Category

children’s health

What makes a school a great school?

By | children's health, Education, Relationships, Sport
by Dominic Mott, Head of Senior School, Hurst College

Well, many things – but, unsurprisingly for an industry dedicated to learning – academic achievement is frequently prized as the key factor. So how can this be measured? Results in public examinations are a reasonably good indicator of academic achievement, and although exam results do matter, clearly, they aren’t the sole metric of a great education.

How, then, might schools be compared against one another so that parents know which school achieves the highest grades? A league table that ranks each school by their GCSE and A-level results would seem to be a pretty sensible place to start. “So far, so good,” you might be thinking; or perhaps, “so what”? Please bear with me.

Value what you measure. Measure what you value.
What if academic ‘achievement’ isn’t actually what we want to be measuring at all? What if the real metric here is not the fixed notion of ‘achievement’, but instead the journey implied by ‘progress’? Isn’t that what learning is all about? Improving, growing, maturing, developing, and striving to do the very best that you are capable of, whatever that ‘best’ might be.

League tables have their place if you are the parent of a highly academic child, looking for them to be schooled amongst a selective cohort of similarly niche students, in an exams-focused environment, where the school has a vested interest in driving up its overall statistics – at any cost. For most parents this simply isn’t what they are signing up for.

For those parents who simply want their child “to do their best”, the only metric on which to judge schools is their ‘value added’ data. Put simply, it tells you how your child is likely to fare at one school compared to the grades they would achieve if they went to another school.

This data, which is generated by comparing GCSE and A-level results to standardised national baseline figures, is a far more accurate metric of the quality of teaching and learning in any given school. It cuts out ruthless academic selection, hot-housing, and questionable practices such as using different exam centre numbers to enter less-able pupils or those with special educational needs.It values the progress made by every single child, whatever the final outcome.

For the sceptics who (wrongly) suspect I may be attempting to distract from an unremarkable set of results at Hurst, you may wish to put our 2019 GCSE statistics (83% at grades 9 – 7) into The Times rankings of independent co-educational schools and you will see where we would have come. A gold star to anyone who emails me with the correct answer! We are even prouder of our ‘value added’ scores, which celebrate the outstanding achievements made by every single one of our pupils and puts us right at the top of the national rankings.

To return to the initial question, what makes a great school?
For sure, parents want their children to achieve the very best results of which they are capable at GCSE and A-level. However, they also want them to be healthy, happy, rounded, kind, confident, mature, independent young adults, ready to go out into the world to live successful lives and make a positive difference to those around them. That’s definitely not something you can measure by a league table!

The challenges of remote learning
What also makes a great school is one which can adapt swiftly, efficiently and effectively to unforeseen circumstances, such as switching to remote learning during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The government’s decision to close all schools from 20th March 2020 was less of a surprise than the bold announcement that there would be no public examinations this summer for GCSE and A-level students. Nevertheless, school leaders were left with precious little time to plan for the lockdown.

As with other independent schools, our priority was clear from the outset: to continue with, as far as was reasonably possible, the full provision of an outstanding all-round education for every child.

With days to spare before lockdown, one of the first priorities was to ensure that all staff and pupils had the equipment to teach or learn from home. An audit of digital devices redistributed laptops to those who needed them, and support staff were encouraged to take their office desktop computer home to enable remote working. Teachers were equipped with deskcams, whilst pupils’ devices were upgraded and checked to ensure that all were ready for a transition to the online world.

We were fortunate to be ahead of the game in the transition to a cloud-based network. Already 12 months into an 18 month project, it became clear that the final six months would need to be condensed into just a few weeks. All of our teaching and learning resources are stored in a bespoke SharePoint site which allowed teachers and pupils to access PowerPoints, worksheets, exam papers, mark schemes, online video tutorials, tests and revision materials from any device, anywhere in the world. In addition, by centralising the delivery of lessons through Microsoft Teams, with easy access to applications such as OneNote, it was made as straightforward as possible to deliver live lessons whilst giving teachers freedom over how to teach.

One of the most interesting challenges was to redesign the school day to adapt to the new way of working. Slightly shorter lessons and longer gaps between helped to reduce screen time; synchronising Prep School and Senior School timetables allowed families with siblings in two different parts of the college to take lunch together; regular short tutorial slots allowed tutors time to offer one-on-one support to pupils; and some creative timetabling allowed for an earlier finish each day without losing any of the co-curricular provision. This last point proved critical: by continuing to offer a programme of assemblies, sports sessions, choir and orchestra practices, musical rehearsals and activities sessions the regular rhythms of school life continued – pupils remained fit, healthy and active.

Hurst College is a thriving independent school for children aged between 4 and 18 with an overarching aim to provide an excellent all round education with a strong academic core and ideally located between Brighton and Haywards Heath. www.hppc.co.uk

As soon as they stand, they dance…

By | children's health, dance & Art, Education, Mental health, Playing, Relationships
by Lynda Forster
Dance Art Studio

Cuts in education budgets sadly impacts on most creative subjects as they are classed as ‘non-core’. Unfortunately, throughout lockdown, children from preschool to teens, suffered with their wellbeing and confidence because of lack of contact with their peers.

This is another reason why it’s so important to set them up early with not only a healthy diet and plenty of exercise, but with a physical activity which channels into the creative art form of human expression. This will help keep their minds healthy and balanced whilst learning a skill that will stay with them for life. Many dance classes moved online during lockdown and offered pupils a weekly lesson – this helped keep a sense of normality for the dancers and ensured they kept up with a skill, whilst keeping their social connections alive with their dance friends and teachers. I’ve heard such positive feedback from parents and older dancers who all, more than ever, appreciated the benefits and happiness that a dance class brings.

Dance as an art form is beautiful and breathtaking. There’s nothing quite like watching a skilled dancer turn and leap across the stage in time to the music, telling a story with their body.

But dance provides benefits far beyond that available to those trained in the discipline. For young children, dance and creative movement can help improve their cognitive development, building skills necessary for success later in life.

Here are ways creative movement can benefit children during the early childhood years:

Sensory awareness
Young children are highly sensory beings. They flock to things that stimulate their senses of touch, taste, sight, smell, and hearing.

Dance and creative movement provide stimulation for three of those five senses at once: touch, sight and hearing.

By listening to the music and learning how to move in time with the beat, children begin to more finely hone their senses and learn how their bodies can work in harmony with the stimuli around them.

Development
Dance provides opportunities to hone both gross and fine motor skills.

From turning and jumping to carefully controlling the movement of hands and fingers, dance engages all aspects of a child’s physical development.

Dancing also awakens the inner creativity in all children, allowing them to hear a piece of music and decide how their body can best respond to it.

In early childhood creative movement, it’s important to have a mixture of structured directions for moving as well as plenty of time for individual exploring. This balance gets children used to bringing to life someone else’s creative vision while giving time for their own exploration.

Social skills
To have a healthy social life, children must understand and embrace their own uniqueness.

Through creative movement, they learn that not everyone interprets music the same way they do, and not everyone moves the same. This helps children see that everyone is different but no one is wrong in their individuality.

Health and fitness
Dancing is great exercise. Teaching children from a young age that frequent exercise is fun and beneficial helps build lifelong lovers of sports and movement. This leads to improved health and wellness as adults.

Language
Co-ordinated movement is essential for proper brain development, which is necessary to developing language skills.

The right side of the brain, the sensing and feeling side, functions best through creative activities. The left side is the logical thinking and planning side of the brain.

Dance allows both sides of the brain to engage, as children must follow steps and directions while also utilising their creativity and interpreting the music.

Body awareness
Young children often cannot tell the full limits of their own bodies.

Through dance, however, they learn in a controlled environment what their bodies can and cannot do and what actions they need to take to perform a desired movement.

Dance helps build co-ordination and spatial awareness, which in turn improves children’s gross motor skills.

Concentration
Remembering the next steps in a dance sequence requires a great deal of concentration. So does sitting down to participate in school work.

Using and honing concentration skills in early childhood better prepare children for the expectations of the classroom.

They learn when it’s OK to move and when they need to sit still, what types of movement are acceptable, and how to stay within their own physical boundaries.

Respect
Through dance, children learn that it’s not possible to move in someone else’s space. If you do, you crash and no one gets to dance.

Learning this skill helps children understand that everyone has their own body boundaries, and they should respect the limits of those boundaries at all times.

Self-esteem
As children learn and develop new skills, their self-esteem increases.

Just like in school, play, and the rest of their lives, dancing and creative movement gives young children new skills to learn and master. This progress keeps them motivated and interested, leading to better tenacity later in life.

Why ballet?
Ballet is the focus for most dance schools, but you’ll also find tap dance, modern musical theatre, jazz and contemporary.

It is considered the absolute foundation from the very early stages where it is taught in a fun imaginative way using mime, props and stories that young children relate to. From here there is a gradual healthy build up, taking children up through the grades with a recognised exam at each level, although these are added options.

What are they learning?
• Correct technique and terminology.
• Strength and endurance.
• Timing and appreciation of music.
• Poise and posture.

Enrolling your tot into a ballet and dance class will help enrich their world around them in so many ways!

Dance Art Studio is located in the Fiveways and Preston Park area of Brighton offering preschool ballet and dance for 3-4-year-olds and graded ballet, tap, modern theatre dance and street as well as boys only tap and jazz. Exams and performance opportunities. We also hold holiday workshops. www.danceartstudio.co.uk

Bump to bum shuffler – a vegan parent’s journey

By | children's health, Education, Food & Eating
by Siobhan Dolan
PR Manager, Viva!

From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I had no doubt I’d raise my child vegan. Good nutrition is the key to a healthy life and I knew that by feeding my baby a balanced healthy vegan diet they would thrive.

At that time I’d already been vegan for seven years, I worked for the vegan campaigning charity Viva! and had a good knowledge of vegan nutrition. Despite all of this, I was still confronted with questions from others about my decision. How will your baby get their protein? Is it right to force veganism on a child? Won’t they feel left out?

One of the first challenging situations I encountered was during my first appointment with a midwife. I explained I was vegan and was told straight away that I would be low in iron – before she had even taken a blood sample! It was time to put the record straight – I explained how it is a misconception that all vegans are low in iron and there are countless iron rich vegan foods including leafy greens, pulses, seeds and nuts. If a healthy balanced diet is followed vegans can even have higher levels of iron than meat-eaters! The EPIC-Oxford study, the largest single study of Western vegetarians and vegans to date, found vegans had the highest intake of iron, followed by vegetarians then fish-eaters with meat-eaters coming last.

In the same appointment I was given a long list of animal-based foods that were off limits during pregnancy such as mould-ripened cheeses (like brie and camembert), soft blue cheeses, raw eggs, pâté, undercooked and cold cured meats, liver and mercury-containing fish such as shark, swordfish or marlin. None of the foods were vegan, so I could still safely (and smugly) eat everything I enjoyed with the peace of mind that it was safe for my baby.

As the pregnancy progressed I felt healthy and strong. I continued to cycle to work and regularly practiced yoga. I took care to ensure my iron levels didn’t drop during pregnancy (they often do because the body produces more blood for the developing baby). To combat this I ate a variety of iron rich foods including dark leafy greens and a daily natural organic iron supplement. In addition to this I took vitamin B12, vitamin D, folic acid and omega-3 supplements. Viva!’s Mother and Baby guide was my go-to for nutritional information as it provides practical tips for pregnancy and beyond.

My baby was born a healthy 8.9lb and was full of beans! I breastfed him from birth and began to wean him at six months. Initially, I introduced soft nutrient-dense foods such a banana, avocado and sweet potato. Once he mastered the act of chewing I introduced high-protein foods such as lentils and tofu combined with vegetables and carbohydrates (rice, pasta and wholemeal bread). Nutrient-dense foods rich in healthy polyunsaturated fats are recommended for young children as the energy found in them is essential for growth and development. Nut butters, ground chia seeds, hummus, avocado and vegetable oils are all excellent sourced of healthy vegan fat.

For reference I use a set of Viva! wallcharts on my fridge which outline iron, calcium and protein rich foods. I find them really useful and they help me to plan nutritionally balanced meals for my family.

Before I knew it, my maternity leave was coming to an end and it was time to find a nursery place for my son. As a vegan, finding a nursery that offered good vegan food was a priority. Sadly, several nurseries I approached didn’t cater for vegans. Fortunately, I found a fabulous nursery with an in-house chef who was happy to accommodate us. My son is their first vegan child and we’ve been welcomed with positivity and a dash of intrigue!

I’ve provided the nursery with a few vegan cookbooks and suggested how their meat options could be made vegan by using pulses rather than expensive processed substitutes, which would result in cheaper and healthier food. They have provided us with oat milk for cereal and are in the process of sourcing soya yoghurt so my son can have the same dessert as the other children. Luckily the nursery doesn’t offer cake or chocolate so we haven’t had to find alternatives.

In summary, being a vegan parent can have its challenges. Sometimes outsiders can be quick to judge the vegan lifestyle. However, if you are prepared to be patient, explain veganism to others and encourage inclusivity, you may find a more welcoming reception from sceptics. Veganism is undoubtedly the most compassionate lifestyle choice for children and offers countless health benefits too, setting your baby up for a long and healthy life!

Useful links:
www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/vegetarian-vegan-children/
www.vivashop.org.uk/collections/materials/products/nutritional-poster-trio-deal
www.vivashop.org.uk/products/vegetarian-and-vegan-mother-and-baby-guide

Viva! is the UK’s leading vegan charity www.viva.org.uk

I’m overweight after lockdown, but what’s that got to do with my shoes?

By | children's health, family, footwear and feet
by Kim Jackson M.S.S.F.
Klodhoppers Ltd, Haywards Heath

We have to accept that as a nation we are getting bigger and heavier, and in the light of the Government’s recently updated document ‘Childhood Obesity: Applying All Our Health’ (1st May 2020), it is clear that as a nation we have an obesity problem that isn’t going to go away any time soon.

For many grown-ups and children, lockdown hasn’t helped! Childhood obesity and excess weight are significant health issues for children and their families. There can be serious implications for a child’s physical and mental health, which can then overlap into adulthood.

Obesity is associated with poor psychological and emotional health, and many children experience bullying and stigmatisation linked to their weight. Children and young people living with obesity are more likely to become adults living with obesity and therefore have a higher risk of morbidity, disability, low self-esteem and premature mortality in adulthood.

For some children it can mean more school absences (in order to avoid the bullies) in addition to the obvious health concerns such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, breathing difficulties and bone and joint problems.

So what has this got to do with shoes?
There has been a marked increase in overweight children in the last few years, and this can affect how a shoe is worn and its durability. Members of the Society of Shoe Fitters are trained in many aspects of shoe fitting for children and young people, and one of the factors to be taken into consideration is the weight of a child and the impact it may have on the wear and fit of a shoe.

The most important thing to remember about any footwear is that ‘it is essential to wear the right shoe for the right occasion’, so that footwear will perform correctly and in accordance with its design and manufacture. Shoes are designed to do different jobs and take varying amounts of wear and tear.

So for example:
• Party shoes are not designed for climbing trees.
• School shoes are designed to be worn five days a week within a school environment.
• Wellies and waterproof boots are made for puddles and muddy walks!

Overweight children (particularly boys) often resort to wearing trainers all day, every day, mainly because it’s the only type of footwear that fits and feels comfortable. The construction of a trainer offers comfort for the foot due to all the padding inside, the soft chunky soles and the ability to easily open up wide for a chubbier foot.

Strictly speaking, however, trainers are designed and manufactured to be worn for sporting activities, and not for all day wear. Daily wearing of trainers can be harmful to your feet and general health and can lead to another different set of foot health problems such as allowing the feet to ‘spread’ and become more flaccid. As a result when you go back to wearing a more structured shoe, you may suffer for a while.

Overweight girls often choose fashionable flat ‘pumps’ like a ballet shoe, but with no fastening. Again these are not ideal especially if they are not fitted correctly, as the foot can bulge over the topline of the shoe. This is not just unsightly, it can be very uncomfortable. It can also create the potential for the skin to be chafed and for blisters to develop. The child also has to ‘claw’ her toes in order to keep the shoes on, then the shoes either gradually stretch and turn into ‘flip flops’ or the backs get broken down so there is no support for the heel. Unless the pump is of high quality there is likely to be inadequate shock absorption in the sole and insole which can make the foot prone to plantar fasciitis – which is extremely painful. The arches of the feet become overworked and bear the child’s entire weight, as opposed to a properly constructed shoe which is designed to take weight in specific places throughout the shoe.

Taking a shoe wider and wider is not necessarily the answer to fit a chubbier foot. In fact it often pays to go longer and narrower (although the depth and the style of the shoe would be a greater consideration with an overweight child) as it is all about how the weight of the child’s foot is distributed within the shoe.

Extra body weight puts strain on the arches and muscles in the feet, ankles, legs and hips, affecting your entire physiology. Even migraines can be attributed to ill-fitting footwear.

Finding comfortable and supportive shoes for overweight children is important to keep young people active and mobile. If your feet hurt due to ill fitting shoes, then you exercise less and are likely to gain more weight – a vicious cycle.

GPs, chiropodists and podiatrists inevitably see more foot health problems due to obesity, but their knowledge of mainstream footwear may be limited. Contact a qualified shoe fitter who is more likely to be ‘in the know’ with the latest brands, designs or trends, and who has the knowledge needed for giving the correct fit.

A qualified shoe fitter will always recommend a structured shoe, preferably with a fastening (such as laces, or a Velcro® strap, or a strap with a buckle) for children who need the correct footwear and who need to get in shape.

What adults choose to do with their feet is their concern, however as a parent we have a duty of care to our children to ensure that during the long growing period extreme care must be taken to avoid persistent pressure on the developing foot. Before the bones in a child’s foot have fully formed there is a danger of the bones becoming distorted by pressure due to inappropriate or ill fitting footwear. The additional problem of obesity in a child is another vital factor to be taken into account when getting their shoes fitted correctly.

If in doubt, then always consult a health professional or take advice from a qualified shoe fitter – remember that a child’s formative years shape the future of their feet and the way they walk and can have profound and far-reaching effects on their whole physiology.

Kim Jackson M.S.S.F (Member of the Society of Shoe Fitters & Children’s Foot Health Register accredited) Klodhoppers, Haywards Heath. www.klodhoppers.com

Outdoor play vs Covid-19

By | children's health, Education, family, Health, Mental health
by Sally-Ann Barker
Potter’s House Preschool

While the country is in a state of limbo and we’re all trying to find the new normal or taking tentative baby steps to the old one, I’ve found myself overwhelmed with awe and wonder at the world that surrounds us. Amongst all the doom and gloom in the press, the media has, on occasion, provided us with heart-warming articles detailing how this unprecedented global crisis has affected nature in a rather more positive way.

Throughout lockdown, nitrogen dioxide levels dropped by more than 50% in some areas across the UK. Road traffic in the UK fell by more than 70% meaning there was a significantly lower toll for road kill and councils delayed the cutting of grass on roadside verges crucially providing more pollen for our bees. Further afield, wild boar became braver in Barcelona, peacocks have been wandering around Llandudno and dolphins have been spotted frolicking in Venice. Closer to my home in Sussex, swans have apparently returned to Storrington duck pond for the first time in 15 years. This was however according to my father-in-law and on closer inspection they turned out to be plastic decoy ones used to deter Canada Geese. Perhaps he should take a drive to Barnard’s Castle to check his eyesight!

I have always had a passion for Early Years education and have spent my career observing the impacts that differing environments have on children’s development. In my experience, I believe that access to outdoor play is hands down the most enriching thing we can give our children and indeed ourselves. As a result of my personal observations and experiences, I try to make sure that my preschool is predominantly outdoor based with access to indoor play and absolutely not the other way around.

The Covid-19 pandemic has inevitably provoked discussion amongst my staff and I regarding how nurseries and preschools should be operating under these new conditions. We’ve been forced to reassess our procedures, draw up reams of fresh risk assessments and develop totally new routines. We’ve been made to think about how we are going to try to keep these precious little people, and our staff, as safe as we can in these difficult times. We recognise that we must maintain the highest levels of care, whilst also ensuring everyone’s mental health remains positive. I began researching a substance called Phytoncides, which are emitted by trees and plants and are widely used in holistic, veterinary and aromatherapy medicines in Russia and Japan. Phytoncides have antibacterial and antifungal qualities that assist plants in fighting disease. When we breathe in these chemicals, our bodies increase the activity of white blood cells, which in turn kills off virus infected cells and boosts our immune system. So, given all of that, surely the safest place for us all is outside. Science says so!

As a rule, as the winter approaches, we inevitably spend far less time outside and are drawn to the warmer areas inside to keep cosy. When I was a child, we had no option but to stay inside at playtime if it was wet or windy which I feel conditioned us to regard wet weather as ‘bad weather’. But really, providing we are properly equipped then there is no such thing. The children in our setting come to preschool all wrapped up in snow suits and boots and hats and gloves and they still choose to be outside making potions in the mud kitchen – using every single one of their senses to explore and learn organically. It sometimes takes some convincing for parents to understand why we are still outside in the depths of the wet British winter, but I know that even the most dubious will come back to tell us that their children went home happy, that they ate well and they slept well – which is the bare minimum we want as parents.

In Sweden, outdoor nurseries are called ‘I Ur och Skur’ meaning ‘rain or shine’ and their children thrive. They are among the happiest and healthiest children as well as achieving academically later on in life. At our preschool we have adopted this pedagogical approach in developing our children – teaching them to be resilient and brave, encouraging them to manage risk and emotion. Ultimately, we want them to explore and respect the nature that surrounds them with their eyes wide and their minds curious.

So, come rain or shine we are always outside and as a result, the children are happy, healthy and developing beautifully. We will continue this practice (with added health and safety precautions because of the pandemic) and we will watch, wrapped up warm, as our children fight off all the nasty winter bugs.

For more information please contact Sally-Ann at sallyann@pottershousepreschool.co.uk or call 07375 379148 www.pottershousepreschool.co.uk

kids in a line

Why recognising the early signs of mental health issues in children is crucial

By | children's health, Health, Mental health, Relationships, Uncategorized

Children and young people’s mental health has never been so high on the public agenda. Figures released recently show that 5% of children aged five to 10 have conduct disorder; this increases to 7% as young people approach secondary school years (Green et al.) and referrals to child mental health units from UK primary schools for pupils aged 11 and under have risen by nearly 50% in three years.
In May this year, former Prime Minister Theresa May announced a funding package to provide teachers and care workers with training on how to spot the signs of mental health issues. The wide-ranging package of measures make sure staff have the confidence and skills they need to identify mental health issues in young people before they become critical.

However, concerns have already been raised about the lack of mental health services available to young people once issues have been identified. Shadow Health Secretary Barbara Keeley said: “Once again we hear warm words from the Prime Minister on mental health, but the reality is that mental health services are stretched to breaking point and people with mental health problems aren’t getting the support they need.”

The most common mental health problem affecting children are conduct disorders (severe and persistent behavioural problems). Severe and persistent behavioural problems starting before secondary school years which go unsupported can have a long-term impact on children’s mental health and life chances.

Early years and education providers have a responsibility to provide staff with the training and support required to recognise early signs of mental health problems at this young age. Equipping staff with the skills to recognise warning signs and behaviours could lead to a child gaining the support they need to maintain mental wellbeing.

It’s a subject very close to the heart of Ann Poolton, Head of CPD Courses at BB Training, and her team. “We are very passionate about this issue. Not only can early identification save children from stressful situations, but it ensures staff are better placed to support young people in their care. We continue to offer best practice advise and training on this subject both internally and externally, as we understand the importance of promoting good mental health for children and staff alike.”

The funding now available should be used by employers to provide the necessary training required to give teachers the confidence and ability to cope with the rise in mental health issues in children.

Ann concluded: “For people working with young children, it is key that they are able to recognise the early signs of mental health problems and understand how to develop strategies to build resilience in children. The environment they grow up in, and their ability to handle the pressures and stresses of growing up, all play an important role in preventing problems from developing.”

How hard can it be to fit a pair of shoes?

By | children's health, family, footwear and feet
by Kim Jackson M.S.S.F.
Klodhoppers Ltd Haywards Heath

Generally speaking, we only get one pair of feet, and considering the amount of work we ask them to do we really need to take good care of them. Staff at our shop are qualified as members of the Society of Shoe Fitters. They are encouraged to share their knowledge and expertise with their colleagues, thereby ensuring that everyone at the shop should be able to tell how well (or badly) a shoe fits initially by the way the shoe slides onto the customer’s foot (or not!) This is one of the main reasons why we will put the shoes on our customers’ feet ourselves.

The amount of ease on the areas of resistance can be felt as the shoe slides onto the foot and indicates to the experienced fitter how the shoe is going to fit. The customer may not like the style or the design of the shoe once it’s on, but at least the fitter can be honest about the fit. Remember that the size on the box is just a number and merely a starting point for the fitter. As qualified fitters we will always tell you if we think the fit can be tweaked and improved.

Once the shoes are on the feet we will ask the child to walk around so that we can check the fit. We are looking to see not only if the gait appears ‘normal’ (unless of course, that is a separate health issue), but also whether the shoes look as though they are ‘behaving normally’ when worn.

So we are checking primarily that the shoe is not slipping up and down at the back of the heel and there are no big gaps around the ankle. We are also looking to see if the topline of the shoe is comfortably clear of the anklebone – if not it may rub, especially if there is no padded heel collar. In addition we are checking that the vamp of the shoe (where the shoe ends at the top or front of your foot) is not gaping or creasing abnormally, which would prompt us to think that the shoe might be too wide or too deep.

We will also be considering the shape and height of the heel collar – is it complementing the natural contour of your child’s foot? What is the extent of any gaping? A certain amount of space is to be expected, but if the gape is too wide then the foot will not be held in place securely. A style with a higher or tighter topline may need to be selected instead. Also, if there is too much slipping going on at the heel, we may need to play around with a different, possibly narrower brand, or even a different size.

Having over 30 years combined shoe-fitting experience, we could line up at least 10 pairs of the same size shoe, but if they are all 10 different brands, even if they are similar styles, we can guarantee that they will all fit slightly differently on one child’s feet! Some of those fits will be better than others – this is where our guidance, advice, knowledge and expertise comes into play.

A fitter’s hands and eyes are their chief fitting tools, with the measuring gauge being the starting point. Practice improves their precision in dealing with each individual customer, alongside a thorough knowledge of all of the brands stocked. There is absolutely no point in fitting a pair of shoes unless it is known how each particular brand or style fits.

For example, if we are fitting a pair of Dr Martens boots or school shoes we know that this brand is quite true to UK sizing lengthwise, but the shoes more often than not tend to suit a wide, deep foot. There is very little point in bringing this brand out for a slim narrow foot, unless the customer is intent on having them, and is happy to have lots of space taken out with insoles – but that is the customer’s choice and it is likely to be pointed out by the fitter as probably ‘not the best fit’ on offer.

However, if I brought out a specific style of Superfit trainers for a very wide, deep foot, it would more often than not be a complete waste of time, as that style tends to fit slim ankles and narrow feet. A wide foot is going to feel completely squashed and restricted.

Most parents will expect a certain amount of growing room in their child’s shoes, depending on growth spurts, but most fitters will try to allow for at least a three month growth period. Most children’s growth spurts are erratic and do not happen at regular, predictable intervals. Smaller children can grow up to two and a half sizes in one year, so that is why it is very important that for their foot health’s sake they are measured and checked frequently by qualified fitters.

It doesn’t cost anything to pop in and have your child’s shoes checked and to be re-measured on a regular basis. All shoe shops that offer a measuring and fitting service and have qualified fitters will do size checks for you for free, but it is essential to remember that different shops use different gauges – as mentioned previously, the size gauge is merely an indication of the approximate size for the shoe fitter to start with.

It is wise to regularly check the fit of your child’s shoes every four to six weeks for infants (up to three years), every six to eight weeks for toddlers (three to four years), and every 10 – 12 weeks thereafter. It’s likely that a child will need at least four pairs of shoes each year in the formative years while the growth spurts are quite rapid. Any damage done to your child’s feet during these early years can be long-lasting and often irreversible. Most girls will start to slow down foot growth-wise by approximately age 13-14 years old, but boys’ feet can keep growing up to around 18 years old.

An infant requires a style which holds firmly onto the foot and which is easy to put on by the parent. It also needs to allow the foot to develop naturally and which does not restrict the freedom of the ankle.

In a first walker or a pre-walker the most important factor should be that the uppers and soles are soft, lightweight and very flexible which allows the foot to move naturally and enables the child’s foot arch muscles to develop correctly.

There must be adequate toe room in a child’s shoe not only for growth but also for the elongation of the foot when walking.

If there is sufficient room the vamps of the shoe will not become distorted and if there is sufficient depth it will prevent any downward pressure on the toes too.

If the shoes are too shallow there will be no ‘wiggle’ room for toes, and if the shoes are too short then the longest toe(s) will hit the end of the shoes and potentially do damage to the nails and nail beds, as well as cause the formation of a ‘hammer’ or ‘claw’ toes.

Once children start school the bones have started to form and their muscles and arches are developing and being exercised, therefore a child needs a shoe with more protection and support. Their school shoes must be able to withstand the rigours an active lifestyle at school will require, otherwise parents will need to be prepared to replace them more frequently.

On average a school-age child will need a minimum of two pairs of shoe shoes per academic year – if their shoes ‘last a whole year’, it’s more than likely that they are wearing a pair that are much too small for them!

As a parent the most important thing to remember is to get your child’s feet checked. If you take them to a qualified dentist for their dental check ups, and a qualified GP for any health issues, so why wouldn’t you protect your child’s foot health by taking them to a qualified shoe fitter for a shoe check and a re-measure on a regular basis?

Kim Jackson M.S.S.F (Member of the Society of Shoe Fitters & Children’s Foot Health Register accredited) Klodhoppers, Haywards Heath www.klodhoppers.com

teeth wee girl

Make time for teeth…

By | beauty, children's health, Health, teeth and dental care
by Lisa Costigan
Rottingdean Dental Care

Lisa Costigan from Rottingdean Dental Care has practised locally for 29 years. During this time she has dealt with many dental injuries and is very keen that all patients should know what to do if their child damages a tooth.

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

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

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

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

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

Lisa advises that due to the frequency of tooth injuries all parents should download the Dental Trauma First Aid App which is endorsed by IAPT 9International Association of Dental Traumatology).

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

child bouncing

Stay active all winter

By | children's health, Health, Mental health, play, Playing, Uncategorized

We’re all aware that regular physical activity is important and has many health benefits. But even some very active children have a difficult time keeping exercise going during the winter months. The weather is probably horrible, it gets dark earlier, and a ‘duvet day’ can be very appealing!
However, whatever the weather, it’s important to keep little ones active and help them stay that way by developing an exercise habit from before they even start school. The NHS recommends that to maintain a basic level of health, children aged five to 18 need to do:

• At least 60 minutes of physical activity every day – this should range from moderate activity, such as cycling and playground activities, to vigorous activity, such as running and tennis.
• On three days a week, these activities should involve exercises for strong muscles, such as push-ups, and exercises for strong bones, such as jumping and running.

This sounds a lot but can be made more manageable by combining structured activity classes with fun exercises at home, and building fitness into your everyday routine. It can then help promote healthy weight management and reduce the risk of many chronic diseases.

Get outside
Just because it’s cold outside does not mean you have to stay inside! The key is to wrap everyone up in layers and to keep moving. Moving around outside and getting your heart rate up will help keep you warm as well. Walk to school or part of the way, once a week, go to the park, or play outside with friends. Children’s farms still have plenty going on in the winter and there is lots of space to run around in. Most of them now have vast outdoor play areas and you can warm up with a hot chocolate in the café afterwards.

Choose another indoor location
Especially in the winter months, getting out of the house will help prevent children getting cabin fever, and can mean they will sleep better at night. Try choosing a location that also incorporates physical activity with lots of fun such as a leisure pool, soft play centre, ice rink or indoor climbing.

Enrol children into a new class
If you want to get your children involved in something fun and consistent, enrol them in a regular class. It’s a great way to try something new, be active, and meet new people – for them and you. Trying new activities is a great way to figure out what children might like. There are lots of classes for preschool children upwards. Classes for preschoolers are all about having
fun while being active. Classes are age-appropriate, and babies can start at many of them from six months, and so by the time they reach school age exercise has become a healthy habit for them, and their social skills will also be enhanced.

Build exercise into your routine
Everyday activities can count as exercise too, as long as your children are getting their heart rates up. Things like walking the dog, biking to the shops, or going to the park on the way home from school all help. Incorporating these activities into your children’s daily routines will help them develop a healthy lifestyle that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. An hour a day is the target, but these activities can be accumulated throughout the day not necessarily all at once.

Limit screen time
We are all aware that even very young children are spending increasing amounts of time in front of a screen, which includes television, videogames, computers and phones. Whilst children are at primary school you are almost completely in charge of what they eat and what they watch, so don’t let them get used to spending hours in front of a screen every day. If screen time isn’t allowed to become a habit whilst they are young, you will have far less problems getting them off screens as they become older.

In order for children to find exercise fun, they need lots of variety. And when they find exercise enjoyable, they are much more likely to stick with it over an extended period of time. Avoid the boredom factor by offering as many different options for activity as possible. Plus, trying new physical activities together as a family will not only benefit your children’s health, but can help fight the winter ‘blues’ too. So, get up, get moving, and stay active this winter!

Is your child anxious?

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

Are you finding it hard to get support?
Help is at hand…

 

Half of all lifetime anxiety disorders emerge before the age of twelve with around 15% of children being thought to suffer from an anxiety disorder.
(Anxiety UK)

A certain amount of this emotion is considered to be normal in everyday life but once it begins to impact upon a child in a negative and persistent way it becomes a problem. Sometimes it revolves around a child’s social life and friendship issues. It may be more about fear of failing academically. It could include uncertainty about the future, fear of the dark, problems sleeping and school avoidance. However it presents itself, there are some very useful cognitive behavioural techniques that may be used to help the child think in a different way about their problems.

Guided Parent Delivered Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (GPD-CBT) is a new evidence based service designed to support parents struggling to get help with their child’s anxiety. The programme which is being offered through the charity, Anxiety UK, has been designed to help increase parents’ confidence and empower them to support their child.

The positive impact that a parent can have in helping their child to overcome their problems should not be underestimated. This is emphasised throughout the sessions. There are a number of advantages to working solely with parents or guardians instead of with the child, not least the fact that parents are considered to be the experts on their own children.

CBT has been extensively researched.
It is a solution focused time limited form of treatment and one which is most often recommended by the NHS to patients needing support for a number of mental health problems.

The therapist registered with Anxiety UK to deliver these sessions, will work collaboratively with parents, providing them with strategies they can use at home to help their child, between the age of seven and 12, overcome anxiety.

Four one hour sessions are conducted with the parents face-to-face, by phone or web cam and two 15 minute sessions take place over the phone or via web cam. The support package includes a copy of ‘Helping your Child with Fears and Worries: A self-help guide for parents’ by Professor Cathy Cresswell and Lucy Willetts.

Annabel Marriott is registered as an Anxiety UK GPD CBT practitioner.
For further information or to arrange an informal chat about Guided Parent Delivered CBT, Toolkit for Anxiety workshops or self-help groups, please email Annabel at: annabel@toolkitforanxiety.com
www.toolkitforanxiety.com