Sunday, 30 March 2014

#Siblings – making the right #school choices for individuals

I have just returned from holiday so was fortunate to have plenty of time to catch up on some much needed R&R through reading. One of the books I enjoyed presented an interesting take on the complexities of family life viewed through the eyes of siblings, each with their own viewpoint on events as a result of differing personalities, emotions, interests and experiences.

It led me to thinking about the complexities parents face in making senior school choices when there are siblings involved. Often convenience and hence school proximity to home can be the leading factor in deciding the right school for the family as a whole, especially where both parents work. However, in my experience, parents need to think carefully before fitting siblings into one mould and choosing a one size fits all school. Sometimes convenience needs to be put aside to meet the needs of each child as an individual.

For some challenging, competitive, academic environments provide the most stretching option to achieve potential. Although for others, spending your formative years in the shadow of the academic prowess, musical or sporting talent of an older sibling can knock confidence. Hence a different school may be needed to boost self-esteem and offer the opportunity to shine.

Allowing each child to tread their own freshly laid path with no pre-conceived expectations from teachers can be beneficial where siblings are very different in their personalities, strengths and weaknesses.

Many senior schools have specialities in different areas for example sport, technology or music. For some a UTC environment focused on employability skills or non-selective school with a particular specialism may prove more inspiring than that of a grammar. If paying for education is an option, a smaller more nurturing school or the opportunity to spend time away from home as a weekly or full boarder, will enhance the development of individuality and independence.

When the time for transition from primary to senior school approaches, considering all options on their merits for each of your children is crucial.

Need advice on choosing a boarding school? Our team of professional, friendly consultants offer a bespoke service offering parents support with choosing the right school at 11+, 13+ or sixth form. Whether you are based in t he UK, an expat or international parent looking for the right boarding school, we would be very happy to help you. For details of how to contact us, please visit our website The Independent Education Consultants

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Easter holiday #revision - planning now may mean less nagging later.

As the Easter holidays approach many parents will be considering the best way to motivate their teenager into making the most of this crucial exam preparation time.Giving thought to this now will impact on motivation, the effectiveness of revision time and ultimately on their exam results.

Successful revision requires finding the right way for each individual to organise and then retain information, dependent on personality and learning styles. This means highlighting lesson notes, preparing Post-it notes or revision cards with key facts for some, where for others mind maps and pictorial diagrams work better. Now is the time to get organised. Gather revision sheets and practice questions from teachers, as well as seeking clarification in areas they find more tricky, before the holiday starts. Revision should also be about boosting confidence and perception of ability.Mixing with well-motivated, ambitous peers will rub off. In the right environment, confidence and increased expectations can be infectious.

Performing well in past paper questions during independent study time will motivate, as well as giving useful exam skill practice such as coping with time pressure, planning an answer, handwriting speed, concentration, proof reading and critical thinking.

Assist your teen with creating a holiday timetable with the right mix of work and play. Goal setting intermingled with little rewards works well. Agree a strategy for managing distractions such as the mobile phone, Facebook and WhatsApp. Breaks for food and hydration are important. Sleeping in until noon and burning the midnight oil are not adviseable. Ensure time is allocated in equal measure to all subjects, including the more challenging or less enjoyable ones.

Once the holiday revision schedule is mapped out, so you are both happy with the work and social mix, you can relax a bit, knowing all you have to do is find a way to motivate them to stick to it when the time comes!

Need advice on choosing a boarding school? Our team of professional, friendly consultants offer a bespoke service offering parents support with choosing the right school at 11+, 13+ or sixth form. Whether you are based in t he UK, an expat or international parent looking for the right boarding school, we would be very happy to help you. For details of how to contact us, please visit our website The Independent Education Consultants

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Life Rules from Bill Gates

On a recent school visit I noticed a poster in the boarding house outlining ‘The Life Rules From Bill Gates’. Although a little tongue in cheek, I feel there is some useful advice for 21st Century teenagers.
  1. Life is not fair. Get used to it.
  2. The world won’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.
  3. You will NOT earn £50,000 a year straight after leaving school. You won’t be an MD with a car and a house until you earn both.
  4. If you think your teachers are tough, wait until you get a boss.
  5. Sweeping the floor in a fast food restaurant is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for it-they called it opportunity.
  6. If you mess up, it’s not your parents’ fault, so don’t whine about your mistakes, learn from them.
  7. Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talking about how cool you are. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parents’ generation, try cleaning out the rubbish in your own room.
  8. Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life has not. In some schools they have abolished failing grades and they’ll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to real life.
  9. Life is not divided into terms. You don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself. Do that in your own time.
  10. Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually leave the coffee shop and go to work.
  11. BE NICE TO NERDS. The chances are you’ll end up working for one.
Thanks to Mr Taylor at Oakham School for sharing this with me. Oakham is a co-educational boarding and day school for children aged 11-18 in the beautiful county of Rutland. Visit Oakham School Website

For more details on how our team of friendly experts support parents with making the right boarding school choices visit our website Choosing a UK boarding school

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Parents' evenings - maximum benefit, minimum pain

At this time of year many schools hold parents’ evenings offering the opportunity to meet with teachers and get a face-to-face update on progress. These can be both uplifting and challenging experiences in equal measure. It is important to plan your time carefully to ensure maximum benefit with least pain.

Here are a few tips for parents which may help.

Speak to your child in advance. Ask about challenges they may be experiencing. Using their last school report can be a useful reference for discussion. If your time is limited, focus on key areas such as Maths, Science and English.

If your child is responsible for arranging your appointment schedule, make sure they book appointments with all teachers and not just the ones who will be full pf praise. It is very tempting to use this as an opportunity to hear about areas of triumph; however it is just as important to find out where they may be struggling and discuss what could be done to offer support.

Prioritise time with their tutor, head of year or houseparent, as relevant. They will have a good overview of progress in all academic areas as well as socially and across the value-added curriculum. They will be able to make suggestions as to the important teachers for you to see and what you might discuss with them.

If no booking system is in place, queues can be long. If two parents are able to attend, perhaps divide to conquer. Take notes for reference afterwards.

If parents are no longer together, make an effort to put differences aside in support of your child’s educational benefit. If this is not possible, ask the school if separate appointments are an option to avoid difficulties.

Appointments are short so put the time to best use. If your child is struggling, ask the key reasons why and how you might offer them support at home, as well as what the school might be doing to assist. If you do not get the opportunity to finish your conversation with a particular teacher, make arrangements to meet on another day, so you can continue your discussion.

Spend time with your child afterwards. Give plenty of praise for areas where they’re doing well. Discuss areas that are not going so well and discuss strategies to remedy this, as well as encouraging them to ask for help when needed.

Goal setting will be a useful exercise to measure the success of any strategies you have agreed to address areas of difficulty.

For more information about our services offering support to parents in making the right school choices at the right time, click on the link below