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? 
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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? 
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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