Talk PANTS and stay safe

By | children's health, Education, Relationships, Safety

From an early age we talk to children about how to stay safe. We teach them how to cross the road safely and not to run with scissors. But some subjects can be trickier to discuss than others. For example – sexual abuse. Where on earth do you start?

Talking about sexual abuse with children can feel like a daunting prospect. It’s something you hope you never have to discuss and you might feel that if you do; you’ll scare them or take away their innocence.

But the truth is abuse happens and we need to talk about it to keep children safe. During the year 2019/20, police forces across the UK recorded more than 73,500 child sex offences – an increase of 57% over five years. By talking about it from an early age, potentially before it even takes place, we can help children speak up if something happens that worries them.

But talking about abuse doesn’t need to be a scary thing and we can show you how. You can start by teaching them the NSPCC’s Underwear Rule, or PANTS. Since the NSPCC launched its PANTS campaign in 2013, it has sparked over 1.5 million conversations between adults and their children to help keep them safe from abuse.

PANTS stands for:
Privates are private
Your underwear covers up your private parts and no one should ask to see or touch them. Sometimes a doctor, nurse or family members might have to. But they should always explain why and ask you if it’s OK first.

Always remember your body belongs to you
Your body belongs to you. No one should ever make you do things that make you feel embarrassed or uncomfortable. If someone asks to see or tries to touch you underneath your underwear say ‘NO’ – and tell someone you trust and like to speak to.

No means no
No means no, and you always have the right to say ‘no’ – even to a family member or someone you love. You’re in control of your body and the most important thing is how YOU feel. If you want to say ‘No’, it’s your choice.

Talk about secrets that upset you
There are good and bad secrets. Good secrets can be things like surprise parties or presents for other people. Bad secrets make you feel sad, worried or frightened. You should tell an adult you trust about a bad secret straight away.

Speak up, someone can help
Talk about stuff that makes you worried or upset. If you ever feel sad, anxious or frightened you should talk to an adult you trust. This doesn’t have to be a family member. It can also be a teacher or a friend’s parent – or even Childline.

Next, you’ll need to pick the right time to start talking about it. The right time is… anytime! It’s important to make it part of everyday conversations you might have with your child so that it doesn’t feel forced or as though it’s a big deal. Some examples are:
• During bath time, when applying cream or when getting your child dressed.
• During car journeys – it’s a neutral space and it might be easier to get their undivided attention.
• Going swimming is the perfect time to explain that what’s covered by swimwear is private.
• During a TV show that features a sensitive storyline – you could ask them what they would do in that situation and encourage them to think about adults they trust and could speak to about a problem.

There’s even a video for you to sing along to with your child, to help them learn the Underwear Rule. The yellow, cuddly, pant-wearing dinosaur mascot, Pantosaurus, sings and dances his way through these important safeguarding messages but it’s fun and incredibly catchy.

Singing not really your thing? Don’t worry – you can always read the PANTS book together. Pantosaurus and the Power of Pants follows the story of Pantosaurus as he receives a new pair of pants. Dinodad tells him that they will give him special powers. Pantosaurus then experiences a problem at school and just as Dinodad told him, his super pants give him the power to speak up.

There are lots of other sources of support available on the NSPCC website – You can sign up for regular emails with tips and advice, download free PANTS guides in 16 different languages and sing along to the Pantosaurs video.

There are also PANTS activity packs, and Pantosaurus and the Power of Pants is available to buy in the NSPCC online shop –

For further advice and support, the NSPCC’s Helpline is available Monday to Friday 8am – 10pm or 9am – 6pm at the weekends. Trained professionals can offer tips and advice and can help you if you have concerns about a child. You can call them free and in confidence on 0808 800 5000 or visit


Three tips for boosting men’s mental health

By | Mental health, Relationships
Boys don’t cry. Man up. Be a man. Phrases like these stop men talking about mental health issues. They’re part of the reason why one in eight men has a common mental health problem in England. It’s why three times as many men die by suicide in the UK compared to women, and why men are overwhelmingly less likely to receive psychological therapy.

To save men’s lives, something has to change. But the actions many men take in response to mental health issues – brushing it off, bottling it up – simply aren’t working. Instead, men need to see that opening up isn’t a sign of weakness, but the path to a happier and more balanced life.

Here, The Massage Company is giving its top tips on what men can do to help alleviate their mental health issues.

Get talking
Whether it’s with friends and family, or with an independent therapist, the first step to solving any problem is talking about it.

There are many different types of therapy available. Would you like someone who can help you think about unhelpful patterns of behaviour? Cognitive Behavioural Therapy might be the right solution. Need help overcoming a specific challenge such as addiction? Counselling could be a great way to find out how others have had the same challenge before, and the steps they have taken to overcome it.

The majority of humans love giving advice, but how often do you listen to your own? The next time you are struggling with a mental health issue, ask yourself: what would I say to myself in this situation? And remember to lend an ear to other men when they are in need – after all, the more we listen to others, the closer we get to cracking the stigma about men opening up.

If you aren’t ready to speak out, even just keeping a diary can help you recognise negative symptoms or thoughts, helping you understand whatever might trigger anxiety or other mental health issues.

Get moving
Exercise has vast physical benefits, including boosting your energy, helping you sleep better and reducing the risk of diabetes. But it also reduces anxiety and depression and improves your mood by releasing endorphins – the so-called ‘feel-good hormones’.

By exercise, we don’t mean cranking out reps until you look like Jean Claude Van Damme. Just a brief 30 minute session of moderate exercise a day can be enough to help reduce depression and anxiety. In fact, studies show that there is a 20% to 30% lower risk of depression and dementia for adults participating in daily physical activity.

Beyond exercise, finding a new hobby can be key to alleviating mental health issues. Maybe it’s cooking. Maybe it’s gardening. Maybe it’s whacking a ball into the sun at the driving range. Whatever it is, find something to do that transports you somewhere else for a while.

Get relaxing
Did you know that massage is a fantastic aid to mental health? That’s because, as well as improving circulation and blood flow, massage releases endorphins (just like exercise) that improve your mood and contribute to reducing depression.

Massage has been growing in popularity – in fact, at The Massage Company, around 38%-40% of the client base is men. And in a recent survey to the customer base, 31% of people ticked one of their main reasons for going for a massage as mental health.

The crux of the issue is this – you can’t afford to put your own needs at the bottom of your priority list. If you want to improve your mental health, you need to commit time and effort to the goal. It’s not unmanly, it’s not weak and it’s not vulnerable – it’s putting yourself back on the path to a happy state of mind.

Since its inception in 2016, The Massage Company has continued to challenge common pre-conceptions of massage and the stereotype of the industry. Their vision is simple: to bring high-quality massage to the wellbeing mainstream. They want people to see massage as accessible to everyone and good value for money, so it can become a vital and routine part of a better and balanced quality of life.


New year, new beginnings – changes to the divorce process in 2022

By | family, Legal, Relationships
by Julian Hunt
Head of the Family department Dean Wilson LLP Solicitors

The government’s Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 was passed in June 2020 and aims to implement major reform to the divorce process, becoming law on 6 April of this year.

Julian Hunt, Head of the Family department and member of Resolution, has been an active campaigner in the move toward no-fault divorce and has lobbied local MP’s in favour of the same.

What is the legislation’s main reform?
The Act will remove the concept of ‘fault’ in divorce proceedings – a welcome change to the divorce legislation that has not been amended in any significant way for over 50 years.

What is the current regime?
If a couple want to divorce, they have limited options to choose to present their petition on. Set out as five ‘facts’, these are: adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, two years’ separation with consent, or five years’ separation without consent.

If a couple wish to divorce quickly those options are limited to the grounds of adultery and unreasonable behaviour, with the less contentious divorce routes only achievable after two or five years separation.

The prospect of a long and unnecessary wait often means that parties will choose the blame route with the unwanted result of intensifying conflict and causing long lasting damage, particularly impacting future co-parenting.

Why doesn’t the current regime work?
The current regime fosters animosity between parties by encouraging the assignment of blame, which can lead to delays in obtaining the end goal of a divorce and can have a knock on effect if the parties have children related matters to resolve at the same time.

The need for a no fault divorce process was highlighted in the recent case of Owens v Owens.

Mrs Owens issued her petition based on Mr Owens unreasonable behaviour in which she stated she could not reasonably be expected to live with Mr Owens anymore. Mr Owens defended the petition on the basis that his behaviour had not been unreasonable when looked at in the context of their marriage and the Court agreed with him. The Court found no behaviour that Mrs Owens could not reasonably be expected to live with and as such the marriage could not be said to have irretrievably broken down and her petition was dismissed. Although Mrs Owens appealed, it was held that judges could only interpret and apply the law handed to them and that under the current regime the petitioner is required to find fault in the respondent.

This decision highlighted the need for a no fault divorce process. Mrs Owens was left in the unenviable position of having to wait out a five year separation in order to proceed with a divorce without her husband’s consent.

What is the aim of the reform and why is it needed?
An acrimonious divorce consumes parties’ lives, and that acrimony usually spills over, even once the Decree Absolute is finalised, especially where children are involved. The fault system encourages discord which often affects the parties’ mental health, as well as the mental health of any children (especially if they are old enough to understand what’s going on). Therefore, divorces using one of the fault-based facts are usually quite traumatic to the parties.

A common misconception under the fault based regime is that the bad behaviour of one party will affect the financial outcome of the divorce, when in fact one has no bearing on the other, unless the behaviour is sufficiently extreme but, these cases are extremely rare.

Parties tend to settle finances subsequent to issuing their divorce petition and the tone of blame is usually carried over so as to frustrate and slow down the financial proceedings which in affect helps no one, including the Family Court whose resources are overwhelmed already.

The proposed changes should simplify the divorce process and reduce conflict from the very start. Parties will then be able to focus on the important issues like children, property and finances bringing resolution more quickly and amicably so that both can heal and move forward.

What will be the new regime?
The new legislation aims to make a number of significant changes, such as:
• Replace the ‘five facts’ with a new requirement to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown (the Court then must take this statement as conclusive evidence that the marriage has broken down irretrievably);
• Remove the possibility of contesting the divorce;
• Introduce an option for a joint application;
These changes will also apply to the dissolution of civil partnerships.

Family law – what’s next?
The Law Society are currently campaigning for legal aid to be reintroduced for early advice, particularly in family law and we at Dean Wilson LLP believe this would be a further welcome step to focus parties’ minds on the practicalities at hand of separating joint lives into separate healthy and happy futures.

Dean Wilson LLP’s reputation has been built upon our ability to deliver and exceed our clients’ expectations. For over 100 years our success has been founded upon our client focused approach, backed by the knowledge and expertise of our lawyers.


Everyone deserves the right to communication

By | Education, Language, Relationships

What is a speech and language therapist and how can they help your child? As a child develops there is an expectation that they will reach certain milestones in their development. This includes their speech, language and communication skills.

Sometimes, children can take longer to meet these milestones, often requiring a little extra time but sometimes they need some support. It is important to remember that no child’s communication journey will be the same, every child takes a different speed.

However, if a child is struggling on their communication journey a speech and language therapist (SLT) is there to help.

Who do we work with?
A SLT is focused on communication and all the different aspects associated with communication. From speech skills to language skills, comprehension skills, attention skills, eating and drinking skills, social skills and fluency skills. The list goes on and on, many people assume our role is similar to that seen in ‘The King’s Speech’. Focusing on a stutter or working on the pronunciation of a sound. However, a SLT works with children as young as two years old and with varying difficulties.

SLT’s work with children with a range of diagnoses such as:
• Speech and language delay
• Developmental language disorder (DLD)
• Speech disorders
• Autistic spectrum disorders
• Disfluency (stuttering/stammering)
• Cleft lip and palate
• Learning difficulties
• Developmental delay
• Down Syndrome
• Social communication delay
• Comprehension delay
• Attention and listening delay
• Swallowing conditions.

Why is a speech and language therapist just playing with my child?
Children learn best when they do not realise they are learning. Play provides vast opportunities for communication, whether that communication is expressed through eye gaze, gesture or talking. Play allows a child to explore the world around them, to share attention with you and to engage. So, whilst it may look as though a SLT is just playing with your child, every toy and activity will be encouraging and developing your child’s communication skills.

I have concerns about my child’s communication skills, should I just wait and see?
Often as a parent, we can become concerned about our child’s abilities. Naturally, we begin to compare them to other children. We can go back and forth with concerns around whether we should seek help or whether we should wait and see. Early intervention is key with communication difficulties – the longer a difficulty is left the harder it can be to resolve and the greater the impact on a child’s overall communication abilities. Diagnosing a delay or condition early can drastically improve the outcome of a child’s communication journey.

If you are concerned about your child’s communication skills, have a chat with a SLT. Most independent practitioners will offer a free phone call to discuss any concerns you have and offer advice.

What should I expect from my first speech and language therapy session?
Usually, the initial session is an assessment session. This is often an informal chat with the parents, finding out your concerns, your child’s developmental history and gaining insight into your child’s interests. Then, the SLT will play with your child, informally assessing their abilities holistically. A child is very unlikely to know it is an assessment – my initial assessment checklist includes bubbles, animals, a pop-up pirate and trains!

If you have any concerns about your child’s communication, no matter how small, don’t delay in contacting a SLT. Everyone deserves the right to communication. We can talk about your concerns and offer you tailored advice and plan the next steps in supporting you and your child. The longer a concern is left, the harder it is to resolve. So contact your local SLT today!

Help Me to Talk provide engaging sessions at home, nursery, school and virtually to families across Surrey. For children as young as two years old. Get in touch today! 07799 677262



The communication and capabilities of a newborn baby

By | baby health, Education, Language, play, Relationships, sleep
by Karen Emery
Founder of Haven & Base,
Perinatal Practitioner, Parent Coach & Children’s Sleep Advisor

It wasn’t too long ago that we thought newborn babies couldn’t do much at all, other than eat, sleep and cry. But the exact opposite is true. Newborn babies are born with amazing communication capabilities and are primed and ready for social contact with their parents and caregivers right from birth. More importantly, brain science has shown us just how important this early communication is between a baby and their parent for a baby’s brain development.

Many parents are unaware that a human baby is born with an undeveloped brain and that a baby’s brain and nervous system grows most rapidly in the first few years following birth. A baby’s brain grows and develops in response to their environment but crucially in response to the interactions that a baby shares with their parent(s) and caregivers. Communication is more than talking. It’s any form of message sent from one party to another through sounds, words, or physical hints like body language. From the first moment that your baby is placed in your arms, you and your baby will be communicating with each other. These first glances, sounds, and touches literally shape the way in which your baby’s brain will grow and develop.

Everyone knows that babies cry but did you know that every baby has their own crying repertoire? Every baby has a unique and different cry for a different reason. Unlike other mammal babies, human babies are born completely dependent upon their parent or caregiver for survival and their ability to cry is very important for alerting an adult that something is wrong, or a change is needed. Babies have different cries for different reasons: a hungry baby may cry in a low or short pitched tone, while a baby who is angry or upset may cry in a choppier tone. As your baby grows, you as a parent will be able to recognise and understand what need that your baby is expressing. Even if we as parents cannot always work out why our baby is crying and what our baby is trying to express to us, it’s always important to respond to your baby’s cry for help. Responding to your baby’s cries (even when we may not know what they are crying for) helps to make your baby feel safe, secure, listened to, and heard. You cannot spoil a baby when you are meeting their physical and emotional needs.

Babies love talking! Although a baby doesn’t say a meaningful word until they are about a year old, they love to ‘take turns’ communicating with you as a parent or caregiver with facial expressions, gurgles, coo’s and body language. Why not give this a try? Find a moment when your baby is quiet but alert and give this ‘turn taking’ a go. Position your baby in front of you gazing into their eyes. What ever your baby does – you copy. If your baby gurgles, you gurgle back. Always wait for your baby to respond. This is a beautiful way to connect with your baby but don’t expect a full-blown conversation for hours at a time. Newborns can only manage this type of interaction for a few moments at each sitting before it can become over stimulating for their immature nervous system. As your baby grows and develops you can spend longer gazing at one another and conversing for longer periods each time but it’s always best to follow your baby’s lead. When your baby has had enough, they may look away, grimace, arch their back or posset (spit up milk). Crying is usually the last signal that your baby has had enough, and a change is needed.

This is the second article of three in a series about babies. In my final article, which will be available in the summer edition, I will discuss sleep tips for babies aged from birth until three months old.

You can learn more about how to communicate with your baby by visiting

Karen Emery is available for VIRTUAL one-to-one parent-baby consultations.
You can email her for an appointment at


The ‘Covid Cohort’

By | Education, Mental health, Relationships
by Sally-Ann Potter
Potter’s House Preschool and Forest School
I imagine many of us in the Early Years are adjusting to what should be the new normal – life after lockdown. As well as the logistical and financial impact that Covid-19 and various lockdowns has had on the Early Years, we are now faced with an altogether more alarming challenge – the ‘Covid Cohort’.

An entire cohort of children who are starting preschool are significantly lacking in vital areas of development. A global pandemic saw us losing so many support groups for parents that are vital to the development of children under five and we are now observing the detrimental effect it has had on their development.

By completing assessments of children in the Early Years we are able to identify and pinpoint areas where children may not be meeting targets. This enables early intervention and allows us the opportunity to help support those children to achieve goals and next steps. Recently, when observing children in order to assess them I have noticed first hand and also had reported to me a frightening number of our children who are unable to communicate effectively, are socially unaware and have no understanding of boundaries or keeping themselves safe. What was once around 5% not reaching goals is now closer to 85%.

As children’s brains develop the quickest within their first five years, it is fair to say that the negative effects of lockdown on children’s development could have lifelong impacts. Speech and language development are vital to a child’s ability to engage socially or in education and learning on the whole. Communication is the fundamental starting point for children’s learning.

Let’s look at all the positive interactions and experiences children have missed out on because of the pandemic – play dates, family gatherings, the library, the park, baby groups, singing groups. All of these experiences create opportunities for children to develop their language – they hear and learn new words as they are exposed to conversations, they learn to take turns speaking, this enables them to build social skills and mimic social interactions and, vitally, develop their confidence and self-esteem.

This lack of opportunity to develop their confidence and self-esteem means that the mental health of children in the Early Years is also negatively affected. On top of that the mental health consultations among new mothers went up 30% and is continuing to rise. Post Natal Depression has tripled! Mothers experiencing high levels of anxiety have gone up 43%. The ripple effect of this contributes to the decline in mental health of children in the Early Years.

So what do we do?
We need to look at how the pandemic has altered our ‘cultural capital’ and what we need to adjust in order to give every child an equal opportunity to grow and learn. With the introduction of a new EYFS, settings have the unique and long-awaited chance to construct their own curriculums. This couldn’t have been introduced at a better time and settings have a golden opportunity to build a curriculum that supports an entire cohort of children who need targeted support with communication. This is a time where Early Years settings can shine and make a real difference to the future of millions of children across the world.

How do we do it?
At Potter’s House we are fortunate enough to be supported by an incredible NHS Speech and Language team who offer training and advice to staff whenever necessary. In conversations with speech and language therapists and other practitioners supporting the Early Years, I’ve discovered how aware of this concern everyone is and how hard they are all working to combat it. We have a high level speech therapist attending our setting to deliver vital training, bespoke to our setting, in order for staff to fully understand and underpin the growth of our children’s vocabulary.

In addition to this we need to look at some ways we help children to develop communication and make it omnipresent in our practice. Go back to basics – make comments and statements when speaking to children, avoid asking lots of questions. Give children time to process what you have said and respond. Keep language limited and simple. Repeat back to toddlers what they say in order to model mimicking. If possible, reduce background noise. Build on what they have said, for example, “car”, “yes, and blue car”. Remove dummies and any other obstructions. Speak clearly and subtly correct their mistakes by repeating what they have said back to them correctly. Read to them and introduce visual aids in conversation. Play music and sing songs.

“From the earliest moments of life, children begin to learn the fundamentals of language. The most powerful influence for effective language development are the verbal interactions with caregivers.” – Dr David Perlmutter, Neurologist and Author of Brain Maker.

For more information please contact Sally-Ann at or call 07375 379148


Choosing the right primary school for your child

By | Education, family, Legal, Relationships
by Emma Willing and Antonia Felix
Mishcon de Reya law firm

The choice of a child’s school is one of the most important decisions parents will make. For separated parents in particular, the decision can be more challenging, especially if living arrangements are not settled or if there is divergence of views as to the best educational setting for a child.

The deadline for parents (of children due to start primary school in September 2022) to apply for a state primary school place is 15 January 2022. Following the making of an application, the offer of a school place will be received from the relevant Local Authority on 16 April 2022.

Emma Willing and Antonia Felix from Mishcon de Reya’s Family and Education teams consider some of the common issues and questions which can arise when choosing the right school and making the application as parents.

Who has the ability to make a decision about where a child goes to school?
Provided both parents have parental responsibility, any important decisions in respect to a child, including regarding education, must be made by the parents jointly.

If agreement cannot be reached, or one parent has acted without the other parent’s agreement, it may be that a method of dispute resolution such as those discussed below can assist. Ultimately, if parents cannot reach an agreement, an application can be made to Court to determine the issue in dispute.

The Court’s primary focus in determining such a dispute will be an assessment of what is in the child’s best interests.

What is ‘parental responsibility’?
Parental responsibility defines the rights and responsibilities that an individual has in respect to a child, and determines who has decision-making power in matters such as education, religion and medical treatment.

The birth mother of a child automatically acquires parental responsibility at birth. This does not apply to the father or non-birth mother (in the case of a same-sex female couple), unless they were married or in a civil partnership with the mother at the time of the birth.

If the parents are unmarried, the mother is not required to enter the father or non-birth mother’s name on the birth certificate and if she does not, the father or non-birth mother will not then have parental responsibility. Despite this, if agreement cannot be reached, there are Court applications which can be made in order to obtain parental responsibility.

How can a disagreement about schooling be resolved?
While some separated parents will be able to reach a decision about the choice of schooling between themselves, others may encounter difficulties and the situation can become increasingly stressful as the application deadline looms.

There are various ways in which to resolve a disagreement:
Family member / mutual friend – A trusted family member or mutual friend may be able to assist parents in discussions. This can be particularly useful to diffuse a situation of conflict and involve someone neutral in the discussions.
Mediation – A mediator is a neutral facilitator. The mediator will be entirely independent from the parents and their respective solicitors (should the parents have them). While the mediator can facilitate and encourage discussions between separated parents, overall resolution can only be reached by agreement. Following an agreement reached by mediation, it is then advisable for both parents to consult with their own solicitors in order to formalise any agreement reached.
Arbitration – An arbitrator can be jointly appointed by the parents to make a decision in respect of the dispute. The advantage of arbitration is that resolution can normally be reached far more quickly than through the Court process. The arbitrator can impose a final outcome on the parents. However, unlike mediation which may result in an agreement, the parents may feel that they have less control over the eventual outcome.
Round table meeting/discussions between solicitors – There can be discussions between the parents’ respective solicitors either via correspondence or at a so-called ’round table meeting’ (which does not, despite the name, have to involve the parties sitting together) to resolve the issues.
Court – If agreement cannot be reached and parents do not want to use arbitration, an application can be made to Court. This should however be seen as a last resort.

What other planning can be put in place to avoid future disagreements?
It is advisable for parents to engage in discussions about the choice of a child’s school early. Where possible, parents should seek to meet or engage a third party to facilitate discussions around six to twelve months in advance of a school application deadline. Careful planning and thought is required, including attending school open days, considering up to date Ofsted reports and speaking to other parents. The earlier discussions commence, the sooner any areas of disagreement can be identified.

Parents should consider diarising future dates when applications are required to be made or assessments taken throughout their child’s education, and seek to approach the process together wherever possible.

Deciding between a mainstream school or a special needs school
Some children need more support than others to gain as much as they can from their education. A child may have been diagnosed with a medical condition, disability or special educational needs and there may be a professional assessment setting out what kind of educational help they need.

For children who need more help than a mainstream school would normally be able to provide, a plan in England called an Education Health and Care (EHC) Plan will be issued (following a formal assessment) by the local authority where a child lives. This will detail the child’s educational needs and the support they will receive.

Many children with an EHC Plan in place will go to a mainstream school, and the law gives children a right to a mainstream education if parents want this. However, parents may decide a child will be better supported in a specialist needs school. The local authority will discuss schooling options with parents when a child’s plan is drawn up, or reviewed, and must consider the parents’ views. The final decision rests with the local authority, however, if the level of provision is not agreed, an appeal to the First-tier Tribunal may need to be considered.
All mainstream schools in England and Wales will have a staff member, known as a Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO), who is responsible for arranging support for pupils with special educational needs (SEN).

Before making a decision – whether you are separated parents, a single parent or two parents together – the key is to do research in advance, and discuss your child’s needs. Try to talk to other parents at the school, and ensure you visit the school to see first-hand how it is run.

What steps should parents take if issues arise with a Local Authority once the offer of a school place has been made?
First, it is important to remember that there is movement with school places after offers have been made during the spring and summer period. If a child does not have a place in one of the schools selected on 16 April 2022, then contact should be made with the local council to obtain details of schools with places. The council may be able to assist, avoiding any need for parents to engage the appeals process.

It is also possible to put a child’s name down on a waiting list at a preferred school via the school or the council (the ‘admission authority’ for each school must keep a waiting list open for at least the first term of each school year).

Even if a child has a school place, it is possible to go on the waiting list for another school. Parents should not automatically reject the place offered, in case doing so may result in a situation of a child having no school place. It is important to be aware that for Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 the class size is limited to 30 so the school can refuse the appeal if the limit has been reached.

Tips for bringing up a compassionate child

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

Compassionate children are ones that naturally grow into kind-hearted adults, as the values instilled in them through their childhood will be carried into their later life.

The key to raising compassionate children is through being conscious of your parenting techniques and the values that they’re teaching them. Here, MindBE Education shares tips for bringing up a compassionate child:

• Use storybooks to frame ideas

When you read a story ask questions about how the characters might be feeling. How would your child feel if they were that character? What might the character have done differently to be kinder? By highlighting these actions and feelings your child will develop a greater sense of empathy and perspective that will carry forward into their own life.

• Use a persona doll or puppet to discuss issues

Sometimes children don’t like to talk about things but will happily engage through a doll or puppet or other forms of play. If your child is facing a situation or there is an issue in the air, talk to your child and discuss how the doll or puppet may be feeling. Discuss how it might make you feel and what strategies the puppet could use to feel better. By talking about issues and situations that come up we can instil the values of kindness and compassion in our child.

• Teach your child to be kind

Modelling kindness yourself is the easiest way to do this. Do you smile, hold the door open or help your neighbours? More than anything a child will pick up on the cues from the adults in their life. If you are kind and compassionate your child most likely will follow your lead. When you do something, you might explain why you tried to help another and how we can be of service to others.

• Create a sense of gratitude in your home

Being grateful is linked to being a compassionate person. When we are grateful, we can feel empathy for others who may not have something we do. We can ease fear and anxiety and focus on the good which leads to a more loving outlook in the world. Try to take turns every night at dinner to say three good things that happened that day or encourage your child to write a gratitude journal each day.

MindBE Education offers teacher and parenting training courses and resources so that they can better teach children to build compassion, courage and confidence. MindBE Education was founded by Dr Helen Maffini. An international educator, author and consultant who has worked around the world, Helen is a certified emotional intelligence trainer, a Neuro-Linguistic Practitioner and a positive psychology leader.

Five tips for preparing your first born for their new sibling

By | family, Health, prenancy, Relationships, Uncategorized

When you’re getting ready to welcome another baby into your family, you’ll no doubt want to share the excitement with your first born. By getting them involved with all the pre-baby organising, you can ensure your son or daughter is just as prepared as you are for the new arrival. Here, Kirsty Prankerd, Managing Director at Write From The Heart shares her tips for getting your little one ready for a sibling.

With another baby on the way, there’s sure to be many things you’ll be planning, and one of those should be helping to make it a positive experience for your first born, too. It’s only natural that your little one might feel a bit left out or upset knowing they won’t be mummy or daddy’s only child, but this doesn’t mean they can’t warm to the idea – especially if you get them involved with the exciting preparations.

Here, I’ll be sharing my top tips for getting your first born prepared for their new sibling.

Make a special announcement to them
Telling your little one that you’re expecting another baby can seem nerve-wracking, but if you approach it in the right way, you’ll have nothing to worry about. Creating a special announcement that gets them involved is a great way of doing this. For example, you could throw a mini tea party with plenty of their favourite foods, games, and decorations and reveal it to them during this and tell them they’re soon going to have a little brother or sister who they can do this with.

You could even give them a little gift that they’ll be able to share with their new sibling. This could be a game they could play together when they’re a little older, or a book they could read to the new arrival.

Allow them to help pick decorations for the nursery
If you’re planning on giving your nursery an overhaul before your little one arrives, it might be a nice idea to have your son or daughter help you with it. If your child is too young to help to do any painting, you could get them involved in different ways. For example, once you’ve narrowed down a few options of paints or wallpapers for the walls, you might want to ask them which they like better and go with that one.

If your child loves drawing or painting, you could even have them create something special for the newborn that you can frame and hang in the nursery.

As you will be spending quite a lot of time in the nursery, whether that’s redecorating or organising your baby’s drawers, it’s important that you try to get your little one involved as much as possible. Allowing them to help you make big decisions and being given their own responsibilities is sure to make them feel happier and more prepared to be a big brother or sister.

Get them involved with the naming process
Thinking of a name for your baby doesn’t always come easy, especially when you haven’t met them yet. This is why some parents like to come up with a few good options so that they can see which suits their newborn better once they meet.

If you’re struggling for some first or middle names, or you simply can’t pick between a couple, why not let your little one help? They’re bound to come up with some that you’re not too keen on, but by spending some time together looking through baby name books and writing down your favourites together, your son or daughter is sure to feel special – plus, you’ll have plenty of options when it’s time to meet your new baby!

Read them stories about other siblings
There are sure to still be periods of uncertainty for your child about having a new sibling, even if they appear excited at times. To help ease any worries and show them how fun it can be to have a brother or sister to share family life with, I would recommend reading them stories about siblings.

Whether the storyline is about fun adventures that siblings can go on together or gives your little one ideas about what types of games they could play together when the baby is a bit older, it’s sure to make them a bit more enthusiastic and excited.

To make it a bit more personal, you could even look for books that can have the character names personalised to match your son or daughter’s name, so they feel extra special and relate with the character more.

Let them choose a gift for the baby’s arrival
Letting your child select a gift from them for the baby’s arrival can be a great initial bonding experience, especially when they choose something that your newborn can cherish for years, like a cuddly toy or a blanket.

So next time you head out to the shops for some baby supplies, why not take your son or daughter with you? Head to the newborn baby section with them so you can be sure anything they choose will be suitable for a tiny human.

If you’ve already decided on a name, you could even let them choose a personalised gift, like a soft toy with your baby’s name embroidered on, or a memory box that they can help to fill when your newborn has arrived.

Ease your child’s nerves or jealousy about a new sibling by getting them involved as much as possible with the preparations. By giving them responsibilities and getting their opinions, they’re sure to feel much more valued and excited to meet their new brother or sister!

Fathers matter too

By | family, Relationships
by Karen Emery
Founder of Haven & Base, Perinatal Practitioner, Parent Coach & Children’s Sleep Advisor

Becoming a parent is an incredibly exciting time for many new fathers but it is also a time of huge change and responsibility. It’s not uncommon for fathers to feel overwhelmed or daunted by the prospect of caring for a tiny baby.

Some new fathers may even feel excluded or ‘unneeded’ during the immediate time following birth and may feel they have no specific role (especially if their partner is breastfeeding), viewing mothers as the most important caregiver and preferring to take a more passive or secondary role themselves. But fathers are just as important to their new baby as mothers are. When fathers get involved in caring for a new baby right from birth, they can make a vital contribution to their children’s development. Babies need their fathers, just as they need their mothers, to love them, to be interested in them and to respond to their needs, making them feel valued and loved.

Fathers interact with infants in different ways to that of mothers. Fathers tend to be more playful and exploratory with their babies than mothers whose interactions are often more protective and nurturing. These early interactions between both a father and mother directly impact the way in which the baby’s brain will grow and develop but in slightly different ways. Research has shown us that sensitive, supportive and involved fathering, from birth, has been linked to a range of positive outcomes in babies, toddlers and children and in particular on a child’s language development, school readiness and positive self-esteem.

The important thing for fathers is to get involved and it doesn’t matter in what way. It can take time for new fathers to feel closely involved with their baby and that’s OK but daily ‘hands on’ experience together will help to forge a strong healthy relationship. It’s not about the time you spend together each day but the quality of the interactions that you share. It could be as simple as talking with your baby at a nappy change, taking your baby outside in a sling to explore the world, trying an hour of skin-to-skin (lying with your baby chest to chest) or singing your favourite song while gently rocking the baby.

Infant massage is a particularly beautiful one-to-one experience for new fathers to try with their babies and can be especially useful in promoting bonding where fathers are separated from their baby for extended periods due to work or relationship breakdown. Massaging a baby has great benefits for both fathers and babies as massage helps with calming and relaxing the infant, enhancing growth, improving infant sleep and for father’s massage helps to develop sensitivity to the baby and understand their needs better, helps to build a father’s confidence in handling and caring for their baby, and can even help lower a fathers own stress levels.

There are lots of infant massage courses for fathers to try in person or online. For more information about how to get started and the many benefits of infant massage, try The International Association of Infant Massage or you can book a father-baby massage course with Haven & Base

‘Father’s matter too’ is the first of three articles in my series exploring early parenting. My next editorial: ‘Understanding the communication and capabilities of a new baby’ will feature in the spring 2022 edition, and will explore the ways in which a parent can understand and communicate with their baby right from birth.

Karen Emery has been supporting expectant parents and families for over 20 years as a midwife, health visitor, perinatal practitioner, and children’s sleep advisor.
Karen has a special interest and experience in infant mental health and early parenting.
For more information or to contact Karen you can email her directly at

For more information about Haven & Base visit: