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

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Top 10 tips for parents if you discover your child is being bullied online #antibullyingpro #edchat

At the Education Festival which took place over the weekend at Wellington College, I attended an excellent seminar run by the leaders of the Anti-Bullying Ambassadors programme in conjunction with Facebook. Their peer mentoring programme raises awareness and coaches young people in how to identify and address bullying issues in their school. For more information visit the website Although a reasonably new initiative, it is already run in over 600 schools countrywide as part of the Diana Award, which encourages and empowers young people to engage in social action

It was quite mind boggling to hear that one third of 3 to 4 year olds are now online via a PC and 5 to 15 year olds use of tablets has tripled since 2012 (Ofcom) 

With this in mind, I thought their top tips about how best to support your child if they tell you they are being bullied online might be a useful thing to share.
  1. Praise and thank them for telling you. Reassure them and keep calm.
  2. Ask them how long it has been going on and if they are happy to show you.
  3. Ask them how it made them feel and discuss how they would like to resolve. Their buy-in to the suggested solution is important.
  4. Screen shot the evidence. You may need your child to show you how to do this as all devices are different.
  5. Block the person who sent the comments.
  6. Explain the importance of not retaliating, no matter how much you feel inside that you would like to go and ring the person’s neck.
  7. Change the password. They gave an excellent analogy-treat your password like your tooth-brush. Change it regularly and don’t share it with anyone.
  8. Check who their information is shared with, if necessary changing the privacy settings.
  9. Make the school aware of the issues, if your child is happy to do so and agree a plan as to how the problem will be addressed and the timescales.
  10. If the comments are threatening, inform the police.

Other sites they recommended for information about preventing online bullying were or UK Safer Internet Centre

Monday, 16 June 2014

Tips for securing a #graduate job

As the class of 2014 finish their degree courses and another group of rose coloured spectacle wearing students leave university with ambitions to secure that perfect job, what practical ‘nag free’ advice can parents share to help them in their quest?

Online job boards are one way to find and apply for vacancies; however these have a huge audience and hence will attract large numbers of applications. Seek out less obvious opportunities. Build a network of contacts within the private sector industry that appeals to you by attending events, as well as asking around your current network to see where possible introductions could be useful. As well as targeting large Companies, research which smaller businesses are thriving in the same market-place, as they may be more open to a personal approach.

Once you have identified companies which appear to be growing or expanding show initiative through writing concise speculative emails or letters to them. Always address them to a relevant person, identify the key skills you can offer and put a strong case for how you can add to their business. Include a paragraph about why you are interested in their company, one to highlight your key skills as relevant to them and suggest a meeting.

If you are offered an internship opportunity make sure you will be doing work that is building relevant employability skills and that the position is within a known Company whose name will enhance your CV. Making tea and filing for months on end, will do little to motivate or enhance your ability to sell yourself at future interviews.

When making applications, match your CV to the skills required by the job description. In no more than two pages, highlight key skills, work experience and achievements, emphasise leadership, problem-solving and team-working skills and mention the core elements of your degree and how these will contribute to your effectiveness within this position.

Review online footprint and use privacy settings to make sure that there are no skeletons in the closet that could affect a potential employers’ assessment of you as a potential candidate. Start to build a more professional online presence by completing a profile on LinkedIn for example, listing your key skills, qualifications, work experience and interests. Don’t forget to add a business-like photo. Make constructive, engaging comments in relevant forums; write guest posts on relevant blogs, so you start to build some kind of recognition in the areas that interest you.

Hopefully the above will open some doors to realistic opportunities and then all you will need to do is prepare properly for interview!

If you need advice and support regarding making applications for graduate jobs, please contact our team of education consultant experts who will be very happy to assist you. More details about our consultants via our website

Friday, 6 June 2014

The value of ‘the extended day’ in an all-round education for each child as an individual

I recently had a conversation with the Headmaster of the local non-selective Free School –Sir Thomas Fremantle Secondary School. Part of their USP is that all children must take part in the extended day programme. Although formal lessons finish at 3pm, as they do in most state secondary schools, there is a compulsory enrichment programme that runs until 430pm. As a result over half of the children learn a musical instrument, the after school sporting programme is extensive, children have the opportunity to learn Italian, Spanish or Mandarin or to use the 3D printers and iPad to take part in various art, design and technology activities. Additionally teachers offer homework clinics for those who need a bit of extra support with their learning.

In summary, that is 7.5 hours extra time per week where children are engaged in structured in-school activities to grow self-esteem, develop social and communication skills or to just extend their creativity and knowledge.

In contrast to a commonly held view that the extended day is unpopular with pupils, the children appear to thrive on meeting the challenges of these additional opportunities. Proof, I suppose, that children will work at the level of the challenges you put in front of them. Setting the bar and hence expectation higher means they will strive to participate and achieve more. This type of culture brings them up with the belief that accepting average or just ticking over to deliver the bare minimum is not an option, particularly where boys are concerned. A sound lesson for success in future life, in my view.

Parents on the other hand have the advantage of a guaranteed longer working day during term-time, leaving more quality family time at the evenings and weekends. Less parent taxi service since activities are offered in situ. There are no concerns that mum’s day may suddenly have to be rearranged due to a cancelled sports fixture or after school club, since this is all delivered as part of the compulsory timetabled school day.

So how can parents with children at other schools learn from this model? My advice would be to take a refreshed look at the optional after school programme offered by your child’s school. Discuss what is on offer and encourage your child to get involved in something new. Enthuse about the value of an all-round education, highlighting the benefits they will reap when it comes to making a higher education or job application upon leaving school. It might mean taking a different approach to the school run or lift shares, but these are only logistics which are easily solved with a bit of creative thinking.

Come on parents, let’s commit to encouraging our children to put their smartphones down for a few hours and make an effort to engage more fully in some of the hugely valuable and extensive extra-curricular opportunities offered by our schools. Whether optional or compulsory, let’s get children more involved!

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.