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Five basic but often overlooked habits your child should adopt

By | children's health, Education, family, Mental health, play, Playing, Relationships

Children inherit more than just genes from their parents. Your manners, habits and overall view of life tend to influence the person your child will become. It is important to introduce certain habits into your child’s routine from a young age to maximise the chances of them carrying it through into adulthood.

Here, Richard Dwyer from UK Flair Gym shares five basic but often overlooked habits your child should adopt:
1. Making the bed – It has been suggested that making your bed in the morning can improve productivity levels which, in turn, boosts your mood. Not only will your child’s room look tidier, but they will be more likely to achieve their daily goals.

2. Eating breakfast – If your child skips breakfast from an early age, it is likely they will carry this bad trait with them for the rest of their lives. Teach them that eating breakfast helps kick start their metabolism and will energise them for the day – giving them both brain and body power!

3. Daily exercise – Whether you encourage your child to join a sports team or simply go for a bike ride, making sure they exercise for at least thirty minutes a day is a great habit to form. Aside from the physical aspect, daily physical activity will boost mental wellbeing and help make your child look at life more positively.

4. Make new friends – This is a skill that your child will require throughout their entire life. Knowing how to confidently build relationships with new people will not only enhance their social life but also their professional one.

5. Reading – Although weaved into their school life, it is encouraged that children should read at home for leisure. Not only will this make them a more confident communicator, but it will also enhance their writing and comprehension skills which are invaluable in later life. Try incorporating reading into their bedtime routine!

Since his childhood, Richard Dwyer has been passionate about his own fitness. With experience as a stuntman for countless films and TV shows, Richard decided to put his full energy into building gymnastics clubs to allow children (and their parents) to benefit from physical activity. Now, he builds children’s confidence through gymnastics that teach valuable life skills. Richard does this through three separate businesses: www.ukflair.com/ www.gymclassroom.com/ www.kidzimpact.co.uk

Outdoor adventure is the key to happier, healthier children

By | Education, environment, family, fun for children, Green, Health, Playing, Relationships

Spending time outdoors is the key to happier, healthier and more confident children. However, only one in five of them regularly play outside, says leading youth charity YHA (England and Wales).

The charity says that the opportunity to have adventures in the outdoors is vitally important to developing young people’s confidence, resilience and ambition for the future. Studies also show that just five minutes of ‘green exercise’ can improve a child’s mental wellbeing.

To help more young people benefit from the transformational power of travel and adventure, YHA has launched a campaign – The Adventure Effect. It hopes the campaign will inspire young people and their families to get outdoors.

Karen Pine, Professor of Developmental Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, who has supported YHA with the development of The Adventure Effect, said: “If we want to raise children to be healthy physically, mentally, socially and emotionally, we must look at the experiences they’re having during childhood. Outside, spontaneous experiences in nature are critical to their development.”

She explained: “Being unable to get outside for a prolonged period can lead to stress and depression, which sadly besets many people
in our society today. Time outdoors spent having adventures in nature helps to build resilience – which is our ability to bounce back in life. This is an incredibly important skill.” Highlighting the impact of people not having the opportunity to access travel and the outdoors, YHA confined the professional adventurer and author Alastair Humphreys to a room for three days. In contrast, the film also follows five young people during their first trip to the Lake District and demonstrates their personal transformation during that time.

The thought-provoking social experiment has been documented in The Adventure Effect film. Watch the film and learn more about The Adventure Effect at www.yha.org.uk/adventureeffect

The film charts Alastair’s increasing frustration and unhappiness at having the opportunity for adventure removed from him. On day
two of the experiment he admits to ‘feeling low’.

Commenting on the social experiment, Alastair said: “I am delighted to support YHA’s Adventure Effect campaign. Being inside the room was a big learning experience for me. Three days seems like nothing but when the ability to go outside whenever you want, and the mental stimulation that goes with it, is taken away from you it is a huge shock. I was really surprised to discover I use my phone too much and use it to fill in any quieter times during the day. I also realised that I take my ability to have adventures – big and small, for granted.”

He added: “Adventure is as much about your attitude as anything else. Be curious and seize the opportunities that are available to you. YHA makes it easy, cheap and accessible for everyone to get their adventure started.”

As part of YHA’s Adventure Effect campaign, adventurer Alastair Humphreys has shared his five tips for people to get their adventure started:
1. Don’t just talk about it. Do it.
2. Do something simple and small, like going for a walk in your local woods or head up a hill.
3. Make sure you’re warm and prepared for bad weather with suitable waterproof clothing.
4. Take friends or family with you so you can share the experience and encourage each other.
5. Making the most of the outdoors shouldn’t be about pushing yourself and feeling miserable. Go at your own pace and have fun.

A nature spring guide for families – where to go locally and what to look out for

By | Education, environment, Family Farms, fun for children, Green, play, Playing, Relationships, Sprintime, Summer, Uncategorized
by Andrea Pinnington and Caz Buckingham
Fine Feather Press

Grab your coat, your wellies if it is raining, your family and perhaps a picnic, for the dark days of winter have passed and the spring we have all been waiting for is here. These are a few suggestions, COVID restrictions allowing, for where families can go to enjoy some particularly wonderful spring sights across both Sussex and Surrey, but if there is one thing that our confined lives have taught us, it is that we don’t have to go far or even anywhere further than our doorstep to enjoy the natural world.

Spring flowers
Sussex and Surrey have an abundance of woodlands – here the flowers appear early in the year when the ground has warmed up and it is light. Once the leaves on the trees have come out, the woods become too shady for most flowers to grow. Plants that take full advantage of the brighter spring conditions include wood anemones, bluebells, primroses, common dog-violets and lesser celandines. Of all these, perhaps the bluebell puts on the most impressive display, for few wild flowers cover the ground so completely or smell as sweet. Chinthurst Hill near Wonersh, Brede Hill near Battle, Heaven Farm near Uckfield and Angmering Woods near Arundel, all put on annual bluebell spectaculars along with a medley of other spring flowers.

Orchids have a captivating appeal for many people and to discover one is thrilling. Ditchling Beacon and Malling Down are excellent places to search for them. Look out now for the early purple orchid – its clusters of flowers, long spotted leaves and unpleasant smell help to identify it – and come back in the summer for more orchid spotting.

The prospect of free food is always appealing, and a great family springtime activity is foraging. This is the season of ramsons, otherwise known as wild garlic. The young leaves make deliciously pungent soups, salads and pesto and the flowers, seed pods and bulbs are all edible too. The Downs Link path which runs for 37 miles from Guildford to Shoreham provides a great day out for families on bikes or on foot. Here wild garlic grows in abundance but for other sites, there is a fantastic website called www.fallingfruit.org
with an interactive map showing you sources of food growing on common land.

Trees and hedgerows
When winter shows no other sign of ending, along comes the blossom from trees such as blackthorn followed by wild cherry, crab apple, rowan and hawthorn. Every lane puts on its own frothy display for us to enjoy. Get to know where local elder bushes grow, for there is nothing so simple as making elderflower cordial. Another foraging find (maybe not for the children) are the youngest, freshest beech leaves which can be used in salads or soaked in gin. Beech trees are a feature of most of our deciduous woodlands but the ones at Staffhurst Woods near Oxted and Ashdown Forest are particularly fine.

Insects
Early in the year, insects emerging from hibernation are desperate for food. Queen bumblebees fly between early nectar sources such as cowslips, red dead-nettles and lesser celandines as do early butterflies such as brimstones and orange-tips feeding on cuckooflowers, honesty and garlic mustard. Surrey and Sussex are rich in places to see butterflies, but particularly good locations include Box Hill, Denbies Hillside, The Devil’s Dyke, Newtimber Hill, Rowland Wood and Pewley Down.

Birds
There is no better season for listening to bird song and often the adventures begin by simply opening a window! Every habitat has its own star performers with some having flown vast distances to be with us. If you want to hear some outstanding virtuosos then head to heathlands such as Chobham, Pirbright, and Iping and Stedham Commons. Here you may hear (if not see) buzzy Dartford warblers, melodious willow warblers or perhaps a chirring nightjar or two. Even more discrete than these birds are the nightingale – its drab, brown colouring making it almost impossible to spot in the dense undergrowth it inhabits. Its song, though, is unmistakable and the male sings both day and night until it finds a mate. Make your way to Ebenhoe Common, Pulborough Brooks and Puttenham Common for an unforgettable auditory experience. Make a note of International Dawn Chorus Day which is on Sunday 2nd May this year. Events are usually planned by a range of local wildlife groups.

Reptiles and amphibians
On sunny spring days, the coconut-sweet smell of gorse fills the air and reptiles such as lizards and adders like to bask in the sun. A stroll on Thursley Common’s boardwalks usually reveals some reptilian activity but if none materialise there is usually plenty of other wildlife to watch such as dragonflies and damselflies along with carnivorous plants and cuckoos.

For more information
The best way to find out more about these and other nature hotspots across the counties is to contact our wonderful wildlife charities. Most of these have local branches and are bursting with ideas for family activities and places to explore. Among these are Butterfly Conservation, Plantlife, RSPB, Wildlife Trusts, Woodland Trust and the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust (WWT).

This is merely a quick canter through a handful of experiences on offer outside in Surrey and Sussex this spring. We apologise for all the obvious ones we’ve missed out. We’d love to hear about the ones you cherish and are willing to share on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/FineFeatherPress) and on Twitter (@NatureActivity).

Andrea Pinnington and Caz Buckingham run natural-history publisher Fine Feather Press from their homes in Surrey and East Sussex.
Their latest title – The Little Book of Wild Flowers – is now out.

33 is the age when we finally admit that mother did know best!

By | family, Health, Mental health, Relationships

A recent nationwide poll revealed that after years of kicking back against our parents, it is not until the age of 33, that we finally admit they were right about everything. And by the age of 36, most of us agree, we have turned into our parents, with 37 the average age men turn into their dads and the nation’s women claim they start behaving like their mothers by the average age of 35.

The survey also revealed nine in 10 say it was not until they were a parent themselves that they gained true respect and appreciation for their own mum and dad. As many as 82% of the parents polled find themselves saying the very things to their children that were said to them as a child.

And the data unveiled a host of ‘mumisms’, we eventually find ourselves saying, with “carrots will make you see in the dark”, “don’t eat that, you’ll spoil your dinner” and “because I said so”, emerging as top phrases we swore we would never say, but end up saying.“Do you think I’m made of money”, “life isn’t fair” and “you have until the count of three” also featured.

The nationwide survey of 2,000 parents revealed, it is not until the age of 28 that we are mature enough to have our first child. In fact, almost three-quarters (73%) of the nation’s mums and dads claim they had no idea what parenting would entail before embarking on family life. And only 14% said they were fully prepared for the demands of becoming a parent.

The study, by Petits Filous, also found 40% claim they are not as strict with their kids as their own parents were with them, while a further 40% said they feed their children a healthier diet. However, more than a third (36 %) of parents believe they have it much easier than their own mum and dad did, with modern technology helping to make modern child-rearing less challenging. And we do still look up to the older generation, as 76% of those polled said their most valuable parenting advice came from their mums and dads.

A spokesperson for Petits Filous who commissioned the survey said, “This new research shows that truly nothing can prepare you for the reality of being a parent. Although there are plenty of challenges along the way, the poll also reveals that there is nothing any of us would change about having children.Whether it is contending with the kids, battling for snacks all day every day or sorting out the same familiar argument over screen time, being a parent isn’t easy.”

Top ‘mumisms’ we swore we would never say
(but end up saying)
1. Money does not grow on trees (64%)
2. Wash your hands (54%)
3. Because I said so, that is why (53%)
4. Shut that door, were you born in a barn? (47%)
5. Have you brushed your teeth? (47%)
6. Do not eat that, you will spoil your dinner (45%)
7. Do not slam the door (45%)
8. Do you think I am made of money? (42%)
9. Go to your room (38%)
10. Who do you think you are talking to? (37%)
11. What part of no do you not understand? (36%)
12. I am not your slave (34%)
13. I do not care what XXX’s parents let them do (34%)
14. You have to the count of three (33%)
15. Did you flush the loo? (33%)
16. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all (30%)
17. Life is not fair (29%)
18. As long as you live under my roof you will do as I say (28%)
19. When you have children, you will understand (28%)
20. Don’t put your coat on inside or you won’t feel the benefit (27%)
21. Eat your greens (27%)
22. Go and play outside it is a lovely day (27%)
23. You are too close to the screen (27%)
24. Don’t pull that face or the wind will change and you will stay like that (26%)
25. I just want what is best for you (24%)
26. Carrots will make you see in the dark (24%)
27. It will end in tears (24%)
28. Remember your Ps and Qs (18%)
29. The apple does not fall far from the tree (16%)
30. If you do not eat your crusts your hair will not go curly (14%)

domestic abuse

Have you got questions about domestic abuse?

By | family, Health, Mental health, Relationships, Safety

What is domestic abuse? Does it only happen to women? Who can help? These are some of the questions West Sussex residents are being asked to consider as part of a new campaign to get people talking about domestic abuse.

“Ask us anything” is the campaign launched by West Sussex County Council – it aims to raise awareness of domestic abuse and sends a clear message that this type of abuse won’t be tolerated in West Sussex.

Residents can submit their questions anonymously by email (askusanything@westsussex.gov.uk) or via social media (using the #AskUsAnything) to the County Council’s Community Safety Team. Every question will then be answered by a panel of experts on Facebook and Twitter.

For many living with domestic abuse, COVID-19 has made life immeasurably harder, with increased risk, and reduced opportunities to seek help. Discussions about domestic abuse are always important. Financial pressures, more time with family and increased alcohol consumption means it can be a challenging time for survivors of domestic abuse.

One domestic abuse victim explains the impact of the pandemic on her situation: “Him being home all the time has meant that there has been no break, every single day, he breaks me that bit more. My mental health is at rock bottom. I don’t know how much more I can take.”

Anyone who believes they are experiencing domestic abuse, or is worried about a friend, neighbour or family member should contact West Sussex County Council’s WORTH service by calling 0330 222 8181.

You will speak to a trained adviser who can find out more about your situation and the best way of offering support.

DomesticAbuseServicesCentral@westsussex.gov.uk.

book reading

School should be enchanting

By | children's health, Education, environment, Mental health, play, Playing, Relationships

Chris Calvey, Headmaster of Great Walstead School, West Sussex, talks about the balancing act of meeting academic rigor whilst maintaining pupils’ excitement and enthusiasm.

School League tables are now very much a part of our lives and pre-testing for schools is creeping in at an increasingly younger age. Now, take into account the not insignificant amount of money that private schools charge. You can see the rising pressure on both teachers and the Head to ensure that pupils achieve the highest results. The safest way to do this sees the classroom take on a more teacher led approach where pupils are told the information they need to learn, guided in how to answer questions by rehearsing past papers, and even have timetabled lessons on verbal and nonverbal reasoning tests. Such an approach generally ensures that pupils pass their tests but at the cost of genuine enjoyment, pleasure and natural wonderment of school.

I believe there is an alternative way in which children can maintain their love of learning. By understanding there is more to the process of education than just working to pass a test, they are able to develop a set of skills that enables them to tackle challenges without a fear of failure. Inspired by the book ‘Educating Ruby – what our children really need to learn’ written by Guy Claxton and Bill Lucas, all the staff at our school explored a variety of definitions for the seven aspects that the book identified as developing confidence and character. We refer to these as our 7Cs – Confidence, Curiosity, Collaboration, Communication, Creativity, Commitment and Craftsmanship.

Each ‘C’ has an age appropriate definition for the sections of our school and children are rewarded when they demonstrate these attributes. They see Confidence as the ability to tackle difficult tasks and challenges whilst not being afraid to make mistakes. Curiosity is about developing wonder and awe, while Collaboration helps pupils see the benefits of working in a successful team. Communication encourages children to share their ideas and thinking whilst understanding the importance of listening to each other. Creativity is not just for the arts, but is to be developed with problem solving challenges and alternative thinking. Commitment recognises those times when pupils show determination and resilience even if they find tasks challenging. Finally, Craftsmanship celebrates the sheer joy and pride of completing something which has taken time, care and love to produce. By rewarding these skills, every child is able to achieve and none are limited by their cognitive ability. It leads to an “I can” culture rather than a fixed mindset where pupils feel limited by the scores they achieve.

Since focusing on the 7Cs, we have seen children become far more engaged in their own learning process, take responsibility for what they can achieve and, as a result, make impressive levels of academic progress where they not only know things, but genuinely understand them – there is a distinct difference.

Children only get one chance at their schooling, and I believe it is so important that we look to develop the whole person – not just focus on exam results and entry testing. Working in several prep schools, I have seen and promoted many ‘learning profiles’ from school ethos based principles to International Baccalaureate inspired systems. All offer something more than just a ‘teacher led’ approach to learning, but in the 7Cs I have found a set of values and attributes that really inspires the girls and boys in our school, and prepares them for the challenges that lie ahead.

The second closure of schools has arguably made these values yet more important as children have spent hours in front of a computer screen, being taught in a very isolating and unfamiliar environment. Those opportunities for communication and collaboration between each other are significantly diminished, and that lack of human contact makes the whole process of learning yet harder. Incorporating our 7Cs into the pupils’ learning will be a real focus when they are allowed to return, and we will actively promote the development of these skills, continuing to build a real sense of “I can do” within each and every child.

At Great Walstead, children learn happily inside the classroom because they play happily outside the classroom. A game in the woods and a maths lesson are, at this age, equal learning opportunities – we call it Mud p!
www.greatwalstead.co.uk

Looking forward not back is the way to help solve family problems

By | family, Legal, Relationships
by Marcus Stanton
Kingston & Richmond Family Mediation Practice

There is a popular TV programme that ends each week with a catchphrase I’m going to borrow, adapt, and use here: ‘Keep talking’. Parents who separate can achieve so much by talking and listening to each other. You might say, ‘well if they had been talking and listening to each other in the first place they wouldn’t now be separating,’ but parents separate for a number of reasons and just because they are no longer together doesn’t mean they should no longer work together to sort out their family finances and any future plans for their children.

The difficulty is that when a relationship ends it’s very easy to adopt a position in negotiations based on how the relationship has ended, how you feel you have been treated and your immediate concerns and worries. This can hamper your ability to have useful discussions with your former partner and can be made even worse by solicitors’ letters in place of face-to-face discussions. Getting entrenched in a position can of course slow down any progress towards a resolution.

It is much more helpful to move away from taking positions based around the past and instead to start discussing what each of your priorities, interests and concerns are now. Don’t be afraid of frank discussions revealing what have been, up to now, unspoken emotions. Getting out all those unsaid things usefully clears the air. Priorities, options and concerns give a starting point for you and the other parent to work on the possible options that exist to resolve matters mutually.

The advantage in getting to a position where you can explore options together is that you both remain in control of your future rather than giving the decision making to the court. This can be fundamental. Moving you from having to live with a decision, to working out the outcome for yourselves. An outcome reached together has more chance of lasting, and is usually better financially and emotionally for all members of the family.

Talking through options and problem solving are important for parents. That can be tough particularly when you have recently separated, but with the help of a family mediator to facilitate discussions it is a lot easier to achieve. A mediator can help you to identify those areas where you agree, where you might reach a mutually acceptable decision, and where there is no room to budge (just being clear about what’s not possible is a help in itself in moving forward!). This often means recognising what your former partner needs and feels. By looking behind any potential barriers you can often find common interests. As an example, A wants to be sure B doesn’t just leave the children with his sister when he has them, B meanwhile wants A to be less controlling when he has the children. In essence there is no disagreement over B spending time with the children and each knows the children will benefit in spending time with both parents, there is just a difference as to how that time is spent. There is clearly a starting point for discussions and the opportunity to reconcile differences.

You can work together to narrow down the options to reach an outcome that will work in reality and that both of you are comfortable living with. As well as facilitating these discussions a family mediator will reality check the outcome with each of you to see that it can work in practice. That is helpful, as you will want to have the solution you reach taken to your solicitors to be made into a Consent Order
so that it’s enforceable.

All of this means of course talking and listening to the other parent. Where there are young children, with the exception of particular cases, you are likely to have to communicate with them for some time to come. So, starting discussions in the room or face-to-face on Zoom is so much better than communicating through WhatsApp, text, email or solicitor’s letter. It’s very easy for words in a text or email to be misunderstood or meanings read into them.

Putting your priorities and concerns on the table for both of you to see and discussing them might help begin the process of moving forward.

Marcus Stanton is a Family Mediator at Kingston & Richmond Family Mediation Practice providing online mediation for separating couples in Surrey. www.kingstonandrichmondfamilymediation.co.uk
For further information email info@krfamilymediation.co.uk or call 020 8617 0210

Developing thinking skills from birth upwards

By | Education, environment, numeracy skills, Playing, reading, Relationships
by Sam Selkirk
Head of Reigate St Mary’s Lower School

In the words of Einstein “Education is not the learning of facts, it’s rather the training of the mind to think.” 

When do young children start to think? What do we know and how can we best support children from birth upwards?

I love the analogy of a child’s development in the context of a building, you start with the foundations and the quality of those foundations determines how stable and solid the building will eventually be. Thinking skills need to be part of those foundations; all too often the emphasis has been on developing thinking skills when children enter Key Stage 2, but one could argue that this is leaving it too late.

So, when do children start to think?
During the second half of the 20th Century there was an increase in research on brain development and the findings were summarised by Dryden and Vos in ‘The Learning Revolution’ that “Neural connections that don’t develop in the first five years of life may never develop at all.” We have a responsibility to provide opportunities to guarantee every child establishes ‘strong’ neural pathways, the direction we take should follow the research “We learn 10% of what we read, 15% of what we hear, but 80% of what we experience”.

Let’s further explore the significant elements through the research of two key players in the field of child development, Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky.

Piaget states that children learn by constructing schemas – patterns of repeatable behaviour which can be noticed when they play; by recognising these schemas and providing opportunities for them, we extend patterns of behaviour and thinking.

Furthermore, he suggests young children (birth to seven years – there are another two age ranges after this) move through two stages of cognitive development:
1. Sensorimotor: birth to 18-24 months when children focus on what they see and do, and physical interactions with their immediate environment. They are constantly experimenting and learning about the world through trial and error. During this period, their increased physical development leads to increased cognitive development. Then there is that important milestone – early language development.
2. Preoperational: 18-24 months to age 7 during which, children begin to represent objects with words and images, further develop language skills and imagination. Their thinking is based on intuition and still not completely logical.

Also we have Vygotsky whose theory of cognitive development focused on the role of culture and social interactions with speech being a major tool in the development of thinking.

To develop young children’s minds we must acknowledge:
• Every child is unique and goes through stages of development.
• We need to provide children with a rich and stimulating environment both inside and out where they are active participants in their learning and involved in a range of sensory experiences.
• The role of the adult is essential in developing positive relationships and to stimulate, support and encourage children.

As Carol Dweck states: “Everyone is born with an intense drive to learn, infants stretch their skills daily. Not just ordinary skills, but the most difficult tasks of a lifetime, like learning to walk and talk. Babies don’t worry about making mistakes nor humiliating themselves. They never decide it’s too hard or not worth the effort. They walk, they fall, they get up. They just barge forward.”

Through the Characteristics of Effective Learning (EYFS Framework) we can facilitate this; however, these are not an add on, they must infiltrate all aspects of a child’s life – be our ‘way of being’. Let’s explore these further…

Play and explore:
• Find out and explore – show curiosity using senses and interests.
• Play with what they know – representing their experiences in play, showing flexibility in their thoughts.
• Being willing to ‘have a go’ – taking risk, using trial and error – not fearful of making mistakes.

Be active learners:
• Being involved and concentrating – showing high levels of fascination.
• Keeping on trying – and then bouncing back after difficulties.
• Enjoying achieving what
they set out to do – intrinsically motivated to accomplish something.

Create and think critically:
• Having their own ideas – solving problems.
• Making links in their ideas – noticing patterns, making predictions, cause and effect, developing schemas.
• Choosing ways to do things – planning, checking how things are going, changing strategy if necessary, reviewing how well the activity went.
• Solve problems without adults suggesting what to do, or even worse, doing it for them!

And what else?
• Provide opportunities for play and develop the ‘stop, look, listen’ approach – we mustn’t interfere, just observe until the child invites us in.
• Ask open ended questions such as “What ideas do you have?” “What do you think is happening?” “Tell me why you think this?” “How would you solve this problem?” “What other ways can we try this?” “What other answers may there be and why?” Give them time to think before they answer – count to 10, at least, it feels like forever, but it is essential to allow the child to process their thoughts.
• Value and encourage children’s questions.
• Give children time to talk with each other but model that talk through open ended questions, reasoning and changing our minds.
• Talk more about the process rather than the end result using the language of learning, by modelling, scaffolding, making connections and embrace making mistakes – this will mean they will be more willing to take risks.
• Give children the independence to select activities and the opportunity to repeat.
• Give them the opportunity to plan, do and review, talking about what has worked well and what they would change.

And the environment?
• Accessible to the children, so they can self-select.
• Calm and uncluttered with a variety of toys related to the children’s interests: construction and small world toys, games, role-play areas from vets to restaurants, mark making materials, items to count, shapes, jigsaws, paint, items such as guttering, plastic tubing, boxes, natural resources, leaves and twigs.

And finally give children time to play inside and out, many a time I have observed children do something outside that they had yet to achieve inside, that sense of space for many young children is key.

And to conclude, heed the words of William Yeats “Education is not filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.”

Reigate St Mary’s is a junior school of Reigate Grammar, situated within a beautiful 15 acre site close to the town centre. The school has been shortlisted for Independent Prep School of the Year 2020 in recognition of its all-round excellence and holistic approach to education. A growth mind-set celebrates hard work and effort not innate talent. In focusing on the journey and in embracing mistakes and failure as part of improving, children build the resilience and risk taking required to succeed. www.reigatestmarys.org

How to avoid arguments – Go from chaos to calm, from conflict to cooperation

By | Education, family, Relationships
by Karen Shaw
author of Parenting Magic

It starts with us! How we approach a situation, what we do, say and how we are ‘being’ has a massive impact on the outcome.

Most of us want to avoid conflict. It’s uncomfortable and not what we want. It’s the incompatibility of ideas, desires and values that causes the conflict. Often parents and children have conflicting interests because they have a different set of values and priorities. We can experience conflict in parenting often when our children are toddlers when we can have a battle of wills, when they are ‘flexing their muscles’ and when we have teenagers and of course, at any age in between! We can help control outcomes and see much more cooperation by pre-setting the energy of a situation, with our intentions and the choice of language we use.

That’s a good start…
How does your day start? Is it frantic, rushing around, a bit chaotic? This leads to struggles and arguments, so start it off in a calm and controlled way and set the intention of how it will be. It may mean getting up a bit earlier to take a few minutes for you. To take a few deep breaths, meditate to calm yourself. If possible be organised the night before, plan your morning, have a diffuser with essential oils or some lovely smells for the children to wake up to. It sets the scene, the energy is calmer.

How to avoid arguments
We often argue with our children because we’re not getting our own way. Because they’re not doing as they’re ‘told’ (though I prefer asking to telling!) or they want to do something we don’t want them to. I think it’s often beneficial to think, “How would I deal with this situation if it was someone other than my child, would I say the same things, use the same language?” Probably not, we tend to think because they are ‘our children’ we have a right to speak to them, as we like, say things to them we wouldn’t dream of saying to another individual. I know we want to keep them safe and respect us, or our ‘rules’ if you like. Though, as rules are there to be tested, pushed, bent if not broken, it is better to have ‘agreements’ already in place. Make agreements as to what is and isn’t acceptable, what will and won’t be tolerated and have the consequences when expected behaviour isn’t reached. When they are part of the agreement making, they are heard, valued and they know they have agreed. So if they complain or shout back, when they haven’t stuck to them “It’s not fair”, “You’re so mean”, you can remind them they agreed and are going back on their word.

Drop the interrogation!
We often start our conversation with the ‘w’ words and that’s not helpful. The ‘w’ words I mean are Why, When, Who, What and Where.

These are ‘interrogatives’. We’re interrogating our children when we start a question with any of these. For instance:-“Why on earth…?  “When are you ever going to learn…?” “Who do you think you are…?” “What did you think you were doing…?” “Where do you think you’re going…?”

The reason it isn’t helpful to start a conversation this way, is because they feel threatened and automatically go into defence mode. It’s the unconscious mind responding, a natural response. Of course, we’ll use these words, it’s just not helpful to start with them, especially with the negative energy that accompanies it. It will encourage a knee jerk response, a story or a flippant reply. Give them time to respond better by keeping calm, breathe, collect your thoughts and use something like: “I’m wondering (then the what or who)…” “I’m curious (then the why or what)…“ Or “I’d like to know/hear/understand…”

These are ‘declaratives’. You respond rather than react and give them time to formulate a response to your question or statement instead of a defensive or even sarcastic reply. You are starting with you and are ‘declaring’ how you are feeling.

When we remember who we and our children are, human beings sharing a life and here to enjoy it, that we are in control of ourselves, no one else and that what comes out of our mouths is our choice, then it’s easier to remember there really is no need to argue. Let’s face it, it takes two. What good is there in arguing with your child? Debating something, where you are both putting forward your viewpoint is a different thing. For every action there is an equal and opposite one, when you react to whatever has been done or said, then there will be an equal opposite one coming back at you! Avoid it. Let’s learn to respond not react.

Karen Shaw is a transformational life and parenting coach, emotional re-balancing and energy alignment therapist and creator of Parenting Magic. She was a stressed-out single mum
on anti-depressants. With three teenage sons, all affected by challenged, illness, medical conditions, psychological issues and labelled with ‘disabilities’. Struggling in every area of her life. In Parenting Magic, she shares the hard earned secrets that transformed her family life for good.

Parenting Magic by Karen Shaw is published by Practical Inspiration Publishing, £16.99.

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