Parenting

FEMALE FUTURE: WORK THAT WORKS FOR ALL

City Kids speaks to Christine Armstrong, author of The Mother of All Jobs, to get her take on whether the workplace is changing for the better.

The theme for International Women’s Day this year is #BalanceForBetter, celebrating the work of women, while calling for a more gender-balanced world. The gender pay gap is now a common talking point as stories reveal how men and women have been treated differently over the years.

Only recently, Google’s former UK head revealed she once had to hire a male executive on double her salary. The right to ask for flexible working, which is, incidentally, relevant to men and women, came into force almost two decades ago, but only a small proportion of the UK workforce actually takes the plunge. And still, women are made redundant while on maternity leave, or they return to work to find to find their role isn’t the same as it was.

How did we get to this stage, where many women feel overwhelmed while striving to have it all?

We took the 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. male breadwinner model – think The Tiger Who Came to Tea – that assumed Mummy was at home to care for Sophie and zoo visitors, and do the shopping, washing and cleaning.  And then we added lots of things. We added costs, as house prices quadrupled in twenty years, to all the adults, who normally work to pay the bills.  We also added ‘always on’ as a lot of people are connected to work from when they wake until when they sleep. Then we added more out-of-home time as we moved a bit further away from our families and lengthened our commutes. We left in the fact that women are still more responsible for childcare, generally, and the house, than men. The structures that care for our kids was left unchanged. Nursery care is extortionate, and schools still finish mid-afternoon, with kids getting three months of holiday a year.

Piss, I’ve just depressed myself.

What’s your message to the Sheryl Sandberg’s [Facebook COO & founder of Leanin.org] of the world?

It is great to be positive and encouraging, and to support other women. It is well-intentioned and designed to ensure more women get to the top so we can change things. But the unintended consequence is that families all over the world are feeling like failures. They tried leaning in, getting the best childcare they could afford and being better organised, but they still can’t make it work. I worry that, if we only hear from women at the very top of their professions, in terms of seniority and income, we miss out on hearing from millions of other families who can’t afford professional support (nannies, cleaners, housekeepers), can’t take control their own time and are finding it unbelievably tough going.

I want to say to those women and their partners: it’s not you and your family that can’t do this. The system wasn’t designed to work this way and if we keep saying everything is peachy, then we’ll never get around to changing it.

What is the biggest barrier to improving the work environment for women and parents?

There isn’t one barrier: you have to look at childcare hours, availability and costs, the lack of flexible options in most work, the mismatch between work and school days and our cultural expectations around what demonstrates ‘commitment’ at work.  Too often that is judged on the total number of hours worked. And in a world which is always on, you’ll burn out if you work every hour of the day and try to care for a family. If I had to focus on just one area, I would look at the total number of hours people work. Not their contractual hours – which often look perfectly reasonable on paper – but the actual numbers of hours they are connected to work – and figure out how to manage that.

What advice would you have for someone wanting to talk to their boss about flexible working?

I cite Karen Mattison of Timewise here: describe the benefits that you bring before the hours that you work. For example, I will deliver X and Y and Z on time and on budget. I will be in the office for three days a week and work from home, being fully contactable, on Monday and Friday.

What more can be done to bridge the gender pay gap?

We need to change the way we work for both men and women so that everyone can work in a focused and highly productive way, but also turn off and do other things when they are not working. Too often we celebrate people who are seen to work many, many hours, even if many of those hours are not productive and their tired, stressful reactions to things may not deliver the best answers.

One thing I want to see more work on is how we use technology. Too often people say they cannot switch off their electronic devices because they may ‘block’ progress on a sale or a project. We need to use technology better so that things can move forward within a team without everyone always having to be engaged all the damned time.

Friends just moved to work in Denmark and are astonished to find everyone starts at 8 a.m. and leaves work at 3 or 4 p.m. to collect kids and have dinner with them. Yet the OECD says that Nordic countries are 10-20% better off in terms of GDP becausethey enable more mums to work. We see letting people leave work early as an indulgence when the irony is that we could work fewer hours and actually do better as a country, and within our own businesses and households.

Why aren’t men judged in the same way as women?

Many people are struggling to come to terms with the fact that the male breadwinner model many of us grew up with – when, if mums did work, they tended to work in lower paid/more local roles – doesn’t really work anymore if you want to live in the kind of place your parents could live in on one income. We don’t have the social support to enable parents to both work and care for their kids: for example, early years care is extortionate in this country and pushes many women out of work, then making them ineligible for the 30 free hours during term time when they could get it.

Our current leaders in business and politics have tended to live and thrive in the old model and don’t fully appreciate the pressures of the way we work now. Even women I interview in their 50s and 60s who have had good careers say that they had the advantage of being able to leave the office at 5 p.m. and then not be interrupted at home. They report how much more difficult it got after email, computer/laptops at home and BlackBerries came in.

I always say though that, having interviewed a lot of men, they are not the winners in this either. Many younger men know the way their dads worked won’t work for them and want to be more involved at home but find their work places unsupportive of them. Older men often resent having to be ‘the breadwinner’. If both genders are to work, both must also be able to care.

Do you think you’ve found the balance of work and parenting?

This stuff is like dieting. One day you eat cod and salad and feel like you’re on it and the next you accidentally wolf down a cheeseburger and chips, followed by a box of Lindt truffles. The truth is that we have three young kids and run two businesses… When my parents took our kids before Christmas for a week it was mind-blowing. We couldn’t believe how much time and energy we had.

Every day, our children rightly demand our time and attention, and giving it to them is always a compromise between their needs and everything else we want and need to do. That said, I feel very lucky to spend so much time around home and the girls’ school. I do drop-offs and pick-ups most days, I am fully embedded in the week’s schedule of clubs, playdates and homework – and that is very different to when I held a full-time corporate role. Aside a student babysitter who helps cover pick-ups and swimming classes once or twice a week, my husband and I share the childcare between us.

Do you think anything significant will change for women in the work place in the next 10 years?

If – big if – we keep talking loudly about the challenges of the current system (for men and women) and the research that shows we can be more productive in less time, then I am optimistic we can move to fewer working hours, but more productive ways of working. If we spout the same old rubbish about just working harder and women ‘choosing to have babies’ as part of their ‘lifestyle’, nothing will change.

USEFUL RESOURCES:

www.cipd.co.uk
www.fawcettsociety.org.uk
www.pregnantthenscrewed.com
www.acas.org.uk
www.equalityadvisoryservice.com
www.doingitforthekids.net

 

Cool Things for Kids

Our weekly round-up of things that have caught our eye in the City Kids office this week.

Play and Go storage bags

Play & Go is a Belgian-based company offering clever, colourful and inspiring products for your kids and home. We think their Storage Bags are a great idea.

Made from 100% cotton these hard-wearing bags allow you to literally scoop up toys and neatly tidy them away. Plus, they also double up as a playmat and come in a range of lovely prints and designs. The perfect addition to any little one’s bedroom or playroom. Find them at Kidly.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

BabyBjörn’s Soft Selection 

BabyBjörn has just launched a new collection specially developed for those very first days with a newborn baby. The Soft Selection features a new super-soft fabric specially created by BabyBjörn called 3D Jersey that gently hugs the newborn baby whilst at the same time providing the proper support.

For years the Swedish brand has been a firm favourite with parents who rave about their practical, stylish designs. These new additions have been created from the feedback from their customers who like the concept of really soft, snuggly fabric.

Consisting of the Baby Carrier Mini (from £79.99) and Bouncer Bliss (from £145), the Soft Selection comes in muted, warm colours and cuddly jersey and a soft, lightweight breathable mesh.

Perfect for those precious early months when little ones are really tiny.

 

 

Mint Velvet’s Minty Collection

For nine years Mint Velvet has been a go-to brand for great casual separates. Now it has turned its hand to childrens wear creating their first collection for girls aged three to ten, ‘Minty’.

Think pink jumpsuits, star print sweatshirts, denim and some super-cool prints. Underpinned with that same easy aesthetic as its main women’s wear collection, the fabrics are easy to care for and the pieces coordinate perfectly.

We love this super-stylish collection so much that we kind of wish some of it came in grow-up sizes too!

New Range from Aspace

Aspace has been creating inspirational children’s rooms for over 20 years. Their furniture range is great – bright and fun but also practical and sturdy. We love the clever storage solutions they offer with cupboards and shelving built into beds.  They have a few ranges to choose from so whether you want the modern Scandi style or prefer a more traditional look, there is something to suit everyone. The new catalogue is out now and if you sign up to their online newsletter Aspace are offering £20 off any orders over £150.

If you’re thinking of kitting out your kids’ bedroom, then definitely check out the website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WE LOVE

Every issue we highlight brands and products from businesses that WE LOVE. Our Spring issue is no exception. And as it’s our birthday, this time you can win them all! Scroll down to find out how.

 

Dandy Dill Way

Dandydill Way founder, Tania Rodney, has done it again! Her new Cleansing Mousse is soap-free, mild, yet effective at cleaning grubby faces. Check out the new Face Moisturiser too, containing hyaluronic acid and leaving no greasy residue. It may be for the kids, but we’ll bet some parents will be swiping these goodies!
From £22.50
www.dandydillway.com

London Learning

History Heroes’ LONDON quiz card game is packed with facts and illustrations outlining forty of the greatest characters in the capital’s history. Win the game by collecting the most cards.
£9.99
www.historyheroes.co.uk

Busy Not Board

The price tag is hefty, but the different play options are huge. Devised by a father for his son, these boards encourage open play with a range of toys that fit into the wall board. Designed to last from baby to pre-schoolers.
From £129
www.mymuro.com

Home Comforts

Hibou Home have released a new bed linen collection for kids which is made from 100% organic cotton as well as being OEKO Tex certified – that’s safe for children’s skin and kind to the planet too. These Flora bed sets are available in Junior and Adult sizes.
From £55
www.hibouhome.com

Happy Memories

Already a Gift of the Year nominee, The Book of Youis a stylish memory book for children and their grown-ups. Record moments over the year via a series of fun questions to build a lasting memento for years to come.
£20.00
www.colourchronicles.com

Top of the Plops!

(Couldn’t resist!) Who Did This Poois a hilarious way for children to learn about different animals. Did you know that Wombats poo in cubes or that there’s an animal which has sparkly poo? Enough said.
£12.99

www.laurenceking.com

 

Giveaway time!

If you like what you see and you’d like to get your hands on this stash, please head to our Competitions page. Good luck!

CK Reviews: Cloud Twelve Club

City Kids editor Morag Turner on London’s latest club for families and why these places are great for both kids and parents.

For over a decade private members clubs for families have been popping up all over London. The concept being that you can relax in a home-from-home environment with your little ones, enjoying classes, events and a sense of community with like-minded parents. Think Soho House for the under-fives and with a soft play area.

These are truly nice places to be. Yes, there will be plenty of toddlers running around screaming (this is not the world you inhabited pre-kids after all) but the décor will be stylish and you can have a decent coffee while your children have a ball.

Something I realised a long time ago is that it’s perfectly acceptable for mums to want to have just as nice a time as their kids. Yet all too often it seems to keep our little ones entertained we have to compromise – sitting in cold church halls, shaking a tambourine and getting a custard cream at the end of it. Not exactly what we’d imagined hanging out with our little darlings would be like.

This is where the world of private members clubs for families comes in, offering a nice balance between kiddie fun and happy mums. Something increasing numbers of parents are very happy to pay for.

So when I got an email asking me if I’d like to visit London’s newest one, I couldn’t wait to take a look. Cloud Twelve is located just off Westbourne Grove in Notting Hill. It differs from the similar clubs as, while it has fantastic facilities for little members, there is also a real focus on their parents too with a spa, salon, wellness centre and adults only restaurant.

Our visit to Cloud Twelve

It was a cold, wet February day when my four-year-old son and I visited, but as we walked through the door it felt like we stepped into summer. The amazing Family Zone on the ground floor is home to a beautifully designed and well laid out play area with a nature theme. A tree house to climb in with a slide down to a pirate ship ball pool and a giant ladybird to crawl inside for a sensory light experience. The stuff of pre-school dreams.

Off the main play area are smaller rooms filled with immaculate toys and books that are used for classes and a creche, as well as a craft room that most A-level arts students would be enthralled by. My little Picasso couldn’t wait to start painting and sticking.

We had lunch at the café in the Family Zone which offers varied and delicious vegan menu. I’m not vegan but try to cut out meat two or three days a week – if I was coming here regularly I’d mange it with ease. Fresh, healthy dishes that were also genuinely tasty. My little boy wolfed down his vegan mac and cheese.

Next it was time for me to pop upstairs for a treatment in the spa. I felt perfectly happy leaving my son with two of the ‘play buddies’ – fully qualified child carers who not only look after, but also seem to really engage the children. Of course he didn’t even notice I was gone, such was the excitement of hanging out with his new grown up buddy and such the selection of toys available.

The amazing spa

Even though Cloud Twelve inhabits an old building there is absolutely no sign of that whatsoever from within. The spa resembles one you would expect to find in a five-star resort in the Maldives albeit without the outside space. The treatment rooms are huge and luxuriously fitted out, complete with Dolomites quartz beds ‘to help promote a deeper state of relaxation’. The thermal area with its sauna, steam and salt room is positively dreamy.

They offer an extensive range of treatments and I opted for a full body massage, which was every bit as wonderful as the setting. Afterwards popped into the upstairs brassiere (which is adults only) for a cup of herbal tea. Next to this area is the salon for blow dries, manicures and pedicures.

What’s great about this entire adults’ area is that it’s open to anyone. While the Family Zone is members only, anyone can use the spa and salon. It struck me that this would the perfect place to pop into before a night out in central London – arrive harassed mum, leave feeling (and looking) a million dollars.

There is also a wellness clinic offering holistic treatments and alternative therapies such as acupuncture, osteopathy and colonic hydrotherapy. It too is open to the public. I didn’t sample any of these, but they club manager told me they have some London’s best practitioners available to book.

Cloud Twelve is a lovely family-friendly oasis in the heart of the Notting Hill. The price tag is steep with memberships starting from £2000 per year, but that’s no more than many other adults-only private members clubs all over the city.

We both loved our day there. Needless to say, my son didn’t want to leave (neither did I to be honest) and I would definitely pop back in again to use the spa.

Why Family Clubs are so good

My visit reminded me of the days when I was a member at Cupcake in Putney, a mum and baby club that I joined when my first son was a little baby nearly 11 years ago.

It offered a selection of baby classes (yoga, music, massage etc) along with fitness classes for mums and a creche where you could leave your little one while you worked off the baby weight. There was also a café to chill out in. An interior designer had clearly been involved, there were comfy chairs and great food on offer – like the places I chose to spend time in before I had a baby but with a family-friendly twist.

It was a great club though things have definitely moved on – I seem to remember us eating a lot of brownies that were definitely not vegan but that was well before the ‘clean eating’ revolution.

I made wonderful mum mates who became, and still are to this day, some of my closest friends. A decade and several kids later, and we still meet up regularly and holiday together.

With time we grew out of Cupcake as these places are great for a period in your life when you have very young children, but less so when they go to school and/or you return to work.

But I look back so fondly on the time I spent there, enjoying time with my baby and making friends. Never once did I feel bored or isolated as so many new mums do in the early days because I always had somewhere to pop into, even if it was just me and my son. A godsend when you are adjusting to life with a new baby.

More family clubs in London worth knowing about

The Putney club closed but another branch remains in Cupcake Parsons Green. Lots of mums sign up when still pregnant to enjoy the antenatal fitness classes. A full membership now costs from £139 per month with a one-off joining fee of £99 but they do offer different packages. I’ve never been to this branch, but if it’s anything like the original I’m sure it’s wonderful.

Others private members clubs for families have since opened all over London. As well as Cloud Twelve, there is Maggie and Rose who have branches in Kensington, Chiswick. You’ll find an amazing soft play area, fun kid’s classes and camps, as well as a great café.

Dreamt up by Maggie Bolger and Rose Astor, the idea was to provide a beautiful creative space for children in surroundings that appealed to grown-ups too. The principle clearly works as both London clubs have waiting lists and they are set to open a third in Islington this year. They have even ventured abroad with a club in Hong Kong and one opening in Singapore.

Purple Dragon who have two London clubs in Chelsea and Putney, cater for kids from six months old through to the tween years and are rumoured to have a number of celebrity offspring regulars. Young members have the options of beach club (indoor pool), massive soft play centre, music booth, kitchen (with cooking activities), music room, and art lab. And of course, there is a restaurant for the grow ups to chill out in while their kids are entertained. But these amazing activities and plush surroundings come a at a price. Membership fees are from £450 for 10 visits.

My days of mum and baby clubs are coming to an end now with all of my boys in school full time come September, but I really do think the concept is a good one. Yes, there are fees to pay but by becoming a member of one of these places you open up a world of fun activities to do with your little one all under one (very nicely decorated) roof. Whether you’d pop in every day or just use it on the weekends, these clubs provide a home-from-home environment where mums can connect with other like-minded women and form friendships, which I believe is an essential part of enjoying new motherhood. Joining Cupcake all those years ago was the best thing I have ever signed up to. For the fun, the friends and the wonderful memories of lovely times with my first little one that positively shaped my experience and view of motherhood.

Cool things for kids

NEW! Every week we’re going to bring you a round-up of some of the super cool things we’ve come across for little ones. From toys and games to travel and fashion, we will be sharing the things that have caught our eye in the City Kids office.

 

Doodle Tablecloth

If your kids love nothing more than a colouring book and a set of felt tips then this fab tablecloth would make the perfect present. From alphabet art and garden prints to intergalactic designs and critters to colour, Blue Jigsaw’s new range of Doodle Tablecloths feature five unique and original designs suitable for all ages. Each design comes with a set of wash out pens. Simply colour in, wash and start again. The ideal rainy day activity for little artists. Prices start from £19.

 

 

 

 

 

Playbrush toothbrush

Getting kids to to brush there teeth properly and for long enough can be a struggle. But this great little gadget makes the process more fun and encourages them to be better brushers.

Playbrush is an interactive electric toothbrush that connects via Bluetooth to game apps so children can play fun games with their toothbrush. Once it syncs to the app children use their own toothbrushing movements to paint masterpieces, make music or defeat monsters. This incentivises movement and encourages children to brush all around their mouth, increasing surface coverage. It also  records and assesses how well they are doing. Definitely a cool thing for kids!

The Playbrush Smart Sonic costs £29.99 and includes, 1 Playbrush Smart Sonic, 1 brush head, 1 charging dock and 4 free games.

 

Kid Pix

We just love the beautifully curated edits from Kid Pix, a new subscription box service for gorgeous childrenswear brands such as Patachou, Baby Mori and Dotty Dungarees. The idea is simple. Parents fill in a little online style quiz and from there the clever stylists at Kid Pix will create a bespoke box of six to eight items for boys and girls aged one to five and babies aged 0 to 12 months.

Your beautifully wrapped box will be delivered to your door step. Then it’s up to you what you keep or send back. Either sign up for a one-off or a quarterly subscription. We think this would make a great present idea for a new baby or a special little person.

Nuna CUDL

Founded by a father of two, Dutch brand Nuna is inspired by real parenting adventures for families on the go. Well designed and made from lovely materials, celebrity fans include Miranda Kerr and Gwen Stefani.

The latest addition to the range is their first baby carrier, the CUDL, launching this month. Both stylish and practical carrier makes it easy for you to keep your new born close. Then switches to a backpack as they get bigger. Genuis.  £150

 

Things to do with the kids at half term



It’s here already, but have no fear, we have the best guide to things to do with the kids during half term

 

When it comes to half term, you’re either a planner or a last minute merchant. We’ve rounded up some things to do with the kids during half term which apply to both camps! We’ve drop-ins, activities and workshops for kids of all ages.

ACTIVITIES

HAMLEYS GIANT PLAYGROUND
Celebrating some of this year’s biggest movie releases, kids can meet Emmett, Wildstyle and General Mayhem from The LEGO Movie 2, and join in with the Hamleys’ LEGO Building Workshops, where toy prizes will be awarded to the best builders. Kids can also dress up as a Viking and have their picture taken with Astrid and Hiccup from How to Train Your Dragon: Hidden World. There’s loads more to do daily, but the biggest challenge will be trying to leave the store without a Hamley’s bag!
From 16th February
www.hamleys.com

GIRL POWER!
Trailblazing female composers and musicians are the inspiration of this session, which uses role play and music making to explore topics such as identity and mindfulness. Led by Royal College of Music chamber musicians and a professional workshop leader. Suitable for 7yrs+
16 February
www.rcm.ac.uk

YOUNG CREATIVES TAKEOVER
Through a year long project exploring the theme of Design + Community, this group of Young Creatives will host a day of free workshops, talks and an exhibition of their work responding to the theme.
The day includes opportunities for you to make rope jewellery, cast objects using jesmonite, produce Risograph prints and meet today’s designers working to create change at local level.
17 February
www.designmuseum.org

ROYAL SOCIETY OF SCULPTORS
Experiment with a range of different art materials to create your very own sculptures to take home. Punch holes and thread materials to explore tension and weight. Will your sculpture fall? Or can you achieve perfect balance?
Free drop-in workshop. No need to book.
18 – 19 February
www.sculptors.org.uk

THE POSTAL MUSEUM ACTIVITIES
There’s a full programme of events at The Postal Museum this half term. From arts and craft workshops and storytelling, to live performances and meeting people from the past, there’s loads to get involved with as The Postal Museum celebrates novel ideas and innovative engineering feats.
18 – 24 February
www.postalmuseum.org

POP UP PERFORMANCE
Come and watch the Nightingale Game: a re-invention of a classic tale; a world where the real and the virtual meet; a world of shadows and songs; an epic journey. Are you ready to play? Performance duration approximately 40 minutes starting at 11.00, 13.00 & 15.00.
18 – 22 February
www.vam.ac.uk

CREATE AND MAKE
This February half term, create a community garden around a model tower block, in this special paper-craft activity created by Designer-In-Residence Hester Buck. Common ground is land that everyone can use as they choose. How these spaces are designed and what activities happen on this land is decided by the people who use it. The large areas of green spaces that surround some social housing tower blocks are open to everyone, so some communities choose to use them as a common community garden.
18 – 22 February
www.designmuseum.org

ADVENTURE TO THE DEEP
Kids will dive through a reef, come face-to-face with a giant squid and see if they have what it takes to survive 3,000 metres below the surface. This immersive show highlights the importance of the oceans and demonstrates why it’s never been more vital to help protect this amazing habitat.
Best for children aged 7+.
19 – 21 February
www.nhm.ac.uk

The Music Lesson, Lord Frederic Leighton, 1877

GUILDHALL ART GALLERY AND THE CHARTERHOUSE
On 20th February a special family event presents Life as a Victorian Child, inspired by Guildhall Art Gallery’s exhibition Seen & Heard, which features 50 Victorian paintings to explore the changing role of children in Victorian painting. Meeting at Guildhall Art Gallery at 11am, children will be able to create their own family portrait, and then travel onto nearby Charterhouse to experience life as a Victorian school child. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Suitable for children aged 5 – 13 and their families.
20th February
www.cityoflondon.gov.uk

DISCOVERY DAY – BRILLIANT BIRDS
Drop in any time between 11am and 3pm in Hyde Park to take part in a host of exciting activities including:
Making a bird feeder to take home with you
Following our bird Discovery Trail and learning facts about our feathered friends
Donning some binoculars and taking part in some bird watching in our grounds
Building a nest box (£10, limited availability).
20 February
www.royalparks.org.uk

SHARKY & GEORGE UV TAKEOVER
Sharky & George are turning The Village Hall at Battersea Fire Station into a glow-in-the-dark playground for the whole family. This half term, take the whole gang for an hour of crazy activities under UV lights. Play with UV slime, create potions, build a solar system, rockets and get your face painted with glow-in-the-dark paint. There’s so much to try, see and do.
23 – 24 February
www.batterseapowerstation.co.uk

New screen time advice for parents

The government’s Chief Medical Officer has published new screen time advice for parents and carers

 

We’ve all known for long time that social media is not good for children. But for the first time ever the government’s Chief Medical Officer has published new social media and screen time advice for parents, carers children and young people.

These include leaving phones outside the bedroom when it’s bedtime, screen-free mealtimes and having family conversations about social media.

“Time spent online can be of great benefit to children and young people, providing opportunities for learning and skills development, as well as allowing young people to find support and information. But we need to take a precautionary approach and our advice will support children to reap these benefits and protect them from harm.” Professor Dame Sally Davies Chief Medical Officer for England.

86% of 7 to 11s are online

According to a recent study by Internet Matters 43% of those aged between 10 and 13 now use social networking sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat and 86% of children aged 7 to 11 use some kind of online communication, often without their parents having any knowledge of them doing so.

And a recent survey by the BBC’s Newsround found that more than three-quarters of younger children at primary-leaving age were using at least one social media network. A terrifying statistic when you realise just how much children can be exposed to the minute they log on.  70 million photos are shared on Instagram every day, many of which will be entirely unsuitable for little eyes. Offensive and inappropriate material is only one click away.

Professor Dame Sally Davies’ view is that companies too have a responsibility to keep children safe online.

“Technology is an unavoidable aspect of modern life and technology companies have a duty of care. They must make more effort to keep their users safe from harm, particularly children and young people.”

So what is the advice?
  • Sleep matters. Getting enough, good quality sleep is very important. Leave phones outside the bedroom when it is bedtime.
  • Talking helps: Talk with your children about using devices and what they are watching. A change in behaviour can be a sign they are distressed – make sure they know they can always speak to you or another responsible adult if they feel uncomfortable with screen or social media use.
  • Safety when out and about. Advise children to put their screens away while crossing the road or doing an activity that needs their full attention!
  • Sharing sensibly. Parents and children should talk about sharing photos and information online and how photos and words are sometimes manipulated. Parents should never assume that their children are happy for their photos to be shared. For everyone – when in doubt, don’t upload!
  • Keep moving! Everyone should take a break after a couple of hours sitting or lying down using a screen #sitlessmovemore
  • Education matters. Make sure you and your children are aware of, and abide by their school’s policy on mobile phones/personal devices.
  • Use helpful phone features. Some devices and platforms have special features – try using these features to keep track of how much time you (and with their permission, your children) spend looking at a screen or on social media.
  • Family time together. Screen-free meal times are a good idea – you can enjoy face-to-face conversation, with adults giving their full attention to children.

The guidelines are not prescriptive. Just as every child is an individual, and every family is different, every family’s approach to technology must be equally unique. Instead, the Chief Medical Officer is encouraging every family to have a conversation about screen time and social media, and has developed a series of pointers for parents and carers based on research evidence on child and adolescent development.

Conversation pointers:

Supported by the CMO and produced by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health these are ideas to help them make decisions about their screen use:

  • Is our family’s screen time under control?
  • Does screen use interfere with what our family want to do?
  • Does screen use interfere with sleep?
  • Are we able to control snacking during screen time?
Ongoing support
  • Charities such as the NSPCC are urging parents to make online awareness as high a priority as road safety. They have some fantastic resources for parents and schools.
  • The UK Council for Internet Safety has developed a framework to equip children and young people for digital life and guidance for parents on minimising their child’s risk of online harms.
  • The UK Safer Internet Centre has developed a platform where people can report harmful content online if they are not satisfied with the result of their report to social media providers. For illegal content, reports should be made to the police and online to the Internet Watch Foundation
  • The UK Safer Internet Centre have partnered with Childnet International to create specific guidance on Keeping under 5s safe online.
  • Children’s Mental Health Week helps to tackle childhood anxiety and depression which can be brought on by social media, cyber bullying and other online behaviours.

Images courtesy: NSPCC and Department of Health and Social Care

 

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

 

MOROCCAN BAKED CHICKEN PARCELS

by Jo Pratt


When time is short (that’s most of the time then!) and I want a home cooked, nutritious meal for all the family, this is often my go-to recipe. It uses accessible ingredients, is really quick to prep and involves minimal washing up. Furthermore, you can cook them immediately or leave them in your fridge to cook later which means you can cook them to suit the various comings and goings in your house.
I’ve given you the Moroccan inspired recipe here but there are numerous flavour combinations to suit your family’s tastes or ingredient availability (see PS at the end of the recipe). Now my children are a bit bigger, I’ll make four parcels from this recipe, but you might find you can get six parcels if you have smaller tummies to fill. Cook them all and put any leftovers in the freezer for heating up another day.
The parcels work very well as a complete meal in one – so there’s no need to make extra side dishes. That said, some couscous, pasta, rice or crusty bread are always a welcome addition.

PREPARATION TIME 15 minutes
COOKING TIME 30 minutes
SERVES 4

  • 4 skinless chicken breasts
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tbsp grated root ginger
  • 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
  • 1 x 400g tin drained tinned chickpeas or cannellini beans
  • 100g dried raisins, sultanas or chopped apricots
  • 200g green beans, halved
  • 1-2 tsp harissa paste
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • flaked sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • large handful pitted black or green olives (optional)
  • small handful of shelled pistachio nuts, roughly chopped (optional)
  • few sprigs of fresh coriander (optional)

Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7 and put a large baking tray in the oven to heat.

Take four large pieces of grease proof paper or kitchen foil and fold each one in half to make it double thickness. Tightly fold together two of the edges to seal, creating a pouch, making sure there are no gaps for the food to escape when cooking. Secure the folds using a stapler if using greaseproof paper. Alternatively, buy baking/roasting bags from supermarkets that are ready to use and a real time saver.

Slice each chicken breast into 3-4 pieces and set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together all of the remaining ingredients, apart from the pistachios and coriander. Season with a little salt and pepper. Divide between the four parcels and put a sliced chicken breast into each one, pushing down into the sauce to cover. Seal the parcels by folding over the open top, or using an oven-proof tie or string, leaving some air in them for steam to circulate when cooking. The parcels are now ready to cook straight away or store in the fridge until required.

Put the parcels directly on top of the baking tray you’ve been heating in the oven, slightly spaced apart, and cook for 30 minutes. By now the chicken will be tender and juicy and the sauce thickened. When cooked, split open the parcels onto bowls/plates and serve scattered with pistachios and coriander

Be creative and switch the flavours around:

GREEK CHICKEN PARCELS swap the harissa for 2 tsp olive tapenade and switch the ground coriander for dried oregano. Serve scattered with some feta cheese and serve with bulgur wheat.

INDIAN CHICKEN PARCELS swap the harissa for 1 tbsp curry paste and omit the olives and pistachios. Scatter the top with flaked almonds and serve with some mango chutney and naan bread or rice.

ITALIAN CHICKEN PARCELS Omit the ginger, harissa, raisins, coriander and cinnamon and use 2 tbsp pesto, 2 chopped anchovies (optional), 1 tsp balsamic vinegar and a pinch of sugar instead. Serve with parmesan cheese and garlic bread or pasta.

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.

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

 

 

AFTER SCHOOL BARS

Jo Pratt gives us a quick, easy and healthy recipe for After School Bars which can be made in advance, and also taken to school as they’re nut-free.


“I’m hungry, have you got anything to eat?”… that’s what I hear pretty much every day at school pick up – and not just from my own children.  I’m sure we’ve all been there and resorted to giving them something you’ve quickly grabbed from the ‘treat drawer’ on your way out of the house or from the local shop.

The problem is by the time you get home they are hungry again. As a result you then hear yourself say (again) that you must look for a healthier snack to give to them that will satisfy their hunger for longer.
So with that in mind, when City Kids asked me for this issues recipe I thought; it’s a new school year, lets start as we mean to go on. I had a play around with one of my Flapjack recipes and a healthy granola recipe to create these fruity, oaty bars that are packed with slow release energy from the oats and dried fruits. They are much lower in fat than traditional flapjacks, refined sugar-free, don’t contain nuts and better still get the thumbs up from my two children who can be very fussy at times.

Enjoy!

Jo

Makes: 8 bars

Takes: 40 minutes

  • 100g porridge oats
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 225g pitted dates
  • 75g honey or agave syrup
  • 100g tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • finely grated zest ½ orange
  • 40g pumpkin or sunflower seeds (or a mixture of the two)
  • 75g dried fruit (i.e cranberries, cherries, raisins, sultanas, chopped apricot)

Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 4. Line a 20cm x 20 cm square cake tin with greaseproof paper or baking parchment.

Mix together the oats and cinnamon. Spread onto a baking tray and toast the oats in the oven for 10 minutes, shaking the pan halfway through so they evenly toast. Remove from the oven and tip the oats into a bowl.

Put the dates in a food processor and blend until they form a sticky paste. Transfer to the bowl with the oats.  Add the seeds and dried fruit.

Heat the honey or agave syrup, tahini and orange zest in a saucepan until hot but not boiling. Pour into the bowl and mix everything together.

Transfer to the prepared tin and bake in the oven for 20 minutes until the top is golden.

Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out and cooling completely. Cut into 8 rectangle bars and store for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container.

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.

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

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

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!