Summer Fun

So once again the school holidays are upon us – for teachers that means a well earned rest, but for parents it can mean juggling work and child care and surviving holidays with children! For the children and young people it usually means a lot of freedom to do things they want and importantly have FUN.

Parents if you want to make sure that children keep learning while they are away from school click here for some ideas of holiday activities that will mean they will keep on learning.

However I know many parents can find holidays with children a stressful experience – so below are a few tips to help parents make sure the holidays are a relaxing and fun experience for them as well.


By this stage the holiday will be booked but you can still plan a few things to make sure both the travel and the holiday go smoothly. Whatever the mode of transport, planes, boats, trains or cars after the initial excitement children quickly become bored so make sure you pack some diversions. They don’t need to be expensive, comics, pens and notebooks, or  small pocket money style toys can all help to pass the time.  But make sure you keep them out of the way until they are needed so they are fresh and new when children need a diversion.

When you arrive at your destination the planning shouldn’t stop. Make sure each day you plan in some activities that will be particularly geared towards the children – as parents obviously you want to relax but it is much easier to do that when they have had some quality time with you and some child centred play. It is also worth doing some planning around meals out etc – tired children are never too happy and while late nights might be fun – it definitely doesn’t mean they are guaranteed to sleep later the next day as parents you know your children  so don’t put yourself in situations where you know they’ll struggle – it simply wont help you to relax at all.


We can’t guarantee that children or indeed any of us will stay healthy but it is worth making sure you prevent what you can – mothing stresses apparent out more than a child who is ill or in pain. So make sure you pack sun cream, a first aid kit which includes a painkiller and an antihistamine and if the weather is hot make sure children drink plenty, wear sun cream and reapply regularly (which can be a struggle) and have plenty of breaks in the shade.


As with so many things your state of mind plays a part. If you anticipate problems and worry about them – they probably will happen! Try to be positive in your thoughts and your words. Often I lie on the beach listening to some parents and it is a constant stream of negatives ‘don’t’, ‘stop’ and ‘no’ for example. It is much better to keep language positive – instead of saying stop doing something tell them what they should be doing – for more information on positive language click here.

The key is to have fun – let your hair down and enjoy spending some quality time with children – they grow up surprisingly quickly and think of your holiday as a time to make some precious memories!!





Posted in General | Comments Off on Summer Fun

What to make of Phonics results!

Many year 1 children will have received the results of the phonics test. The mark is out of 40 and 32 is the mark considered a pass. A mark below this will mean that the child will be re screened next year.

Remember it is a screening check rather than a test. What we know is that children who score above 32 have a good grasp of phonics and are likely to go on to be effective readers and spellers. The purpose of the screening check is to identify those children who are may not progressing well and schools will be expected to offer them some additional support to help them to improve.

If your child has not achieve 32 out of 40 there may be a number of reasons for this, some to do with the individual child and some to do with the school and the method they use for teaching phonics.

IN terms of the child this could be an indication of a problem, perhaps they don’t hear well so can’t discriminate between the different sounds, perhaps they have missed quite a lot of school days due to illness, or maybe this in one of several other problems. As a parent make sure you discuss the result with your child’s teacher and if you want to know more about how you can help them with phonics just click here

But the reason could be to do with the school and the way phonics is being taught. Many schools use a systematic synthetic phonics programme like Sounds-Write which has been shown to be highly effective with several schools results of 95% plus – you can see for yourself here

As a parent you are quite within you rights to ask the school what the results were for the whole of year 1 in the school – that is how many of the children achieved 32 or more. You can also ask what method they use to teach phonics and then do some research- what do people say about it – is there evidence it is effective? If they say they use a mixed or eclectic approach I would ask further questions.

If children struggle with reading it is not long before they struggle to access any of the curriculum – if you are at all worried about your child and their reading, spelling or the results of the phonics screening check – please get in touch, help is available and the sooner your child can access this the better.

For any schools reading this either contact us to discuss training needs for your school or visit the Sounds-Write website by clicking here.



Posted in General | Comments Off on What to make of Phonics results!

Dream Big

In education we talk a lot of aspirations –  strongly desired goals or aims and in schools teachers are asked and expected to set aspirational targets for children. It is all about having dreams, not settling for what is easily achievable but striving for something that may at first seem unattainable.

It is all to easy to settle for staying within our comfort zone – that place where we don’t have to take risks or even try too hard. In essence there is nothing wrong with that if you are happy in that place but many people aren’t and with regard to children and learning we all know that if they are to fulfi potential it usually means getting out of that comfort zone and taking a few risks, try a few new things.

On a recent visit to Sydney I was very inspired by the tale of the Danish architect of the Sydney opera house – surely one of the world’s iconic buildings -John Utzon. He had never been to Australia or even seen Bennelong point the proposed site and in fact then he submitted the sketches the ‘engineering’ of the proposed structure had yet to be worked out. Although his was the winning design the actual building of it saw many challenges. But eventually, years later his dream was realised and what a legacy it is for the world.

But it only came about because of Utzon’s dream. He had an innovative idea based on much on the maritime work he had completed and I am sure there were a lot of ‘naysayers’ and at times I bet he had his doubts that his dreams would ever be realised. But they were! I am sure it took hard work, persistence, and perseverance but without the initial dream or aspiration it would never have happened.

If he hadn’t submitted his design as one of the 232 entrants because he thought he had no chnace of winning or because he had never seen the site it simply would never have been built.

So give yourself permission to dream and when you do – dream BIG – be aspirational for yourself – don’t focus on the obstacles focus on the possibilities.


Posted in General | 1 Comment

Fuelled for Growth

We all know that for a car to run well we have to put in the right fuel. Happily I have not (yet) put the wrong kind of petrol in my car but I know others have and I know that it doesn’t just have an impact on performance but it can actually cause serious damage to the working of the engine.

So too with our bodies we know that to maintain a healthy body there are certain foods that are good for us and certain foods which aren’t quite so good. In many ways it is about balance, making sure that we have a diet that has enough of all the important food groups to keep us healthy while still enjoying a few ‘treats’ but making sure that the there’s not so many that it will damage our health.

WE understand how important food is to us for our physical health and how that ‘fuel’ can aid performance, athletes and their trainers work very hard making sure that they get the right kind of fuel to ensure that they are peak performance for events or competitions.

We also know that children whose bodies are growing at a very fast rate need a diet that is rich in protein and gives them what they need to maintain physical growth. IN addition to food they also need opportunities to practice, developing skills, they need space to run around in, they need opportunities to practise those emerging physical skills like climbing jumping, riding a bike swimming so it is not just food but the environment that is important as well.

With developing minds and emotions it is exactly the same, though sometimes we may pay less attention to those aspects than to the physical body. With minds that are growing and developing there needs also to be the opportunity for exercise, in the form of situations that challenge, we will all have heard the quotes that learning happens when we are at the edge of our comfort zone, and if we are not making mistakes then we are probably not learning. But to learn we also need the environment to be structured in a way that helps us to feel secure.

We wouldn’t expect a child to get on a bike and just ride. We structure the experience for them, by first riding a tricycle then a bicycle with stabilisers. When they are confident with that we remove the stabilisers but hold on to them running along beside them and giving lots of encouragement, and importantly being there to step in and pick them up if they do fall off.

The same is true of other aspects of learning, children need to feel secure, so start with something they know how to do and then introduce one new aspect, demonstrating how to do it or encouraging them to figure out some parts but providing some ‘clues’ along the way. Allow them to make mistakes but be there to clarify – the point is that you want them to be successful, that way they will see the learning as positive experience and one they will want to repeat.

Sadly lots of children, teenagers and adults have struggled with literacy in fact it is estimated that over 2 million adults in Britain are illiterate, often that is because they have not been taught in systematic way that has given them the tools they need to feel secure in their learning, introducing them to both the concepts and skills that they need to be effective readers. That is why systematic synthetic phonics programmes like Sounds-Write are now the recommended way of teaching reading and they are effective both as a primary reading strategy and as a ‘recovery’ strategy where for whatever reason learning to read has not been effective the first time around. You can find our more about Sounds-Write here

As parents and as teachers we want to equip children to grow up and be well functioning happy adults and our schools are structured towards giving them the skills they need in order to do this though they may not always be effective in achieving this goal. In addition to physical skills, academic skills like reading, writing and Maths they also need to be able to function effectively emotionally. So they need opportunities to learn how to manage relationships, which is why children need ample time to play with peers and have lots of social experiences to develop different aspects of emotional well- being. Learning to make friends, cope with disappointment or being hurt, learn how to express anger appropriately, learn to show empathy and how to ‘read’ or interpret a myriad of social situations and respond appropriately – all important aspects of coping in life as an adult.

As parents most of us want to make sure our children get the right ‘food’ to enable them to grow but that means making sure they are given a whole host of learning opportunities in addition to school. Like a physical diet this should be mixed and include plenty of time for relaxation but also time for challenge – and be varied. In practical terms it means making sure that they can enjoy time watching television or playing on a play station or computer but also time reading, drawing, cooking and being creative as well as going out to parks, socialising with other children and adults and experiencing things like live music, sporting events or theatre, it doesn’t need to be expensive – a small local theatre company can be a very ‘rich’ experience but cost a fraction of the price of  a ticket to a West end theatre production.


Posted in General | Comments Off on Fuelled for Growth

Learning from Children

There are some superb quotes about children and learning and often the particular qualities of childhood they refer to, their thirst for knowledge, their spontaneity, their amazing ability to live in the moment are things we could do well to learn to hang onto as adults.

Thirst for Knowledge

As adults, we would probably all agree that knowledge is important, yet as the business of adult life increases it is very easy to run out of the necessary time, effort or inclination to continue learning ourselves. Yet what comes across whenever you read the biographies of great ‘achievers’ that they take learning seriously.  They keep reading, keep studying, and remain open to learn from mentors. It’s worth asking yourself when you last devoted some time to learning yourself. Yes we need time to relax but recent evidence suggests that if we keep learning, particularly skills that involve a cognitive challenge, memory can be improved.

“Anyone who stops learning is old. whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” Henry Ford

So don’t see it as a luxury we all need to invest in ourselves, and if there are children around then it will be inspiring for them to see that as a ‘grown up’ you value learning.


The dictionary defines spontaneous as ‘resulting from a natural impulse, natural and unconstrained’ or ‘growing without cultivation’.

Often there are good reasons why it gets harder to be spontaneous as we get older, after all we have responsibilities, jobs, perhaps family and other commitments. But there can be advantages to being spontaneous too. Think back to a day or outing that you particularly enjoyed, was it, or elements of it spontaneous? I have had some wonderful ‘planned’ evenings with friends but I can also remember some relay great times when a friend arrived unexpectedly and we decided spontaneously to have a meal, or go out, and somehow the fact that it was unexpected adds to the joy of it. Yes it may be a two sided coin, and if everything we did was spontaneous perhaps some of the ‘pleasure’ would be lost but being prepared to be spontaneous can help us have a flexile attitude to change, which might reduce stress, and help us keep mentally sharp.

Being in the moment

As adults we can easily slip into the habit of spending most of our time thinking either about the past, (oh that meeting didn’t go well, or I didn’t like the way they handled that situation) or the future (what will eat tonight, I wonder if the traffic home will be awful or even I must start buying the Christmas presents). Which means often we aren’t enjoying the present.  Most people will have heard of mindfulness, which has been shown to reduce stress. It is a way of stopping and noticing the present. If you ‘d like to try some mindfulness exercises there are some in an article I wrote for success stories. Just follow the link below.

Obviously as parents, step parents, aunts, uncles,  grandparents, teachers and society as a whole we need to value our children, and their learning but we can also learn from them and their approach to life.

But as Dr Zeuss said

“Children want the same things we want. To laugh, to be challenged, to be entertained, and delighted.”

It’s also worth remembering that what children need, in many ways is just what we need, we may have finished ‘growing up’ but we still need to feel like we belong, to laugh and have time to relax and play.

Maybe we all need to practice being a bit childlike.

Posted in General | Comments Off on Learning from Children

Tolerating Intolerance or being Intolerant of tolerance??

I find I must agree with this statement by Princess Diana – it seems to me that in many ways we have become intolerant as a society in ways that can be very damaging to individuals.

I was at a check out in a shop the other day when the rather elderly lady in front of me appeared to have lost her purse and took quite a while to find it. She was getting quite visibly stressed and although the sales assistant was being very patient I could hear plenty of tuts coming from the queue behind me. Some even moved to an alternative queue. I offered to help but at that moment triumphantly she found it paid and hurried away, almost forgetting her change, in an embarrassed fashion.

But we are all human and in a few years or decades time that might be us. My own view is that we all deserve to live in a society that can show kindness and tolerance. Yes she held everyone up but maybe for a minute or two at the most. Are we really so important, our time so valuable that we can’t even allow someone a very small amount of our time without becoming angry or impatient?  After all those emotions are damaging for our own health as well as being a source of stress to others.

Tolerance, like kindness is something that we practise – and actually it will enhance our lives as well as those of others. So as we all rush about our days business let’s all be tolerant of those who are frail in some way, or for a huge variety of other reasons somehow don’t live life in the metaphorical fast lane. IN shops or restaurants, at doorways on the roads, when we are being served let’s try and show some kindness and empathy and lets be tolerant ourselves and intolerant of others who don’t show tolerance.

But then there are times when we need to be intolerant – for example where there is any kind of discrimination, humiliation or abuse of any kind. It’s easy to stay quiet when a racist joke is told but the attitude that fuels the joke can lead to a subtle and insidious acceptance that racism is okay. It isn’t, ever, under any circumstance. Neither is any sort of discrimination – because ultimately discrimination leads to hatred and surely no one wants to live in a society filled with hatred.

So the other side of the tolerant coin is that we should be intolerant of some things – that is right and proper.

Let’s make sure that we are tolerant but never tolerate intolerance!!

“There is a huge difference between being tolerant and tolerating intolerance.”

Ayaan Hirsi Ali




Posted in General | Comments Off on Tolerating Intolerance or being Intolerant of tolerance??

Away With Worry


We all do it and we all know it doesn’t actually achieve much at all. There is a quote that says

“Worrying is like sitting in a rocking chair – it gives you something to do but  you doesn’t get you anywhere!” – well nowhere that’s positivethat’s for sure.

What worry does is to

  • Keep us awake
  • Fill our minds with all the outcomes we don’t want
  • Set off a whole chain reaction so we start worrying about more and more things
  • Stop us focussing on all the other good things
  • Make it hard to concentrate
  • Stop  us enjoying life

So what on earth should we do about it – we all know it is very easy to SAY  to others or ourselves ‘don’t worry’ but very hard to actually DO.

Here’s a 5 point plan to put an end to worry (if you want to!)

1. Verbalise specifically what it is you are worrying about – it is important to be really specific. The problem with our ‘worried’ thoughts is that they spread and that’s makes it hard to decide what exactly it is that  we are worrying about. You can do this on your own but often it is helpful to chat to someone else about it

2. Think about the outcomes – a kind of ‘what’s the worst case scenario’ this helps you be even more specific about your worry – so for example is it that you don’t want to go for the interview because you hate interviews or is it that you really really need the job so you are worried that you won’t be successful. Getting clarity on the precise issue that is causing you to worry will help you bring it under control.

3. Take Action  – if you can – so in the scenario above you could do some prep for the interview AND think about any other jobs you could apply for in case you aren’t successful. If there is no action you can take – perhaps it is an outcome beyond your control then go straight to the next step.

4. Manage your thoughts – we all know that if we try NOT to think about something – the upcoming interview for example – that is exactly what our thoughts keep coming back to – SO change that pattern. Set for yourself an alternative thought pathway and there are 2 options here –

EITHER simply think of something that is different and calming for you – for example imagine yourelf in a place of peace and happiness so choose a nice memory and every time you find your self thinking about ‘the interview’ or whatever switch to the memory – it takes effort at first but keep at it and you will find it gets easier.

OR think about the outcome YOU DO want – getting the job for example and put all your efforts into imagining and  visualising what that would ‘look like’. Here try to be as detailed as possible really add the colour to your thoughts, imagine telling people about it, think about and imagine your  first day in the new job, this is a rally good antidote to worry and this works even if you are worrying about someone else – just focus your thoughts on the positive – what would the GOOD outcome be rather than the negative which is usually what fills your head with worry.

5. Repeat the previous 4 steps – worry attracts worry so often you’ll feel like you’ve got one aspect under control then up pops another thing to worry about. So go through the steps again BUT if it keeps happening then actually you have probably got a mind set that is fuelling the worry – often worry stems from some of the subconscious fears and beliefs we have – so in the  interview scenario a belief that you don’t deserve success or that you always mess things up. BUT even these deep seated mind sets CAN be changed. Scroll to previous blog post for details of a MIND SET WORKSHOP  in November

You will notice that next to the title of the 5 point plan to put an end to worry – I put in brackets ‘if you want to’. Sadly like lots of things we can get into a bit of a habit so that worry becomes our default position – something is happening so e go into worry mode – or even nothing is worrying us and we worry about that. It sounds crazy but worry can become a bit like a comfort blanket – so you need to be prepared and want to let that go.

If you want to do away with worry  it is possible – after all YOU are the only person who controls your thoughts.

Finally a  few Quotes to think about

“Stop worrying about what can go wrong and get excited about what can go right!”

“Don’t think too much – you’ll create a problem that wasn’t even there in the first place!”

“Worrying does not empty tomorrow of it’s troubles it empties today of it’s strength!”

Good Luck!








Posted in General | 1 Comment

Upcoming Courses

Just to let you know about some courses that we’ll be running in the Bedford area in the next month or so

5th November 10am – 1pm    MIND SET MAGIC

A half Day workshop where you will learn how your mind set can sabotage your success AND how to fix that

so if you want more success in your business or life BOOK YOUR PLACE NOW by sending an email  to

full venue details will be sent on booking.

Cost £50 – includes lunch and workbook


Short Sounds-Write Course

This 2 day Sounds-Write Course is designed for nursery or pre-school professionals OR parents.

On this course you will learn all about synthetic phonics and the theory and practice of teaching children to read, spell and write using Sounds-Write.

This course will be held at

St Marks Church and community Centre

on 13th and 20th November (both Fridays) from 9am – 4pm (approx)

The cost is £210 pounds this includes a resource manual and light refreshments but participant are asked to bring a packed lunch.

To book a place just email us


4 Day  Sounds-Write Course

This is a fully certificated course for school teachers, assistants and sometimes parents, which takes place over 4 days form 9am -4pm.

The cost of the course is £420 and includes a Sounds-Write manual packed with resources.

Provisional dates are November 12th, 19th,  26th and 3rd December (consecutive Thursdays)

Watch this space for venue details, or email us.




Posted in General | 1 Comment

MInd Set – Magic or Madness

There is a lot of talk about ‘mind sets’ at the moment, and for good reason. Mind sets are simply what we believe in, what we see as true and these mind sets can have a great impact on our lives.

We often se it with children, they think they can’t do something so get all stressed when they need to ‘do it’ reading, maths, riding a bike and without a lot of encouragement they would easily fail again which of course would reinforce their belief that they can’t do it …..and so on.

But it doesn’t just apply to children – the wrong mind set can be  responsible for holding back lots of adults in their business or personal lives.

Mind sets are often subconscious, in fact many people wouldn’t even know what their mind set was in relation to a particular area like money or success but it may well be preventing them from moving forward. Sometimes people will say they want to be successful in business for example but actually their mind set may be that they are pretty useless and will always fail, other people may want fulfilling relationships but actually their mind set is that they are unlovable and no one will ever want to be with them.

What happens is that the sub-conscious will cause us  to self sabotage so no matter how much effort we put in we will rarely see the results we want -UNTIL we sort out the mind set.

If you want to experience greater success and fulfilment in your life then there are some key mind sets to sort out – you can read about them by following the link below.

Life is precious and it’s easy to let weeks, months or years drift by struggling against mind sets that will limit you – so take action today





Posted in General | 1 Comment

Helping Children Be Ready to Read

Most parents want their children to be readers and we get lots of questions about how best to help very small children to be ready to read so here’s a few principles.

A Story

In Portugal recently we had some Portuguese lessons, I wasn’t looking forward to it because I have not had good experiences learning foreign languages myself so it was with some trepidation that I approached the first session. It was a private lesson, so just my husband and myself with the teacher. The experience was illuminating for me. She basically spoke to us for an hour  in Portuguese (and this was repeated during the next 4 hours of lessons) she spoke slowly and used lots of gestures, there no written clues, no books opened and we were not ‘allowed’ to speak in English. It was brilliant, although there were a few times when I felt lost, she was patient and would repeat her instructions. It was immensely practical and it struck me that we were learning just like a child would learn. By the end of the first session I could follow simple instructions in Portuguese.

In terms of language acquisition children learn to comprehend speech first, a toddler will be able to follow simple instructions and will then begin to use occasional words which then become phrases (I was just getting to the short phrases part at the end of the last lesson!). Obviously we wouldn’t attempt to teach children to read until they can understand the spoken language and speak it themselves, and of course that consists only of SOUNDS.

A good reading programme will always begin with what the child knows – the sounds of the language which his why Sounds-Write is such an effective programme, you can find out more about Sounds-Write by following this link

So as parents if you want to help your children to be ready to learn to read get them to concentrate on the sounds of the language. Here’s a few ideas of how you can do that

Get them to listen to and identify the sounds that are in words-

Begin by identifying initial sounds “What’s the first sound you hear in snake?” for example. Words beginning with continuants, sounds you can hang on to, like ‘s’ ‘m’ ‘f’ are a good place to start

Or you could try getting to children to find objects that have a particular sound in their name things that have a ‘c’ (as in cat) for example cup, cat, cap, cot, clown, but also duck and clock and monkey

Get children to think about the sounds in their name or yours

Using books get them to point to a picture of an object on the page that begins with a particular sound

But remember the following points

  • Concentrate just on the sound NO writing or even recognising letters (the symbols of the sounds) is required at this stage.
  • Use ONLY the sounds NOT any letter names
  • Use very precise pronunciation of the sounds if you are unsure how to pronounce a sound precisely you can watch a video by clicking this link  then clicking the Sounds-Write tab OR by following this link which explains a little about why precise pronunciation of the sounds is important

Help children develop an understanding of the ‘culture’ of reading and stories

Most toddlers and children love being read to and before that will often enjoy holding books, especially ones with good quality images, but they enjoy recognising pictures. When you repeatedly read with a child – long before they can read they will learn that

  • we read left to right across a page (not the same in every language)
  • text is different to images
  • text in a book usually relates to the images
  • the language in a story may be a little different form normal speech, it may rhyme for example
  • many stories even for quite small children have some kind of plot and a beginning, middle and end.

Help them to develop an interest in books

We are all prepared to work harder at something we are motivated to do. When children are very small ensure that story time is a good time. It doesn’t have to be just before bed, invest time in reading with your children, and make it fun!

  • Ensure there are good quality books available throughout the home not just in the bedroom
  • Ensure  children see you reading, after all they learn by copying what they see, talk about books, reading and stories as a family
  • Make  visits to the libraries (where they are still available) part of normal family routine

Often very young children will sit and turn the pages of a book while telling the story, they aren’t reading of course but they are showing an understanding and interest in books and stories

“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents” Emilie Buchwald so spend regular quality time with children on your lap enjoying stories together. Sounds like a real treat to me!








Posted in General | 2 Comments