Monday, 29 December 2014

Matching sixth form subject choices to #university course ambitions

At this time of year many year 11 students are giving consideration to their future courses of study for sixth form as this is an important part of preparing for entry to year 12 in Sept 2015, especially if you are embarking on a change of school at this stage of your education.

Sixth form study offers an opportunity to either continue the subjects you have already studied at GCSE or to embark on new subjects, previously un-studied and hence about which you know little. Hence choosing the right subjects in the right combination to ensure your ability to make a strong application to university or other pathway to higher education can be tricky. From Sept 2015 A levels are changing, so there are some important new factors to consider in the way your chosen subjects will be assessed over the two years of sixth form. If your school offers IB, choosing this Diploma qualification over A levels is also an important decision to make.

Firstly you need to enjoy and feel motivated and inspired by the subjects you choose in the sixth form. Review both the content and the academic skills you require for each of the subjects you are considering. You need to be interested in the course syllabus and feel confident that you have the required academic skills to do well in it. For example, some subjects require a lot of independent research and background reading, essay writing, creative thinking, attention to detail, project work. It’s crucial that your subjects match your strengths.

Secondly, your combination of subjects must fit your career aspirations. Review entry requirements for university courses that interest you via the UCAS website, to ensure you’re keeping your options open in the courses that lead to careers that interest you. If the subjects you need to study on route to your career aspiration don’t match your strongest academic skills and interests, meaning you are choosing a subject which you find very difficult, consider changing your career aspirations.

Seek guidance from your school and other advisors, but remember you are the one who has to have the motivation to work hard to achieve success in the sixth form, so be sure they’re your subject choices and not those of friends, relations and others who are offering you helpful advice.

Do you need some advice on planning your sixth form subject choices, choosing the right university course or completing your UCAS application? 

Start 2015 by giving our team of professional consultants a call to find our how they can help you.

Call us on 01865 522066 or email  

Visit our website for more details via the link below

Monday, 22 December 2014

Are #school nativity plays relevant in the 21st Century?

It must be nearly Christmas as I found myself watching Love Actually on the TV this week. There’s nothing like a bit of rom. com. to set the mood for the forthcoming festivities. When it reached the part where they’re all off to the school Christmas play it started me wondering all over again why one of the children is dressed as an octopus, when the play depicts the story of the nativity?

Thinking of school nativity plays takes me back to my early school years when tea towels were the obligatory headwear of shepherds, blonde haired blue-eyed children were cast as angels, the school gate politics surrounding the casting of Mary and Joseph generated an atmosphere that was the polar opposite to a generous Christmas spirit and Tiny Tears did a great job in the starring role of baby Jesus.

Nevertheless, through the Nativity play, scripted along the lines of the Christmas story (plenty of sheep, goats and a donkey, but no octopi), we learnt core values from a young age. The importance of family, in whatever shape or form that may be, support for others in the community, to be grateful for what we have without always expecting more, considering the needs of others since there is always someone who is worse off than you are, showing compassion and humility without passing judgment and sharing with those who have fallen on tough times.

Of course schools are now much more multi-cultural and sensitivity towards embracing all faiths and beliefs is a very important part of delivering an inclusive curriculum. Cultural awareness and understanding is a crucial life-skill for the future. Many schools give year-round focus on their own core values which under-pin every part of the curriculum and define how their diverse school community lives and works together on a day-to-day basis.

However, it’s my view that tactfully embracing the message of the Christmas story through the traditional nativity play is part of raising a generation with both values and cultural understanding, emphasising what is meant by compassion, humility, tolerance and a sense of community.

Happy Christmas!

Friday, 12 December 2014

Some tips for preparing for #university interviews

Following on from last week’s advice about University offers through UCAS Track, as promised, here are a few tips on preparing for University interviews.

Which Universities and courses are more likely to invite you for interview is not an exact science as it varies year on year. However, you are most likely to be invited for interview, rather than receiving a conditional offer straight away, if you are applying to study for a professional training degree, such as dentistry, primary education, social work or nursing. It’s also likely you will be invited for interview for a talent-based degree such as music, acting, art and design.

Occasionally, though less likely, you could be interviewed for degrees in the sciences, engineering or computing. You’re least likely to be interviewed if your course involves the humanities or social sciences, for example English, Politics, History or Geography.

Some universities are known to interview candidates on a more regular basis such as Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial, UCL, Warwick and York, but this varies each year.

Here are some key points to prepare for University interviews.
  • Be aware of the format the interview will take? Individual or group, face to face or Skype and is written work or testing required?
  • Re-read your personal statement. Elaborating on key points you have made in it will be an important part of your interview.
  • Research course content and be ready to give opinions as to why its core and optional modules of study appeal to you. Be prepared to demonstrate why you will be good at studying particular topics and what skills you have to ensure success on the course. Showing passion for the subject is essential.
  • What are your key skills and prepare examples to demonstrate them?  Leadership - head of house, team captain in sport. Dedication - grade 7 piano, charity work for an extended period. Teamwork - Duke of Edinburgh, CCF, team sports or Young Enterprise. Be ready to sell yourself by emphasising these skills during your interview.
  • Research the interviewer. What is their role and their career background? Understanding this will help you engage them in conversation by finding common ground.
  • Ask relevant questions as this is your opportunity to impress the interviewer and to find out more about the course to help you decide if it’s right for you.
  • Know why the university appeals and how you would contribute to university life as a whole. They are interested in the all-round you, not just your academics.
Do you need some help preparing for a university interview? Our team of education consultants are here to help. 
Please give us a call on 01865 522066 or send us an email via

Saturday, 6 December 2014

UCAS application to #university submitted - what next?

You can keep tabs on the progress of your University or College applications using the log in details for UCAS Track which are contained in the letter or email you received a few days after submitting your application. Here you will find details of offers made by the Universities or Colleges to which you applied, as and when they’re made. These offers are in no particular order and may take a bit of time to come through. Be patient, even if you are getting worried as your friends have heard and you haven’t. If you gave a valid email address on your application, you will receive an email letting you know when universities have made a decision on your application and you will then need to log in to Track for details.

Once you’ve received replies from all of your choices, you can make your decisions and reply through UCAS Track. If an offer is un-conditional, acceptance confirms your place on the course next Autumn, so you need to be certain this is what you want. If offers are conditional on exam results or other factors, you can accept two. One of your choices must be a firm acceptance, in other words first choice and you can also choose an insurance acceptance or back-up.

Think carefully about these decisions. Your first choice really does need to be just that. Be ambitious but realistic and listen to the advice of your subject teachers when it comes to deciding whether you can attain the grade requirements of the offer. Your back-up, whilst being conditional upon lower grades in case of a hiccup on results day, must still be on a course which inspires you towards your future career ambitions, at a university that you would be happy to attend.

Once you have decided on the offers you would like to accept, you need to then decline any others. If you do not receive any offers or decide to decline all the offers you receive, you may be able to use Extra to add more course choices later, usually if you have not already made applications to five. If this option is available to you, a button will appear when you log in to track your application. You also have the option to wait and see which courses become available during the Clearing process later on.

Instead of an offer, you may be invited to attend an interview in which case make sure you prepare well. Know in detail the course you have applied to study and think about why you wish to attend that university in particular. Get busy with background reading relevant for the subject you wish to study. Get up to speed with current affairs, particularly when it comes to issues which influence and affect thinking and opinion within your chosen subject or career field, in case you are asked to discuss them. Getting the inside view-point from someone already working within that field by arranging a practice interview beforehand can be very useful in calming nerves on the day.

If you would like some advice on last-minute UCAS applications, the process of accepting your offers or preparing and arranging practice interviews for university, please give our team of friendly, professional consultants a call on 01856 522066 or email
For more information visit our website by clicking the following link  Applying to UK University through UCAS

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Smart phones- friend or foe?

Access to smart phones means teenagers of today are subject to far more avenues for peer group teasing or bullying then we ever were. The challenge for parents and schools is teaching them how to access the positive benefits of technology to support their learning and social lives, while sticking to an acceptable code of conduct for their use. Taking photographs of homework, diagrams or other teaching resources written on the whiteboard, using Apps as a teaching resource or using What’s App to get advice from friends while completing homework, seems a positive change from the days of wrist-ache from taking copious notes from the blackboard.

Sadly, the news is not all positive. I’ve just had a conversation with a worried mum whose son had received a couple of nasty text messages from an un-known mobile number. Though pretty sure it was just one of his classmates being silly, she was unsure of the best way to prevent it happening again, without causing tricky on-going issues for him within his peer group.

My advice was to first contact the school. The tutor or form teacher is a good place to start, only escalating to the Head if initial conversations do not resolve the situation. Schools are able to investigate and resolve problems of this nature within peer groups without causing awkwardness by singling out any one individual as the victim or perpetrator. They can also make a judgement as to when to involve the police if investigations indicate things should escalate to this level. Community based police officers are often happy to go into schools to talk to groups about the law surrounding social interaction via technology, helping them to learn responsible use and the possible legal implications of improper use.

Avoiding parent to parent confrontation is paramount. It’s hard not to get emotional. The school will keep communication objective and constructive, whilst also ensuring both sets of parents are fully informed, reassured that the culprit has understood the error in their ways and the situation will not arise again.

Our consultants mentor a number of teenagers who are for a whole number of reasons finding life at school tricky. 

If you would like to find out more about this service, give us a call on 01865 522066 or email us 

For more information about all our education consultancy services for parents, visit our website

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

10 reasons for #parents to consider a move of #school for sixth form

I have a strong belief that if nothing’s broken, why fix it, so would never encourage a move at 16+ unless there is a strong reason to do so. Settling into a new school environment with new teachers and teaching styles, at a time when your teenager only has two years to achieve the top grades they will need for entry to university, presents quite a challenge. Moving school at sixth form is therefore a huge decision and it is vital that it is being made for the right educational reasons and not just for a change of scene or for socialising!

Here are a few thoughts on why a move at sixth form could be beneficial.
  1. You would like to study IB instead of A level, to keep more breadth of study.
  2. Your current school doesn’t offer all of the sixth form subjects that you’d like to study.
  3. If your teenager has acquired a ‘label’ which leads to certain expectations of their abilities and performance, moving school for a fresh start could be to their advantage.
  4. Moving from independent into state education means no fees! However, bear in mind class sizes will be significantly larger meaning less individual support.
  5. Moving from state into independent education can give access to a broader range of subjects and a more extensive extra-curricular programme offering diverse opportunities to strengthen a university application.
  6. If your teenager has struggled to make friends at their current school, changing school offers new opportunities to make new friends and find new interests.
  7. Moving from day to boarding will encourage responsibility and independence and is consequently an excellent stepping stone towards university life.
  8. Moving from boarding to day may offer parents the opportunity to monitor more closely your teenager’s efforts towards their studies.
  9. Some say moving from single sex to co-ed affords a better preparation for university life. However, be aware there may be more distractions if your teenager has a tendency to lose focus or finds it hard to plan their time effectively.
  10. Some schools have no sixth form so a move at 16+ is un-avoidable. Start your school research in plenty of time, ideally in the autumn term of year 10. 
Moving school for sixth form can be a confusing process. Do you need some advice? Please give our team of professional, friendly consultants a call to talk through your queries. 01865 522066 or email or visit our website

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Is YouTube a useful tool for #learning?

I had to smile when accompanying a young man from Japan to his sixth form interview at a #boarding school this week. He explained that while at school in Japan and learning English through classes he attended in the evenings, he had worked hard to improve his English pronunciation by watching YouTube clips!

It led to an interesting discussion as to how effective YouTube might be in improving English? A subsequent brief search into what resources might be out there to support learning makes me think this learning strategy might not be as potty as it first sounds.

Browsing YouTube Education results in a seemingly exhaustive selection of videos on a plethora of topics from every field you can imagine. From medicine to climate change to teaching yourself to play guitar, it seems it’s possible via YouTube to learn how to do pretty much anything, as well as to find an answer or an opinion on pretty much any question it’s possible to ask. As a research tool, it seems YouTube ticks many boxes.

However, just as with all internet-based research to support learning, I’d say it’s important to check to make sure that the material viewed is from a credible source that can be trusted. With no quality control or vetting process, it’s important to question the origins of all opinions and information and to use a number of sources to get a balanced view.

One YouTube channel I particularly liked was the recently launched Hay Levels. These are 3 minute talks or discussions with leading academics across the whole field of education from English, Economics, and Maths to  Religion and History. With new material added every week, the topics are specially targeted at A level students and aim to inspire enquiring minds or answer key questions from the syllabus through access to the thinking of leading academics of today. Take a look via the following link

Are you looking for advice on choosing the right school or making a strong application to university? Call our team of friendly, professional consultants on 01865 522066 or visit our website for more information

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Do you have the X-Factor? - My A to Z of #interview tips

Communication and interview skills are in much demand at this time of year. Whether for an up-coming senior school entry assessment day, for a place on your dream university course or to secure that perfect internship or job, many are facing the nerve-wracking interview panel.

Here is my A-Z of useful tips to support the preparation process

Answer concisely stating firstly your thoughts or opinion any then secondly why you think that way.

Body language- good posture shows that you are interested and enthusiastic.

Communicate with confidence without showing arrogance to give the best impression.

Dress smartly and appropriately for the potential job environment.

Eye contact with the interviewer is crucial.

Face should be clean-shaven or trim ‘designer stubble’ neatly to give the impression you take time to look after your appearance.

Give examples in discussion which show you are well-read and have relevant knowledge or experience.

Hand shake should be firm not vice-like or droopy.

Invitation letter should be read carefully to check if there is anything you need to bring or prepare in advance and be on time.

Join proactively in discussion stating relevant considered opinions, whilst also listening to the opinions of others. The ability to work and communicate within a team will be high on the priority list of the interview panel.

Know your strengths and weaknesses and be prepared to discuss both.

Listen to the questions carefully without interrupting so your answers are accurate and to the point.

Mock interviews are a good way to practice interview skills and techniques in advance.

Never criticise a past, current employer or those in authority-show diplomacy and discretion.

Opinions should be honest but not too extreme.

Pause before answering. It helps with nerves and allows thinking time.

Questions at the end the interview are your chance to show your enthusiasm, knowledge and commitment. Prepare some in advance and be prepared to engage in discussion.

Research the company, school or course and the interviewer beforehand, to appear knowledgeable and interested.

Smile often.

Think before you speak.

Undertake a review of your skills and experience as relevant to what you are applying to do. This enables you to go into the interview confident that you would be a capable asset to the organisation, school or university if successful.

Voice should be pitched at the right level to show a positive mood. Not too loud or so quiet it is hard for the interviewer to hear what you have to say.

Waffle should be avoided at all costs

X-factor-do you have it and why?

You are what is important - be yourself and try to relax.

Zealous enthusiasm for meeting goals set by new challenges will leave a lasting impression.

For support in preparing for interviews, please give us a call on 01865 522066 or visit our website

Friday, 10 October 2014

#Parents - why choose a #co-educational #school?

When talking about co-education, it’s tricky not to just state the blindingly obvious - 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.

Here are a few of the real benefits of a co-educational school.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Learning a responsible and trustworthy attitude towards inevitable temptation within co-ed peer relationships and social media banter is an important lesson for life
  • 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.

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

For information about our services visit our website Independent Education Consultants

Friday, 3 October 2014

#Parents, are you confused about senior #school choices?

At this time of year many parents are braving the minefield of researching senior school choices as their child approaches age 11 or 13. Trawling through copious websites, glossy literature and visiting open days- the plethora of information bombarding parents makes this process tricky. As time goes on the fog of confusion seems to thicken and the prospect of arriving at a decision seems further and further away.

Here are my top 10 tips to help parents to come to the right decision and perhaps more importantly to stick to it!
  1. Keep dinner party banter in perspective. Remember there is no one best school that suits all children equally. Treat your child as an individual and form your own judgement as to what feels right for them.
  2. Realistically, how bright is your child? You will need a school to stretch and challenge their capabilities, but not to such an extent that they are struggling to keep their head above water.
  3. What are their interests, strengths and are there areas of potential weakness needing additional support?
  4. Are you looking at state schools or might you be in a financial position to consider independent education?
  5. What location works best in relation to home and work commitments of both parents? Investigate bus routes, lift shares with local families or ability to walk to school.
  6. If you plan to invest in private education have you considered weekly or full-boarding to extend your school options? Particularly if both parents’ work, this can be a practical solution where everyone wr=orks hard in the week and enjoys quality fmil time at the weekends.
  7. How do you feel about single sex versus co-ed?
  8. Depending on your current school leaving age, when will it best suit your child to move?
  9. Are you looking for a traditional, structured environment or a more informal one? Will their character suit a large, competitive environment or small and nurturing?
  10. How do you feel about siblings attending different schools if they have different interests, capabilities and character?

 For advice on choosing the right school please give our team of friendly consultants a call  on 01865 522066 or email

Friday, 26 September 2014

Why all #girls' #schools nurture, motivate and inspire. @BedfordGirlsSch

I had a truly fantastic visit to Bedford Girls’ School this week. Spending a morning observing girls engaged in a whole breadth of educational experiences from science experiments to food tech to hockey to I.T. reminded me of the distinct advantages of choosing a single sex school.

Here are my top 10 reasons to choose an all girls’ school for your daughter:
  1. A Head and teaching staff who are specialists in nurturing and inspiring girls to aim high and achieve more across a broad range of curriculum subjects.
  2. Teaching styles that are suited to girls, who are un-doubtedly wired differently to boys when it comes to learning.
  3. All investment in facilities and resources is tailor-made for girls.
  4. An absence of make-up and shortened skirts presents a tidy, business-like school environment with a clear focus on study rather than socialising skills.
  5. An ability to dip in and out of co-ed learning experiences through partnerships with local boys’ schools for school plays, CCF and through the extended curriculum.
  6. Careers advice which encourages girls to break stereotypes and explore all avenues including engineering, the sciences, medicine and entrepreneurship.
  7. Opportunities to develop leadership skills and to experience role models in an environment where career aspirations are a priority.
  8. Girls with a tendency to be self-conscious or lack self-esteem are surrounded by opportunities to shine.
  9. Girls and boys mature at different rates so pastoral support can be tailor-made to suit the needs of individuals.
  10. Girls’ schools are not about equal opportunity, they’re about all opportunity.
For advice on choosing the right school for your daughter, please give our team of friendly, professional consultants a call on 01865 522066 or email

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Making the most of a #school open day - 10 questions to help #parents.

Choosing the right school can be a confusing process. Reviewing websites and listening to advice from other parents on the dinner party circuit are a great way to start your research. There is however no substitute for visiting each school to meet key staff and take in the atmosphere for yourself. You know your own child and whilst others can advise you, gut feeling often leads to the best outcome.

Many independent and state schools have open days in the coming weeks. How do parents make the most of these fact-finding missions, seeing through the ‘marketing speak’ to make important school choice decisions?
  1. 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?
  2. Observe staff relationships with pupils within a lesson environment. Is it formal or more relaxed and which will suit your child? Do all children appear engaged and included?
  3. What curriculum areas are strengths for the school? Do these match your child’s interests and capabilities? Do the quality of teaching staff, achievements and facilities reflect this?
  4. How is progress measured and reported to parents?
  5. Is I.T. being used constructively, to support excellent and engaging teaching, not as a substitute for it?
  6. If learning support is important for you, how is this organised and how is progress monitored?
  7. Are pupils smartly dressed and belongings tidily stored around the school?
  8. Are walls and furniture in good decorative order and does the site appear well looked-after?
  9. Can pupils speak confidently to visitors and talk knowledgeably about their school, outlining its strengths?
  10. 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?
For advice on choosing the right school please give our team of friendly professional consultants a call on the following number +44 (0)1865 522066 or email 

Sunday, 14 September 2014

10 tips for #parents asking is private or state #school for me?

The cost of private education is now at such a level that many parents, particularly those with more than one child, are beginning to consider how and when it is best to invest and when it might make sense to consider state school options instead. Combining private and state education at different ages is becoming more common place and often makes good financial sense. There are many parents for whom finding the cash to pay school fees is not easy, choosing to forgo annual holidays abroad, expensive cars and the latest technological gadgets in order to invest in their children’s future, through giving them the best education.

There is no one answer fits all to the question of whether private education is for you. State and independent provision can vary significantly depending on where you live and the personalities, strengths and weaknesses of individual children mean that each one needs careful consideration as to what might be the best option for them personally. 

Parents usually make the choice of private education for three reasons. 

  • The ‘best’ state schools in the area are academically selective and parents are unhappy with the alternative, if their child does not gain entry.
  • There is a need for additional support for an educational reason such as dyslexia, EAL, gifted or a particular interest such as music, and parents feel their state school option is not equipped to deliver this support.
  • Both parents work full-time, so have less time available to offer supplementary provision at home. 

With the above in mind, here are 10 tips in how to evaluate if private or state education suits you.

  1. Speaking to other parents about local schools will help, but remember their views, although passionate and enthusiastic, are not independent and a variety of opinions around the dinner party table can often confuse. Speak to an independent education consultant, read independent reviews in publications such as The Good Schools Guide and read the schools’ latest Ofsted or ISI report.  You will usually find these on the school website. Alternatively, they can be found at or for an independent school or at
  2. Ask yourself how involved you want to be in supporting and supplementing your child’s education. Choosing a state school will sometimes mean devoting significant time to your child’s learning or extra-curricular activities outside school, helping with homework, perhaps even employing a tutor for some extra tuition in Maths or English. You might want them to learn extra subjects such as French or Latin. This support is usually an inclusive part of the academic provision at a private school, where smaller class sizes and more specialist subject teachers make more individual attention and a wider curriculum possible.
  3. Consider whether you have the time to organise and provide transport for a busy programme of extra-curricular activities, such as attending coaching sessions at local sports clubs, piano or ballet lessons outside school. Invariably, the majority of the above will be provided within a private school’s holistic approach to education, with longer school days providing opportunity for an inclusive activity programme. Your role will be more one of watching school concerts and plays or cheering loudly from the side lines at school matches. 
  4. Do both parents work? State school working days tend to be shorter than those at a private school meaning more childcare may be needed.
  5. Do you want to get up early on Saturday mornings for the school run? Many private schools have Saturday morning lessons, particularly those which offer boarding. There will also be a busy programme of school matches on Saturday afternoons which you will need to commit to. Longer holidays compensate for this, but the commitment of 6 days a week in term-time does not suit all families.
  6. It is not always necessary for siblings to follow the same path through education. A shy child may need to build their confidence through the small, nurturing environment of a private school, while a sibling may be out-going and confident, so attending the right state school may suit them just as well.
  7. Do you suspect that your child might have a particular weakness or struggles with their learning in some way? Investing in a private school may mean that issues such as dyslexia may be identified earlier than in a state school, where class sizes are larger. Consequently the correct support with their learning can be provided at an earlier stage, to ensure they progress alongside their peers.
  8. Good state schools are often competitive in terms of entry criteria and the academic educational programme they deliver. Will such a competitive environment, which focuses mainly on academic achievement, suit your child? If your child is self-motivated, confident and bright, the answer is probably yes. If they lack confidence, they may struggle to settle.
  9. If your child just scrapes into an academically selective state school, by being tutored to pass the 11+ and consequently makes set 7 or 8 for Maths and English, what will this do for their confidence and how will you monitor and address this? Consider if it might be better to be at the top of a less academic state or private school and hence gain confidence as a high achiever?
  10. Some parents move from state education to private education or vice versa when their child reaches 16+. There are opportunities to gain scholarships for entry to a private school at sixth form, especially if your child has done well at grammar/state school for the preceding 5 years. On the flip side, some believe that moving from private into state education for sixth from may make gaining a place at university easier, although this theory is to date unproven. Care must be taken to ensure that your teenager will cope with such a transition into a learning environment with different teaching styles, as they need to hit the ground running with only 2 years to gain top grades at this stage of education.

For independent, professional advice on choosing the right school options for your child at all ages, give our team of friendly consultants a call on 018865 522066 or email

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Countdown to 11+ - a few last-minute tips for #parents

For year 6 classes of 2014, that long anticipated day has arrived 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 take the tests in their stride and know that whatever the result, you will be very proud of the effort they have made.The most important thing is that your child goes into the test feeling positive, motivated and relaxed. Having worked through copious practice questions in the months leading up to today now is the time to stop the preparation and trust that their natural aptitude, supported by the exam skills and techniques you have been working on, will shine through. Boost their confidence through encouragement and praise.

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 around the test. Your child should know that the test is a gauge of their knowledge and capability right now and use of the word fail should be limited. Your child must know that whatever school they go to next year, you will make sure they have access to the opportunities that will lead to success in education.

A relaxing evening followed by a good night’s sleep and a healthy breakfast on the day of the test will help them perform at their best. Last-minute cramming into the night will not allow their brain to switch off and they will probably have an unsettled night, meaning they will be less fresh for the test day.

Plan a treat or buy a small gift to celebrate their efforts over the past few months of preparation and the test being over. Whether you also plan a treat for results day is up to you, but now is your chance to just reward their effort, whatever the outcome.

For advice on choosing the right senior school, give our team of consultants a call on 01865 522066 or email

Sunday, 31 August 2014

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

Phew! Those all-important A level results are in the bag and your teenager is excitedly preparing to move 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 a few weeks before they start might help with this.
  2. Do everything you can to assist them to secure a place in a hall of residence. Being among 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 Freshers' 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 and un-authorised overdrafts.
  6. If the timetable structure of their course looks like there might be time for some part-time work to supplement their student loan, 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 chose 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 01865 522 066
Visit our website for more information via the link.

Monday, 21 July 2014

10 reasons to #volunteer to be guardian to an international pupil at #boarding #school

  1. An opportunity for your own children to make new friends and to learn about other countries and cultural understanding, in preparation for working in a Global world.
  2. To encourage your own child to share and to consider the needs of others.
  3. To fill the ‘empty nest’ and stay young when your own children have perhaps gone off to university or left home.
  4. To become involved in the school life of a young person, supporting them through attendance at school matches, concerts, parents’ evenings.
  5. To get to know a particular boarding school, as you may be considering in future for your own children.
  6. To provide reassurance and build lasting friendships with international families overseas.
  7. To feel a sense of pride and a warm glow, knowing you are making a real difference to the life of a young person, when their own parents are so far away.
  8. To enjoy the company of a young person and have an excuse to go to all the children’s films at the cinema, Legoland or Harry Potter World.
  9. To put your spare bedroom to good use.
  10. To learn how to make sushi like the Japanese.

What is a Guardian Family?

Children studying at UK boarding schools whose parents live overseas require a UK-based guardian family, who live close to the school, to offer them accommodation at their exeat weekends and half term holidays, as well as act as their ‘English family’ to be there in case of emergency, monitor their academic study, be the friendly face at the airport that welcomes them back to the UK at the start of each term and ensure they are well-settled and happy.

Guardian families come in all shapes and sizes from large families, couples without children or children who have flown the nest, retired couples to single mums. All have a common interest in offering care and support to children and teenagers from overseas. All you need is a little time and a spare room in your home

What does the role of Guardian Family entail?

The child will be living in a boarding house at school during the term-time and will return home to their parents during the long holidays at Christmas, Easter and over the summer holiday. The guardian family will be required to do the following:

Provide a bedroom within your caring home for the child at exeat weekends and half terms. Schools usually have one exeat weekend each side of half term, so during each term, this usually amounts to two weekends and a week during half term. Sometimes an overnight stay is required at the start or end of term, where flight times do not fit with school term dates.

Acting as the key contact with the Houseparents and tutor, to make sure the child is making good progress at school, discuss and resolve any issues and to confirm arrangements when exeat weekends and half terms are approaching.

Being there quickly if an emergency situation arises such as accident, illness, suspension or an incident which requires the school to close temporarily.

Attending school parents’ evenings and reporting back to the parents or The Guardian Family Network staff team on progress.

Attending school concerts and sports matches to offer support to the child as and when appropriate. (How much you do this is left to the guardian’s discretion and it depends on the individual talents and extra-curricular involvement of the child.)

Communicating successes and concerns to or The Guardian Family Network staff team or the child’s parents back home.


Communication and being well-organised is a vital element of acting as a guardian family. The experienced staff team at the Guardian Family Network will be on hand to offer you support and guidance should you have any worries or concerns while the child is in your care. We can also assist you if there are any teething problems while the child is settling in, or further down the line if things are not as you expected.

You will also be in regular communication with the Houseparents and tutor at the boarding school, The Guardian Family Network staff team and the child’s parents or their representative, if the parents do not speak English.

An ability to respond promptly to telephone calls and email is vital and having access to Skype is a useful way for the child to keep in touch with home.

If you are interested in finding out more please call us on 01865 522066 or for details of where in the UK we are looking for guardian families at present, please visit our website

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Choosing the right #school when your child has leaning difficulties #parents #edchat

I have had conversations with five families this week regarding choosing the right senior school for children with various learning difficulties from dyslexia to dyspraxia to Asperger’s. They all start their research via school gate tips from helpful friends who are keen to share their views, often fashioned by the parent grapevine and personal experience. However, when your child has learning difficulties, it’s important to consider schools which will best support their individual needs, rather than just short-listing via league tables or brand names.

It’s so important your chosen school has the resources to challenge and stretch your child’s capabilities and interests, as well as offer relevant, experienced support where needed. Consider updating your child’s educational psychologist report. This helps schools to review their needs as part of the application process, as well as giving valuable guidance on how to best support their learning.

When visiting potential schools, be honest. Withholding information regarding difficulties may lead to problems later. Don’t be too concerned if there are other children with similar learning difficulties. Your child will gain in confidence through feeling they are not the only one finding things tricky, rather than perhaps feeling like the odd one out.

Do you warm to the SENCO? This person will become one of your key contacts regarding progress. It’s important you find them approachable, knowledgeable and understanding. 

Ask how often your child’s individual education plan will be reviewed and if necessary amended?

Is learning support delivered one-to-one, in small groups or within the classroom? What training do teachers have in supporting children with learning needs within the classroom? Is technology used to support those with difficulties?

Does the school use streaming or setting for classes or are they mixed ability? If your child excels in maths but has difficulties with English, it’s important they will be both challenged and offered additional support, where appropriate.

If your child has difficulty with organisation skills, what systems are in place to assist them to manage their belongings? How much movement is there between classrooms and how easy is it to navigate the school campus?

Will I have opportunities to meet other parents? A supportive parent community with whom you can discuss your worries regarding your child with like-minded parents can be of great value in assisting you to understand your child’s needs better and to have access to support and a listening ear when things appear difficult.

To read our weekly tips to support parents with making the right school choices as well as applying to university, follow us on Twitter by clicking the following link


Sunday, 29 June 2014

10 things to do this summer, to prepare your child for their new senior school in September #parents #boardingschool

Families across the UK are breathing a sigh of relief. July means another education milestone has been successfully navigated. Senior school entry exams are done and dusted for another year and places for September are confirmed. On the flip-side, the summer holiday now looms with the challenge of settling into a new school environment at the end.

Here are 10 tips to prepare your child over the summer, so they are ready to hit the ground running in the larger, more independent, hectic environment at senior school.
  1. Keep their brain ticking over with reading books from the local library, visits to art galleries and museums, doing puzzles, playing scrabble, subscribing to online maths programmes etc.
  2. Review joining information now. Return forms in plenty of time. There may be first-come-first-served timetabling choices to make, such as which extra language or musical instrument to take up, or booking in a mouthguard fitting.
  3. Run through the pupil handbook together to establish daily routine and rules. Getting into trouble in the first few weeks will be a set-back in the settling in process.
  4. Look over the extra-curricular programme, discussing which have most appeal. Planning school runs and other family commitments will be easier if you have an idea of when school commitments might be.
  5. Request email and phone numbers are circulated amongst form or house groups. Make contact with other families to arrange joint activities over the summer. Starting a new school alongside familiar faces is far less daunting.
  6. Gradually increase independence, for example catching the bus to the local shopping centre to meet friends for a couple of hours.
  7. Be firm on time-keeping and give advice about keeping themselves and valuables safe. Encourage your child to act responsibly and solve problems themselves.
  8. If boarding for the first time, practise housekeeping skills such as keeping a tidy bedroom, keeping track of possessions, changing a duvet cover and putting clothes into the laundry daily.
  9. Buy new uniform as soon as is practical, bearing in mind summer growth spurts. Leaving this until the last week of the holiday means items are more likely to be out of stock and the shops will be insanely busy with those doing everything at the last-minute. Name everything clearly and securely, including techy gadgets, chargers, trainers and in particular sports kit, which often tends to disappear.
  10. If starting a new sport such as lacrosse, hockey or rugby, book a pre-season summer course to get to grips with some of the skills before term starts. This will boost confidence and give them a head-start in September.
For advice on choosing the right senior school please contact us to speak with one of our expert education consultants. Call 01865 522066 or email