Konnie Huq returned to her old school to curate a science-fuelled workshop `Science, Explosions and Scribbling’, to tie in with the launch of her first book Cookie!… and the Most Annoying Boy in the World.
Konnie, who attended Notting Hill & Ealing High School between 1986 – 1993, shared her fascination and self-confessed obsession with science with current students via her curated science workshop.
“Science is super cool. Science is the reason the tech all works. The reason we can fly planes, drive cars. That the floor doesn’t fall down”.
All girls from NHEHS Junior School in Years 3-6, along with children from neighbouring school, Christ the Saviour, C of E Primary School, were treated to an uplifting hour of fun and games. Konnie started the session with an imaginative draw-along, creating a comic strip story with input from the 200 children gathered in the School Hall. This was followed by a brainbusting quiz, which had hands straining to provide answers and an uplifting reading from her book. An experiment with mints and lemonade created an explosive finale.
Recognising the importance of reading, Huq commented:
“Reading books is so mega important. Books give people empathy, which makes people good kind people and become amazing adults, which makes the world a nicer place.”
“Notting Hill & Ealing High School has a special place in my heart. I remember doing English in Room 24 and I fondly remember the Science block – which is still there. My English and Science lessons have come full circle now that I’m introducing current students to my new book”.
Cookie!… and the Most Annoying Boy in the World (Piccadilly Press, £10.99) is the first of a series for young readers (aged 8-12) and introduces the world to Cookie Haque – nine years old, obsessed with science and ready to take on the world.
Putney-based Falcons School for Girls has unveiled its latest investment – a new state of the art technology suite.
Thanks to the newly opened, and aptly named, ‘Creation Station’, pupils in Years 1 to 6 will now benefit from being able to hone their IT and Music Technology skills, allowing their practical and creative learning to blossom as they access the latest Apple Macs, all equipped with advanced software.
Headmistress at Falcons School for Girls, Sara Williams-Ryan said: “The pupils have loved experimenting with the new Music Technology software and are extremely excited to try lots of different ICT skills! The ‘Creation Station’ complements the use of iPads and laptops in their other subjects.
“We are keen to ensure that our pupils have access to the very latest technology, to support our belief that children will flourish if we engage and challenge learners at every opportunity”.
The new area compliments the multiple specialist spaces for the teaching of the more creative and scientific subjects including; a well-equipped Science laboratory, a spacious and inspiring Art room, a Drama studio complete with a plethora of props and staging and a stimulating Music room.
Falcons Girls strives to strengthen and enhance the pupils’ learning pathways through carefully planned lessons and activities, supported by a rich co-curricular programme. The school also works closely with parents and guides them through entry to senior school, helping to prepare each pupil for entry into the senior school which best meets their learning needs and future development.
For more information on Falcons School for Girls, or to register for an Open Day, call Harriet Stokes, Admissions on Tel: 0208 992 5189 or email email@example.com
We’ve visited, tasted and deliberated and now we have the winners of the City Kids School Food Awards 2019
When launching awards, one never really knows how they will be received. It seemed obvious to us that celebrating school food would be popular. After all, what’s the first question you ask your child when you collect them from school? The chorus of “What did you have for lunch today?” can be heard every afternoon up and down the country.
But while we know a lot about our children’s academic progress, school league tables, and reputation, we don’t know much about what’s going on in the dining room. By launching the School Food Awards, we wanted to shed some light on the school day which parents are never part of.
One of our aims was to celebrate the dedication of school catering teams who work tirelessly to provide healthy, nutritious meals on tight budgets. More importantly, we wanted to continue the discussion around healthy eating and healthy attitudes to food which we all hope to instil in our children from a young age. School has a huge part to play in this.
Taking in entries
And so, in the Autumn, we invited schools in London and the South East to enter three categories: Best Vegetarian Menu, Best School Menu and School Dinner Hero. The response surpassed our expectations and we whittled the entries down to a shortlist of schools to visit for lunch. Tough gig (let me tell you, three lunches in a day is actually quite difficult).
We’re indebted to the team of judges who munched their way through various menus and who asked many questions of the catering teams we met. Thank you to (l to r) Jo Pratt, Beverley Turner, Kathryn Bouldrey-Chourio and Lizzy King for joining the first City Kids School Food Awards.
On meeting with our finalists, we were all delighted to see how passionate they were about their school food provision, about making improvements where necessary, about catering for different diets and allergies and about their impact on the local environment. And all schools, crucially, were listening to their pupils’ feedback while also trying to push the boundaries of their developing taste buds. Our finalists were all strong, but our votes have been counted.
School Dinner Hero sponsored by As Nature Intended: Brian Turner at St James Preparatory School
Runner Up: Philippa Frederick and Maggie Watkins at Notting Hill & Ealing High School
Highly Commended: Mayuri Tokekar and Ria Rattan at The Holmwood School, Mike Waters at Fulham Prep, Suzanne Hemchaoui at Shiplake College
On the winner: Judges found Brian to be a “passionate, inspirational leader” of the kitchen, devising many different ways to engage the children with food.
Best Vegetarian Menu: St James Preparatory School
Runner-up: Notting Hill & Ealing High School
Highly Commended: Fulham Prep
On the winner: Judges were impressed by the “well-balanced and creative menu”, “the outstanding food quality and the low cost per head”.
Best School Menu Primary: Edgeborough School
Runner Up: Falcons Pre-Preparatory School
Highly Commended: Notting Hill & Ealing High School, Fulham Prep, St James Preparatory School
On the winner: Judges loved the variety of adventurous food on offer including moules marinières and prawn cocktail as well as the wonderful, sociable dining room.
Best School Menu Secondary: Lambrook School
Runner Up Secondary: Notting Hill & Ealing High School
Highly Commended: Heathfield School, St George’s Ascot
On the winner:Judges were wowed by the quality and selection of food on offer as well as the thought that went into every menu.
Thank you to all the schools that entered. We’ll be going again in September!
With it being Museum Week and all, we wanted to share with you our top family friendly museums to visit in London. The best bit…they are all FREE!
National Army Museum
This museum, located in Chelsea, had a major refurb in 2017 and wow did they do an incredible job in upping their family appeal. The museum explores British Military history from the English Civil War up to modern day and with the continuous interactives throughout, there is really, never a dull moment for the little ones. The subject matter is a little raw but they do a great job at addressing it well to children. From marching in a drill, climbing under tanks, dressing up, playing the drums, to sorting your rations, the galleries do a wonderful job of engaging the kiddies. They provide activity backpacks for different age ranges that are an excellent addition when exploring the galleries and there is also the super Play Base area, an immersive experience for ages 8 and under, which includes a soft play assault course, climbing aboard an army truck and preparing food in the cookhouse. Top Tip If you want to make it a totally free day, take a picnic. Battersea Park is just a 12 minute walk away.
National Maritime Museum
Ah Greenwich, what a wonderful place to visit and it is home to this brilliant free museum to boot. Be sure to get in full on sailor mode as you explore fascinating stories of explorations at sea. The museum is full to the brim with family friendly exhibits and information, from the Great Map with boats the kids can sit on, a boat simulator and a chance to come face to face with the greats, Cook, Nelson and Columbus. There is literally something for everyone. The AHOY Children’s Gallery for 0-7’s is a little haven for the smalls (just be aware it is only free weekdays, there is a very small fee on weekends and bank holidays) and the All Hands Children Gallery aimed at ages 6 – 12 is great fun too even for slightly younger children. Top Tip They are always running really good family friendly events so totally recommend checking online before you go so you don’t miss out on any.
The Horniman Museum can be found in Forest Hill and includes displays of anthropology, natural history, musical. It houses the private collection of Frederick Horniman, a Victorian tea trader who filled up his whole house with fascinating objects such as stuffed animals, Egyptian mummies and musical instruments. The totally eclectic mix of exhibits is its major appeal and with a wide range of galleries there is always something new to explore. We love the hands-on space in the Music Gallery where the children can make as much noise as they like with various instruments and the World Gallery, that celebrates life all over the world. Then there are the gardens which are just beautiful on a sunny day. There is a little Animal Walk for the kids and plenty of space for picnics. On top of that there are regular activities on weekends, such as Hands on Base, where children can touch and explore objects and Art Makers, where you can explore art techniques as a family. Top Tip Don’t miss the Walrus! It’s also worth noting there is an aquarium and they always have family friendly exhibits running. The current exhibition is Brick Wonders, which is perfect for any little Lego lovers out there, unfortunately both this and the aquarium require a small fee.
Museum of Childhood
Ahhh so much nostalgia in one place, this East London museum does a fantastic job in appealing to not only children, but adults too. From My Little Pony, to Care Bears you will be in reminiscing heaven in this museum that houses the largest collection of childhood objects in the UK ranging from the 1600’s to the present day. With plenty for the little ones to get their hands on, you can happily run around for a couple of hours lapping it all in alongside your child. It is the perfect balance of not being too big that it is over powering or too small that you get bored quickly. Interactives include a sensory area, building blocks, rocking horses and a sandpit. They run daily activities such as storytelling and arts and crafts and family friendly events in the holidays. They are also in the process of having a major redevelopment with an aim to becoming a world-leading museum of design and creativity for children and families. Watch this space! Top Tip Make sure you grab one of their free family backpacks and trails from the helpdesk.
Museum of London Docklands
Canary Wharf is not only home to some of the tallest buildings in London but also to this fantastic little gem of a museum, which explores the history of London’s River Thames. For some reason this museum always seems a little quieter than most and that alone makes it more enjoyable as a family. The Mudlark’s Gallery, an interactive space for children up to 8 is fantastic. In this gallery children can load a tea clipper, tie nautical knots and weigh cargo whilst learning museum facts in a fun and engaging environment. Babies and toddlers are also well catered for with their soft play area and with recent interactives added to the galleries such as fancy dress, drawing and building a bridge, it has become an even bigger family friendly attraction. To top it all off their regular family events are amazing from family raves, pirate takeovers and a beautiful Santa’s Grotto at Christmas. Top Tip Don’t miss Sailor Town, a recreation of the old docks from the 19thcentury. You are instantly transported back in time as you wander through the atmospheric streets.
And last but by no means least, we are huge fans of Tate Britain, well both Tate’s actually but this one for us is more accessible. This art museum is the home of British art from 1500 to the present day and is a great space for those little legs to run around in. We love the easels in the 1840 display, where anyone can pick up a pencil and paper and draw to their hearts content. They also do a brilliant ‘Explore the Gallery’ session for under 5’s on the first Saturday of every month, such a fun and creative way for children to explore the gallery. Top Tip The ‘Explore the Gallery’ sessions get booked up super quick so be ready to book as soon as the tickets go up or alternatively do what we do and sneak in on the day, they generally let you in…at your own risk though of course.
On the day that primary school places are announced, City Kids gets advice from one Headteacher about how to tackle disappointment.
Today sees the announcement of the primary school places for September 2019. Many of us go to drastic measures to ensure that our little ones get into our preferred choice of school, but there are no guarantees. Though there are many fantastic primary schools in your local area, competition is high. Hopefully, you will be thrilled at your offer.
But what do you do if that is not the case? We caught up with Sophie Baber, Headteacher of Brookham School, in Liphook to see what advice she had to offer parents.
“First and foremost, don’t panic and don’t let your child see that you are upset. The last thing you want is to transfer any stress or anxiety on to your child.
Once you have processed the offer and collected your thoughts, it is time to accept the school place you have been offered. While this may seem counter intuitive, it is important that your child has a school to go to in September. If you don’t, the chances are that you could lose your place and be offered an even less desirable option. Don’t worry, this will not affect your right to appeal.
Get on the phone
After you have done this, I would advise phoning your preferred choice of school. If you think it’s brilliant, the chances are so will lots of other parents. As a result, the phones are likely to be busy and the waiting list may be long. However, there is always movement, places come up all the time and it’s not uncommon to be offered a place on the first day of the new school year.
Now your child’s name is securely on the waiting list; it is time to consider appealing. If you are to be successful, you need to have a solid case. Your reason could relate to a mistake in the admissions arrangements or the suitability of a school to meet your child’s needs. It is important to note that each local authority will have a slightly different process, so it is imperative to check out your local authority’s website. Most will have an online form to complete and you will have to complete a new form for each school you wish to apply to. Don’t forget to have all your supporting evidence in a digital format, so that it can be uploaded and submitted all at the same time. You may want to consider employing a solicitor or a member of a schools appeals organisation to help.
Going to appeal can be extremely stressful and the chances of success are limited, but there is another option to consider. There are some truly outstanding independent schools in our local area. With nurturing smaller class sizes and an enviable breadth of curriculum, delivered by specialist teachers, this a brilliant back up plan. If you are in the fortunate position of being able to afford this option, you will find that many independent schools will be open for admissions all year round. If financially this seems an impossibility, it is worth picking up the phone and asking about the bursaries on offer.
With all of these options there is no magic wand, but if you don’t ask…”
Redroofs School for the Performing Arts shares expertise during two-day workshop in May half-term
Redroofs School for the Performing Arts, which has helped to secure life changing careers for hundreds of children in West End shows, are coming to London to share their expertise to your children.
During a two-day musical theatre workshop, girls and boys aged 8-13 will work with industry professionals from West End shows such as Wicked, Matilda, School of Rock and Mary Poppins to create an informal presentation of show-stopping songs and routines.
The workshops also give the children an opportunity to ask lots of questions about how to land a part in a West End show, life as a young performer and how to achieve your ambitions.
This is very definitely suitable for all levels of experience from a keen novice to experienced young performers, with or without a dance background. This workshop promises to enhance your theatre skills and to increase your contacts and introduce you to like-minded stars of the future.
The School was founded in 1947 in North London, and moved to the home of the late Ivor Novello in leafy Berkshire in 1964. One of the earliest pupils was Rula Lenska and alumni now include Kate Winslet CBE, Lucy Benjamin, Joanne Froggatt and Kris Marshall.
The school has trained and also launched the young careers of Oscar, Bafta, and Golden Globe nominees and winners, musical theatre performers, film stars and familiar faces. Children from a variety of backgrounds and abilities are welcomed. Its Gold Teams currently work with some of the UK’s finest talent, in workshops and children’s masterclasses.
Supporting Young People
The building of confidence, teamwork, transferable presentation skills, and of course friendships through secure and assured Performing Arts training and expectations are evident in the Redroofs story and have supported young people into wide ranging careers, as actors, dancers and singers, directors, writers, producers, lawyers, teachers and more.
Redroofs pupils have most recently starred in West End Shows such as Matilda, Mary Poppins, Annie, School of Rock, Joseph & The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Sound of Music, Fiddler on the Roof, Nativity!, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child while more pupils are notching up TV & Film credits including The Kid Who Would Be King, Tolkien, Almost Never (CBBC), Picasso, Music, War and Love and many more.
MAY HALF-TERM WORKSHOP
KIDS IN THE MUSICALS Mayfair, London Tuesday 28th and Wednesday 29th May 2019
Venue: Danceworks, 16 Balderton Street, Mayfair, London W1K 6TN Ages: 8-13+ years
Easter may be a month away, but the holidays aren’t! We’ve picked our favourites amongst the many holiday camps now available in London
RICHER EDUCATION One of London’s leaders in science and STEM learning, Richer Education provide camps for all levels of knowledge and ability. They have now also included debating and public speaking on their skills list. Chelsea, Kensington | 4-14 years. richereducation.co.uk
WILL TO WIN At centres across London, Will to Win provide tennis, netball and multi sports camps for youngsters 4-7yrs and also full day camps for 7-16 yrs. All take place in beautiful London parks. Chiswick, Hyde Park, Greenwich Park, Ealing, Regent’s Park willtowin.co.uk
THE LITTLE GYM Whilst you may think may only be open to members, The Little Gym opens its doors to everyone for their holiday camps. Some of The Little Gym centres also offer dance and karate camps. Register for full or half days. Gyms in Chiswick, Hampton & Teddington, Wandsworth & Fulham and Westfield White City | Ages 3-12 yrs thelittlegym.eu
ROCKS LANE With venues in Chiswick, Barnes, Bishop’s Park and Hurlingham Park, Rocks Lane offers football, multi-sport, tennis and netball camps for kids from the age of three (shorter hours). rockslane.co.uk
SUPER CAMPS Want to try something a bit different? Super Camps offer Lego Play, Bushcraft, Cookery, as well as football and multi-activity. Various school-based locations |4-12 yrs supercamps.co.uk
MOTHER NATURE SCIENCE Book a day or a full week at these camps designed to have fun with science. Themed days include Rocket Launch, Powerful Air, Starry Light and Outer Space. Kingston, Richmond, Sutton, Harrow, Southgate, St John’s Wood, Hampstead, Kensington, Herne Hill | 5-12 yrs mnature.co.uk
THE STRINGS CLUB Packed with fun-filled, unmissable musical experiences, our multi award-winning Ofsted registered Holiday Camps for children aged 4 – 11 bring together the very best of childcare and music education to engage and inspire your child – every holiday. Islington and Hampstead | 4-11 yrs thestringsclub.org
FIRE TECH One of the few camps to offer courses for older kids, Fire Tech run STEM based camps which include coding, VR, digital design and video game design. Students learn from the ground up, and there’s even a girls only camp for teens. City, Dulwich, Notting Hill, Camden, South Kensington | 9 yrs+ firetechcamp.com
IOI Bricks and Code, Robot Zoo and Game and Code are just three of the themed days which are part of Lab Liftoff this Easter. The Institute of Imagination’s mission is for kids to explore ideas, invent new products and build new skills. Lambeth | 7-12 yrs ioi.london
CHELSEA YOUNG WRITERS Whether you’re at your wits end with your child’s creative writing skills, or you have a David Walliams on your hands, Chelsea Young Writer could help this Easter. Writing workshops are designed by award-winning children’s authors and led by experienced practicing writers and educators. Notting Hill | 6-12 yrs chelseayoungwriters.co.uk
KITE STUDIOS Head to this oasis of creativity in West London to enjoy arty workshops for kids of all abilities. The classes will cover printmaking, painting and drawing during themed days such as Hobby Horses and Fabric Puppets and Brush Work and Painting Fur. Shepherds Bush | 4-10 yrs. kitestudios.org
THE MUSIC HOUSE This Easter you can immerse yourself in a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory week-long camp. There’s also The Lamb Who Lost Her Jump at Bush Hall and an Instrumental Extravaganza where children can try out any instrument they like! Shepherds Bush | 5 yrs+ musichouseforchildren.com/whats-on
NET-IT CAMPS Love netball? Junior netball camps aim to improve netball skills, maximise personal development and have fun! Holland Park, Wandsworth, Fulham and sleepover camps at Woldingham School | Reception to Y8. net-it.org
DUKES MEADOWS A favourite with locals – wonder if it’s that hot lunches are also provided for those staying all day? Do tennis or golf, or both, multisports or even add skiing, yes skiing to the mix. Chiswick | 5 yrs+ dukesmeadows.com
SPARKS This Easter your kids could make a fantasy movie, exploring how to produce epic battle scenes, master stunts and fight choreography, not to mention full-on production design, cinematic camera skills, special effects and all the behind the scenes magic it takes to make a movie. Phew! Balham, Highgate, Dulwich, Kensington, Hampstead | 7-11years sparks-ignite.com
Voting is now CLOSED for the City Kids Magazine School Food Hero
AN ANNOUNCEMENT WILL BE MADE TOMORROW….
Schools across London and the South East have been sending in their entries to the School Food Awards. Our judges have deliberated and they have spoken. Here is our shortlist:
Notting Hill & Ealing High School
“Philippa Frederick and Maggie Watkins are the “sweet and savoury” of Notting Hill & Ealing’s in-house kitchen. Maggie has been creating daily sweet treats for 41 years! Philippa has been with NHEHS for 19 years. With her team she produces over 1000 meals daily and knows just how to excite the palettes of our girls.”
“Suzanne Hemchaoui has been our Catering Manager at Shiplake for the last year and in that time, we have seen a transformation in the quality and creativity of the food that we eat daily. She goes the extra mile to make sure that the menu is healthy, innovative and inspirational which encourages our pupils to eat responsibly.”
“Brian Turner has utterly transformed the menu and introduced Tasting Tuesdays as a way to encourage them to try new food. He enhances topics taught in the classroom through themed meals like Space Lunch or French Breakfast; he loves decorating the lunchroom and a favourite was a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.”
“Mike Waters sets up tasting tables for new dishes, so that children can try a sample of the dish the day before it’s served. He focuses heavily on fruit and vegetables and plant-based foods, setting the children up for good habits and has invited a nutritionist into the school to teach children about nutrition and its health benefits.”
“Mayuri Tokekar and Ria Rattan, Occupational Therapist and OT Assistant, established a small ‘OT cafe’ project which initially involved just one or two students that were struggling to engage in learning and helped them to find motivation and to start to enjoy success at school once more. The cafe project has now expanded to include more children and they regularly cater for special events at the school.”
Brentford School for Girls provides new therapy thanks to a furry friend
Brentford School for Girls’ latest staff member comes from the canine world. With a lower salary than her human colleagues, Lillie the 3-year-old Cavachon is happy to be paid in treats and cuddles. Brentford School or Girls recognises the importance of positive mental health and the school has developed a mental health strategy. As part of this they are trialling Lillie to work with students who have a variety of needs.
Improving outcomes for kids
Pet Therapy has proven benefits and Brentford School for Girls is hoping Lillie can help with reducing anxiety, improving pupil motivation and developing social skills and confidence. Marais Leenders, the school’s Head Teacher, has been very impressed with her new member of staff. “Lillie has settled really well into Brentford life. She is very popular with the girls and is doing an excellent job. Students have commented on how friendly she is and how well she interacts with them.”
Helping with Autism
The school has an Autistic Spectrum Unit onsite and Lillie has been a hit here as well. Students have reported feeling comfort and joy from Lillie interacting with them. Lillie has also been working with the school Librarian Jane O’Sullivan to engage reluctant readers. Ms O’Sullivan has been bowled over by the engagement in reading when Lillie is working with this group.
Lillie currently attends Brentford every Monday and although she can’t speak for herself her owner reports she is certainly getting a very good night’s sleep on Monday evenings!
There are some fantastic books being released this Spring. Here’s six of the best books for kids of all ages. And we’re giving all of them away to celebrate our 5th birthday issue!
THE WALL IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BOOK by John Agee (Scallywag Press) £12.99 This is the story of a little knight who is very happy that his wall protects him from the dangers that are sure to lurk on the other side. However, he is too busy mending a hole in his wall to notice the mounting dangers on his own side. This is funny and has plenty to keep readers occupied when they read the book over and again. And I wonder how many books for children are endorsed by Amnesty International?
ALL THE WAYS TO BE SMART by Davina Bell illustrated by Allison Colpoys (Scribe) £11.99 A picture book for children who worry about tests or school performance. “Smart is not just ticks and crosses, smart is building boats from boxes, Printing patterns, wheeling wagons, being mermaids, riding dragons”. This is the third book from Bell and Colpoys, celebrating what makes children who they are.
THE LEGEND OF KEVIN: A ROLY-POLY FLYING PONY ADVENTURE by Philip Reeve illustrated by Sarah McIntyre (OUP) £6.99 Plenty of humorous illustrations and a story that had our not-so-keen reader engrossed until he’d finished. Characters Kevin, a rotund pony, and Max, share a love of biscuits and embark on an adventure to save Max’s home town, soon to be submerged by water. Funny and high-spirited.
THE MEGA MAGIC HAIR SWAP by Rochelle Humes illustrated by Rachel Suzanne (Studio Press) £6.99 The first book from The Saturdays star Rochelle Humes celebrates differences and how to love yourself just the way you are. Inspired by her daughter who asked why all princesses had straight hair, Rochelle has written a story about two friends (one with curly hair, and the other with straight) who think the other has perfect hair.
FERDINAND MAGELLAN: LITTLE GUIDES TO GREAT LIVES by Isabel Thomas illustrated by Dàlia Adillon (Laurence King) £8.99 (April 2019) Ferdinand Magellan led the first expedition to sail all the way around the world, encountering lands and creatures that he could never have imagined. This, and Anne Frank, are the latest in the Little Guides to Great Lives series, accessible guides introducing children to inspirational figures from history.
THE CLOSEST THING TO FLYING by Gill Lewis (OUP) £6.99 Award-winning author, Gill Lewis, tells the story of two young women, one in the present day and one from the nineteenth century. Semira is an Eritrean refugee, and Hen is a repressed Victorian girl, but they both find courage to fight for what they believe in. The Closest Thing to Flying covers discrimination, friendship and empowerment set against a backdrop of women’s rights.
To win all of these books, simply use our clever widget below:
Understanding non-verbal reasoning can seem an impossible task. We asked Rob Williams from School Entrance Tests for help.
More and more secondary schools across West London are using non-verbal reasoning (NVR) tests as an admissions criterion. The recent overhaul of The London Consortium (formally the North London Girls’ Consortium) has seen traditional maths and English papers replaced by a bespoke cognitive ability test, lasting 75 minutes, plus an interview where problem-solving, critical thinking and creativity are assessed.
And it isn’t just private schools using non-verbal reasoning tests. Many grammar school entrance tests incorporate a non-verbal reasoning test as part of the 11-plus exam. Even comprehensive schools, such as Sacred Heart High School and Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School, use a NVR test to ensure a mixed ability intake.
For many Year 6 pupils this will be a new type of test, and their parents will want to do everything possible to boost their child’s chances of being admitted to the school of their choice. We asked Ealing-based practice test specialists, School Entrance Tests, to provide some introductory points and practice tips.
What are NVR tests?
NVR tests measure general intelligence by assessing the ability to identify the inherent patterns in a series of shapes/figures. The figures may be regular geometric shapes like triangles, squares and triangles. However, sometimes they are just dots. Or just crosses.
NVR tests come in many different formats, but here are some common characteristics:
Diagrams are used – instead of numbers or words. NVR tests do not rely on any knowledge of either English or maths. This is what makes them a fairer assessment than, ‘pure’ English or Maths tests.
Questions are based on a sequence involving several sets of figures.
Figures are arranged in a sequence, series or matrix format. The next figure in the sequence must be found amongst the answer options offered.
Four- step strategy
This four-step strategy is useful for identifying visual sequences and patterns:
1. What are the key similarities and differences between the shapes and figures? – Does any pattern standout immediately? If so, how is it changing across the sequence? – What is the sequential change at each step?
2. There are some commonly encountered pattern changes in the sets of figures and shapes. Look-out for the these…
Shape – There will be one or more figures shown. – What shape are these? What shape are the next in the series? More difficult questions may have several figures but the principle is the same. Check the grouping of each type of shape.
Size – one of the easiest patterns to find first. Hence some of the first, easiest questions in a NVR test may be based on size changes of the figure(s) shown.
Position and Movement – Many questions involve at least one or two movement patterns. Often of a triangle, square, circle etc. For example, does the black shape move around from the top right-hand corner to the bottom right-hand corner?
Colour and Shading – Colour or shading are often a determinant in the solution. For example, does the same shape shift between being black and white? Or does the shading go from white to grey, then to black, and back again through this same shading sequence?
Number – Questions with many figures will invariably have number as the changing pattern. Count the figures at each step to check for a sequential change in the number of the high frequency figure(s).
Rotation – Do any features rotate clockwise or anti-clockwise? By 90- or 180-degrees at each step?
A few less commonly encountered changing patterns are: embedded figures; and reflection / mirror images.
3. If the shapes are irregular you can rule out shape as being part of the solution. The shapes and figures that are presented in each question block will become increasingly complex. Finding one pattern is then just part of the solution. Once you have done this, you will need to find a second, different pattern that also changes step-by-step. The very hardest questions may even have a third pattern change!
4. Review the answer options with these three considerations in mind:
Once you have found the first pattern, you can eliminate any answer options that do not meet this first pattern.
Then, narrow down the solution further by “removing” the number pattern from the question and seeing what other patterns then reveal themselves.
Finally, the changing pattern must be found in the answer options too. Be careful not to make your selection too quickly – often one answer option will be almost correct!
For the easiest questions you only need to find one changing pattern. The NVR questions will gradually increase in difficulty, however. By the end of the test your child will have to find two or three pattern changes. In other words, one part of the central figure may change shading/colour. A different part of the same central shape may rotate clockwise or anti-clockwise. Both these changes occur together at each step in the sequence.
Timing is everything
To the uninitiated, NVR tests look like nothing more than random shapes and squiggles. However, the more practice your child does, the more adept they will become at spotting the changing patterns. Taking practice tests won’t just help your child become more skilful at non-verbal reasoning, they will also help with time management – an important factor in exam success.
Encourage your child to work through the easiest questions quickly, though of course taking care to avoid careless errors.
Sometimes seeing the one, two or three patterns required can happen very quickly. However, with other questions, it may take a lot longer to identify the patterns. Your child
should avoid spending too long on the NVR questions they find most difficult. If they encounter a sequence that has them scratching their head in frustration they should move on and return to the tricky question if time permits.
Familiarity with the different question formats will help your child learn when to skip a question, and how long to spend on each question. And, of course, being familiar with the test format in advance will help your child feel more calm and confident on exam day, allowing them to perform to the absolute best of their ability.
Kumon centre opens in Ealing: Dickens Yard is the venue
A new Kumon Centre has officially opened in Ealing, Dickens Yard.
The Worshipful the Mayor and the Mayoress of the London Borough of Ealing cut the ribbon of the UK and Ireland’s largest supplementary education provider. They were kindly assisted by young Kumon students.
Guests included parents, children and students from other local Kumon centres, members of Ealing Council, local schools and businesses. St George, the developers behind the Dickens Yard development were also there to join in the fun.
Maths and English help
A Kumon centre offers children the opportunity to develop their maths and English skills. The program offers a daily study programme of individualised worksheets and Kumon centre visits up to twice a week.
The flagship Kumon centre in Ealing is one of more than 250 more across London.
In the UK and Ireland, more than 70,000 children of all ages and abilities study the Kumon Method of Learning, which also celebrates its 60th anniversary this year.
Kumon study helps children of any age and any ability to shine. We aim to give our students the tools they need to enjoy learning. Our programmes establish strong foundations in maths and English, helping your child to feel confident enough to tackle challenging work.
Kumon Instructors guide their students through work that is set at just the right level for them. They keep them engaged and make progress. They support and encourage students to work out answers by themselves. Also, they help them to become self-sufficient, successful learners for the future. By studying little and often through daily worksheets and twice weekly study centre visits, our students steadily increase ability and fluency, building their skills in small manageable steps.
We are delighted to announce that we have extended the deadline for our City Kids School Food Awards #CityKidsSFA19. The response from schools and parents has been so overwhelmingly positive that we want to include as many entrants as possible.
The School Food Awards are a unique opportunity to win an award that recognises the great work of schools and their kitchen teams. All schools are operating on budgets, and some are very tight budgets, yet many catering teams manage to provide nutritious, hot lunches for the kids. We think this should be celebrated! But we also need to continue the discussion surrounding around free school meals and healthy eating.
With these awards we aim to recognise those schools who are providing catering excellence and thinking beyond meat and potatoes. The awards will become a well-regarded accolade amongst parents and educators alike. Winners will be handpicked by the City Kids editorial team and a host of well-known and passionate foodies, to be announced shortly.
The award categories are as follows:
School Dinner Hero (Primary/Secondary)
Best School Menu (Primary/Secondary)
Best Vegetarian Menu (Primary/Secondary)
School Dinner Hero (Prep/Secondary)
Best School Menu (Prep/Secondary)
Best Vegetarian Menu (Prep/Secondary)
What’s the one question that kids ask when they visit a school? “What’s the food like?” And what do parents ask on a daily basis when they collect their kids from school? “What did you have for lunch?” School food is top of the agenda for kids and parents and what better way to show your school’s catering brilliance than with these awards.
Apart from the obvious positive PR, there are plenty of benefits to nominating your school for a City Kids School Food Award. All shortlisted schools will be mentioned in print and online and will be featured in our Spring Education issue. Winners will feature in our Summer issue. You will also receive a digital logo for use across your marketing assets to include: Vote for Us!, Shortlisted, Winner, Runner-up. This will contribute to the multi-media brand exposure across our platforms and yours.
How to enter
For more information about the entry process, categories and judging please click on the link below. Make your application by completing the online form on this page or by email. If you have any questions please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Good luck!
ArtsEd has received planning permission to refurbish the building at Cone Ripman House in Chiswick which will bring facilities up to date at the outstanding school for performing arts.
Artist’s impression: De Matos Ryan
ArtsEd in Chiswick has received planning permission to create a new studio theatre, as well as additional rehearsal and teaching spaces. The plans for Cone Ripman House will optimise the existing buildings and unlock the potential of currently empty courtyard space. The project will cover all aspects of ArtsEd’s provision and will see significant improvements in the facilities of the Day School and Sixth Form as well as the Schools of Acting and Musical Theatre.
ArtsEd was originally built as Chiswick Polytechnic in the 1950s and adapted for the schools’ use on arrival over thirty years ago. The refurbishment will bring long-awaited world-class facilities to the site in line with its world-renowned reputation for conservatoire training. Included in the development will be a new state-of-the-art Studio Theatre to complement the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation Theatre which opened in 2013 and was the first significant addition to the school’s facilities since first making its home in Chiswick.
Principal Chris Hocking said: “We are delighted to be able to move forwards with our refurbishment plans and provide our students with facilities that match the exceptional quality of our teaching – ensuring that future generations continue to leave ArtsEd as outstandingly confident and creative young performers.”
Once the refurbishment is complete, ArtsEd students will all be hosted in one location, ensuring that they all enjoy the best possible performing arts environment. ArtsEd will also be able to share these new facilities with the wider community through its continuing programme of evening and weekend courses.
For any special occasion, a beautifully designed book or a classic story is a great gift and keepsake. Victoria Evans has a selection for kids big and small.
THE STORY ORCHESTRA: SLEEPING BEAUTY illustrated by Jessica Courtney Tickle (Lincoln Children’s Books) The follow-up to the bestselling The Story Orchestra: The Nutcracker. With beautiful, full-page illustrations from Jessica Courtney Tickle. It tells the classic story of Sleeping Beauty, brought to life with music from Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty ballet. Hear 10 famous pieces of music from the ballet and be transported into this wonderful fairy tale.
STORY BOX: CREATE YOUR OWN ANIMAL ADVENTURES (Laurence King) Let imaginations soar with these animal themed storytelling puzzle pieces which can be matched in all sorts of ways, for multiple storytelling combinations. Great for the classroom, or as an alternative to traditional bedtime stories.
NOW MAKE THIS (Phaidon) For the young makers in the family is Now Make This, a beautifully designed handbook offering unique and exciting DIY projects for kids. This unusual and engaging book of activities grants children access to world-class design in their very own homes, and may even inspire a few to become designers themselves!
A TREASURE TROVE OF MYTHICAL WONDERS chosen by Michael Morpurgo (Oxford Children’s Books) From brave heroes and battling beasts to mighty gods and magic spells, these are timeless tales to treasure forever. An enchanting selection of classic myths and legends, chosen by the UK’s best-loved storyteller. This is a great choice for shared reading, and for more confident readers to read-alone.
THE INK HOUSE by Rory Dobner (Laurence King) An acclaimed artist, Rory Dobner has created a cast of lovable and magical animal characters, inspired by the objects he collects around his home and on his travels. His ink illustrations have been commissioned by MTV, Disney and Nike, and his distinctive homewares range is available in stores including Liberty and Fortnum & Mason.
POETRY FOR A CHANGE by Kimberlie Birks (Otter-Barry Books) This anthology features new poems by National Poetry Day Ambassadors such as Deborah Alma, Joseph Coelho, Sally Crabtree, Jan Dean, and also a poem chosen by an ambassador to share. Look out for classics by Chistina Rossetti, WB Yeats, Shakespeare and Keats, among others.
With our Autumn issue focussed on getting back into the swing of studies, we’ve chosen books to compliment and inspire learning, whatever the age of the children.
by VICTORIA EVANS
A PILE OF LEAVES by Jason Fulford & Tamara Shopsin (Phaidon) The third in a series of ground-breaking books from the author-artists Tamara Shopsin and Jason Fulford created in partnership with the Whitney Museum of American Art. This clever book of collage features see-through acetate pages with beautiful autumnal elements, playfully designed to invite young readers to dig through a pile of leaves and uncover the surprises throughout. The clever design also presents the opportunity for children to add their own images between the book’s clear pages.
A YEAR IN NATURE – A CAROUSEL BOOK OF THE SEASONS by Hazel Maskell, illustrated by Eleanor Taylor (Laurence King) This is a fascinating introduction to the seasons, following a family of foxes through the year. The book opens out into a stunning four-part carousel, revealing intricately detailed pop-up scenes of spring, summer, autumn and winter. Follow the boxes as the tiny cubs grow up through the year, and explore the woodland scenes to discover animals, trees, plants and owners.
THIS IS NOT A MATHS BOOK by Anna Weltman (Ivy Kids Books) Discover how maths can be artistic and art can be mathematical with this awesome activity book, full of fun drawing challenges with a mathematical basis. Amazing patterns with a mathematical essence will be revealed as you follow the simple activity instructions. Learn incredible maths facts as you draw the beautiful designs.
ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING: A HISTORY OF EARTH, DINOSAURS, RULERS, ROBOTS AND OTHER THINGS TOO NUMEROUS TO MENTION (October 2018, What on Earth? Books) An up-to-date history of the world covering topics from dinosaurs to robots and everything in-between. Jam-packed with illustrations, photos, timelines and a glossary, index and reference material, Jacqueline Wilson calls it ‘absolutely amazing’ and it gets the thumbs up from Horrible Histories author Martin Brown: ‘from the Big Bang to yesterday’s breakfast, this BOOK OF FUN AND DISCOVERY makes sense of it all’.
LEARNING TO LEARN – A GUIDE FOR KIDS AND TEENS by Barbara Oakley PhD & Terrence Sejnowski PhD with Alistair McConville (TarcherPerigee Trade Paperback) If you can remember your least favourite subject at school, it’s probably the one that you also found most difficult. This book aims to teach kids to train their brains to learn the hard stuff, instead of just assuming they can’t do it. One of the book’s authors and a professor of engineering, Dr Barbara Oakley, struggled with maths at school, until she learned how to learn.
DESIGN FOR CHILDREN – PLAY, RIDE, LEARN, EAT, CREATE, SIT, SLEEP by by Kimberlie Birks (October 2018, Phaidon) This is a book for older, design-savvy and style-conscious kids or those interested in product, lighting and furniture design. It showcases work by contemporary superstars such as Marcel Breuer, Jean Prouvé, Nanna Ditzel, Philippe Starck, Nendo, Marc Newson, Donna Wilson, Kengo Kuma, and Marcel Wanders. It also pays tribute to those who have shaped children’s design and pioneered products for kids.
“I think he might be even cleverer than his brother,” said Monika, “so I’d like him to try.” She meant tto ry for a place at Latymer Upper. Peter’s brother was at a good comprehensive and would have done well anywhere. Monika worried that Peter was unconfident and, at his brother’s school, might lose interest and drift. Just before I was due to meet Peter to test his English and maths, Monika called. “Forget it,” she said. “I’ve lost my job. And his dad’s on zero hours.” “Bring him anyway,” I said. “We might as well take a look.”
Peter turned out to be a natural. He grasped how to approach a comprehension exercise without being told and wrote a beautiful essay. His maths was swift and accurate. He tried for Latymer Upper on the understanding that he could only take up the place with hefty assistance from the school with the fees. He was awarded a bursary which covered 100% of the fees plus additional help with extras.
This does not happen every day but a third of children attending independent schools now get some help with the fees in the form of scholarships and bursaries.
Since the government’s Direct Grant and Assisted Places schemes were abandoned, schools have built up their own funds in order to offer places to the bright children of broke – or semi-broke – parents. Why? They need pupils who will bring them top results and sporting glory so that they attract more of the same.
School fees have gone up out of all proportion to average wages and even to house prices in the last ten years.
In 2007, Westminster School charged just under £16,000 for a day place. Today you’d pay £26,130 – a rise of nearly 64%, whereas average salaries have risen only around 15% in that time. Godolphin and Latymer charged just under £12,000 in 2007. Now it’s just under £21,000 – a rise of 75%. For most professional families independent schooling in London is no longer affordable.
So, what help is available?
Most London independents offer at least some fee assistance in the form of scholarships and bursaries. These days, few scholarships are worth a major chunk of the fees, though some – awarded for promise in e.g. academics, sports, art, music, drama etc. – can cover up to 50% of the fees in some cases. Schools now channel most of their available funds into means-tested bursaries. These go to children who, like Peter, would not be able to attend the school without financial help. 100% bursaries are relatively rare (though University College School had 52 pupils on this level of assistance when we visited) but many schools will offer 25% or 50% to those pupils they really want and the bursary can be supplemented by a scholarship for able children. You can have both.
You have to be prepared to reveal your home circumstances every year – with complete honesty.
But you can have a joint income of a surprisingly high amount (up to £120,000 at St Paul’s Boys’) and still qualify for some help. And it’s not just your income that is scrutinised but your essential outgoings and lifestyle. So, if you have elderly parents to support that would be taken into account. But if you take four holidays a year, have two homes and a yacht, you can probably forget it.
Not all schools have much to give away but some have lots. If you want to give this a go, you need to educate yourselves on what could be available to you so as to give it the best shot. The Good Schools Guide holds up-to-date information on the fee assistance offered by more than 700 schools and is the only centralised source of such general information.
By Susan Hamlyn, Director at The Good Schools Guide Education Consultants
St Catherine’s School, Bramley
The arrival of a baby these days produces less unalloyed joy than in earlier times. Along with the multipacks of nappies come bucketfuls of stress. This is especially true of new parents in London who think wistfully of their own, often far less pressured, childhoods. They look around their chic – (or less chic) – London borough and see queues of exhaust-emitting traffic, crowded buses, unsupervised parks and schools, which are either good and over- subscribed or unacceptably poor.
Not that many London schools aren’t good these days. But few have much space – especially outside. Staff turnover can be high. The best state primaries have catchment areas the size of an exercise book and good preps are highly competitive and expensive. Then there’s the pressure. Schools are expected to pack more and more into a short day. A common sight is a child on his way to school, heavy rucksack on his back, instrument case in one hand and sports bag – bootlaces and cricket bat perilously tipping out of one end – in the other. Can this be the only way?
Well, it isn’t. Recent years have seen a change of thinking in both parents and schools. Increasingly, London parents are sending their children against the commuter traf c to schools in the Home Counties. Hazel and Chris Tomkins are typical: ‘Alba is a lovely child. But she was getting lost in the local school – there were simply too many children who needed more attention than she does. She is sporty and needs a lot of space. Since she went to her country prep, she’s got into the borough athletics squad and is much happier.’
Likewise, doctors Nour and Shazia Mahmood, enthuse about the change in their twins: ‘Their new school has a minibus that collects from a couple of streets away and brings them back in the evening. They did have to sit entrance exams, but it was far less competitive than preps in London – three children for each place rather than 12! And the teaching and results are just as good.’
Schools within commuting distance see London as an excellent new market. Papplewick, a boys’ prep in Ascot, Berkshire, reports: ‘Since our transport service to and from Chiswick was launched, we have experienced a 100% rise in interest, resulting in a second service to and from Brook Green.’ And they confirm what parents say:
‘We offer a huge range of extra-curricular activities and sport in a rural environment. This all takes place within a school day, rather than parents having to ferry their children to after-school activities around London. All prep is done at school here, so there’s no homework. Parents report that their sons are less stressed, happier and working harder. They also achieve good academic results.’
Papplewick School, Ascot
Senior schools also now offer weekly boarding especially tailored to professional London families. A key influence is the lack of space in London schools and the necessity of ‘bussing’ to local sports grounds. St Catherine’s School in Bramley, near Guildford – headed by the highly-experienced Alice Phillips – tells us: ‘Interest is high – we see about 90-100 families at every open morning, of whom about 20% are looking at weekly boarding.’ This is partly because St Catherine’s offers: ‘Space. Green vistas. Outdoor facilities, which include floodlit netball and tennis courts, lacrosse pitches, athletics track, plus a huge sports hall, swimming pool, fitness suite, gymnasium and dance studio. And outstanding on-site facilities – we offer musicians an auditorium with superb acoustics. Actors have a state-of the-art theatre and technical box.’
But it’s not just facilities. Many parents worry about the intensity of an urban childhood. St Catherine’s says: “Here their daughters can develop at a pace less dictated by the media and peer pressure. We are not isolated – we are located at the heart of a village community with Guildford on our doorstep. St Catherine’s girls are very busy and are more likely to be in a club, in an orchestra rehearsal or doing sports after school, rather than kicking their heels around a city centre.’
So – another sleepless night worrying about catchment areas or oversubscribed preps? Perhaps it’s time to look outside …?
If you’ve decided to go private for secondary school, by the time your child reaches Year 5 you’ll be contemplating the start line of the 11+ marathon. Having just been through the process myself, I decided that those Year 5 parents, as well as those closing in on application deadlines in November, might want to hear what it was REALLY like, straight from the horse’s mouth. I’ve spoken to parents to gather their perspective on the process, and how they think it could be improved, in addition to bleeding them dry of proper, useful advice and the lowdown on some of London’s most sought-after educational establishments. I think it’s worth noting that the parents I spoke to have children in a range of schools: Putney High, Harrodian, Latymer Upper, Francis Holland, Arts Ed, Ibstock Place and Kew House. So, you will be getting a decent overview.
THE 11 PLUS PROCESS
General feedback from the parents I spoke to was that the process is ‘pretty awful’, ‘tough on parents and children’, ‘frustrating’ and ‘a bit like childbirth – you eventually forget the worst bits!’ One parent told me that their new headteacher recently congratulated the parents and pupils for having made it through the 11 plus process in West London, begging the question of whether it is better dealt with out of town (more on that in our Schools Out piece, p29).
One thing is certain, it’s a competitive business and applying for only one school would be foolhardy. Spreading your bets and applying for eight schools is equally daft. It just adds stress and is exhausting for your child (and really, are there eight schools you really love?). Be grown up and make some decisions!
The schools don’t exactly discourage applications; as one parent put it, ‘they can make serious money from the registrations, so they’re not going to turn people away!’ Emmanuel School in Clapham is the only one we know of that caps applications each year.
Beware, the cut-off is getting earlier and earlier.
Blink, and you’ll miss it. And don’t rely on other parents to let you know. It’s every man and woman for themselves in this game.
Part of the process involves creating a shortlist. Be ready for some schools to host open evenings that are like ‘bun-fights’, where they don’t control numbers. This results in some parents not being able to get a good feel for the school. Others require a ticket, so you need to book well in advance or you won’t get a look-in.
Try to get to as many open days and evenings as you can, even though it becomes a drag in the final stages. It will give you the opportunity to form a better opinion about what is important to you: single-sex, city, out of town, sporty, musical, all-rounder, religious.
Once the choices are made, be prepared for the interview. Some schools only interview candidates that reach a certain exam standard, but most will interview all pupils who apply, sometimes before the exam.
Recent questions included:
Tell me how a Fitbit works?
Describe this object. To this day, I still don’t know what it was my daughter had to describe.
What is time?
Rank the schools you have applied to in order from favourite to least favourite (yes, really, a child was asked to do this).
What was the greatest invention of the 20th century?
Who do you think should be on the new £10 note and why?
If you could be anyone for 24 hours, who would you choose & what would you do?
So, now you’ve prepped the questions, you’re ready, right? Wrong. You’ve got the environment to contend with. Some schools rip your loved ones from you at some distance from the exam centre, others provide a welcoming talk, tea and biscuits while you wait. Some interviews are one-on-one with senior management, others are in groups (when, inevitably, one over-confident chatterbox talks over everyone else), and often there will be many interviews taking place in one room at the same time. And then there’s the speed-dating type of interview. Oh yes, not just something for adults. The most important tip here is for you to give your child the confidence they need to be themselves. We have to trust that these schools know what they’re looking for and which child will fit in.
HOW COULD THE 11 PLUS PROCESS BE IMPROVED?
This is a difficult one. Some of the best schools in the country happen to be within a two-mile radius of West London. So, it naturally follows that it’s competitive. We all go into this with our eyes open. It’s a selective approach to education, so how is it best to select?
Kew House is regarded very positively by local parents as it puts a lot of emphasis on the interview with the headmaster (who, by the way, puts nervous children at ease in seconds).
The interviews are also all finished by the end of the Autumn term, meaning it’s one less thing to worry about in January.
A parent I spoke to suggested that there should be a limit to the number of schools that parents apply to. She said:
‘I think this would mean people categorised their choices better. The more academic kids would apply for the more academic schools, with maybe one fall-back. Instead, the less academic kids would apply for the middle/lower ranked (academia-wise) schools, with maybe one hopeful. This would stop the more academic kids being offered loads of places in schools they are unlikely to accept, therefore stopping so many kids having to go through the wait-listing process. It would also make the numbers applying to the schools more realistic.’
Another idea was to put co-ed schools together, like the North London Girls’ School Consortium. So,
‘one maths and English paper are taken by each child, and all schools consider these papers. The mixed schools, such as Ibstock, Harrodian, Kew, Radnor House & St Benedicts, could form a West London Consortium. If they want to do their own verbal/non-verbal tests, then they can, but the main exams would be cut down considerably.’
SOME 11 PLUS ADVICE FROM OUR PARENTS…
Get a tutor.
Don’t get a tutor. The debate will go on.
Get a folder & get organised! Buy stamps and envelopes now. Few of the schools use online applications. You’ll need photocopies of your child’s passport & passport-sized photos of him/her. The admin around applying and each exam day (whether your child needs to wear a certain sticker, take a card with them, etc) is surprisingly full-on, but you need to be calm and in-control so they don’t feel your stress as well!
Focus on your child and what they need from a secondary school, not what others think or which are the most popular schools of the moment.
Some people go completely bonkers through the process … ignore them.
When you look around a school, try and look for the reason you might not want your child to go there. These schools are all excellent!
Try to get to as many open days and evenings as you can, even though it becomes a drag in the final stages. You will form a better opinion about what is important to you: single-sex, distance from home, the journey to school, sporty, musical, all-rounder, religious.
Many schools host more than one open day at different times of the year. When trying to narrow things down, going to a second open day is a good way to help finalise a view. You may well see a school in a very different light the second time around, especially if you only saw it once, right at the beginning of the process.
Believe in your own judgement regarding your child’s potential, and be realistic about where they will get in. There’s no point putting them through the stress of a highly academic school just because you really want them to go there when the reality is that they will probably achieve more in the long term if they went to a school that was more academically appropriate for them.
Listen to your child. Having gone through this process twice now, both my children have been very clear about which school is their favourite, even if it may not have been my first choice. They are the ones who have to spend the next five to seven years at that school. So, it’s better they make the decision with you, rather than you deciding for them.
Don’t cross-examine your child after each exam. Chances are, they will have made some classic errors and it’s very difficult to pretend not to care! Best not to know.
Be ready for rejection. Getting offers from all their schools is for the very few. Knowing how to be positive is an important skill here.
If you’re on a wait-list, call the school immediately and express your 100% desire to be part of their intake in the Autumn. One headmaster joked that this is the time to send flowers and chocolates to the registrar concerned. Joking aside, begging letters, expensive gifts and stalking have been known.
Alternatively, take the view that if the school doesn’t want your child, you don’t want them to go there!
Relax, do not stress. It does work itself out in the end. Easier said than done. Take it from one who knows!
With thanks to Cherry Wood, Claire Rimmer, Sharon Hart, Maria Viader, David Ewen and Sarah Norman-Taylor.
Here’s a selection of great books for all your budding scientists to get their brains whirring over the holidays.
BIG BOOK OF STARS AND PLANETS
by Emily Bone Age 4+ A large interactive picture book with fold-out pages featuring art based on images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.
£9.99 Non-fiction Hardback
ADA TWIST, SCIENTIST
by Andrea Beaty Age 6+ The latest rhyming offering from the New York Times bestselling author of Rosie Revere, Engineer and Iggy Peck, Architect. Meet Ada, another classmate asking curiosity-led questions, who loves to experiment. In the book she has to solve a household smell problem using science. A beautifully illustrated tale of perseverance.
£10.99 Fiction Hardback
THE USBORNE OFFICIAL ASTRONAUT’S HANDBOOK
by Louie Stowell Age 7+ Shortlisted for The Royal Society’s Young People’s Book Prize 2016 and published in association with the UK Space Agency, this book is a step-by-step, how-to guide for budding astronauts and space scientists. With a foreword by Tim Peake, this is a fun read with fab illustrations.
£6.99 Non-fiction Paperback
KLUTZ: LEGO CHAIN REACTIONS
by Pat Murphy Age 8+ What is Christmas without Lego? Grab some Lego bricks and use in conjunction with this great book of instruction and inspiration. It comes with its own Lego pieces to help young engineers create moving machines which can be used together to create chain reactions.
£12.99 Non-fiction Paperback/Box
FUN SCIENCE: A GUIDE TO LIFE, THE UNIVERSE AND WHY SCIENCE IS SO AWESOME
by Charlie McDonnell Age 13+ By You-Tuber “charlieissocoollike” comes new Fun Science, a journey through science, written and illustrated with humour by a geeky science fan. It is designed to inspire even the least scientifically inclined teen!
With Christmas around the corner, we know your attention will be turned to trees, tinsel and Christmas lists in no time. If you’re keen on your kids having a little education thrown in there’s a host of STEM/ STEAM-inspired toys and gifts on offer. Ahrani Logan has selected her favourites.
XTRONAUT, THE GAME OF SOLAR SYSTEM EXPLORATION
For 2-4 Players Age 7+
Xtronaut, released in September 2016 to coincide with the launch of NASA’s inaugural asteroid mission OSIRIS-REx To Bennu And Back, is the first board game grounded in actual NASA missions. The mission will only be complete when the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft brings a sample of the Bennu asteroid back to Earth in–wait for it–seven years! In the meantime, the asteroid mission’s lead scientist Professor Dante Lauretta has created Xtronaut to keep us busy on Earth whilst we wait. The game’s attention to detail and scientific accuracy are thanks to him and his highly experienced team. Dante told CITY KIDS that he hopes this game will enthuse and inspire children (and parents, too!) to delve more into space and STEM subjects.
Amazon price: £51 (variable)
VIEWMASTER VIRTUAL REALITY (VR) PACK
Virtual reality has really taken off in 2016 and this toy, released earlier this year, offers a great entry point for kids. For those of you who remember your old Viewmaster, be ready to upgrade! Using a smart phone app, the new Viewmaster offers a kid-friendly VR experience with 360-degree immersion into a range of scenarios through the Viewmaster VR “Experience Packs,” which include Wildlife, Destinations, and Space. Although Viewmaster VR works with most phones, check your phone’s compatibility first. Experience Packs need to be purchased separately. A delightful upgrade from Google Cardboard VR. Happy immersion!
These cards are perfect stocking fillers: they will distract your little ones on Christmas morning whilst you get the lunch on, or provide for a little relaxing quality time after lunch over a box of Quality Street. The robots, made of high-quality, pre-cut cardboard with colourful designs by graphic designer Jonathan Klemenze, will satisfy the artistic makers in your family. No cutting or sticking required. Winner of Brand Licensing Europe 2015 License This! Competition.
Amazon price: £5.25 for a pack of 15
Inspiring a new generation of coders, the BBC released the micro:bit first into schools, and then from July, to the general public. Sized at 4×5 cm, it’s a fun and easy-to-use pocket-sized computer. Kids can create games, animations, and scrolling stories using this nifty programmable piece of kit. Bluetooth Smart technology means you can connect your micro:bit to other devices. USB and battery power box need to be purchased separately.
Amazon price: £14.80 (variable) RRP £14.97
HAPE DISCOVERY SPACESHIP AND LIFT OFF ROCKET
Not your average doll’s house, this toy is designed to look like a real space shuttle. It even contains a treadmill for budding astronauts who want to recreate Tim Peake’s London Marathon in space! With 37 birch wood pieces, it requires some easy assembly, which you might want to do ahead of Christmas morning so your child can take off immediately!
Amazon price: £78.99 (variable) RRP £104.99 Also available at the Science Museum
I’m often surprised to hear that so few parents have heard of state boarding schools; but they are often recognised as the UK education’s ‘best-kept’ secret. Given that state boarding can offer a stable, caring environment and provide high-quality education, state boarding schools seem to offer the Holy Grail – all at a reasonable cost.
Any student with a UK passport is eligible for state boarding. The costs are limited to the boarding element. The educational provision is, like community-based state schools, free. Therefore, state-funded boarding school fees are typically around a third of the cost of the independent sector. A state boarding school costs, roughly, £10,000 a year; a number that compares positively to private school fees, which have increased by an average of 20 per cent since 2010 – four times the rate of growth in average earnings, according to Lloyds Banking Group. That’s not a small difference, especially for London parents struggling with rising living costs, and juggling the demands of the school run and extracurriculars, while working long hours or with travel expectations.
Of course, cost isn’t everything. Our children’s education is worth every penny, but pupils at my own school, Sexey’s in Bruton, Somerset (and, no doubt, at the other 37 state boarding schools up and down the country), are also involved in their local communities. They have an understanding of how the breadth of society works, and most importantly, can converse easily with people from all walks of life. Simultaneously, they also benefit from many of the elements often valued in independent education: excellent facilities, pastoral care, and a range of extracurricular activities that promise a tailored, unique experience for each child, from music, sport, art, and drama to horse-riding and debating.
But, what about the level of education? All state boarding schools follow the National Curriculum, and pupils take the same exams as they would in a state day school. Whilst the exams are the same, the performance typically exceeds that of many other state schools, with state boarding schools frequently featuring at the top of league tables. For example, Sexey’s achieved the best state school GCSE results in the South West this year. It was also listed as being in the Top 50 state schools across the country for their GCSE grades. The school’s A Levels this year were also strong: over 34 per cent achieving A*-A (versus 25.7 per cent nationally); and over 86 per cent reaching A*-C (versus 75 per cent nationally). A survey of parents by the State Boarding Forum found that over 80 per cent choose state boarding schools due to their high academic standard, and the opportunity for children to fulfil their potential.
Of course, boarding isn’t for everyone. If it is something you would consider for your child, there are 37 different state boarding schools around England – from selective to comprehensive, from co-educational to single-sex, from primary, secondary and sixth-form.
Parents usually find a school that meets their requirements, no matter how specific they are. For further information, please take a look at the State Boarding Forum website www.stateboarding.org.uk.
Aimed at the pre-school age Animals Are Delicious, illustrated by Dave Ladd and Stephanie Anderson (Phaidon), is a collection of beautiful fold-out board books that focus on three animal food chains – land, sea and air. With the premise that ‘Everyone is hungry’, we learn that all creatures are somebody’s lunch somewhere down the line. Curious children everywhere will love these books as they’re illustrated in both colour and black and white, and give easy to remember facts about the plants and animals that inhabit the Earth.
Harold’s Hungry Eyes by Kevin Waldron (Phaidon) is just a big win on so many levels. It tells the humorous tale of Harold, a Boston terrier (move over pugs) who spends his days dreaming about food and sleeping on his favourite chair.
Except one day his world is rocked with the rude awakening that his chair has gone missing, and when he sees it being taken by the refuse collectors, it leads to a mission to find it. He ends up getting lost in the city, which not only makes him miss home, but makes him hungry! Bicycle tyres become pretzels, doorsteps become wafers, lorries look like cheese and before long Harold is absolutely insatiable. All is not lost as he eventually finds his way home, and there’s a lovely surprise waiting for him…
This is the fourth picture book from Dublin-born artist Kevin Waldron who shares his studio with Oliver Jeffers and Jon Bergerman. Visually arresting with a zingy colour palate, this will firmly become a favourite. My only warning is I guarantee your audience will be hungry once hearing this story.
Goodnight Tiger by Timothy Knapman and Laura Hughes (Little Tiger) is an endearing story of a young girl called Emily who cannot get to sleep. Why? Because the jungle animals on her wallpaper keep waking her up. Now, that’s an excuse I’ve never heard before. Still, they’re making a racket because they, too, can’t get to sleep, so it’s Emily job to get them all back to the land of nod. So as she encourages them to have a bath, hot chocolate and sings them lullabies she finds her efforts are fruitless until she reads them a bedtime story. A fun tale that reinforces the bedtime routine. A must for the little sleep thieves in your house.
For those who enjoyed the hugely successful Wonder by R J Palacio, The Bubble Boy by Stewart Foster (Simon & Schuster) is a natural choice. Joe is eleven years old and can’t remember a time when he wasn’t in hospital. He has a rare disorder called SCID and his life is spent living in a bubble. Even those who visit him carry the risk of contaminating him with life-threatening germs.
As depressing as this book sounds, it’s an absolutely cracking read. You’ll experience just about every emotion possible as we’re introduced to Joe’s world., which goes from being lived in his dreams, to dealing with extreme loneliness. With only his sister for family, he finds friendship in the form of Henry, who has the same condition but they’ve only Skyped because Henry lives in America, and his new nurse Amir who is a striking character.
Fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid will love Big Nate Blasts Off! by Lincoln Pierce, and as it’s had the seal of approval by Jeff Kinney himself that surely must mean it’s a hit. Big Nate has been around since the early nineties as it started off as a comic strip. Clearly Pierce has stuck true to his roots as there are illustrations on every page, meaning the jokes come thick and fast.
When Nate gets a job on the school newspaper it’s a chance to showcase his artistic skills, that is until he makes fun of Randy, the toughest kid in school and then of course it’s no laughing matter. With most of the action taking place in a school setting most older children will find the various scrapes that Nate gets into funny even if shamelessly American but don’t let that put you off, it’s an easy read with plenty of chuckles along the way.
Red Witch by Anna McKerrow (Quercus) 13+ It’s 2047, and Devon and Cornwall have voluntarily split themselves off from the rest of the UK to form the ecopagan Greenworld, a peaceful and self-contained counterpoint to the dystopian Redworld, governed by private security and at war for the last scraps of fuel left in the world. However, all is not as harmonious as it might be in the Greenworld, and after cursing a boy and girl for murdering the boy she loved, 17 year old witch Demelza Hawthorne runs away across the border to the Redworld in search of a new life. In once-magical Glastonbury, she meets the enigmatic and criminal Bran Crowley, who introduces her to the beauty and riches that the Redworld can offer to the right person; he’s looking for power, and Melz certainly has it. But will Melz be comfortable making a deal with the King of the Underworld? Demelza is a fabulously feisty yet sensitive protagonist as we see especially from her journal entries. The story is packed full of rounded characters that leap off the page, as well as the vivid portrayal of dramatic Cornish scenery, and the powerful vision of a dystopian Glastonbury. This book has it all – adventure, romance and real world magic. Anna McKerrow is a rising star in the UK YA scene – an absolute must-read.
Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton (Faber) 12+ Amani lives in Dustwalk, a violent and corrupt wild west-esque desert town she’s desperate to leave. Yet the desert plains are full of danger, and the Sultan’s enemies are on the rise. Yet when Amani meets the mysterious Jin, she finds a way out of the oppressive and threatening Dustwalk, only to find that running away from trouble brings her into contact with some terrifying opponents – and magical new friends – in her search for the Rebel Prince. Rebel of the Sands is an original and thrilling fantasy novel full of adventure, myth and magic. Amani is a fantastic heroine: brave, bold and witty. It’s a joy to immerse yourself in the fully developed world that Hamilton creates – a blend of the Wild West and Arabian Nights, with some killer comebacks and sharp dialogue between the sharpshooting, street-smart Amani and the hero and love interest Jin. The original mythology and legends woven into the world building are fascinating. It gives the story depth and authenticity, and the politics of Amani’s world are both familiar and foreign. Highly recommended.
Sharon Fried-Jones is a west London mum, who by day is the Head of Marketing and Digital for the charity BookTrust which inspires a love of reading in children, and by night is an aspiring children’s author with a love of clashing clothes, picture books who longs for a good night’s sleep.
If your child is curious about science, or in fact, if they find their school classes a touch dull, then why not seek out a place where they can get involved in real life experiments. Every Saturday, Richer Education runs workshops in science, robotics and civil engineering, taking their learning to the next level.
Courses take place at Imperial College and each workshop is designed to inspire and motivate primary aged children into learning about science in a hands-on, practical way. A typical science workshop might be anything from dissecting a real heart, turning wine into water, to literally holding fire in their hands. In robotics, children can learn to write code, build a robot with robotic arms, that can grasp objects and how to synchronize multiple robots to make them dance. In Civil Engineering, children learn to find solutions to real life engineering challenges, in a child friendly way.
Science Saturday workshops are 9.30 – 11.30, whilst Robotic Saturday workshops run from 12-2pm, and Civil Engineering classes are at 2-4pm. All classes take place at Imperial College.
Schools – is there a more hotly discussed topic amongst parents? We don’t think so. Rebekah Hall sat down with Toby Young, Catriona Sutherland-Hawes and Tony Ryan to determine whether the fear and paranoia perpetuated by some parents is justified.
We’ve all heard the stories and some of us have seen them in action. Stand-up fights between mothers outside school gates over waiting lists; lying about tutoring and keeping those tutors names a well-guarded secret. This inevitably creates stress and apprehension… creating tension and paranoia. It’s little wonder that some families move away from the West London bubble.
However, even out of town, you can’t escape the facts. There is pressure on school places as pupil numbers grow. Data from the Department for Education (DfE) predicts an extra 900,000 children in English schools over the next 10 years, and statistics from the Local Government Association report that this will cost £12 billion. Private school fees have trebled since 1990 to £286,000 per child over 14 years of day school according to The Killik & Co Private Education Index. So yes, parents do have reason to worry. Maybe that’s why it is impossible to avoid those draining school discussions, especially in West London.
A six-year-old has a creative writing tutor, maths tutor and must do 100 sums before he is allowed to play. A father is angry with the head teacher because his son failed to get into Oxford, despite his son’s average marks. Urban myths or a reflection of the competition for places at West London private schools?
As registrar for the past nine years at Latymer Upper School, Catriona Sutherland-Hawes says she often sees a lot of worry revolving around a parent’s desire for their child to attend a specific school. Unfortunately, she admits to seeing trophy hunting, with some parents unable to bear the thought of their child… failing. “The difficulty comes when parents think the best place is actually the wrong place; aspirational parents don’t always accept that,” says Sutherland-Hawes.
In these competitive times, what is her advice for parents? “I genuinely think there is a right school for everyone and there is a lot of choice. Parents are not always willing to accept that what they might think is the best place is not somewhere that will suit their child.”
STATE DOESN’T ESCAPE
While state schools continue to improve, (and private schools up their fees) they are included in the discussion too. Parents worry about catchment areas and consider moving house to within metres of their preferred school. League tables play their part as competition across the board increases.
As Chiswick School achieves better results, head teacher Tony Ryan says he’s seen more anxiety from parents due to the current entry waiting list. “Parents are now concerned about … the possibility that they might be just outside the catchment area,” says Ryan. “For some parents in certain geographical areas, there is huge anxiety because we are their first choice.”
To help alleviate some of the pressure, Chiswick School increased its intake from 215 to 240 pupils. While this means increased class sizes, Ryan is confident the school can manage without impacting the classroom. “We have a … moral purpose to try and provide a place for as many local parents who want it,” says Ryan.
During exam time, Ryan sees more parents at his door and receives many more phone calls. His advice for parents is to stay informed throughout their child’s schooling. “The more information you give parents, the less anxious they are likely to be with [their child’s] results,” Ryan says.
Toby Young, CEO of the West London Free School Academy Trust, says parental anxiety in primary school is a combination of things.
“Parents with pre-school children are concerned that their children won’t get a primary place due to the national shortage, or concerned that their child won’t get a place at their first or second choice of primary,” says Young.
If you’re in the first situation, he suggests moving, going private, or urging the local schools to expand or start a free school. If in the second group, then Young says to “send your child to your third, fourth or fifth choice of school and supplement what they’re learning at home.” To supplement learning at home, he naturally points to his book What Every Parent Needs to Know.
TO TUTOR OR NOT TO TUTOR?
Tutoring. Perhaps the hottest topic of all. To alleviate worry and keep up with the Joneses, parents often turn to tutoring to help ensure entrance into a top school or to achieve better test results. Analysis entitled Extra-curricular Inequalities  by The Sutton Trust and Ipsos MORI states that, of 2,800 11 to 16 year-olds, 23 per cent of young people nationally and 37 per cent in London, say they received private or home tuition. The national figure was 18 per cent in 2005 and 24 per cent in 2013.
But what we all want to know is, are tutored kids better off?
Sutherland-Hawes knows tutoring is rife, and has become an industry. “If you need to be tutored to get into a school, then it’s not the right school,” she says, adding that Latymer is only interested in a child’s natural ability on entrance exams. “If you are not at the right academic level for that school … you will then struggle. Three years ago, we stopped doing verbal and non-verbal reasoning, as it was being over-tutored. It wasn’t giving us an idea of the child’s natural potential.“
However, she does believe some exam preparation is a good idea, but warns not to the point of memorising an entirely irrelevant story for the English exam. She tells of one particular year when children from the same prep school wrote the same answers in the English section. However, the answer had no bearing on the actual question, and their tests were marked down. In another instance it was obvious that many children in one postcode had had the same tutor. “Exam preparation is different,” she says. “I fully support sitting down, doing exam papers to time, and getting used to that technique … Being tutored adds artificial intelligence; preparing for the exam is being aware of what is coming and having your timings right.”
Young suggests that the decision to tutor or not depends on where a child falls on the ability spectrum and parents’ ambition for their child. “Children with exceptional ability are going to do well in public exams … without any need for private tutors,” Young says. Those children most likely to benefit [from tutoring] are those on the pass/fail border.”
At Chiswick School, tutoring seems to be used as it was originally intended. Ryan says he rarely meets a situation where a child is being over tutored. At his school, tutoring is used instead as a healthy top-up. Outside of school Ryan doesn’t believe that a tutor should be a requirement for any parent, but if used, should complement what is being taught in the classroom. However, the school does bring in tutors to help give students more individual attention. “We employ tutors [to] work with small groups,” he says. “A tutor [will] come in and diagnose where [students] are and work with them … before we put them back into lessons.”
THE GOLDEN RULES
We can all agree to some basic ground rules, like do your research, read Ofsted reports, visit every school, meet with heads, ask tough questions and listen carefully to the response. Walking into a school, every parent should have an instinct as to whether the school is the right fit for their child, and this is far more more important than simply accepting a school as being a “top” school. Schools should also be a good fit with a family’s educational values because, frankly, you will be attending that school too.
When asked for some golden rules, Sutherland-Hawes provides sound advice. At the top of her list is for parents to listen to head teachers because they have special knowledge of a child’s abilities. Also, she says, at secondary level ask your child what they think because it’s just as much up to them. “Ask yourself, will my child be happy here? Don’t be over aspirational. Be sensible about your choice,” Sutherland-Hawes says. “Keep [children] calm.”
Young’s advice is two-fold. He feels that children likely to benefit the most from going to a good independent school are those from very disadvantaged backgrounds who have high IQs. “If any parent reading this thinks their child falls into that category, they should find out what the eligibility criteria is for full bursaries”. He adds that, unless your child is one of a handful who would really benefit from going to an independent school, send your child to the local state school. “Take the money you would otherwise have spent and put it in a savings account. You can then use that nest egg to help them buy a flat when they leave home. That flat represents far better value for money than a private education,” says Young.
Ryan says he works closely with parents. “We constantly check the progress of students at school, and we [bring] that back to parents,” says Ryan. “You want them to go to a school you trust, where they can get the right education, the right mould. It’s not just the exams you are buying into. You’re buying into a much bigger deal.”
Still need a last word of advice?
“Don’t listen to anybody,” says Sutherland-Hawes. “It’s about your child. Trust your own instincts and judgements; there is a right place for every child.”
And by the way, she occasionally reads Mumsnet. You’ve been warned!