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

6 exciting COVID-friendly activities for families this festive period

Children cooking

Don’t let lockdown prevent your family from having fun this festive season – see 6 fun activities to try!            

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

We consider lockdown- friendly ways to keep the whole family entertained this festive season.

6 exciting COVID-friendly activities for families this festive period

The festive season is finally upon us! For some families, that could mean up to 10 days holiday this year, but with the coronavirus pandemic still causing real devastation across the country, many of the activities families share together are going to look a little different from how we would have preferred them to be.

Coming together while staying apart

All is not lost, however. There is a variety of things you can do at home (and even outside) with your kids that will keep them entertained as well as keep them safe.

 Before we jump straight into the list, these activities will be suitable to do with your family when there isn’t a global pandemic happening, but with a few tweaks, they will be perfectly COVID secure.

To keep your fun safe this festive season, remember to:

With that in mind, here’s our list of six family-friendly activities you can do with your crew over the festive period.

1. Family talent show

Who doesn’t love a talent show? Kids love to show off, especially with relatives they may not have seen for a while. With this activity, you can keep it small and have a talent show in your little household, or you could organise an even bigger show by utilising video chat with your extended family.

 It might take a bit of planning, but let the kids know they will be “on TV” and organise with the adults that each household will be on video chat to watch each other’s performances.

 If you haven’t got time to organise something with lots of you together, why not try to make sure at least the grandparents can make it by setting up a video chat? Software like Zoom is free to use for up to 40 minutes, or there is Skype, Microsoft Teams, and Google Hangout. If you’re on a mobile device, you can have video chats using WhatsApp too.

How about making some fun puppet fish for the show?

2. Scavenger hunt outside

The weather over most of the UK this year isn’t looking too bad, and in all tiers, you and your family are allowed to leave your house for some exercise, which is a great way to burn off energy with active kids!

Take a scavenger hunt printout with you and get them involved in ticking off things that they see. This is an excellent opportunity to teach kids about nature, even in the midst of winter. Just be sure not to pick anything up and stay 2m away from any other families you may see on your walk.

map for a treasure hunt
Hunting for treasure can provide lots of family fun!

3. Make A Time Capsule

You may be thinking that you don’t want to remember 2020 at all, but if you’re a history fan, you will know that a year such as 2020 will be a year that historians will refer back to time and time again.

For this reason, building a time capsule for your family could be a lovely and quiet activity to wind down with. Fill it with things like a diary of what you did over Christmas, things you remember from 2020, handprints, paintings, and even photos if you can print them out.

 You don’t have to bury a time capsule; you can leave it in your loft or under a bed if that’s easier.

4. Online games with relatives

Did you know there are many free online versions of classic board games like Monopoly and Scrabble you can play with relatives who are not in your household?

Of course, there are game consoles that let you play with others, but other games like chess.com are simple and very family-friendly, and they’re a great way to connect with friends and family across the country without needing to be in the same room.

Mother and son with online learning
Connecting with grandparents through an online game is great family fun!

5. Family filming time

Another great activity to play with kids is to set up a family film. This doesn’t mean hunkering down in front of the TV with a movie. This means getting the camera out and starring in your own movie!

This is an exciting activity for kids as it gets their creative minds flowing with ideas for characters and scenes, and even older children can get involved with shooting and editing the film (almost everyone has a smartphone that can shoot video these days).

There are plenty of free apps that will help you edit your film together. Once you’re done, you can upload it to YouTube (unlisted if you are concerned about privacy issues) to share the link with your extended family and give them a good laugh this holiday season!

6. Get creative in the kitchen

Our last activity suggestion is a bit more traditional – getting kids back in the kitchen and enjoying cooking over the festive season.

Teaching children (and teenagers) how to cook is one of the most valuable lessons you can pass onto them as a parent, and it’s great fun, too.

Take this opportunity to try out some more challenging recipes, like bread or cake decorating, and use it as a trial run. Once they get better at the recipes and the pandemic has subsided, they’ll be able to cook for relatives or make sweet treats for family and friends when we’re allowed to celebrate together again. 

Children cooking
Cooking with the family can be loads of fun!

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

While these activities are likely to provide a welcome distraction and a little light relief, it’s important to keep talking to your kids and keep them in the loop with an age-appropriate conversation about what’s happening.

What has been your experience as a parent keeping your children entertained during lockdown? 

We would love to hear about it on our Facebook page.


Share this article

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

Facebook Live Q & A with Jolanta Lasota, CEO of Ambitious about Autism

Live Q & A with Ambitious about Autism

A stimulating and insightful live discussion on autism dispelling misconceptions, while providing advice for parents.                            

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

In a live Q & A, John Salmon, M.Ed, has an informative discussion on autism with Jolanta Lasota, CEO of Ambitous about Autism

Facebook Live with Jolanta Lasota, CEO of Ambitious about Autism

We recently held a Facebook Live Q&A to address parents’ questions about autism.  This was hosted by Bright Heart director and former headteacher John Salmon, M.Ed., with questions answered by Jolanta Lasota, CEO of Ambitious About Autism. This national charity was set up in 1997 and provides support for children and young adults with ASC. More recently they have created colleges and schools in London to support young people with autism.

Facebook Live streaming

Key questions covered

Live Q & A with Ambitious about Autism
Click on the picture to watch the Q & A with Jolanta Lasota, CEO of Ambitous about Autism.

Do you have further questions about autism?

We would love to hear about it on our Facebook page, or feel free to get in touch directly with any questions. 


Share this article

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

5 ways to ease anxiety in your child in 2020

Mother and son with online learning

Handling anxiety is best done by bringing it out into the open. Here are some tips to consider for your child.                                     

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

Handling anxiety is best done by bringing it out into the open. Here are some tips to consider for your child.

5 ways to help ease anxiety in your child in 2020

It’s no secret that this year has raised anxiety levels for parents and children alike. The uncertainty around schooling under COVID-19 has been challenging. This has meant different methods of learning
as well as social behaviour. For children with special educational needs, change can be especially hard to navigate. We explore five different ways to ease or reduce anxiety for your child.

1. Talk about it (and keep talking about it)

If your child is prone to anxiety or experiencing heightened levels of anxiety, try to talk to them about it.  Remind them that the ‘new normal’ is not the way things will be forever. Discuss fun memories they’ve had socialising at school before COVID-19 and share little stories you have of them and their friends. This can ignite pleasant memories and remind your child of how fun it can be to interact with others. Older children will have different needs but communication with them is still vital.

2. Alert the teacher

You may also consider contacting your child’s teacher and letting them know that your child is experiencing anxiety. This helps provide context for any unusual behaviour your child may present in the school setting. The teacher will also be better able to offer additional support and understanding to your child.  

3. Involve their friends

Additionally, encourage your child to keep in touch with their friends over video calls. When they’re little, think about setting up an online game for them to play together. That way they’ll be playing with their friends even if they aren’t in the same room. This goes a long way to making the transition from social distancing to physical socialising (and the resulting anxiety) less daunting.

Mother and son with online learning
Maintaining social contact when at home is much easier these days

4. Be mindful to stick to a predictable routine

Reinforcing stability is crucial to helping your child feel less overwhelmed. Routine can be useful in creating predictability and a sense of calm for them. Stick to regular hours for bedtime, recreation and other routine activities such as homework or study and meal times. Focus on healthy eating free from excess sugar or other stimulants.

5. Keep things positive

A positive mindset is powerful. Talk about the good things at school and within their friendship circles and how they’re taking the first small steps towards getting back to the life we all once enjoyed.  Sometimes there is unhelpful talk in the media which can affect children’s anxiety levels. For younger children, possibly consider turning off the TV when such conversations are taking place. Remind your child that home and family are a constant source of support and safety. Allow them to feel safe in the knowledge that they can always rely on you for stability and encouragement.

Help is available

Remind your child that trusted friends and other role models, such as teachers and tutors are also there for them to lean on.

Feel free to get in touch to see how we can help. Our tutors are aware of the effects of anxiety and how it can influence learning. We offer an obligation-free consultation which will assist in guiding you towards the ideal tutor for your child in terms of personality and educational needs. Experience the Bright Heart Approach today!

What has been your experience as a parent of a child with anxiety? We would love to hear about it on our Facebook page, or feel free to get in touch directly to chat.


Share this article

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

Challenges of remote learning: a tutoring agency’s perspective​

nasen Connect September 2020

A director discusses tutoring under lockdown in an article published in nasen Connect magazine Sep 20.               

SEN agency director & education specialist

John Salmon

Director John Salmon, M. Ed,  examines how tutoring evolved during lockdown and how tutees responded.

nasen Connect magazine (Sep 20)

John Salmon, director at Bright Heart Education, reflects on how support for tutees had to be adapted during lockdown and how tutees responded to a new way of working. This article was published in the nasen Connect September 2020 edition.

nasen Connect September 2020
nasen Connect is distributed to schools, SENCos and parents across England

Challenges of remote learning: a tutoring agency’s perspective

Unlike schools, tutoring agencies arguably experience closer contact with the everyday reality of many households as they directly partake in both the academic and emotional vicissitudes of families. Our first-hand knowledge has shown that adapting to online schooling has been an onerous challenge for families (as well as schools), but at the same time it has offered a more personalised learning opportunity for many
students, especially those with SEN.

As a tutoring agency that supports many students with SEN, we have naturally been concerned about the emotional and academic impact of lockdown. Lately, we have received a number of calls for help from concerned parents, which shared a common pattern: their child had lost interest in writing, reading and numeracy and no longer tried to fulfil school expectations. Parents reported unattainable assignments
amidst mounting levels of frustration, anxiety and disengagement. The lack of structure left children fending for themselves, with minimal assistance, save for that provided by their parents – who cannot be expected to play the role of trained teachers. Traditionally, our agency had focused on in-person tuition, so we had to transition to online tutoring to adapt to the lockdown.

For some, the physical presence of a facilitator was necessary, but many tutees with SEN embraced online sessions and realised that, with the right guidance and nurturing support, much could be gained. Far from being emotionally affected by the lack of traditional schooling, many felt perfectly at home (no pun intended) with the new situation, as social interaction at school was often a cause of anxiety.

Case study

One such case was a Year 7 tutee with ADHD, who was not affected by feelings of isolation, but by lack of motivation when faced with the sudden prospect of doing all his work without the solid support system provided by school. Worse still, he was being asked to complete assignments using the very electronic devices that distracted him in the first place. Overstimulation led to distraction, which in turn led to frustration and eventually refusal to work.

Our adaptation to remote learning with him proved to be fruitful. First and foremost, as a student with ADHD he was less prone to distractions at home, as opposed to the myriad of stimuli in a school setting. Restricted internet access was necessary, but technology allowed for better differentiation, by addressing individual learning events; one specific topic could be delivered in multiple ways and be adapted to his unique style. Thus, a multimedia history session could include videos, downloadable materials, audio and interactive games. He was also able to work at his own pace, being free to view lessons and materials at his convenience, allowing for maximum flexibility. Since deadlines were relaxed, he had extra time to complete tasks. Additionally, his workspace was adapted to suit his preferences, creating an environment conducive to learning. 

He liked technology because he found it more impersonal and nonthreatening. There were no peers there to judge him, no teachers there to pressure him with impending deadlines. He dreaded the idea of completing mammoth projects under severe time constraints, but smaller chunks no longer seemed insurmountable. His innate curiosity for technology developed into a learning opportunity, as he experimented with the different features in PowerPoint, Word or Google Drive, mastering the subject matter in the process. He learned to be less dependent on text-based learning when using audio books and videos online and felt at ease with no one watching over his shoulder. 

A way forward

This experience has taught us that the value of direct support from well-qualified teachers is irreplaceable. But we also know that online learning is here to stay, not only for children who are home schooled full time, but also as an integral part of school life.

The technology industry takes giant leaps much faster than most industries, to the point where it permeates all human activity, including education. Lockdown prompted an impromptu trial for teachers, tutors, parents and students and learning from this can surely guide us when moving forward, but not by simply replicating lessons in the shape of online lessons, with ensuing workloads that must be completed by students autonomously. When managed appropriately and combined with optimal support in the hands of capable, well-trained instructors, applying technology in a student-centred learning environment can bring forth a wealth of benefits, including for those with SEN, as it provides the flexibility and sense of ownership that can be lacking in traditional classrooms. However, a balance must be struck between digital and screen-free activities and independent and teacher led activities.

With the right support, combining pedagogical and technological expertise, students with SEN can meet learning targets in nonthreatening, customised environments.

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

GCSE and A Level Exams: Your Questions Answered

studying for the GCSE exams

We examine A level, GCSE and Btec results in England for the 2019/20 academic year and their impact.   

 
Bright Heart

Bright Heart

We consider questions about the exam results in 2020 and consequences for 2021 exams.

GCSE and A-level Exams: Your Questions Answered

All aspects of our lives under the COVID-19 pandemic have been marked by uncertainty. Education has been hit particularly hard.  School closures have had detrimental effects on learning and mental health for most families in England. The recent announcement of exam results was no smoother. In this blog, we discuss A level, GCSE and Btec results in England for the 2019/20 academic year. This is of particular importance for A Level students, as their university places depend on their grades (UCAS points).

studying for the GCSE exams
It has not been an easy time for students, especially those who were preparing for a final exam.

What role does Ofqual play in regulating grades and why do they intervene?

The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) regulates qualifications, exams and tests in England.  They designed a system to regulate teachers’ predicted grades under the premise that teachers tend to overestimate performance. Grades are also meant to be consistent with previous years’ data.   

It is human nature to be optimistic about student progress. Teachers expect their students’ results to improve by the end of each school year when working under normal conditions. However, research shows that teachers’ predictions are usually generous. A recent analysis of schools’ predicted GCSE grades by FFT Education Datalab found that the average grade predicted by teachers in England in 2020 was higher than the average grade in 2019 in every subject.  Last year, only 20% of students applying to university met or exceeded their predicted grades.

Ofqual’s algorithm used a three-prong system. It included historic results of pupils at each school, prior student attainment, and statistical expectations of grades for each subject. The objective was to ensure that results were in line with those from the previous year.

Why were the initial results so controversial?

Controversy arose well before A level results were issued in England on Thursday, 13th August. The Scottish precedent, using the same regulatory framework as in England, featured a deluge of complaints from students, parents, teachers and head teachers. This prompted a government retraction with Nicola Sturgeon apologising to thousands of students and promising to amend grades to reflect teacher predictions.

In England, as expected, there was a similar reaction.  Many students were disheartened to find that 39% of predicted grades had been lowered, some by more than one grade.

Parents and students complained that the system did not do justice to the efforts of many who had worked hard throughout the year, but had been deprived of formal education during lockdown.   They claimed that many brilliant students would see their grades lowered simply because they came from poorly performing schools, against the better judgement of their teachers. This was called a ‘postcode lottery’. It raised the question, should a weak student in a class, who worked hard and was expected to pass, be failed simply due to the school history?

What was the government’s response to the controversy and how did people react?

Just before the A-level results were released on Thursday, 13th August, the government made rapid changes to the grading system. This was an effort to appease potential complaints, in what they described as a ‘triple lock’. Students could opt for the highest of three different assessments: their estimated grade, the result of a mock exam (as part of an appeal), or sitting an exam in October.

This measure brought a fresh surge of vitriol.  Head teachers in England referred to this last-minute arrangement by the government  as a ‘shambles’. The move was also criticised by the Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, who condemned it as a ‘complete fiasco’ and asked to have it scrapped.  Critics argued that decisions should have been made and communicated in good time, mock exams are not standardised and lowering grades based on school performance is discriminatory against pupils from deprived areas.

There were many protests from students throughout the country. They deemed it unfair to have their grades brought down based on Ofqual’s algorithm and demanded a retraction like that of the Scottish government.  Many also asked for appeal fees to be waived.  However, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson initially refused to use teachers’ predicted grades as final grades in England. Boris Johnson had already stated that the system was ‘robust’ and ‘dependable’.

The government U-turn

On Monday, 17th August, the government caved in to political and student pressure. Students (A Level and GCSE) were awarded grades estimated by their teachers (Centre Assessed Grade or CAG), unless the algorithm grades were higher. Gavin Williamson said he was “incredibly sorry for the distress” caused to pupils after having to make this U-turn.

Btec results were unfortunately pulled at the last minute on the 20th of August. This was as they would also use a CAG to be in line with the GCSE and A Level adjustment.

The political fallout continued with the head of Ofqual, Sally Collier, resigning. A DfE senior civil servant, Jonathan Slater, was sacked over the ‘algorithm’.

GCSE and A Level results

For the 500,000 GCSE students, 79 % achieved a pass which is up from 70 % in 2019.  More than 27 % of students received a grade 7 or above, which is equivalent to A or A*. By comparison, 21 % of students achieved grade 7 or higher in 2019, which was the highest proportion since 2015. This means that more pupils will be eligible to study difficult subjects at A Level. A Level results can be seen below:

A Level results 2020
Comparison of A and A* for 2017 to 2020 (all ages)
A Level Results
Average number of A Levels per student, 2017 to 2020
A Level exam results infographic
Showing the relationship of this year's CAG to final grades, 2017 to 2020

What’s next for students wishing to attend university?

Once a university makes an unconditional offer it is contractually required to honour this commitment, unless the degree is cancelled.  It remains to be seen how universities will handle the surge of applicants who can now claim a place. This means some eligible students with recalculated grades will have to defer to next year. There are also many students (17 % estimated in this Guardian article) choosing to defer as they do not wish for their first year of studies to be online, leading to a possible backlog in 2021.

As an example with Cambridge University:

What about GCSE and A Level exam resits?

Due to the recent acceptance of CAGs for students, there is likely to be limited demand for exam resits. However, lockdown was disruptive for students and there may be some who would like to take a resit if their CAG was disappointing.

For students wishing to take ‘resit’ A-level exams, exams run from 5 October to 23 October. The deadline for entries is 4 September. Students will not have to pay for these resits and schools will be able to claim this expense from the government. These results will be announced on 17 December. Any student who is unhappy with their results may still appeal as usual. See A Level exam board timetable links below:

GCSE resits will take place from 2 November to 23 November. The deadline for entries is 4 October for English Language and Mathematics. The deadline for all other subjects is 18 September. GCSE results for English Language, Functional Skills, AQA Certificate and Level 3 Extended Project is 14 January 2021. All other GCSE exams results will be out on 11 February 2021.

For GCSE exam board timetables please see the following links:

What changes will there be for GCSEs and A Levels in 2021?

Concerns were raised about the lockdown challenges for certain students. These include students with no home access to the internet or to a computer, those with caring responsibilities, those most vulnerable to coronavirus and students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). 

In light of this, various changes have been proposed for GCSE exams for 2021. These changes are to address concerns that pupils may have missed out on learning. The changes also enable certain assessments to go ahead in a way that allows for maximum social distancing, e.g. by reducing the need for group performances. A full outline of GCSE/A Level changes can be read online here, with a subject by subject summary provided by Schools Week.

Recently, Conservative MP Robert Halfon, who chairs the Commons Education Select Committee, said there was only a “50:50” chance of A-level and GCSE exams taking place next summer. Labour have also raised concerns with Shadow Education Secretary saying students starting Y11 and Y13 had a “mountain to climb”. They propose that exams should be pushed back to mid-summer (late July) to allow more catch up time.

Gavin Williamson has recently said that Ofqual is working with the education sector to decide about a potential short delay to the 2021 exam timetable.

What about Btec exams?

Students began receiving their revised exam results from Pearson on 25 August. These were adjusted in line with the GCSE and A Level changes made earlier.

How can Bright Heart help?

We recognise that it has been a frustrating and anxious time for students. We are helping students with revision tutoring sessions for Btec, GCSEs and A Levels. Our tutors will do their utmost to help students taking resits get ready in time. Our tutors are also working hard to help students taking 2021 exams catch-up, following a most disruptive year. Please get in touch for your free consultation and find out how our nurturing approach could be perfect for your child.

What has been your experience with the exam results process? We would love to hear about it on our Facebook page, or feel free to get in touch directly to chat.


Share this article

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

Lessons learned during lockdown

parental support and presence

We look at how lockdown has impacted our lives and the important lessons learned during this time.            

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

How many of these lessons learned under lockdown can you relate to?

Lessons learned under lockdown

As parents, our hearts’ desire is to see our children reach their potential and perform at their best. This could be on the sports field, in artistic pursuits or in the classroom.

Lockdown added extra stress to many of our lives by placing the burden of our children’s education squarely on our shoulders via homeschooling. For some, that meant tears, tantrums and unforeseen pressure.

In this blog, we highlight 5 key lessons learned during lockdown.

1. Emotional well-being before academic performance

One of the main lessons learned during lockdown was the importance of supporting our children emotionally. This meant putting an emphasis on their well-being before fretting over their academic progress.  Sometimes a hug and a few words of reassurance at the right time can spare tears over a looming assignment and keep things running smoothly. 

Don’t be shy to step back for a moment and take a break with your child. This creates room for connection before returning to school-related tasks.

Physical and emotional reassurance may be the best academic support you can give your child

2. The power of routine

It may have been challenging for you to manage work responsibilities, household chores and the needs of your family and children. Especially when still finding time for essential exercise. We heard the collective cries of ‘What day is it?’ on more than one occasion.

Whilst in the throes of chaos, there is a lot to be said for creating and maintaining routine. Daily meals at regular times, regular bed times, daily exercise and daily work / schoolwork during set times help to keep the family ship on a steady course.

Reinforce stability through the power of maintaining routine

3. There is no shame in asking for help

Lockdown has been a source of stress. It has negatively impacted on the mental health of adults and children in the UK and globally. Some reports have cited up to 65 per cent of children struggling with boredom and feelings of isolation during lockdown .

For you and your children, looking after your mental health is imperative. There is no shame in asking for help. A number of not-for-profit organisations have made their services and additional COVID-19 resources available (see our blog post on Your child’s mental health during times of stress).

parental support and presence
Don't hesitate to get help for yourself or child should you feel it's needed

4. Managing disappointment

Whether we have had to cancel travel plans, or had exciting events such as birthday parties, weddings or concerts postponed or shifted online, we have all needed to come to terms with disappointment. This can be especially challenging for children and teenagers. Parents can intervene, however, to help them handle disappointment in a positive manner.

Teach them that there are almost always alternatives available, if they are only prepared to look for them with an open mind.  Also, a postponed holiday or event is something that can be looked forward to.

Dealing with disappointment can be a catalyst for developing resilience

5. Being present is enough

Parents are the most important people in a child’s life. No matter what the circumstances, as long as a parent is nearby, a child feels safe.  A child doesn’t really need you to play with her / him all the time. Instead, they value you being around for them to feel secure.

Our children don’t really need lots of toys to be happy. Simpler activities are still entertaining. For example, try gardening, hopscotch or skipping with a rope, board games, cooking or other household chores. Remember, your presence is what your children crave and need most.

Give your child your undivided attention and even mundane chores have value for them.

Any advice or tips you could offer others to learn from? We would love to hear about it on our Facebook page, or feel free to get in touch directly with any questions.


Share this article

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

Your child’s mental health during times of stress

boy with anxiety

We bring attention to some warning signs relating to mental health. This is particular important at this time.    

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

In time of stress, mental health is increasingly important. We consider some warning signs.

Your child’s mental health during times of stress

According to The Guardian, fewer young people are receiving help with mental health issues. This is despite levels of anxiety and depression having risen sharply in the under 18 age group. 

Reasons include mental health services being suspended or restricted and a lack of in-person engagement. The closure of schools – a first point of referral for distressed children – has certainly not helped.  

an unhappy girl doing homework
Learning and engagement is strongly affected by one's mental and emotional state.

Lockdowns have negatively impacted many children

Almost one in four children living under COVID-19 lockdowns, social restrictions and school closures are dealing with feelings of anxiety, with many at risk of lasting psychological distress, including depression. In recent surveys by Save the Children of over 6000 children and parents in the US, Germany, Finland, Spain and the UK, up to 65 per cent of the children struggled with boredom and feelings of isolation.”  

Reliefweb International, 7 May 2020

The pandemic has turned the lives of millions of children and young people upside down. Many young people are finding it hard to cope with isolation, a loss of routine, anxiety about the future, a disruption to their education, and in some cases difficult or traumatic experiences at home.”

Emma Thomas of YoungMinds, a leading UK not-for-profit championing mental health for young people

boy with anxiety
We all have times when we need to talk to someone. This is especially true for children.

The impact of COVID-19 on children's mental health

While it has been a challenging time for parents, children have felt the effects of social distancing and isolation with far-reaching effects. The British Psychological Society, together with more than thirty other organisations, have written an open letter to the Government. This letter was urging them to limit the long-term impact of the pandemic on young people’s mental health.

What should parents consider for their child's mental health?

Previously, we covered the importance of planning an active day in our homeschooling tips for parents and the importance of physical activity. Eating regular meals, getting sufficient sleep and limiting screen time go together with this.

Good mental health is a much-needed foundation for learning.

However, you may find your children require additional support.  

Some warning signs to be aware of in your child’s behaviour that could indicate impaired mental health can be remembered by using the acronym MASK:

M – Mood

They get irritable, argumentative or aggressive towards you. They may blame you if things go wrong. They can also become withdrawn.

A – Actions

They may experience changes in eating and sleeping patterns. Look out for any signs of bullying, over- or under-eating or self-harm.

S – Social

They suddenly appear especially bored, lonely or withdrawn or they start to get into trouble. Losing interest in friends and other things they liked to do or loss of interest and motivation with schoolwork are common warning signs.

K - Keep talking

Refusing or being reluctant to talk about how they’re feeling is common. But keep listening and ask how they are feeling. When they do open up, make sure they know there’s someone there who really cares.

Please note that these symptoms are by no means diagnostic in nature. Professional advice is always preferable, especially if you have any doubt as to what may be causing the change in your child’s behaviour.

Attention and active listening go a long way in making sure your child does not slip under the radar.

Where can I get extra help for my child's mental health?

Fortunately, there is plenty of help at hand and we recommend reaching out to the team at YoungMinds where you will find many resources and professional support available.

Other sources of support include:

The NSPCC and the Mental Health Foundation.

We are also here to help with any learning issues relating to anxiety and social and emotional mental health. Feel free to get in touch with one of our experienced directors to discuss your needs. We offer a free consultation and a free trial lesson to help build rapport.


Share this article

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

The importance of physical activity during lockdown

boy gardening with his father

Keeping moving is important at this time, for children and parents, for mind and body. Several activities are suggested.    

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

Exercise is important during this time. Here we look at some helpful activities for children and families

Physical activities for children during lockdown

The day-to-day realities of living in lockdown with your family are not easy. For many parents, the homeschooling, the constant entertaining and attempts at keeping the peace while you are also working from home can leave you feeling frustrated; this “new normal” can be challenging for the child and the parent.

It is therefore imperative to find activities to keep the whole family active and healthy.

Physical activity is paramount; at present we are all too aware of our health and maintaining or improving our physical well-being as a means of strengthening immunity. You only have to watch TV, look online or talk to someone to see the importance of being active – for example, Joe Wicks’ daily workouts , Captain Tom’s gallant walking triumph or even the government’s daily exercise guidance .

Here are some suggestions to help you and your children get more active, creative and fitter:

5 activities to keep the family moving

  1. A family that downward dogs together, stays together

Yoga is the perfect activity for everyone. With a plethora of online kids’ yoga and live Zoom classes to join, you and your children can strengthen your bodies and practice mindfulness together. The blend of flowing sequences and meditative, breathing exercises provides your child with skills to enhance their coordination and balance. It improves core strength and helps connect with their emotions through each backbend, sun salutation and twist.

Have a look here for some online kids’ yoga.

yoga with your children
Yoga is a form of exercise that integrates mind and body.
  1. Dance, baby dance!

Bust through the boredom with a dance party. The blessing of being locked down in 2020 is the wonderful technology at our fingertips. From FaceTime to Zoom, Houseparty and WhatsApp, there are plenty of available online organised dance parties for children of all ages, perfect for a little social interaction with other children, while listening to music and dancing around the living room; high energy for the kids and low effort for the parents! If a dance party with strangers is not your thing, why not arrange a virtual dance party for the kids with their cousins, friends or relatives so you can catch up while they attempt The Floss.

Children dancing for exercise
Dancing will always bring smiles to children, while keeping them moving.
  1. Treasure hunts

This is a great one for those parents that want to get creative and get the kids running around the garden or house. This can be as easy or complicated as you like and can last as long as you choose, meaning the kids are staying active and alert while being fully engaged. Hide anywhere from 10 – 20 gifts, clues or items around the house and watch their inner Miss Marple solve away. This one is great for a physical and mental workout.

map for a treasure hunt
Create your own map and let your children find the treasure!
  1. The Joe Wicks effect

Getting the kids involved in national or global events like daily aerobic classes can be hugely inclusive and great for them to discuss with friends who are also participating. The skilfully choreographed moves are designed to be a perfect PE alternative during this period, which can be enjoyed as a family or just for the children while you do a bit of work from home yourself.

Joe Wicks PE classes for children
Morning PE for kids has proved popular in the UK (Source: thebodycoach.com)
  1. Gardening

Few activities are as rewarding and active as gardening. Don’t worry about how big the garden is, as there are many ways gardening can work for you, from window boxes or small patches to larger areas. For children and adults, sowing seeds, watering, digging and planting are perfect for keeping them active and getting them interested in nature and the environment. In fact, while they are at it, why not get the gloves on them and get some weeding done too? Before you know it, the garden will be looking beautiful, the kids will be exhausted and you may even get some delicious fresh vegetables for dinner.

boy gardening with his father
Gardening is a therapeutic and rewarding physical activity.

Whatever activities you decide to do as a family, you don’t want to squander away this time at home.

Before the lockdown is over and we start living our new version of post-pandemic life, it is crucial to ask ourselves, “what did I/we do during this unprecedented time?”

The answer, “we survived, we grew, we became stronger, fitter and more connected”.

What has been your experience of exercise during lockdown?

We would love to hear about it on our Facebook page, or feel free to get in touch directly with any questions. You can read more about the positive effects of exercise in a guest blog by one of our tutors: learning through sport. 

We have written a series of blogs about education during lockdown which you also may find useful: Homeschooling tips for parents during Coronavirus lockdownQuestions (FAQs) about learning, schools and exams during lockdown and Pros and cons of online tutoring and tips for parents using an online tutor

Bright Heart will continue to offer guidance and support during this challenging period.


Share this article

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

Facebook Live Q & A about homeschooling during lockdown

FB Live with John Salmon, Bright Heart director

Bright Heart director John Salmon, M.Ed., answers pertinent questions live on Facebook about homeschooling during lockdown.        

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

In a live Q & A, John Salmon, M.Ed, addressed parent’s typical homeschooling concerns due to lockdown.

Facebook Live Q & A about homeschooling during lockdown

We recently held a Facebook Live Q & A to address parent’s questions about homeschooling during lockdown.  This was hosted by Jacqui Mackway-Wilson, our social media manager, with questions answered by Bright Heart director and former headteacher John Salmon, M.Ed.

Facebook Live streaming

Key questions covered

Facebook Live Q & A about homeschooling during lockdown
Click on the picture to watch the Q & A about homeschooling.

What has been your experience of education during lockdown?

We would love to hear about it on our Facebook page, or feel free to get in touch directly with any questions. You can read about the experiences of a Bright Heart student, parent and tutor in a recent blog here.

We have written a series of blogs about education during lockdown which you may find useful: Homeschooling tips for parents during Coronavirus lockdownQuestions (FAQs) about learning, schools and exams during lockdown and Pros and cons of online tutoring and tips for parents using an online tutor

Bright Heart will continue to offer guidance and support during this challenging period.


Share this article

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn