Monday, 24 June 2013

Choosing the right school - Quick tips for parents

#School gate and dinner party banter can make the senior school choice process confusing for #parents. We are fortunate to have diversity of choice across both state and independent sectors, but how do parents decide on the school that is best suited to the needs of their child?

Decide on your school search area. It must fit with both family and work commitments. Take into account the opinion of each parent, but keep an open mind. Try not to allow personal past experience or family history to colour your judgement as to what might be right for your child now, in the 21st Century. 

Draw up a list of schools within this area which meet your criteria; state or independent, budget, day or boarding, single sex or co-ed, academic strengths and interests of your child, any additional support your child may need and transport links.

Review websites, attend a school fair to talk to schools face-to-face and seek independent advice.

Make a short-list of no more than 4 schools to visit and take along a list of things you need to ask while you are there. Open days or a private visit each have benefits. Get a feel for atmosphere, ethos, educational philosophy of the Head, staff-pupil relationships and check the curriculum supports your child’s strengths and interests, as well as their future career ambitions.

Discuss pros and cons of each school after your visits. There may be a couple of front-runners that you feel need a second visit. Remember gut feeling is usually the right one. Stick to your decision and don’t allow further school gate and dinner party banter to confuse or change your mind later.

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

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Proposed changes to the GCSE designed to encourage greater academic rigour.

It seems plans to introduce the English Baccalaureate have been shelved. Instead, year 7 pupils when reaching year 10 in September 2015 will study for re-vamped GCSE exams in a move which Michael Gove believes will encourage greater academic rigour. The plans involve the removal of coursework, as the modular approach is discarded in favour of a move towards tougher exams taken at the end of the two year course. The aim of this move is to limit opportunities for re-sits, challenging students to build broader knowledge and skills towards end of course exams. According to Mr Gove, exams will be ’more demanding, more fulfilling and more stretching’.

These changes will initially cover core subjects of English Language and Literature, Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Combined Science, History and Geography. 

A*-G grades will be replaced with numbers 8-1 with a higher ‘pass’ mark. Tiered papers will be removed in favour of one exam for all, regardless of ability.

New exams will credit a higher percentage of marks for correct spelling, punctuation and grammar and will require a wider range of writing skills, with a greater number of open-ended essay questions and problem solving. There will be more detailed subject content within the syllabus requiring for example students to study the whole text of a Shakespeare play or a Dickens novel, rather than just one act or scene. Algebra will become a key element of the maths syllabus.

It remains to be seen if these proposals survive the consultation process or if they go the same way as the EBacc. Whatever the outcome, it seems the debate will continue as to whether the current GCSE exams present enough challenge and rigour to maintain adequate standards in education, preparing young people for the future world of work on an increasingly global stage. 

Need help making the right GCSE subject choices? Contact us on 01865 522066
or email

Looking to change school for sixth form? Why not visit the Future Schools Fair 21st Sept 2013- a free event for parents

Friday, 14 June 2013

What is modern boarding and what are the benefits to 21st Century parents?

The words boarding school seem to stimulate deep emotions within all parents. Some look upon the concept positively and will vigorously defend their decision why they have chosen to ‘send’ their children away to school, while others strongly proclaim they would ‘never’ make this choice, as they want their family to remain close, with their children at home. This strength of feeling, one way or the other, usually comes from personal experiences of boarding, from hearsay or a lack of knowledge and understanding of exactly what modern boarding is all about. I challenge parents to put aside their own personal experiences for a moment and take an open-minded view towards evaluating boarding as an option, by taking time to investigate what kind of educational opportunity boarding offers now in 2013.

Home Comforts and Communication
Gone are the days of bare floorboards, curtain-less windows, reciting poetry outside the houseparents’ office after lights out and cold open-plan showers. Modern boarding schools provide extremely comfortable living accommodation, often with power showers, internet access and personal study space in cosy dormitories as well as common rooms with flat screen TV, squashy sofas, beanbags, pool tables, Wii, and kitchens for toast and hot chocolate before bed.
Mobile phones, email and Skype make regular communication with home easy. Parents are actively encouraged to engage fully in their child’s education, as schools welcome parents to see their children regularly through attending concerts, sports matches, house social events and plays. This is one of the reasons why many UK based parents tend to look for boarding options that are no more than one hour from home.
Parent portals or intranet and online reports keep parents fully informed of their child’s educational progress and the Housemaster or Mistress gives an additional pastoral support system for boarders, in addition to the tutor or form teacher.

Working parents
The current financial climate means many more parents are finding that they both have to go to work. This can often lead to a constant juggle between work commitments and the school runs, after school clubs, sports practices and fixtures, getting the homework done, birthday parties, cooking supper and getting the children to bed. Often parents feel like the local taxi service, taking two cars in different directions to cater for different children’s interests and commitments, which leads to the question, where is the quality family time anyway? Think also of the cost in terms of food, fuel and your time!
For those in this situation, it must surely be worth considering the increasingly fashionable option of weekly boarding, where the focus for parents and children alike is work in the week, freeing up quality family time at home at the weekends. Boarding gives your child after school access to the library, computers and assistance from both peers and teaching staff, while they are working on their homework, coursework or projects. A far more cost-effective approach than paying for home tutors or becoming an expert in the GCSE History syllabus or Latin vocabulary yourself and far better than dealing with conflicts at home, to push to get the homework done! Those studying art or design and technology benefit from access to school facilities to continue their work in the evenings. Early morning starts to drop off at school in time for pre-school sports practice or choir rehearsal or early evenings sitting in the car outside school waiting for the coach to return from ‘the match’ become a thing of the past.
In short, rather than spending time on the school bus or in the car to and from school, your child can be studying, taking part in a breadth of extra-curricular activities or just relaxing with friends, while you gain hours of additional time to get the chores done in the working week, freeing up time for fun at weekends.

More and more schools are offering the opportunity for day pupils to board on an occasional basis. For young school children in particular, this can be a very good way of practising staying away from home on one or two nights a week, if parents are considering whether they might be suited to weekly or full-boarding later on. Many children find this a far more exciting option than a babysitter. For parents, it can mean a lie-in without the school run, after a late finishing dinner party too!
In conclusion, 21st century modern boarding is about access to a breadth of opportunity, building confidence, leadership skills and independence, learning a sense of community and cultural understanding, as well as full parental involvement through communication and a partnership between school and parents. Far from ‘sending’ their children away to school, parents who ‘choose’ a boarding school education are making a decision to invest in the opportunity to release their child’s full potential.

For advice on choosing the right boarding school, please contact us on +44 (0)1525 240502 or via email

Why not visit the Future Schools fair in Sept 2013 for a FREE opportunity to talk to boarding schools face-to-face? More details

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Parents - would you like the opportunity to meet #schools face-to-face to help plan your school choice decisions at age 11, 13 or 16?

The Future Schools Fair 2013 

The Gateway Conference Centre in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. 
Free tickets. Free parking, Free advice
A FREE event for primary and prep school parents, as well as those looking for a change of scene at sixth form, featuring independent and state, day and boarding, senior school options from across 'THE SHIRES'. Whether you are planning a move at 11+, 13+ or 16+ this event is your once a year opportunity to meet the schools face-to-face, ask questions and start your research.. 

There will be a programme of 16 FREE SEMINARS delivered by heads and senior staff from across the region, offering independent advice on making the right senior school choices including, day vs boarding, co-ed vs single sex, as well as making the right choices at sixth form including IB vs A Level, vocational courses and career planning. 

Attending schools (to date with more added daily)
Akeley Wood
Aylesbury Grammar
Aylesbury High School
Bedford Girls' School
Bedford School
Bucks UTC
Cheltenham College
Claire's Court
Green's Tutorial
Headington Girls' School
Kimbolton School
Kingham Hill
Pangbourne College
Pipers Corner
Queen Anne's
Royal Grammar School
Royal Masonic
Rye St. Antony
Sir Thomas Fremantle
St.Mary's Gerrards Cross
Thornton College School for Girls
Thorpe House
Tring Park
The Webber Indpendent

Advice on tutoring and summer activity opportunities from:
Altitude camps
Fleet tutors
Maple education
Flying Start tuition 
Peploe Willams Academy

More details via the website  

Friday, 7 June 2013

Tips On How To Choose The Right Tutor

A revamp of the Bucks 11+ for 2014 grammar entry seems to have created heightened worry amongst some parents. Demand for information about tutoring shows little sign of decreasing. In a seemingly unregulated market place, just how does a parent evaluate a potential tutor to make sure that their money is invested wisely?

Although everyone is in the dark about the new format tests for Bucks, it is essential to engage a tutor with some experience in this area, as well as one with a proven success record. Likewise, regarding support for Common Entrance, GCSE, A level, IB or Oxbridge. Some of the questions below may be helpful in reviewing potential tutor options.

Does your child appear to engage better with male or female teachers? Do the resources the tutor proposes to use fit with your objectives? Will your child spend most of their time sitting practice papers, or will learning time be fun and interesting? Will their tutoring style and personality inspire and enthuse?

Arrange a trial session before booking long-term and assess its quality by popping in once in a while.

Be wary of published success rates. Some tutors ‘select’ only the best candidates to teach.  Ask to see evidence of a recent enhanced CRB and review references from parents who have used their services recently. 

If using a tutoring centre, (such as this can be a good way to ensure a more consistent, accountable service. Enquire which tutor will teach your child and insist this will this always be the same one, so that they get to know your child. 

Centres tend to offer intensive courses during school holidays, which may suit some children better than weekly tuition over time and limit some of the pressure they feel to succeed.

For FREE advice on choosing the right school REGISTER to attend the FUTURE SCHOOLS FAIR on 21st September 2013. 

More information                                                       

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Preparing for A Level results day now could make a real difference if things don’t go according to plan in August.

We are mid-exam season. Students are heads down focussing on last-minute revision towards those all-important A Level grades which hold the key to their future. It is tempting to see the summer months ahead as a time to relax and travel the world. A positive view towards results day is beneficial, however I advise having a Plan B, just incase. If things don’t turn out as expected you will need a clear head and swift action if August brings disappointment.

The beaches of Bali are not the best place to be if things go wrong. Plan to be available, preferably at home, on results day.

If you just miss your grades, be ready to call the universities as soon as possible. Prepare what you are going to say in advance to highlight your enthusiasm and suitability for this course. You may also need to be ready to negotiate a re-mark with your school if you feel your grade is unfair or unexpected.

Clearing will present new opportunities. Spend some time reviewing alternative courses now, so you will be ready to act fast when available places are published on results day. A quick decision will be expected, if a place is offered. Consider visiting back-up universities, so you would feel ready to accept on the spot. The course you choose must be interesting and support your career aspirations. Seeking advice from an expert will help and saves time.

If your grades can realistically be improved and you are passionate about a particular university or course, resits are the third option to consider. This is a tough route to take and needs motivation. You will need to wait a whole year to re-sit, during which time universities will want to see you used this time constructively.

For advice on choosing the right university course through Clearing or UCAS and how this fits with planning your future career, contact us.