How to support your child during exam season

study timetable

        

Sally

Sally

Bright Heart tutor Sally looks at how parents can support their children during exam time and how they can be effecitve with their learning.

How to support your child during exam season

Exam season can be stressful for the whole family. It is difficult for parents to know how best to manage revision at home, especially if this is the first time your child is taking public exams or end of year assessments.

Helping your child to succeed will vary according to their needs and strengths. Some children will need help to make revision timetables, others with sorting and filing notes and handouts and others someone to prompt them to stay focussed or to help them get started with a task.

Exams and studying can be daunting for children, but there are some things parents can do to help

Key things that parents can do to support their child:

Realistic revision expectations and tips for revision timetables

It can be hard to decide how much time to spend on revision per day, especially as everybody does it differently. The most important thing is to make a revision timetable to avoid devoting the first week of study leave to the first exam.

During term time 2 hours of revision per evening for GCSE and A-Level students is an achievable goal. Most homework tasks set now should be part of revision.

During study leave, GCSE and A-Level pupils could follow their school timetable and revise according to the lesson they would usually have at school. When they have subjects that they do not have a set exam for, such as PE or PSHE, the focus should be on a weaker subject that they feel needs more time. It is important to take regular breaks. I would suggest 45 minutes of study followed by a 15-minute break. It is a good idea to keep their phone in a different room or to put it on to not disturb and only check it during the 15-minute break.

Here is more information about creating effective revision timetables.

study timetable
Before revising, make sure your child creates a timetable to guide them

5 simple revision strategies

If your child is struggling to revise, focus or retain information, you could try the following strategies with them.

1. Asking questions - the 6 W's

You can apply this exercise to many topics in a variety of subjects. Choose a topic and ask your child six questions about it using the following prompts:

Who? How? When? What? Why? Where?

Your child could make brief notes under each of these prompts or create a spider diagram – topics can include volcanoes, forces, shapes, religious groups, characters in a novel etc.

2. Ask your child to teach you

For every topic, ask your child to teach you the content in a way that is easily understood, well-structured, and simplified into several key points. They can retain information by talking aloud and “teaching” the topic that they are revising. They could prepare keywords and definitions and perhaps six important points for each topic before they present the topic to you.

It is estimated that we can take in 10% of what we see, 20% of what we hear, 50% of what we say and hear, and 95% of what we teach someone else. This is why teachers can remember a lot of facts!

You could suggest a three minutes time limit to teach a topic. You will be amazed at the results. They could also teach siblings, themselves in the mirror or talk into a voice recorder on their phone.

3. Flashcards

Flashcards are excellent in helping to revise key topics. Ask your child to put a question or a word on one side of a small piece of card and write out the definition or key facts on the other. They can then place the cards on a table and revise by remembering the important details before checking the answers by turning over the cards.

You could buy coloured cardboard – a different colour for each subject – and your child could carry these around with them. They could work with a friend to test each other.

4. Note making

Revision means that you need to be active in the way that you learn. This will inevitably mean that your child will need to write out information to help them recall certain information. The best way to recall information is to present it attractively.

a) Spider diagrams

Record the topic in the spider’s body.
Place keywords at the end of each leg.
Provide some information under the keywords.

b) Flow charts

A flow chart is a common type of diagram that represents a process. Your child should use diagrams to help remember key points and details in all of their subjects. In Languages, they can create diagrams to help them to remember the days of the week, rooms in a house, seasons etc. Add pictures and colour.

c) Closed book note making

This approach will allow them to test themselves after they have read over a section of notes on a topic in any subject. The point of this methodology is that it can help you get information out of your head and onto the page – a key element of exams.
1. Take a piece of information and skim read through it.
2. Read it again and identify the six (or eight, ten, etc.,) most important points – you can number these on the text.
3. Turn over your notes and write out the main points from memory.

5. Mind maps

Your child can use mind-mapping techniques to help you to absorb information in all subjects. Developed by Tony Buzan, mind-maps are an excellent way of taking in information and allowing you to make all sorts of links and connections. This is how you mind-map:

1. Take a large sheet of paper and turn it on its side.
2. In the centre of the page, draw a logo or heading that sums up the topic that they are studying.
3. Draw several large branches coming out of the central topic heading – these are the key themes. Write the key theme along each branch.
4. Draw smaller branches coming out of the main branches and write along these as they begin to develop their topic.
5. At the end of branches, they can draw pictures that help them to memorise the information.
6. When your child has finished their mind-map, it should resemble the picture that you would see if you were underground, looking up at the roots of a tree.

More information can be found here about mind maps.

mind maps
Mind maps: simple but effective for learning

Retaining information

Educationalists have analysed how information is retained and it has been argued that there are seven keys to memory, six of which are listed below. We naturally remember things that are:

1. Funny
2. Outstanding
3. Personal
4. Emotional
5. Linked to our senses
6. The first and last thing we learn in a reading or revision session

With this in mind, try to remember revision notes by making connections, rhymes, links or visual images. These should be funny and personal to your child.

It is of great importance that, when revising, your child (and the parents) do not become unduly stressed or anxious, since a calm, relaxed mind learns much more efficiently. Encourage your child to be kind to themselves and to not become cross when they are unable to recall an answer – simply reveal and read the answer.

We hope this blog was helpful. Please feel free to get in touch with us should you have any questions about your child and their learning at school and at home. We enjoy talking with parents and helping our students by tailoring learning to their individual needs.


Share this article

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

Digital well-being: finding a balance for your family

Phone applications

        

Sally

Sally

Bright Heart tutor Sally looks at how parents can support their children during exam time.

How best to support your child during exam season

Exam season can be stressful for the whole family. It is difficult for parents to know how best to manage revision at home, especially if this is the first time your child is taking public exams or end of year assessments.

Helping your child to succeed will vary according to their needs and strengths. Some children will need help to make revision timetables, others with sorting and filing notes and handouts and others someone to prompt them to stay focussed or to help them get started with a task.

Key things that parents can do to help their children:

Realistic revision expectations and tips for revision timetables

It can be hard to decide how much time to spend on revision per day, especially as everybody does it differently. The most important thing is to make a revision timetable to avoid devoting the first week of study leave to the first exam.

During term time 2 hours of revision per evening for GCSE and A-Level students is an achievable goal. Most homework tasks set now should be part of revision.

During study leave, GCSE and A-Level pupils could follow their school timetable and revise according to the lesson they would usually have at school. When they have subjects that they do not have a set exam for, such as PE or PSHE, the focus should be on a weaker subject that they feel needs more time. It is important to take regular breaks e.g. 45 minutes of study followed by a 15-minute break. It is a good idea to keep their phone in a different room or
to put it on to not disturb and only check it during the 15-minute break.

Here is a link with more information about creating effective revision timetables.

Family going on a walk
A family walk in the evening can be a rewarding routine away from screens.

Five Simple Strategies

If your child is struggling to revise, focus or retain information, you could try the following strategies with them.

1. Asking questions - the 6 W's

You can apply this exercise to many topics in a variety of subjects. Choose a topic and ask your child six questions about it using the following prompts:

Who? How? When? What? Why? Where?

Your child could make brief notes under each of these prompts or create a spider diagram – topics can include volcanoes, forces, shapes, religious groups, characters in a novel etc.

2. Ask your child to teach you

For every topic, ask your child to teach you the content in a way that is easily understood, well-structured, and simplified into several key points. They can retain information by talking aloud and “teaching” the topic that they are revising. They could prepare keywords and definitions and perhaps six important points for each topic before they present the topic to you.

It is estimated that we can take in 10% of what we see, 20% of what we hear, 50% of what we say and hear, and 95% of what we teach someone else. This is why teachers can remember a lot of facts!

You could suggest a three minutes time limit to teach a topic. You will be amazed at the results. They could also teach siblings, themselves in the mirror or talk into a voice recorder on their phone.

3. Flashcards

Flashcards are excellent in helping to revise key topics. Ask your child to put a question or a word on one side of a small piece of card and write out the definition or key facts on the other. They can then place the cards on a table and revise by remembering the important details before checking the answers by turning over the cards.

You could buy coloured cardboard – a different colour for each subject – and your child could
carry these around with them. They could work with a friend to test each other.

4. Note making

Revision means that you need to be active in the way that you learn. This will inevitably mean that your child will need to write out information to help them recall certain information. The best way to recall information is to present it attractively.

a) Spider diagrams

Record the topic in the spider’s body.
Place keywords at the end of each leg.
Provide some information under the keywords.

b) Flow charts

A flow chart is a common type of diagram that represents a process. Your child should use diagrams to help remember key points and details in all of their subjects. In Languages, they can create diagrams to help them to remember the days of the week, rooms in a house, seasons etc. Add pictures and colour.

c) Closed book note making

This approach will allow them to test themselves after they have read over a section of notes on a topic in any subject. The point of this methodology is that it can help you get information out of your head and onto the page – a key element of exams.
1. Take a piece of information and skim read through it.
2. Read it again and identify the six (or eight, ten, etc.,) most important points – you can
number these on the text.
3. Turn over your notes and write out the main points from memory.

5. Mind maps

Your child can use mind-mapping techniques to help them absorb information in all subjects. Developed by Tony Buzan, mind-maps are an excellent way of taking in information and allowing you to make all sorts of links and connections. This is how you mind-map:
1. Take a large sheet of paper and turn it on its side.
2. In the centre of the page, draw a logo or heading that sums up the topic that they are studying.
3. Draw several large branches coming out of the central topic heading – these are the key themes. Write the key theme along each branch.
4. Draw smaller branches coming out of the main branches and write along these as they begin to develop their topic.
5. At the end of branches, they can draw pictures that help them to memorise the information.
6. When your child has finished their mind-map, it should resemble the picture that you would see if you were underground, looking up at the roots of a tree

More information can be found here about mind maps.

Family going on a walk
A family walk in the evening can be a rewarding routine away from screens.

Retaining information

Educationalists have analysed how information is retained and it has been argued that there are seven keys to memory, six of which are listed below. We naturally remember things that are:

1. Funny
2. Outstanding
3. Personal
4. Emotional
5. Linked to our senses
6. The first and last thing we learn in a reading or revision session

With this in mind, your child should try to remember revision notes by making connections, rhymes, links or visual images. They should make these funny and personal to them. It is of great importance that, when revising, your child (and the parents) do not become unduly stressed or anxious, since a calm, relaxed mind learns much more efficiently. Encourage your child to be kind to themselves and to not become cross when they are unable to recall an answer – simply reveal and read the answer.

We hope this blog was helpful. Please feel free to get in touch with us should you have any questions about your child and their learning at school and at home. We enjoy talking with parents and helping our students by tailoring learning to their individual needs.


Share this article

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

Resilience: what it is and how to build it

resilience

        

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

This month we look at  resilience. This is an important strength for your children to develop. We look at some tips for parents in this regard.

Resilience: What it is and how to build it

Resilience is the ability to get back on your feet after experiencing a hardship. It is a valuable trait that allows people to get through even the most challenging parts of life. It doesn’t mean never feeling hurt, angry, or bitter – it means being able to accept those emotions and not let them affect your entire life.

Resilience is best taught from an early age. When a person learns to be resilient when they are young, they end up growing into emotionally mature and capable adults. The type who can manage their emotions and circumstances, no matter what they are.

When it comes to children, though, it can be tricky to teach resilience. It takes time and patience from the parent. Luckily, it is more than doable if you know what you’re doing.

resilience
Every child can build resilience. This will last them for life.

What are some common setbacks for children?

Children experience a lot of setbacks that they must learn to bounce back from. They are learning curves and opportunities for the parent to teach them the art of resilience. Some of them include:

Some of these setbacks are a lot more serious than others. Getting a poor grade, for example, is incomparable to the loss of a family member. It’s important to consider that children feel emotions differently from adults, though. You might think a challenge in their life is not that big of a deal, but to them, it might be the greatest challenge of all.

Why resilience is so important for children

While you can’t expect children to show emotional maturity in everything they do (they are still learning, after all), it is important to help them bounce back after a challenging time. Otherwise, the setbacks will harm their academics, attitude, and general happiness. You want your children to thrive, and that means building resilience.

Plus, the more resilient a child is, the more confident they are. It helps them understand negative emotions, as well as the fact these emotions won’t last forever.

resilience
Overcoming setbacks is the path to sucess and greater confidence.

How to build resilience in children

Now that you know how important it is for children to build resilience, you likely want to know how. Luckily, we have the answer right here. It takes time, but it’s more than worth it to ensure your child handles challenges well and grows into an emotionally mature adult.

1) Build strong relationships

Strong relationships are the key to resilience. When a child has a parent, teacher, or other trusted adult that they can rely on, they are far more likely to bounce back from situations. A role model is even better.

If your child struggles with a piece of homework, for example, having a trusted adult there to help them makes a world of difference. That could be you, as a parent, a teacher at school, or perhaps a tutor. If they have people who have their back, they will know that they can get through anything.

2) Let them make mistakes

Shielding your child from making mistakes will not help them grow. Instead, it will make them believe that they are immune to making mistakes – that you will always be there to ensure that they don’t. That won’t build resilience!

Let your child make mistakes (small ones, of course). Mistakes like putting too much sugar on their cereal or using too much water on their watercolour painting will help them face a challenge head-on. It might frustrate them at first, but they will learn from it.

3) Encourage them to keep trying

Resilience is built in the early years. You need the patience to grow for resilience to take hold. That’s why you should always encourage your child to keep trying, no matter what.

That is especially important with school work. When your child reaches an equation, book, or science problem that they can’t solve, you must encourage them to keep trying. Help them where you can, but don’t let them give up. Hiring a motivating and positive tutor can help when confidence is low. If they have someone there to help them through it, they are more likely to push through and thus build resilience.

4) Let them feel their emotions

Telling your child to get over something is not the way to encourage resilience. Instead, it will make them push their emotions down, which isn’t helpful for anyone, especially children! Allow them to feel upset, frustrated, or hurt when they experience a setback. That is a part of their growth. Then, once they feel better, tackle the problem with them head-on.

5) Encourage self care

It is never too early to teach self-care. When someone experiences a setback, it is healthy to do activities that make them feel better. Your child will benefit from learning how to look after themselves properly, especially when going through a challenge. Activities like reading, taking a breather, and talking to someone they trust are all great ways to lessen the emotional impact of a setback.

5) Don't do everything for them

It’s tempting as a parent to do everything for your child. You want them to have the best, after all. You might tie their shoelaces for them in the morning. Or, you might pack their school bag every evening. When they reach an age where they can start doing these tasks for themselves, though, let them.

They might struggle at first, and that is OK. In fact, that’s the biggest step toward becoming more resilient! Let them struggle (to a point) and then allow them to succeed independently. Over time, this will help them flourish. They will take that mindset into other tasks, such as classwork and playing musical instruments.

6) Celebrate the successes

When your child pushes through a setback and comes out the other side, you must celebrate that. Show them how well they have done. Tell them that they are strong for doing it – even if it was just a small setback. Remember – things that seem small to adults can feel enormous to children.

Building resilience in children means adapting new parenting techniques. It’s essential for raising a child that grows into an emotionally mature and self-aware adult.

resilience
Building resilience is a journey.

We hope this blog was helpful. Please feel free to get in touch with us should you have any questions about your child and their learning at school and at home. We enjoy talking with parents and helping our students by tailoring learning to their individual needs.


Share this article

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

How to deal with relational aggression and bullying – advice for parents

        

Sally

Sally

Bright Heart tutor Sally discusses relational aggression and bullying and how parents can respond to this. She also provides some helpful tips on how to avoid or manage it.

How to deal with relational aggression and bullying - advice for parents

Traditionally we might think of bullying as a physical act or a verbal insult by older children or a group of children targeting those more vulnerable, but this is often no longer the case. Relational aggression takes place within friendship groups. It can be very distressing and affect self-esteem, increase anxiety, and cause depression.

What is relational aggression?

Relational aggression is a type of bullying which includes threats or attempts to damage someone’s relationships or social status. It includes excluding people from the group, using silent treatment or threatening to withdraw a friendship. It can involve sharing secrets, spreading rumours, or ‘banter’; for example, mocking their appearance. Perhaps the hardest thing to understand about this form of bullying is that the victim often wants to remain friends with the perpetrators and will do anything to remain part of the group. Often a victim can become a perpetrator to try and win back favour by excluding someone else.

As a parent, you may witness a deterioration of a friendship that seemed very positive at first. It can start with a few negative comments disguised as jokes. Victims are then labelled as oversensitive or dramatic if they express they don’t like it. These friendships start intensely, but then the victim is suddenly dropped for someone else. They have to witness their exclusion via social media posts. Once the relationship is damaged the victim feels vulnerable and can be called ‘needy’ or ‘clingy’ if they try to repair the friendship.

How to respond as a parents

It is always tempting to jump in and try and sort it out on your child’s behalf, but this is usually not the best course of action. Your child needs to feel in control of the situation and know that they can trust you. You need to listen and explain that they cannot control what other people say, but they can control how they respond. 

The first step to take is to encourage other friendships. Suggest new clubs or activities and invite someone different to go with them. Praise your child and highlight all that is good about them; this will help rebuild their self-esteem.

Self love and building self esteem is key to resilience.

It is very important to agree on what action to take with your child. Do they feel confident talking to a trusted adult at school? Would they like you to do it on their behalf? The school is probably aware of friendship dynamics within the year group. Ask them to support your child to make new friendships through seating plans or planned group work. You do not need to raise it as a bullying issue at this stage if your child does not feel confident to do so. You can inform the school that there are friendship problems and ask for a meeting in two weeks in case the situation persists.

Unfortunately, relational aggression is very hard to prove. Some children are so skilled at this type of bullying that no one would ever suspect them of hurting others. It is manipulative and sly. Keep screenshots of any online incidents and a diary of events as evidence. If the unkind behaviour persists, present the evidence to the school in a meeting with your child. Managing relationships is a difficult task. 

Unfortunately, your child will probably encounter other negative friendships in the future; this can be a time to establish boundaries and build resilience. However, it is important to have time frames and stick to these as your child will likely be reluctant to report it to the school for fear of retaliation. Explain to your child that if the situation has not improved in two weeks, despite the positive action taken (outlined above), then it must be reported to the
school. The school will have lots of experience in dealing with the issues, but they will not be able to take disciplinary action without your child’s cooperation and evidence.

Relational aggression is learned behaviour. We should encourage our children to be upstanders and challenge unkindness, rather than bystanders who are complicit in the bullying.

Children learn how to interact socially with their parents. If you gossip about other parents or purposefully exclude people from social gatherings, you should not be surprised when your child does the same thing. Show your children what it means to be kind and loving. Parents need to model positive relationships. We often point out our friends’ weaknesses instead of verbally celebrating their greatness.

Discuss the dangers of gossip, backstabbing and rumour-spreading with your children. Teenagers do not tend to think about the negative consequences of their actions. As a result, they may engage in relational aggression without even thinking about how this behaviour could impact others. Help your children recognise who is loyal and who is safe. Talk to them about relational aggression. They should be able to recognise it and name it.

Top tips to avoid relational aggression

1) Teach your child to be an upstander

Upstanders are people who stand up for victims. Some children are stronger than others; encourage your child to intervene or attempt to stop the aggression taking place in their circles. It could be something as small as making eye contact with a victim whilst the incident is happening. Encourage your child to ask the victim if they are ok and be kind so that they do not feel alone.

children supporting each other
Supporting and standing up for one another is an important value to teach your children.

2) Carefully manage your child’s online activity.

Relational aggression often takes place online. Your child needs a break from their friendship groups; ensure that they take some time away from their devices each day. A helpful way to do this is to set boundaries and limits for the whole family.

3) Create opportunities for your child to meet lots of new people outside of school

Sports or other activities are an excellent way to make new friends. The focus during practice or games is on the activity and therefore there is less social pressure. They are also likely to meet people with similar interests in these settings. It is important to remember that being part of a clique or excessive togetherness is not healthy. The
healthiest kids have friends in different social circles and a variety of interests. Do not encourage your child to stick with only one group of friends, but instead encourage them to branch out and meet new people.

What to do if you find out your child has been the perpetrator

It is never nice to hear that your child is the bully, but it is necessary to address this behaviour and help them manage the root of the issue. It might be a reaction to something taking place at home or a way of them trying to impress a friend. They might be feeling insecure as they are struggling at school and are being unkind to divert
attention from their shortcomings.

Take steps to help them seek forgiveness for their behaviour. Tell them to apologise to those they have upset and explain they will have to work hard to repair friendships and rebuild trust. Ask the school if they have a mentor or counsellor who could provide support and finally take the steps mentioned above to foster self-esteem so that they do not need to belittle others to feel confident in the future.

We hope this blog was helpful. Please feel free to get in touch with us should you have any questions about your child and their learning at school and at home. We enjoy talking with parents and helping our students by tailoring learning to their individual needs.


Share this article

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

The importance of travel for a child’s education

learning by travelling

            

Bright Heart

Local and international travel is important to broaden your child’s mind. Here the benefits are discussed and ways you can make this more thoughtful.

Exclusively written for Bright Heart by J Wright

The importance of travelling for a child’s education

A journal article on Science Direct recently examined the benefits of family tourism. Researchers found that parents’ well-being increased through memorable travel experiences. Interestingly, the study also revealed that generic skills in children also showed improvement through tourism as well. This is not the first study that suggests travel can create a positive impact on young minds, and play a key role in their education.

There are many things that a classroom — or virtual classes — cannot teach. Children and teenagers have to go out into the world to develop a keen understanding of human life. They need to visit new places and stimulate their senses for effective learning. Mobility is a natural partner to learning, because it exposes us to other people, places, cultures, and things, reshaping our perspective into something new. In this article we will explain how to travel locally and abroad, and the equipment you can invest in to make the trip easier for you and more fun for your children.

learning by travelling
There is much to be gained from local and international travel for a young mind.

Travelling locally

Travelling abroad may feel more exciting than a jaunt to a nearby town, but travelling locally teaches your children to not underestimate the beauty of their own country. Domestic travel informs us of the experiences in other communities, and lets us appreciate the cultural, architectural, and natural highlights we often take for granted. For children and teens, travelling at home also helps make what they learn about the nation’s heritage and history much more tangible.

So plan to tour another city for the next school holidays, or take a cross-country drive and make educational stops along the way. If that’s not doable, then bring your children to neighbourhood landmarks; the familiar spots on a walk will eventually help them form connections between their locale and their identity. You can even go to a nearby park to see native flowers, trees, insects, birds, and animals that they might only recognise from a book.

Travelling locally will help your children master public transportation — which is a basic life skill they should learn before adulthood. Riding buses and trains can equip children with street smarts, and even train their manners. As lifestyle writer Lazzie Lynn writes, children are natural explorers. You can’t really keep them locked up in a room, then expect them to behave like tamed, mindful adults when they’re out in the world. Ease them into the experience by asking them to observe how other people on the commute behave; you can even instruct them to compile their insights on travelling as a short-term passion project. As they get older, invest in a Zip Oyster Photocard so children under 18 years old can enjoy discounted travel on Tube, DLR, and London Overground journeys.

old maps
Each new place offers history, geography and learning about different cultures.

Travelling abroad

Travelling abroad leads to a better understanding of the world. When you’re exposed to languages and cultural differences, you’ll find the underlying similarities in humanity — which is important for developing tolerance and acceptance.

To get your young children emotionally invested in the trip get them involved with their packing by giving them their own suitcase. Trunki makes wheeled carry-on cases of excellent quality. Not only can your children pack their favourite things in them, you can pull them along when they get tired. This will give them a greater appreciation of the trip.

For teens, you can even ask them to do some research and help plan the trip by finding interesting places to visit. Simple responsibilities like this allow them to stretch their problem-solving skills, especially when travel plans don’t follow through. As parents, you’d be able to model the appropriate response, and guide your children to become more resilient.

The bonus to international travel? Access to the internet isn’t readily available. As we wrote in ‘The Importance of Sleep’, young minds should take breaks from electronic devices, especially when it’s close to bedtime. Without access to a cheap connection, your kids will be able to unplug and unwind to the fullest.

Exclusively written for Bright Heart by J Wright

Contact us

Please get in touch if you would like to discuss anything in this article or would like to find out more about our nurturing approach to tuition..


Share this article

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

An inspirational journey to self-worth and high academic attainment

growth mindset

            

Bright Heart

Bright Heart tutor Nikita’s inspirational story and the challenges she overcame from low attainment to excellence! An engaging and motivational story for all school students out there who question their ability and their future.

An inspirational journey to self-worth and high academic attainment

We were grateful for a sharing from one of our own tutors, Nikita. She shares her journey to excellence, overcoming significant obstacles and a challenging environment. We recommend to watch her You Tube video first, which is a gripping story. This was hosted by Bright Heart’s John Salmon.

Nikita summarised the key steps of her journey further below. There are also important and insightful tips for students who doubt themselves and who are looking to prepare for their exams, be it GCSE or A Level. She has called her written summary “The Power of Resilience”.

The Power of Resilience

resilience

1) Disadvantaged Background

Some students come from broken families, and I happened to be one of them. Dealing with the trauma and neglect made me feel secluded and isolated from my peers. I often struggled to maintain friendships and hardly spoke. Accepting who you are will set you free from the barriers you place on your mind. I have learnt that the opinions of others should not have a bearing on your confidence as opinions are not facts, so you should take them in and let them go. After all the struggles I faced in my education journey, I would like to share things I have learned.

2) The School System

The school system has come a long way to understanding mental health and learning difficulties. These were two things that affected me significantly throughout my life. Understanding my differences and learning to control my emotions helped me stay focused. I was in lower sets throughout primary and secondary school, which knocked my confidence. Teachers tended not to turn up, and we had supply teachers most of the time. As a result, the students in my class were not motivated and would mess around, whereas I would use this time to learn from textbooks and catch up on school work. After a while, I figured out creative ways to understand maths and science topics. I teach these analogies to my students, and they are always amazed by the effectiveness of retaining information. Therefore, you should not feel ashamed or embarrassed to teach yourself concepts differently as long as they work for you. 

3) Inspiring People

Praise is often something we forget to do over little achievements, whereas we tend to fixate on minor mistakes for a long time. So it is vital to give yourself praise for everything you do correctly, as small as it may seem. It will help your mind focus on positive things about yourself and not be too hard when you don’t get it right. It is about learning from your mistakes, and if you didn’t make any, then learning would be pointless. Find someone or something that inspires you and ensure you can think about this in times of self-doubt. For example, I loved cars growing up and kept photos of my favourite car to remind myself why I invested my time in getting good grades.

porsche on road
Having inspiration to guide and motivate you is important. For Nikita, it was her love of cars

4) Growth Mindset

One of my greatest strengths in succeeding in education was being optimistic about my potential and believing that I could reach any goal I set my mind to. Learning is like running a marathon; everyone will get to the finish line but in their own time. Being surrounded by negative influences can be challenging, and it is easy to follow the crowd. I was determined to be somebody from a young age, although it was not clear that I would have those options available. I was placed into a box with a lid and told multiple times that I would not obtain a higher education or leave school with 5 GCSEs. If I had let the opinions of my peers and teachers dictate my potential, I would not be where I am today. 

growth mindset
Having a goal to set your mind to is key. Do not be dissuaded by others.

5) Effective Revision

Knowing how to revise effectively is necessary to prevent procrastination and self-doubt. There is nothing worse than spending hours on end studying for an exam only to find out you failed or get lower than expected. Time is precious, and you need to obtain a work-life balance; otherwise, you risk jeopardising your wellbeing. One of the ways to enhance revision is to ensure you schedule productive time for it regularly in a place where you work best—working on areas of weakness identified by teachers or on assessments. Use useful revision sites such as Quizlet or Bitesize to break down concepts and test knowledge. I found that utilising the weekends was very effective as you are fresh and have more hours to fit in revision. 

6) Exam Technique

Ensuring you do plenty of exam papers before a test is a key to achieving high results. In addition, you need to know what the examiners require and how to answer questions to gain full marks. Knowing the examiners’ criteria can be found in the subject exam board specification, for example, this link for Biology.  Finding practice exam papers can be found online, and some websites keep a huge past paper bank of questions, such as Maths Made Easy. The key after this is to practice, practice and more practice. 

7) Investing Time

One essential aspect of getting an education is understanding the point of it. You are investing in your future to seek the rewards of hard work. On average, students spend up until the age of 18-22 studying to enrich their life until retirement. Education will give you new ways of thinking about situations and making better decisions. It was not about getting a piece of paper with top grades but the skills I learned during my education. I put hundreds of hours into studying outside school to get to the same level as my peers.  

8) Life Lessons

Looking back on my battles with getting an education, I would like to share some tips and life lessons I learnt along the way. Sometimes, fear of the unknown can overpower the mind and create an illusion that something you want to achieve is impossible. However, embrace the unknown and work towards your goals because you will appreciate it in the end. Celebrate the small successes and realise that you will fail more than you will succeed, but success will always be way more remarkable than all the failures put together. Let others see your success, and let your failures be your personal learning experience. Finally, don’t be afraid to take risks; you risk everything every day and are rejected more in your life than accepted, so don’t let that deter you. Always see how far you’ve come and not how far there is to go.

success
Embrace the unknown. Failure is just part of the learning experience. Take risks and believe in yourself.

Contact us

Please get in touch if you would like to discuss anything in this article or would like to find out more about our nurturing approach to tuition..


Share this article

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

Are You Struggling with Your Mental Health? A Guide to Teenage Depression

the dawning light of hope

            

Bright Heart

Mental health is often forgotten and overlooked, but is key for our well being as humans. We look at mental health for teens, symptoms of depression, suicidal thoughts and where to find help.

Are You Struggling with Your Mental Health?
A Guide to Teenage Depression

According to the Mental Health Foundation, an estimated 20% of adolescents experience a mental health problem in any given year.

Furthermore, 50% of all mental health problems are established by the age of 14 and an alarming 75% by the age of 24.

What exactly does this mean for teenagers today?

Mental health issues are a lot more widespread than you may think in people of your age group. In fact, while you may feel alone in your struggles, it is highly likely that someone you know or someone in your peer group is also struggling with their mental health.

Emotional conditions such as anxiety and depression are the most common types of mental health issues in young people, with many teens struggling with GAD (General Anxiety Disorder) or OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).

The good news is that more help is available for teens suffering from mental health issues than ever before. Therefore, whether you are experiencing mental health issues for the first time or have struggled with your mental wellbeing for many years, it is never too late to get the help you need.

Within the below guide, you will find out everything you need to know about teenage mental health issues, as well as the resources available to help you to overcome your problems.

positive vibes
The journey to better mental health begins with a single step

Ready to start feeling better?

All you have to do is keep reading, and you will have already taken a step in the right direction towards improving your mental health.

What causes mental health disorders in teens?

Have you ever sat and thought, “why me?”. If yes, you are far from alone. Although depression and anxiety can cause you to feel completely isolated, teen mental health issues have been on the rise for many years now.

There are many different reasons why you may have started to feel depressed or anxious, including:

Whatever the reason, you need to know that you can overcome these feelings. You just need to get the right help.

mental health
Although depression and anxiety can lead to you feeling alone, there are many who experience this.

What are the symptoms of depression in teens?

While it is completely normal for you to experience periods of intense highs and lows as a teenager – remember all those pesky hormones you have floating around – it is important that you can recognise the difference between feeling low and being depressed.

The most common signs of depression include:

don't give up
Remember that you matter. Don't give up.

What to do if you are feeling suicidal

If you are having suicidal thoughts, you may be feeling alone, confused, and scared. While you may think that there is no way out of the problem you are experiencing or don’t feel that life will ever get better, you should know that it can and will.

These feelings are temporary.

There are many other young people who have felt the same way as you before and have come out the other side of this difficult time, happier and healthier.

If you are feeling suicidal, the best thing you can do is reach out to someone. This could be a family member, a friend, or a mental health charity that specialises in teen mental health.

Again, there are many reasons why you may be feeling suicidal, including:

However, it is important to know that all of the above issues can be worked through with the right help. Even if you do not have the support of your family or friends, there are online resources and mental health services that you can turn to – details of which we will go into below.

support
Help is available. Give yourself a chance to receive it.

How to get help with your mental health

If you are ready to get the help you need to overcome your mental health struggles, then there are many free resources that you can utilise.

Below we will talk you through each of these so that you can make the right decision for your mental health and overall wellbeing.

YoungMinds is a mental health charity that provides young people with the tools they need to look after their mental health. Their website is full of helpful advice and information on what you can do if you are struggling with how you feel.

You can use the YoungMinds Textline for free, 24/7, if you are experiencing a mental health crisis. Simply text YM to 85258. Texts can be anonymous.

Stem4 is a national charity that promotes positive mental health in teenagers and those who support them, such as their families and carers. This service is predominantly digital and includes mental health apps and education programmes.

This charity offers help and support on many teen mental health issues, including self-harm, anxiety, and depression.

If you are under 19, you can contact Childline for help, advice, or just someone to talk to. This service is completely confidential, and you can choose to call, chat online, or email about any problems you are experiencing.

Childline can also provide a BLS interpreter if you are deaf or hearing-impaired.

Although this charity is not specifically aimed at young people, they are always on hand if you need someone to talk to. The Samaritans are open 24/7 and can be contacted on 116 123 for free, or you can choose to send an email or even write a letter.

This charity also has a self-help app that can help you keep track of how you are feeling and offer coping techniques to help you manage your mental health.

Papyrus is a national charity dedicated to the prevention of young suicide. They provide confidential support and advice to young people who are struggling with suicidal thoughts.

There are many resources on the Papyrus website, including a live chat feature, wellbeing apps, LGBTQIA support, and where to go to get help.

If you need immediate help during a mental health crisis, you can use the NHS urgent mental health helpline. This offers 24-hour advice and support for you when you need it the most.

the dawning light of hope
The dawn light shines after the dark night. Help is available.

Mental health techniques for teens

You need to make sure that you care for your mental health in the same way that you do your physical wellbeing.

Whether you are struggling with a mental health issue or not, the below mental health techniques for teens can help you to keep your mental health on track.

If you think you are dealing with a mental health issue or you are struggling with your feelings, you need to be brave and ask for help. While you may feel afraid to speak up, the sooner you get the help you need, the sooner you will start to feel better.

Although you may think you thrive on late nights and junk food, you need to make sure you are living a healthy lifestyle as a growing teen. This includes getting enough sleep, taking part in physical activities, and eating a nutritionally balanced diet.

While this may feel strange at first, it can be a good idea to say positive affirmations first thing in the morning. Phrases such as “I am smart”, “I am a worthwhile person” and “I have control over my life” can all empower you to make positive life choices.

These can also act as a reminder of your self-worth when you are struggling with your mental health.

Many different coping skills can help you to manage your mental health. For some, this may be listening to music, while for others, it could be drawing a picture or going for a run. Try to find your happy place and use this to boost your mental health.

It can be almost impossible to be positive yourself if negative influences surround you. Instead, try to only bring positive people into your life. People who make you feel good and support the positive choices you make.

Support for parents

If you think your teen is struggling with their mental health, or are displaying suicidal tendencies, there are also many resources and support services for you.

Family Lives is a great charity that specialises in supporting families, and YoungMinds provides support for parents as well as teens and young adults.

If you think your child is misusing drugs, FRANK, the drugs charity, can offer you help and support around the clock.

An appeal from Bright Heart

At Bright Heart, unfortunately, we recently witnessed first-hand the results of a failure to gain the necessary help for a mental health challenge. In addition, in our many interactions with parents and students, we have noticed an unfortunate increase in mental health concerns since the pandemic.

We know the first step is never easy, but we strongly encourage you to seek immediate professional help if you or your child has any mental health concerns.

Contact us

Please get in touch if you would like to discuss anything in this article or would like to find out more about our nurturing approach to tuition, which accounts for SEMH needs and mental health.


Share this article

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

Literacy and numeracy summer workshops

group of school kids with SEN at dyslexia summer workshop

Director John Salmon writes about Bright Heart’s recently held summer literacy and numeracy workshops.             

Literacy & Numeracy Teacher

Director John Salmon ran summer literacy and numeracy workshops, taught by Bright Heart experts. These were a great success.

Literacy and Numeracy Summer Workshops

This summer, we held a series of workshops to help primary students catch up with their literacy and numeracy. 

The workshops took place over four days in August at a primary school in Wimbledon. The workshops were a great success (see parent feedback below). Workshops were especially beneficial for students with special educational needs (SEN). 

group of school kids with SEN at dyslexia summer workshop
Small groups allow more effective instruction

Parent Feedback

The workshops were delivered in a very engaging, peaceful, autism friendly and safe environment. My son enjoyed spending the entire day with John and the subject teacher doing a lot of learning through fun activities. Thank you very much and we look forward to the next workshops.”  – Parent survey on Literacy Workshops

My son enjoyed the workshop very much and consolidated everything he knew through fun activities and learnt [new] things, which helped him with his confidence. The reports we got from John regarding my son’s attainment, level and skills motivated us for a positive start of a new school year. Thank you and we look forward to the next workshops.”  – Parent survey on Numeracy workshops

The Literacy and Numeracy Crisis

We were deeply concerned after seeing data from the Education Policy Institute, which showed that, by March 2021, primary pupils in England had an average 3.5 month learning delay in reading and an average 2.2 month learning delay in maths. This was no doubt exacerbated by lockdowns and the deficit in formal instruction.  Additionally, we knew how much students had suffered in terms of their wellbeing and mental health due to a prolonged lack of social interaction with other children their age.  With this idea in mind, we had the goal of helping children catch up in both literacy and numeracy and boosting their confidence while having fun with individual and group activities alike.

Dr Ryan Stevenson, Bright Heart’s Co-founder, writes about the literacy and numeracy crisis in an article published in the nasen Connect magazine in September.

2021 nasen connect article by Bright Heart Education
nasen Connect is distributed to schools, SENCos and parents across England

Bringing our ethos to life

The cornerstone of our philosophy of education is the idea that every child should have the opportunity to show their true potential according to their own set of skills. They should be able to work at their own pace in a warm and nurturing environment that celebrates individual differences while at the same time promoting teamwork. We were determined to provide differentiated instruction for all participants. We decided to work with small groups for focussed attention (2 teachers for groups of 4-6 students). This allowed us to address every child’s unique learning style and needs in a bespoke manner. We could also provide adequate 1:1 support where required and pair students with peers with similar levels. 

In the context of differentiated learning, we decided that the optimal way of maximising the potential of children with varied requirements, while making the experience fun and relaxed, was through project-based learning (PBL).  Essentially, it entails active learning through an array of multiple, dynamic, hands-on activities under a common theme and goal. 

With project-based learning, each child has a choice of activities and means at their disposal to respond to a specific problem or challenge. This allows each individual to take ownership of their learning by building on strengths and addressing areas of improvement with the aid of facilitators, who model these strengths or through peer support.  As a result, each child feels that his or her contribution to the group challenges is valuable and this helps boost their confidence in their own distinct abilities.

Run by experts

The workshops were conducted by highly-qualified teachers with many years of experience working with a wide array of special educational needs, together with John Salmon, a Bright Heart director, who is a qualified teacher and former headteacher.  Preliminary information was gathered about each student prior to the workshops. This meant that the instructors could coordinate strategies and best practices to provide adequate 1:1 support throughout the sessions and ensure that everyone’s needs were met. Children worked in short bursts, at their own pace, while responding to specific challenges. They were given plenty of breaks between one activity and the next.

group of children learning
Sessions were fun, creative and interactive.

Skills and confidence boosted

All activities addressed critical and basic aspects of literacy and numeracy that schools very frequently do not have a chance to review.  More importantly, it was a chance for students to acquire a series of study skills and confidence in their own abilities to use at school and in their everyday life in the future. Students also learned to work collaboratively and become more assertive while respecting individual differences and boundaries.  Activities took place indoors and outdoors and provided plenty of opportunities for visual, auditory, kinaesthetic or tactile learners.  Children were provided with snacks and lunch, as well as all materials needed for the workshop.  The content in each workshop was aligned with the national curriculum and activities were adapted to include different learning styles.  Students were grouped according to age merely for practical purposes but each child was allowed to work at his or her own level. 

The Y1-Y3 and Y4-Y6 numeracy workshops

These focussed on a series of challenges that addressed key areas in a practical manner. This was to replicate everyday situations that make maths more tangible and relevant, such as purchasing items in a shop, measuring things or telling time.  It included place value, arithmetic skills, measurements, word problem solving, fractions, geometry, position and direction, time, statistics and graphs.  Students participated in different activities, working against a timer to complete as many challenges as they could. Students worked individually and also collaboratively on solving mysteries that included clues based on maths concepts.  It also included creative expression through artwork.

Learning through tangible examples improved understanding and retention.

Y1-Y3 literacy workshop

This aimed to help students develop language and written and creative skills for describing themselves and others.  It included vocabulary words connected with describing people, structure (paragraph writing using present tense), cross curricular activities based on the idea of connecting with others and understanding people and a series of integrated skills. Integrated skills included talk, discussion, reading, writing and drawing/painting, as well as a game of Guess Who?

Y4-Y6 literacy workshop

This focused on the environment and aimed to help students develop and practise: vocabulary words connected to the environment; structure in writing, using imperatives and present simple questions; curricular work to address environmental issues; integrated skills, such as listening, speaking, reading and writing.  It included many interactive and hands-on activities as well as ample opportunities to consolidate knowledge through creative expression, using arts and crafts.

Celebration and personal recognition

We celebrated student achievement by gathering a portfolio with each child’s work, including their artwork, so that they could share it with their family at the end of the day. Each child also received a certificate of achievement at the end of the workshop. Families were provided with a report including an overview of the sessions as well as individual feedback about their child.

Our students had lots of fun, became more confident about themselves, and learned individual and team-building skills to help them become lifelong learners.  They learned that individual differences make combined efforts all the better when facing common challenges. 

We are very proud of their work and look forward to our next workshops!

Contact us

If you would like to find more information about our workshops or are interested in having your child attend a future workshop, please get in touch. Alternatively, please read more information on our website here.


Share this article

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

The numeracy and literacy crisis – insights from the front line

2021 nasen connect article by Bright Heart Education

A director discusses the literacy and numeracy crisis following lockdown in an article published in the nasen Connect magazine.           

SEN Agency Director & Co-founder

Ryan Stevenson

Dr Ryan Stevenson writes about the current literacy and numeracy crisis following lockdown.

This was published in nasen Connect magazine (Sep 21)

Dr Ryan Stevenson, Co-founder & Director at Bright Heart Education, reflects on how lockdown has negatively impacted children’s numeracy and literacy. This has been especially the case for children with SEND.  He also considers potential approaches for meeting this crisis. 

This article was published in the nasen Connect magazine – September 2021 edition.

2021 nasen connect article by Bright Heart Education
nasen Connect is distributed to schools, SENCos and parents across England

The numeracy and literacy crisis – insights from the front line

As children start a new year with excitement and trepidation, we can now look at the 2020/1 year with greater perspective. It was a trying time to teach while managing class bubbles and quarantine. This has presented its own challenges as a SEN tutoring agency, with students and tutors spending time in isolation. Emerging through these clouds, we have a better sense of the lost time students have experienced, but are less clear regarding this impact and how much children have retained. The emotional impact of this period must also be acknowledged and much less is known on the impact of children with special educational needs.

Studies were conducted by McKinsey on the effectiveness of remote learning during the pandemic with scores provided by global teachers. While schools, parents and tutoring agencies adapted innovatively, the study gave the UK a score of 4.9 out of 10 for online effectiveness of remote learning, with 2.8 learning months lost. By comparison, Germany, a top performer, still suffered a loss of 1.7 months of learning.

In June this year, the Renaissance Learning, Education and Policy Institute released a report tracking 375,000 students in England in the first half of the autumn term and 185,000 students in the second half. The study indicated that primary students lagged by 1.7 months in literacy and by 3.7 months in mathematics. For students from disadvantaged backgrounds (receiving free school meals), these figures were 2.2 and 4.5 months respectively. While there was some catchup in the second half of the autumn term (an average of 0.6 months for literacy and 1 month for maths), this still resulted in an unfortunate net learning loss. Catchup was lower for SEN students. 

In general, conceptual understanding in maths has suffered greatly, and it is clear there is no easy substitute for a teacher building the foundations in person. The extra attention that students with SEN require for literacy has also come at a cost. So now that there is a better idea of what is lost, how do children catch up?

Next steps

One option is to raise the lesson tempo and volume of homework. However, as Harris, one of our maths tutors on the front line, notes:

‘…many students have become overwhelmed with the workload from school. Students during the lockdown/online teaching phase found it difficult to cope and would not pay much attention in lessons, when coming back to school there seems to be an influx of work which has raised anxiety for many students as the pressure and overload of work rises. I think students are still transitioning in this period and I have to say I do feel for them.’ 

While there is pressure on teachers, caution should be advised against tackling a large problem with a larger hammer. Many students with special needs already struggled with social and emotional challenges prior to the pandemic. One needs to be careful not to have attitudes towards learning steer towards the negative as increasing pressure is shifted on to students.

The government has proposed longer school days and shorter holidays. However, as pointed out by some already, the quality of attention by students is not sustained for longer duration, and over-tired primary students tend to create low-level classroom disruption. Shorter holidays may sound attractive to parents, but UK teachers currently have one of the highest workloads in the world. Workload is often cited as the chief cause for schools struggling with staff retention.

The National Tutoring Programme (NTP) was launched to address the loss in learning time, with a particular emphasis on disadvantaged students. The idea is admirable in principle; however, the allocation of resources has been a challenge and seeking larger budgets for school recovery programmes has taken its toll with the departure of Sir Kevan Collins. The effectiveness of one-to-one and small group tuition is uncontested for helping students; it is hoped the government sees the importance of this avenue of delivery. As a tutoring agency, we’ve looked to help where possible, providing free tutoring at a school for small groups of disadvantaged students. Many of these students had learning challenges and English as a second language. With many of the students having had no access to remote learning or the right support during lockdown, it took time to put them at ease and for them to reengage with learning. However, with patience, encouragement and appropriate support, the students have made good progress.

Another solution seen in action, which worked effectively and at low cost, was a school paying their own senior students to tutor those younger and falling behind. While not in the same league as professional tutors, there was a gain by the senior students (if you want to master something, teach it – Feynman), a noticeable gain by the tutees and all within the school budget. This may not be the specialised help that some students need, but would go some way towards alleviating the current crisis.

The last 18 months cannot be quickly overcome nor glibly dismissed. But along with planned teaching, creative and collaborative approaches can really help children catch up lost learning.

Contact us

If this article rings true for you, then please get in touch and let us know how best we can help.


Share this article

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

Nutrition and your child’s learning

Nutritious foods help your child's health and learning

            

Sally

Sally

Bright Heart tutor Sally discusses the importance of nutrition for your child’s well-being and for their ability to learn and sleep.

The benefits of a healthy diet

What we eat plays a huge role in our overall well-being. Nutrition is vital when it comes to our physical health; it can improve immunity, energy levels, and sleep quality. Adding certain foods to our diet can help create feel-good hormones and help us to remain calm and happy. 

Low blood sugar affects concentration and our ability to learn. Poor nutrition can also lead to mood swings and aggressive behaviour. 

Finding a balance

We need to eat a wide variety of foods in the right proportions and consume the right amount to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.

Processed, unhealthy foods (which mainly contain fat, sugar, and salt) do not provide us with the right nutrition. They trigger a reward response in our brains which makes us want to eat more of them. Natural food is better for us because our body can process it more easily and it also contains many more vitamins and nutrients. 

The 80-20 rule states that you should eat healthy food 80% of the time. This is an achievable way of maintaining good nutrition rather than cutting out food groups or dieting as it allows you to have treats at the weekends for example.

Processed foods are not a good source of nutrition
Processed foods like pizza are far less nutritious

What should we eat?

The NHS eatwell website states that we should eat vegetables, fruits, grains, healthy fats, and protein-rich foods every day. We should also aim to eat at least 2 portions of fish a week, including 1 portion of oily fish. For each meal, there should be one-third fruit and vegetables, one-third protein, and one-third carbohydrates on our plate.

As mentioned earlier, we need to eat a balanced diet and not cut out any food groups. This is especially important for teenagers who can often have deficiencies.

Oily fish is nutritious for your child's brain and learning
We should aim to eat two portions of oily fish per week.

Food and mental health

Research shows a link between what we eat and how we feel. We have lots of bacteria in our gut which are important and impact our mood and our health. Some foods can help us feel better. A Mediterranean-style diet (one with lots of vegetables, seafood, fresh herbs, garlic, olive oil, cereal, and grains) supplemented with fish oil can reduce the symptoms of depression.

Research has also shown that our gut can reflect how we’re feeling. For example, if we’re stressed, it can speed up or slow down. Healthy food for our gut includes fruit, vegetables, beans, seeds, and probiotics.

Nutritious foods help your child's health and learning
A selection of healthy vegetables and grains does wonders for your gut bacteria

Nutrition for learning

Our brain is made of 60% fat, and it is important we include lots of healthy fats in our diets to fuel our brains and to make up the cell membranes of cells in our bodies. Healthy fats can be found in chia seeds, walnuts, avocado, oily fish, Greek yoghurt, and almond or peanut butter.

Many people think it is healthier to choose low-fat rather than full-fat options, but this is not always the case. Low-fat foods such as yoghurt can contain more sugar. Full-fat foods, as part of a balanced diet, stop us from craving junk food and improve our complexion.

Too much sugar can affect our ability to concentrate, drain our energy, ruin our teeth and make us crave more sugar.

It is better to eat a little bit of sugar throughout the day at small intervals rather than eat something with a lot of sugar which will pass through your system too quickly and cause your blood sugar levels to crash. When this happens, we can feel hungry, weak, nervous, nauseous, or tired.

Hydration for learning

Water is very important when it comes to learning. A study found that drinking 300ml of water during an exam improved teenagers’ academic performance and mood. Our bodies are mostly made up of water, and dehydration can lead to headaches, dizziness, and low energy levels. Water can also help with digestion and weight loss.

It is very important to drink water throughout the day rather than sugary drinks or caffeine and energy drinks. For example, one 500ml energy drink can contain up to 17 teaspoons of sugar and the same amount of caffeine as in 2 cups of espresso.

Sugary energy drinks usually contain no nutritional benefits but can cause weight gain, sleep issues, and childhood obesity.  

Fizzy drinks are not nutritious
There are 39 grams of sugar in a regular can of Coke

Common deficiencies in children and teenagers

We outline some common deficiencies for parents to be aware of below. 

75% of people consume less than recommended daily allowance of magnesium. This can cause irritability and anxiety, sleep issues, loss of appetite, muscle cramps and spasms, facial or eye twitches, and periods of hyperactivity.

Foods that are rich in magnesium include dark green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, fish (mackerel, salmon, tuna, white fish), legumes (all variety of beans such as black beans, kidney beans, white beans, chickpeas, lentils), avocado, bananas and dark chocolate.

It can be common to have a calcium deficiency and this can cause insomnia, muscle cramps, weak and brittle nails, and the late onset of puberty. Calcium-rich foods include dairy products, tofu, seaweed, dried figs/apricots, almonds, sesame seeds, soya milk, supplements and tahini.

It is very common for teenage girls to have low iron levels. This can cause pale skin, tiredness, breathlessness, poor concentration and affect our ability to learn & recall information.

Good sources of iron include red meat, beans, such as red kidney beans, edamame beans and chickpeas, nuts, dried fruit and fortified breakfast cereals.

It is very hard to get enough vitamin D in our diet and a supplement is recommended by the NHS for all children.  A vitamin D deficiency can cause stiffness and achy bones, depression, weight gain, dark circles under the eyes and gut problems.

Sunshine provides Vitamin D to help your child's brain and learning
Exposure to sunshine promotes the production of Vitamin D in our bodies.

Foods to aid sleep

Sleep is really important (see Sally’s blog on the importance of sleep here). It restores our energy, improves our mood, and processes memory and learning. It also balances our hormones and boosts our immunity.

It can be hard to fall asleep, especially at times of stress such as exam season, but certain foods can help us to fall asleep more easily.  Tryptophan is an amino acid that’s believed to induce sleep and when eaten alongside carbohydrates these foods can help us to feel sleepy. Tryptophan-rich foods include chicken, turkey, milk, dairy, nuts & seeds.

Vitamin B6 is needed to make the sleep hormone melatonin and therefore eating foods rich in B6 such as bananas is a good idea as a bedtime snack.

Next steps

In summary, we should eat a wide range of foods and ensure that we are not deficient in key vitamins and minerals. Following this advice will help to optimize our well-being and academic potential. 

If you are concerned about your child’s eating habits or are worried they are developing eating issues, help and support can be found here.

Contact us

Please get in touch if you would like to discuss anything in this article or would like to find out more about our nurturing tuition.


Share this article

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn