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 

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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