Nasen workshop held for Bright Heart tutors

SEMH training with nasen


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Our annual in-person workshop with nasen was very informative on the topics of SEMH needs and dyscalculia. 

Nasen tutor workshop: SEMH and dyscalculia

Annually, Bright Heart and nasen run an in-person workshop providing further training for our tutors. This allows sharing of the latest in special educational needs (SEN), along with strategies and tips for providing effective tutoring. It is also a time for social interaction – often tutors are spending a significant time working 1:1 with young people and can have less engagement with their peers.

The workshop was presented by nasen Education Officer, Anna Speke. Anna is a former SENCo and brought her experience to bear. There were two key topics which were explored, along with refreshers on safeguarding provided by Designated Safeguarding Lead, John Salmon.

It was shared that 1 in 5 children are unhappy with their mental health and 95% of education professionals reported increasing levels of anxiety among their students. It was noted the importance of trust and relationship with children, which is also key to our approach at Bright Heart. One key aspect where children are often misunderstood is understanding their behaviour as communication of need.

What might learners be communicating? Some reasons may be below:

Working with children with anxiety was also covered. Keeping activities light without any pressure was key for this environment. Breaking the anxiety feedback loop was discussed and practical strategies for helping emotional regulation.

SEMH training with nasen
Bright Heart tutors focused on the nasen workshop.

The second session examined the definition of dyscalculia, identifying it in children and what strategies are best. Sometimes people may consider this SEN as simply being poor at maths. A definition was provided by Anna as

”Dyscalculia is a condition that affects the ability to acquire mathematical skills. Dyscalculic learners may have a difficulty understanding simple number concepts, lack an intuitive grasp of numbers, and have problems learning number facts and procedures Even if they produce a correct answer or use a correct method, they may do so mechanically and without confidence.’’

Everyone with dyscalculia will have a unique combination of characteristics. We then discussed some tutoring strategies for this need. 

Safeguarding refresher

Director John Salmon provided an SEMH case study to highlight safeguarding. In this study, the effects of vicarious trauma were also highlighted, which became an active discussion point for tutors.

The British Medical Association notes that vicarious trauma is

a process of change resulting from empathetic engagement with trauma survivors. Anyone who engages empathetically with survivors of traumatic incidents, torture, and material relating to their trauma, is potentially affected, including doctors and other health professionals.’

This is something for tutors to bear in mind for more complex cases, as well as to share with Bright Heart if this is something they may be experiencing.

Get in touch

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

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Bright Heart shines at national tutoring awards

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We were proud to once again be acknowledged in the National Tutoring Awards. Congratulations to all nominees and winners!

Bright Heart shines at the National Tutoring Awards

The National Tutoring Awards were held at a gala dinner in London on 30th June, for the second year running. The Tutors’ Association (TTA) organised and hosted the awards. The TTA is the regulatory body for professional tutors and the supplementary education sector in the UK. It has more than 450 corporate and around 50,000 individual members. The event was held at the Leonardo Royal Hotel London City on Friday 30th June. We wish all participants and winners congratulations from this evening – it is a positive testament of the tutoring profession.

Bright Heart again showed a strong presence in the nominations and results of these awards

Runners up - Tuition Business of the Year 2023

Judges shortlisted Bright Heart with six other UK tutoring businesses for the headline award. Judges considered various factors to evaluate excellence within the sector and determine the winner. 

After winning this prestigious award in 2022, Bright Heart was proud to be runners up this year. 

Runners up - Tuition Business of the Year

Runners up - Best Tuition Delivery to Private Clients 2023

In this category, tuition companies had to show evidence of outstanding customer service when dealing with parents or other relatives/guardians purchasing tuition for a child. This included the ability to be responsive and flexible to consumer clients, ensuring that their needs are met and, where possible, exceeded.

Factors to be considered were:

Bright Heart was proud to be runners up in this award, indicating our commitment to client service.

Team Bright Heart

Shortlisted - Best Tuition Delivery to Schools

In this category, tuition companies had to demonstrate at least one school / tuition business collaboration that has created a real impact on students (especially disadvantaged students).

Some factors to be considered were:

Bright Heart was proud to be shortlisted in this category in a group of 7 nominees from around the country.

Winner: Best Special Needs Tutor

In this category, the professional tutor had to demonstrate an outstanding impact on at least one student with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) in the last year. They also needed to show how appropriate resources, tools, techniques or strategies have been used to directly address the specific requirements of a student with special educational needs or disabilities. This included consistently high standards of professionalism (e.g. in their relations with tuition companies or clients).

Other factors to be considered were:

Best special needs tutor

After one of our tutors winning this award last year (2022), we were very proud for our very own, Harris, winning it this year!

Get in touch

If you are seeking some award-winning tuition, please feel free to get in touch with us should you have any questions about support for your child. We enjoy talking with parents and helping our students by tailoring learning to their individual needs.

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Tips for supporting your child with anxiety

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Anxiety is affecting many children, especially post-Covid. There is an increase in emotionally based school avoidance. We look at this and managing anxiety in your child.

Managing anxiety in your child

A recent NHS study estimated that 1 in 8 young people suffer from anxietyAnxiety is a natural human response to stress or potential danger. It is a feeling of unease or fear about something that may happen. Sometimes anxiety is a common part of life, such as feeling nervous before a test or starting a new school. Excessive and persistent anxiety that interferes with daily life may indicate an anxiety disorder. 

 This blog offers tips and support for parents to help when their child is feeling anxious.

Tips for supporting your child when they are feeling anxious

All young people will feel anxious at some point. Common causes of anxiety in young people are:

Children’s anxiety may show through their behaviour. Common signs of anxiety are:

anxious child hiding her face
Anxiety is observed via behaviour.

How to start a conversation about anxiety

You could say to your child you’ve noticed a change in their behaviour or mood. You could say something like, ‘You seem a bit wobbly today. Is everything OK? I’m wondering if you’re a bit worried about something?’

Explain to your child that it’s normal to be anxious. Help them to find words to express their feelings. For example, wobbly, scared, anxious, nervous, and unsettled. Ask them where the feeling is. ‘Is it in your tummy, head, or heart?’ Tell them everyone has worries and that they can become too big to handle without help. Explain that avoiding our worries can make them bigger.

Talk about being brave together and working out small steps to tackle worries. Think with your child about what might happen if a fear came true and how they would handle it. For instance, ‘What could you do if you didn’t have anyone to sit with at lunch at school?’

It’s important not to dismiss your child’s feelings. Do not tell them they are being silly or that there is nothing to worry about. Listen and offer support. Take steps to resolve the issue that is worrying them.

Strategies to support your child if they feel anxious

Think about what helps your child calm down: rocking, having a warm drink, snuggling up. Help them to do this when they are feeling anxious.

Make a ‘calm bag’ they can use when they get anxious—for example, a fidget toy, threading beads, or a favourite book.

Try a breathing exercise. You could ask your child to breathe in and out slowly while counting to ten. Younger children could put their favourite soft toy on their tummy and watch it rise and fall as they breathe.

You could also put glitter and water inside a plastic bottle. Shake it up and ask your child to breathe slowly while they watch the glitter settle.

Promote and support healthy lifestyle choices

When we get anxious, our bodies prepare to cope with something difficult. This is called the ‘fight or flight’ response. In ‘fight or flight’, our hearts beat faster, we sweat more, and our muscles tense. It often helps to do something active to release these feelings and feel better. Encourage your child to play sports or exercise to help overcome their anxiety.

Sleep and diet are essential factors in reducing anxiety. They directly impact our physical and mental health.

When we sleep, our body and brain can rest, repair, and rejuvenate. Lack of sleep or poor sleep can contribute to increased anxiety levels. Sleep deprivation affects our ability to regulate emotions, cope with stress, and think clearly. Tiredness can intensify anxious thoughts and feelings.

Young people usually need at least 8-10 hours of sleep per night. Sleep promotes emotional stability, cognitive function, and overall well-being. Establishing a consistent sleep schedule can help achieve this. A sleep schedule includes:

The food we consume can significantly impact our mental health and anxiety levels.

Consuming a balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrient-rich foods is important. Adequate intake of essential nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, magnesium, and zinc can support brain function and emotional well-being, potentially reducing anxiety symptoms.

Fluctuations in blood sugar levels can contribute to feelings of anxiety and irritability. A diet that includes complex carbohydrates (whole grains, fruits, vegetables) and balanced amounts of protein can help stabilise blood sugar levels and promote a more stable mood.

Stimulants like caffeine can increase heart rate, trigger restlessness, and exacerbate feelings of anxiety. Limiting or avoiding excessive caffeine intake can benefit those prone to anxiety. Energy drinks include high levels of caffeine and are very dangerous for young people.

sleeping child cuddled up with a bear
A regular sleep schedule is key to well-being in children.

Promote and support healthy lifestyle choices

How you cope with your anxiety will help your child cope with their worries and fears. Taking time to talk about worries with your child, and showing them how to cope, can really help them.

Look after yourself too. Talk to other adults, you’re not alone, and your child’s anxiety can make you anxious too.

You can speak to your child’s school or your GP if you are worried about your own or your child’s anxiety, and they can provide further support and guidance.

Get in touch

We hope this blog was helpful. Bright Heart tutors are well equipped to support children who are feeling anxious about school. We provide academic support but also mentor students so that they are able to cope in situations that they find challenging. Please feel free to get in touch with us should you have any questions about support for your child. We enjoy talking with parents and helping our students by tailoring learning to their individual needs.

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8 Ways AI & Chat GPT will affect school education

AI Chatbot


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Artificial intelligence is set to shake up the way children are educted and their homework. We look at this and also get some input from ChatGPT itself!

8 ways AI & Chat GPT will affect school education

If you have a child at school, you may wonder how new technologies will affect their education. In particular, you might have heard about artificial intelligence (AI) and ChatGPT. These are technologies which are used more and more at the moment. They will likely greatly impact how teachers teach. They will also change how students learn.

This blog will examine AI and ChatGPT in more detail. The focus will be how these technologies might affect your child’s learning. We will also look into the technology’s positives and some drawbacks. We will also give ChatGPT a chance to answer too!

What is ChatGPT?

Teachers around the world have started to use ChatGPT. It was created by company OpenAI and released in November 2022. ChatGPT is a language model which uses artificial intelligence. It allows users to have human-like conversations with chatbots.  

This technology can answer questions and help with writing emails. It can also help with writing and researching essays and writing code. It helps to find errors in work and remove them. The types of assistance it can give are being explored further.

ChatGPT had more than one million users within the first five days of release. This made it the fastest growing app ever.

Click on the above image to access the ChatGPT website

How will AI & ChatGPT affect school education?

The impact of artificial intelligence and ChatGPT is likely to be big. It will affect teachers and students in different ways.

Read on to discover 8 ways artificial intelligence and ChatGPT will affect school education.

How will these technologies affect teachers?

1. Offer an additional resource

As a parent you are probably aware that teachers are stretched thin. ChatGPT offers them an extra resource. This can be used in a similar way to Google, but it could be even more useful.

For example, imagine a teacher is giving a lesson on the history of World War II. Google would give thousands of results to a very simple question, such as when the war started. However, with ChatGPT, they will be given a more precise and straightforward answer. This will result in better use of time in the classroom. This is a basic example, the abilities of ChatGPT are much wider.

2. Help with grammar and writing

Today students are more used to writing. They write texts and post on social media. This is of course a good thing. However, it can be tricky for teachers to teach correct grammar and writing skills. The style of writing in a classroom is very different to posts online. Students may have picked up bad habits which are harder to correct.

ChatGPT can effectively help students with these aspects of learning, providing real-time feedback to help them improve these skills.

AI Chatbot
Since AI is only going to grow, we should look to harness it for education, not block access.

3. Automate grading

Teachers spend a lot of time grading students’ work. This time could be better spent planning lessons. It also would be better to provide one-on-one help to the students who need it.

ChatGPT can aid this time consuming task for teachers, speeding up the process. This will allow teaches to focus time and energy on their students. This could improve the overall learning experience.

4. Create assessments

Creating assessments is also time consuming for teachers. Many struggle to find time to create new ones often. Artificial intelligence can create assessments tailored to individual classes’ needs, perhaps even groups within the class. These can then focus on the parts that student’s need most practice with. This task may take some trial and error to get right. However, once teachers use this tool, they will soon start to see the benefits.

Teachers can also use AI to create lesson plans which will remove some of the admin from the job. They should also be able to create extra content on topics which textbooks might not cover in enough detail, but the students are interested in

How will these technologies affect students?

5. Help with homework

Students often need help with homework. With ChatGPT they can quickly get the answers they need. Students have been doing this already on the internet and with phone apps such as Siri, however, there is no longer a need to pour through search results. The challenge is for an aid not to become the answer, or rather, it means the nature of homework will change.

As mentioned earlier, advanced ChatGPT can even help improve their writing skills. It can give feedback on grammar, structure, and content which is tailored to each student. This is given in real-time, so they can learn as they go. This is better than waiting for feedback which might be hard to reapply to a different assessment.

6. A resource for research

ChatGPT is acting as an intelligent source of information. It has access to many different resources, with the database being 300 billion words and trained on 100 trillion parameters. So, if students need a research source for their work, they can easily find one using this new technology.

7. Cater to individual needs

ChatGPT can cater to each student’s needs. This makes it an effective tool for children with SEND or those who need a boost in certain areas. Practical artificial intelligence in a classroom can also provide a more hands-on approach. It will provide simulations and real-time examples demonstrating what they are learning about.

8. Offer valuable feedback

ChatGPT is equipped with data analysis. It can provide valuable feedback to students. In fact, a student could copy and paste an entire essay into ChatGPT and get fast and accurate feedback in a matter of minutes.

Are there any downsides to ChatGPT?

As with anything, there are a few drawbacks to artificial intelligence and ChatGPT for learning. The biggest is the technology can’t be completely accurate. Its knowledge comes from the Internet. It also cannot judge true or false. So it can take anything online as a true fact. This means that it will never be 100% accurate or reliable.

It also can struggle to understand context, however, this is improving as its training data improves.

Finally, ChatGPT can provide students with all the information they need in seconds. This could harm student critical thinking skills and is also a challenge to the current provision of homework to consolidate learning. The schooling models which rely on a regurgitation of facts are also under threat, although many would not necessarily see this as a downside.

What is the future of AI in education?

Artificial intelligence and ChatGPT could change the way students learn and how teachers teach. They provide fast access to information and feedback. They can also be used to personalise learning and aid accessibility to teachers.

However, a human teacher can offer a level of empathy and connection which technology can’t. Using these tools might also lead to over-reliance on technology. This might harm learning overall.

It is clear that these new technologies are not going away anytime soon. Teachers and students should use them as valuable tools. They should not be thought of as a replacement for human teaching.

What does ChatGPT have to say about this?

We also asked ChatGPT ‘what are 8 Ways AI & ChatGPT will affect school education?‘ and received the below. Do you think it is helpful?

Artificial intelligence (AI) and chat-based models like ChatGPT have the potential to significantly impact school education in various ways. Here are eight ways in which AI and ChatGPT can affect education:

AI and education
A big shift is coming - are schools ready?
  1. Personalised Learning: AI can analyse student data and provide personalised learning experiences tailored to individual students’ needs. ChatGPT can offer adaptive tutoring, assess students’ understanding, and provide real-time feedback.
  2. Virtual Assistants: AI-powered virtual assistants can assist students and teachers by answering questions, providing guidance, and offering support outside of the classroom. ChatGPT can act as a virtual tutor, helping students with homework or clarifying concepts.
  3. Intelligent Content Creation: AI algorithms can generate educational content such as quizzes, study guides, and lesson plans. ChatGPT can assist teachers in creating engaging and interactive learning materials.
  4. Language Learning Support: AI chatbots can help students practice and improve their language skills. ChatGPT can engage in conversations, provide language corrections, and offer language-learning resources.
  5. Accessibility and Inclusion: AI can enhance accessibility in education by providing support for students with disabilities. ChatGPT can assist students with visual or hearing impairments, providing text-based explanations and instructions.
  6. Data Analysis and Predictive Analytics: AI can analyse large volumes of educational data to identify patterns, predict student performance, and suggest interventions. ChatGPT can help educators make data-informed decisions to improve teaching strategies and student outcomes.
  7. Virtual Classrooms and Remote Learning: AI-powered virtual classrooms can facilitate remote learning experiences. ChatGPT can interact with students in virtual classrooms, conduct discussions, and provide instructional support.
  8. Teacher Professional Development: AI can support teachers’ professional development by offering personalised training, suggesting instructional strategies, and providing access to a vast repository of educational resources. ChatGPT can act as a virtual mentor for teachers, offering guidance and expertise.

Get in touch

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

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Bright Heart NTP tuition case studies in Schools Week

Schools week feature

Bright Heart Education’s tuition offering has been featured in the Jan / Feb 2019 edition of the SEN Magazine. 

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    Bright Heart Education

We were pleased for our school case study article on NTP tutoring to be shown in Schools Week

Bright Heart case studies in Schools Week

Our NTP case study last month discussed programmes that Bright Heart has successfully delivered in schools. We are happy for this to be shown in Schools Week this month! If you click on the picture it will take you to the article.

As an NTP Tuition Partner, we bring our ethos and quality tuition into schools, delivering small group and 1:1 tuition.

Please get in touch with us if you believe your child or your school could benefit from our tutoring.

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Tutoring Case Studies – Schools

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Bright Heart Education’s tuition offering has been featured in the Jan / Feb 2019 edition of the SEN Magazine. 

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    Bright Heart Education

Having won the prestigious Tuition Business of the Year award (2022), we review some of our recent tutoring success stories – Part 1 of this case study series focuses on school tutoring (we are NTP accredited).

Case studies series - Part 1: Schools

This is the first of our series of case studies blogs. We highlight some of the incredible work our tutors do with students. Bright Heart considers academic and SEMH targets when delivering tuition and evaluating results. SEMH (social, emotional and mental health) targets include engagement, self-esteem and communication. Student achievement was a key factor considered by the judges in awarding Bright Heart the prestigious Tuition Business of the Year award. You can read more about the 2022 National Tutoring Awards here

This first blog focuses on schools. Later case studies will focus on our work with local authorities and private families. As an accredited national tutoring programme (NTP) tuition partner, we ran many successful programmes at schools last academic year. These included:

NTP tutoring - Bright Heart Education
Bright Heart delivers tailored tutoring to schools to help pupils catch up.

Free catch-up tutoring after lockdown

Bright Heart works with students with many different needs. Many of these children, unfortunately, struggle with formal education. We realise that those who struggle the most are often disadvantaged. This includes those with an identified special educational need (SEN), and those with backgrounds less conducive to learning. For example, where the family can offer limited support with formal education.

To help disadvantaged students after COVID-19 learning delays, we offered pro bono catch-up tutoring to a selection of London schools.

Ark Byron case studies: Pro Bono and School-led Tutoring

One school to take up Bright Heart’s free tutoring offer was Ark Byron Primary School. Bright Heart Director and Senior Education Specialist John Salmon visited the school. John is a former head teacher. He, therefore, understands the importance of taking the time to understand a school’s culture and identity. John met with Alison Berry, the SENCo. They discussed Ark’s teaching and learning and the different areas of improvement for pupils. Bright Heart offered support in key areas needing improvement for some of the school’s most disadvantaged pupils. By reviewing baseline assessments, the school determined that the most pressing area of need was literacy, specifically writing. This was because many pupils were performing well below their age level. Thus, the school carefully selected small groups of children with the most significant learning delays in Years 1, 3 and 5. 

-> Writing intervention programme

Bright Heart selected Andy, a highly experienced, qualified primary teacher, to run the writing programme. Andy was selected based on his qualifications and experience. He had previously worked as a youth leader, a lead learning mentor and a primary school teacher. Andy and John worked together to create a targeted and personalised writing programme.

writing intervention for NTP tutoring
A targeted and personalised writing programme was delivered to Ark Byron Primary School.

Careful planning

As a first step, we conducted our own assessment to determine strengths and areas for improvement. These areas ranged from letter formation and the use of phonics for spelling with the younger pupils to aspects such as ideas, sentence fluency, and organisation for the older pupils. We chose narrative writing as the most suitable genre as it allows students to let their imagination flow freely. We identified many gaps in learning. We then formulated a plan to address learning gaps in the programme.


Tutoring commenced in November 2020. It focused on 29 struggling pupils. Of this group, 12 were on pupil premium.

During the first session, Andy built rapport with the students. He created a warm, nurturing learning environment where they could feel at ease. This was in keeping with the Bright Heart Approach. Week by week, Andy focused on improving one skill at a time. This ranged from helping pupils with the basic punctuation rules to implementing strategies to help the students organise their thoughts. The students worked collaboratively at times and independently on other occasions. Andy engaged the different groups with hands-on, practical activities where they could share their imaginative stories. At times, students would use interactive tools such as IXL, which allowed them to work on specific areas such as conventions and spelling. 

The writing programme was unfortunately interrupted by the pandemic at times. As a result, we had to overcome different challenges along the way. For example, absenteeism increased, and working conditions for everyone at the school were more constrained. We were therefore concerned that this would affect the continuity of the programme and hinder student progress. However, with the school’s support, we successfully completed the programme in February 2022. Bright Heart provided 56 hours of free tutoring worth over £4,000. Andy and John also dedicated many more hours to planning and reporting.

Pleasing results

Based on interim testing in July 2021, 10 (33%) of the pupils tutored by Bright Heart had caught up with peers (now met age-expected standards). This included 5 (42%) pupils on pupil premium. Within the control group, 4 (15%) of the pupils had caught up with peers, including 1 (13%) on pupil premium. The control group comprised 26 pupils below standards (8 on pupil premium) who did not receive Bright Heart tutoring. Despite the control group being composed of slightly stronger pupils, Bright Heart’s pupils’ performance was more than double that of the control group. This was a pleasing result demonstrating the effectiveness of our tutoring in driving student achievement. In addition, pupils made significant progress with SEMH targets such as self-confidence.

During the last session in February 2022, the pupils completed another assessment. Despite the programme’s lack of continuity and the pandemic delays, results were encouraging. This was particularly the case as many of the pupils were non-native speakers with SEN who had the lowest scores in writing. Out of 29 pupils completing the programme, had improved their attainment levels (for example, from working below to working at age-related standards). Although we would have preferred this to have been higher, it was a significant improvement compared to the control group. In addition, it was pleasing that the pupils engaged well and, most importantly, enjoyed the programme.

Commenting on the writing programme, Alison Berry, Ark’s SENCo, noted:

The children in KS1 and 2 were engaged in the sessions, and the tutor took time to build a rapport with the children, ensuring sessions were pitched to the correct level for attainment and interest. This is a service we would recommend for others, and we would like to use again in the future.”

-> Numeracy programme

Following the successful writing programme, we sought to help more disadvantaged pupils by developing a numeracy programme. It was delivered through the school-led tutoring pillar of the NTP. We selected Harris as the tutor. Harris is an experienced specialist maths tutor. In addition, he is skilled at engaging and motivating pupils. The programme focused mainly on arithmetic, including word problems. Additionally, Harris provided tuition for reasoning, fractions, decimals, percentages and SATs for pupils in Years 2 and 6. 

NTP tutoring in numeracy - Bright Heart education
Bright Heart delivered a tailored numeracy programme to Ark Byron Primary School.


We provided tuition to 41 pupils in Y2, Y5 and Y6. Tutoring took place from November 2021 to July 2022. Instruction was aligned with teaching and learning practices at the school. In addition, we regularly liaised with the teachers to adjust targets and strategies accordingly. Sessions involved theory and practical applications of maths to make concepts more tangible and meaningful for pupils. The school reported very high levels of pupil engagement. Progress was measured throughout the programme to ensure attainment in each key area.

Excellent results

Unlike the writing programme, pupils benefited from a lack of disruptions. This meant the programme was delivered as planned. As a result, the pupils tutored made excellent progress. For example, the results of SAT testing for Y6 demonstrated the programme’s effectiveness. Initially only 1 of the 11 Year 6 pupils selected for the numeracy programme met the expected standard. The mean scaled score for the pupils was 93.6 (100 being the expected standard). However, by the end of the programme, 10 of the 11 students had exceeded the expected standard (with a mean score of 105.6). One Year 6 pupil narrowly fell short with a score of 99. However, this was a big improvement compared to the pupil’s initial score of 89.

Southmead Primary School Case Study – NTP Tuition Partners tutoring

Southmead Primary School approached Bright Heart in April 2022. They wanted a Key Stage 1 phonics programme using the Tuition Partners pillar of the NTP. 

Bright Heart was selected due to its holistic approach, which increases engagement, and its SEN expertise.

-> Phonics programme

Literacy was, unfortunately, a key area affected by the pandemic. Therefore, the school sought a focused phonics programme to help student attainment.

John Salmon met with the school and key teachers in person. He carefully discussed their objectives and the specific levels and needs of the 25 pupils selected for tutoring.

Lee, a qualified teacher with 30 years of primary teaching experience, was selected as the tutor. She was given a detailed briefing about the school and the pupils. In addition, she received NTP training, which includes safeguarding training. She also spent an orientation day with the different groups at the school.

NTP tutoring - Bright Heart education
Younger pupils can especially benefit from targeted phonics programmes.

Individual learning plans

The school selected 13 Year 1 and 12 Year 2 pupils who had not met the expected age-related phonics standard for the programme. To help plan the sessions, Bright Heart and Lee worked together to produce an individual learning plan (ILP) for each pupil. The ILP sets out a pupil’s strengths and areas for improvement based on their own assessment and that of the tutor. It then outlines a series of academic and SEMH targets to be achieved during the programme. Academic targets were based on SMART goals – being specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. SEMH targets include communication, confidence, self-esteem and considered study skills.


Lee delivered the programme over two months from early May. Tuition was mainly given to small groups of four or five pupils. However, one pupil received one-to-one tuition. The tutor assessed the students’ progress at the programme’s start, middle and end. Lessons were adjusted accordingly to ensure engagement and progress towards targets.  

Good results

The programme achieved solid results considering its relatively short duration, with great engagement for most of the 25 pupils. The phonics programme focused on hearing sounds, segmenting and blending, and reading longer words and adjacent consonants.

Following the programme, 9 of the 13 Year 1 pupils (69%) and 5 of the 12 Year 2 pupils (42%) had achieved the expected standard. All 25 pupils had improved their phonics.

In addition to the pupils’ academic progress, the tutor built rapport, made the sessions enjoyable, and helped the children improve their confidence. 

Commenting on the programme, Tara McBride, Southmead’s Reading Lead and Early Years Phase Leader, noted:

The tutor was lovely, and the children thoroughly enjoyed their phonics intervention sessions.”

NTP tutoring - Bright Heart Education - literacy
Bright Heart not only improved KS1 literacy but also pupils' confidence.

If you think your school or child could benefit from our nurturing approach, please get in touch. We will be more than happy to discuss your requirements.

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An inspirational journey to self-worth and high academic attainment

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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

lonely tree on a mountain

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 a leafy autumn 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. 

Climber on an icy mountain
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.

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

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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.

Boy in classroom
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!

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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.

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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.

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Nutrition and your child’s learning

Nutritious foods help your child's health and learning




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.

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