Parenting

CHRISTMAS GIFT GUIDE

Whether you’re looking for a baby, pre-schooler, little kid or big kid, our Christmas gift guide could be just the inspiration you’re looking for.

This page is all for the very little ones. We have kids fashion, toys, games – traditional or modern – all within our edits. Happy shopping!

FOR BABIES & PRE-SCHOOLERS

 

 

Cloud Mobile, £42, Liewood

Oeuf NYC Unicorn hat, £54, Liberty

Bloomingville wooden breakfast set, £19, Amara

Roommate Giraffe Height Chart, £59.45, Taka Tomo

Wooden Robot, £25, Bobby Rabbit

Cashmere Jumper with Frill, £60 – £65, Mini Boden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Organic Cotton Paw Print Baby Playsuit, £33.45, The Bonnie Mob

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Garden tools, £14.95, Annabel James

Ollie Ella Wooden Carry House, £67, Smallable

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lion Purse, £15, Meri Meri

 

THE BEST HALLOWEEN DECORATIONS FOR KIDS

Decorations, costumes, tricks and treats. We’ve found everything you could possibly need to make your little ghouls grin this Halloween.

 

Gisela Graham Black Tinsel Standing Cat, £12.99, Amazon

Trick or Treat Bucket, £25, Hotel Chocolat

Spider Web place mat, £8 for pack of four, John Lewis

Spooky Skeleton Confetti Crackers, £19.50, Meri Meri at Liberty

Boo Halloween Neon Light, £14.99, Lights4fun

Halloween Plates, £5.75 for 8, Meri Meri at Ocado

Pumpkin Sunglasses, £3.99, New Look

Halloween Bunting, £6.49, Ginger Ray

Chocolate Eyeballs, £8.99, Choconchoc









 

 

Things to do in London this half term

We’ve rounded up some of the things to do in London this half term, to keep the kids entertained this half term

With Halloween round the corner there are plenty of ghoulish fun to be had, but if that’s not your thing, then there’s lots more to do in and out of the city.

  1. ROALD DAHL MUSEUM
    After a flood in May, the Museum is re-opening for October half term, offering a week brimful of  Twits’ Tricks and Matilda Magic, including Twizzling Tricks for Budding Illustrators, Wonka’s Wondercrump Contraptions, Twits’ Disgusterous Dinner Plates, Wigglish Witches’ Masks, and Crodswoggling Clay Critters. There are also guided walks which give an insight into Dahl’s life and daily routine in Great Missenden.
    Aimed at 5-12 year olds.
    22 to 28 October
    www.roalddahl.com/museum
  2. NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM ICE RINK
    If this is usually a Christmas activity for you and the family, then it will have come a bit early. But from 25th you can skate outside one of London’s most iconic landmarks.
    www.nhm.ac.uk/visit/exhibitions/ice-rink.html
  3. A PIRATE’S LIFE FOR ME
    This is the V&A Museum of Childhood’s first major exhibition to focus on fictional pirates in popular culture including Captain Pugwash and Captain Cook. Visitors have the chance to walk the plank, discover a treasure island as well as a large scale pirate ship. Dressing up and singing sea shanties is positively encouraged.
    www.vam.ac.uk
  4. THE TOWN MOUSE AND THE COUNTRY MOUSE
    Head to The Puppet Barge in Little Venice for these unique performances. The story’s told using rod puppets, music and sing-alongs.
    20-28 October
    www.puppetbarge.com
  5. MEET SIYANDA, PROTECTOR OF PLANTS
    Kew teams up with Theatre-Rites to bring the story of the Temperate House and plants to life through a theatrical experience using live music, puppetry and performance.
    20 to 28 October
    www.kew.org
  6. CYPHER CODERS CAMP
    Creatively themed coding camps run all week at various locations, with pick-ups in some areas.
    22 to 26 October
    www.cyphercoders.com
  7. THE MUSICIANS OF BREMEN
    This visually stunning adaptation from French company, Compagnie Animotion, for 3 to 10 years and their families, tells the tale of four animals put to pasture; a donkey, a cat, a cockerel and a dog.
    24 to 26 October
    www.watermans.org.uk
  8. LITTLE GRAND TOUR
    Learn about Pre-Raphaelite art and their imaginary & inspiring world from Knights of the Round Table to Sleeping Beauty at Tate Britain.
    25 & 26 October
    www.thelittlegrandtour.co.uk
  9. MUSIC HOUSE FOR CHILDREN
    Featuring activities for children as young as 1, this hidden gem in Shepherds Bush will be putting on a Gingerbread Man Storytale, an all-day workshop recreating the musical Wicked!, and hosting a Music and Movement Extravaganza for under threes.
    22 to 27 October
    www.musichouseforchildren.com
  10. KINGSTON CHILDREN’S LITERARY FESTIVAL
    Over three days, kids are invited to attend readings of some of their favourite books, read by some of the authors themselves. Opening the event series is Adam Hargreaves, best known for writing and illustrating the Mr Men and Little Miss books, since taking over from his father and Mr Men creator, Roger Hargreaves.
    www.inkingston.co.uk/kidslitfest
    25 to 27 October
  11. DIVERTIMENTI PARENT & TEEN CLASSES
    You and your teen can learn a complete menu, and some cookery skills for life, with a spooky touch during a class led by farmer, chef and food campaigner Rachel Green.
    31 October
    www.divertimenti.co.uk/cookery-school
  12. TELEGRAPH SKI AND SNOWBOARD FESTIVAL
    As well as the obvious reference to winter sports, children can enjoy the Kids Arts, Crafts & Entertainment zone in the Neilson’s Lodge where they’ll be joined by Tootles & Nibs for winter sports themed games and activities, a winter selfie station, arts & crafts and face painting. If that’s not enough there’s a climbing wall and Dog sledding. And if you’re sans kids, there’s apres ski fun. Battersea’s where it’s at.
    25 to 28 October
    skiandsnowboard.co.uk
  13. GOOD GRIEF, CHARLIE BROWN!
    This long-awaited exhibition finally opens at Somerset House celebrating Snoopy and his friends. It brings together work by Charles M. Schulz and artists who have been influenced by this famous comic strip over the years.
    From 25 October
    www.somersethouse.org.uk(c) Peanuts
  14. HALLOWEEN AT THE HORNIMAN MUSEUM
    Dress up and get down to the Horniman for a day of frightening fun and games. Little ones can meet creepy crawlies in the Wild Fangs cave, while adult witches and wizards browse arts and craft markets and try devilishly delicious food and drink from a variety of stalls.
    27 & 28 October
    www.horniman.ac.uk
  15. FIT FOR SPORT
    With camps all over London this half-term, why not use our 10% discount and get the kids active this half term.
    Use CKOHT2018.
    www.fitforsport.co.uk
  16. OXYGEN FREEJUMPING
    Instead of the kids bouncing off the walls, take them trampolining to burn off some of that excess energy. Using the code CITYKIDS10 will give you 10% off jumping too! Win, win.
    oxygenfreejumping.co.uk
  17. NIGHT OWLS HALLOWEEN SLEEPOVER
    In celebration of all things spooky, the Museum of London Docklands is opening its doors after dark for Halloween for all families brave enough to spend a night at the museum. Grab a flashlight and tiptoe your way through the museum, before nestling down for the night in the galleries. If you survive, there’ll be a film and some breakfast in the morning.
    26 October
    www.museumoflondon.org.uk
  18. THE HALLOWEEN FOOD MARKET CHISWICK
    Free for everyone, the market will be putting on arts and crafts throughout the day for young children.
    28 October
    www.thefoodmarketchiswick.com
  19. WIZARDS & WITCHES WEEK
    At Bocketts Farm enjoy a spooktacular day out with animal encounters, a reptile roadshow, heated play barn and loads of other seasonal fun.
    20 to 28 October
    www.bockettsfarm.co.uk
  20. HALLOWEEN JUNIOR SOCIAL TOURNAMENT
    Make no mistake, this is a tennis tournament for different age groups, but dressing up is encouraged and there will be prizes, food and plenty of fun. This event is in addition to the half-term camps running on a daily basis for kids aged four and over.
    28 October
    www.willtowin.co.uk/chiswick-house-gardens

 

Teeth-friendly healthy snacks for kids lunch boxes

healthy snacks for kids lunch boxesFood vector created by Lesyaskripak - Freepik.com

As any parent knows, back to school can be a very busy time – from buying new uniforms and shoes to picking out stationary. With so much to plan, it can be easy to overlook what’s going in the packed lunches. But making sure your child has a healthy, inviting and tooth-friendly diet is really important.

Steve Preddy, Clinical Director at Bupa Dental Care, has shared his top tips to help you create teeth-friendly healthy snacks for kids lunch boxes.

Say cheese!

Cheese is a great ally for teeth. It is full of calcium and phosphates which are known for strengthening bones, especially in children. In addition, eating cheese causes salivation, which helps to decrease the acidity levels in the mouth, helping to prevent tooth decay and cavities. Remember to eat in moderation though, cheese may be easy on the teeth but it’s also high in fat.

Pack in the veggies

Crunchy fruit and vegetables, such as apples and carrots, are real helpers when it comes to scrubbing away plaque from the teeth. Carrots are also high in fibre and a great source of vitamin A. Make sure you include some and ask your kids to have them at the end of their meal! Fruit does contain natural sugar so it’s much better to eat during meal times, rather than snacking on it at other times of the day.

Find swaps for sugary drinks

Fruit juices – especially those made with acidic fruits like grapefruits, oranges, and lemons – are loaded with sugar and acid that can slowly remove tooth enamel. When they are concentrated down into juice, teeth are at risk of decay. When possible, give your kids still water, as it helps wash away food debris. Alternatively, watered down juices or weak cordials can help reduce the impact too.

Don’t feed their sweet tooth!

Limiting sweet treats is really important for children. Not only is this good for their overall health but it is also vital for good oral health. Each time you eat something sugary, the levels of acid in your mouth rise significantly. It then takes up to a full hour for the acidity levels to return to a normal state. If a child’s acidity levels are being constantly raised throughout the day from eating sweet treats, they are then at serious risk of tooth decay.

Avoid raisins and dried fruit

You might be forgiven for thinking raisins and dried fruit are a great healthy snack to stick in a lunchbox. While raisins may be rich in anti-oxidants, they’re also full of sugar and can be just as damaging to teeth as confectionary. When the fruit is dried, the concentrated sugar becomes tacky and sticks to teeth and gums, which can then cause tooth decay.

Beware of crisps

Crisps contain starch which can get trapped in teeth, leading to plaque build-up. If your kids love a crunch, it’s better sticking to the veggies.

Use whole-wheat bread instead of white

Consuming whole-grains actually lowers the risk of gum disease. The enzymes in white bread stick to teeth and then turns into sugar. Switching to wholemeal is a much healthier and tooth-friendly option… don’t worry, you can still cut the crusts off!

Get creative

Kids love getting involved in the kitchen, why not make a batch of healthier snacks at the weekend to pop in their lunch boxes throughout the week.  Mini savoury muffins are usually a big hit, high in protein and low in sugar. You can even get in one or two of their five a day with the right recipes.

 

WHO IS…KIMBERLEY WALSH?

Girl band member, actor, West End Star and now fashion designer. Victoria Evans met the multi-talented mother of two to celebrate the launch of Kimba Kids.

What’s the inspiration behind Kimba Kids?

Let me go back to the start. So my brother is the managing director of a company that make, design, manufacture, and distribute clothes so obviously I knew that I had a lead in to this and with Bobby, my oldest son I just found it really boring buying boys’ clothes. I really wanted a little boy, so it’s not like I’m one of these women who wanted a girl to dress up, it wasn’t that, I just felt they don’t suit him, there’s all this nautical stuff like everywhere, which is fine, but it’s a bit preppy-ish and felt like he’s a blonde, blue-eyed mixed-race little boy and felt like I actually want him to be able to express himself a bit more and wear things that are a bit more fun and colourful and that’s where it came from.

So I approached my brother and was like, “How do you feel about trying to launch a new brand with me so that we can use all your facilities to do so. And he was actually really up for it. As much as his job is so intense and full-on as he’s distributing to Next, ASOS, constantly meeting deadlines, I think this was more of a passion project for him. It’s been hard for him because there aren’t enough hours in the day but we’ve done it. It’s taken a while…we fully started it when Bobby was about 16 months and I was doing Elf at The Dominion over Christmas and because it was my first job back, I had a bit of time to actually think for myself again. There were times when I wasn’t on stage where I was able to start the design process and I would meet the designer between shows on the two show days.

So it has taken a long time to get it to this point – he’s nearly four now! I thought you just hand-picked designs from a rail and Adam was like no, we need to design them, we need to draw it and come up with every colour, fabric. One day we literally spent the entire day going through thicknesses, choosing colours, and I asked him, is this your life? And he was like, yeah, pretty much. We do have to do this every time. It’s interesting as I had absolutely no idea it would be so time consuming.

Perhaps there are other sides to the business you prefer?

Exactly, I prefer the design and can you send me a sample back? But it’s not that easy. I feel like we’ve found a good place now, where we both feel like we know what the brand is, I’m very sure of what I want it to be. He’ll sometimes throw something in like What about trying this? And I’m like no, it’s not me. I wouldn’t put my kids in it – it may be popular at the moment, but I just want to stay true to what I am and the design process will be easy. If I take it on a tangent that’s following something else, it’s always going to be hard to bring it back to what it’s supposed to be in the beginning.

Because of the fashion connection through your brother did you ever consider doing womenswear?

Well that’s something we’re talking about now because we can. There’s so many opportunities there because of the way I work with his company. Right now, the priority is getting Kimba Kids off the ground and hoping that we can make this work. We’ve already got our Spring/Summer in for sampling and that was really fun and exciting and doing it now that we’ve got to this point. So we’d need the time – this has become over the last 6 months like a full time job and it’s one of those that you can sort of do with the kids around but there are times when I’m like I just need to answer some emails when they’re not like screaming at me or something. There are certain things that you have to do so that they go to bed but you can do it around the kids which is why it’s brilliant. I have taken the kids into meetings before because it’s my brother but mine cause a lot more…there’s picnic mess all over the floor, or like rails and clothes boxes barricading the stairs so they can’t fall down. This is not ideal but if childcare lets you down which is what happened to me, we’ll just bring them. My brother was like, yes, it’ll be good to have their input. They’ll be interested for about 5 minutes and then he’ll be like where’s the guns or weapons I can play with?

So what are your favourite pieces?

For me, my favourite piece for the boys.. As we knew this was going into Autumn/Winter we wanted to do a slightly different tone so we’ve got an aubergine tone camo. And for the girls I love the twinset.

What are your hopes for the brand?

It’s really crazy at the moment because no one really knows what’s going to happen at this point. It has been a family passion project. It’s hard because we both care about it so much so obviously we really want it to do well. I’m realistic. I don’t know how this business works so obviously the fact that Next have endorsed it as big as they have gives us hope that it will work because I don’t think they’d take huge numbers of something that wouldn’t work.

Your brother presumably was able to advise?

He would know to a point, but they would know more because they sell kids wear every day and he does adult stuff. They were very excited about it. We went to them first as we felt that it was a fit for their stuff and I do still think it sits really well with all of their stuff. But they have gone above and beyond – they’ve had opinions on stuff that really helped us, little branding things, they wanted it to be branded because they said if people are buying into you, they want to know that it’s yours. You’ve got to offer something that isn’t already there, which we know. So we feel like together, we’ve got it to this point and now we want to see it on other children and know that people have actually chosen to buy it themselves. That’ll be so exciting – we’ll have to get everybody to send pictures into me.

How would you describe your parenting style?

Manic! I’m such a calm person. I genuinely think I’m one of the most chilled people. But my boys can drive me to places that I never thought were possible. And it frustrates me if I feel like I’ve lost it, that’s just not me. But sometimes at bedtime, the way that they taunt me, I’m like “you just want me to break so that you can laugh at me”, but I can’t cope! I try to be relaxed. I’m very loving, which I’m sure most mums are, but I feel like they do respond to that. I’m terrified of the day my boys don’t want to get in bed and cuddle me in the morning. Its my favourite time of the day. My brother who I’m doing this with still gives my mum a cuddle – it’s quite cute. I’m not going to lie, they’re really hard work at the ages that they are, they do not stop, they don’t sit still for five seconds. And I wonder which one I should protect. Bobby’s older and he’ll go and do something where he could hurt himself. If I’m at a park who do I protect because he’ll go and climb a climbing frame where he’s in full danger if he falls from it, but then Cole is tiny so I an’t leave his side so usually I’m like Stop! Grab Cole and try to help Bobby down the clmbing  frame down. I feel like a lot of the time I look at myself in day to day situations and think what would anybody think if they could see me now, but is that just parenting of two young boys?

What advice would you pass on to a new mum?

Don’t put pressure on yourself. Every mum thinks they have to be the perfect parent and everthing should be as the books say it should be. You cannot ever read something and be that person because every child is so different. Even seeing what my two boys are like – Bobby was so chilled out I could have gone to a hygienist appointment and he would have just sat in his pushchair and just watched. Cole would have just screamed blue murder, it just wouldn’t happen so already they have the personaliies so you have to adapt to them. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be perfect because I don’t hitnk any of us are. We all lose our [shit] every so often don’t we.

Three words to describe yourself

Relaxed – all good things of course – warm and tired. Always tired.

Last book you read

I don’t read, there’s no time in my life for reading but I did read Giovanna Fletcher’s baby book ages ago. Weirdly because it was so relevant to me I actually really enjoyed it. I was reading it and thinking I’m reading about my own life, but there’s some comfort in it, that’s why she’s so popular, because she’s so honest. All the breastfeeding stuff you know I had a really hard time of it as well. Nobody tells you, even my own sister never really talked about it very much. I didn’t get that at all. But she was like I think I was so terrified that was almost…I think that the more we talk about it the better. You think that they’re supposed to latch on and it’s all lovely. I’ve never felt pain like it. Obviously it is a nice thing, it’s a labour of love.

Tell us one thing nobody knows about you.

I used to make my own clothes and sell them to my friends. My mum used to make clothes all the time, the sewing machine was always going. In the 80s with four kids it was tough financially so she made a lot of our own stuff. So I started making wrap around skirts, palazzo pants and scrunchies and people started putting orders in on our estate. I used to put the scrunchies on a big tube and take them to school and sell them. I was a right Del Boy even then!

Signature dish?

I’m not good at inventing my own things, but I am good at making something taste the way it’s supposed to taste. There’s a really nice Thai coconut sea bass recipe in one of the Leon books, which is really easy. You can prepare it earlier, put in the parcel and then they cook in 15 minutes and it looks like a really well thought out meal.

Who inspires you?

It’s a cheesy thing to say but my mum really does. I’ve got a new found respect for her since having children and trying to work with the kids. She had four and she was on her own because my parents split up when I was young. She always worked full time, she always did extra things after school like piano lessons for people to make extra money. I don’t know how she did all of that with the addition of financial worry and no partner to support her. So when I get stressed or think that life’s getting a bit tough I think, “ come on, think about what it was like for your mum, it was so much harder for her and she’s like happy now, we’re all happy and she’s getting the payback through us now I suppose. I think of her as a role model when I start to get a bit delusional as to what’s going on in life.

What’s next on your list of things to do?

I do do a lot of different things. I’ve been really lucky, I even got to do Strictly. There’s nothing really left that I desperately want to do. To be honest, if Kimba Kids works the way we hope it will it will be a much bigger focus for me over the next year because I’ll need to go full throttle if it works ans stuff. We’ve loads of ideas for interim things we can do around Christmas which all takes time and thought.

What are your memories of school?

I actually liked school from a social point of view. I was never sporty so I hated that side of things. I’d always find a way to get out of cross country. Generally I was lucky to be academic enough to get through without working too hard but I was never way up there. Because I was relatively clever but not expected to do amazingly well, I think you can enjoy school a bit more. You get grades that people are happy with, but you can also socialise without feeling too much pressure.

Memories of school dinners

We had really good school dinners. I always remember my middle school dinners were really good. They always did the best puddings, proper northern puddings like cornflake tart – a suet pastry base with jam and cornflake and treacle – and jam roly poly. Everyone who went to my school still talks about it.

What would you take to a desert island?

My kids, although it would be tempting not to! I can’t actually bare to be away from them for too long so they’d have to come, for help with the childcare. Music because I could keep them entertained and I can’t not be around music, so some sort of music system. And alcohol to get me through.

 

Kimba Kids is available exclusively at Next.co.uk.

 

CITY KIDS SCHOOL FOOD AWARDS

 

STILL TIME TO ENTER!

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:

State Sector
  • School Dinner Hero (Primary/Secondary)
  • Best School Menu (Primary/Secondary)
  • Best Vegetarian Menu (Primary/Secondary)
Independent Sector
  • School Dinner Hero (Prep/Secondary)
  • Best School Menu (Prep/Secondary)
  • Best Vegetarian Menu (Prep/Secondary)
Why Enter?

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 editor@citykidsmagazine.co.uk. Good luck!

CityKidsSFA2019 rules and entry form



Entries close on Friday 31st January 2019. 

#CityKidsSFA2019

NETBALL KNOWHOW

In netball, England are current Commonwealth gold medallists, and the popularity amongst girls is growing hugely. But what of us mothers, busy working or child juggling. Can we become ballers too? Beverley Turner says yes.

 

Netball.

I could think up some florid sentence to describe the benefits of netball, but – quite simply – I just bloody love it. And you will too. It all started four of five years ago, bored of the gym, tired of running but keen to keep a perky bottom, I tagged along with another school mum to a local leisure centre and a ‘Back to Netball’ session – part of an England Netball initiative running since 2010, which has seen over 60,000 women get back on court. Like most women, I played at school, but that was nearly 27 (f**k!) years ago. How hard could it be to catch and throw a ball? It transpired that the ball action was the easy bit. Sprinting up and down a full-size court while using my brain was the challenge. I came off red-faced, exhausted, elated and utterly determined to make this a weekly activity.

Commitment

For that last few years nothing gets in the way of my netball. In psychology terms, it’s a classic ‘flow activity’ – a pastime that is so engaging and absorbing that you forget all your worries and give yourself a very healthy mental break from any outside stress. Whilst running, swimming or pumping weights, it can be hard to switch off the to-do list in your head. But if you’re going to let your team mates down or get a ball in the side of your head, it’s surprising how concentrated you can be!

And netball is the UK’s largest growing sport. There was a 44% increase in participation at grass roots level in the last year, with nearly 30,000 players pounding the courts across England. Mothers supporting their school-age daughters now have a chance to play themselves at numerous courts across the country – knowing how hard it can be to shoot, must make for better side-line coaching.

Where to play

In West London we are spoilt for choice with teams and leagues available pretty much every day of the week. Kathryn Riley runs the Chiswick House Gardens-based Will to Win set-up where mums can be found on Thursday mornings working off a week’s worth of gin and tonics. “The appeal lies in women of all ages, shapes, sizes and fitness levels playing together and having fun,” she says, “We employ fully-qualified coaches to take drills as well as oversee games.”  Like me, most of the women have played as youngsters so there’s also a nostalgic element to the game. “It keeps us all young!” says Kathryn. At the recent tournament they hosted, the Will to Win team saw more than 40 women gather on a beautiful summer’s evening to battle it out for victory. It was an inspiring scene: incredibly busy women who juggle kids, work and other commitments, yet who make time to get out and keep fit. By the end of the evening, everyone was smiling.

So it’s about time we women got to share in the magic that blokes and their weekly five-a-side footy teams have known for years: team sport is the very best exercise for both body – and mind. I’ll see you there.

Want to know more?

If you’re feeling a little intimidated, unfit or not sure if netball is for you, why not try walking netball.
Walking netball is a slower version of the game; it is netball, but at a walking pace. The game has been designed so that anyone can play it regardless of age or fitness level.
From those who have dropped out of the sport they love due to serious injury, to those who believed they had hung up their netball trainers many years ago, it really is for everyone.

For more information about netball and walking netball sessions across London for women and children, please visit www.willtowin.co.uk

 Above: Bev Turner and her sister-in-law

WHO IS…ARI LAST?

 

How did you come up with the idea for Bubble?

There were two things which gave me the idea and motivation to launch bubble. Firstly, I had kids of my own and quick realised that childcare is such a massive struggle – a daily struggle – for so many parents. Secondly, when I looked at how we and other parents were trying to find our childcare, much more often then not our decisions were being driven by recommendation and word of mouth. Trust is obviously the most important thing when it comes to who we let look after our kids and more so then anything else we want to know who are friends are using and who they really rate. We figured that is information that an app could bring to a parent’s fingertips, and we set off to build it with bubble.

How does it work?

bubble gives parents total control to find the perfect sitter for them and their kids. The app makes it easy to select when you need someone and quickly see the sitter’s around you who want to help you out. Every sitter passes an ID and Background check before being allowed onto the app and our USP is that the app will show you how you know the sitter via mutual friends. For example, you can see the other parents at your kids’ school and the sitters they know and use. You can also read the sitter’s reviews from other local parents, and even use the app to chat with those parents for more information. When you come across someone you like, you can use the app to book them as well as pay them cashlessly at the end which our customers really love. The app has a review system which helps ensure that the sitters giving the best service are the ones that get the most work.

Which areas of London are covered by the app?

We’ve got full coverage across London now and on average it takes just 43 seconds for a parent to receive an application from a sitter after posting their job. Parents are using bubble to book sitters in as little notice as 30 minutes. The thing they love most about the app is that ultimately they are always in control of the sitter they pick. And we see how parents use the app in many different ways, doing what they need to do to get comfortable with a sitter.

What’s been the biggest lesson learned running Bubble?

Doing a startup with three young kids at home (I’ve got three under 5) is especially difficult but at the same time I love how despite having never worked harder, I’ve also never spent more time with my kids. There’s a lot being written at the moment about helping parents work flexibly, and the importance of enabling us to better juggle work and family life. My experience has shown me how spending time with your family and being incredibly dedicated to your work are not mutually exclusive.

What’s your proudest moment?

There’s no doubt that starting a business is a rollercoaster, the only certainty you have is that things will go wrong. So celebrating the wins and having what can at times be gruelling days punctured with moments of pride is so important. Every time we get some glowing feedback from a customer we’ve helped is a huge boost to me and the team. We’ve got amazing feedback on our trustpilot page and seeing new comments come in from parents thanking bubble for helping them is honestly a huge source of pride for us. Childcare is a really sensitive subject and it’s not an easy product to ‘sell’ – particularly when you’re doing things in a novel way as we are. So great customer feedback is something we hugely value – it’s what drives us on to keep doing more.

What’s your top tip for date night in London?

I’ll be honest I’m pretty useless with this kind of thing! My wife and I are big foodies so when we go out, 99% of the time, good food is on the agenda. There are so many great places in London now we’re spoilt for choice. Caravan in Kings Cross is a favourite right now.

Where’s your favourite place to go in London with the children?

We’re typical North Londoners so we always like to take the kids to the Heath or Highgate Wood whenever the weather allows. When it doesn’t, the Wonderlab in the Science Museum is a great bet, though I always leave it pretty shattered.

Last book you read?

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. It’s definitely not one to take in with the kids screaming around you but if you do ever get a quiet moment, it’s just brilliant.

Tell us one thing that people don’t know about you.

My first job was commentating on European Football for UEFA – for a football anorak it was a dream. How I quite ended up running a babysitting app still bemuses me sometimes.

What would you take to a desert island?

My wife, kids and a bubble babysitter.

Signature dish?

I love to cook and find it a huge stress reliever. Nowadays though most of my time in the kitchen is spent making Cheese Toasties so I’ll go with that.

Describe yourself in three words.

Pretty tired dad.

www.joinbubble.com

 

 

BABY-FACED GENIUS

Baby-faced Genius – Who does your baby look like and why? Some science (and anecdotal evidence) from our ante-natal guru.

Words: Beverley Turner


One of the great joys of running ante-natal classes (I hate that word – you are adults who have had sex – classrooms are for kids) is meeting the babies who we started to know as bumps. Myself and the midwife spend eight weeks laughing, listening and learning with couples who are about to become parents. Then – as if by magic – we’re all back in the pub together with tiny, curled up, pink-faced babies. And everyone looks just like their dad in a baby-gro.

It never fails to amaze me how much babies resemble their fathers. Sometimes, it momentarily slips my mind which baby belongs to which dad. But then I look at the cherub in a pink frilly dress and think, “Ah yes, you’re the one who always orders a pint of pale ale and works in IT … that’s right, Mike.”

Mother nature very cleverly makes sure that dads stick around to do the Sainsbury’s run by carving out newborns in their image. It makes perfect sense. We mums are inclined towards keeping our babies close, feeding them, snuggling them and marvelling at the colour of their poo. Dads may need to work a little harder to feel that bond – but if they look down and see themselves reflected back … well, their hearts melt; they’re soon picturing those chubby cheeks in a Chelsea scarf, which is enough to make them stay.

Although I’d like to claim 100% certainty on this phenomenon, scientific studies don’t actually back my theory. A body of research conducted over decades and published in the journal ‘Evolution and Human Behaviour’, has delivered conflicting results: some studies found that newborns more closely resembled their mums than their dads; other studies found newborns to be matched with

both parents equally well. My personal favourite was the most recent study which found that, although babies more closely resembled their mother for the first three days, the mums themselves remarked on how much they looked like dads. The author of the study concluded that this was an “evolved or conditioned response to assure fathers of their paternity.” I’d also ask (with a mischievous glint in my eye) how many mums down the generations have cooed, “Oh darling! He looks soooo like you!” with a quiet sigh of relief.

Of course, this paternal-bias has also caused some mums to grimace at a large nose or flappy ears and say, “She gets that from your side of the family.” Fast forward two years and the toddler sulks can be weaponised by a tired dad: “She’s just like you when you don’t get your own way!” To the harassed mum, the teenager slamming the door becomes: “A mini-you! He’s learnt that from you!” And, just in case she hasn’t played the genetics card quite hard enough, “Remember the time your brother stormed off at Christmas lunch? That boy is just the same!”

Mud-slinging from the branches of the family tree is a tried and tested means of surviving parenting. We all do it. We shouldn’t. But, we do. It’s oddly satisfying. In essence, it’s an attempt to be a good parent whilst getting yourself off the hook – if Olivia can’t sit still, it’s easy to blame your restless mother-in-law. And if an inability to kick a football is a family trait from your husband’s side, little Jago may never make the A Team, regardless of how much you spend on lessons. It’s not our fault.

And there may be some truth in that. A recently published book, ‘Do Parents matter?’, tried to answer that provocative question. The author, Judith Harris wanted to establish whether a child’s behaviour was “learned from their parents,” taught by their social group or could be attributed to “the genes they inherited.” She concluded: “Studies using the proper controls consistently favour the latter explanation. In fact, personality resemblances between biological relatives are due almost entirely to heredity, rather than environment.” She cites the fact that adopted children “don’t resemble their adoptive parents in personality.” Harris claims not be particularly interested in genetic effects, but the point is that they have to be considered. Unless we know what the child brings to the environment, we can’t figure out what effect the environment has on the child.”

She travelled the world examining many different cultures and parenting styles, concluding that “parenting didn’t have to be such a difficult, anxiety-producing job, that there are many different ways to rear a child, and no convincing evidence that one way produces better results than another.”

So, the moral of the story is that we, as parents, just need to do what we can. I sometimes think the best we can hope for is a well-timed “please” or “thank you” – everything else is genetically pre-determined. We’re all just winging it, moulding our kids as best we can with the product we grew. But genes will always play a part – so pick those daddies carefully, and be honest – we may not be quite perfect ourselves.

Beverley Turner is author of The Happy Birth Book and hosts a show on LBC at 6pm on Saturdays. She also runs The Happy Birth Club in Chiswick.

HOW TO GET MORE SLEEP – HANDY TIPS FOR PARENTS

Want more sleep? The World Sleep Society is at hand with some ideas on how to get more sleep, for you and your children!

HOW TO GET MORE SLEEP

How many times have you quietly competed with anyone about how little sleep you’ve had. You must be the most hard done by, you must be the most tired, no one could have possibly had as little sleep as you.
Well, as parents, we all know that sleep is the holy grail and that we NEVER get enough of the stuff. And the best way to get more sleep is to get the nippers to sleep like babies. Ahem.

10 COMMANDMENTS FOR CHILDREN

Ages Birth to 12 Years

Sleep is one of the most important contributors to your child’s physical and mental health. Good sleep habits, sleep hygiene, or “sleep health” are alternative terms often used to describe sleep promoting practices. The explanation as to why healthy sleep practices promote sleep is likely to be, at least in part, that they work by improving the regulation of sleep, either by reinforcing the body’s natural circadian rhythms (ie, the timing of light and darkness), or by increasing the drive to sleep. Other sleep practices help us to associate certain activities (like a bedtime routine) and environments (ie, the bedroom) with sleep. Healthy sleep behaviours also promote sleep by reducing factors in the environment which are stimulating (like caffeine) and increasing relaxation, making it easier to fall and stay asleep.

Finally, good sleep practices include providing an adequate opportunity for sleep based on age and individual sleep needs and an environment that is conducive to good sleep quality and safety.
  1. Make sure your child gets enough sleep by setting an age-appropriate bedtime (preferably before 9:00 pm or 21:00 hours) and waketime*.
  2. Keep a consistent bedtime and wake time on weekdays and weekends.
  3. Establish a consistent bedtime routine and recommend wearing comfortable clothes in bed, including strong absorbing diapers for infants.
  4. Encourage your child to fall asleep independently.
  5. Avoid bright lights at bedtime and during the night and increase light exposure in the morning.
  6. Keep all electronics, including televisions, computers, and cell phones, out of the bedroom and limit use of electronics before bedtime.
  7. Maintain a regular daily schedule, including consistent mealtimes.
  8. Have an age-appropriate nap schedule.
  9. Ensure plenty of exercise and time spent outdoors during the day.
  10. Eliminate foods and beverages containing caffeine, including many sodas, coffee, and tea.
* TABLE OF RECOMMENDED SLEEP AMOUNTS

AGE                       SLEEP NEED
3-12 months —-   14 to15 hours
1-3 years —-        12 to14 hours
3-5 years —-        11 to 13 hours
6-12 years —-      10 to 11 hours
12-18 years —-    8.5 to 9.5 hours

In addition to clinical sleep problems, poor sleep habits can cause poor quality sleep in adults. To help improve overall sleep and wellness, World Sleep Society has created the 10 Commandments of Sleep Hygiene for Adults:

  1. Establish a regular bedtime and waking time.
  2. If you are in the habit of taking siestas, do not exceed 45 minutes of daytime sleep.
  3. Avoid excessive alcohol ingestion 4 hours before bedtime, and do not smoke.
  4. Avoid caffeine 6 hours before bedtime. This includes coffee, tea and many sodas, as well as chocolate.
  5. Avoid heavy, spicy, or sugary foods 4 hours before bedtime. A light snack before bed is acceptable.
  6. Exercise regularly, but not right before bed.
  7. Use comfortable, inviting bedding.
  8. Find a comfortable sleep temperature setting and keep the room well ventilated.
  9. Block out all distracting noise and eliminate as much light as possible.
  10. Reserve your bed for sleep and sex, avoiding its use for work or general recreation.

BOOK REVIEW SPRING 2018

by SHARON JONES

PRESCHOOLERS

Look out, It's a Dragon
LOOK OUT, IT’S A DRAGON
by Jonny Lambert (Little Tiger)
Saffi the dragon doesn’t want to capture princesses or crush castles, all she wants to do is make friends in pastures new. So far, so lovely. But, as she quickly discovers, it’s not quite as easy convincing the other animals that she’s not trouble. Jonny Lambert’s gorgeous illustrations really bring this story of acceptance to life.




THROUGH THE EYES OF METHROUGH THE EYES OF ME
by Jon Roberts, illustrated by Hannah Rounding (Graffeg)
Kya, in many ways, is just like your average four-year-old. She likes ice cream, jumping, being cheeky and isn’t so keen on vegetables. However, she is autistic, and you will discover the ways in which she is different. You can almost feel Kya’s energy through the illustrations alone. This gentle book guides the reader into how Kya understands the world as written by her dad.





LITTLE KIDS

CinnamonTHE CHINESE EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES
by Ying Chang Compestine, illustrated by David Roberts (Abrams)
A clever re-working of the Hans Christian Anderson classic, focused on Ma Ding, a nine-year-old boy, who becomes the Emperor of China. Realising he is being tricked by dishonest ministers, he decides to play a trick of his own. Beautifully illustrated by David Roberts (of Rosie Revere, Engineer fame), it weaves Chinese tradition with a message of kindness.








SHINY PIPPIN AND THE BROKEN FORESTSHINY PIPPIN AND THE BROKEN FOREST
by Harry Heape, illustrated by Rebecca Bagley (Faber & Faber)
In this very funny debut, heroine Pippin lives in Funsprings, where she spends an enormous amount of time with her granny. All sounds pretty ordinary, until you find out that Pippin can speak to animals and her granny used to be a crime fighter. When mysterious goings on begin to happen in the town, can the pair use their skills to solve the mystery?









BIG KIDS

BRIGHT STORM
BRIGHT STORM
by Vashti Hardy (Scholastic)
Adventure awaits in this cracking book by Vashti Hardy. The twins, Arthur and Maddie, are on the trail of their father, a famous explorer, who, they’d been told, had died on the way to the South Polaris. The intrepid duo join a new crew, led by Captain Harriet Culpepper, as part of a race to the South Polaris. Can they cut it on the ship, and will they find the truth about their father?











LONG WAY DOWN
LONG WAY DOWN
by Jason Reynolds illustrated by Chris Priestley (Faber & Faber)
Written entirely in verse, and spanning the time frame of just one minute, this book follows the story of Will, who is seeking to avenge his brother’s murder. He must follow The Rules: No Crying, No Stitching and Get revenge. As he takes the lift, he is joined by a host of people from the past who make him think about the task ahead. Gripping and darkly illustrated, it is a stunning future classic.

SCHOLARSHIPS AND BURSARIES

“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.

FOR MORE INFORMATION
www.goodschoolsguide.co.uk

by SUSAN HAMLYN, Director at The Good Schools Guide Education Consultants

STEAM INSPO FOR WINTER

If you’re looking for some educational present ideas, there are plenty of science-based reads available this winter. Here are my top 5 inspirational books featuring Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths.

by AHRANI LOGAN

STEAM INSPO FOR WINTER

NAVIGATING THE 11+

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.

11 plus advice

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.

WHO IS…IZZY JUDD

 

Victoria Evans caught up with Izzy Judd as she prepared for the launch of Dare to Dream, and for the imminent arrival of baby number two, who we now know is Kit.

Describe yourself in three words

Kind, control-freak, mum

How did Dare to Dream come about?

Initially, when Harry and I first announced our pregnancy with Lola, I was conscious about putting the news out there. For two years, I saw pregnancy announcements and wondered why it wasn’t me. Having seen another celebrity announcement, or a friend’s, it felt like it was all around me. So, when Harry and I did our Hello interview, I told him how strongly I felt about being honest about how we got here. So, I spoke about IVF and miscarriages during the interview, but it was quite scary to come to the decision to open up.

The response I got back from women – I couldn’t believe the number of people, and even my own friends, who started to open up. Harry was like, ‘Izzy, I think you should write something. There’s something here.’ When I was going through my own issues, a lot of the books that I looked at were very science based. I couldn’t really find anything that spoke to me emotionally. So, the whole idea behind Dare to Dream was driven by the desire to write a book that would be a companion to other couples going through fertility struggles. I was inspired by the people reaching out to me.

How was the process?

My intention is to try and change the perception of fertility treatment. I went through a journey, for want of a better word, but the moment I found out that it wasn’t going to happen straight away, I panicked and opted for medical intervention. I wanted whatever medication I could have to get pregnant. In hindsight, I wish someone had put a hand on my shoulder and gone, ‘It’s okay, these things can take time. Don’t panic.’ Hormonally, I reacted quite badly to the medication and became very depressed, lost a lot of confidence and felt as though I’d lost myself completely.

After about six months, and another negative test result, I went downstairs. I was devastated. Harry took my hand and said, ‘Worst case scenario – you and me, and it’s still a pretty good place.’ It was a moment of realisation for me. Here I was, I’d just got married but I was so consumed and obsessed by this one thing. So, I did this mind, body and soul detox, which was amazing in that I instantly felt a change in my mood, and thought about falling pregnant. I made a decision that, actually, my story is that it’s not going to happen quickly for me. So, by the time I started IVF, I was able to approach it in a very calm way. I looked at my nutrition, I was doing mindfulness and I was probably in the best state mentally.

I really believe that people are frightened by the three letters ‘IVF’, but there is something really magical about it. I really felt that doctors take over your body, but you’re very much in charge of your mind. I really wanted to try and provide a different view, a more positive perspective, as a lot of couples might only have one go. It’s expensive and the pressure on you for it to work is going to put your body into a fight or flight mode. It’s about how you deal with getting through. Hopefully, the book guides people on how to better manage those emotions.

What’s a typical day like?

I’m with Lola full time. We’re very lucky as she can hang out in her cot and play happily in the mornings. She’s always been a great sleeper, but I’m the one who’s up, staring at her, wondering, ‘Are you too hot, or too cold?’ We might go to a class in the morning or meet up with a friend. She has her nap, which gives me a bit of nap time too (seven months pregnant). We go to the local parks or Harry might take her out. My day is quite focussed around Lola and her needs.

Who inspires you?

My granny was a huge inspiration to me. She worked all her life, which, in her generation, wasn’t necessarily what happened. She was quite forward thinking in many ways. I was very close to her and was devastated when she died. In the book, I mention a time when I was going through IVF. I used to walk round St Peter’s Square and there was this robin that followed me around. Apparently, robins are someone from your past letting you know that they’re there. It’s a bit kooky, but I like it. I was always sure it was granny just being there.

Family inspires me. My brothers are all musicians, and I’m very close to my family.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

My dad’s always said ‘dignity at all times’, and that does sit well with me. My dad doesn’t say much but, when he does, it counts.

What would you take to a desert island?

Can I take Harry? And Lola? Harry might be happy that I mentioned him first for a change! I have had my Winnie the Pooh bear ever since I was a little girl. I still can’t sleep without him, or go anywhere without him.

What’s your favourite spot in London?

My instant response is St Peter’s Square. I love the fact that, in a big city, there are these pockets like Chiswick House, where one can find moments of peace and magic.

What’s your biggest luxury?

I’m not one for luxuries but, when we go on holiday, I like a nice hotel. Go on, shall we upgrade? Harry is the opposite. We don’t go on holiday every year, but when we do, that’s our little luxury.

Tell us one thing that people don’t know about you

I have suffered horrendously with anxiety, for most of my life. When you’re someone who goes out and performs like I did with Escala on Britain’s Got Talent, you wouldn’t think that that person would then go off stage and have a panic attack. I don’t know if many people know that about me, but I’m sure that was the root of my problems when trying to conceive. My anxiety has become a friend. When I say I’m a control freak, being in control is my way of managing my anxiety. I find change very difficult. I do get anxious before events, but it’s such a silent thing, I don’t think anybody notices. I’ve learned when to say ‘no’ to things, and it’s become easier as an adult. At least mental health is being talked about now.

What’s next?

The baby! I knew that I had time to write the book, so I can now focus on Lola before the baby comes. The whole thing with Dare to Dream is, I feel like it’s a long-term campaign. I want to keep the conversation going about fertility, and empower people to feel comfortable talking about it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW AUTUMN 2017

by SHARON FRIED-JONES

PRESCHOOLERS

Look, there’s a ROCKET! by Esther Aarts (Nosy Crow) Look, there’s a ROCKET!
This new series of interactive board books by Esther Aarts will make a lovely addition to any bookshelf. Perfect for busy fingers, the follow-the-hole story takes you into outer space. There’s plenty to spot and the colourful illustrations are joyful and fun. Plus being a board book, it’s robust enough to be read whilst on the move.
Look, there’s a SUBMARINE! takes you deep under the ocean to explore all the sea life she can find.




Going to SchoolGoing to School by Rose Blakeby
When the daughter of Peter Blake illustrates a book, you know it’s going to be visually arresting. Detailing the school day of a young girl, it’s busy and buzzy as we see her have a maths lesson, do P.E., have a science lesson, play on computers, eat lunch and so much more. Children will relate to the many activities that happen and with the bright and cheery illustrations, there’s plenty of reason to read again and again.






LITTLE KIDS

CinnamonSticker Art by Neil Gaiman with illustrations by Craig and Karl (Frances Lincoln)
This stylish interactive sticker book will keep most fingers busy. Think paint by numbers only with stickers. Working in collaboration with Natural History Museum, graphic designers Craig Redman and Karl Maier have joined forces to create these bold books on topics including Jungle, Ocean, Woodland and Savannah. Each book has eight striking portraits to make with interesting facts to accompany them.




Mind Hug, The first storyMind Hug, The first story by Emily Arber and Vanessa Lovegrove (Circus House)
Why should mindfulness just be for adults? Mind Hug tells the story of Jack, who is overwhelmed by his thoughts, making his head feel ‘fizzy’. The more he tries to block the thoughts, the more they come, leaving him feeling frustrated and out of control. When his dad introduces a ‘game’ and helps to focus his mind through breathing, Jack calms himself down. With his new found power, he shares his techniques with friends. This is the first in a series to help children grow up with good mental health.






BIG KIDS

The Girl GuideThe Girl Guide by by Marawa Ibrahim and Sinen Erkas (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books)
Who wants to hear about puberty from their parents? Their teacher? How about learning about all those changes from an inspirational hula-hooping acrobat and possessor of a rather cool nine Guiness World Records? Now we’re talking. Meet Marawa Ibrahim, whose no messing and honest approach is a breath of fresh air. With everything covered from spots, hair, sweat, fitness – nothing is left unturned. And in this age of perfecting the flawless selfie Marawa shows just how having good self esteem is the most important thing of all. An all round essential read for girls AND their parents.









13 ½ Incredible Things You Need To Know About Everything
13 ½ Incredible Things You Need To Know About Everything by DK
This is the perfect post-summer book, when your child’s brain has mainly been forgetting everything they learnt in the previous school term and is awash with watching YouTube videos on fidget spinners and learning the Spanish bit to Despacito. Time to re-engage with this super fact-filled book on just about everything. Topics range from classics like dinosaurs, stars and the Greeks to chocolate, bees and blood cells. The photographs are stunning and for every topic there are 13 pieces of information. You’ll even learn loads yourself so can impress your friends down at the pub quiz.

ROYAL PARKS LONDON: TOP THINGS TO DO

ROYAL PARKS LONDON: TOP THINGS TO DO THIS SUMMER

ROYAL PARKS LONDON: TOP THINGS TO DO THIS SUMMER

Nowhere beats London in the sunshine and nothing says summer more than the eight Royal Parks in London. This season Phil Collins, Disney remakes, sculpture, swimming and jazz are just some of the things on offer.

Take a dip in the Lido

What better way to spend a lazy summer afternoon than a refreshing dip in the Serpentine Lido in Hyde Park, followed by a spot of lunch at the nearby Lido Café Bar?

Located near the Diana, Princess of Wales, Memorial Fountain and overlooking the Serpentine Lake, the Lido Café is the perfect lakeside spot for a scenic bite to eat with friends and family.

Listen to some jazz in Greenwich Park

Throughout July and August, the bandstand at Greenwich Park plays host to some great jazz bands, from the Belvedere Concert Band to the Galaxy Big Band and the Lewisham Concert Band.

Organised by the Friends of Greenwich Park, the concerts are free of charge and take place every Sunday from 3 pm.

Discover the history of the Royal Parks London

The Royal Parks have evolved over the past 500 years from monarchical deer hunting grounds to the world famous public parks we know and love today, accessible to all and enjoyed by millions from across the globe.

For the first time ever, an exhibition will explore this rich history, with rarely seen artefacts including oil paintings, photographs, and historical documents spanning three centuries. The exhibition will also look at the history of Phoenix Park in Dublin, which was formed in 1662 as Ireland’s only royal deer park, and is today managed by the Office of Public Works, Ireland.

Parks: Our Shared Heritage is delivered in partnership with the Hearsum Collection and the Office of Public Works, Ireland.
In addition to the exhibition The Royal Parks, in partnership with the education team at Mall Galleries, will host a number of community art activities between 28 July and 11 August.

When: 27 July – 11 August 2017
Where: Mall Galleries
Free. For more information click here.

Get cultural in the Serpentine Pavilion

Diébédo Francis Kéré, the award-winning architect from Gando, Burkina Faso, is the seventeenth architect to accept the Serpentine Galleries’ invitation to design a temporary Pavilion in its grounds in Kensington Gardens.

The tree that serves as a central meeting point for life in his hometown of Gando inspired the architect.  He designed a Pavilion that seeks to connect its visitors to nature – and each other. An expansive roof, supported by a central steel framework, mimics a tree’s canopy. Also, it allows air to circulate freely while offering shelter against London rain and summer heat.

On selected Fridays, the Pavilion transforms into a site for encounters in art, cinema, theatre, performance and music for the Serpentine Galleries’ annual ‘Park Nights’ programme.

When: 23 June – 8 October 2017
Where: Serpentine Galleries
Free

Admire free sculpture in The Regent’s Park

From 5 July Frieze’s first ever summer exhibition in The Regent’s Park will open in the beautiful English Gardens. ‘Frieze Sculpture’ is hand selected by Clare Lilley, Director of Programmes for Yorkshire Sculpture Park. It brings together 25 works by leading 20th-century and contemporary artists from around the world.

When: 5 July – 8 October 2017
Where: The Regent’s Park English Gardens
Free

Honour Emmeline Pankhurst on her birthday

From political activists to fashion icons, the Amazing Women of Brompton Cemetery tour offers the best in her-stories from inspirational women who are buried in this Grade 1 listed garden cemetery.
This new tour coincides with the birthday of Emmeline Pankhurst who helped women secure the right to vote almost a hundred years ago.
When: 15 July 2017, 2.30pm and 21 July, 6 pm
Where: Brompton Cemetery. Meeting point outside the chapel
No need to book, just turn up. The walk is free but the Friends of Brompton Cemetery welcome a donation of £5.

Experience RideLondon in the capital

Prudential RideLondon is the world’s greatest festival of cycling, developed by the Mayor of London and his agencies in partnership with Surrey County Council.

Staged for the first time in August 2013, it is the largest festival of cycling in the world with more than 100,000 participants. They’re expected to cycle more than three million miles during the weekend of 28-30 July 2017. St James’s Park and Richmond Park star in the weekend’s events. The Mall in St James’s Park provides the finish line.

The event combines the fun of a free family ride in central London with the excitement of watching the world’s best professional cyclists. Amateur cyclists participate by riding a 100-mile or 46-mile challenge on the same closed roads as the professional road race, raising millions for good causes.

Learn about minibeasts in the Royal Parks London

Discover the magnificent minibeasts that call London’s Royal Parks home! Join Mission: Invertebrate for a free day of storytelling, bug trails, creative crafting and invertebrate missions galore. Look out for our Giant Snail Caravan packed with fun activities for all the family!

Where: Across the Royal Parks and Brompton Cemetery
When: Various dates from July to October: See our calendar for further details.
Free

Take the kids to a free Discovery Day in Hyde Park

Summer is officially here and nature has truly burst into life! Choose from a variety of activities in our Education Centre in Hyde Park. These include sweep netting in our meadows for creepy crawlies, pond dipping and nature-inspired arts and crafts.

When: 2, 9, 10, 16, 22 and 23 August 2017.
Where: Education Centre, Hyde Park
No need to book. Just drop in anytime between 11am-3pm.

SHARKY & GEORGE DO SUMMER

HOW TO ENJOY SUMMER IN THE CITY’S PARKS

Sharky and George guide us on the best things to do with kids in our fair city’s green spaces.

London has the best parks of any city in the world. FACT! There are over 1000 acres of park just between Regent’s, Hyde, Green and St. James’s Park but Battersea Park is the real gem. With Go Ape, Putt in the Park, pedalos, and an awesome zoo you definitely won’t be lacking for great things to do. Here are a few top tips for activities in any park this summer:

Bug Hunting – All you need is a jam jar, a little net, a magnifying glass, a log book and you are away. Have a look under rocks or fallen branches, under the bark of trees or in long grass and you are sure to come across lots of creepy crawlies. Gently put them in you jar or container and then count their legs, eyes and wings. Do a little drawing of them in your log book and then set them free!

Homemade Kite-Flying – You can buy kite kits online for about £2-3 which are fun and easy to put together but most importantly fly really well.

Water Pressure Rocket Launching – Rockit do the best kits for about £15 and there is so much you can do with them. You need your Rockit, a selection of bottles (check the cap fits onto the thread of each bottle), a bicycle pump and a water source. You can then experiment with different amounts of water in different size bottles to see how high you can go! We find that smaller bottles about half full of water tend to go the highest so bigger isn’t always better. 

If, on the off chance, you want your children to do all these things and a lot more from 10th-28th July, then it just so happens that Sharky and George is running its Adventure Club in Hyde Park between those dates! Each day will be jam-packed with fun, games and endless activities, including tug of war, mini olympics, rocket launching, science madness, pedalos, spy quests and of course, lots of water bombs. Adventure Club is suitable for children aged between 5-10 years old and tickets can be purchased here. They’d be crazy to miss out on the fun! 

We can also do something a bit more bespoke for you. For example, there was a bit of an issue last summer when the Queen’s birthday presents were stolen by a disgruntled security guard! The children were met by a special agent in a London Hotel looking for help to recover them. The only intelligence they had was a ticket with a number. It turned out it was a cloakroom ticket for the hotel and the children quickly recovered a locked metal briefcase and an envelope with a code. What followed was an undercover rendez-vous with an accomplice of the security guard outside Buckingham Palace (to coincide with the Changing of the Guard at 11am!), a meeting with another agent and a wild goose chase that took them around all the best London landmarks. It ended with a serious water-bombing of the mischievous security guard so that he would reveal the hiding place and a probable Knighthood from the queen!

www.sharkyandgeorge.com

BOOK REVIEW SUMMER 2017

by SHARON FRIED-JONES

PRIMARY

The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors by Drew Daywalt, pictures by Adam Rex (Scholastic) The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors
When the undefeated warrior, Rock, runs out of contestants to beat in the Kingdom of the Backgarden, he goes off in search of a suitable suitor. Elsewhere, Paper is the undisputed champion of the Empire of Mum’s Study but, unsatisfied by his easy wins, he leaves in search of more challenging foes. Over in the tiny village of the Junk Drawer, Scissors is making short work of her enemies and decides to find more interesting battles. When the trio stumble upon each other, the most epic battle ensues.




The Little GardenerThe Little Gardener by Emily Hughes (Flying Eye Books)
For those fond of nature, this sweet story is one full of hope. When the little gardener struggles to grow anything on his plot, he is close to giving up. But then, he sees signs of life in the form of a little flower, but that isn’t quite enough to rescue the barren patch – until he makes a wish and his life is completely transformed. Subtle yet deep, and set against a dark palette, Emily Hughes’s tale of persistence is also one that restores faith in human kindness.






JUNIOR

CinnamonCinnamon by Neil Gaiman with illustrations by Divya Srinivasan (Bloomsbury)
This stunningly depicted fable tells the tale of a princess called Cinnamon, whose eyes are made of pearl, meaning she is blind. Not only is she blind, but she doesn’t talk. Her parents, Rajah and Rani, are desperate to hear their daughter speak and offer a handsome reward to anyone who can make her talk. People travel from far and wide with little success, but it takes the skill of a tiger to unlock her voice. A beautiful, funny and poignant tale from a master storyteller.






There’s a Werewolf in My TentThere’s a Werewolf in My Tent by Pamela Butchart illustrated by Thomas Flintham (Nosy Crow)
Pamela Butchart never disappoints and, in her latest book, the laughs come thick ’n fast. Izzy and her friends are excited about their school camping trip, until they find out that their new, super-strict P.E teacher, Miss Moon, will be in charge. Capers-a-plenty as four friends use all their skills to survive the trip in one piece; with howling heard in the night and the discovery that Miss Moon has really hairy legs – is she secretly a werewolf? And if she is, what on Earth are they going to do about it?








SENIOR

RookRook
by Anthony McGowan (Barrington Stoke)
Rook is the third in a series (Brock and Pike predede this), but this novella easily stands alone. When brothers Nicky and Kenny rescue a rook after it’s been attacked by a sparrowhawk, they decide to nurse it back to life, but the boys have other worries to deal with. Interwoven into this beautifully written depiction of teen life are tips on how to avoid the school bully, as well as how to pluck up the courage to speak to a girl you like.
Barrington Stoke are experts in publishing fantastic stories, which are inclusive for all. They specialise in books for dyslexic and reluctant readers.






See How They LieSee How They Lie by Sue Wallman (Scholastic)
A gripping read set in Hummingbird Creek: an exclusive wellbeing retreat for troubled teens with psychiatric issues. The rules are strict, and woe-betide you break them, which is doubly difficult for Mae as her father is the founder. But, after an unintentional discovery, Mae begins to question her family life as it becomes apparent that all is far from what it seems… A real page-turning mystery, with enough sinister undertones to keep the suspense going.

BROKEN FANNY

The picture could have been me almost 11 years ago when I had my daughter. One of the first of my friends to have a baby, and an only child with no real extended family, I had zero experience of babies. I have no idea if this would have helped as the cumulation of sleeplessness following a hideous delivery, intensive care and a 3-hour feeding programme would be enough to break anyone. I didn’t think that then – I just thought I was useless. Those were dark days.

Broken Fanny is just the tonic I would have mainlined in 2006. It’s a one-woman show following a first-time mother’s struggle through the early days. Tackling the unspoken feelings of despair and trapped isolation, social pressures of perfection and ‘expected happiness’ from well-meaning choruses that this should be ‘the best time of your life’.

Written and performed by  Emma Jerrold, and hosted by Happiness Coach, Olivia Horne, the evening promises plenty of laughs as well as a post-show talk on all the issues raised.

Proceeds for the show will go to PANDAS Foundation UK which offers support and advice to parents suffering from perinatal depression.

www.eventbrite.co.uk

Thu 22 June 2017
19:30
The Pilot
56 Wellesley Road
London
W4 4BZ

MOTHER’S DAY AT AMPLEFORTH

Mother’s Day: a Day in the Life of a Housemistress

by Victoria Anglim

Being a Houseparent to the 70 girls who live in St Bede’s, one of Ampleforth’s longest standing houses, is a huge privilege – particularly on Mother’s Day.

Ampleforth is a co-educational school and first admitted girls in 2001. For the sixteen years that I have been at Ampleforth, I’ve been a Housemistress to girls for nearly eleven years, having previously lived in a boys house.

Our Benedictine ethos at Ampleforth means creating a sense of community and providing individual care for the children we look after, which is why many parents choose to send their children here. This strong focus on pastoral care is particularly prevalent in our boarding houses and at certain times of the year when children inevitably think of their families. 

As a Houseparent you are often the central link for a child between school and home. As a parent myself to Oscar (16) and Erin (14), I know that teenagers need a sense of balance and stability as they develop as a person and strive academically and on the sports field, theatre or music room.  One of our former pupils talked about their experience of school and said ‘everyone gets the chance to do what they do best,’ which pretty much sums up our approach to the children in our care.

Design as a subject is very strong here at Ampleforth and ahead of Mother’s Day, we organise a craft club where the children can make gifts and cards for their mothers, which Matron then posts.

Any Sunday at Ampleforth involves Mass, Sunday lunch, calls home and a chance to enjoy some of the 70 extra-curricular activities we have on offer in the 2,200 acres of North Yorkshire countryside we live in.  It’s also a long-standing tradition that, on Mother’s Day weekend, myself and another Housemistress join our houses for a large celebratory Sunday lunch, creating a positive family-like atmosphere, which the girls tend to love as it means they can get together with their friends. We also try and keep Aoife our much loved house pet (she is an Irish wolfhound) well away from the table!

We are always vigilant about helping pupils settle in and watch out for homesickness, which can sometimes strike at the weekend. We put on a range of social activities at weekends which get everyone involved and keep the children busy. On Mother’s Day this year, we are holding a charity colour run and have encouraged those who celebrate Mother’s Day to invite their parents to come down and watch them take part – and parents can take children out before or after the event.

So, Mother’s Day will be a day where we come together as a large family – however near or far our own might be.

 

 

BOOK REVIEW SPRING 2017

BOOK REVIEW SPRING 2017 by SHARON FRIED-JONES

With spring on its way, what better time to replenish the book shelves with some fresh new titles.

PRIMARY

Princess Primose by Alex T. Smith (Scholastic) Princess Primose
Another cracking story from Alex T. Smith. This time in the form of Princess Primrose, who has everything she could wish for – a beautiful palace, two ponies, and a pug. However, being so privileged comes at a price. Rules. And plenty of them, making poor Primrose’s life a misery as she is constantly in trouble. It leaves the king and queen no choice but to call upon the much-feared Grandmama to sort their little darling out. But will she be a help, or a hindrance?




LotsLots by Marc Martin (Big Picture Press)
This beautiful book is so visually arresting, it will have the most curious of minds entertained for hours. In the words of Marc Martin, ‘Lots is about everything and everywhere’. From far and wide – the world is celebrated. The intricacies of the illustrations will have little fingers pointing out the funny and the quirky. A stunning book, guaranteed to be read, over and over.








Why Don’t we all live together anymore?Why Don’t we all live together anymore? by Dr Emma Wassington and Dr Christopher McCurry. Illustrated by Louis Thomas (Frances Lincoln)
This excellent book tackles the very difficult topic how to help children understand what is happening when parents divorce and how it will affect them. It focuses on questions which a child is likely to ask such as ‘Is it my fault?’ ‘Will I have to go to a different school?’ Illustrated and told from the point of view of a character who is going through the same thing – it’s a good entry point for children and adults alike to broach the subject.



JUNIOR

Barry Loser and the birthday billionsBarry Loser and the birthday billions by Jim Smith (Egmont)
The eighth book in this best-selling award-winning series, Barry Loser is back and this time it’s his birthday and he gets the best present ever – The Shnozinator 9000 – a super cool gaming helmet. That is until his younger brother breaks it. Gah! What to do? Become an inventor and try to make enough money to buy a new one of course. Fans of Barry will not be disappointed – another page turning chuckle-fest.









Dave Pigeon by by Swapna Haddow, illustrated by Sheena Dempsey (Faber) Dave Pigeon
The second instalment of Dave Pigeon’s adventures. This time there’s peril afoot when Dave and Skipper’s ‘Human Lady’ goes on holiday, leaving them with short supply on the food front. They soon find themselves a new owner in the form of Reginald Grimster, who has a very generous feeding habit. But is he all that he seems? And why does he own so many cook books featuring birds? Another hilarious, illustrated tale that will have youngsters in stitches.






SENIOR

We Come ApartWe Come Apart by Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan (Bloomsbury)
This interestingly written story will challenge more competent readers. Although written in verse, Crossan and Conaghan met only once, both having been nominated for a prestigious children’s literature award. They collaborated on this novel by sending chapters via WhatsApp. What they created is a beautiful book about two characters, Jess and Nicu. Jess has a lot to hide, and Nicu’s parents want to return to their homeland to marry him off. As the pair become closer, can they survive their secrets?

First school term: How to survive

The first sign may have been the Thomas train hurled across the room; the book slammed shut; or the lovingly prepared pasta pesto on the floor: it’s early September and things at home are not as they should be. Your darling – just starting nursery, primary or secondary – is struggling. Welcome to the world of a child in their first term of an educational step-change. The symptoms are remarkably similar across the ages: exhaustion, sulks, the occasional tantrum. And that’s just you. Imagine what it’s like for your poor kid.

For all those struggling, we’ve pulled together a first school term survival guide with tips from teachers and educational experts.

Let’s face it, we all do the prep: we read starting-nursery picture books with our toddlers, we play word games with our four-year-olds, and we practice the bus route with our 11-year olds. But no matter what we do, there’s always a moment, however brief, where we think, is this the new reality? The answer, obviously, is no; but here are some tips to refer to in the next month or two.

FROM HOME TO NURSERY

First school term: How to survive

Moving from the security of home to a room filled with at least a dozen other two- and three-year-olds is a shock to the system.

1) Manage the separation sensitively.

If the nursery offers a period of transition, where you can sit in the room while your child gets comfortable, by all means, take advantage of it. However, at some point, you will need to leave, and for many kids, anticipating that moment is the hardest part. “Every teacher will tell you that [a child] will keep crying as long as his or her parent is in sight,” says Sabine Hook, former primary teacher and early years educational consultant at Holland Park Tuition and Education Consultants. Give your little one a kiss and cuddle and make your exit quickly; if you’re worried call the nursery later to check in. In most cases, children settle very quickly once their parent leaves. Ask if your son or daughter can bring in a special toy as a transition object.

2) Keep an eye on how tired your child is.

It’s not unusual that children have to drop a nap when they start nursery, so allow your son or daughter to miss a day occasionally if necessary. If childcare doesn’t permit that, go for an early bedtime. Regardless, just being at the nursery can be exhausting, so be as flexible as possible. “You want it always to be something to look forward to, so play it by ear, and see how they are handling it,” Hook says.

3) Encourage independence.

Children are empowered by small acts of independence: maybe it’s putting on their shoes, or their coats, or simply parking their scooter in the scooter park. Those small moves can go a long way to making the child feel in control. You’ll also likely be reinforcing what they are being encouraged to do at the nursery.

4) Remember, it’s nursery, not school.

Not a few parents worry that nursery isn’t academic enough. Sarah Raffray, the headmistress at St. Augustine’s Priory, an all-through girl’s school in Ealing, says, “We’re not looking at the output when they are so little. The nursery is about learning through play, about learning to learn.” Hook adds that every school introduces reading and phonics at Reception, so don’t worry too much about anticipating that in the Nursery. “When they’re ready, they’re ready,” she says, adding that I-Spy and reading picture books together can lay a strong foundation for phonics and reading.

FROM NURSERY TO PRIMARY

Change

This can be an easier transition, particularly if the child is going to primary in the same setting as their nursery; or if the child has an older sibling at the school. Still, it can be quite a change.

1) Talk to your child about how Reception is different from the nursery.

Ask your child’s teacher if you can have a copy of the weekly timetable, and talk to your child about what the plan is that day, Rebecca Leviston, Head of Lower School at Ravenscourt Park Preparatory School (RPPS), recommends. In some schools, children may travel to a different room for an art class – and the simple act of navigating a bigger space can seem overwhelming.

2) Keep an open line of communication with your child’s teacher.

“It’s best to open up and talk to us about your child. It’s really important that as teachers that we really understand them as people,” Leviston says. She points out that some children make it very clear that they are struggling, which can make a teacher’s job easier. However, others keep their emotions in check at school and express them at home. Make sure you raise any concerns to the teacher.

3) Keep increasing your child’s independence.

Make sure that their toilet use is as independent as possible; go back to old training routines should there be any regression, Leviston says. Also, encouraging the use of a knife and fork at home can increase confidence at school lunchtime.

4) Remember they all get there in the end.

Reception is really about physical development, communication, understanding rules, and working with others, Hook reminds us. Be patient with the academics: some children gallop ahead while others take it more carefully. Raffray cautions parents not to compare their children to others. Advancing through the reading scheme, for example, “is not trophy-hunting,” she says. Educators also advise to not worry too much about homework. “You can actually hinder their learning by putting that subtle pressure on children,” Leviston says. Again, the message is, trust the school. “No matter what your child goes through, we have seen through a diversity of experiences that they always get there in the end,” Leviston says.

PRIMARY TO SECONDARY

The move to secondary marks a dramatic shift in independence, which can make for a tricky transition for both child and parent.

1) Big kids are small again.

The most obvious change in secondary is physical. “A lot of youngsters come into secondary having been a big fish in the small pond [at primary]; they are suddenly swamped in terms of the size of the school and the size of students,” says Camilla Smiley, secondary school consultant at Holland Park Tuition and Education Consultants. St. Augustine’s Priory’s Raffray agrees: “Moving up is a challenge. It’s the sense of being one child in the midst of hundreds.” Add to this that now your Year 7 child is moving from class to class for different subjects, and they are often overwhelmed. “The learning curve is very sharp,” Smiley says.

2) Help your child get organised.

Here a little help goes a long way. Help them get their backpack ready the night before. Smiley recommends printing out a copy of the timetable and hanging it near where your child stores his or her bag so they have it to hand when they pack. Help them think through what homework is due the next day, later in the week and next week to foster basic study skills.

3) Be proactive with the teacher.

Compared to the cosy relationship that you may have had with your child’s primary teachers, secondary teachers are necessarily much more removed. For one, your child has different teachers for each subject; and secondly, as your child is likely to be getting to school on their own, you don’t have the daily interaction of drop-off. Smiley recommends reaching out early to the form teacher by email or in person to establish a relationship.

4) Keep an eye on homework.

Year 7s tend to be very keen to get things right in all aspects of school (Smiley says not to expect this to last past Year 9!) and can overwork their homework. Most teachers will recommend an amount of time to spend on a particular assignment. Review that timetable with your child, and speak to the teacher if they consistently go over the recommended time.

By Christmas, hopefully, you’ll have been through the worst of it.

In fact, as often as not, the simple act of returning after the first half-term makes what was once so strange and scary seem familiar. Regardless of when it happens, though, remember, as Raffray says “Every child really is unique; that’s not just the school talking.”

WHAT I WISH I’D KNOWN

What I Wish I'd Known

TO BE A PARENT IS TO BE BLINDSIDED BY QUESTIONS such as, why do men have nipples? Do the people at the bottom of the world fall off it? Is the orange man with the weird hair going to be president of America? The parent charter reads that you will have ready answers. This is why Google and Siri are up there with A&E staff and good teachers as vital parent go-tos. (As regards Donald Trump, your child’s judgement will be every bit as valid as any psephologist’s.)

When we have children we are told to follow our intuition. Might that be the same intuition that tells us tequila slammers are a good idea? As the new school year starts City Kids brings you the best pieces of parenting advice that we have gleaned from friends, family and those we admire.

BABIES

  • You will not go to hell for not being able to breastfeed.
  • You will treat your first baby like Granny’s fine china, the last one like a rugby ball. Both are ok.
  • Parenting books have the capacity to induce panic rather than quell it.
  • Place a coverless hot water bottle on a wet mattress to dry it out.
  • Marketeers are good at their jobs. Do not listen to them. You do not need special pots for freezing baby food. Ditto nappy bins that stop the smell. A baby bath? WTF…
  • If you have a daughter, Google the comedic genius Tina Fey’s Prayer for My Daughter. She provides no answers but knowing that Tina Fey fears the same stuff as us is comfort enough.

PARENTING

  • Try not to judge the actions of fellow parents. Particularly if they have children older than yours.
  • When a child asks you a difficult question, buy yourself some time and ask them, ‘What do you think?’
  • Cinderella got it right (in the 2015 film version with Lily James, at least). The tenets to being a good person are to have courage and be kind. Twofold, simple and yet über clever.
  • Children make mistakes. You need to figure out how to pick up the pieces.
  • Nature and nurture – the debate still rages. What is important is that the nurture fits the nature.
    Children will copy what you do, not what you tell them to do.
  • Children are people. Often their ideas, unfettered by the negativity of age, will be better than yours. Often they will be terrible.
  • If you’re going to call a girl bossy, make sure the same behaviour in a boy warrants the same adjective. Swap the child’s gender in your head and save them from negative gender stereotyping.
  • Treat siblings as a team, not as competitors.

PRACTICAL STUFF

  • A rolled-up towel, blanket or swimming noodle placed under the sheet on the side of a bed is the perfect alternative to a plastic bed rail. A pillow on the floor softens any fall.
  • Instead of buying a bigger car when you have your third child, try buying narrower car seats.
  • Write your phone number on your child’s arm or get temporary tattoos with it on for when you are in a crowded place.
  • Get your babysitter to come early enough to cover tea, bath and bed. It’s called getting your money’s worth…
  • The first time you encourage your small child to try fizzy water, lemon and/or ice cream they will pull the best surprised face of their life. This is permitted cruelty.
  • Kitchen roll when upright makes an exemplary ice cream cone stand.
  • A balloon is a winning present every time. It fits in an envelope, can be used for tennis, football, volleyball or wet farting noises.
  • Where you come in a family, oldest, youngest or in the middle, will inform much of your life. It is impossible to know what it’s like to be someone of a different rank.
  • Never go the beach without talcum powder – it cleans all sand off sticky, salty bottoms, balls (both kinds) and feet.
  • Wipes. Handbag, kitchen table, car. They are indispensable.
  • Expensive holidays are wasted on children younger than eight. However, they may not be a waste for the exhausted parents.
  • A simple guideline for holidays is that it has to be easier, better and more comfortable than home. The Luxury Family Hotels range in this country is popular for a reason.

EDUCATION

  • Release yourself from the burden of homework by finding a local sixth-former with gumption to lead your child through this minefield.
  • The subject of schools will dominate your conversation for years. You will worry that you haven’t got it right. You will make the best decision possible at the time.
  • Tutors. Eventually you will realise that every child you know is being tutored. The price is exhorbitant.
  • Getting a secondary school place in London is up there with moving house and divorce as far as stress levels go.
  • School clothes do not need to be washed and ironed every day for who is to know if it is today’s dirt and creases or yesterday’s?
  • If you choose/are offered a poor fit of secondary school when your child is 11, you may get a second stab at 13.
  • Academic achievement is overrated. Education is a much broader, rounded effort.
  • If you can (sort of) afford private education for a few years only, make it the middle ones. The longer days and extra-curricular activities will help stem teenage boredom and keep your kids out of trouble.
  • The positive power of sport is jaw-droppingly brilliant. Friendships are born this way. Sport is fun.
  • Sport is for girls too. Read sports journalist Anna Kessel’s Eat Sweat Play to learn why.
  • Good mental and physical wellbeing can, for the most part, be maintained with three things: a good diet, enough exercise and sufficient sleep. This is the non-negotiable holy trinity.

TECHNOLOGY

  • Technology is wonderful when used wisely. If you don’t want your children playing certain games, don’t give them access. Simple…
  • …except if you are being a stick-in-the-mud luddite. Get with the programme.
  • The bedroom is a sanctuary for sleep and, as such, should be a screen- and homework-free zone. (We repeat) sleep is the basis of good physical and mental health. For life.
  • Have a family computer in a living space where the screen can be seen by everyone. You can see what your children are doing online and they will learn the vital skill of being able to work with background noise.
  • Let your children read your phone messages and know your access code. This will give you leverage with their phones. Do as you would be done by.
  • Try to get your child into a sport or hobby when they are young so that they have an interest to distract them from screens when they are teens.
  • You will know you are old when you ask your children how to work every piece of tech you own. Live with it.

This list is not meant to be dictatorial and is certainly not exhaustive. Being a parent, however, is exhausting. Sometimes it all becomes overwhelming. That is when you need to call on your friends and slam those tequilas. You can then discuss the important things in life, such as why do men have nipples? And if you can explain the appeal of an orange man with a seedy comb-over then you have drunk too much. Call a babysitter for the morning after.

BOOK REVIEW AUTUMN 2016

by SHARON FRIED-JONES

PRE-SCHOOL

Hiding Heidi by Fiona Woodcock (Simon & Schuster) Hiding Heidi
This gorgeous debut by picture book author and illustrator Fiona Woodcock weaves in a lovely theme of friendship and compromise. Young Heidi loves to play hide and seek and is the mistress of disguise much to the annoyance of her friends. So when she throws a party and decides on the usual party game, her pals search high and low but she’s so good at hiding they continue the party without her making Heidi realise that it’s time to include the games all her friends like to play.

Beautifully illustrated by Woodcock who has worked on animated films, commercials, and West End shows, her whimsical style still packs a punch whilst subtly celebrating the skills that all children possess.


PRIMARY

Everybody Feels… Sad! by Moira Butterfield & Holly Sterling (QED Publishing) Everybody Feels... Sad
Great for tackling emotions, the Everybody Feels series explore different feelings children may be experiencing in an approachable and relatable way. In Everybody Feels…Sad! the book is divided into two separate stories told from the child’s point of view. One features a girl called Chloe who has lost her toy elephant and the other is about a young boy called Omar whose cat has to be put to sleep. Both stories look at why the characters are sad and how that sadness is resolved (Chloe’s pet is found, Omar gets two kittens), but it also gives brilliant practical advice for parents on how to work through sadness, whatever the situation. This includes tips on discussion points, using art and role-play to help facilitate their emotions. With warm illustrations that bring to life very real circumstances this is a must for helping children navigate the ups and downs in life.

The series also includes feeling scared, happy, and angry.


Nature’s Tiny Miracle: Bee by Britta Teckentrup (Little Tiger) Nature's Tiny Miracle: Bee
Another stunning book by the uber talented Britta Teckentrup. A joy to read on so many levels it charts the amazing work of the not so humble bee. With ever decreasing numbers, this book is a stark reminder of the vital work they do as we follow our bee from flower to flower. Teckentrup’s work is a visual delight and every page features a cut out where you can peep through and see our bee in action.

Coupled with her intricate collage work the tale is told through rhyme with the closing sentences summing the whole book up nicely: “As the bees fly on through buds and burrs, a tiny miracle occurs. For every plant and flower you see was given life by one small bee.”

JUNIOR

Alpha, Bravo Charlie Alpha, Bravo Charlie: The Complete Book of Nautical Codes by Sara Gillingham (Phaidon)


Nonfiction topics are going through a much-needed resurgence and this visually arresting reference book takes the subject of nautical codes to a whole new level and brings them to life. Any child with a love of boats will find this hugely fascinating as it details the phonetic alphabet, morse code, flag meaning, semaphore facts about a variety of boats. I’m not sure how handy it would be knowing the ‘Keep clear of me: I am engaged in trawling’ flag will be on a day trip down the Thames, but there is plenty of flags which could be made on a rainy day to reenact any given circumstance.

One for geeky girls and boys who loves facts and hand signals.


The Other Alice by Michelle Harrison The Other Alice
Everyone can relate to writing a story and not finishing it – imagine if that story held the clues to a mystery. That’s the premise of this gripping drama written by the award-winning Michelle Harrison. When Alice goes missing, it’s down to her brother Midge to find her. But where to begin? When he discovers a novel she hadn’t completed, The Museum of Unfinished Tales, it’s down to him to uncover the clues and track her whereabouts. The problem is the villains in her tale have come to life and are loose in the town. Can Midge and his friends Gypsy and Piper (also characters from the story) find Alice before it’s too late?

This is a genuinely, page turning read. Harrison keeps the story moving on at a fast pace, there’s also enough intrigue and suspense by the bucket load. Plus, there’s enough magic realism to add another layer of interest. A cracking read.


SECONDARY

Here I stand: Stories that Speak for Freedom Here I stand
For those young adults who are socially aware and politically-minded this collaboration between Amnesty International and Walker will be just the ticket. Written by twenty-five celebrated authors and illustrators including Neil Gaiman, Matt Haig, Sarah Crossan, Chris Riddell and Frances Hardinge, this collection of stories and poems keeps alive the debate around human rights.

Despite the fact that many rights and freedoms have been won, there’s still a long way to go and this book reminds of that fact. Told with a mix of humour, sadness and truth, they all have a powerful and poignant theme running through them as they explore topics such as execution, war and people who are marginalised in society. An truly thought-provoking read for teens and adults alike. All royalties go to Amnesty International and you can follow the debate on #hereIstand

MUM BOSS: ADELLE SMITH

Baked

Mum Boss: Adelle Smith

In our new series looking at working parents, we meet Adelle Smith to discover how she turned baking with her son at home into an award-winning business working alongside the likes of Google, Virgin and Nintendo.

 

How did it all start?

BKD launched in 2014, in my kitchen in Shoreditch. What started as fun at home with my kids, swiftly grew and I had to rebase from my home, with my baking classes, to local haunts such as Hoxton Hotel, hosting corporate events, private birthday parties, creating bespoke cookies and styling photo-shoots

After establishing the events side of my business, I turned my attention to creating a collection of creative baking kits for children. I wanted to create a collection that encapsulated the BKD spirit of fun, teaching children kitchen basics and fuelling their imaginations. The collection launched in May last year and we are now stocked by lots of lovely kids boutiques, cook shops and delis, as well as bigger retailers such as Harvey Nichols, Fenwick and the Design Museum.

What makes BKD stand out from the crowd?

BKD’s focus is kids and design. I loved baking with Cai when he was younger, but hated all the baby blue and pink kitschness. We wanted to make fun, unique things like monster cupcakes! We get kids into the kitchen learning essential life skills, fuelling their imaginations, and enable families to have quality time together. Our baking kits make baking super easy, fuss-free, and are made with quality ingredients. Our unisex monochrome packaging shouts out to the crowds and has definitely given us a distinctive look in the children’s market.

What’s a typical day like for you?

There is no typical day! Things change week on week. Recently, there has been a lot of writing and recipe testing for my new book, Baked, and photo shoots for that too. I also make YouTube videos with my boy when we get the time. As a small business owner, I am heavily involved with day to day management, from updating our social media, emailing customers back, paying my staff wages, to helping the team get a corporate biscuit order out the door. In other weeks, I could be doing a personal appearance and demonstration at shows such as BBC Good Food Show or at Big Feastival, entertaining the kids. I really mix things up and love the variety.

Do you love it?

100% yes.

Have you found the holy grail of work/life balance?

It’s funny, as I thought that running my own business would balance well with family life. Whilst it offers me flexibility, I also have to work very hard! There are never enough hours in the day and I often find myself working at night when the kids are in bed. Cai often comes to the bakery to ‘work’. He’s our mini apprentice, always bringing so much fun, chaos and distraction to our day. The ladies are amazing with him, though I have to say, on Fridays I often get a lot less done! But I absolutely love running my own business and being creative; I get such a buzz out of it! I literally never know what’s around the corner. If you told me last year that I’d get a book deal and publish a book this year, I’d have laughed my head off! I feel tired but very lucky 🙂

Where do you get your ideas?

Our kids constantly inspire me and are, of course, my chief tasters! But I also take inspiration from everything around me, fashion, product design, toys, travel, interiors, and trips to the park; I always see something that inspires me. I picked up the sweetest metal chocolate moulds in a market in Essaouira, Morocco. I’m always on the hunt for cool things for the bakery.

Do you ever have ‘me’ time?

I have to say that is a very, very rare thing. Being a mum, a wife, running a business, and writing a book on top of that, it hasn’t left much time for me. I can’t remember the last time I had a haircut! But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love BKD and what I do. I adore my family, and know in time that things will become a bit calmer.

What three words would your kids use to describe you?

Cuddly, fun, bit crazy.

How far would you like to take BKD?

What started as baking at home with my kids has now developed into a brand and business. I would love to keep developing that. It’s been a roller coaster journey from day one. Within a few months of launching, I was thrilled and gobsmacked to hear that I’d made it into the finals in the ‘Best Loved Kids’ Food’ category of the Virgin Foodpreneur competition, where I could meet Richard Branson.

So what can we expect from you in 2016?

We’ve just launched a range of Baking Mixes that we hope to get into supermarkets, opening up another category for us and taking BKD to kitchen cupboard staples. I will also be doing more online video content very soon. I’m really looking forward to getting back in front of the camera. In July, my book, Baked, will be out. So, so much work has gone into it and I’m super excited about promoting it. It still feels surreal to think how far I’ve come with BKD in such a short space of time; it really has changed my life.

Don’t forget that we are giving away 4 fabulous BKD Baking Mixes. Head over to our COMPETITIONS page to enter.

www.bkd-london.com

Adelle Smith BKD Baked Baking Book

BAKED: Amazing Bakes to Create with your Child (Orchard Books, £14.99) will be available from all good bookshops and online from 28th July 2016.

SATURDAY SCIENCE

Richer education

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.

For more information go to www.richereducation.co.uk

DREAMS MADE AT KIDZANIA LONDON

webkidzania

Eight year old Max realised his dream of becoming an estate agent, as he officially opened Hamptons International’s latest branch at KidZania London.

He was invited to open the branch and became its first ‘Junior Estate Agent’ after sending the company a letter asking what qualifications and skills he needed to enter the profession saying “I really want to do this job when I grow up”.

He was invited to cut the red tape alongside KidZania London’s mayor, and went on to make his first sale within the concession.

KidZania London is the UK’s first educational entertainment experience which aims to offer real-life work experiences for 4-14 year olds. You have to see it to believe it. Hamptons International is just one of several global brands including British Airways, Renault, H&M and Cadbury’s which gives children an insight into how their industry works.

london.kidzania.com

hamptonsbranch Hamptons International Opens Branch at KidZania London (8) 150116

THE GREAT SCHOOLS DEBATE

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.

The Great Schools Debate

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.

REALITY CHECK

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 [2014] 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!