Homeschooling tips for parents during Coronavirus lockdown

mother homeschooling her daughter

One of our directors, an experienced former head teacher, provides some homeschooling tips to help families during lockdown.                 

John Salmon director

In part 1 of this blog series I provide some helpful tips for parents to support their children learning at home

Homeschooling tips for parents during Coronavirus lockdown

Boris Johnson made a bombshell announcement in response to increasing cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) by placing the UK in lockdown on 23 March.

This followed the government’s earlier decision to close schools to most students and cancel GCSEs and A level exams. This has understandably created significant uncertainty for parents and children alike. Children are feeling pressure due to the uncertainty and parents are trying their best to help with all the schoolwork, while also trying to devise fun activities and still have time for their own working requirements.

With schools having been due to resume this week after Easter, we appreciate that many parents could do with some helpful tips and advice at this difficult time. As an experienced teacher, former head teacher, tutor and father, I have used my significant expertise to put together a 3-part blog series to help.

In this first blog, I provide tips and suggested activities and strategies for parents to support their children learning at home. I also provide a list of top resources (both academic and non-academic) that can be used during these difficult times.

In part 2, I attempt to answer some frequently asked questions about the consequences of the lockdown on education in the UK and explain how Bright Heart Education is helping in the circumstances.

In part 3, I outline the benefits of using online tuition to support students at this difficult time.

7 homeschooling tips for parents during lockdown

While parents cannot be expected to substitute trained teachers, they can offer support to their children learning at home by following some tips below. Parents should be careful not to put all the emphasis on academics.  As a matter of fact, the British Psychological Society’s Division of Educational and Child Psychology (DECP) has pointed out that this is a good opportunity to spend quality time with your children: “Don’t put too much pressure on doing academic work.  Parents and carers aren’t teachers, and it is important to also spend time building relationships, enjoying shared activities and reassuring children.”

1. Plan your day

While providing extra attention for your children at home can be challenging, a little planning will go a long way. Each night, ensure your child has a plan for the following day. This should involve aiming to get up at roughly the same time every day, eating well, exercising and getting some much-needed fresh air. Creating a routine that is exactly like the one at school would be impractical, but it is possible to follow a similar structure, in the sense that you have one subject followed by another, with breaks in between.  This may be done through work provided by the school, your own supervision or by using a private tutor for online lessons (preferably) or face-to-face lessons (where possible) for students with special learning needs who are unable to concentrate online.   

At the same time, despite the benefits of following a daily routine, child psychologists warn that parents should still leave some room for flexibility to avoid pursuing an overly controlled environment. This may lead to more stress and anxiety in children. It is therefore crucial to maintain a healthy balance, which can be achieved through the understanding of your child’s wants and needs. 

2. Maintain education

Maintaining learning during this period is important to keep concepts fresh and create a sense of satisfaction for children. This will also help their confidence when adjusting to the next year of education once they go back to school. A tutor can aid with any online schoolwork set by teachers and help bring it to life (virtual classrooms are unlikely to offer much 2-way interaction). Maintaining engagement is important and is a challenge when homeschooling.  For parents, online tutoring sessions can also be a period of time when their children are being kept busy and not seeking continuous entertainment.

Creating a dedicated workspace can help to avoid distractions and enhance children’s concentration.

mother homeschooling her daughter
A dedicated space for working in the home is best.

3. Keep them entertained

Aside from academics, it is important not to underestimate the power of play.  Infusing children’s life with play not only helps them to relax, but also ensures their well-being and healthy development. Research has highlighted its numerous benefits. These include increasing self-confidence associated with acquiring new skills, improving or maintaining physical and mental health, and stimulating imagination and creativity. Click on the link below to read about all benefits of child’s play:

-> Why play is important

Additionally, keeping your family entertained will help to keep everyone happy and allow parents the chance to focus on some of their own needs – whether work or some downtime.

For more ideas on how to keep your children entertained, please have a look at our blog 9 Nifty Activities for Children during Lockdown.

Moreover, engaging in games as an entire family is a perfect way to create fun, long-lasting memories and to promote family bonding. See the link below to discover some great board games to try:

-> The top ten board games of all time

Monopoly can entertain the family for hours and help keep children's Maths sharp!

4. Keep them active

Although it is undeniable that having to stay at home has led to a significant reduction of our daily activity, it is essential to maintain physical health for children and adults alike. According to Dr Sarahjane Belton, adults should aim to spend 30 minutes of “moderate to vigorous exercises” on a daily basis, whereas children need twice that time. In order to stay healthy and at the same time help your children expel their accumulated energy, use the allowed one form of exercise a day to go outside for a walk, jog or other type of physical activity, whilst still adhering to the social distancing measures. 

To find out more about how to keep children active during lockdown, read the article written by Dr Belton below: 

–> How to keep yourself and your kids active during the lockdown

Alternatively, stay active even indoors by dancing, skipping, doing exercises found on YouTube or other resources like GoNoodle (designed specifically for children), or stretching your muscles in a good old classic game of Twister. 

A daily walk in Nature does much to calm the mind and body.

5. Help them socialise

Whilst the lockdown presents a wonderful opportunity to strengthen family ties, it is paramount for children’s social development that they remain in touch with their peers. Try to organise a video call with your child’s friends or classmates by making use of numerous available platforms, such as Skype, Zoom, Houseparty, WhatsApp of Google Hangouts. However, even though it is likely that children and teenagers might spend increasingly more time using technology, certain rules regarding their screen time should nevertheless be applied. 

6. Make use of free resources on the internet to help

There is no shortage of resources available online. In fact, there are so many resources available that it can be hard to know where to start. To help parents, we have picked our own top 10 list of online resources (see further below). They will assist you in keeping your children engaged whilst they learn, including a couple of resources outlining creative and entertaining non-academic activities at the end of the list. 

7. Don’t be afraid to seek expert advice when you need it

Homeschooling your children is not easy. Even experienced qualified teachers find it difficult to homeschool their own children. So don’t be afraid to ask for help.

For further insight into homeschooling, visit the biggest organisation of its kind in England, Education Otherwise.

Find more strategies and tips from the British Psychological Society below:

-> Coronavirus and UK schools closures:  support and advice for schools and parents/carers 

Alternatively, please get in touch with me or one of Bright Heart’s other directors – whether you are looking for a homeschooling tutor or just need some friendly advice, we are more than happy to help.

Top 10 online resources for children learning at home

Twinkl teaching resources
Gojimo app for KS3 11+ 13+ GCSE A Levels
  1. BBC Bitesize started providing daily lessons for children of all ages on April 20.  They also have a dedicated TV channel full of learning content, podcasts and educational videos.
  1. Seneca is a wonderful website for KS2, KS3, GCSE and A levels. 
  1. Gojimo is a mobile app for revision of GCSEs, A levels, IB, iGCSEs, Common Entrance and several international qualifications. 
  1. The National Literacy Trust provides an online zone for parents who are looking for a variety of activities for their children during school closures.
  1. Khan Academy is a free resource for parents, as well as young and older students, that offers free lessons in a wide range of subjects. Although it is US-based, there is plenty of content that overlaps with UK education.
  1. Twinkl offers thousands of worksheets and activities in Maths, English and Science to teachers, parents, and learners.
  1. Coolmath4kids.com is a great way to keep education entertaining. The website features lessons, quizzes and numerous games to teach children basic Maths.
  1. Hamilton Trust is a UK charity that provides an array of planning and learning resources in English, Maths, and Science for children up to Year 6.
  1. This article highlights 50 creative ideas to have fun with your children and make sure that they will never get bored during the lockdown.
  1. Another helpful article with 59 activities to do at the home to keep children entertained.

For even more help, the Department for Education has a wealth of online resources for home education.

Please see our Part 2 of this blog series: Questions (FAQ) about learning, schools and exams during lockdown where we provide answers to common queries.

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Working with students with autism

Private tutoring for special educational needs (SEN)

Autism is a spectrum condition. Here we look at some considerations when working with these students.                      

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

Being aware of certain traits of students with ASC is helpful for tutoring. Here we provide some general tutoring tips.

Working with students with autism

Autism is a spectrum condition, meaning that no two students are the same. However, there are some general tips for parents and tutors to be aware of when working with students with autism.

5 tips for working with students on the autism spectrum

1. Establish a routine and communicate any changes in advance

Ensuring that a child with autism is well prepared is important for parents and tutors. This includes explaining what to expect in a first tutoring session and what to do if an unexpected change occurs. For example, having insight into how the lesson will be structured so your child / student is fully informed is key. Meeting their tutor before formal lessons begin, through a no pressure trial / getting to know you session is very beneficial. Being prepared and knowing whom to expect can be calming for a student with autism. This is also a great way for the tutor to meet their student and get a sense of requirements and needs.

Planning and sticking to a routine is important and can be the difference between a successful or chaotic experience. If you are going to introduce a test or a new way of working, always mention this in advance. Any changes to tutoring schedules should also be communicated in good time.

Private tutoring for special educational needs (SEN)
Structure and routine is important to minimise anxiety for students with ASC

2. Communicate using clear and simple language

Students with autism spectrum condition (ASC) find different aspects of communication and language more challenging. Avoid using sarcasm and idioms as they may take you literally and misunderstand your meaning. Some students will be unable to listen to people speaking for lengthy periods. They will require visuals and gestures to support their understanding or appropriate pauses to allow for processing time. If you have a student that requires visuals, they will need them for all aspects of written and spoken language i.e. their timetable, labels on folders, instructions and lists.

Use your student or child’s name before you address them so they understand you are speaking to them. Do not assume a student has understood you. Ensure you ‘check in’ with that student periodically. Use phrases that require them to repeat back what they have to do or answer direct questions about the topic to check if they have understood it. Be sure to moderate the directness of questions so that they are not always setup with a binary outcome e.g. correct or incorrect. For some students, experiencing failure can evoke intensely negative emotions.

If the student is sensitive to eye contact, start this off gently and do not insist this is reciprocated. Once familiarity increases then look to increase eye contact. Eye contact can be particularly challenging for some students on the spectrum, so a lack of this contact should not be taken personally. However, one-to-one tuition sessions can be hugely advantageous to increasing this aspect of communication.

Puzzles, word searches and ticking off items from their to-do list can be incredibly encouraging, relaxing and soothing for the child.

Even small differences can be detrimental to their learning; so maintain a sense of calm, explore repetitive teachings and begin with engaging communication. You’ll typically find this approach more constructive for the student.

3. Avoid over-stimulation

Students with ASC can become over-stimulated by things that have little impact on students without ASC. This can become overwhelming and means they are unable to learn at the times you want them to. Flexibility from parents and tutors can be invaluable.

Giving the child time means they are not sensing any chaotic rushing. Think carefully about the environment you will be tutoring the child in and where the student will sit. Over stimulation can come from bright lights, traffic noise, a loud ticking clock, a dog barking, a chair made of a particular material or someone’s perfume or aftershave.

If your student can communicate effectively, ask them if where they are sitting works for them. If they are unable to tell you, speak to their parents for insight.

4. Be patient and understanding with social skills and behaviour

Some students with ASC may appear to engage in low-level disruptive behaviour. A student may be humming, tapping, rocking or flapping. This behaviour is called stimming and helps to reduce anxiety. It may be that a student engages in this behaviour in order to help them concentrate. A student may appear abrupt, to lack tact or seem rude when speaking. This is often unintentional and reflects a student’s inability to recognise ‘social norms’ when having a conversation or passing comment. Giving very clear and literal instructions and tasks to do when working together will make it easier.

Some parent intervention may be required; tutors are familiar with this and it can be beneficial for both parties.

5. Follow a person-centered approach

Every student with ASC is different and will face different challenges just like students without ASC. Try not to make assumptions about your students. Observe your student for signs of anxiety and support them in reducing that. Ask the student what works for them. Speak to their parents for insight into what will help them to learn.

Always remain calm and remember your student may not intentionally be being rude so do not take such behaviour personally. Use these opportunities to teach and reiterate conversation skills. No student can learn whilst their anxiety levels are high. Reduce anxiety before attempting to teach.

Receiving one-to-one tuition can be incredibly beneficial for children with autism. Learning solely at school can be tricky with so many children in a class demanding the teacher’s attention, so having this focused time can really help these students with their studies as well as social and emotional skills. For parents peace of mind, think carefully about who you are choosing as your child’s tutor. It is important that both your child and the tutor are able to engage and work together in each session. This is rewarding for both and can make the student (and tutor) feel at ease in subsequent sessions.

It is through parents and tutors working together that the child will get the stability and secure environment to be taught effectively.

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5 ways to support the mental health of a child with SEN

supporting mental health in a child

Research shows that 1 in 5 young people aged 16-24 experience anxiety or depression at any one time.   

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

As awareness of mental health grows we look at how you can support your child

5 ways to support the mental health of a child with SEN

Mental health may seem to be somewhat of a buzz word these days, but research shows that 1 in 5 young people aged 16-24 experience a common mental illness such as anxiety or depression at any one time1.

Children affected by learning challenges are:

  • 6 times more likely to experience conduct disorder;
  • 4 times more likely to have a diagnosable emotional mental health problem; and
  • Nearly twice as likely to experience a depressive episode.2
supporting mental health in a child
Taking action to talk with someone is always better done sooner rather than later

How can you as a parent support your child with Special Educational Needs?

1. Talk to your child about mental health

One of the best places to start is by talking about mental health to your child. You may discuss feelings and help give your child the language he or she needs to describe their emotions. You may simply ask questions to ascertain what your child is experiencing – are they anxious? Are they having self-esteem issues? Open dialogue will go a long way to making your child feel heard and supported. Make conversations about mental health a normal part of life – anywhere is a good place to talk; in the car, walking the dog or cooking together. Ask open-ended questions and show empathy rather than trying to offer immediate solutions.

2. Give your child your full attention

​When listening, make sure you’re fully present and that your child can feel that they have your undivided attention. Nobody likes to be half-listened to. Ignore or avoid distractions. Maintain eye contact and focus on your child.

3. Familiarise yourself with the signs of poor mental health

Keep in mind that all children are different, but some of the common signs of mental health problems in children include:

  • becoming withdrawn from friends and family
  • persistent low mood and unhappiness
  • tearfulness and irritability
  • worries that stop them from carrying out day to day tasks
  • tearfulness and irritability
  • sudden outbursts of anger directed at themselves or others
  • loss of interest in activities that they used to enjoy
  • problems eating or sleeping3

Look for clues about feelings: listen to the child’s words, tone of voice and body language.

4. If you’re worried about your child’s mental health, get help

Speak to your GP

As a first course of action, we suggest reaching out to your family doctor. He or she will be able to make a clinical assessment and to listen if your child is willing to talk to them. Your GP will also be able to make specialist referrals for therapy for example, where necessary to assist your child in managing their mental health.

Get in touch with your child’s teacher and/or tutors

Schools and teachers are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of supporting students’ mental health. It is vital that they are made aware that your child is struggling and they will be able to keep an eye on them during this time and provide much-needed additional support and encouragement.

Reach out to Support Organisations

If you feel that you‘d like additional support, get in touch with one of the following organisations that specialise in this field:

5. Take care of your own mental health

This cannot be overemphasized. Children live what they learn and as challenging as it may often be for us as parents, it is imperative that we model healthy habits and show our children what good emotional regulation and self-care looks like. If you feel stressed out, anxious and overwhelmed, make a point of implementing a self-care routine that will assist in providing you with more balanced living. You can also schedule time with a counsellor or therapist to provide you with perspective. Never underestimate the world of good that feeling heard can do for you (and your child).

References

  1. McManus et al., 2009, according to a report by the Centre for Mental Health 2018, centreformentalhealth.org.uk
  2. Emerson & Hatton, 2007, according to a report by the Centre for Mental Health 2018, centreformentalhealth.org.uk
  3. National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children

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Learning through sport

Karine, a Bright Heart tutor with a Black Belt in Karate, discusses the benefits of sport for children.           

Karine - learning through sport

Karine

Karine, a Bright Heart tutor with a Black Belt in Karate, is passionate about helping children with autism and SEN through sports. She discusses the benefits of sport.

Learning through sport

What if sport could help your child achieve their academic goals?

Sport is not just about fitness, teamwork or achievement; it also delivers much more and can help your child improve their mental and physical well-being, contributing to a healthier lifestyle. It has even been proven that physical activity can boost your child’s academic performance. But bear in mind that sports are not necessarily a synonym of exhausting exercise requiring high skills. It can simply be a gentle and playful experience for your child in a person-centred approach. 

boy running on path
Physical and mental well-being go together

Why is sport so important for my child?

Doing sport can help children grow, teaching them life skills and important lessons. Practising sport from a young age and accumulating positive experience will encourage your child to stay physically active later in life.

But most importantly, sports can (and should be!) fun, interactive and make your child happy. Whether it is playing in a team or doing individual activities, sport can bring happiness and improve your child’s mood. It also helps reduce stress and anxiety and can be considered as an active meditation. Being happy and relaxed, smiling and laughing will certainly positively affect their attitude towards learning and studying.

How can sports help my child?

Sports help children develop in different fields that are beneficial to their academic journey. It promotes self-knowledge, changes self-limiting beliefs and brings new challenges, pushing them out of their comfort zone to try new experiences. Sport definitely improves self-esteem, self-confidence and builds character, discipline and resilience. For example, learning how to follow rules, face new situations and handling how to win or lose will help them adapt to real life situations, regulate their emotions and deal with frustration.

Sport is about bouncing back and learning from mistakes, learning to try again or try a different way. It teaches that effort pays off and encourages perseverance, showing them that giving up is not the way to act when difficulties arise. Moreover, it teaches children how to set themselves goals and how to work to achieve these, increasing their motivation to realise their potential. All those skills are important notions that are transferable to other fields.

Learning through sport is not only when moving the body

Health and physical benefits of sport

Sport has many health and physical benefits. However, children have the tendency to prefer the comfort of their home rather than exercise but we wish to help them understand the importance of physical activity, for their own benefit, now and in the long run.

According to the NHS, children and teenagers between 5 and 18 years old should exercise at least 60 minutes every day. It ranges from moderate activity such as cycling and playground activities, to more intense activity such as running or tennis. Physical activity is important for better general health and growth, to build stronger bones and muscles and to increase stamina. It also helps in managing weight and improving one’s body image.

Additionally, it helps burn off energy and channel it to get children ready to sit down and focus on academic learning. It also increases body awareness, improving motor skills, balance and coordination. Developing these skills is important as it helps children gain strength and confidence in their body and in themselves. It boosts their energy level and encourages them to exercise more and stay healthy. A physically active child tends to get better sleep which helps keep energy levels up, improves attention, concentration, mood and behaviour.

How can we help?

Get in touch with Bright Heart if you would like to learn more about Karine’s passion for promoting sports to help children with autism and special educational needs. Karine would be very happy to chat to any parent about the benefits of sport.

Karine is a mother of 2 boys who teaches Karate, helps with PE at a SEN primary school class and works with a teenage boy on the autistic spectrum following a therapy based on stimulation through play.

Bright Heart believes that sport is a great complement to its heart-based tuition approach.


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A new ethos for tutoring students with SEND

nasen Connect September 2019

Dr Stevenson considers how tutoring can evolve and the opportunity this presents -published in nasen Connect magazine Sep 19.               

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

Director Dr Ryan Stevenson considers how tutoring can evolve and the opportunity that it presents in this contribution to nasen Connect magazine (Sept. 2019)

Bright Heart director, Dr Ryan Stevenson relates his story of working with SEND students and the valuable opportunity that tutoring presents. He argues a new approach is needed.  This article was published in the nasen Connect September 2019 edition.

nasen Connect September 2019
nasen Connect is distributed to schools, SENCos and parents across England

A new ethos for tutoring students with SEND

Being a billion-pound industry, there are a multitude of tutoring agencies and private tutors in the UK. In addition, there are multiple combinations of subjects and exam boards to specialise in and tutors are varied in their nationalities, ages and eccentricities. This was the sub-culture I awakened to in 2012 when becoming a maths and science tutor in London.

After approaching several agencies, I soon began working and familiarising myself with the lingo of the curriculums and student levels. It was clear to me from the beginning that tutors can play an important role for families and schools in delivering education.

In those early days, I was matched with students needing tutoring in science or maths, but I would often find that students also presented with additional learning challenges. This experience was initially quite difficult for me as I came to grips with different ways of learning, the learning environment, the different SEN labels and student behaviour which often left me feeling the need to walk on eggshells.

The objectives for tutoring were most often expressed as simply improving grades. Preparation and training were not high on the agenda and little regard was given to the tuition process, other than ensuring the tutor had the required subject knowledge.

This simplification was an eye-opener. It is premature to launch into rigorous academic work when the student is not yet at ease in the learning environment; studies highlight the lack of retention when the mind is in a stressed state. In fact, a negative relationship with learning can be exacerbated if a student is feeling pushed or cornered into working by a tutor who does not first establish some rapport with them or who does not consider their specific needs.

Observing and learning from student interaction

With increasing referrals of students with SEND, I carefully reflected on what made for effective tuition. I found building rapport and trust with the student and being aware of the learning ‘space’ to be very important. This space is beneficial when tutors are aware of the student’s specific needs and know how to work with them, but also by tutors being calm, receptive and expressing warmth. Psychologist Carl Rogers describes this as ‘positive unconditional regard’, which he noticed made a significant impact on patients’ improvement rates.

Once rapport and trust has been developed, the student is often willing to work more diligently. In positively affirming the unique presence of the student, there is also an increase in their self-esteem and self-worth. All of this leads to greater confidence and a ‘flowering’ of the whole individual. This development is particularly apt for students with SEND who may have lower self-esteem. These positive changes help to promote academic progress and a more stable individual.

Moving away from traditional ideas about tutoring and solely being a subject expert, it is important to give attention to the ‘softer’ factors which make the above process possible. It is suggested therefore, to parents and schools, to look for the following qualities in a tutor:

  • the demonstration of patience and understanding
  • the ability to maintain a calm and receptive learning environment
  • being able to build rapport and create engagement
  • flexibility in their approach to the student’s needs and character
  • particular experience and training for the specific educational need of the student.

This approach aligns well with the SEND Code of Practice (2015) where person- centred working is central. Sometimes, however, what is most crucial is the mindset of the tutor. It is important that they have the intention of creating a safe space for the student from the beginning and are mindful of the role played by his or her own emotions.

Meeting the challenge and implementation of ethos

Seven years later and now the co- founder of a tutoring agency of my own, we have looked to implement a more personal tutoring approach to ensure effective tuition for students with SEND. In addition to providing tutors with detailed guidance on our tutoring ethos, we’ve met this challenge by selecting high quality, experienced tutors who exhibit empathy and understanding, while also preparing them with respect to the SEND landscape. Specially commissioned training videos have been provided for tutors which cover the current context of SEND, the four broad areas of need, person-centred working and specific needs and strategies. Face to face training has also been planned. While not a substitute for direct experience, this knowledge base allows tutors to gain an immediate context and a selection of useful tools. We also ensure we gather as much information as possible regarding each student’s learning preferences. This is something schools and parents can be aware of to enhance the tuition experience.

Tutoring, as outlined here, is not merely the transfer of knowledge to meet a specific educational target. It is a golden opportunity to engage with the child in a way that can further their whole development and one to which I hope I have brought some attention. With this intention, much can be accomplished.

Contact us

If you feel the above article rings true for you then please get in touch and we can see how we can help.


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Dyslexia – another word for ‘a different way to learn’

girl writing on paper

We look at the definition of dyslexia, the myths surrounding it and how to work with dyslexic students.         

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

In this post we look at what is dyslexia, the myths surrounding it and how best to adapt tutoring to the student’s way of thinking

Dyslexia – another word for ‘a different way to learn’

If your child has been diagnosed with dyslexia or if you suspect that he or she may be dyslexic this is not cause for despair.  

While it does present a unique set of challenges when it comes to learning, it is important to remember that some of the world’s most creative and highly successful entrepreneurs are dyslexic and that it is not a learning difficulty which has held them back. 

A few of these (who also happen to be outspoken on the subject) include the likes of Sir Richard Branson, Orlando Bloom, Jim Carrey, Whoopi Goldberg and Keira Knightley. Even famous scholars such as Albert Einstein and Leonardo Da Vinci were thought to have been dyslexic.

So what exactly is dyslexia?

Dyslexia can be defined in the following way:

“Dyslexia is a learning difficulty (or difference) that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling.

  • Dyslexia occurs across a range of intellectual ability
  • Additional difficulties may be seen in aspects of language, motor coordination, mental calculation, concentration and personal organisation
  • Dyslexia is on a continuum
  • A good indication of the severity and persistence of dyslexic difficulties can be gained by examining how the individual responds to well informed intervention” *

* (Sir Jim Rose Identifying and teaching children with dyslexia and literacy difficulties 2009).

In simple terms, your child may exhibit signs such as these:

  • Good and bad days at school, for no apparent reason
  • Confusion between directional words (e.g. up/down)
  • Confusion with sequences e.g. days of the week
  • Jumbled phrases

It is also good to check if there is a family history of dyslexia.

The British Dyslexia Association (BDA) Management Board adopted Sir Jim Rose’s definition with the addition of a further paragraph:

 “In addition to these characteristics, the BDA acknowledges the visual processing difficulties that some individuals with dyslexia can experience, and points out that dyslexic readers can show a combination of abilities and difficulties that affect the learning process.  Some also have strengths in other areas, such as design, problem solving, creative skills, interactive skills and oral skills.”

This month on our digital media channels at Bright Heart Education we’ve spent some time taking a closer look at what dyslexia means for students with special educational needs and offering tips on how to better support them and you, their parents. There are often a lot of myths associated with being dyslexic. We aimed to bust a few of them that you might find interesting in the infographic below:

infographic on dyslexia

What can I do to make learning easier for my child?

Besides your unconditional support and loads of love and extra encouragement, one of the best ways to bolster your child’s learning journey with this particular challenge is to offer them additional assistance and increased levels of comfort through the help of a tutor. 

How can Bright Heart Education make a difference?

At Bright Heart Education, we focus first and foremost on a heart-based approach. This means that our tutors seek to build rapport with students and connect with them in a way that makes them feel heard, understood and supported. This creates an optimal environment in which learning can take place.

From an educational perspective specific to students with dyslexia, our tutors can reduce the amount of reading required by summarising or using diagrams and video footage if appropriate. Necessary reading can be simplified using bullet points instead of long paragraphs.

Material can also be made more readable using different colour font or colour to highlight and using bold instead of italics. The amount of writing required can be reduced and oral discussion may be favoured instead. Written work will usually be reviewed for content rather than accuracy. For younger students our tutors will assist with phonics.

Students with dyslexia can tire in the lesson due to additional processing. Our tutors are aware of this and will take breaks or alter the pace when necessary.

Tutors can look at spell-checking, but not where it ruins the flow of the lesson. They may also provide written notes. The tutor will aim to provide instructions verbally and provide clear structure for the student’s tasks and offer support with these tasks.

Should you wish to give your child the gift of the Bright Heart experience, get in touch for an obligation-free exploratory session and together you will feel the difference we make in our students’ lives on a daily basis.


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Using a tutor when homeschooling your child

Home-schooled boy

Homeschooling is becoming increasingly prevalent. We outline reasons to consider hiring a tutor to help.               

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

Homeschooling your child? Have you encountered some road-blocks to learning that require additional support?

Here are 4 reasons to consider hiring a tutor for your homeschooled child.

Using a tutor when homeschooling your child

Homeschooling is becoming increasingly popular. It is estimated* that ~58,000 students are currently being home schooled across England alone. This represents a 27% year-on-year increase.

ADCS Elective Home Education Survey 2018

Making the decision to home educate

There are many reasons why parents choose to home educate, particularly when tackling the challenges of special educational needs.

This can include their child’s comfort in the home environment if suffering from anxiety, practical reasons due to health and mobility challenges, behavioural issues in the school environment or recognising that their child is not getting the one-to-one attention they need for their unique style of learning. Homeschooling is also possible through online tutoring where written work can be shared or discussed dynamically. This can work well for those children who enjoy technology.

If you are unable to provide the intense, early intervention and support that your child needs, you may wish to consider hiring a tutor.  

4 reasons to hire a tutor for your homeschooled child

  • Your child is getting older
    During the years from 10 to 14 children begin to become more self-aware. If your child has fallen behind with his or her learning, it is therefore important to tackle this before it starts to significantly impact their self-esteem. At this age they compare themselves to others and become acutely aware of their deficits – whether real or imaginary. It is very beneficial if your child develops good rapport with a qualified and experienced tutor as a supporting and positive influence.

    Homeschooling can also limit harmful bullying during this phase. Awareness is still needed for cyberbullying, however. A tutor can provide positive support if this is an issue as they represent another reference point besides parents. In these instances an holistic approach is advantageous relative to a purely academic focus.
  • Your child is not making sufficient progress at home
    With the variety of underlying causes of learning difficulties, some students have more of a deficit in working memory, processing speeds and executive function than others. This may result in slower learning and you might find your child is not making sufficient progress at home. In this instance, your child can really benefit from the experience of a patient and experienced tutor guiding and supporting their efforts on a regular basis.
  • If your family dynamic makes offering consistent support to your child a challenge
    There are limited hours in the day and sometimes the demands of modern life and parenting make it challenging for parents to be consistent enough with their children in order to effect the change that is needed. Regular and consistent tutoring is recommended to ensure much-needed input and progress. This is particularly important for children with special educational needs. 
  • If teaching your child is putting strain on your family relationships

    Children with learning difficulties such as dyslexia, autism and ADHD often have a low threshold for frustration and this can result in meltdowns and/or anxiety. This has a ripple effect of creating high levels of stress in the home. Children will often behave better and try harder for a tutor who they see two or three times a week than they do for their parents. This may or may not be true for every family, but if it’s true for yours, hiring a qualified tutor with a nurturing approach to learning may be highly beneficial to your child as well as removing unnecessary stress and tension at home.

Home-schooled boy
Could your homeschooled child with special educational needs benefit from a tutor?

I'm homeschooling my child, should I use a tutoring agency?

Hiring a tutor through a tutoring agency generally provides numerous benefits. Find out more on our blog Should I Use a Tutoring Agency? 

At Bright Heart, we are always happy to discuss what is best for parents. We offer a free, no obligation in-person consultation. Feel free to get in touch with us today to discuss how we can best nurture your child’s educational progress, together.  


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16 ways to help my child with dyspraxia

boy writing at desk

Your child has been diagnosed with dyspraxia or DCD (developmental coordination disorder). Here we look at how to help.

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

Are you anxious about your child’s recent dyspraxia diagnosis? Here we look to provide practical tips and strategies to help

16 ways to help my child with dyspraxia

Your child has been diagnosed with dyspraxia or DCD (developmental coordination disorder). You’re relieved to have some insight into the reasons behind some of their difficulties with daily activities. These may include: physical play, team sports, drawing or handwriting, using tools like scissors, a toothbrush or cutlery. Children with motor coordination difficulties may also find tasks such as organising themselves, learning new motor skills and even social and emotional aspects challenging.

boy writing at desk
Concerned about your child's motor coordination challenges? We explore ways to help

Assisting with learning at home

You’re finding support, but it feels somewhat overwhelming and you’d like more practical advice on ways to assist your child at home and with learning.

If this resonates with you, then you’ve come to the right place. 

At Bright Heart Education, our tutors work with students who present with a wide variety of special educational needs and motor co-ordination difficulties are common.  Taking a heart-based approach means that we strive to truly nurture and support the youngsters we are entrusted to aid with learning, but this also extends to you, their parents.

What can I do to help my child with dyspraxia?

1.      Make adjustments at home to encourage greater independence and participation (e.g. elasticated shoes, trousers, easier fastenings on clothes, strategies for organisation and time management).

2.     Provide opportunities for regular practice of activities and exercises by involving your child in everyday activities such as cooking (mixing, spreading), household chores (folding clothes, putting away cutlery, mopping the floor) and simple games (catching a ball, hop scotch).

3.     As your child practices and improves, gradually increase the demands of the task e.g. catching a smaller ball, cutting around more complex shapes.

4.     Let your child choose activities that they particularly enjoy or wish to try.

5.     Praise your child for effort, as well as achievement.

6.     Celebrate successes and attribute them to your child’s hard work and effort.

7.      Try to make sure your child practices meaningful, ‘functional’ tasks that s/he will come across in everyday life e.g. decorating biscuits with icing rather than meaningless finger exercises.

8.     Use your child’s interests as a focus for motivation e.g. cutting out newspaper pictures of their favourite sport.

9.      Encourage practice at every opportunity. ‘Little and often’ is best for learning – ten minutes every day rather than one long session each week.

10.   Try to ensure that your child practices movement skills in a variety of different ways so that they can generalise to new situations e.g. different activities for ball skills: throwing and catching with different size balls of different weights, with the child in different positions.  

11.    Break down tasks into smaller units to be learned; make sure that your child knows what they are working towards and what the end goal looks like e.g. the different components in learning to tie a shoelace.

12.   Support your child when they are learning a task e.g. hold their coat as they do up the zip but gradually reduce this support as they become more confident and start to succeed on their own.

13.   Encourage the use of ‘thinking skills’ (cognitive strategies) such as goal setting, self-monitoring, problem-solving activities e.g. ask your child to say what aspect of the task they need to focus on to be successful (throw the ball higher/harder to get it in the net). What might health and educational professionals offer?

14.  Levels of intervention from health and educational professionals will be determined by the specific needs of your child and the impact this has on his/her everyday activities at home, school and in play.

15.   For intervention planning, individual goals should be agreed in consultation with you, your child and relevant professionals.

16.   The type of intervention will be informed by the individual needs of your child, agreed goals and the research evidence. Intervention may include school based activities and/or parent/teacher information sessions, Physiotherapy or Occupational Therapy in a group or individual setting.

What has worked for you and your child with dyspraxia?

We’d love to hear which of these if any, have worked for you and what other strategies have you implemented at home that have made a difference to your child and/or family with coping with dyspraxia or DCD?

           From Movement Matters www.movementmatters.org.uk the UK umbrella organisation representing the major national groups concerned with children and adults with coordination difficulties, a condition called Developmental Coordination Disorder (or DCD) and sometimes referred to as ‘dyspraxia’.

     Did you find this helpful? Please share your thoughts on our Facebook post or get in touch if you prefer!


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Home education documentary sparks debate

Anne Longfield the Children's Commissioner

Anne Longfield OBE, the Children’s Commissioner for England recently produced a report and featured in a documentary on home education.                                                                                                                                 

Ryan Stevenson

We discuss the report from the Children’s Commissioner on home education and the related Dispatches documentary

Children's Commissioner report and documentary on home education sparks debate

Anne Longfield OBE, the Children’s Commissioner for England, recently produced a report on home education. The report – “Skipping School: Invisible Children – How children disappear from England’s schools” – has received a lot of press. Channel 4 then aired a documentary, with Longfield, which featured some families with children in home education. The documentary has angered many homeschooling parents.

Anne Longfield the Children's Commissioner
Anne Longfield, the Children's Commissioner for England

What are the report's key findings?

The report featured a sympathetic introduction from Longfield. She empathised with parents who find themselves having to remove their children from “an unforgiving school system”. She shared the anecdote of a parent likening her daughter’s school to the Hunger Games. She is clearly passionate about children receiving a good education.

The report discusses the growth of home education, citing research from the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ACDS). ACDS indicates that the number of children in home education has doubled over the last 4 years. The report also discusses reasons for this sharp growth, including: 

  • Unmet needs: includes dissatisfaction with school as well as health and emotional problems.
  • Budgetary strains: funding per pupil has fallen 8% since 2010, requiring cuts to resources to support students with additional needs.
  • Off-rolling: the practice of schools removing a pupil without a formal exclusion process through pressurising parents.

While the report did conclude that many parents are devoted to providing their children with high quality education, it also cautioned about parents struggling to cope. It also discusses the need to improve the well-being of children being home educated. 

What are the report's key recommendations?

  • A home education register: calls for parents to register home-schooled children with the local authority.
  • Strengthened measures to tackle off-rolling: including increased attention from Ofsted and school's acknowledging that poor behaviour may be linked to special educational needs (SEN). Children withdrawn from school should be easily able to re-register with the same school.
  • Advice and support for children and families: within three days of a decision for a child to be withdrawn from school, the local authority should visit the family to provide advice and support.
  • Greater oversight of children: council education officers should visit each child being home educated at least once per term to assess their education and welfare.
  • Decisive action against unregistered schools: government to strengthen the law to make it easier to prosecute illegal schools.

What has caused unhappiness amongst homeschooling parents?

The Children’s Commissioner report would have been better received, presumably, if not for the Dispatches documentary. Dispatches is Channel 4’s investigative current affairs program.  

Dispatches showed a series of case studies, which featured Anne Longfield spending time with different families with children in home education. It also featured the distressing case of Dylan Seabridge, a neglected eight year old boy who died of scurvy in 2011.

We understand why homeschooling parents might feel angry after watching the documentary:

  • Did Dispatches present any of the numerous home education success stories? 
  • Were the selected case studies a representative sample? 
  • Did it select cases designed to stir up emotions about "invisible children" being harmed by their parents? 
  • Was a balanced view of home education shown?
Channel 4 Dispatches documentary about home schooling by Anne Longfield
Channel 4 Dispatches documentary on home education, presented by Anne Longfield

Some thoughts on home education

Most parents do not make the decision to home educate their children lightly. Under-resourced schools, additional learning needs and mental health and anxiety can all play their part (see our previous blog on the subject). Homeschooling often requires a parent to stay at home, impacting on their career and personal time. Parents may also need to spend money on hiring tutors to help fill gaps in their own knowledge. It is therefore a journey that requires commitment and dedication.

Responding to the report on home education:

  • Anntoinette Bramble, Chair of the Local Government Association's Children and Young People Board, commented:

    “Councils fully support the rights of parents to educate their children in the best way that they see fit, and the vast majority of parents who home educate their children do a fantastic job ..." 

  •  A Department for Education spokesperson said:

    Where children are being home educated, we know that in the vast majority of cases parents are doing an excellent job. We also know, however, that in a very small minority of cases children are not receiving the standard of education they should be ...” 

What do you think?

At Bright Heart, we speak to many parents who feel let down by schools and are desperately trying to help their children realise their potential. We would love to hear your views on the documentary and report.

Please share your thoughts on our Facebook post or get in touch if you prefer!


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What is a DBS check? Does my tutor need a DBS?

what is a DBS check?

A DBS check is really a criminal records check. It is obtained from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).                                                                                                                                  

Simon McQueen

In this article, we explain what a DBS check is and consider the question of tutors and DBS certificates.

This is the third article in our series aimed at helping parents seeking tuition. It follows our blogs providing tips on finding a great tutor and tips for considering tutoring agencies.

What is a DBS check?

A DBS check is really a criminal records check. It is obtained from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). This was previously the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB). The DBS issues a DBS certificate to an individual following a criminal records check. It shows certain convictions or cautions. It can also show if the person is unsuitable to work with children or adults, depending on the activity involved

Types of DBS checks

There are three main levels of checks:

  • Basic DBS - shows unspent convictions and cautions.
  • Standard DBS - shows unspent and spent convictions, cautions, reprimands and warnings held on the Police National Computer and not subject to filtering. Filtering is the process of removing certain less serious offences (as prescribed by legislation).
  • Enhanced DBS - suitable for people working with children or adults in certain circumstances, including education. In addition to a standard check, it may disclose relevant non-conviction information supplied by a Chief Officer. Depending on the activity, an enhanced check may include a check of one or both of the DBS barred lists. These comprise the children’s list and the adult’s list. They contain the names of people barred from working with children or adults in a certain capacity.

Can an individual request a DBS check?

An individual can only request a basic DBS check and can do so for any purpose. An individual cannot request a standard or an enhanced DBS check. Instead, a potential employer will have to request one on an individual’s behalf. 

Can any employer carry out a DBS check or check the barred list?

A potential employer may only request a check allowed by legislation. In order to check one of the barred lists, the person must be carrying on a regulated activity. Regulated activity is work that a barred person must not do as defined by the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006. Regulated activity includes regular one-to-one tuition. This means a tutor’s enhanced DBS check can include a check of the children’s barred list.

How long should a DBS check take? Can I speed up the process?

Our service provider, uCheck, claims an average of 2 days to complete a DBS check. Our experience to date has been mixed, however. While certain checks have been quick, we have experienced some frustrating delays. This included a recent DBS check that took well over a month. This was clearly frustrating for both ourselves and the tutor prevented from tutoring.

uCheck advises an applicant experiencing hardship due to delays to contact the DBS directly on 03000 200 190. Tutors trying this have been told to wait for 60 days, unfortunately.

Should my tutor have a DBS certificate?

As tutors are working with your children, it is important that any tutor is in possession of a clean enhanced DBS certificate. This should include a check of the children’s barred list. Unfortunately, due to private individuals not being able to carry out these checks directly, many private tutors do not have a DBS certificate. This is the case regardless of whether or not they are listed on a private tutor directory website. 

A parent should carefully assess how well they know a tutor without a DBS certificate. Parents should ensure that a parent or responsible adult is always present in the home during tuition. Parents should still assess the background of the tutor for online tuition although the tutor is not physically present.

What does a DBS certificate look like?

Ryan has provided one of his enhanced DBS certificates as an example of the information it contains. Ryan obtained this for a charity providing services classed as a regulated activity to both adults and children. It therefore includes a check of both barred lists, although your tutor’s DBS certificate need not check the adult’s list.

Enhanced DBS check certificate for tutors
An example of an enhanced DBS certificate (confidential info redacted)

Bright Heart's approach to DBS checks and safeguarding

Bright Heart ensures its tutors have a clean and current enhanced DBS certificate, which includes a check of the children’s barred list. When required, we request these checks for our tutors. Tutors need to register for the DBS update service when they renew their certificates. This permits inspection at any time to ensure there have been no adverse changes. 

A DBS check is not foolproof, unfortunately. It only indicates if someone has been flagged at the time of the check. We don’t therefore simply rely on DBS checks. Further steps we take include:

  • Not allowing tutors to provide tuition unless a parent or legal guardian is present in the home.
  • Personally interviewing tutors, taking at least two third party references and checking qualifications.
  • Providing guidance and training on safeguarding and requiring all tutors to sign up to our Safeguarding and Child Protection Policy.
  • Carefully monitoring tuition to ensure our contractually agreed high standards are met.

Please get in touch to talk to one of our dedicated team to help find the perfect tutor for your child!


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