare solution can be fraught with worry and frustration, especially at a time when some nurseries and after-school clubs have shut down locally.

It’s clear that families need reliability and experience. Now that many people’s work patterns have changed from the classic ‘9 to 5’ – whether because of flexible working, working from home, or night shifts – flexibility is also really important, but often difficult to find.

As a new solution, the UK has recently started adopting a trend that’s already popular in the US and Japan – matching older people with young families, to give them the reliable, part-time childcare they desperately need. Research has shown intergenerational programmes can improve mental and physical wellbeing for older people, whilst helping the kids they care for have better age-empathy, development and social skills.

As founder of GrandNanny, I was inspired by my memories of being looked-after, as a child, by my grandparents. My grandparents were very involved in my childcare growing up, but when I moved to London, I realised loneliness among older adults is a huge issue. This is especially true for those who aren’t in touch with family or who aren’t working. I felt strongly that families were missing the huge experience and care older adults can bring. I could see very clearly the benefits of connecting older people to those in their communities and have seen hugely positive feedback from all age-groups.

For older workers, nannying can promote mental and physical wellbeing, with a job that keeps body and brain active and provides a valued role in the family and wider community. If they were previously not considered for a job because of their age, their experience is viewed with a fresh perspective – as a valuable skill – and they are ‘seen’ again by the society. Parents get reliable help from someone who really gets to know their family and child and has a range of skills and specialist knowledge from their previous careers. Kids get all the great stuff you’d expect, from someone to help with reading or homework or to bake, play music and go to the park with.

Anna, a 57 year old former receptionist who lost her job last year, started nannying two months after being made redundant, taking care of siblings aged seven and three. She became a grandparent figure for them – getting them ready in the morning and taking them to school, cooking dinner, and reading a bedtime story. Having three grown-up girls and a grandson and always looking after kids for friends, she had plenty of personal experience of childcare. Anna says working as a nanny helps her to keep a young and optimistic outlook and spend time in the fresh air, but also gives her the flexibility to look after her own grandson while still earning an income.

The family Anna works for say she has been a great help to them, really helping lighten the load. She has also become a ‘substitute grandparent’ to the children in her care, something that’s all the more precious because they don’t have their biological grandparents close-by.

So far, as this new approach to childcare takes off in the UK, a huge range of over-50s, from musicians to events organisers, former teachers to nurses say they have found a new and rewarding career as a nanny. They can bring unexpected skills in creativity or learning that the family might not get in a different childcare setting, as well as specialist knowledge for children with specific additional needs.

The families who’ve seen the huge benefits of an over-50s childcarer for their families, really appreciate the flexibility and peace of mind such a service offers.

For anyone who may not have had a nanny before, this important new trend seems to be a win-win-win situation for everyone involved.