Tuesday, 29 April 2014

The importance of open and regular communication between school and parents

Last week I had a number of conversations with parents about niggles regarding their child’s progress at school, friendship or peer group issues or lack of key information to enable them to support their teenager in making informed decisions about their future. It amazes me that rarely do they seem to have discussed their queries or concerns with the school, choosing instead to seek answers amongst other parents or work colleagues. All too often parents appear to feel they should not be ‘making a fuss’ or interfering in the work of the professionals, leaving responsibility for their child’s education in the hands of the school, until suddenly a relatively large and unforeseen major issue emerges, seemingly out of the blue.

Success for any child in education should be delivered through a partnership between school and home, where parents support and reinforce the education message delivered at school on an on-going basis at home. Waiting until the annual parents’ evening when teachers may have 100’s of other parents to speak to, as well as reading the twice yearly reports seldom gives parents an in-depth picture of their child’s contribution at school or whether they are working to their true academic potential in all subject areas and are well integrated socially.

Regular informal communication with key contacts at the school such as the class teacher, Head of Faculty, tutor or Head of Year, raising small worries as and when they occur, will assist parents to maintain an up-to-date picture of progress, behaviour, all-round participation in co-curricular opportunities and to quickly resolve small issues or concerns, before they have time to escalate, un-noticed into a crisis. If problems do arise in the future, well-established lines of communication and a supportive relationship between school and home will facilitate speedy identification and resolution. 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

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.

Catherine Stoker is Managing Director of the Independent Education Consultants, offering timely advice for parents on all aspects of education.

From choosing a school, transition at 7+, 11+, 13+ and 16+ to career planning and applying to university, they have a team of education experts who collectively have years of experience in offering advice and guidance to parents.

For more details about their services and how they support parents in making the right education choices, visit their website. www.independenteducationconsultants.co.uk

Sunday, 27 April 2014

A few Social Media tips for #parents who currently have their heads buried in the sand.

Whether we like it or not, social media and constant access via smart phones are part of our children’s lives. For many parents comprehending 21st Century teenage communication can be a real challenge. However making an effort to understand how it works by getting involved is far better than burying your head in the sand.
Setting up your own Facebook page and asking your teen to explain how to use it can be a good way to start. If they are experiencing problems with peers, getting into mischief or sharing the wrong sort of information or pictures, you are far more likely to come across issues early, if you are involved yourself.
Choose your battles carefully. The aim is to build their trust so they are careful with what they say as they know you are there in the background, but they don’t choose to shut you out altogether. Sharing and joining in presents parents with opportunities to discuss peer pressure, relationships, protecting your digital footprint and considering the potential damage pictures and posts could do to future university and job applications.
Understanding and choosing the privacy and notification settings carefully means there are fewer concerns about who you are sharing personal information with. Safety online is paramount and agreeing rules about what personal information is safe to share is crucial.
Acting on impulse through social media is rarely a good idea. Think before you post is a good lesson for life, much the same as think before you speak. Encourage the habit of reading through carefully before posting and taking a moment to thing about whether anything could be mis-understood or mis-interpreted by others either now or in the future.  Once out there, taking it back is tricky and the consequences for both yourself and others may be serious and long-term.
Like it or not, communication via smart phone and social media is here to stay. Embrace it and get involved. You never know, you may even enjoy it and have some fun yourself.
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Friday, 11 April 2014

Does eating chocolate boost brainpower while revising for #eggsams?

It seems Easter is nearly upon us and the supermarket shelves are stacked with chocolate bunnies and eggs galore. Since this is also the time of year when teenagers have their heads buried in their books and laptops revising for important exams, it led me to wonder if there is any research to suggest that students who munch on chocolate when revising for exams gain any benefit from doing so. As luck would have it, for the chocoholics amongst us, it seems there is!

Chocolate contains around 380 different chemicals. Some are believed to have positive benefits to brainpower. For example, found in quite high levels in dark chocolate, antioxidants such as flavonoids increase the flow of blood to the brain and heart, in some cases heightening cognitive function through greater oxygen levels. They also lower blood pressure.

Chemical compounds such as phenylethylamine (PEA) can have a positive effect on our mood by encouraging the brain to release endorphins. This has potential to decrease stress and raise feelings of motivation and enthusiasm.

Low levels of caffeine in chocolate act as a mild stimulant, although levels are considerably lower than those found in coffee.

Sadly, the effects of eating chocolate are not all positive. Remember chocolate is high in fat and the more processed it is, the less likely it is have retained any health benefit. I believe the saying goes ‘everything in moderation.’

Other brain boosting super-foods to include in the diet while studying include walnuts, olive oil, berries, oily fish like sardines and salmon, avocado, garlic, spinach, beetroot and most importantly water. Remaining hydrated while studying is a key factor for concentration. Dehydration causes the brain tissue to shrink impairing short-term memory, focus and decision making.

We wish you a happy Easter from the team of experts at The Independent Education Consultants. 

For more details about our services visit our website www.independenteducationconsultants.co.uk

Image courtesy of Apolonia/FreedigitalPhotos.net

Sunday, 6 April 2014

A few tips to prepare for a #university interview for #medicine.

Following on from last week’s advice about preparing a strong application to study medicine at university, I thought a few tips on preparing for the interview might be useful.

Firstly research the format the interview will take as each university is different. Some have multi mini interviews whilst others take a more traditional panel approach. You may also have to join in group discussions. Practise handling all these scenarios to ensure you have the right skills to sell yourself whatever the format. Body language is important.

Ensure your background knowledge of the course is comprehensive. You will not only need to come across as having a passion for medicine and the motivation to work hard to stay the course, but also that you are completely in the picture as to the content of the course and how the learning is delivered-traditional or more problem based learning.

Showing that you have experience of assimilating with people from all walks of life and cultures with empathy and sensitivity is important. Be ready to share examples of how you have used communication and people skills to handle difficult situations, where others were angry or upset, for example as a result of bad news. 

Ethics are critical to the medical profession. You will need to demonstrate that you have balanced opinions, can construct a logical argument, are open to cultural sensitivities and have an in-depth understanding of ethical principles. Your knowledge of current affairs will come into play here.

The structure and challenges of the NHS should be a subject on which you can show an in-depth knowledge. Medicine is a career and not a job. You will need to show that you understand the general direction of travel of UK healthcare and are committed to making a life-long contribution.

Learn to identify types of question so you can structure your answer. Does the question require facts and knowledge or the construction of a balanced argument or opinion? Structure your answer accordingly. In the introduction turn around and rephrase the question to give thinking time eg “There are many reasons that I want to study medicine ….. “ Then create an argument by grouping positives and negatives together if possible and finally summarise and reach a conclusion. Do not be afraid to express personal opinion and be prepared to defend it!

Deliver balanced but focussed responses and arguments.

If you need assistance to prepare your application for medicine or to prepare for the interview, our team of expert consultants are here to help. Give Sasha Wellings a call to discuss your individual ambitions so she can let you know how she and her team of friendly experts will support and advise you in achieving them.  You can reach her by phoning +44 (0)7769 686961

For more details visit our website by clicking the link -  Practise interviews for medcine

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Planning a strong application to UK #University to study #Medicine

Considering making an application to study Medicine at a UK university is not a decision which should be taken lightly. The competition for places is stiff and the course itself requires both commitment and resilience as it is full on and challenging. Only the best gain entry and subsequently complete the course. If medicine is definitely the vocational career for you, it is important to make the strongest application possible and prepare well for the interview. Here are just a few pointers to help plan a good application during your sixth form years.

Firstly make sure you are totally dedicated to a career as a doctor. You must have a passion for medicine, excellent communication skills, sensitivity, compassion and cultural awareness, determination in the face of challenge, manual dexterity and heaps of common sense.

Plan work experience. Waiting lists for these opportunities at hospitals can be long so apply early and think creatively about other opportunities to learn relevant skills. For example, gain caring experience through charity or hospice work, St John’s Ambulance or Red Cross or contacting your local GP or small hospital are all relevant. Apply yourself with enthusiasm and commitment to any relevant opportunity and don’t be afraid to tap into personal contacts.

Think how you will demonstrate you have resilience, commitment and determination in the face of challenge and long working hours. Might be through D of E award or trekking in the Amazon, but being able to highlight relevant personality traits and skills is more important than what you actually did.

Consider when during the 1 July to 4 Oct window you will take the UKCAT and/or BMAT tests. Depends on which universities you are applying to and your order of preference as to which you take, when you take them and how you prepare. There are heaps of online resources to support your preparation, once you have decided.

Prepare well for your interviews by researching the method used by each individual university. Some do multi mini interviews, while others do more traditional panel interviews, role play or group discussions.

Next week more details about preparing for a medical interview.

Do you need advice with planning your UCAS application to a UK University to study Medicine? Do you need some coaching and interview practice for a forthcoming interview? Our team of friendly, professional experts look forward to hearing from you. Contact us via our website Practice interviews for Medicine