Thursday, 12 December 2013

Researching holiday #homework using Google

With the Christmas holidays here it may be that your children have been set holiday homework which involves research for a project. My parents have just recycled the Encyclopaedia Britannica that we used during childhood for these tasks, in conjunction with trips to the local library reference section to read a range of books. The internet has largely replaced the need for this with copious information at a child’s finger tips. However, how to 21st Century parents ensure their child is forming balanced opinions through broad research of a topic and not just regurgitating page one of Google?

Google a topic such as The First World War and you will see what I mean. Wikipedia summarises topics well but be aware that articles could be written by anyone so facts could be un-reliable or hugely subjective. Select the right key words in order to come up with a variety of reliable sources in the search results.

Search results are global so checking the credibility of information sources is important. This can be done by understanding the background, expertise and culture of the person who has written a piece.

The ability to copy and paste makes plagiarism far easier but schools and most importantly examination boards are very wary and on the look-out for this. Encourage independent writing after having read around a subject. This can easily be checked by discussing what your child has written to see if they understand the content and can explain why they have formed their opinion, demonstrating objectivity, through researching several sources. All quoted opinions should be referenced.

Beware of Google translate. It often creates sentences that are grammatically incorrect so will stand out immediately.

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Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Tips on Communicating a Worry or Concern to your Child’s School

It is a worrying time for parents when an issue emerges regarding some aspect of their child’s life at school. Often they are unsure when to raise it and which communication channel is best. Sometimes lack of knowledge leads to insufficient confidence to raise it with the school. Here are a few tips that may assist you with effective communication.

Pick your battles. Give rational consideration to your worry rather than flying off the handle. Form a balanced view taking account of all angles. Is it of enough significance to formally raise it?  Remember that your child is unlikely to be in the right or truthful all of the time. Talk with them, try to get to the bottom of the issue and what might be causing it. You will then be able to talk to the right staff at the school when you have all the facts.

Avoid trying to resolve an issue regarding another child yourself, by talking to the child or their parents directly. Always address problems via the school. Addressing concerns diplomatically and reasonably is always a better option.

Familiarise yourself with the school pastoral care structure and follow the correct process for raising concerns. You will find details on the website or in the parent handbook. For example, it is unlikely that your issue will be well received if you go straight to the Head, before first trying to deal with it at tutor level.

Read reports, effort and assessment grades carefully so you are alerted early and can deal with issues promptly. Identifying potential problems sooner rather than later makes resolution far easier, Burying your head in the sand seldom works.

Get to know key staff. Always attend school events such as parents’ evenings. Keeping in touch regularly will ensure you have a good working relationship with staff should a concern arise.

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Thursday, 21 November 2013

A few tips on preparing for interviews

We seem to have been supporting an array of interview candidates recently. Young children seeking places at senior schools, sixth form candidates, those applying for university courses, or graduates seeking to secure their first job. Consequently, I thought a few interview tips might be timely.

First impressions count. Clean, smart appearance, positive but not bone crunching handshake, make eye contact and smile. Don’t forget hair and shoes. If seated think about posture and open body language.

Research the institution or company you wish to join. Appearing well-informed about what it offers and why that appeals to you will give a positive impression. Give some thought to what skills and capabilities you are able to offer within the environment of each individual institution or company. Have some examples at the ready which demonstrate contributions you have made in these areas in the past, to back up your claims.

If you are notified in advance who will be conducting the interview, research their role and what their specific areas of interest might be. It is easier to engage with a person if you have identified some common ground. Be truthful. You could get into a sticky area if you make a claim that you can’t back-up during discussion via in-depth knowledge or examples.

Back up every answer with a why, how or because. Just answering the question without stating why you have that opinion or giving examples of how you have previously used a skill or attribute within a relevant situation, is only half an answer.

If you need time to think, ask the interviewer to repeat the question or perhaps ask a question of your own to clarify. This will buy a bit of time, putting the ball back into their court, giving you time to consider your answer. Good Luck!

Do you need help with preparing for an interview? Contact our friendly team of education consultants on 01865 522066 or

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Why do 21st Century parents choose boarding?

Boarding stimulates emotion in all parents. Some vigorously defend the reasoning behind sending their child away to school, while others strongly proclaim they would never do this, as they want their family at home. In my view opinions mostly come from personal experience or lack of information, instead of perhaps asking the rational question - what is 21st Century boarding all about?

In the current financial climate many parents find they both need to work, juggling job commitments with school runs, after school clubs, sports practices and fixtures, homework, cooking and bedtime. Add the parent taxi service and this all leads to the question, where is the quality family time anyway? It must surely be worth considering boarding, where focus for the whole family is work in the week, with quality family time at leave-out weekends and holidays.

The open-door policy of modern boarding, coupled with excellent communication between school and home means parents are continuously in touch with progress and can regularly pop in to school for matches, concerts and plays. Children have evening access to the library, computers, art and design studios as well as help with homework from peers and teachers, reducing conflict at home. Early morning starts for choir rehearsal or sports practice become a thing of the past. Rather than spending time on the school bus, your child can immerse themselves in a wealth of opportunities.

21st Century boarding is about attaining academic excellence, building confidence, leadership skills and independence, as well as learning a sense of community and cultural understanding. Far from sending their child away, parents choose a boarding school as they believe in making a self-less decision to allow their child to realise their true potential.

For help with choosing the right boarding school, contact our team of experienced consultants by email or by phone +44 (0)1865 522066 

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Tips for preparing an eye catching Curriculum Vitae

This week, I thought I would share with you these tips for writing an eye catching CV. They could come in handy for applying for work experience, internships or for graduates seeking their first job.

Chances are the person reading your CV has limited time and a large pile to sift. Make sure yours is clear and stands out, even when skim reading. Use an easy to read type face, put your name and contact details clearly at the top, keep it to one page of A4 and check spelling carefully. If posting a hard copy, smart cream paper will stand out if all the others are white.

Be concise. You will be sending a supporting letter of application outlining why you are right for this particular opportunity. Keep your CV to factual evidence to support this. Three areas should be covered, education and qualifications, employment experience and additional information.

Make sure all years are covered sequentially. Gaps will lead to questions or doubt, which may put you on the no pile.

Avoid listing one word interests such as reading, travel and hockey. Expand to demonstrate commitment, skills and achievement. Part of a team which fixed the roof on an orphanage in Africa, regularly play hockey for Phoenix Club first team, chair the pupil school council which meets termly then I give feedback to the Headteacher, write a column for the school magazine published termly and enjoy reading autobiographies of leading sportsmen.

Read through your draft and identify your three stand-out factors that will make the employer want to meet you. It could be exceptional qualifications from a well-respected institution, relevant work experience where you made a proven contribution within a well-known company and an intriguing third element such as a hobby, volunteer work, proven leadership, presentation, team-working or organisational skills and commitment.

Do you need some advice with applying to university thorugh UCAS, preparing a CV or coaching for interview? Give our team of friendly, professional consultants a call on 01865 522066 or email

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Why choose a co-ed school?

Men may be from Mars and women from Venus, but we all have to live and work together on Earth. Hence, when talking about co-education, it is challenging not to just state the blindingly obvious, that we live in a co-ed world and youngsters must learn to thrive amongst colleagues and friends of both sexes. Education is not just about academic success. As importantly, it is about leaving school with the social skills and emotional intelligence to thrive in any environment.

Working in mixed groups can be of great benefit. A combination of the competitive nature of boys to perform as well as those around them and the girls’ often more conscientious attitude to work should be a winning formula for success, in both the classroom and independent study. Class discussion brings diversity of opinion and encourages all to develop a rounded view.

Co-ed schools are all about breaking the mould and inspiring girls to aim for careers as engineers, politicians or to study the Sciences and boys to perhaps consider Music, PR or design.

Co-curricular programmes offer diversity of choice with girls having equal access to activities which may once have been the preserve of boys such as CCF, cricket, shooting or practical skills such as carpentry, car maintenance or metalwork. Although fun to see boys dressed in drag in the school play, a co-ed environment allows less comical representation.

Lastly, school should be about forming solid, supportive friendships for life. I can’t help wondering if it is a more relevant preparation for 21st century life, for these to be with both boys and girls, giving a balanced perspective. Maybe girls bring focus, drive and determination for academic success and boys bring more of an easy-going, calm perspective. 

Particularly with an only child or where parents are separated, mixed friendships or role models are less likely at home, so perhaps more important to experience at school.

For advice on choosing the right school for your child, please call us on 01865 522066 or email

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Why choose an all boys or all girls school?

Are you considering senior school choices for 11+ or 13+? Here are a few thoughts on why you might choose a single sex school.

Few would dispute boys and girls are wired differently. They develop physically and emotionally at different speeds, learn in different ways and diverse motivating factors will inspire them. By studying in a tailor-made educational environment which recognises these differences, it is easy to comprehend why children in single sex schools thrive.

Teaching styles, subject choices, sporting opportunity and a full extra-curricular programme are entirely focussed on either boys or girls.

Boys express themselves differently. They tend to need more coaxing to be forthcoming in class than girls. In a single sex environment they are less likely to be intimidated or embarrassed by peer pressure, especially if they lack confidence.

In a similar way girls may find the presence of boys within the classroom intimidating, especially when they reach the teenage years and their hormones are running wild. At this crucial stage in their education, for both boys and girls, a mixed environment can be distracting and hence a barrier to learning.

With the dawn of social media, children appear to grow up so quickly, often feeling pressure from peers. In my opinion, a single sex school environment seems to allow children to be themselves for longer, without pressure to ‘perform’ allowing for their sole focus to be on learning and building supportive friendships, which often last a lifetime. To gossip, laugh and play, without the pressure to grow up too soon.

Of course learning to thrive in a mixed community is an important part of growing up. This can however be attained just as effectively through social interaction outside the classroom. In my experience, all single sex schools deliver a comprehensive programme of mixed social and extra-curricular activities, often through building close relationships with another single sex school locally.

.........Next week some thoughts on the advantages of co-education.

Do you need some advice to help you to choose the right school for your child? 
Give us a call on +44 (0)1865 522066 
or email

Monday, 14 October 2013

Tips on applying for a Bucks secondary school place.

The 11+ tests are over for another year. Whilst awaiting results due on 11th October, parents’ thoughts turn towards secondary school preferences via the Common Application Form (CAF). For the first time, parents will know their child’s 11+ test result, prior to submitting the CAF, knowing in advance if grammar is an option. The deadline for online submission of this form is 31st October. Here are a few tips to bear in mind when considering how to list school preferences.

Visit school open evenings in the coming weeks, meeting the Head and key staff to ensure you make an informed decision about your top choices in order of preference. By researching how likely you are to gain a place according to admissions criteria, for example proximity to the school gates or religious conditions, list at least one realistic, acceptable fall-back school, where a place is guaranteed.

Due to the equal preference system the schools will not know in what order you placed them on the form, so stick to your true order of preference. Your application to each school will be treated individually and given full consideration, according to their admissions code.

Fill in all the spaces on the form if you feel necessary, especially if there is a school you certainly don’t want. Leaving gaps on the form may mean you will be allocated a school of the admissions authority’s choosing, if you don’t secure a place in any of the schools you listed.

Don’t forget to consider Sir Thomas Fremantle, the new Free School which opened its doors in Sept 2013. Application for 2014 is via the CAF so be sure to list it as one of your preferences if you feel its ethos for education meets yours.

Are you raising children in an ‘equal opportunities’ household?

We hear a great deal about the importance of raising 21st Century girls to believe that they can have it all - aspire to become a successful career woman, a model wife and a great mother. However I came across an interesting perspective this week on whether we are also raising boys to become supportive husbands of the future, capable of sharing the tasks needed to run the home, so their wives will indeed be able to have it all.

Many teenage boys I know appear to believe their home has a washing and ironing or cooking fairy. Cleaning and emptying the dishwasher seem to happen by magic, while they are encouraged to focus their attentions on making their parents proud through academic and sporting attainment, to start them off on that successful high flying career.

Despite also going out to work, mum often takes care of the lion’s share of the domestic chores as well as school runs and helping with homework. Are we therefore raising boys with an expectation that women are multi-taskers and will do everything for them?

Why not do a huge favour for someone else’s daughter in the future and introduce your son to a few household chores like washing up and stacking the dishwasher after dinner, doing their own washing, planning and cooking the occasional family meal while mum is busy working towards an office project deadline? Fathers too can play their part, presenting a role model where they help with homework, share the school runs or do the odd bit of hoovering.

Observing Mum running around after Dad doing all of the domestic chores and working full-time is not a good role model for sons or daughters. Sharing parenting and domestic tasks wherever possible should nurture a more balanced view.

Need help with choosing the right school? 
Give us a call on 01865 522066 or visit our website

Monday, 7 October 2013

Tips for parents - surviving 11+ results this week

So the new format Bucks 11+ test results are due this Friday.  I have spoken with many parents who are nervously awaiting the outcome. Here are a few tips to make this time as pain free as possible for all.

On results day, be sensitive towards other families. If Friday brings good news, you and your child may wish to shout it from the rooftops. However be aware there will be disappointed parents and children at the school gate, who will appreciate discretion and sensitivity.

Nurture your child’s self-esteem at this time. Let them know that whatever they achieved, you are proud of the effort they made.

Consider carefully before launching an appeal. Listen to and act upon the advice of your primary school Headteacher and take time to consider carefully the right way forward. Scraping in and then struggling to keep up with the fast academic pace may not be the right environment for your child. All parents have a choice. Be careful to ensure it is a considered one that is relevant and appropriate for your child. School decisions should never be made through emotion, pressure from other parents or concern for what others may think. Also remember siblings are different and often require different school environments to nurture their individual potential.

The 11+ is not about pass or fail. It is designed to assess potential for a child to thrive at grammar school and as such requires a set level of attainment to be eligible for a place. Don’t speak badly of any secondary school incase your child is allocated a place there. A proactive parent who engages with the school to support their child’s education must reassure their child that they will be successful and happy wherever they go to school.

For an informal chat about how our friendly consultants might help you to choose the right school for your child, give us a call on 01865 522066 or visit our website

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Surviving the first few weeks at University- tips for parents

Fresher’s week is over and first year Uni. students are settling into the routine of day-to-day life. Moving away from home presents a number of new challenges which can lead to heartache. Parents will need to offer support and advice regarding some of the issues below over the coming weeks.

The number of timetabled hours and lecturing styles vary substantially from what teenagers were used to at school. Although the number of weekly contact hours in lectures can be as little as 10-15, the expectation to read around a subject independently, attend tutorials and deliver on project-work and assignments with deadlines often weeks in advance, requires  good organisation and study skills. Self-motivation is required to avoid the temptation to stay in bed until noon if there are no lectures until the afternoon. look out for signs that your teenager is struggling with planning study time or spending too much time having fun.

Sometimes the subject choice or course content turns out to be different from expectations. Discuss and address this quickly to ensure they stay the course. Keeping busy by joining clubs and societies will quickly build a group of new friends with interests in common, to offer support during the difficult first few weeks.

Budgeting for monthly out-goings, to make their student loan stretch further is crucial.  Securing part-time work as soon as possible will prevent money worries later.

Planning and cooking filling meals will keep them cheerful through home-comforts.  A cookery book full of easy to follow recipes, as well as teaming up with friends to cook together will save cash and waste less food than cooking for one.

Lastly knowing when to say no is crucial. Exposure to sex, drugs and alcohol is sadly inevitable. An ability to make sensible decisions in difficult situations, despite peer pressure will keep their studies on track and ensure a positive and successful Uni. experience.

For advice on choosing the right UK university and making an application through UCAS, give our consultants a call on 01525 240502 or visit our website

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Making the most of school open days – some tips for parents

Many schools, both state and independent, have open days in the coming weeks. These are a good opportunity to start your research by seeing schools in action, meeting key staff and getting a general feel for the atmosphere.

How do parents make the most of these fact-finding missions, seeing through the ‘marketing speak’ to make important decisions about the right school for their child?

Firstly meet the Head. How accessible they are to prospective parents can be a guide as to how the school is run. It is crucial their philosophy for education meets yours. Do they come across as a capable leader, respected by staff and pupils alike and are they in touch with the day-to-day school life?

Observe staff relationships with pupils within a lesson environment. Is it formal or more relaxed and which will suit your child? Single sex or co-ed has a different feel -do all children appear engaged and included? Is I.T. being used constructively, to support excellent and engaging teaching, not as a substitute for it? Are teaching assistants being used successfully, if your child will need learning support?

Are pupils smartly dressed and belongings tidily stored around the school? Books, files, school bags and lost property should be out of sight. Are walls and furniture in good decorative order and does the school site appear well looked-after?

Can pupils speak confidently to visitors and talk knowledgeably about their school, outlining its strengths?

Do noticeboards give a picture of a busy school with a breadth of educational opportunity across all academic subject areas, sport, music and creative arts?

Book your Open Day visits at The Future Schools Fair in Aylesbury this Saturday 21st Sept from 9am-1pm. Free event for parents. Research school choices at 11, 13 or 16. Register

Sunday, 8 September 2013

#11+ test this week - a few calming tips for #parents

So the new format 11+ tests for grammar schools are this week and the annual parent ‘nail-biting fest’ begins. Here are a few tips to ensure your worries for the outcome do not transfer to your child, who should feel confident to take the tests in their stride, knowing that whatever the result, you will be proud of the effort they made.

Avoid discussing fears over the result with a partner or friends within your child’s earshot. This will raise the pressure they feel and lead to raised stress levels. Your child should know that you see the test simply as a gauge of their ability so they will gain a place at the right school. Use of the word ‘fail’ should be limited. You must reassure them that whatever senior school they go to, you will make sure they have access to opportunities that will lead to success.

Have a relaxed evening the night before the test and a good night’s sleep. Last-minute cramming into the night will not allow their brain to switch off and will lead to an unsettled night, meaning they will be less alert for test day
A good breakfast is crucial. I read recently that research suggests blueberries can enhance concentration and memory, so why not try some sprinkled on breakfast cereal?

Plan a treat or buy a small gift to celebrate their efforts and the test being over. Whether you also plan a treat for results day is up to you, but now is your chance to focus on rewarding the effort they spent preparing, whatever the outcome.

If you are looking to review alternatives to grammar, incase the 11+ doesn’t go to plan, why not visit The Future Schools Fair on 21st Sept in Aylesbury? A free event for parents. For more details and to register for free tickets visit the website

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Choosing the right #school and subjects for sixth form

September is here and schools are back to work. For year 11 the priority is working towards GCSE. Now is also the time to consider sixth form studies, incase a move of school is advisable. I usually discourage this unless for an educational or financial reason. Knowing teachers and supportive friendships built over several years are an unquestionable benefit of staying put.

However there are circumstances where a move may be the best option. Some schools do not have a sixth form and now is the time to research options and start the application process.

For some, applying to grammar via 16+ is an option. Movement from state to independent day school or vise versa is commonplace. Considering boarding can be a way to broaden horizons, develop independence and confidence.

Single sex to co-ed is often raised. In my view this should not be the sole reason for a move.

The right subject choices are crucial. Not all schools offer all subjects and all combinations. Give this thought now to ensure your school accommodates your preferences.

Considering which qualifications to take is also important. Some schools offer the International Baccalaureate or Pre U as an alternative to A Levels for example. Apprenticeships or vocational qualifications might suit some. It is hard to dispute the capability of the new University Technical Colleges to prepare teenagers for employment.

Sixth form is now about so much more than qualifications. School leavers need to be equipped with evidence of employability skills through work experience, as well as the capability to problem solve and study independently, if they wish to apply to university. Researching and planning for 16+ now will avoid making last-minute, rushed decisions later.

A good place to start - The free event for parents to meet schools face-to-face and attend 16 seminars giving advice on how to choose the right school, planning for 11+, 13+ and 16+ -The Future Schools Fair in Aylesbury on 21st Sept 2013. Register for your FREE tickets now via

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Tips for preparing your child for #boarding school

All over the country mums are busy sewing on name tapes and buying school shoes, slippers and trainers. Dealing with the practicalities of getting ready for boarding in September is easy, but how can parents prepare their child so they feel reassured that they have the skills and independence to thrive, when away from home for the first time?

Make contact with other parents whose children will also be joining the school as new pupils and invite their child over a few times between now and school starting. Even if they are not in the same house or class, it will be a familiar face to bump into during break and sit with at lunchtimes, until new friendships have been formed.

Find out from current parents what is ‘cool’. For example, if it is considered cool to be dressed in uniform from the second hand shop, try not to buy shiny new from the school outfitters. This could save you a bit of cash anyway!

Ensure your child has everything that they will require from the school kit list. It can be very upsetting to get into trouble in your child’s first few weeks if they do not have rugby boots, hockey stick, laptop or a calculator.

Talk through in advance with your child the fact that they may feel homesick and agree a strategy as to how you might deal with this together. Discuss which staff at the school are there for them to talk to if they are feeling low and how to find them.

Talk about their new school over the summer holidays. Look at the school website and joining pack together and help them to decide which extra-curricular activities they will take part in and how they will sign up for these. What sports teams will they aim to get into and what musical instrument, drama lessons etc will they engage in?

Look at the map/plan of the school site and help them to learn where everything is. Getting lost on the school campus when trying to find a science lesson for example can be a trigger for homesickness.

Give your child small experiences of independence. Let them take the bus into the local shops alone or meet up with their friends. Encourage them to understand the importance of being on-time and keeping to time deadlines you have set, such as when to be home.

Senior boarding schools encourage independence and thinking for oneself so ensure that your child has practiced this before they go away to school for the first time. Encourage them to take responsibility for keeping their bedroom tidy, changing into clean socks, learning how to put on a clean duvet cover and to be responsible for keeping track of their valuables and belongings.

Try not to linger at school too long when dropping them off on the first day. Settle them in, help un-pack, say hello to the matron or the Housetaff, ensure that your child is busy chatting with a group of peers and make a discreet exit. The longer you stay, the harder it will be to leave.

Prepare yourself for a few worried weeks ahead. The best way to crack homesickness is not to call home too often so if you don't hear anything, consider this good news. Frequent calls home in the first few weeks are not a good sign and should be discouraged. Try to remember your child will only call you in the few low times, when most of the time they are happily making the most of boarding school life.

For help and support with choosing the right boarding school why not come to the FUTURESCHOOLS FAIR. 
A free event of parents. Meet lots of senior schools all in one place and attend free seminars all about making the right school choice. Register via the website

Tips for #parents with a child starting 'big' #school in September

So the primary or prep school days are over and you and your child are now looking with a little trepidation towards life at senior school in September. How can parents prepare over the summer, so their child settles in as quickly as possible?

Find out if the new school will pass on contact details for other pupils joining this September. They may even be offering induction fun days during the summer. Initiate contact with other parents and invite children over. Even if not in the same class, it will be a familiar face to sit with at lunchtimes, until new friendships are formed.

Familiarise yourself with the school rules and ensure your child has everything from the school kit list. It can be upsetting to get into trouble in the first few weeks for not having the right uniform, trainers, hockey stick or calculator. Short skirts, dyed hair or piercings may also lead to trouble.

Discuss things that may be a bit daunting about the new school environment and how they might deal with these. Highlight which school staff are in their support network and how to find them. Familiarise them with the plan of the school site. Getting lost trying to find a lesson and being late can lead to angst.

Look at the school joining information together. Encourage them to get involved in extra-curricular activities from the outset. These are excellent opportunities to build friendships quickly.

Give small experiences of independence over the summer so they become resilient, able to think on their feet and have the skills to resolve problems themselves.

Instigating some of the above in the next couple of weeks, may make parents a little less anxious when September arrives, all too soon.

For advice on choosing the right school please give us a call on 01865 522066 or visit our website

Securing a #work placement - a few tips for students

It was with a sense of relief that I heard this week that my niece has finally secured a work placement, to gain invaluable experience in the work place, before resuming the final year of her degree course in 2014. A recent review of her numerous un-successful applications helped address where things were perhaps going wrong.  I hope sharing these may help others in a similar position.

Applications should demonstrate time has been spent researching the company and a keen interest in what they do. They should be addressed personally to the relevant individual, be clear, to the point, spelt and formatted accurately. Beware ‘copy and paste.’ An application letter with CV will give a better impression than an email unless the latter is requested.

Within the letter, emphasise a reliable, committed approach to working hard and that you are willing to make a contribution via mundane tasks such as filing, photo-coping, making tea or data entry, in exchange for the opportunity to learn and utilise new skills. Spending time in the work-place builds valuable experience and transferable skills no matter what tasks are undertaken on a daily basis. Work will not always be exciting and getting used to the varied demands of 9 to 5 will be beneficial later. Prove yourself indispensable by being very good at basic tasks, which support the effectiveness of the company as a whole and this will undoubtedly lead to other opportunities.

When invited for interview, turning up on time and dressed appropriately for the workplace will give a good impression. A portfolio showing examples of relevant project work or references from previous employers which demonstrate reliability and a hard working attitude will support your application. Appear enthusiastic, interested, well-informed and keen to learn. 

For more information about our services to advise and support youngsters with planning and applying for work experience and applying to university through UCAS please give us a call 01865 522066 or visit our website

Friday, 9 August 2013

A Level results not gone your way...pick up the phone and sell yourself!

With A level results out next week, many parents and teenagers are anxiously awaiting confirmation from #UCAS of a #university place in the autumn. Signs are good with reports of more places available this year, so don’t be put off if the grades received this week have slipped slightly.

In this event, the single most important piece of advice is to act swiftly and pick up the phone. It is second nature for a parent to want to put things right for their offspring, but in this instance, stand back and let your teenager make the calls.

Universities with places to fill will be looking for motivated, enthusiastic students who demonstrate an ability to live and study away from home. An anxious parent is not who they want to hear from, rather a keen teenager who can show they are not put off by a bit of grade slippage and can express why they still really want to study that course at their university. 

A bit of preparation and practice in advance of results day will help.
  • Gather all the paperwork and course prospectuses together now and have admissions contact numbers ready.
  • Re-read the course structure and modular content, to appear enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the parts of the course that appeal to you.
  • Consider why you chose that university in particular and what you have to offer by way of getting involved within the university community. Sport, The Arts, volunteering, work experience abroad-university is all about new experiences and broadening your horizons.
  • Texting, social media and email mean today’s teenagers don’t often talk in a 'business-like' way on the phone, so doing a few mock conversations with tips on how to appear confident, concise and credible will help.
  • Store 01865 522066 on speed dial and our team of experts will be on hand to offer advice and support.

If your A Level results are not as expected and you need some advice and support with UCAS and Clearing, call us on 01865 522066. Our team of experienced, expert consultants are here to help.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

In the eyes of a #parent, what makes an outstanding #school?

I had a call from a mum this week asking for help to make sense of school inspection reports. She was finding it hard to identify the key facts of importance in such a lengthy document, so she could make comparisons between schools. So what are the key factors which make a school outstanding?

In my opinion the Head comes first, closely followed by committed, well-qualified, inspirational teachers. 

Solid leadership and a clear strategy for delivering clearly stated educational outcomes are vital. A charismatic, proactive Head who demonstrates the ability to enthuse both staff and pupils to give of their best is of key importance. 

When it comes to teaching and learning, there should be clear evidence of imaginative, well-planned classroom activities, which engage and inspire children, encouraging and challenging every child to achieve their potential.

How pupil progress is monitored and assessed is important, as well as how this is communicated to parents. Showing a willingness to listen and take prompt and appropriate action when things are not going to plan is essential.

The ethos and values of a school must be in synergy with yours as a parent. You must be convinced that the Head and their staff team have the right attributes to deliver an all-round education, within an atmosphere in which your child will enjoy learning and hence thrive.

Formal/informal, single-sex/co-ed, mixed ability/steaming, creative/scientific/sporty -matching your child to the right learning environment and opportunities is crucial.

As well as reading the inspection report, a visit to the school will give you a far better idea of all of the above. Schools are about people. The only way to really compare one with another is to visit on a normal school day, so you can feel and observe the atmosphere for yourself.

Why not register for free tickets to attend our future schools fair on 21st Sept 2013? The event brings together over 40 schools, tutor companies and education providers to talk face-to-face with parent about choosing the right school at age 11, 13 or 16. 
16 seminars deliver advice from Heads on how to choose the right school.


Thursday, 25 July 2013

Tips on how to look confident in an #interview.

So you want to know how to get through your next interview ... and secure the position? What you know is obviously important as well as what you wear; however above all of that is the need to come across as confident and competent!  Firstly how to look confident! 

Relax - It’s no good someone shouting “RELAX” at you; it isn’t going to make you feel better! To be able to recall the feeling of relaxation when you want it without any feelings of anxiety you need to practice! Practice breathing deeply into the bottom of your lungs. The ability to relax is one of the most important keys to unlocking the door to successful interviewing.

Posture – Use these 3 tips to make sure you are standing “positively”; the string and bolero will help you sit “positively” and you will come across as interested and interesting!  

  1. The Tripod - Stand with your feet directly under your shoulders so that your weight is balanced evenly
  2. The String - Imagine that there is a string running up through your body. Pull the string (figuratively!) to raise yourself up at least an inch!
  3. The Bolero - Imagine that you are wearing a bolero jacket (the type that Spanish bull fighters wear). Pull the bottom at the back of the jacket down so that your shoulders are pulled back and your chest broadens.

Your smile – don’t forget to smile at your interviewer and make sure you smile with your eyes (otherwise you will look like a snarling animal!) If you are feeling nervous try to remember something that makes you happy as you walk in! 

Eye contact – a really important part of communication – look away a lot and you’ll look shifty; constant eye contact and you could come across as aggressive. Try to look your interviewer in the eye and if there is a panel interviewing you make sure you engage with them all.

Next time we’ll be offering tips aimed at making you sound confident!

Tips by kind permission of Sally Hindmarch from Partners With You. To find out more about her workshops, contact her via the details below.
Tel: 01494 453910
Mobile: 07950 257904

Monday, 22 July 2013

How do primary #school #parents know their child's academic potential?

It seems the latest Government initiative is to rank primary school children into ability bands according to performance in national tests at age 11. In this way, parents might get a better idea of their child’s academic potential compared with their peers, raising attainment by challenging and stretching their capabilities.

The idea seems unpopular amongst teachers; however I am not so sure.

I have certainly come across a number of primary school parents facing the 11+ in the next couple of years who do not seem to know how bright their child is. Particularly with boys, I hear ‘his brain is in his football boots, so I am not sure if he is really stretched to achieve his true potential.’ 

Most primary schools offer inclusive, mixed ability, diverse learning environments where competitive experiences are limited. We hear much about gifted and talented or supporting special needs, but when do we hear about improving the attainment of the average child? Do they just tick over under the radar?

With a strong culture of tutoring children for Bucks grammar schools, it might help parents be more realistic in their secondary school ambitions, if they had better guidance as to where their child sits academically within the year-group through more competition and challenging assessment. Generating greater parental trust that the primary school will recognise and realise each individual child's potential would also help.

Yes, some children develop slower than others so this would need to be taken into account, as well as children with summer birthdays. It also seems unlikely that a short test at 11 will give a better indication of potential across all areas than teachers, who get to know children over several years.

However the concept of giving parents better feedback on their child’s potential and presenting more challenging and competitive learning environments to ensure they realise it, seems a good idea to me.

For advice on secondary school choices, why not come along to the Future Schools Fair on 21st Sept 2013, to hear 16 heads making presentations to parents on a whole variety of topics. The event is free. Register for tickets via

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Preparing your teenager for #University - a few tips for #parents

Once those all-important A level results arrive, will your teenager be looking forward to moving on to the next stage of their life by starting university in the Autumn?

Here are a few tips to support parents in preparing them, so you can sleep slightly easier, once they have flown the nest.
  1. Help them to familiarise themselves with the town or city where they will be studying including the campus layout, location of faculty teaching blocks, public transport, location of the supermarket etc. A visit over the summer might help with this.
  2. Return any accommodation application forms for a place in a hall of residence promptly. Being amongst other ‘Freshers’ in a hall of residence, rather than a rented house during year one, will make finding their way around and meeting new friends easier and give a gentler acclimatisation into University life, especially if they have, to date, been living at home.
  3. Help them to plan the clubs and societies they will join during Fresher’s week. University is a fabulous opportunity to try a huge variety of new and exciting sports and activities and those who get fully involved from the outset will make new friends and hence settle quickest.
  4. Organise their finances by opening a bank account. Shop around for the one that is offering the best student incentives and ideally chose one which has a branch located close to the university or even better on campus.
  5. Spend some time going through the importance of budget planning and monitoring cash-flow carefully. Advise against credit cards. Getting a job during the long summer months post A level will give them a head-start with a few savings.
  6. If the timetable structure of their course looks like there might be time for some part-time work to supplement their student loan income, help them to get a CV and application letter ready and to start to research places where they might seek employment once in situ. Talk them through body language and basics of interview technique. Reliability, looking respectable and a friendly personality will be the key factors to get across. Review pictures and comments on their Facebook page as many potential employers will now review these before taking on young people.
  7. Have some fun in the kitchen helping your teenager with planning and cooking healthy meals on a budget. Reproducing some of mum’s home-cooked dishes for new friends will be a positive way to cope with homesickness in the early stages.
  8. Have a serious chat about safety, keeping gadgets and tech safe, managing drink, turning down drugs and coping with peer pressure to do things which they may feel are out of their comfort zone.
  9. Find out what the local GP arrangements are for students and register them.
  10. Advise against taking too many possessions with them for the start of the first term. Some things are essential, but having too much will cramp their living space and be too hard to keep track of. Homely but uncluttered is best. Valuables should be minimal. Make sure key items are covered by appropriate insurance.
  11. Advise against taking a car until they have seen where they will be living and investigated the parking arrangements. If they do choose to take a car, drink-driving should be discussed.
  12. A bike is a good investment and don’t forget lights and a high-vis top.
  13. A laptop with a good size screen will be crucial. Consider getting a separate mouse, keyboard and ensure they have the latest up-to-date software. Consider how their work will be backed-up and a few USB sticks might come in handy.
  14. Agree how you will keep in touch. Email, text, mobile, Skype. Give them space to explore this exciting new stage of their life, but explain your need to hear from them every once in a while, to be reassured they are happy and safe.

For advice on choosing the right course and applying to University through UCAS please call our team of consultants on +44 (0)1865 522066 or email

Monday, 8 July 2013

Surviving the #school summer #holidays – 10 Tips for working #parents

Many working parents will be looking upon the forthcoming summer break with a little trepidation. Quality family time without homework or getting up for the school bus is important. However juggling work commitments and childcare; entertaining children on a budget; activities for a range of ages; or surviving rainy days inside, are common challenges.
  1. Be organised. A wall-chart with space for each child means they know what is planned.
  2. Use a colour-coded system to highlight work commitments with childcare arrangements, appointments such as dental check-up, playing with school friends, quiet time at home, day trips or summer camps and family holidays. Explain your need for quiet during work-time, so you can have fun together outside these times.
  3. Discuss budget for holiday activities. Plan together how they would like to spend it - a good skill to learn for the future.
  4. Intersperse activities which need investment with lots of free activities in-between.
  5. Plan to be active. Plenty of fresh air and exercise will make down-time easier to manage. Invest in a rounders bat or Kwik Cricket set and organise picnics in the park with other families.
  6. Share childcare by reciprocal arrangements with friends’ families. Give and take is crucial.
  7. Encourage reading. Set a target, for example to read a book a week. Choose books that interest them. Your school may have a holiday reading list. Autobiography, fiction or reference. It shouldn’t matter, as long as they are engaged with a book.
  8. Work on a holiday project which needs research. Encourage them to read, write, draw, add photos and present.
  9. Engage youngsters in planning, shopping for and cooking meals or baking.
  10. Encourage assistance with chores such as a bedroom clear-out, washing the car, ironing, mowing the lawn, dog walking, in return for pocket money.
Parents, register for free tickets to the future schools fair. Meet state and independent senior schools face-to-face. Attend 16 seminars giving free advice on choosing the right school.

         Register via the website

Monday, 1 July 2013

Competition at #school - Is this an important part of #education?

With my background as a P.E. teacher I have been particularly interested in the debate this week about sports days and whether competition amongst peers at school is a good or bad thing.

The fact is that life and the world of work is competitive. Some parents undoubtedly face difficult issues when a youngster who has always been successful, experiences disappointment or failure for the first time. Not getting the lead in the school play or a place in the hockey team; failing the driving test first time; un-expected grades in GCSE exams or not winning a race on sports day are, in my opinion, important learning experiences for school-age children from an early age. Setting an example during the parents’ race on sports day, often the most competitive event of the day in my experience could be a good place to start.

Praise, empathy and encouragement are of course key factors which contribute to confidence and success, but so are learning to win or lose gracefully, accepting that it is not always possible to succeed and developing the determination to try again. We are all desperate to see a British Wimbledon champion, but the potential for Andy Murray to achieve this, was certainly not created by shielding him whilst growing up from competition or possible failure.

Encouraging your child to recognise and develop their strengths, set attainable goals when facing competition and to accept that there will often be peers who, for a whole range of reasons, will defy their dreams. Competitive experiences will equip them with the drive and determination to proactively seek out opportunity, work hard to achieve realistic goals and not to be put off by set-backs along the way when things don’t go according to plan.

Are you currently considering your future school choices and need some free advice and support?

The Future Schools Fair in Aylesbury on 21st Sept 2013 brings together over 40 schools, tutor companies and other education providers to offer free advice to parents on making the right school choices at age 11+, 13+ and 16+ 

Register for free tickets at