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ABSOLUTELY EDUCATION PREP & PRE-PREP • SPRING 2018

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Head START

To the WOODS The magic of forest school

Plus…

GO WILD! Our pick of UK activity breaks

BRILLIANT CHOICES FOR EARLY YEARS AND PREP

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SPRING 2018

CONTENTS upfront

14 WHAT'S ON

Fun family events this spring

16 SCHOOL NEWS

Out and about in the world of education

20 WAR FOOTING

The wartime history of Dulwich Prep Cranbrook

22 NEW BOARDERS

Are weekly and flexible boarding models more in tune with modern family life? We investigate

pre-Prep

30 TO THE WOODS

66

We find out why educators (and children) seem to be so wild about forest school

37 MODERN TRADITION At Falcon Boys they blend old and newe

41 MAKING THEIR MARK Why children's art should be taken seriously

Prep

43 LIFE SKILLS

Celebrating children in the here and now

46 JUST BREATHE

A new book offers mindfulness techniques for tots

50 NO BRAINER

How some London girls’ schools are swapping 11+ for a new style of test

53 TAP INTO TECH

Coding is the way to inspire young minds

59 QUESTION TIME

Gabbitas Education experts answer your questions

62 EXPRESS YOURSELF

Art therapy can help children with profound learning difficulties express themselves

S c h o o l’ s O u t

80

70 REAL NEWS

Forget fake news and bad sources, one children’s magazine is dealing in the real thing

74 BOOKS

89

Our top picks for spring 6

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74

EDITOR

Libby Norman ž EDUC ATION SPECI A L IST

Helen Crossman ž

SENIOR SA L ES E X ECU TI V E

Hayden Taylor ž

A DV ERTISING M A NAGER

Andy Mabbitt ž

COMMERCI A L DIR ECTOR

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A RT DIR ECTOR

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SENIOR DESIGNER

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DESIGNER S

Catherine Perkins, Rebecca Noonan ž PRODUCTION M A NAGER

Chris Couchman ž

M A R K ETING M A NAGER

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FINA NCE DIR ECTOR

62

Alexandra Hvid ž

PA TO THE DIR ECTOR S

Kerry Hollingsworth ž DIR ECTOR S

Greg Hughes, Alexandra Hunter ž PUBL ISHING DIR ECTOR

Sherif Shaltout

For advertising enquiries please call 020 7704 0588 or email: andy.mabbitt@zest-media.com

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80 THE MAKING OF ME Laura Dockrill on fun times at Brit School

94 LET'S GO WILD

98 SLEEPOVER POLITICS

How to prepare a successful battleplan to help survive the dreaded sleepover

ABSOLUTELY

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& EP P PR -PRE E PR

NEW STYLE

B OA R DI NG Could it work for your child?

WWW.ZEST.LONDON

Great British activity breaks this spring

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ABSOLUTELY EDUCATION PREP & PRE-PREP • SPRING 2018

79 READING RICHES

A project to help book-poor London children

Head START

To the WOODS The magic of forest school

Plus…

GO WILD! Our pick of UK activity breaks

BRILLIANT CHOICES FOR EARLY YEARS AND PREP

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FRONT COVER Peregrines Pre-Prep School, Putney opens this autumn. See page 16

SPRING 2018

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70 years of teaching children to fly

CON T R IBU TOR S

Laura Dockrill Writer, illustrator and performance poet

Laura Dockrill was born in Brixton and attended the Brit School in Croydon where her friends included Kate Nash and Adele. She writes about her school days on page 80.

Lisa Freedman Journalist and education consultant

Lisa Freedman is an experienced education consultant and analyst, who writes regularly about English education in the national press. She writes about ll+ alternatives on page 50.

Founded in 1947, Bassett House in Notting Hill is a proudly non-selective, co-educational prep school for 3 – 11 year olds. We believe every child can learn to fly. Individual attention combined with our exciting curricular and extra-curricular activities encourage children to think fearlessly and creatively, producing excellent academic results. In the words of Mrs Philippa Cawthorne, the headmistress: ‘The spirit and enthusiasm of our pupils has to be seen to be believed.’ To arrange a visit, please call our registrar, Mrs Thalia Demetriades, on 020 8969 0313 or email registrar@bassetths.org.uk.

Rachel Kelly

Bassett House School 60 Bassett Road London W10 6JP

Writer and mental health campaigner

Rachel Kelly suffered two major depressive episodes in her thirties which have become defining events in her life. She writes about the healing power of poetry on page 66.

020 8969 0313 bassetths.org.uk

8 | E D U C AT I O N P R E P & P R E - P R E P BASSETT.indd 1

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North Bridge House Nursery, Pre-Prep and Prep Schools provide an excellent co-ed, mixed ability educational environment, setting up happy boys and girls for the top London Seniors, year after year. 2017 data from end of Key Stage 1 placed 40% of the Pre-Prep cohort in the top 5% of the country.

North Bridge House Nursery, Pre-Prep & Prep Schools

Prep School pupils do exceptionally well in their 11+ and 13+ Common Entrance assessments, with numerous scholarships for the top Senior Schools in London and the UK. Book an upcoming open event and find out more about 2018 entry.

Open e vents Nu

rsery: 6 March Pre-Pre p: 27 Fe bruary Prep: 4 May & 14 June

Happy and high-achieving. www.northbridgehouse.com/open 020 7428 1520

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FROM THE

EDITOR

W

hile 2018’s Child Mental Health Week (5-11 February) is a national reminder of the importance of nurturing children’s wellbeing, for teachers and parents this issue is a year-round concern. Estimates suggest that three children in every classroom have a mental health condition. With that in mind, this issue explores some of the ways in which we can support young people’s minds, not just educate them. We look at the value of poetry for easing stress and coping with depression (page 66) and a book that aims to teach very young children the power of mindfulness (page 46). While there are many controversies surrounding children’s wellbeing – too much testing, too much hothousing – consensus breaks out when it comes to forest school. Rarely have I talked to so many people in such enthusiastic agreement. Practitioners talk about its ability to give children skills for life – independence, resilience and teamworking – and as an ‘antidote’ to our increasingly urban and regimented world. See what you think on page 30. And if that inspires you and yours to plot your own adventure in the woods, check out our round up of great British activity breaks (from page 94) – places where you can build a campfire, swing through trees and enjoy your own perfect corner of wilderness.

L I B BY N O R M A N Editor

BOARDERS AT BEAUDESERT, SEE P22

SPRING 2018

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Becoming the best we can be…

“The school is extremely successful in fulfilling its aims of providing an academically challenging and fulfilling all-round education” ISI inspection

ORWELL PARK SCHOOL

Leading Independent Prep School Co-educational Boarding and Day 2½ to 13 t: 01473 659225 admissions@orwellpark.org www.orwellpark.co.uk Orwell Park, Nacton, Ipswich, Suffolk IP10 0ER

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Up Front S C H O O L N E WS p . 1 6 • N E W B OA R D E R S p . 2 2

A PUPIL FROM BEAUDESERT PARK SCHOOL

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W H AT ’ S ON

B E H I N D TH E SC E N E S M U S EU M EVE NTS Exciting educational events to entertain them this spring

NATIONAL GALLERY

Highlights for early spring, including Southbank's Imagine Children's Festival

Pop-up Portraits 12-15 February National Gallery

MUSEUM OF LONDON

Drop in to the National Gallery to try your hand at portrait painting, watched over by the faces created by some of the most famous artists in history. nationalgallery.org.uk

Archaeology Detectives Until 15 March Museum of London

BASPHOTO / SHUTTERSTOCK

EDITOR’S PICK

Turn detective by examining archaeological artefacts of everyday London life at this drop-in object handling event for families with children aged 3+ museumoflondon.org.uk

Imagine Children’s Festival Until 18 Febuary • Southbank Centre

Super heroes, snails, and scientists are just some of the elements at Southbank Centre's Imagine Children's Festival 2018. This celebration of stories, poetry, comedy, music, games and theatre is high-energy fun for children aged up to 12. southbankcentre.co.uk

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Explorers Family Tours various dates

London Transport Museum, Acton Depot Family tours designed for children aged 5-11 let you explore the vast vintage collection. Booking essential. Children free; adults £5. ltmuseum.co.uk

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Up Front

EDITOR’S PICK

EVENTS

CIRQUE DU SOLEIL OVO Until 4 March Royal Albert Hall

SYLVAIN DELEU

Perfect for budding entomologists and for circus lovers alike, this set piece by Cirque du Soleil hurls the audience headlong into the wonderful world of creepy crawlies. Ants, fleas, spiders and crickets are among the mini beasts reinvented by the talented team. Look out for the amazing red ants (performed by an all-female crew from China) and the wild trapeze antics of the scarab beetles. cirquedusoleil.com/ovo

DREAM ON

HISTORY LIVE

From 10 February V&A Museum of Childhood

elve into dreamworld at the Museum of Childhood. Th is new exhibition, Dream On, explores the notion that our dreams have the ability to bring inanimate objects to life, immersing us in a world of wild possibilites in the middle of the day, or as this is more commonly known, a daydream. A family event to fi re the imagination and inspire fresh takes on what 'real life' is all about. Cambridge Heath Road, E2 vam.ac.uk

D

VICTORIA & ALBERT MUSEUM, LONDON

Until 25 February V & A Museum of Childhood

ebruary is your last chance to view the V & A's breathtaking exhibition detailing the life of worldrenowned children's author, Michael Morpurgo, the creator of classics such as War Horse. It showcases original letters and unpublished manuscripts – and even gives you the opportunity to meet the Joey puppet from the West End production of War Horse. vam.ac.uk

F

3 Great Shows to Catch H A R E & TH E TO R TO I S E

B E A R A N D B U T TE R F LY

J O E Y ' S C I RC U S

See a fabulous and fresh take on Aesop's classic fable at the Lyric Theatre. The award-winning adaptation will have you on the edge of your seat. Who will win this time? Lyric Square, W6; lyric.co.uk

A charming tale following friendship and the strength of a bond between two very unlikely allies, Bear and Butterfly will have you laughing and crying simultaneously. 40 High St, TW8; theatrehullabaloo.org.uk

Everyone knows Punch and Judy, but do we know where they came from? Step back into Punch's past with this fun adaptation aboard a barge on the river Thames. Blomfield Road, W9; puppetbarge.com

13-17 February Lyric Theatre

13-17 February Watermans Art Centre

Until 18 March Puppet Theatre Barge

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SCHOO L N EWS H AT S O F F Top Story

Famous milliner, Philip Treacy, visited Putney High School recently to talk about his career. He brought with him original pieces he created for Isabella Blow, Sarah Jessica Parker and the Harry Potter films. A strong advocate of the creative arts in education, Treacy said: “ Encouragement is everything”.

ELECTRIC IDEA Felsted Prep School pupil Toby Stringer, 11, is to have his invention built as a prototype by Kingston University after winning the Primary Engineer Young Leaders Award. Toby’s invention ‘The Electricity Trampoline’ was developed while he was in Year 6 as part of a STEM project. It focuses on generating electricity from the energy created when jumping on a trampoline, an idea inspired by a trip he made to a trampoline park..

“Toby Stringer will have his ‘electric trampoline’ invention made at Kingston University”

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WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS Westonbirt School has appointed three female industry ‘Champions’ to inspire pupils. Aimee Neaverson works for the Overseas Development Institute, Hermione Harbutt is a successful accessories entrepreneur, and Shefali Sharma has a Master’s in Space Engineering and Astronautics.

Try, try, again Aldro stormed to victory at the annual Westbourne House U10 rugby tournament, facing tough competition among the schools. They played four games in the pool stage, winning three and drawing one. Top spot was secured with a five-try victory in the final against Andover, Hampshire school Farleigh.

N E W C L A S S AT ST NICHOLAS St Nicholas Prep in Kensington has opened an additional nursery class. The school, which recently appointed Jill Walker as headmistress, also earned an Outstanding rating from its inspection report last spring.  The class has been opened in response to increasing demand for spaces from parents.

A L L A B OA R D Specialist dyslexia school Bredon is introducing a bus from London to transport weekly boarders to its campus near Tewksbury. From September, the bus will collect pupils from west London on Mondays, returning them on Friday evening. Bredon’s 84-acre campus includes a working farm and forest school.

E D U C AT I O N P R E P & P R E P R E P

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Up Front

NEWS

F OW L P L AY

MBE for Mogg Mogg Hercules, founder and head of Dallington School, London was appointed MBE for outstanding services to education in the New Year Honours List. She says: “I feel both privileged and thrilled!”

Living up to its name, Hawkesdown House School has played host to some feathered friends in honour of the renaming of the School Houses: Kites, Falcons and Owls. Pupils were joined by the feathery namesakes, plus a few extras including a bald eagle and a Harris hawk, and received a lesson on their handling. Apart from a small incident involving Stan the hawk and a pair of speakers, the birds were impeccably behaved.

Mindful lessons

N E W A R R I VA L IN PUTNEY Opening in Putney this September, Peregrines is a PrePrep that will welcome boys and girls aged 3 to 8. The school is set within a conservation area in Woodborough Road and will include spacious green play areas. After Peregrines, girls and boys will be offered Year 4 places at Falcons School for Girls and Falcons School for Boys.

Auction action

Hallfield School in Edgbaston has collaborated with author Juliet Clare Bell and organisation Mindful Beginnings to work with children on confidence and mindfulness techniques. Bell runs exercises with Year 4 pupils every Monday as part of English lessons, while Rachel Tame and Keelie Woodward from Mindful Beginnings have been conducting interactive sessions with the school’s Year 5 pupils. Bell says: “We are all a work in progress and my aim is to encourage people to take risks and make mistakes".

Hyde Park School has raised thousands of pounds for the East Africa Children’s project, following a fundraising drinks evening and an auction of student art. The £6,000 donated so far will provide vital funds for children across Uganda, enabling them to buy education materials and solar lighting for their homes.

SPRING 2018

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OUR PAST ... YOUR FUTURE

RECRUITMENT

SCHOOL CONSULTANCY

TUTORING

GUARDIANSHIP & STUDENT SERVICES

SCHOOL SEARCH

HIGHER EDUCATION & CAREERS ADVICE

www.gabbitas.com

+44 (0)20 7734 0161 | info@gabbitas.com Gabbitas Educational Consultants is registered in England No. 2920466. Part of The Prospects Group. GABBITAS.indd 1

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Up Front

FICTION FUN

S C I E N C E AC E Joshua Wilkinson, 9, from Alpha Prep was one of ten national winners of Discovery Education’s Make Your World Bigger, a 30-day summer holiday challenge which attracted over 2,000 entries from across the UK. His prizes included a VR headset and night vision goggles. Joshua says: “The competition was an amazing experience, made better by the fact I won!”

G O L D S TA R Bassett House has been awarded Gold by the Primary Geography Quality Mark, accredited by the Geographical Association. The school, which only applied for the Silver Award, was presented with the higher honour after the excellent quality of geography taught throughout the school was recognised. Bassett House remains one of only eight schools across the UK to have been presented with the Gold Award.

NEWS

Cranleigh Schools have released the shortlist for the 2018 Awesome Book Awards. Pupils from 45 schools across London and the south east will read the shortlisted books and cast their votes before the winner is announced at an awards ceremony in May.

20 AND UP Kensington Prep has been celebrating the 20th anniversary of its arrival in Fulham by welcoming Helen Sharman, Britain’s first-ever astronaut, to help celebrate this milestone and launch its first STEM week. And, as a perfect present to mark the birthday, the school has been shortlisted for the Independent Pre-Prep/Prep School of the Year Award by the TES, with results announced this February.

MUSIC MAESTRO Cumnor House, Sussex pupil Daniel Pengelly, 12, swept the board at the Sevenoaks Three Arts Festival, winning all three cups in the woodwind classes. “We are so excited to see where Daniel’s talent and passion for music leads him in the future.” says Graham Griffiths, Cumnor’s assistant director of music. Daniel has already achieved Distinction in Trinity College Diploma exams, giving him the right to put the initials ATCL after his name.

Top Story

CHESS RECORD A record 92 teams battled it out at St. Catherine’s in January to win a place in the English Chess Federation National Final in April. Prep head Naomi Bartholomew says: “We are providing a platform for the female grandmasters of the future”. Andrew Martin, head of the English Chess Federation Academy, described this as a: “colossal turn out, smashing all records for a female-only chess event in the UK”.

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WAR FOOTING The links between Dulwich Prep Cranbrook and its London namesake date back to the start of World War II, when children were evacuated to the relative safety of the Kent countryside, thanks to the efforts of then headmaster John Leakey, his wife and parents of pupils. Absolutely Education takes a history lesson

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Up Front

B

y 1938, dark clouds were descending over Europe and those tasked with the care of children began to consider how they could be protected from what seemed inevitable. By the autumn of the year, John Leakey, headmaster of Dulwich College London, was preparing plans for an emergency evacuation camp. This was to be constructed on an orchard on his father-in-law’s land at Cranbrook, Kent, a rural retreat from the city. The original camp was basic – six wooden huts, some bell tents, a marquee and some camp kitchen equipment. After much preparation at the Cranbrook end, on 1 September 1939 – the day that Hitler’s troops marched on Poland and two days before Neville Chamberlain’s announcement that war had been declared – a train taking 135 boys aged between five and 13 set off from West Dulwich Station. The boys arrived at Cranbrook Station and, in pouring rain, travelled the three miles to their new home by car, sheep lorry and on foot. The camp gradually developed thanks to parents who owned lorries sending them down to Cranbrook laden with supplies. There were quantities of school furniture and books, as well as lockers, beds, gym equipment – even a piano – lying about in the orchard until John Leakey’s wife Muff took charge and began to create order from chaos. Gradually more beds were brought down from London, and electricity and a tannoy system were installed. The smallest boys (five and six year olds) were educated in the waiting house at Benenden School, under the watchful eye of a Miss Dickson. Boys slept in the huts, while the

staff teaching them found accommodation in surrounding villages. That first winter was a fierce one, with thick snow and temperatures plunging to -15 degrees. The road to Cranbrook was impassable for three weeks. Even worse was the epidemic of German measles and flu that happened that year. With the fall of France to the Germans, Cranbrook became a protected area and, because of the likelihood of machine-gun fire from low-flying enemy planes, shelters were constructed in each hut lobby by covering the roofs with two thicknesses of breezeblock, and erecting fourfoot walls of sandbags on each side. Eventually, because of increasing danger, the school's 240 boys and staff were moved to the Royal Oak Hotel at Betws-y-Coed, North Wales. This was to be school base for the next five years. Meanwhile, the school site at Coursehorn became a camp for troops and, in 1944, soldiers gathered there in preparation for D-Day. In Spring 1945, preparations for the return to Dulwich, London began, although the old boarding house in London had been lost in

ROOTS

“SHELTE RS WE R E CON STRU CT E D W ITH FO U RFO OT WA L LS O F SAN DBAG S O N E ACH SI D E TO PROTECT AGA I NST LOW-FLYI NG EN E MY P L A NE S” the bombing. It was then that John Leakey decided to use Cranbrook as the school's junior boarding house. The entire school, both in London and at Cranbrook, was then scheduled to re-open in September 1945. The post-war school at Cranbrook began with just 40 junior boarders aged six to ten. It has grown to become a leading independent day and flexible boarding school for girls and boys aged three to 13 years. It is nestled in 50 acres of stunning Kent countryside, with few reminders of its wartime past. The historical link to Dulwich Prep London is still there, since both schools remain under the umbrella of one charitable trust.

DULWICH PREP CRANBROOK IS NOW A LEADING DAY AND BOARDING SCHOOL

SPRING 2018

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New

BOARDERS From weekly to flexi, boarding school has changed, finding a new approach more in tune with the pace and shape of modern family life. Absolutely Education investigates the new boarders L I B BY N O R M A N

B

oarding school has, over the years, attracted both negative and positive reviews. On the one hand we have the bleak Dotheboys Hall in Nicholas Nickelby, Dickens’ take on the 19th-century way of sending boys ‘away’. And on the other Malory Towers, inspiring entire generations of girls (myself included) to wish they could pack their bags and go. Neither account is, of course, anything other than fictional, but they show the polarity of impressions. It is also true that boarding used to be a lot more rigid: one boarding housemaster told me candidly that some parents he meets – for whom good sense dictates this option must be on the table due to working life or personal circumstances – are initially deeply resistant to the very idea of boarding school because of their own negative experience. But flexible and familyfriendly models have been developed over the years, driven as much by parents wishes as by schools’ desire to make boarding work for children and their families. So who are today’s boarders, and how does the system fit in with 21st-century life?

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Up Front

BOARDING

“ NEW B OARD I N G ST Y LE S AR E TAI LO RED TO FAM I LY L I F E ”

RUGBY AT BEAUDESERT

SPRING 2018

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Windlesham House School INDEPENDENT BOARDING & DAY SCHOOL FOR BOYS & GIRLS AGED 4 TO 13

Open Morning 19th May • Excellent rating received in 2017 ISI Report • Record number of scholarships gained to senior schools this year • Outstanding pastoral care & extra curricular programme • Celebrating 50 years of co-education Call 01903 874701 | Email admissions@windlesham.com | visit windlesham.com Windlesham House School, Washington, West Sussex, RH20 4AY WINDLESHAM.indd Absolutely Jan 2018 2.indd 1 1

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Up Front

BOARDING

liberal Western education for their own children. Alongside that are children from west London, Sussex and Hampshire.” Many of these more local parents are choosing the weekly boarding option. The benefits are obvious to anyone who spends too long themselves on the daily commute or who worries about getting home from work in time to have any kind of conversation with their children before bedtime. St Catherine’s even provides a useful reckoner on its website, balancing what parents may pay out for childcare in relation to opting to have them at school benefiting from the facilities, homework support and community. Alice Phillips says the weekly boarding option is particularly popular among parents who both work, or families where one parent would like to resume their career. “Parents know their children have access to first-class music, ballet and sport and in a safe and leafy-Surrey environment.” Another benefit, says Phillips, is that boarders get the support they need with homework from qualified teaching staff – a real boon for parents who don’t understand the modern Maths approach or don’t have time to refresh their memory then advise on conjunctive adverbs. For weekly boarders, weekends become ‘quality time’, an overused phrase, but it does neatly describe what is more likely to happen if parents and children have both achieved their week’s goals, can focus on enjoyment and catch up with each other. As one Year 7 pupil at St Catherine’s put it: “Weekly boarding has given me the best of both worlds”.

“ N EW M ODELS ARE DRI VEN I N PART BY PAREN TS’ DESI RE TO SEE M ORE OF T HEI R C HI L DREN "

BEAUDESERT SCHOOL

THE MODERN MIX he mix of pupils who board is way more fluid than it used to be. While you will find the traditional cohort, including children of old boys and girls, of expat parents, and of international parents who want a British education for their child, you will also find boarders relatively (in some cases very) local to the school. At St Catherine’s in Bramley, Surrey, an all-girls’ school that takes boarders from Year 7, there is a mix of UK and international students (currently 14 nations) and that, believes headmistress Alice Phillips, creates an enriched environment. “Modern boarding is very different. We have girls whose parents work overseas and students whose parents came to school in the UK and want the same

T

MUSIC AT ST CATHERINE'S

FLEXIBLE MODELS hile the weekly model of boarding is popular, so are even more flexible options. At Westonbirt in Tetbury (which takes boarders from Year 7), there is a mix of full and flexi boarders alongside day pupils – who can stay over one night a week free of charge. Boarders have homes all over the world, but some live as close as Tetbury and use boarding as a means to get prep done and tap into the extracurricular programme. The most popular night for boarding is a Friday – reckoned by pupils to be the best for activities.

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New Collection

FURNITURE SOFAS BEDS AND WARDROBES Chelsea - Chiswick - www.gautier.co.uk 115 STORES WORLDWIDE

DUBAI

PARIS

RIYADH

LONDON

MOSCOW

VIENNA

SINGAPORE

MADRID

TORONTO


Up Front

BOARDING

Richard Cullum – alongside wife Kate and their two children – says it is crucial that boarders interact as a family group. “We look very much to the European model, where they are very good at creating the idea of an extended family.” Cullum says the boarders interact with each other as a community, from senior boarders helping juniors with their spelling prep to boarders inviting a day pupil to stay. “It’s important that boarders feel they are having a normal social life, and also that we enable interaction and friendships across age groups because that’s what happens in families.” He adds that friendships across age groups gives children role models – especially if they don’t have an older brother or sister or their sibling is at another school. Even flexi boarding does not work for every child, or indeed every family. In some cases, parents may be set on a particular route – a particular senior school even – test boarding out at prep stage and then decide on a rethink. But understanding and working with families – and their lifestyles – is critical in this new approach. Flexible options mean less of a separation for both children and parents. Most importantly, where once boarders may have felt they were supposed to ‘fit in’ with a rigidly defined institution, today they are encouraged to feel if not quite at home, then certainly comfortable within a social, supportive and extraordinarily well equipped second home.

“LOCAL BOARDERS EN J OY T HE SPORTS AN D SOC I AL ACT I VI T I ES”

WALHAMPTON DORMS

At Beaudesert Park School near Stroud, Gloucestershire (which takes boarders from Year 4), the majority families choose the flexible boarding option. Houseparent Jamie Holmes believes this is because the flexible approach fits in with modern life. One reason parents like it is because they have more opportunity to see their children, without the restrictions of set dates and times (as exist with the more formal exeat approach typically applied with full boarding). For children, Holmes says, it’s a first step to independence, enabling them to take some control over their own lives within a safe and nurturing setting. “Children are doing things and trying things for themselves – but without feeling micro-managed.” Time is never far from the modern boarding equation. A child who has a long drive home and has to fit in supper round the table, a chat about their day and then homework (possibly a music practice) may not feel they have had much of an evening – and certainly no free time. As boarders, they can start their day with a hearty breakfast, do their day at school, sort out the homework and practice and then some of each evening is theirs. And there are activities on tap, from games to movie making to clubs. Holmes says: “At Beaudesert, we have gap students to help organise things – some year groups do need more structure – but with older students, who sometimes just need to flop, it’s a case of ‘just tell us where you are’”.

FAMILY VALUES reating a supportive and nurturing environment is critical to the modern model. At all-boys’ school Aldro, in Godalming, Surrey, boarding has always been central to the school and is offered from Year 3. The team here prefer not to use the word flexible – part-time is preferred – but options range from one night up to weekly boarding. Often, pupils may use the occasional option as a way to test the water, says housemaster Tom Rainer, who leads the boarding team. “We offer ways for boys to try out boarding and feel confident and secure. Not all will cope with boarding, but going from no boarding to full-time is a big step and it can be difficult for parents to gauge what will work for their child.” The key is to understand the individual boy, says Rainer. The other factor that parents have to consider is if they are ready to let their child board, and this is where more fluid approaches work well as children can go home to parents on some nights. This helps parents decide if they are ready to commit to boarding school (an often overlooked part of the equation, he says). At Aldro, there’s a team to keep the boys busy and enable a structure that works for each individual. Aldro call this ‘Mars’ because it’s about getting the right mix of work, rest and play. At Walhampton, Hampshire, the boarding also starts at Year 3 and head of boarding

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PUPILS AT WESTONBIRT

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MUCKY PLAY AT LITTLE FOREST FOLK

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To the

WOODS Forest school is being celebrated as the way to teach children independence, confidence, teamwork and so much more. But what is the theory behind it, and why are educators so wild about going down to the woods? L I B BY N O R M A N

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orest school is not about tree hugging, confirms Geoff Mason, a forest school practitioner and a founder director of the Forest School Association. But he does add that some of the people he works with (young children up to adults) do feel the urge to wrap their arms around a nurturing tree trunk during sessions with nature. There are a few other myths that the Forest School Association (FSA) seeks to bust. Most importantly, you don’t need a Babes in the Wood-style expanse of raw nature to experience it. People host schools on wilder patches of land – both in urban areas and in the country. For instance, Dallington School, in the heart of EC1, ran its successful forest school programme using Hampstead Heath. Not forest, and definitely not country. Gretton, an autism and Asperger’s specialist school, offers forest school within its leafy grounds, just two miles from bustling Cambridge city.

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As Geoff Mason puts it, forest school is a philosophy, not a location. It’s not a prescribed activity with a curriculum, although leaders generally start each session with a plan and then respond to what unfolds. The unplanned and unexpected will often shape a forest school session, but a session may be a journey into the unknown or a repeat of the previous week because participants enjoyed last time so much. Whatever happens, all parties can learn in a safe and supported setting. Forest school is not bushcraft or Scouting, although similar elements may be part of the activities (foraging, tree climbing, firelighting, chopping wood). Whereas you might go on a bushcraft adventure for one afternoon, true forest school is about repeated visits and a programme where you explore the place – ideally the same location – through the seasons. The leader is there to observe, to sometimes suggest, and to assist with the big ideas and creative play – a process known as ‘scaffolding’. It is, as the term suggests, a means of assisting people get to where they want to go or build one activity into something even more exciting.

E D U C AT I O N P R E P & P R E P R E P

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Pre-Prep

FOREST S CHOOL

LITTLE FOREST FOLK – AN OUTDOOR NURSERY

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Pre-Prep

FOREST S CHOOL

by asking to do exactly the same thing at the next session. Parents of children with profound learning difficulties have seen, sometimes through filmed footage captured at sessions, just how much their child who doesn’t socialise or doesn’t like unfamiliar surroundings has achieved in this wild outdoor setting. Mason says that parents invariably remark that, when their child returns from forest school, they never respond to the ‘what did you do today?’ question with ‘nothing’. Instead, they talk of streams forded, of leaf rubbing, of animals they’ve seen and fires they’ve helped build. Forest school is, says Mason, transformative for both learners and practitioners. DALLINGTON SCHOOL

The roots of forest school run deep, echoing ideals stretching back to Wordsworth and Ruskin in the UK, Thoreau and Emerson in the US. There are clear crossovers with the kindergarten (literally, ‘children’s garden’) movement founded in 19th-century Germany by Froebel, and with 1950s Scandinavian outdoor teaching models. In the UK, the forest school approach appears to have emerged formally in the 1990s when Bridgwater College, Somerset introduced a BTEC in the subject; this was inspired by research undertaken by its nursery nurses into the Danish pre-school system and its focus on life lived outdoors. The first forest school conference took place here in 2002, adopting major principles that the FSA holds today. As Geoff Mason puts it: “We offer training, are here to spread the good word and to act as gatekeepers to ensure best practice”. EXPLORER AT ALLEYN'S

And Mason is quite passionate about the benefits of forest school. He’s been a forest school leader for eight years now, having previously worked in the prison service, and combines his work with FSA with his private practice on the Isle of Wight, Wood Learn Forest School. His particular interest is working with people with specific learning needs and SENDA. He says: “Forest school is a dynamic process of learning, and it works for everyone. It is learner led, play based and free flow”. This means putting the direction of the day into the hands of the learners, observing and supporting. A core principle of forest school is that children take risks, says Mason. “They climb trees and they work with fire, even knives and axes – children do actually understand risk from a young age and, with the right support, they become attentive, resilient and aware of danger. My experience – I also work with older groups – is that even the most irresponsible teenager becomes careful when you give them a bushcraft knife?” Mason has countless stories of the difference forest school can make. For instance, there were the teenage boys he worked with, all on the brink of being excluded from school, who sat with him in a hide completely silently for 45 minutes watching red squirrels, then stunned him

THE OUTDOOR NURSERY ittle Forest Folk is something of a phenomenon. It began as one and now there are five outdoor nurseries across south-west London. It was established in 2015 by Leanna Barrett and her husband James, who wanted their own and other children to experience the same carefree and outdoorsy early years they’d enjoyed outside the capital. Typically, they take children from age two up to five. The children’s official uniform is Didrikson’s waterproofs and every day they journey to the wilds. In the original Wimbledon nursery, this happens adjacent to the Common; in SW6 it’s Fulham Palace Gardens; in Chiswick it’s either Chiswick House or Kew Gardens. Each of the five settings is – although not a forest – a small and safe wilderness to run around in and have adventures. The Little Forest Folk team transport absolutely everything they need to set up camp for the outdoor nursery – that includes cosy pop-up tents for naps, a toilet tent and handwashing station with warm running water, plus lightweight tarps for playing when it rains. And pretty much everything else happens outside. The company’s resident chef Becky Beasley prepares healthy meals, and there are treats such as hot chocolate round the campfire on chilly days. The children have great appetites,

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“ASKED ABOUT T HEI R DAY, C HI L DREN TAL K OF AN I M ALS SEEN AN D F I RES BUI LT ”

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Pre-Prep

FOREST GAMES AT GRETTON

says Leanna Barrett. She adds: “It’s pretty extraordinary to watch a four year old eat anything with no complaint”. Barrett says being in the elements is never a problem. “We always ensure the children are dry and warm. They are running around all day with rosy cheeks, don’t seem to get colds, and we don’t have the outbreaks of illness that often spread through an indoor nursery.” Little Forest Folk choose not to label themselves as an official forest school, says Barrett. “If we’re inspired and it works we use it – we pick the best of everything and love to trial new ideas.” Even so, there are many elements that seem completely in tune with the forest school ethos. It is about child-led play and exploration and the staff act as observers and facilitators of adventures, rather than top-down directing what happens next. Forest school philosophy suggests that groups that go into a wild environment soon start to act as a community, and this is something Barrett definitely agrees with, even with preschoolers. “You find that the older ones help out the little ones – they will tell you that it’s their job to teach them.”

THE PRIMARY FOREST SCHOOL t Alleyn’s School in Dulwich, forest school has become an important part of the Reception curriculum, with children spending one afternoon a week in a woodland copse adjacent to the school playing fields. Parents love the fact that their children are out in the fresh air, while children get excited about the prospect of an afternoon in the wilds. EYFS coordinator Nicola Price says: “The children get really excited, right from when they start putting on their own clothes to go over to the site. They enjoy being able to choose what they are going to carry and to get organised for the walk across”. Alleyn’s believe a chief benefit of forest school for this age group is in teaching children to be courageous; they develop awareness of their surroundings but also take risks, helping to build up their self-esteem. In keeping with forest school principles, sessions are planned but children may divert from this, helping to build both leadership and peer-to-peer communication

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FOREST S CHOOL

skills. The open-ended tasks and challenges that they develop for themselves encourage wider thinking skills that the team find become a useful springboard back in the classroom. And, while this is a space to be creative and spread their wings, all children have a clear set of safety rules to learn and abide by. One thing that forest school practitioners often say is that the environment can bring forward people who might otherwise not lead, and this is something the team at Alleyn’s see all the time, says Price. “In the classroom environment, some children always try to please the teacher and do the activity ‘right’. But at forest school, quieter children start to take on a greater leadership role.” The other thing they notice is that children who are not top of the class academically may shine by showing off practical abilities. If building self-esteem and the courage to grow is one huge benefit, then another is in ‘levelling’ out some of the dynamics of the classroom. The child who is always leading play in class may discover teamwork and learn to listen to others’ ideas. Not all children find forest school easy at first – but the child who is a little more anxious about unfamiliar environments learns to relax, discover open-ended play and get dirty. Most of all, forest school is fun. Price says there are moments of transformation you witness and moments of pure joy. “I can think of one girl who was very fearful and cautious at the beginning of the year. It was fantastic to see her one day in the summer term standing high up in a tree looking at the view of The Shard, just beaming!”

“ YOU DO N ’ T NEED A BABES I N THE WOOD -ST YL E EXPANSE OF RAW NATU RE ”

LITTLE FOREST FOLK FUN

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Pre-Prep

MODERN

Traditions

Headmaster of Falcons Boys Andrew Forbes believes that traditional values, combined with modern approaches, are the best way to give children the skills and resilience they need to thrive in a fast-changing world

“ THE BOYS A RE SO EAGER TO PLEA S E , S HOW RES P ECT A N D D EMO N STRATE THE P RIDE THEY H AV E IN THEIR U NI FO RM, W HICH GIV ES THEM A S EN S E O F BELO N GIN G”

A FALCONS BOYS CLASSROOM

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his is a traditional yet modern school – it's a phrase I often use when describing to prospective parents what we do. I get asked if it is possible to combine these two elements. It is, and we do it very well. With 40 per cent of the jobs that our boys will end up doing not existing as yet, we have to really think about what we want our children to get out of the education we provide. Is it reading, writing and mathematics? Is it that typical all-rounder education, or is it something a little unique? At Falcons Pre-Prep, our values and ethos have remained traditional, as have elements of our curriculum. We cater for a vast array of schools when our boys exit us at age seven, and a lot of what we do is directed by the entrance exams. Of course, we want our boys to access these schools, but we also want them to be as confident and resilient as possible. We teach the boys good old-fashioned manners, coupled with a well-founded respect for each other, their differences and, most importantly, for themselves. We actively promote the celebration of what makes each person unique through our PSHEE (personal, social, health and economic education) curriculum. We call this ‘Learning for Life’, as it prepares boys for what life has to offer. Traditionally, sport is at the heart of boys' schools. It is pivotal in getting children moving and interested in sporting activities, coupled with learning about the benefits of healthy lifestyle choices. Learning to work and play within a team is also essential for their future. Our boys have a traditional uniform that

OPINION

they are proud of. When I am at the gate in the mornings and afternoons, the sound of little footsteps brings a smile to my face. As they approach, I glance around the corner and see boys stopping, straightening their ties and putting on their caps. They are so eager to please, show respect and demonstrate the pride they have in this uniform, which gives them a sense of belonging. The use of technology is a hot topic of debate in any school. Our boys are able to code and touch type, but we also value their interaction with books and writing. Muscle tone, pincer and pencil grip cannot be strengthened on an iPad. The value of writing must not be underestimated, especially when teaching boys. This further reinforces the need to blend the modern use of technology with the skills of reading, writing and building basic muscle tone. In the educational world, we are constantly learning about a multitude of spectrums. We look at these in a modern but traditional way too. We acknowledge and digest all information available. We then make reasonable adjustments, giving boys skills to thrive but also expecting them to use these tools to improve. This goes hand in hand with confidence and resilience. We teach boys that it is ok to fail as part of the learning journey. It is how they pick themselves up, dust themselves off and carry on that counts. This is how we cater for the 40 per cent of jobs that are still to be invented or created. We use an approach that will deliver the future generation who will do amazing things, also ensuring adults equipped with the mental and emotional skills to take risks and show tenacity. We cannot underestimate the importance of emotional intelligence. We work closely with each family to direct their son to a school that meets his needs. When a child joins at three, we have little or no idea of his academic ability. By the middle of Year 1 we have clearer picture, and work alongside the parents to find a school that meets his academic needs, matches his personality traits and has a culture that will suit his character.

ANDREW FORBES Headmaster, Falcons Pre-Preparatory School for Boys

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Knead to know

Baking with children can teach important lessons about food, science and the world around them, says head of St. Nicholas Prep School in Kensington Jill Walker

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ot many parents will look at their kitchen and think ‘laboratory!’ but that is exactly what it is. It’s a place where elements are combined and altered after undergoing a series of chemical and physical processes. How successful the experiments are, of course, depends on the skill of the lead scientist, traditionally known

as the cook. For parents looking to help their child learn at home, baking can be a perfect way of combining learning and fun. So how can they turn messing around in the kitchen into a learning experience without squeezing the fun out of it?

SCIENCE IN ACTION Start with the ingredients and measurement. Science, like baking, requires a set method of working – measuring accurately, finding the

“Baking touches on all the STEM subjects, so there is a lot to learn”

Talking

JILL WALKER Headmistress St. Nicholas Preparatory School

OPINION

right equipment, observing closely, describing what is seen, predicting and drawing conclusions. Talk your child through each of these stages, explaining what quantities are needed, why you need them to be precise and how you can accurately measure ingredients.

KEEP IT VISUAL Baking provides plenty of opportunities for visual stimulus. Show children how to cream sugar and butter together, or how a cake needs to go from a solid to a liquid back to a solid again to be fully baked, or how yeast can make bread rise. These can all be seen, discussed, and learned from.

START WITH BREAD One of the very best 'experiments' to start with is a simple bread recipe. Bread is fantastic because you can ask questions relating to temperature (why does it need to prove? Why does it have to bake at a certain temperature?); fermentation (how does yeast work?), measurements and more. A basic sponge cake is another great option for cooking with younger children. You can discuss irreversible changes – and work on equations and maths problems – while working out the ingredients you need.

USE THE CURRICULUM To make the most out of home baking sessions, parents should look at what is on the curriculum, and tie it all together. For those who are unsure, the internet will give you plenty of information on key vocabulary, for instance, and simple explanations of basic scientific concepts. And don’t forget that baking touches on all the STEM subjects, so there is a lot to learn from one seemingly simple cake or loaf of bread.

HAVE SOME FUN Remember this is not a lesson. For your child, it’s a chance to discover, play and enjoy themselves with you. So make sure it's fun. SPRING 2018

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EATON HOUSE SCHOOLS

EATON HOUSE THE MANOR PREPREP SCHOOL

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Our exceptional teachers provide a supportive academic environment, challenging every boy and enabling him to reach his full potential. Boys are encouraged to think independently, be confident and develop a sense of responsibility

Mrs Nicola Borthwick, Headmistress, Eaton House The Manor Pre-Prep School

Come and meet us at our Open Houses Developing a life-long love of learning for your boys is our ultimate goal. We firmly believe that it is no coincidence that children learn best when they feel happy and secure. At Eaton House The Manor Pre-Prep we recognise all of our boys as individuals, understanding what makes then

tick, nurturing their talents and ensuring that they feel known and valued. If you would like to be part of our successful, caring and happy school, speak to the Head of Admissions, Jennifer McEnhill, about booking an Open House meeting on 0203 917 5050 or contact admissions@eatonhouseschools.com

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Pre-Prep

OPINION

LE T CH IL D RE N CR E AT E AN D M A K E A M E SS. T HAT CA N B E C LE AN E D U P, B U T A C H I L D’S CONF I D E N C E TA K E S A LOT LON G E R TO REBUILD A PUPIL ARTIST AT DALLINGTON

Making their mark The Early Years coordinator at Dallington School says it is vitally important to encourage young artists AMBIKA CURBISHLEY

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he children I have taught over the years arrive having already had a range of different experiences when it comes to art. Some children immediately experiment and explore and think creatively when they are making or drawing; others do not want to get paint on their fingers, or say, 'I can’t do it!' As my teaching career continues, I have come to question how we as adults influence children’s attitudes to art and how we impact on children’s interest in this area. Often, talking to parents and practitioners gives an insight into how their own experiences at school, or their outlook on art, has an impact on the way they approach the subject with their children. I have heard people say, ‘It doesn’t look like anything, it’s a scribble’. I then spend time explaining that that ‘scribble’ is where the child is at developmentally and the child has just told a whole story whilst

making those marks. I also hear parents describe how they felt they were not very good at art at school and, therefore, they don’t know how to go about teaching their own children. So, did someone along the way dismiss the attempts they made as a young child, squashing their confidence? There is great value in allowing children to express themselves, to make choices about the media they wish to use, to learn through the process of creating, to make discoveries along the way – and to praise each child’s art work. Those early ‘scribbles’ and the freedom to make them cannot be emphasised enough. If opportunities do not arise, does the child miss a stage of building up a repertoire of marks? Can this gap then be filled at a later date? As early years educators, we can do that to a degree, and provide opportunities, but children also need those opportunities at home. Sometimes, people have asked me whether the reason a child does not draw or take

part in art activities is because they are not interested. I then question why they might not be interested at the age of three! Do they find it difficult or has an adult influenced their desire or opportunities to participate in art-based activities? So when a child shows off a drawing, we adults need to think about our responses. Instead of saying 'what is it?', which for a child who knows exactly what they have just drawn, is a little deflating, we might try 'can you tell me about it?'. This leads to a far more in-depth discussion. You may be surprised to find that those several lines across a page are a ladder that goes up to a fairy castle, and those circles that go round and round are the movement of a car. Let children create and make a mess; that can be cleaned up, but a child’s confidence takes a lot longer to rebuild. I am fascinated by the early marks that children make and the insight they give into different areas of development. For example, their language skills can be heard through their descriptions whilst drawing; their physical development is observed by looking at their self awareness – depicted in their figurative pictures and by how they hold a paint brush. There may be insights into emotional development, since drawings can depict how a child is feeling. As long as I continue to teach, I hope I will be able to place an importance on art in the early years and recognise all that it can lead to.

AMBIK A CURBISHLEY Early Years Coordinator Dallington School, Clerkenwell

SPRING 2018

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Pre-Prep

HEAD

Life Skills Celebrating children for who they are and helping them to develop skills for life are the keys to their wellbeing, says Nicola Baldwin, principal of Dolphin School in Wandsworth

I

n the words of William Wordsworth, ‘Bliss it was that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven’. Indeed, how joyful it would be for all pupils if life was a blissful experience, a celebration of being alive and a taste of heaven. Sadly, all too often this does not reflect the experience of school pupils or their state of mind. As educators, we are increasingly aware of the mental health issues prevalent in today’s society that have a serious effect on the wellbeing of our young people. We are assaulted with worrying facts: half of all mental health issues start before the age of 14; PUPILS AT DOLPHIN SCHOOL, WANDSWORTH

the “addiction” to social media can be as strong as a cocaine habit; cyberbullying can drive pupils to suicide; not following the latest trend can result in social ostracism. Troubled youngsters struggle with their self-esteem and their mental health can fracture. Despite all the prophecies of doom that abound, we can help our children to look after their mental health and develop the strategies needed to deal with life as it happens. In school, teachers are in loco parentis so, just as in their families, young people need to be known and loved for who they are, not who they will become one day. From that starting premise, we can enable children to be questioning

“Young people need to be known and loved for who they are, not who they will become one day”

Talking

NICOLA BALDWIN Principal Dolphin School, London

OPINION

and curious, to make mistakes and know that this is a vital part of the learning process. We can encourage them to show kindness to others, to be passionate about our world and to know that they matter and that they can make a difference. In this type of learning environment, pupils develop skills that will support their mental wellbeing. They learn perseverance when the challenge gets tough, and resilience for when life does not go the way they want. They learn the value of relationships, the benefit of collaboration, and the importance of being true and dealing honourably with others. They will still experience the frustrations, the friendship fall outs, the challenge of life as a young person, but they will be empowered to keep trying, to talk about their anxieties, to laugh and to cry. They develop the resilience to pick themselves up and try again. On the journey of education, knowing the skills to have in your kit bag is more important than knowing where the journey will take you. Supporting and encouraging our pupils on their journey is the key to helping them develop robust mental health. At Dolphin School we do this through the ‘Life Education’ programme. The benefits of a healthy diet, fresh air and exercise are well known. Taking care of our mental wellbeing is now being recognised as equally important. Schools aim to work in partnership with parents and a key way in which parents can support their children is by spending time with them, using language that celebrates effort, allowing for failure, and valuing them for the young people they are today. Take delight in your children because they are unique – tell them so. SPRING 2018

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Bright Sparks

Sparking children’s interests through a good extracurricular programme makes them healthier, happier and more productive, says Eaton House head Huw May

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hen Harry got out of bed for his first morning of a PGL school trip with Eaton House Belgravia Pre-Prep, he was delighted to start with a session on a giant swing. “I was partners with my friend James and we nearly went to the top of the swing before we plunged to the ground,” he says. “We whizzed through the air so fast that I screamed ‘I’m having a heart attack!’ But once it was all over, I thought it was the most fun I ever had.” After a few days that included aero ball, quad biking, archery, survival skills and ‘midnight feasts’, James came back home to describe the activity trip as a huge success. “I never felt so alive and independent. It was epic!” At Eaton House Schools we believe that learning is a big adventure. This covers all age groups within the schools. This year, for example, the younger boys visited a local fire station and were allowed – under the careful guidance of a fireman – to feel the velocity of water that shoots from a real fire hose. Classroom projects are linked to visits for a deeper learning experience. Year 1, for example, visited the Tower of London as part of their castles project, ending up knighted by ‘Sir’ Simon. Other Year 1s dashed off to the immersive Alice in Wonderland

experience, tumbled with the Tweedle twins and then took tea with the Mad Hatter at a crazy tea party. Marking the anniversary of the Great Fire of London, Year 3 boys explored an interactive timeline at Museum of London and enjoyed landmark-spotting on a trip to the Maritime Museum. The Chiltern Open Air Museum was the perfect place to learn about the Stone Age for Year 3 boys. As well as trips there are a huge number of clubs on offer. Some are expected areas, such as debate club, Spanish, swimming and football. THE LEARNING ADVENTURE AT EATON HOUSE SCHOOLS

“There are a huge number of clubs – such as debate club, and football – boys can even be a ‘Jedi’ at Jedi Club”

Talking

HUW MAY Headmaster Eaton House Belgravia

OPINION

Others are less so, and include computer coding, strategy games, yoga, mindfulness and photography. Boys can even be a ‘Jedi’ at Jedi Club if they wish! Drama is very important. This year, the main school play was The Jungle Book, and all the boys were able to get involved. The cast and crew put on a spectacular show, bringing to life many of the well-loved characters. A full-size stage with professional lighting, sound and special-effects deck at Eaton House The Manor ensures that productions get everyone involved. There are other productions throughout the year, usually within year groups, and the annual Kindergarten Nativity play is always a highlight. Drama teaching is complemented by our drama club, where boys learn vocal and acting techniques and simply have fun. Music is a vital part of school life. Weekly class and music assemblies encourage the boys to perform in front of an audience and we hold regular singing events in the community – from the Royal Marsden Hospital to nursing homes and charity fairs. The majority of our pupils play one or more musical instruments and progress to grade exams. Pupils can play in our orchestra and this is a fantastic way to improve musical sensitivity within a group. Sports such as rugby, cricket, football, cross-country and athletics are part of the timetable for Eaton House Belgravia and its sister The Manor. Beyond the sports programme, which centres on Clapham Common and our two sports halls, there is a jam-packed extracurricular programme. With all these activities, inside Eaton House Schools and outside them, there’s never a dull moment at either pre-prep! SPRING 2018

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Just

B R E AT H E Can we teach mindfulness to very young children? A new picture book called Mind Hug is designed to help children do just that by teaching simple deep breathing techniques to help them ďŹ nd a calm place in a hectic world

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Pre-Prep

G

ood mental health and resilience to everyday life is what every parent and teacher is striving for. But, as this year’s Child Mental Health Week (5-11 February) reminds us with its theme #BeingOurselves, even very young children can be vulnerable to feelings of isolation, panic and low self-esteem. The first book from Bath-based publisher Circus House aims to assist by teaching the very young techniques to cope with whatever slings and arrows life throws their way. Mind Hug is a beautifully designed picture book for children aged three to seven, with a core readership of age five (so ideally suited to children making the transition to more formal education). The narrative by Emily Arber and engaging illustrations by Vanessa Lovegrove are easy to follow and perfect for reading aloud. The book’s two main characters Jack and Sarah learn how to change their mood and dispel confused or worrying thoughts by taking long, deep breaths. This is then their

‘superpower’ that they share with their friends. Concepts of happiness and confusion are conveyed simply through colour – muddy and grey hues to convey the thought clouds that just won’t go away, bright and cheerful colours when Jack has learned the art of breathing deeply. It’s this deep breath that is the ‘mind hug’ of the title. Circus House publisher Alice Xavier says that, while you can’t easily explain mindfulness to young children, most of them immediately pick up on the concept of noticing their breathing. Xavier says the idea came about because they wanted to create fun and beautiful books, but also had an extra goal – to make a difference and open conversations. “My background is publishing, but my whole family works in the NHS so I’m aware of the issues facing young people. Children are so naturally resilient, but sometimes they need a positive push.” A proportion of the sale of each book is being donated to children’s mental health charity Place2Be, which provides counselling and support services to schools and has the Duchess of Cambridge as its patron. Place2Be estimates that one in ten children aged between five and 16 has a mental health problem – that’s three in every classroom from primary up – so Mind Hug taps into a very real issue. Once the original idea of Mind Hug was developed, the team at Circus House decided to test it before taking it to market, and so they sought guidance from people on the front line. They had input from Sarah Gibbs, a Suffolkbased psychotherapist and mental health consultant who uses mindfulness within her practice, and Hannah Woods, a primary school teacher and PSHE co-ordinator at Widcombe Infant School, Bath. Circus House also sought input from Somerset GP Dr Sarah Temple. Dr Temple has a special interest in mental health services and works with children and young people across West Somerset (she has developed psycho social tools now being implemented through Somerset’s children’s services). The book was tested in early years and junior classroom settings in the county and Dr Temple describes it as a valuable resource, also loved by older children and parents. She adds: “Normalising mindful exercises as part of the school day will mean that children learn how to increase their attentional control – an important skill for everyone to develop and a key building block for being ready to learn”.

MENTAL HE ALTH

“ WH I L E YO U CA N’ T EASI LY E XPLA IN MI ND FULNE S S TO YOUNG C HILDRE N, TH EY I MMEDIAT E LY PI C K U P ON T HE IDE A OF NOTI C ING T HE IR OWN BR E AT HING” Mind Hug readers and their parents can also tap into an online guide. Developed by Circus House’s psychotherapist consultant Sarah Gibbs, this includes really simple exercises – from blowing bubbles and the seed-heads off dandelions to breathing onto a window to see how much breath you can exhale. The guide also shows carers how to teach children not to gulp air and raise their shoulders (typical when you ask young people to take a deep breath) but to ‘belly breathe’, the essential slow and controlled technique familiar to anyone who has tried mindfulness or yoga exercises. While the activities are great for young children, parents will also find value in the games – an antidote to a long and stressed-out day. This is planned as the first in the Mind Hug series of picture books. Circus House’s Alice Xavier is confident that there is more that can be done through picture books to help young children find the coping mechanisms they need to handle testing times. MIND HUG £9.99, with a percentage of each sale going to the charity Place2Be (place2be.org.uk). For more information about the book, visit circus-house.com SPRING 2018

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Prep N O B R A I N E R p . 5 0 • H E A LI N G WO R D S p . 6 6

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SPRING 2018

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NO

BRAINER

An alliance of London girls’ schools is planning to replace the 11+ with cognitive tests to make the admissions process less of a headache LISA FREEDMAN

W

hen my oldest child was sitting 11+, I used to wake up in the middle of the night and count school places. The activity certainly didn’t send me back to sleep. Now, however, a significant tranche of London schools is planning to make their admissions process less nightmarish and, from 2019, will be simplifying their entrance exams. The loose alliance of schools known as the North London Independent Girls’ Schools’ Consortium (12 all-girls’ schools in the capital and surrounding suburbs) have long tried to ease the pressure on pupils by coordinating their exams and the date on which results are released. Now they intend to radically reorganise the exams themselves, replacing the traditional written papers in Maths and English with a single aptitude test, which, they hope, will be considerably less stressful. "We’ve had discussions for the past few years to address concerns about young children’s mental health, particularly girls," says Lucy Elphinstone, headmistress of Consortium member Francis Holland School, Sloane Square. "Then, a number of prep-school heads gave a presentation to senior-school heads about the effects of 11+ testing with a plea to significantly modify or get rid of it. In its place,

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SHHS GIRLS ON THE SPORTS PITCH

similar tests every year at school to track and forecast progress and don’t blink an eyelid." A further plus is that cognitive tests are seen as fairer to those for whom English is an additional language and to applicants from state primary schools, who may not have received the same level of preparation. Independent schools are, of course, fortunate that, unlike their grammar-school counterparts, they can employ cognitive tests as just one strand of a multi-faceted admissions process, using school reports and interviews to give a more in-depth picture, and the Consortium is currently ensuring that both these components are more robust.

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Prep

SENIOR ENTRANCE

LUCY ELPHINSTONE, HEAD OF FRANCIS HOLLAND, SLOANE SQUARE

SOUTH HAMPSTEAD HIGH SCHOOL PUPILS

Traditionally, decisions about who and how to interview have been left up to individual Consortium schools, with some interviewing all girls before the written tests, others interviewing all after, and many making an initial edit based on the outcome of the written exams. Victoria Bingham, recently appointed head of Consortium member South Hampstead High School (which receives about 10 applicants per place), is hoping to continue the practice she’s just introduced of providing one-to-one interviews for every applicant. "The difference between candidate number 20 and candidate number 100 in the written papers is usually not that great. What we’re looking for is spark and an interview can entirely reverse the order. A creative girl, full of character and intelligence, might not be particularly well suited to reasoning tests." The interview process itself is also evolving, aiming to ascertain aspects of personality and ability beyond the merely academic. Highgate School, a co-educational independent in north London, introduced group interviews several years ago that are intended to evaluate intellectual curiosity, problem solving, listening skills and the ability to collaborate. This approach is also being favoured by the Consortium. "We’re looking at far more group-

based activities likely to suss out creativity and critical thinking, the skills we believe are required to thrive in a rapidly changing world," says Lucy Elphinstone. The Consortium’s move has aroused considerable interest elsewhere, and other schools, such as Wycombe Abbey, ‘are currently reviewing their processes’. Some schools already have measures in place to smooth the 11+ transition. Cheltenham Ladies’ College, for example, offers a voluntary, ‘nonbinding’ pre-assessment to all applicants in Year 5. "We provide a one-and-a-half-hour oneto-one assessment," says admissions director Dr Hilary Laver. "It’s heavy on our time, but we feel it’s incredibly valuable." The assessment consists of a 15-20 minute chat and written samples of the type of questions in maths, verbal reasoning and creative writing girls will confront if they proceed to sit the entrance exam. ‘The longer you have with them, the more you feel you can make the right judgement," says Dr Laver. "We’re looking at the pace they work and their accuracy, how they cope with the unfamiliar and how they respond to guidance." At Cheltenham, pre-assessment also provides the opportunity to talk to parents. "We’re honest with them and give them a sense of where their daughter will fall in the cohort."

In a system in which not every child can gain a place at their preferred school, parents will, understandably, feel anxious, and Lucy Elphinstone feels this concern has been one of the chief drivers of the tutoring business."With the new tests, familiarity will certainly give greater confidence, but tutoring will not significantly affect the outcome." Leading tutoring companies, such as Keystone Tutors, agree – up to a point. "The computerised cognitive tests currently used are purposefully designed with as little transparency as possible and no tutor can claim to have in-depth knowledge or experience of the tests themselves," says founder and director Will Orr-Ewing. "However, the cold hard facts are that the numeracy and literacy content of these tests is rooted in Key Stage 2 of the National Curriculum. As such, a comprehensive understanding of the Maths and English syllabus will stand students in good stead." Keystone also believe a well-honed exam technique can be of benefit. "Often questions may be testing something quite simple, but be presented in a complex way." If, as the schools argue, tutoring isn’t the answer, then what is? "We feel the changes will give parents more of a role to play," says Lucy Elphinstone. "The best way to develop cognitive skills is for families to sit round a dinner table at night discussing the news; for girls to be taken to exhibitions, concerts, the theatre." Consortium schools and their counterparts elsewhere are all aiming for the same thing. As Dr Laver puts it: "What we hope is that girls will come to the exams in a relaxed state, so they have as much brain space as possible to focus on what’s being asked." LISA FREEDMAN MD of At The School Gates; attheschoolgates.co.uk SPRING 2018

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08/12/2017 16:26


Prep

Tap into

TECH Teaching children to become coders is about more than maths and logic, it’s a way of firing their imaginations M I L LY M I L L S

BE I N G AB L E TO CO D E ALLOWS C HILD R E N TO BUI LD J U ST AB OU T A NY THIN G THEY CAN IM AG IN E MAKING ROBOTS AT FUNTECH

W

hen you think of coding or robotics, creativity is probably not the first word that springs to mind. We instantly associate certain activities with inspiring creativity: music, theatre, writing and painting to name a few. Coding, however, is usually viewed as mathematical, computational and even boring, but it does have a creative side. Coding gives us the capacity and freedom to build anything we can imagine. What could be more empowering than that? Coding has brought us smartphones, tablets and smart-home devices – all of which someone had to imagine, create and build. Coding also underpins many of our basic daily routines – checking emails, using a computer or even running a washing machine – it is part of our everyday lives. Children are growing up with technology at their fingertips that has never previously been available and at FunTech we believe that teaching digital skills is just as important as teaching literacy and numeracy. While not every child wants to be a programmer or computer scientist, one thing

CODING

is for sure, they will be using technology in whatever career they choose. And, given the emphasis the government is putting on coding skills in the curriculum, coding is clearly here to stay. At FunTech we agree that children should be taught coding, but in addition to essential computing skills, such as folder structures, information security, cloud storage and emails, we then build on this fundamental knowledge with advanced graphics, animation, web design, advanced spreadsheets, word processing and relational databases. This provides children with an excellent set of tools that are the foundation for any career. For a practical introduction to the world of coding, Scratch is a simple but powerful blockbased coding language that enables children to intuitively design and create programs in a fun and accessible way. Without needing to type, a child can integrate as much creativity as they like by arranging and connecting blocks – using them to tell animated stories and create games. Their imagination really is the limit. For children who really love being creative and finding solutions to problems, LEGO Robotics challenges them to build their own robot and use it to solve problems and challenges. This enables children to have fun while learning the fundamental concepts of programming. They can modify their robot’s design to better tackle various challenges, learning more advanced concepts as they progress. Through coding, children learn to program their robot to navigate mazes, overcome obstacles and even battle other robots. We encourage children to explore what they can achieve by combining creativity and experimentation through code. In our safe and stimulating environment they can question their assumptions and, most importantly, make mistakes and learn from them. This ultimately provides them with a platform to be not just consumers of games, but the creators of games they’d love to play. Being able to code enables children to build just about anything they can imagine. What better gift to give in our increasingly technological world?

M I L LY M I L L S Manager FunTech SPRING 2018

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30/01/201817:30 10:29 07/09/2016


HEAD

A perfect equation Alastair Speers, head of Sandroyd School in Wiltshire, on why it ‘adds up’ to choose a boarding prep school

T

here’s an unresolved mathematical problem that today’s parents are desperately trying to solve. If there are 24 hours in a day, how can we fit in the time it takes to do the school run, a long school day, an hour or two of clubs, tutoring, or ‘cv-boosting’ activities (plus their travel time), a family dinner to discuss the day and encourage good manners, along with some ‘downtime’ to relax, and, of course, the recommended 10 hours children need to sleep? That’s without adding parents’ own busy working lives into the equation! While mathematicians might struggle to make these numbers add up, I’m more interested in the consequences of juggling these commitments. To my mind, it all adds up to one thing: the erosion of childhood – spending more time in cars or with tutors than playing outside. Prospective parents have told me how they are seeking more than just an outstanding education, they also want to give their children a wonderful childhood. Current parents regularly tell us how much they value the childhood that we, as a boarding school, are able to provide. The reason why childhood is increasingly becoming part of the

educational equation is, quite simply, because of Aristotle’s assertion that ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’. Choosing a good school is just one part. Choosing how your child spends their time before and after school is another, as is choosing how you will ensure your child develops essential character skills, traits, and manners. Good boarding prep schools are able to successfully combine all of these vitally important ‘parts’ of the educational equation. The ‘parts’ seamlessly work together to combine education, childhood and character.

“Sandroyd is the only prep to be shortlisted by TES for Best Boarding School 2018”

Talking

ALASTAIR SPEERS Headmaster Sandroyd School

ABOVE AND TOP: PUPILS AT SANDROYD SCHOOL

Prep

OPINION

PHOTO: MILLIE PILKINGTON

The fact that Sandroyd has, since 1888, been successfully combining these ‘parts’, has been acknowledged. We are the only Prep School to have been shortlisted for Best Boarding School at the 2018 TES Independent School Awards. So, if parents want to ‘add up’ their time and consider a boarding prep school for their children, what should they look for? The lynchpin is, of course, exceptional pastoral care. Happy children who feel supported thrive in the classroom. They also thrive outside of the classroom – confidently able to develop their interests and talents. Therefore, you need to ask boarding prep schools how they really know and understand every pupil, how they ensure each child feels safe to develop, explore and make mistakes. At Sandroyd we hold a pastoral meeting every morning where staff discuss our pupils’ needs. Be it friendship rifts, academic concerns, or resilience issues, we ensure each child is supported. Finally, and most importantly, happy children are able to really enjoy their childhood. They just need the right setting, and the time, to be able to do so. To enjoy downtime and hobbies – from riding horses to bikes or making things from movies to models – away from the pressures of modern society. SPRING 2018

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14:26 06/12/2017 16:38


Prep

HEAD

MAKE SOME NOISE Brendan Pavey, head of North Bridge House Senior, believes noise and energy in a classroom should be encouraged

P

icture this. You are in your first week as head teacher at your new school, eager to create the right impression and you hear an almighty din coming from along the corridor. You find the classroom where the noise is coming from and you see a teacher, lounging back in his chair, and a classroom full of children almost shouting at one another. You can’t quite believe your eyes! Not one child is looking at a book, no-one is writing anything down, and nearly every child

is trying to say something over the next. The teacher is just staring, with a huge grin on his face, as the scene unfolds. What do you do?!? Consider the other side of the equation. Historically, I have nervously toured prospective parents around school, worried about what I might find as I lead them towards a classroom. On finding a quiet, studious-looking classroom I have silently exhaled. ‘This parent will be impressed by the concentration and diligence of our children and by the classroom management of our teachers,’ I quietly think to myself.

“Outstanding lessons I have observed over the years have never been quiet”

Talking

BRENDAN PAVEY Head Teacher North Bridge House

LIVELY DEBATE AT NORTH BRIDGE HOUSE PREP

OPINION

Within the profession, and amongst parents, there still seems to be a persistent belief that quiet classrooms are best for learning. However, if I think about the outstanding lessons that I have observed over the years, not one of them has been quiet. What has marked them out has been the energy and excitement in the classroom, and very often the noise level. We need a re-think – we need to be actively promoting noise and energy in the classroom. Whilst there is still a time and a place for silent individual study, we should also recognise that at the point you have children arguing about anything, then you have some fantastic learning taking place. It is not easy and takes great teacher skill to create the right classroom climate to enable this to happen – but this is the end goal. We should be giving our teachers the tools, and the permission, to reach. I recently gave a presentation around my passion for noisy classrooms to a group of Cognita head teachers from around the world. I challenged them with the idea that we should be promoting oracy skills to the same level as literacy and numeracy – and the even more provocative response was the suggestion that we should be promoting these skills to greater status. We now need to give teachers the tools to promote the right classroom climate that will enable effective discussions to take place. These tools are already in place in our English department. Above the board, and modelled through teacherled class discussion, are laminated posters with statements such as: ‘Good English students are… active listeners’ and ‘When responding in class aim to…. agree…. build…. challenge your peers’. This simple technique is being built upon by giving children sentence stems to scaffold their discussions and to teach them the techniques required for powerful conversations. I firmly believe that this is going to underpin some wonderful academic outcomes for students, who will not only have great qualifications, but the ability to translate these into effective life skills in their chosen place of work. SPRING 2018

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03/11/2017 14:00


Prep

ADVICE

Question Time The experts at Gabbitas Education have the answers

CATHERINE KELSEY DIRECTOR OF ELITE CLIENTS

Q

How do we decide whether our child is best suited to a prep school that finishes at Year 6 or at Year 8?

“It is vital to avoid a ‘small fish in a big pond’scenario, whereby an unprepared 11 year old goes to senior school”

being confident and ready, then a prep school with progression into a senior school at age 11 would make sense. If there is doubt, however, then a two-year gap can be a useful testing period. There is never a 'one-size fits all' solution, and that's what makes my work so interesting. From our experience, the best decision ultimately relies upon an unbiased (and unemotional) perspective on a child’s abilities and needs. Every family has a different set of circumstances and it's my job to understand them and advise objectively. Some parents are surprised to hear that their first-choice prep

A

Any good prep school will provide a solid foundation for a child’s future academic career. It will play an enormous part in determining the options available when it comes to senior school and will prepare your child for a smooth transition. If consideration for the prep school is intrinsically linked to the senior school, one must look at the intake ages at the desired senior school. Does the senior school provide entry at age 11, age 13, or both? This is vital not only so there is a smooth flow from prep to senior, but also to avoid a ‘small fish in big pond’ scenario whereby an unprepared 11 year old may be overwhelmed by the additional demands and expectations of their new environment. If your child is assessed as

HANFORD PUPILS ON A CRISP WINTER'S MORNING

SPRING 2018

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Prep

KIRSTY REED LEAD TUTOR CONSULTANT

Q

My daughter's school friend has told her that she is already being tutored for an entrance exam for our preferred senior school which they will both sit in 2019. Is early tutoring over the top or are we falling behind?

A

First of all, don't panic! It's very easy as a parent to worry about what other families are doing, but common sense will tell us that each individual child should be treated as just that. What we would suggest you do is to take a look at your child and decide whether there are any areas that a private tutor could help with. If the entrance exam is written by the school it will normally focus on verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning , Maths and/or English. If the school uses the Common Entrance, core subjects are Maths, English and Science. If your child is at a prep school, then the school should have already given some coaching. If your child attends a state school then it might be sensible to prepare your child. In either case, use a good tutor agency which can provide an objective assessment test and a mock interview so it can understand where your child is now and recommend a plan of action. And although starting a year in advance seems excessive, it's never to soon or too late: remember, preparation is everything!

“use a good tutor agency which can assess your child and then make a plan of action”

HELEN SEMPLE

DANIELLE FLOOD STUDENT SUPPORT SERVICES

SENIOR CONSULTANT, EXECUTIVE TEAM

Q

There is a lot of talk about gender and diversity at our school gates. How are schools changing to adapt to this new environment and how can we as parents help?

A

While it is positive that increasingly young people feel comfortable identifying as who they wish to be (straight, homosexual, non-binary, trans, faith no faith, etc), with this comes a responsibility for schools and families to understand what this means for their young people. Written by educators, educational specialists, consultants, diversity practitioners and parents, Inclusion Matters is the first resource of its kind to provide background information on English state and independent schools’ statutory obligations under the Equality Act 2010. It offers practical questions in an easy-to-use checklist to help empower parents and carers to consider and discuss a school’s commitment to LGBT+ inclusion. More young people are rejecting rigid gender labels. Schools need to catch up in order to provide an environment that young people can thrive in. Encouragingly, steps are slowly being taken; last summer saw the first independent school participating in the Pride March in Brighton. A growing number of schools are embracing the need for inclusion training for staff, and providing non-gender-specific uniforms. But there is still a long way to go.

The Inclusion Matters guide is available online at the website: diversityrolemodels.org

ADVICE

& GUARDIANSHIP MANAGER

Q

A family at my son's school recently became the guardian family of a nine-year-old girl from Thailand. I have a son the same age and am interested in finding out more about what it involves, the rewards and how it could affect my son.

A

International students who study in the UK should have a UK-based Education Guardian appointed by their parents to represent their child and act on the parents’ behalf in the event of an emergency. Some families choose a family friend, but many families now appoint a professional Guardianship Agency to find, check, approve, support and monitor their Guardian Family. Guardian Families come in all shapes, but most importantly they will all be caring families who like the idea of supporting an overseas student in the UK. Guardian Families also need to be homeowners and provide a room with some space for clothing and a desk for studying and they will be paid according to the amount of time a student stays with them. Having a younger child should not be a concern as the agency you choose should work hard to ensure you have the right student to fit in with your family. So whether you would prefer a child of a similar age to yours so that they grow up together, or an older child who can act as an elder sibling, it can work to suit you. It is a wonderful experience for UK families to participate in, and to know that you and your family have helped a young person to settle in and make the most out of their UK school experience is a rewarding achievement. Friends are made for life.

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Art and art therapy can help meet a wide range of learning needs C H A R LOT T E P H I L L I P S

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or artist Safia El Dabi, it was the absorbed fascination of an autistic pupil in an art project at a special needs school that finally clinched her decision to train as an art therapist. The student – a 14-year-old girl – was painting a series of striking marks on sheets of paper stuck up on the walls. Because she was non-verbal, she would put out her hand to ask for more paper, switch colours and carry on, completely immersed. "This is a child who rocks on her chair the whole time and who can’t look at you when you’re talking,’ says El Dabi. ‘Suddenly she has her eyes fixed on the paper, she’s doing these patterns. I suddenly realised that there’s something in this that really, really works." El Dabi is now studying for an MA in art therapy at Goldsmith’s and finding it an exceptionally fulfilling experience. "In art therapy it’s all about how you feel after you’ve made your work. For me, my own artwork makes more sense now. It feels authentic." Art has a well-established role on the curriculum at schools for pupils with learning needs. Their ability and engagement levels span the gamut from gifted to dauber, something that can come as a surprise to the outside world which (wrongly) tends to assume, courtesy of artists like cityscape supremo

Stephen Wiltshire, that anyone with autism will automatically be blessed with Leonardo da Vinci-style levels of talent. Of course, there are exceptions that prove the rule. Take Toby Boult, who has Asperger’s. His drawings and paintings of trains, planes, ships and personalities combine a mastery of his subjects with an astonishing eye for detail – all are completed freehand and from memory. But art is also a conduit through which Toby communicates with others, from conversations about his work to the gently humorous photo stories he produces about the royal family (another interest). The role art plays in young people like Toby's lives is convincing evidence of its intrinsic therapeutic value. Art can be transformative, say practitioners, because it offers something extra compared with other subjects. That’s down, in part, to its combination of freedom and physical engagement, believes Sineid Codd, art teacher at Parayhouse School in London, where pupils have speech, language and communication difficulties. "We’re dealing with specific material and processes but there’s extra freedom in the making of the work. Because we don’t have to do it in a very specific way, it means children are developing their own styles and characters." Art therapy takes this sense of engagement and freedom of expression to another level. Its history in the UK goes back to the Second World War when artist Adrian Hill, hospitalised

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with tuberculosis contracted in the trenches, asked for paints to overcome the boredom of convalescence. As other sick soldiers at the sanatorium also started drawing and painting, medical staff began to notice that they recovered faster than other patients. Today, art therapy is a recognised specialism with its own association and rigorous postgraduate-level training programme. Therapists work with adults and children, some with learning needs, others traumatised by their experiences of everything from bullying to bereavement. For children, including those with special needs, art therapy can be a liberating experience because, unlike so many other aspects of their lives, they are the ones who are in control. Understanding what art therapy involves does require a fairly major shifting of expectations as almost everything that most of us would associate with the conventional process of creating art is turned upside down. An intensely private experience, it happens in a small group or one-to-one in its own space. Instead of working towards a finished artwork, sharing it with family and friends and perhaps displaying it in public, art therapy is very often all about expressing emotion while the work it gives rise to is for private consumption only. And sessions that don’t lead to a completed work can be just as productive

– therapeutically speaking – as those that do. "They make choices and it’s up to them to say when the work is finished or whether they’d like to continue with it. It’s not about making a piece of art for display," says Paul Morrow lead practitioner in the creative arts for Westminster. It’s that process of creation that’s crucial, agrees Priya Dhingra, director of the Ed Psych Practice. "It is really used with kids who find it very difficult to do the talking therapies," she says. She tells the story of a child who was struggling with overwhelming emotions after a family crisis. Too young to articulate his feelings, he would come up with stories, using colours to express what people were saying to him – and how he felt about it, enabling the therapists to start working with him. Like any other therapeutic tool, art therapy has its limits; for people who don’t enjoy messing around with clay or paints, music or play therapy could be better options. It also comes with its myths, in particular the notion that it is only effective for people who are artistic. "You don’t need to be good at art, but you do need to be sufficiently interested in using art materials to explore your creative self," says Hephzibah Kaplan, director of The London Art Therapy Centre. In our evaluation-obsessed days, one of the hardest aspects of art – and art therapy – can be to put a value on just what it can achieve.

‘NEUROSCIENCE PRODUCES ST U DY A F T E R ST U DY S H OW I N G T H E E F F I CACY O F A RT T H E RA PY. ’

SEN & ART THERAPY

With a growing requirement for just about every educational intervention to come with solid evidence to back it up, there is pressure to demonstrate, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the positive impact of art therapy on brain function. It’s starting to happen, says Hephzibah Kaplan. "Neuroscience is producing study after study showings its efficacy." Those involved with art in general and art therapy in particular are, in any case, in no doubt about its life-changing impact. That includes major cultural organisations, which are stepping in to fund innovative events aimed at pupils with learning needs. Earlier this year, teachers and pupils from special schools enjoyed a week of creative arts at The Tate. A New Direction’s Special School network, working with Studio Wayne McGregor, took over Tate Exchange, a collaborative, experimental space that hosts a range of projects designed to spark new perspectives on art. At the Royal Academy of Arts, where the busy SEN schools programme has been running for a number of years, children explore artwork and artists on their own terms, responding to what they see and sometimes by creating their own work. A Rubens exhibition, for example, involved students voting on the pictures they wanted to discuss and then being drawn into a narrative about them. When so much of education is about things being either ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ confidence can be easily dented, believes access and communities manager at the Royal Academy Molly Bretton. That's why she sees art-based events like this as immensely valuable. "I think there’s a very special role that creative spaces and art making can play in allowing the space for young people to explore ideas and their identity, and levels of self-expression that they can play out and build into other areas of their life." Creating art can also help people with learning needs feel connected to the wider community, believes Paul Morrow, who says it: "is about our experience of being human, leaving our mark on the world". (Some details of individual pupils have been changed.)

TAT E E XC H A N G E tateexchange@tate.org.uk R OYA L AC A D E M Y O F A R T S royalacademy.org.uk/events/tag/sen SEN Schools Week, March 2018. Five workshops exploring a range of paintings and sculptures.

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Healing WORDS A writer and mental health campaigner on how poetry can give hope to stressed young people M I L LY M I L L S

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hen I published a memoir three years ago about how poetry helped me overcome depression, I never imagined that it would lead to invitations from schools and universities to talk to pupils and students about my experience. The need to do so has only become more pressing in a world in which three children in every classroom has a mental health condition. My first trip a few years ago was to an academy school close to my home in west London to talk to a Year 9 class. The English teacher explained that she wished her pupils on the cusp of adolescence to understand that poetry was not just about the drudgery of rote learning or what assonance or alliteration meant. Actually, poetry could be their friend in times of need, just as it had been for me when afflicted by what Winston Churchill famously called the Black Dog. I chose to talk about how the cadences and evocation of quiet in Yeats’s poem The Lake Isle of Innisfree had helped me get to sleep during anxious nights; of how, trapped in my bedroom when unwell, I imagined the ‘beeloud glade’ and the ‘lake water lapping’ evoked in the poem, and something of my desperation evaporated.

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“A P OEM CA N BE A STR ES S -R ELI EV ER –A ND MOR E APP R OPR I ATE THA N MEDI CATI ON”

Next time they felt anxious I said, why not stop and learn a poem? They might find it a wonderful stress-reliever too – and more appropriate than medication with all its sideeffects. Doctors are no longer recommending antidepressants for teenagers after a report in January 2016 found that the drugs were linked to suicide and aggression among young people. Since that first visit, I’ve developed a Healing Words workshop in which I explain why poetry can help our mental health and share the six or seven poems which I’ve found can be most helpful young people. As one teacher said to

me, poetry’s soothing balm has never been more needed with the spike in teenage mental health problems and an emphasis on exams and academic success rather than on young people's emotional wellbeing. I’m far from the first to recognise poetry’s healing power: Apollo was the God of poetry as well as medicine. In 1751 Benjamin Franklin founded the first American hospital, the Pennsylvania Hospital, where reading and creative writing were among the treatments prescribed for mental illness. Freud, Adler, Jung and others recognised the healing power of words, and this led to the 1969 founding of the Association of Poetry Therapy. There’s even some scientific evidence that poetry changes the way we think. The arrangement of poetry, even the clearest, has different conventions to continuous prose. This presents enough of a challenge to get our brains working differently. Research by Philip Davis and the neuroscience department of Liverpool University discovered that readers of Shakespeare, when they came across an unusual but totally comprehensible grammatical construction, would show a spike in neural activity. Even though the readers understood what was being said, their brains were shocked into activity. The requirement to concentrate in the moment helps us stop regretting the past and fearing the future in the negative mental spiral characteristic of depression.

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every blessing. Herbert’s words provide a different, gentler more compassionate narrative – that we need R AC H E L K E L LY ’ S M E M O I R to learn to love and forgive BLACK RAINBOW ourselves, and ultimately, How words healed me – my journey ‘sit and eat’. Pupils tell me through depression is published by his words make them feel Yellow Kite Books, £16.99. less alone. A third favourite poem is Say not the Struggle Naught Availeth by Arthur Hugh Clough, one of Churchill’s favourite poets who he was fond of quoting in the War. It’s a powerful message of hope for anyone who is feeling desperate. The land will once again be bright. Of course, believing in your own ability to recover in turn makes it more likely. Finally, there are poems to deal with devastating loss. I never forget one workshop soon after the case of the death of a much loved pupil, known for being kind, loyal, fun and spirited – he had died suddenly in hospital. We shared Ben Jonson’s poem, It is Not Growing like a Tree. It is not growing like a tree In bulk doth make Man better be; Or standing long an oak, three hundred year, To fall a log at last, dry, bald, and sere: A lily of a day Is fairer far in May, Although it fall and die that night— It was the plant and flower of light. In small proportions we just beauties see; And in short measures life may perfect be. Poetry can work in a similar way to mindfulness, forcing us into the present. Robert Frost, demonstrating my point perfectly, put it far better when he said a poem can be a ‘momentary stay against confusion’ – and few are more confused and distracted than today’s school children whose attention span and ability to concentrate has been diminished by the rise of social media and the internet. My poem choices move in an arc from dark to light, reflecting my own recovery from two serious depressive episodes, but also the poems which I’ve found resonate most with young people. Asking pupils to read the poems aloud can be a confidence-booster, and literally help people find a voice. One popular poem is The Guest House by Jalal al-Din Rumi, the 13th century Persian poet and Sufi mystic. Audiences are astounded to discover that the poem was written over 700 years ago, as it feels very modern in its

sentiment of acceptance. The poem says we must welcome whatever befalls us. We are like a guesthouse and we must ‘treat each guest honourably,’ even if we are greeted by a ‘crowd of sorrows’. The most seemingly unprepossessing guest ‘may be clearing you out for some new delight’. Being worried about the future is pointless. What will happen will happen and we need to embrace that uncertaintly. A second popular poem among young people is George Herbert’s Love (III). Herbert brilliantly describes what depression can feel like. It makes one feel ‘guilty of dust and sin’ with a soul that is ‘drawing back’. But in the poem Herbert also gives us a second compassionate voice, that of love. Yes: our souls can draw back. Yes: we all need love to bid us welcome. The poem pinpoints a sense of guilt, that we can still at times feel low even with a loving home, youth and seemingly

I felt profoundly moved when pupils said it had given them solace in the face of tragedy and comfort when they had been speechless. At a time when children are struggling with their mental health, poetry can be a valuable tool in their mental health toolbox. Tough times require tough and beautiful language and that’s exactly what poetry can deliver.

R AC H E L K E L LY Writer and campaigner

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‘ Enjoying childhood and realising our imagination.’ We are delighted to announce that Mogg Hercules, Headteacher and founder of Dallington School has been appointed MBE for outstanding services to education in the New Year Honours List, 2018 Dallington is a family-run co-educational independent school, with a nursery, in the heart of London. Personal tours each day of the week, except Wednesday. Next Open Evening: Thursday 3rd May 2018 from 6 to 8 pm

Email: hercules@dallingtonschool.co.uk Phone: 020 7251 2284 www.dallingtonschool.co.uk

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FUN IN THE COUNTRY, P94

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Re a l Ne w s

In a world beset by fake news, how do we help young people understand what’s really going on? A dedicated magazine dealing in the real thing is helping children make sense of their world L I B BY N O R M A N

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hen The Week Junior launched in November 2015, it was in the enviable position of having already gained over 3,000 subscribers, rare for any new magazine, more so for a title aimed at children. It helped that this was a known quantity, as little sister to the respected adult news digest The Week, but pre-launch it wasn’t always an easy sell to the market. Some people said the target readership of young people aged eight to 14 would not be interested in a paper magazine in a digital age, or that children weren’t interested in news. Neither prediction, as it turned out, was close to the mark. For the title’s editor Anna Bassi – with more than 20 years’ experience in creating magazines for young people – it

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is refreshing to be leading a children's magazine with plenty of content and not a plastic giveaway in sight. Feedback from parents has been positive. They like the fact that it is a print product – especially as there is ongoing concern about the amount of time children spend in front of screens. Anecdotally, it has helped fuel dinner -table discussions about the ‘big stuff ’, even helping out parents who haven’t stayed abreast of every geopolitical development themselves, so appreciate a solid news source laying the groundwork that can inspire informed debate. Anna Bassi recalls the note from one parent that said: ‘I had hoped I could get my children to bed; instead they are asking me about North Korea. Thanks The Week Junior’. Presenting news and information for this audience does bring huge content and design challenges. For one thing,

there’s the scope of the readership – the differences in reading skills and comprehension between age eight and age 14 may be vast. In fact, it’s this breadth that sets the style and tone of the title. “It’s never about dumbing anything down,” says Bassi. “We’ve always seen our role as to help children make sense of the world. The design of the pages is integral to that, as are the words, and we describe stories really concisely so things are crystal clear. “Every word has to be understandable – and where it’s an unfamiliar word or concept we’ll always explain it – but within every spread of the magazine we combine longer stories with shorter pieces. Where a story is longer, we’ll highlight key information to present takeaway facts and encourage children to dive in and pick up some information, then maybe read on.”

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NEWS S OURCES

“BI TE- SIZ E D INF O, OR ‘ BISCUI TS’ , AR E PL AYGR OUND CUR R E NCY”

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We grow through what we go through

Rewarding children for: Confidence, Curiosity, Creativity, Collaboration, Communication, Commitment and Craftsmanship For a private tour, please call our Registrar on 01444 483528 or visit www.greatwalstead.co.uk GW.indd 1

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School's Out

Small pieces of information are currency in a news-hungry playground. “We call them ‘biscuits’,” says Bassi. These bite-sized chunks offer the kind of fascinating facts that appeal to young minds and can be told to friends or parents. Layout of The Week Junior remains critical and, says Bassi, involves “tons of pictures” to enliven every story. This can be a challenge when you are working on an area such as politics or government. Let’s face it, there is a plethora of what Bassi describes as: “men in suits looking grumpy” for any story involving these subjects, so it’s important to find variety among the images – also, when you can, tapping into positive and different images, especially if they also reinforce inclusivity and equality. It’s worth noting that the magazine template was checked carefully against designing for dyslexia guidelines to ensure accessibility to the widest cross-section of young people. Bassi says that feedback from teachers indicates that this has been a real positive – even tempting in half-hearted and reluctant readers. It does remain a constant challenge to present stories simply and briefly – as anyone can testify who has tried to explain American politics or, come to that, British politics – to a young person. Accuracy on salient facts and background is crucial and the team includes deputy editor Felicity Capon, formerly writer on titles such as Newsweek, The Telegraph and The Day. Balance is also critical, so that grim news stories are mixed in with entertaining features of perennial interest (dinosaurs, historical figures, et al). Stories about inspirational people, including young people, also feature in the magazine.

“SCIEN CE STORI ES ARE EQUALLY POPULAR WI T H BOYS AND G I RLS”

So are there any news stories that The Week Junior would exclude? In fact, there is very little. For instance the terrorist attack in Manchester was included, even though this was a deeply distressing story by anyone’s lights. Bassi says that in stories like this the focus is on what happened, without too much detail, then information about what was done to help and what will be done now. “With Manchester, there were so many children involved, and at such a high profile event, that we couldn’t not write about it, but our aim is to use facts to empower rather than frighten children. We did explain what ISIS is, but were careful to put risk into proportion.” On the other hand, Harvey Weinstein did not make the news, although The Week Junior did include an Oprah Winfrey quote about female empowerment. Bassi says that there are some stories that raise more questions than they answer. Really hard news always has to be handled with care and sensitivity, and counterbalanced with positives so that children can move on.

NEWS S OURCES

So what do children most like reading about? The Week Junior gets feedback direct from readers and also using PopJam, the children’s social media/community app. Yes, children do like cuddly animals, but harder science and technology stories consistently come in the top three topics – equally popular among boys and girls. They also want to know the big stories. “Our readers are passionate about all sorts of things and they have voiced strong opinions about both Donald Trump and Brexit,” says Bassi. “They also care deeply about the environment, the NHS and equality.” The magazine’s readers participate enthusiastically in each issue’s big debate, which explores a contentious topic by presenting both sides of the argument before asking children to vote, via PopJam, for the side they agree with. Topics are broad but can be quite challenging (for example, ‘do we spend too much at Christmas’ and ‘should Russia compete in the Winter Olympics?’). In an era when fake news, unreliable news sources and low election turnouts are, say some, a threat to the very bedrock of our democracy, it is good news that a topical magazine finds a ready audience. Perhaps even more heartening for any parent is that it encourages next gen voters to hone their critical thinking skills and decide on the things that matter to them. SPRING 2018

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for Spring From everyday experiments for young boffins to art inspiration and picture books, here are our picks for spring

LITTLE CREATURES M I C E I N T H E C I T Y: L O N D O N by Ami Shin

All across London, mice dressed in top hats and smart overcoats are making their way across town to work. Award-winning South Korean illustrator Ami Shin's work is a cross between Where's Wally? and Angelina Ballerina. Every page is teeming with surprises and young children will have something new to spot every time they open the pages. And if they like this one, introduce them to Mice in the City: New York next. £12.95 — thameshudson.co.uk

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Bright Eyes F I R E F LY H O M E by Jane Clarke & Britta Teckentrump

Th is stylish picture book features vibrant neon throughout as it invites readers to help a little lost fi refl y fi nd her way home. The fun interactive text brings Florence Firefl y to life. £11.99 — nosycrow.com

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BOOKS

M U ST READ

BODY ART WE ' R E ALL WO R KS O F ART by Mark Sperring

Th is striking book celebrates and normalises human diversity by highlighting the many examples of humans as seen in art styles and movements around the world. The lyrical text works well read aloud and the vibrant illustrations are minimasterpieces in themselves. £11.99 — pavilionbooks.com

BOFFIN BIBLE

Page turner MY WO RST BOO K EVE R! by Allan Ahlberg

Th is clever story is about the making of a book and all the things that can go wrong. Allan's idea features a crocodile, but the publishers want a dinosaur and the illustrator's keen on a hippo... and further problems arrive at the printer. £10.95 — thameshudson.co.uk

SWAP FEAT

I S WA P P E D M Y B R O T H E R O N T H E I N T E R N E T by Jo Simmons

Finding an improved older brother turns out not to be quite the breeze that Jonny expected, with the ghost of Henry VIII among matches chosen by SiblingSwap.com. Be careful what you wish for is the moral of Jo Simmons' comic tale, brilliantly illustrated by Nathan Reed. £5.99 — bloomsbury.com

Outdoor Maker Lab

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ut one of the UK's most engaging scientists and educators (Professor Robert Winston) together with one of our most colourful and accessible publishers (Dorling Kindersley, now known as DK) and the formula is bound to work. Winston has devised experiments that enable young boffi ns to have a go at science in their everyday surroundings, and with a range of ideas to appeal to different interests and abilities. Children can build a wormery to watch worms tunnelling, extract DNA from strawberries to get an introduction to genetics or create a diamond kite to see aerodynamics at work. There's even an experiment to model tectonic plates and understand why earthquakes happen. The focus is around STEM learning, and with lots of brilliant visuals and facts to keep even younger readers in the loop. The age range is eight to 12, although younger readers should also enjoy the experiments with a bit of help from an adult or older sibling. Published 1 March. £12.99 — dk.com

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Oakfield Preparatory School Care, Challenge, Inspire

Register for Open Days and Apply Online www.oakfield.dulwich.sch.uk admissions@oakfield.dulwich.sch.uk Co-education from aged 2 to 11 125-128 Thurlow Park Rd, SE21 8HP

Oakfield: a world of opportunity where pupils’ talents are nurtured. We develop each individual so confidence and resilience grow and excellent results follow.

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Happening history Open Morning 2nd February 2018 Independent co-educational preparatory day, flexi and full-time boarding school, ages 2-13. Contact the school Registrar on 01590 613 303 or email registrar@walhampton.com WALHAMPTON SCHOOL, LYMINGTON, HAMPSHIRE SO41 5ZG.

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Registered charity Number: 307330

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WORLD BOOK DAY

Sharing STO R I ES

This year’s World Book Day offers not only a stellar line-up of authors and some great free books but also timely messages about the wider value of reading for our wellbeing, our relationships and our economy

orld Book Day has hit something of a milestone in the UK, at the grand old age of 21. Established here in 1997, this celebration of reading and the art of books was a response to concern over poor literacy standards in young people. It remains a charity, largely supported by publishers, by National Book Tokens, and by the nation's booksellers. Over the years, more than 290 million book tokens have been gifted to children. Last year alone saw well over a million £1 book tokens redeemed, enabling children to select a book at a discount or get a book for free if they chose from the line-up of £1 books. There has been some criticism that the 2018 line-up of authors selected for the range of £1 books favours celebrities, but the organisers have reminded critics that the aim of the event is to get as many young people as possible reading. And there is plenty of excitement on the menu, whether

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“ I F EV E RY CHILD LEFT SC H O O L W I T H T H E RE A D I N G S K I LLS T H EY N E E D TO T H RI V E , I T ’S E ST I MAT E D O U R ECO N O MY CO U LD B E £ 3 0 B I L LI O N B I GGE R BY 2 02 5” children are inspired by Great British Bake Off champ Nadiya Hussain’s storybook-cum-cookbook or the wonderful Oi Goat!, created by Kes Gray and illustrator Jim Field specially for early years’ readers. Three classic Michael Bond stories illustrated by Peggy Fortnum are brought together for the first time in one special WBD release Paddington Turns Detective and Clare Balding has written The Girl Who Thought She Was A Dog for this year’s event. There are rich pickings within the young adult sphere too (full-length titles for £2.50), including Frances Hardinge’s Fly by

Night and performance poet/author Benjamin Zephaniah’s Gangsta Rap. The overriding theme for this year’s WBD – first shared last September via the Twitter handle #ShareAStoryIn10 – is the value of reading together with children for just ten minutes a day. If every child left school with the reading skills they need to thrive, our economy would be £30 billion bigger by 2025 (data is taken from the National Literacy Trust’s 2016 annual survey). To that end, WBD organisers are engaging with corporate and public sector partners to try and persuade them to spread the word that promoting reading benefits all of society. There will, of course, be the annual round of dressing up as favourite characters, alongside a national tour and author and illustrator events around the country. While this is fun, and adds to the festival flavour, the organisers want to get the message out that reading is a lifelong gift. As World Book Day director Kirsten Grant put it: “We still have hard work to do, to create the readers of the future… to present books in a way that will make children and young people actively want to read them.” WO R L D B O O K DAY Thursday 1 March. For more about celebrations and books, visit worldbookday.com SPRING 2018

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‘‘Bringing out the best in boys’’

A day in the life of Aldro... come and see for yourself OPEN MORNING • Saturday 3rd March 2018 • 11:00am–12:30pm If you would like to attend an Open Morning, request a prospectus, or arrange an individual tour, please contact the Admissions Office on 01483 813535 or email: admissions@aldro.org Aldro, Lombard Street, Shackleford, Godalming, Surrey GU8 6AS www.aldro.org ALDRO.indd 1

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Build confidence. Express individuality. We look to inspire each child, develop and celebrate their interests. Come and see the difference. dulwichprepcranbrook.org

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School’s Out

Reading

RICHES The London Children’s Book Project is redistributing books to families without them A M A N D A C O N S TA N C E

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he act of reading changes us, according to Liberty Venn. "When a child reads for pleasure it alters the way they view themselves and how they view the world,” she says. It is transformative for children to grow up surrounded by stories, yet according to the National Literacy Trust, one in four children across London has fewer than ten books of their own. Children growing up in such ‘book poor’ households are known to be disadvantaged when it comes to language development, emotional and social development and learning outcomes. Venn is a researcher from west London who specialises in literacy-related work. Following a successful two-year-pilot at a primary school in North Kensington, she launched the London Children’s Book Project last summer. The not-for-profit aims to redistribute 30,000 new and ‘gently-used’ children’s books this academic year alone. Venn's pilot to test the scheme's merits took place at Barlby Primary School in North Kensington (48% of pupils there are on free school meals; the national average is 24%). She set up a free library in the playground so that children could take books they liked.

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“O N E I N FO U R C H I L D R EN I N LO N D O N H AV E F EW ER T H A N T EN B O O KS O F T H EI R OW N ” The library soon ran out, so Venn wrote to ten local private schools, including Bute House, Thomas’s, Norland Place and Notting Hill Prep (she says, the head at NHP Jane Cameron was “incredible”), to see if they could donate. Norland Place ran a book drive. Parents were thrilled to clear their shelves: "By the next day, we had 1,300 books," says Venn. “I have been amazed by people’s generosity. What is most amazing is the unquestioning support of the project. You don’t need to explain to anyone why it’s important, everyone just gets it.” What makes the charity special is the creative way in which books are redistributed, according to Venn. The project places an emphasis on enjoyment for both giver and receiver. There are posters, bunting and stickers for schools to create their own popup bookshops. “This puts real value on the selection process,” says Venn. She adds that teachers have already reported on amazing language development in their pupils when they discuss the process afterwards. So what’s the end goal? “I think it’s reasonable to distribute 50,000 books a year,” says Venn. She’s done her homework: there are 305 London primary schools where the pupil body is above the national average for receipt of the pupil premium – a good correlation with book-poor homes. “We have pushed 10,000 books into the community in North Kensington,” says Venn. That works out at about ten books a child. She describes the project as a "no-brainer”, adding: “I want commitment, not money.”

To find out more about donating, or get involved with London Children's Book Project, visit childrensbookproject.co.uk or email Liberty@childrensbookproject.co.uk SPRING 2018

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THE MAKING OF ME The writer, illustrator and performance poet Laura Dockrill on happy days at the Brit School in south London

Q: Where did you go to school and when? A: I went to the Brit School for Performing Arts (OVER 10 YEARS AGO NOW!!!) Q: What sort of school was it? A: It is magical and special. When I first stepped in the building I immediately felt at home. I had struggled in my previous school to find a footing, as it was very academic, and felt a huge amount of pressure and further and further away from what I actually wanted to do. But Brit School was my habitat and home to my species; it’s an open-minded, freethinking, risk-taking school that encourages and empowers young people to take leaps and be brave and experiment with form and genre. I am eternally grateful to it. Q: What was your favourite subject? A: Theatre. The theatre department was a scrubby little layout of three rooms, all painted black with the most simple of set ups. Our costume bit was basically made up of a wig, an old mustard moth-eaten armchair, a few weird outfits and a mop. But that was all we needed, the space was a complete blank canvas. 80

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Q: Which teacher influenced you the most and why? A: I have had a lot of wonderful, inspirational teachers in my life. Nick Williams, then the principal of Brit School, always gave me time in his office to tirelessly go over my essays and poetry and always encouraged my writing. Then there was Miss Bamford, who taught me at primary school. She was a solid punk with a shaved head, dyed ox-blood red. She had a pierced nose, tattoos and ginormous wonderful boobies – so great that we would deliberately fall over in the playground just to get a hug from her. I always loved that she came to school dressed like herself. It gave her not only an informality and genuine softness and likeability factor, but made us feel we could trust her, like she was legit, ONE OF US. Q: Did you have a special place at school? A: Those rooms at The Brit School. They were cold, intense and completely black, littered with scraps of poetry, crisp packets, browning apple cores and flattened Ribena cartons. And we were obsessed with them. With the curtains closed and the spotlights on full, we

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School’s Out Q & A

would often be still there at 7pm on a Friday just ‘hanging out’, making up stuff (and school finished at 12 on Fridays). Q: What beliefs do you think your school instilled in you? A: It endorsed my love and verve for theatre, language and literature but also allowed me to play across other strands and mediums, pushing me and guiding me. It spoke to me like an adult but let me think like a child. It made me think freely and work collaboratively and actively; and understand rejection, competition, kindness. It practises and demonstrates the importance of valuing and respecting art across all of its many borders, strands and disciplines; there is no star of the show. The school showed me how to work hard. To trust that enough is never enough, there is always more to do, more reading, more talking, more ways to be active. That it is illegal to be bored and even worse to be lazy. But also, I thank it for infusing me politically and socially, bolstering myself as a woman, supporting me as a young feminist and helping me find a confident voice in the competitive world of writing.

Q: What is your most vivid memory? A: So many, they all roll into one kind of blurry dream where I can’t even report what was school and what was social, it was such a happy place. I felt like I really got the chance to thrash out my emo-teen years there and was allowed to do it – it was a bit like rehab in that way. I remember lots of first encounters, meeting people who have since gone on to become my best friends. Q: Were you too cool for school? A: No. I talked to and loved everybody. I wore multi-coloured tights, leopard print Converse, ill fitting jackets, had bitten-down, painted, chipped nails, knotty hair and was usually eating a tin of tropical fruit in syrup. Q: What effect did school have on your character – did it change you? A: Yes, for all of the above reasons. Sometimes I meet people and I can’t help but think, ‘I wish you got the chance to go to Brit'. People say they can always tell a Brit kid. Q: Where did you develop your love of writing and drawing? A: I have always written and drawn. I’m obsessed with fairy tales, Greek mythology and Roald Dahl. I’ve always believed that words and art go together in some way. I like the way words and art look on a page/ screen/ stage together. Then I am obsessed with the way humans talk, move, explain themselves. Both my parents raised me to love people, to enjoy the art of conversation and proper storytelling. I think both of my parents lead me to believe that the process of an artist is just as important as the end product of the art itself. So I enjoy finding stories within stories. The scratchy scribbly bits in-between. I’ve always been fascinated with a broad, vibrant, experimental approach to making art. And making mistakes too. I find enjoyment and freedom in just whirling away the hours with a pen and a stack of paper. Q: Tell us about your latest book? A: Big Bones is about a young girl who loves her body. It is an endorsement of body positivity, food, confidence and womanhood. I loved writing it and eating my way through the chapters. I wrote it in a really weird time in my life where I turned 30 and thought WAIT A SEC, WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING? It is a bit of an apology and love letter to my younger self and a conversation with my younger readers. It’s very special to me.

"Brit School spoke to me like an adult but let me think like a child" Q: What are your plans for the future? A: I would just love to do more and much of the same, because I feel so grateful that every day I am met by my characters and stories and that gets to be my job. I don’t want to be greedy and ask for more than I already have. Q: How would you sum up your school days in five words? A: Escape, play, surreal, magical, precious. BIG BONES is published by Hot Key Books in March 2018 SPRING 2018

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ININ DEPEN DEPEN T TDAY S CHO SOL CHO OL OL IN DEPEN DENDEN TDEN DAY SDAY CHO FOR FOR G IRL G IRL S S AG AG ED ED 4 4 TO TO 18 18 FOR G IRL S AG ED 4 TO 18 — —— Queen’s Queen’s Gate School School offgirls off ersers girls girls a warm, a warm, Queen’s GateGate School offers a warm, supportive supportive environment environment where where individuality individuality supportive environment where individuality is nurtured, is nurtured, academic academic standards standards areare high high is nurtured, academic standards are high and a broad-based a broad-based curriculum curriculum ensures ensures a a and aand broad-based curriculum ensures a well-rounded well-rounded education. education. well-rounded education. A range A of range ofof scholarships scholarships and and means-tested means-tested A range scholarships and means-tested bursaries bursaries are are available available to to assist assist toto bursaries are available to assist girls girls togirls join join usus and and parents parents areare welcome welcome toto visit usus join us and parents are welcome to visit usvisit throughout throughout the the year. year. throughout the year. Details Details ofof Open Open Events Events forfor entry entry toJunior to the the Junior Junior Details of Open Events for entry to the and and Senior Senior Schools Schools are are available available on on our our website. website. and Senior Schools are available on our website. For a prospectus a prospectus or toto arrange arrange a visit, aplease visit, please please For aFor prospectus or toor arrange a visit, contact contact the the Registrar, Registrar, Miss Miss Isabel Isabel Carey: Carey: contact the Registrar, Miss Isabel Carey: — —— registrar@queensgate.org.uk · 020 registrar@queensgate.org.uk · 020 7594 4982 4982 registrar@queensgate.org.uk · 020 75947594 4982 queensgate.org.uk/admissions queensgate.org.uk/admissions queensgate.org.uk/admissions

Queen’s Queen’s Gate Gate School, School, 131–133 131–133 Queen’s Queen’s Gate, London London SW7 SW7 5LE5LE Queen’s Gate School, 131–133 Queen’s Gate, Gate, London SW7 5LE

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E: admissions@westonbirt.org T: 01666 881301 www.westonbirt.org

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Westonbirt co-ed Reception class offers a diverse academic curriculum plus Sport, Art, Music and Drama. This small class has a full time Teacher and Teaching Assistant. There is a Forest School on site, an indoor heated 25m pool, large grounds and several play areas. Children settle in quickly after a summer term induction. Fees are £2,680/term (approx £225/wk based on a 12wk term). Wrap around care 8am-6pm is offered including an exciting array of after school clubs plus a nutritious tea. http://www.westonbirt.org/admissions/book-a-visit

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he quality of the early

years’ provision, including its leadership and management, is outstanding.

School Inspection Report 2017

Call now to secure your place: 020 7225 1277 www.stnicholasprep.co.uk 23 Princes Gate I London I SW7 1PT

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“A wonderful place to wonderful grow a rooted sense “A place of grow self, and joy in sense life to a rooted and learning.” of self, and joy in life and learning.” Good Schools Guide 2016

Good Schools Guide 2016

3 –18 | Boarding & Day | 1 hour from London

| a place on an 3–18 & open Day |morning 1 houror from To book Boarding to London

arrange an individual visit, please contact Janie Jarman, Registrar. To book a place on an open morning or to arrange an individual visit, please contact BEDALES_PRINT.indd 1 Janie Jarman, Registrar. •ADVERT PLACEMENTS.indd 5

T 01730 711733 E jjarman@bedales.org.uk T 01730 711733 Petersfield, Hampshire GU32 2DG

E jjarman@bedales.org.uk Petersfield, Hampshire GU32 2DG www.bedales.org.uk

www.bedales.org.uk

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GOING

green

Children are being taught all about waste, so how do those lessons come home? AMBIKA CURBISHLEY

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or any family, it's a challenge to reduce their environmental footprint. If you don't already worry about the sheer amount of plastic and unrecyclables that go into the average bin, then your children – schools are now dealing with the issues surrounding waste and our environment in class – will soon be pricking your conscience. In fact, most of us would consider ourselves to be environmentally aware, but with children in the mix, the future of the planet becomes more personal. Ironically, problems also escalate when children arrive. It’s difficult, when presented with the boxes of disposable nappies and wipes, the plastic tubs of creams and lotions, the dozens of travel pouches of baby food, the rapidly outgrown clothing and the small mountains of now unloved toys and books, to feel that you’re not prioritising your own family's day-to-day convenience over the longterm future of the planet. The truth is, people aren’t great for the planet. But that doesn’t mean we can (or would want to) rationalise our impact away. We still need a functioning planet for our children to call home, a planet that can sustain life while inspiring wonder. So how do we minimise our environmental impact in the here and now, picking up on the lessons our children are now learning at school? The first step is to transform that vague, gnawing worry into a more solid sense of

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what you now generate, and what you can do to reduce your impact. For example, you may have thought that most plastic was recyclable. Local councils generally ask us to use our recycling bin for ‘plastic, metal, glass and paper’, so the assumption is that this is going to be repurposed. It turns out that, of the 3.4 million tonnes of plastic discarded in the UK each year, only 1.5 million tonnes is recyclable. And of that quantity, only 500,000 tonnes is actually recycled. This means, for example, that most of our food containers – pouches, plastic films, bottle tops and ‘mixed plastics’ – go directly into landfill. The recycling symbol – those circling arrows that we all recognise, and in which we place our blind faith – doesn’t mean ‘recyclable’ at all; it denotes that a manufacturer has made ‘a financial contribution’ towards the collection and recycling of packaging, and this is very often in lieu of using recyclable materials for its own products. One reason for this waste is that many of the recyclable plastics we use in our daily lives – food pouches being a particularly salient example for any parent – are not recycled by most local councils. There are some points of difference though. For example, Ella’s Kitchen pouches can be

School's Out

ECO BY NATY BIODEGRADABLE WET WIPES

OF T H E 3.4 M I LLI ON TONNE S OF PLAST I C D I SCAR D E D I N T H E U K E ACH YE AR , ONLY 1.5 M I LLI ON AR E R ECYC LAB LE recycled by specialist company Terracycle (terracycle.co.uk), which focuses on the recycling of hard-to-process waste. I found that there’s a collection point close enough to my home, so now we store up our used pouches and do drop-offs every couple of months. But what about everything else? The best solution, of course, is to reduce the amount of harmful waste we produce from the outset. It’s a minefield out there, not to mention inconvenient – more so because

GREEN LIVING

some big brands seem happy to mislead or obfuscate in their labelling. Of course, it’s even harder with young children in the mix – especially since plastic seems to be used in so many everyday products that score so highly on convenience. While your children are very young, it can be an especially hard balancing act, but once they reach school age you are likely to be able to get their assistance in, for instance, swapping plastic drink bottles for more environmentally friendly options (surely a win-win). What follows are some relatively simple ways to do a little good.

Reduce your reliance on plastic packaging

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veryone’s talking about this right now, in no small part due to the devastating effect plastic pollution is having on our oceans, as highlighted in the BBC series Blue Planet II. There’s a fair bit you need to read if you’re to understand how plastic recycling works in the UK and, even if it is recyclable, not all councils do so although they may still ask you to place the item in a recycle bin. The very best advice is to reduce the amount of plastics you buy – be this in packaging or toys. A good resource on the meaning of plastics codes, their various toxicities and environmental impacts can be found at lifewithoutplastic.com.

5 E C O - C O N S C I O U S A LT E R N AT I V E S Y O U ’ L L L O V E

Takeaway Coffee

Body Scrub

Bath Toys

Bottles

KEEP CUP

SISTER & CO COCONUT OIL

HEVEA KAWAN NATURAL RUBBER DUCK

PURA

MOLLY AND MOO

That daily coffee you enjoy after the school run? Make sure it’s in a keep-cup. In the UK alone, we discard around 2.5 billion coffee cups every year – and only 1 in 400 is recycled. At uk.keepcup.com, you can design your own keep-cup to suit your tastes.

Microbeads in exfoliants and other beauty products are tiny balls of plastic that find their way into our watercourses, harming entire ecosystems. Look for natural alternatives (e.g., with ground peach kernels) or use coconut oil with brown sugar instead.

So many children's toys are made of plastic when some could equally well be made of natural materials. For bathtime go with rubber or cork. We love the Kawan duck by Hevea, as well as its full range of rubber teethers and pacifiers, available at meandbuddy.com

Try to move away from plastic for children's bottles and cups as far as you can – check out the Pura collection, including adult water bottles made from stainless steel, at kidly.com. Kidly is a great destination for natural and sustainable toys too.

Several manufacturers make ecofriendly bamboo sets of dinnerware. Bamboo is a great natural fibre that can be used to make all sorts of kitchenware and boxes for children’s lunches and snacks. We love this stylish star-print set from mollyandmoo.co.uk.

Tableware

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LYNDHURST HOUSE

PREPARATORY AND PRE-PREPARATORY LYNDHURST HOUSESCHOOL

24 Lyndhurst AND Gardens, Hampstead, London NW3 5NW PREPARATORY PRE-PREPARATORY SCHOOL Telephone: 0207 435 4936 Email: office@lyndhursthouse.co.uk

24 Lyndhurst Gardens, Hampstead, London NW3 5NW www.lyndhursthouse.co.uk Telephone: 0207 435 4936 Email: office@lyndhursthouse.co.uk www.lyndhursthouse.co.uk

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24 Lyndhurst Gardens, 24Hampstead, Lyndhurst Gardens, London NW3 Hampstead, 5NW London NW3 5NW Telephone: 0207 435 4936 Telephone: Email:0207 office@lyndhursthouse.co.uk 435 4936 Email: office@lyndhursthouse.co.uk www.lyndhursthouse.co.uk www.lyndhursthouse.co.uk

LYNDHURST LYNDHURST HOUSE HOUSE

(Doors open 9.30) (Doors open 9.30)

ND FEBRUARY 2018 THURSDAY 22ND THURSDAY FEBRUARY222018 RD MAY 2018 23RD MAY 2018 WEDNESDAY 23 WEDNESDAY

OPEN MORNING OPEN MORNING DATES: DATES:

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LYNDHURST LYNDHURST HOUSE HOUSE

Day Out With Thomas™ © 2018 Gullane (Thomas) Limited. Thomas & Friends™ Based on The Railway Series by The Reverend W. Awdry. © 2018 Gullane (Thomas) Limited. Thomas the Tank Engine, Thomas & Friends and Day Out With Thomas are trademarks of Gullane (Thomas) Limited. ©2018 Mattel. All rights reserved. ® and ™ designate U.S. trademarks of Mattel, except as noted.

PREPARATORY AND PREPARATORY PRE-PREPARATORY AND PRE-PREPARATORY SCHOOL SCHOOL

FOR TICKETS: DAYOUTWITHTHOMAS.CO.UK

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RD MAY 20182018 THURSDAY 22ND23 FEBRUARY WEDNESDAY RD MAY 2018 WEDNESDAY 23 (Doors open 9.30)

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BUCKINGHAMSHIRE RAILWAY CENTRE, QUAINTON, NR AYLESBURY HP22 4BY

24 Lyndhurst Gardens, 24Hampstead, Lyndhurst Gardens, London NW3 Hampstead, 5NW London NW3 5NW Telephone: 0207 435 4936 Telephone: Email:0207 office@lyndhursthouse.co.uk 435 4936 Email: office@lyndhursthouse.co.uk www.lyndhursthouse.co.uk www.lyndhursthouse.co.uk

30TH & 31ST MARCH AND 1ST & 2ND APRIL

PREPARATORY AND PREPARATORY PRE-PREPARATORY AND PRE-PREPARATORY SCHOOL SCHOOL

EASTER WEEKEND

(Doors open 9.30) (Doors open 9.30)

ND FEBRUARY 2018 THURSDAY 22ND THURSDAY FEBRUARY222018 RD MAY 2018 23RD MAY 2018 WEDNESDAY 23 WEDNESDAY

OPEN MORNING OPEN MORNING DATES: DATES:

ENJOY A TRAIN RIDE WITH THOMAS, MEET THE FAT CONTROLLER & MUCH MORE!

OPEN MORNING DATES: OPEN MORNING DATES: THURSDAY 22 FEBRUARY 2018

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Boys and Girls aged 3 - 8

11 Woodborough Road

Putney

SW15 6PY

Open doors throughout the year. Come and see us! Cherishing

Challenging

Creative

To arrange a visit please contact the Registrar at harriet.stokes@falconsgirls.co.uk Tel: 020 8992 5189 www.peregrinespreprep.co.uk Falcons family of schools. Girls up to 11. Boys up to 13. Absolutely Prep half pagev1.indd 1

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School's Out

ORGANIC CLOTHING BRAND PIUPIA BABY

GREEN LIVING

Refuse and recycle excess packaging

M AK E SE NSI B LE SWAPS TO R E D U CE U SE OF H AR M FU L H OU SE H OLD CH E M I CALS

ECO BY NATY CLEAN POTTY

W

hen it comes to food packaging, it really can seem impossible to avoid plastics. But your personal footprint can be reduced by finding out if companies such as Terracycle operate collection points in your area and taking difficult packaging to them. It is always worth sending an email to the customer service department of your supermarket of choice to politely remind them that their customers are concerned about the volume of non-recyclable materials used in their packaging. They may not take action as quickly as you’d like, but you can be sure they will be listening.

Buy less, buy better

Use eco-friendly cleaning and household products

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he household industries are some of our worst environmental offenders; as a result, many of us look into chemical-free alternatives (often while pregnant). Alongside making some sensible swaps with your shampoos, beauty products and so forth, look for natural detergents and cleaning products that eschew harmful manmade chemicals. The Ecover (ecover.com) range is gentle and easy to obtain. It's also worth searching online for tips on the everyday household products, such as bicarbonate of soda, salt and vinegar, that can do double duty as safe and effective cleaners and scourers around the home. For instance, used regularly, white vinegar is a good limescale remover.

Rethink your brand loyalties

I

f you are still living with children who wear nappies or training pants, it's worth knowing that many leading nappy brands don't score highly on ethical standards – from animal testing and workers’ rights to environmental impact. The good news is, there are alternatives. A growing number of parents in the UK are switching to reusable cloth nappies,

but if that’s too extreme a step, try the biodegradable nappies made by Swedish company Naty (naty.com). They’re made from organic cotton and plant fibres which break down naturally when disposed of – important when you think that the average child can go through 6,500 nappies in two and a half years. That’s over 10 tonnes of waste you could save from landfill. Just make sure you dispose of them in a biodegradable nappy sack. The same logic applies to wet wipes, which have seen a huge rise in use over the last ten years – as evidenced by the sheer number of them found clogging up our sewers and (worse still) our beaches. Most wet wipes, contain plastics and polyester and don’t break down. But switching brand can help: Jackson Reece (jacksonreece. com) makes widely available biodegradable wet wipes from cellulose, a plant fibre. They disappear within eight days in a sewage treatment plant, and are great for kids with eczema or sensitive skin. The fact that they’re made in Britain also means they leave a smaller carbon footprint getting from the factory floor to your doorstep. For wiping hands and face, get into the habit of using muslin squares or face flannels, as both can be washed and re-used, or paper towels, which can be composted.

Y

ou can help to save the environment by buying fewer toys and clothes for your children – and making sure the ones you do buy are chosen with at least one eye on their ecological impact and longevity. For instance, look for organic cotton clothing and consider toys made of less harmful or recyclable materials (wood, metal, felt) where you can. It really can pay to shop small, with many independent brands placing a firm emphasis on sustainability. Another thing we can and should all do, is to pass on clothes, toys and books and gratefully accept them as gifts from others. The benefits to all of us from sharing and swapping go way beyond cash saved.

GOING GREEN For helpful resources, visit reyouzable.com • bulkmarket.uk hetu.co.uk

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Redcliffe School dedicated to growing excellence

Discover why art makes Maya sing… Visit redcliffeschool.com Redcliffe School - educating boys and girls from rising 3 to 11 To arrange your tour contact Henrietta Corbett on 020 7352 9247 or email registrar@redcliffeschool.com

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Alleyn’s Junior School

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Co-educational excellence in a caring community for boys and girls aged 4 to 11. www.alleyns.org.uk @alleynsjunior I 020 8557 1519 Townley Road, Dulwich SE22 8SU ALLEYNS.indd 1

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School’s Out

LEARNING

Curve Dave Rutherford never set out to become a school builder, but a chance encounter with smart children under an African tree led him on a journey to assist with life-changing projects in some of Ghana’s poorest communities

“CR OYD ON H I G H SCHOOL H A S SU P P L IE D TE ACHIN G R E SOU R CE S A N D HAS SE E N A VOLU N TE E R FR OM THE TE ACHIN G STAF F M AK E TWO TR IPS”

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FOCUS

An exploration geologist by training, Rutherford began to consider practical ways in which he could help. Although he was working full-time as an engineer, he started out by helping charities in the UK during time off. Then he returned to Africa to work on practical projects over his Christmas holidays, doing this three years in a row and getting sponsorship support from friends and colleagues. In 2010, he helped build his first nursery school in Uganda, working with local partners. This was added to with two working farms to make the village sustainable. Then Rutherford switched focus to Ghana, founding the charity You Can Africa. Today, as father of three and now running his own business, Rutherford has eased the admin burden by joining charity Village By Village to manage paperwork/logistics efficiently. As Dave puts it: “We’re both about ‘teach a man to fish’ in the most practical and cost-efficient way so that funds raised and knowhow offered go directly to the communities we help”. Practical means meeting and working directly with rural communities. It always starts with choosing a village that has the will to improve its fortunes and is looking for ways and means to do so. Then it means finding out villagers’ priorities. Invariably, says Rutherford, priorities are a village school, a local clinic, safe water and food security. The process is inclusive and local teams speak to the community as a whole before seeking opinions from men and women independently. Schools always come high up the wishlist. But a school can’t be built in isolation. In the charity’s base of Abenta, a village south of the Eastern Region-capital Koforidua, sanitation projects, reading clubs and girls’ empowerment projects (partly through a girls’ football team

ave Rutherford is, by his own admission, an unlikely person to become a serial school builder, but over the past 12 years he has been instrumental in programmes to help develop schools and other essential infrastructure in Uganda and Ghana’s rural communities. The seed was planted when he was travelling in Africa, and later working on a volunteer project to reintroduce rhinoceros to Uganda. Watching a group of young children under a tree during one of these visits, he wondered what their futures would be. “Here were these very bright children, smarter than me, and I could see a future where lack of opportunities meant they were consigned to carve hippos and sell water to tourists.” SPRING 2018

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Kensington Prep School is an award-winning school in Fulham for girls aged 4-11. We have some of the best facilities of any prep school in London and win praise for our nurturing approach, rich curriculum and outstanding academic results.

More than... Nursery

More than... Play

More than... Sport

More than... Art

More than... Science

More than... Music

Register now for 4+ entry for September 2019.

The quality of the pupils’ achievements and learning is

ISI Inspection Report, May 2015 596 Fulham Road London SW6 5PA Phone: 020 7731 9300 Email: enquiries@kenprep.gdst.net www.kensingtonprep.gdst.net

More than a school, it’s an education For more than 30 years Abercorn School has proudly offered children from the age of 2 ½ to 13 the perfect balance of a rigorous academic curriculum, delivered in a warm and nurturing environment in central London.

Shortlisted for Independent Prep School of the Year 2018

We invite you to join us and to see for yourself what makes Abercorn School so special. Visit the website to reserve your place at a Discover Morning, or contact us to arrange a personal tour and to meet the team who ensure that Abercorn School is more than a school, it’s an education.

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Celebrating

30 years

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020 7286 4785 admissions@abercornschool.com www.abercornschool.com n

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A thriving independent day, weekly and flexi-boarding co-ed prep school for children aged 3 - 13

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Dolphin School

unlocking each child’s full and unique potential 4–11 years Co-ed

Open Morning Friday 16th March 2018 9.30-12.00 noon

106 Northcote Road, SW11 6QW 020 7924 3472 ext 2 admissions@dolphinschool.org.uk

www.dolphinschool.org.uk

Minchinhampton, Gloucestershire t: 01453 832072 e: office@bps.school w: www.beaudesert.gloucs.sch.uk

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OPEN MORNINGS Thursdays 09.15-10.30 by appointment with the Registrar

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School's out FOCUS

“SIM P L E ID E AS H AV E I MPACT – D O N ATE D IPADS G I V E C H I L D R EN A T EC HN OLOGY HE A DSTA RT, SO L A R LI G HTS M E AN TH EY CA N ST UDY SAFE LY AT H O ME ” on its newly improved football pitch) have been a core part of engagement. Building a crèche is also important, starting children’s education early and also freeing up parents so they can better support their children. Abenta has become the ‘base’ village. It now has early years/primary schools in place and a secondary school planned for the future. From here, the charity has radiated out to eight key villages in the area to assist with their projects. For instance, in Obom work is underway on a school and the crèche building was completed just before last Christmas.

All of this happens thanks to the generous support of on-the-ground volunteers – in construction, in teaching and in more specific skills. This includes assisting the local teachers who run the schools with equipment and curriculum support. School fundraising supporters have included St Robert Southwell primary school in Horsham and Croydon High School. Croydon also supplied equipment (including projectors, whiteboards and teaching resources) and has seen a volunteer from the teaching staff make two independent trips. When it comes to raising money, there are

corporate supporters who make a big impact by seeing through specific projects, fundraisers and loyal regulars who donate every month (typically between £10 and £30). This includes those who have been inspired by the ‘cost of a coffee’ scheme, where people give the equivalent of the morning cappuccino. Education remains intrinsic to each village’s future prosperity and Dave Rutherford says it’s often the simplest ideas that have greatest impact for schoolchildren and their families. For instance, donations of secondhand iPads for after-school activities offer children a headstart with technology, but also mean they are more likely to attend class and be engaged with education because of the allure of ‘Western’ kit. A solar lamp to give children a stable light source for homework rather than the typical kerosene lamp (most homes are without electricity) has the side benefit of giving their whole family a safe and non-toxic light source for evening activities. As Dave Rutherford recently reminded donors in his regular newsletter, it does also come back to life’s fundamentals when you want to improve outcomes. Installing a clean and secure toilet block and washing facilities is critical – not just in helping to improve children’s health, but in attracting children to a school in the first place because it offers a safe and private space, very likely the first they’ve been able to access. Alongside this comes health advice. A ‘Clean Hands Saves Lives’ programme has helped to impart information to children, their parents and the whole community. Improving education one village at a time may sound a drop in the ocean but, says Rutherford, ripples spread. “Help one community with education – plus sanitation and food security – and it becomes sustainable. Sustainable communities are then able to contribute and help others, also more likely to hold governments and officials to account when things don’t get done. It does all come back to teaching a man or woman to fish.”

YO U C A N A F R I C A facebook.com/youcanafrica or youcanafrica.org SPRING 2018

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C HAPPY

EATERS Most children are fussy diners, to varying degrees. So will dining out motivate them to experiment? PENDLE HARTE

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hildren are on the whole terrible dining companions. Watching someone pick every last green thing off their plate and deposit it on the table, or on your plate or on the floor, is not fun, and neither is dealing with moaning when any of their disliked ingredients appears. Fussy eaters might exclusively eat white food, or only foods that aren’t touching other foods, or insist on ketchup with everything, or chips. There’s no logic to any of it – they might have an irrational hatred of tomatoes, but not tomato sauce; they might love pastry but refuse to try quiche, they’ll eat cheese, but not if/only if it’s melted, they love mangoes but won’t go near melon. And then there are the inexplicable things that they do like. Olives, for instance, are very popular among children, as are cornichons – and they’ll usually eat mussels. Nothing is predictable – some of them love strong mustard and hate ketchup, and these firm beliefs can change daily. Most children have an automatic resistance to things their parents encourage. Homework, baths, gloves. And of course food. So if our power as parents is limited, how do restaurants fare as motivational environments? If we took our children to restaurants more often, would they widen their food repertoires? We picked three informal places to try with an aim of getting two girls aged 8 and 11 to try something new, and ideally to come away liking it. The only rule: no kids menus.

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WAHACA

School’s Out

E ATING OUT

WA H ACA

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ahaca is buzzy, colourful and fun and its Mexican street food focus is well suited to children in many ways. Small sharing plates mean lots of things to try. The main hazard however is chilli, which is unpopular among children but in most things here. If something’s deemed too spicy, they won’t eat it, and entire dishes can be dismissed this way, leading to the worst possible outcome: rejected food, hungry children, money wasted – the main reason (apart from behaviour) that parents avoid restaurants. Burritos, tacos, quesadillas are all kid-pleasers; the 11-year old loves her chicken burrito but slightly complains that it’s spicy. Still, we try a selection of things between us, including crab tostadas, black bean quesadilla and pork tacos, which all go down well, as does guacamole, which is proof for us that children will eat things in restaurants that they refuse at home. We loosen the ban on kids menus when we spot the build-your-own-taco offering, which even with avocado creates so much delight (and is a welcome relief from fish goujons and chips) that our mission is clearly a success.

M OST CHIL DREN H AV E AN AUTO MATIC R E S ISTA N CE TO TH IN GS THEIR PA R ENTS EN CO URAGE . H O M EWO RK , BATHS , G LOV E S . . . A N D FO O D

THE REAL G REEK

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haring plates have become a bit ubiquitous now, but Greek restaurants practically own the concept. Mezze is basically the way we all eat now anyway, and great for encouraging children to experiment. At The Real Greek, they solve the problem of tables never being big enough for ‘three or four small plates each’ brilliantly by using the stacking silver serve equipment usually associated with afternoon tea, and our dining companions approve. We order one of the set menus, Tonia’s Filoxenia, which is a feast. First there’s Greek flatbread and hummous, which admittedly sounds like what the children have in their packed lunches, but this is better and even they agree. Then comes the tiered THE REAL GREEK display: delicious green pea fava topped with red onions and tomatoes gains adult approval but inevitably the children pick off the onions and tomatoes. Halloumi skewers with minted yoghurt, chicken wings marinaded in smoked chilli and falafel balls with tahini dip and a steaming bowl of saffron rice are all quite popular. We share a decadent (and not so Greek) salted caramel cheesecake and leave sated.

PING PONG

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im Sum should be a no brainer for kids. Small parcels of deliciousness. But our girls are suspicious of dumplings. Ping Pong’s menu is vast and we order a huge spread, including pink ‘unicorn noodles’ which don’t seem to be part of a children’s menu but easily could be. Most popular are the pork ribs, probably because they’re intensely sweet, and the pork puffs – but surprisingly nobody likes the pork buns, even though they are exactly the kind of bready thing you’d expect children to adore. Steamed pork and chive dumplings are a great success, as are the beef gyoza. The dumpling prejudice has definitely been challenged. VERDICT It seems that fussy eaters are only fussy when their parents are cooking. Who knew? SPRING 2018

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Let’s go

WILD From a woodland hideaway log cabin to glamping by a glorious sand beach, here are brilliant ideas for close-to-home activity breaks that all the family will love R AC H E L W E B B

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nyone with children knows that the days of fly and flop are gone. Even if you find that perfect Mediterranean beach or idyllic rural gîte, it’s the getting there that reduces the allure, especially on a shorter break. Enter the great British escape. The weather isn’t guaranteed set fair, but with these spectacular locations, offering activities to appeal to all ages, the scene is set for a memorable break.

FOREST HOLIDAYS he ten locations offered by Forest Holidays include Argyll, Scotland, Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire and Blackwood Forest in Hampshire, so options to take you across Britain. A small but perfectly formed site (just 16 cabins) in Beddgelert, Snowdonia opens this summer to bring North Wales into the mix.

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ACCOMMODATION Copper Beech cabins sleep four to six and have an openplan living space, fully equipped kitchen and outdoor deck. Trade up to a Golden Oak cabin, sleeping two to eight, and you also have log-burning stove and a private hot tub. If you’re travelling with a large group or older children, Golden Oak Treehouses sleep up to 10 and include separate ensuite bedroom located across a rope bridge. 94

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School’s Out

TRAVEL

FOREST HOLIDAYS

“WITH YOUNG CHILDREN, THE DAYS OF FLY AND FLOP ARE GONE – ENTER THE UK ACTIVITY BREAK” ACTIVITIES It’s all about the great outdoors and, with bike hire available and lots of nature trails to explore, you can make the most of the wilderness. Forest ranger-led tours and activities are tailored for all age groups and you can also hire a personal guide. Children aged ten and up will love the after-dark tour, where you track nocturnal creatures using night-vision equipment, while the forest survival adventure is fun for all ages and includes foraging, fire lighting and building a shelter. GOOD TO KNOW Each location centres round a Forest Retreat or Forest Hub with café/restaurant, shop and information on local beauty spots and visitor attractions. An in-cabin chef experience is offered at all sites. Forest Holidays are all located on Forestry Commission-managed land and work in partnership to manage sites sustainably. forestholidays.co.uk SPRING 2018

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swanky treehouses, with open-plan living area, games den and outdoor hot tub. Children will love living in the trees, but the glamorous Waterside Lodges overlooking the lake at Elvedon, Suffolk will also earn their vote. ACTIVITIES The Waterpark is each centre’s hub. Heated to 29.5 degrees year-round, it has enough flumes, waves and other watery distractions to keep children entertained all day. Hire a private cabana, replete with TV, refreshment and loungers for child or adult nap time. Outside, you’ll find RYA-led sailing lessons, paddle boarding and wind surfing. On dry land, activities include quad biking or more sedate exploration by segway, as well as nature watch-themed sessions for budding zoologists. Indoor adventures range from climbing wall to pottery painting. GOOD TO KNOW Family-friendly dining is the norm, with play areas and even Apple Macs in some Center Parcs restaurants. You can order in and have food delivered to your forest home. centerparcs.co.uk

HOESEASONS GO ACTIVE

BLUESTONE NATIONAL PARK RESORT luestone offers 500 acres of pine-scented forest and nature trails where you can let off steam. Off resort, you are close to the lovely market town of Narberth and the family-focused visitor attraction Folly Farm, while Pembrokeshire offers a treasure trove of beaches, ancient forts and wonderful produce.

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ACCOMMODATION Options range from dinky one- and twobed cottages up to contemporary lodges, including one that sleeps 14. The four-bed detached St David’s Lodges sleep eight, and include a separate playroom. There’s an adapted lodge for guests with limited mobility and several single-storey options. ACTIVITIES The Blue Lagoon offers balmy temperatures, wave machine, rapids and flumes. There’s also an outdoor temperature-controlled pool and children’s play area. Land activities include everything from zip ropes to rock climbing, kayaking and raft building. The Rangers-led programme includes the full gamut from bug hunting up to archery and tree climbing. 96

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“BLUESTONE IS A CAR-FREE ZONE – HIRE A GOLF BUGGY TO IMPRESS THE KIDS” GOOD TO KNOW This is a car-free zone, making it a great place for family cycling (bikes and tag-alongs can both be rented). Hire an electric golf buggy if you want to really impress the kids. bluestonewales.com/resort

CENTER PARCS s a pioneer in activity breaks, Center Parcs offer all the bells and whistles you need to keep children from toddler on up amused. With five locations, including Woburn, Sherwood and Longleat forests, it’s easy to vary the scenery if you’re a Center Parcs returner.

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ACCOMMODATION Options range from hotel and small apartment accommodation and familyfriendly Woodland Lodges right up to

HERBERT WOODS he tranquil waters and big skies of the Norfolk Broads are what Herbert Woods offer, with boats for hire, as well as quarters on shore close to the marina, many with moorings. The base is Potter Heigham, 12 miles north of Norwich, giving you access to the small communities and navigable rivers that criss-cross this unique landscape.

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ACCOMMODATION Boats range from a compact cruiser sleeping three to a four-cabin, three-bath Regal Light, sleeping eight plus. On-shore cottages are ideal if you’re bringing your own boat, or want to combine day-boat hire with landbased exploration. ACTIVITIES Water is the star, and there’s lots of it around these parts. You can hire paddleboards, canoes and kayaks or join a guided kayak adventure. Bring binoculars because the birdwatching is great, although you are more likely to hear the elusive bittern and cetti’s warbler than see them. The flat landscape is perfect for cycling and is a great way to explore the local landscape – bike hire companies are plentiful in the local area.

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School’s Out

TRAVEL

GOOD TO KNOW Most locations are close to stunning coastline, making it easy to combine beach fun and supervised pool activity. The onsite Go Junior programme is a good way to encourage new skills – with swimming lessons and Balanceability cycle training on the menu. hoseasons.co.uk/go-active

WILD LUXURY oing safari ticks all boxes for children and Wild Luxury has also nailed the happy parents end with its superior Norfolk glampsites where kids can run around and parents can chill on a well-appointed deck. The two locations are The Hideaway, a quiet spot on a private estate where you will need a car to get out and about, and Thornham Bay close to the quiet beach of Holme Dunes and Thornham village.

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CENTER PARCS

GOOD TO KNOW You don’t need any prior boating experience and will be given a tutorial before you start out. This is a top spot for fishing, but remember to buy a licence from the Post Office and read up on fishing regulations. herbertwoods.co.uk

HOSEASONS GO ACTIVE he focus is on trying new things at Hoseasons Go Active. With 19 locations across Britain, from the Southern Highlands to North Cornwall, there’s scope for short breaks or longer holidays. Six of the sites are Go+, meaning laser clays and offroading fun. All offer dedicated activity programmes designed for children aged three to seven.

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ACCOMMODATION This varies from site to site, but generally includes static caravans (which children will love) and some wooden lodges. Some sites include brick-built accommodation and apartments. Many options are family-sized, including living areas, multiple bedrooms, well-equipped kitchens, outdoor decks and hot tubs. At Battle, East Sussex, you can even hire a lodge in the rolling grounds of the 17th-century Crowhurst Park country estate.

ACTIVITIES Each Go Active site offers the same core activities. Water based fun includes snorkelling, sea scooters and water walkerz (inflatable balls that enable children and adults to walk across water). Land-based activities include archery, fencing and body zorbs. Other activities are offered on a park-by-park basis, and include kayaking, mountain biking and abseiling. Finlake in North Devon has a new state-of-the-art waterpark as well as zip wires, trapeze and treetop seesaws.

WILD LUXURY

ACCOMMODATION Serengeti Lodges sleep up to six in comfort and combine the allure of canvas with all mod cons, including great kitchens with range cookers. Electric lights, power showers and flushing loos make this camping without tears. Younger children will love the beds in cupboards. Zambezi Lodges are located at The Hideaway only, sleep up to ten and have substantial living quarters as well as great decks to admire the clear night sky. ACTIVITIES It’s go your own way here, and it’s the place to enjoy an old-fashioned beach holiday without crowds or the razzle dazzle of arcades. Thornham Bay is next to a farm where you can pop into the café or eat fish and chips at Eric’s. The village itself has an award-winning deli and three choice pubs. Get in the car and you can head out to some of Norfolk’s other fine beaches, including Holkham. Sandringham Estate has a country park with nature trails, while Snettisham Farm Park offers deer safari, horse and pony rides and adventure playground. GOOD TO KNOW The Hideaway is more remote, but ideal for supervising younger children as there’s space to run around but the site is well enclosed. A summer-only Wild Camp offers exclusive-use glamping for groups of up to 12 in swish sleeping tents with proper showers, outdoor kitchen and giant barbecue on site. wildluxury.co.uk SPRING 2018

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School’s Out

PARENT P OWER

Sleepover

POLITICS

The very thought of a sleepover will strike fear into the heart of the most robust parents but, in best Scout tradition, be prepared and it can be survived without disaster or broken friendships

3. PIZZA RULES Your home may be an organic temple for 364 days of the year, but on this night the lords and ladies of misrule are in charge. Sleepover law dictates pizza, popcorn, crisps and other salty and sugary party fare, and you risk your child losing face in perpetuity if you forget that fact. All hosts are expected to slip in healthier options, but don’t expect that quinoa salad or spiralized courgette surprise to get eaten. It is the responsibility of parents of children with dietary requirements to let hosts know and, if necessary, deliver safe food with the child.

L I B BY N O R M A N

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oved by children, the sleepover is a rite of passage. To offspring, it’s a license to stay up all night, eat junk food, scream a lot and then relive the memories for days afterwards. But hosts plan a military-style campaign with the sole objective of getting everyone tucked up safely in the land of nod as soon as possible. Guests’ parents, meanwhile, cross their fingers and hope their child won’t be the worst behaved. Here are five rules for happy slumber parties.

1. RIGHT TIME Your child may desperately yearn for a sleepover and there’s no ‘right age’, so take the clue from their behaviour at parties and group events. Restrict the first sleepover to two or – better still – one friend to test the water. Sleepovers should never happen on a school night 98

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or everyone will feel the pain. Saturdays are the safest bet; Fridays can also be good as the children are likely to be tired out from school, ensuring an earlier collapse into slumber.

2. STAY CLOSE The ideal sleepover is within walking distance or a short drive away, just in case you have to collect or deliver a homesick child. Be prepared for this, and don’t see it as a failure on anyone’s part. Plan for all eventualities – that means swapping numbers and being contactable throughout. Sleepovers are not babysitting and there is simply no excuse for child-free parents to abandon all responsibility and slip out for a night on the town. If you’re wondering how your child is getting on, it’s fine to check in with the sleepover hosts once, but after that trust them to call you if there’s a problem.

T H E H OST ’S A I M I S TO GE T T H EM T U C K E D UP A S SO O N A S POS S I B L E 4. PARTY PLAN The host goal is to wear them down quickly. Lay on a lively activity, then put on their film choice, dim the lights and bring in the ‘midnight feast’ in the hopes their eyes will soon become heavy. Make sure you have night-lights, in case there’s a late-night fridge raid or a child needs to find you.

5. SLEEPIQUETTE Guests are normally expected to return the invitation, but if the slumber buddies fought all night or your child was an abominable houseguest, apologise and retreat. As host, there can be no public shaming about whatever disaster befell your home – be it mashed pizza, smashed bed or whiskerless cat. After all, this happened on your watch.

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FURNITURE DESIGNED FOR

Our bedrooms allow for plenty of BOOM, CRASH and POW! All of our beds and furniture are expertly designed and quality built, so we can guarantee they are tough enough for superheroes!

VISIT roomtogrow.co.uk OR CALL 0333 006 3096

Children’s Bedroom Specialists

FOLLOW US

Delivery to mainland UK only. All orders will be subject to our standard terms and conditions of purchase which can be found at www.roomtogrow.co.uk/terms-and-conditions. Delivery charges may apply.

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Teaching children to fly Our schools differ in character but share the same focus: teaching children to fly. The higher and happier the better. The powerful combination of highly trained staff and tailor-made teaching encourages our pupils to excel. They mostly call it having fun. We call it being the best they can be. OPEN DAYS Bassett – open afternoon – 2 March Orchard – open morning – 8 March Prospect – open morning – 22 February To book in, please call the school you would like to visit.

Notting Hill | 020 8969 0313 bassetths.org.uk

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Chiswick | 020 8742 8544 orchardhs.org.uk

Putney | 020 8246 4897 prospecths.org.uk

04/01/2018 11:25

Absolutely Education Prep & Pre-Prep Spring 2018  
Absolutely Education Prep & Pre-Prep Spring 2018