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Brain foods that actually make you Smarter

No matter what age you are, your brain can keep growing and developing; all it needs is some exercise and the right fuel. Just like your body, your brain needs the right nutrients in order to keep functioning properly. Your brain uses about 20% of your daily calorie intake. If those calories are high in complex carbohydrates and refined sugars, your brain won’t be functioning at its peak.

If you want to be firing on all cylinders for school, work or exams, there are foods that help to boost brain health and give your grey matter the fuel it needs to succeed.


One of the things your brain needs most is glucose. Without a constant supply, memory loss and an inability to concentrate effectively will leave you scrambling for answers. Healthy sources of glucose include grains, fruits and vegetables.

Unhealthy sources of glucose can be found in candy, soda and products which contain a lot of refined sugar. Consuming too much sugar can negatively affect your ability to concentrate and may prevent you from effectively accessing your memory. These refined sugars also negatively affect your blood pressure. When this spikes and drops, you will be left feeling lethargic and too tired to think straight.

Keep a constant supply of glucose flowing to the brain by eating regular meals. Avoid skipping meals (especially breakfast) and try to eat small, healthy meals every couple of hours. Always aim to get seven servings of fresh fruits and veggies a day.


Brains love iron and this can be found in leafy green vegetables like kale and spinach. You can also find a ready supply of iron in red meats and some grains. Brains are particularly fond of vitamins from the B-family. These can be found in whole grains, wheat germ, organic eggs, bran, whole wheat, oatmeal, brown rice and nuts.


Foods containing Omega-3 fatty acids are really good for brain health. You can find these in oily fish like wild salmon. Walnuts are brilliant brain food as are edible seeds like flax, hemp and chia.


The anti-oxidant properties of berries are legendary and can be found in acai and blueberries. Acai berries are also a great source of Omega-3.


Magnesium is also an important nutrient for healthy brains. You can find magnesium in Swiss chard, spinach, potato skins, quinoa, peas, yogurt, cheese, soy products, tofu, fish, nuts and lentils.


A plant compound called luteolin helps to reduce the effects of aging on the brain as well as brain inflammation. Luteolin can be found in carrots and is also instrumental in promoting good memory.

Tutoring gifted and talented students

Tutoring is often associated with students struggling to keep up with the curriculum.gifted-student

But what about those exceptional, bright minds at the top of the class?

Parents also seek tutoring for gifted and talented students in a bid to open their minds to academic abilities and opportunities.

Tutoring can assist gifted and talented students to reach further than the classroom lesson plans at their school and stimulate

their inquisitive minds to tackle more challenging aspects of the curriculum.

Sydney mathematics tutor Richard Stevens says it’s important to give gifted and talented students the opportunity to extend themselves sideways – not upwards – in the curriculum.

“For me, in mathematics, that’s exploring numbers and getting a better understanding and a deeper and richer understanding of how numbers work and some of the things you can do with numbers,” he says.

“The benefits are that they get to study some mathematics at a much deeper level.”

With 47 years of teaching under his belt, Mr Stevens is a private tutor who also provides voluntary maths education to gifted and talented students at a Sydney school as part of its gifted and talented program.

Mr Stevens says he recently worked with Year 5 students, extending their knowledge of numbers, through exploring triangle numbers.

“We were getting the students to try and identify the pattern that makes triangle numbers – so what is the pattern, and then we looked at getting them to explore how would you arrive at a particular one along the way.

“I got them to explore a quicker way of doing that and they discovered how you can do it.

“They discovered to get the 10th triangle number you multiply 10 by 11 and halve your answer and they worked that out – I didn’t show them.

“We were building on basic mathematical skills as well as deepening knowledge,” he adds.

“They understand numbers and how they work a lot better, and along the way they pick up really useful skills in the basic operations.”

Sydney tutor Farah Ghazale says students may be academically gifted across several areas but excel in one, main area – often the subject they’re most interested in or passionate about.

“I had a student who was excellent in English but was a genius in Maths. His mind was like a calculator,” she says.

“He was able to solve really hard mental maths operations and problems in just a few seconds – he was only seven years old.”

Tutoring can also assist any bright students who are being overlooked, because they don’t require as much help from the teacher.

Ms Ghazale, who has taught gifted and talented students and also provides tutoring through her business Miss Farah, says tutoring can help students who are not receiving encouragement and support from their school or family.

“The tutor will challenge the gifted student and help him/her work on other areas like listening, sitting still, handwriting, etc,” she says.

“Sometimes the student is too focused on one subject that he/she neglects others and that’s when a tutor is required unless followed up by parents or teachers.

“Tutors can also provide enrichment activities to help the student develop their passion.”

Mr Stevens says parents can explore if their child is academically bright through gifted educational providers such as GERRIC, located at the University of New South Wales.

“Unfortunately today most parents think their children are really special and a cut above just about everybody else,” he says.

“But I would encourage parents to really explore if their child is gifted and talented, and in what area, and to just support their children and give them opportunities to explore that skill further.”

Improving kids’ literacy – a little knowledge can go a long way


There are a few key pieces of grammatical knowledge that can make an immediate difference to the quality of children’s reading and writing. In this column I look at verbs, and suggest four actions that would improve literacy outcomes.

What do you know about verbs?

When asked, most people say a verb is a ‘doing’ word, which means most people don’t know much about verbs. Thinking that verbs are ‘doing’ words is why 80% of my preservice teachers struggle to find the verb in the sentence ‘I am afraid’. (The verb is ‘am’)

Thinking a verb is just one word is why 80% of my preservice teachers can’t identify the verb in the sentence ‘I’ve seen every Tigers game this year.’ (The verb is ‘have seen’)

When we think of verbs simply as ‘doing’ words, our most common verbs slip under our radar – like amisarewerewasbeenhavehad.

These verbs not only work on their own in sentences e.g. ‘I am a teacher’, but they work together with other verbs to form chains. Those verb chains tell us what’s happening in the sentence but also when it’s happening.

For example, in the sentence ‘I have been teaching for 20 years’, the verb is ‘have been teaching’. This verb chain tells us what is happening – ‘teaching’. But it also tells us when it has happened. The ‘have’ tells us that I still teach, ‘been’ tells us that I taught in the past, and the ‘ing’ on the end of teaching tells us that I have continuously been a teacher from the past to now.

Changing our verbs to indicate time is what we call ‘tense’ – and depending upon who your favourite grammarian is, we have around 12 different tenses in English.

That means we can organise each of our verbs in 12 different ways to give different time nuances. For example, here are some ways we can change the verb ‘to teach’.

taught for 20 years, I was teaching for 20 years, I have taught for 20 years, I had been teaching for 20 years, I have been teaching for 20 years. Each has a finely nuanced difference – but a meaningful difference that can muddle comprehension if you don’t get it right.

Action 1 – stop telling kids that verbs are ‘doing’ words, they can also be about being, saying, thinking, relating. They tell us what’s happening, but they also tell us when it’s happening. And they are not always just one word.

Who cares?

When you are a native speaker of English this information about the language is often surprising – we rarely recognise how complex our language system is when it comes to us so naturally. In fact, it is so intuitive to most of us that we wonder why we need to know this stuff. I mean, really – who cares? How does it make me a better teacher or, indeed, a better reader and writer?

These English language structures don’t come naturally to all our students – and it is no coincidence that the students for whom this is not innate knowledge are the same students who make up the long underachieving tail in our schools. They speak English as an additional language or dialect, or they just don’t speak ‘school English’. In our most disadvantaged schools, that can be 100% of the school population.

The way verbs work in English is particular to English. And if school English is not the language of your home, then you really need someone to show you how it all works. It is why we need specialist English language teachers in our classrooms – but instead governments are removing them.

The student who writes ‘I seen that movie’, is making the same error as the student who says ‘they done their homework’, or claims ‘I been learning guitar for 3 years’. They are taking a structure from their everyday spoken language and using it in their school writing. And teachers put red lines through it.

If we think this language is important enough to mark with red crosses, then surely we must think it is important enough to teach. ‘Done’, ’seen’, ‘been’, ‘gone’ are what we call past participles, and that means in formal ‘school English’ they don’t work by themselves – they join with ‘have’, ‘had’ and ‘has’ to tell us about something that we have done in the past.

Action 2 – explain errors, let kids in on your ‘insider’ knowledge

It’s not just about remediation, it’s about extending

When teachers read flat and boring story writing, they tend to think it is about the adjectives, or lack thereof. But it is so often about the verbs. Static verbs make static writing. Choosing verbs thoughtfully can turn static pictures into movies.

Action 3 – analyse the verbs in your children’s story writing. Are there a variety? Are they stuck on the ‘being’ verbs of amisarewaswere or is which can produce a static picture, or is their repertoire limited to the verbs that predominate in spoken language, like went,didhadsaid, which fail to get their stories moving in dynamic ways?

The teaching should be fun, and for everyone

The best way to teach about verbs is by looking at how authors use them to make their stories spring to life, and the best way to do that is through drama.

Role-playing and acting out the stories we read – and the stories we write – helps us pay attention to verbs in writing and how they work, because verbs so often tell us how the character moved, the way they spoke, how they feel and the nature of the interaction between characters.

This language work should be for all children in every year of school. It builds a love and fascination for the language – and helps children use language in powerful and purposeful ways.

Sadly, the children who need this work the most are the ones who are sent off to do meaningless stencils of out-of-context sound and word work.

Action 4 – be dramatic, creative and enthusiastic when you teach language. There is nothing boring about grammar; it’s bad teaching that’s boring.

Does your Child have ADHD?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD is a child’s inability to stay focused on the task at hand or to concentrate for more than a couple of minutes. This is more than just a daydreamer or a child who is bored in class, this disorder can really impact your child’s academic performance and may lead to behavioral problems. Studies show that 8 – 10% of children of school-going age have ADHD and that boys are there times more likely to have the disorder than girls. Luckily, there are many techniques for dealing with ADHD that can help to ensure that your child excels academically.

When your child is disruptive in class, they get negative reactions from teachers and they miss out on the vital building blocks of their academic knowledge. High-energy kids often interrupt and sometimes have trouble waiting their terms which can lead to social problems. Children with ADHD aren’t being willful or purposefully misbehaving, they genuinely have trouble focusing on any one task for more than a couple of minutes.

Diagnosing ADHD

One of the biggest problems with ADHD is that there are so many symptoms associated with the disorder and it’s imperative that you consult a professional for diagnosis. Start with your family doctor who will refer your child to a neurologist or psychologist for evaluation. There is a long list of symptoms which should be present regardless of mood or circumstance and must manifest before the child is seven. The symptoms include:

Dealing with ADHD

There are so many options for parents of children with ADHD that you can find solutions that help your child to thrive at school and at home. From medication to behavioral therapies and diets, you can opt for the solution (or combination of solutions) which best suit your family. 

It’s essential to speak with your teachers about the situation and to work with them to find ways to help reinforce good behavior patterns. Teachers already have a playbook of ways in which to deal with children who are easily distracted. They can seat them away from the window and in the front of the class where it’s easier to refocus them on the lesson.

Children with ADHD can learn to focus, they can acquire organisational skills and they can really fulfill their potential academically and socially.  If you work together with your medical team and your teachers and tutors, your child can turn their high energy levels into a wonderful asset. 

Does your Child have ADHD (1)

Students at public primary schools more likely to be coached after bad NAPLAN results

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There has also been a noticeable rise in students from public primary schools who are being tutored.

Parents are increasingly waiting until they receive their children’s NAPLAN results before sending them to coaching, according to the Australian Tutoring Association, which says there is now less focus on cramming for the national literacy and numeracy tests and more emphasis on improving poor results.

The national body representing tutors says demand for coaching continues to rise but there is now a spike after NAPLAN. There has also been a noticeable rise in students from public primary schools who are being tutored, the association said.

About 1 million students in years 3, 5, 7 and 9 will sit the tests over three days next week, but the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, which runs NAPLAN, has urged parents and students not to take the “low stakes” tests too seriously.

Since NAPLAN results were first published on the federal government’s website MySchool in 2010 the tests have been mired in controversy. Teachers have been accused of teaching to the tests at the expense of the curriculum, students have been crying and even vomiting from nerves on exam days and schools have suggested poor performing students stay home and miss the tests so their results cannot drag down the school’s overall results.

But ACARA chief executive Robert Randall said there was no evidence that ”excessive coaching or excessive drilling” had improved results, and teachers and students should treat NAPLAN testing days like any other day on the school calendar, like a swimming carnival or cross-country race.

”Drilling and excessive practice around sample tests aren’t helpful,” Mr Randall said.

”Once you’ve done a couple of practice ones to familiarise the students, you are losing any gain that you get from it. It becomes a distraction and we think it’s unhelpful.”

The chief executive of the tutoring association, Mohan Dhall, said parents of students already being tutored asked for past NAPLAN papers before the tests but the real demand for tutoring came towards the end of the year.

“Tutoring has been increasing annually but what we have noticed is the spike now comes when they get their results later in the year, so there is a spike but it is a delayed spike when it comes to NAPLAN,” he said.

Mr Dhall said tutors were swamped with year 3 students once they received their first round of NAPLAN results, as well as year 5 students who were sitting entrance exams for private schools or scholarship tests.

“Parents are now coming to us in about September, especially after they have had parent-teacher nights,” he said.

He said contrary to popular belief, public school students made up the largest proportion of primary students receiving out-of-school tutoring.

“We hear parents saying they may not be able to afford a full-fee-paying school but as incomes rise, they may have some extra money to help improve their children’s results,” Mr Dhall said.

“We also see parents who already have older children starting tutoring earlier, so the second or third child are starting remedial work earlier than their older siblings because parents have seen the benefit.”

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/students-at-public-primary-schools-more-likely-to-be-coached-after-bad-naplan-results-20140508-zr4xp.html#ixzz3DRq7Eort

Schools in Sydney’s northern suburbs are facing a crisis of overcrowding

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Bursting at the seams: Public schools in Sydney’s northern suburbs are facing an overcrowding crisis.

The state government is facing a crisis of overcrowding in primary schools in Sydney’s north, with some schools projected to be enrolling more than double the numberof students they have space for within four years.

Leaked education department projections show almost every primary school on the lower north shore is running at capacity with many stretched beyond it. The schools are now expecting increases of between 20 and 40 per cent in the next four years.

Manly Vale Public School is running at 214 per cent of its capacity and enrolments are expected to grow by almost 40 per cent more by 2018.

“North Sydney is our biggest problem child,” a senior department source said.

Fairfax Media revealed on Friday that, on its own estimates, the education department will be overwhelmed in the next two decades by an increase in Sydney’s student population of one-third, or 250,000 students.

On present trends, it will fall $7 billion short of the funding needed to secure the 220 extra schools it requires.

But the data shows the state government is facing a more immediate crisis on Sydney’s north shore.

Greenwich Public School is at 200 per cent of its official capacity with 493 students but forecasts suggest it will be operating at 260 per cent within four years.

The education department has been surprised by the increasing number of parents enrolling their children in the public system. Enrolment in northern Sydney in the past three years has grown at double other areas of Sydney.

“For the last 20 years there has been little capital investment in north Sydney schools,” the source said.

It has spent most of its budget for the past two years in the area. And it has set aside funding for two new schools on the north shore.

But insiders argue the troubles have been compounded by some of the department’s own planning decisions.

In the midst of these overloaded schools, the Education Department sold a 5500 square metre TAFE building in Seaforth. It was sold in 2011 to Manly council at a discounted price of $4.5 million, or less than half its $11 million value.

Manly Village Public School sits on 0.9 hectares. The school is operating at 100 per cent capacity with an enrolment of 688; 200 more students are expected within four years.

Parents have expressed outrage that a school building with space for up to five classrooms has been leased to the Manly Community Centre. That lease was renewed last year.

Five primary schools in the region are projected to have more than 1000 students within three years, including Harbord Public School with 1254.

The president of the Northern Sydney Council of P&C Associations, David Hope, said the primary schools in the lower and mid north are increasingly having their playground space given over to demountable classrooms.

“At Neutral Bay a few years ago the P&C had spent a whole lot of money on a playground and the next thing that was ripped out and a demountable was put in,” he said.

The president of the NSW Teachers Federation, Maurie Mulheron, said it was “inadequate and unacceptable” for schools to be operating above their capacity.

“It leads to all sorts of pressures on playground space, classroom allocation and social relations between students,” he said. “And, more importantly, it puts pressure on important learning spaces.”

A spokesman for Education Minister Adrian Piccoli said the government allocated $70 million for new buildings in the 2013-14 State Budget.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/schools-in-sydneys-northern-suburbs-are-facing-a-crisis-of-overcrowding-20140912-10g5qb.html#ixzz3DRpehAKg

Schools worse now than when Gonski wrote report


Worse off: the academic gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students is widening.

The Australian education system is in worse shape now than when David Gonski handed down his damning assessment of it three years ago, with academic performance sliding and the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students widening.

A new analysis of My School data provided to The Sun Herald tells of deterioration in Australian schools since the controversial website was launched in 2010.

It also finds that the disparity between the highest and lowest performing students, which is already greater than most other developed countries, is deepening.

The NAPLAN test results from 2009 to 2013 published on the website show student achievement has stalled or languished across a majority of the measures. But a deeper analysis reveals, while results have climbed for advantaged students, they have slipped for those from the middle and bottom of the socioeconomic scale. The gap is especially stark  in high schools.

The co-author of the analysis, Chris Bonnor, says the notable trends, measured over just a few years, indicate a serious and worsening equity problem.

“What Gonski found to be bad, seems to be getting worse,” Mr Bonnor, a former school principal and policy analyst, said. “If we ever need another impetus to get equity right, surely this data is posing lots of questions that need to be answered.”

Results for years 5 and 9 show writing and numeracy scores have fallen, while reading scores rose for year 5 and were unchanged for year 9. But, when grouped by socioeducational status, numeracy scores rose for the most advantaged students in all sectors. For schools in middle and low brackets, the trend is downwards or fluctuating. The divergence is also noticeable for both year groups in writing.

The picture looks better for primary school reading where results have improved.

The trends show the link between disadvantage and poor test results has become more pronounced, particularly in primary schools and schools in metropolitan areas.

Mr Bonnor said the money trail over the  past few years helps explain the downward trend. He examined school funding at schools from public, private and Catholic at three different levels of advantage. While disadvantaged students receive the most in government funding, more money was spent on the most advantaged students than any other group, especially when school fees were taken into account.

The analysis does not capture any changes resulting from the new needs-based funding model implemented this year. But, the report argues, the changes have occurred while the Gonski review “proceeded, reported, was variously ignored, cherry-picked, somewhat implemented then in relative terms largely abandoned”.

Trevor Cobbold, the convener of Save Our Schools and a former Productivity Commission economist, said the scaled-back version of the Gonski model would “fall far short” of addressing weakness in Australia’s school system.

“Every principal in a disadvantaged school in the country will be pleased with the extra funding they’re going to get, but that just shows how desperate they are,” he said. “They are happy to get the $1000 extra per kid because they can do something with it but I think the evidence shows we’re just actually not going to make a big enough difference.”

The president of the NSW Teachers Federation, Maurie Mulheron, says teachers have been “trying to work miracles” without the additional resources they need for disadvantaged students.

A spokesman for Education Minister Christopher Pyne said the federal government does not believe increased funding leads to better results.

“This has been disproven over the past decade, where school funding has risen by 40 per cent, but student outcomes have declined,” he said. “It is the quality and ability of teachers that makes the biggest impact on student performance in our country.”

Labor’s  assistant minister for education Amanda Rishworth said the next generation of Australians would pay the price of the government’s reluctance to commit to the final two years of Gonski funding, when the bulk of the money was due to flow through.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/schools-worse-now-than-when-gonski-wrote-report-20140913-10gepz.html#ixzz3DRoy8GYM

More students turn to tutors for help



AUSTRALIA’S tutoring industry is now worth $6 billion a year as more students look for help to boost their grades and career aspirations.

The industry has grown by almost 40 per cent in the past five years, while 36,100 people now say tutoring is their primary job, earning an average $1400 each a week.

But the real number could be as high as 80,000 because the data does not include teachers moonlighting as tutors, or those who are in the tertiary sector.

There is a tutor in Adelaide for almost any subject; from science and maths, to law and economics, or even motivational speaking and information technology at a cost of between $60 and $90 an hour.

Australian Tutoring Association chief executive Mohan Dhall says more parents want to take some control of their child’s education. “The Commonwealth Government’s Jobs Outlook data indicates this market has grown by over 38 percent in the past five years,” he says.

But it is not just parents who are seeking tuition for their kids.

University of Adelaide graduate Corri Baker runs her own tutoring business, Cbsquared, specialising in tertiary level chemistry.

“I started drawing on the difficulties that I faced when I first started learning chemistry and took this approach to first-year chemistry tutorials at Adelaide University,” she says.

“It was a really useful tool for finding the best way to explain tricky concepts. The students responded really well.”

Ms Baker says tuition is not just about the hard facts, but also learning techniques.

“Tuition can improve a student’s confidence and arm them with more efficient study methods. A lack of self-confidence can be a significant barrier to learning, especially for maths and science subjects,” she says.

Jade Sleiman sought tutoring from Ms Baker because she needed help with chemistry for the Graduate Australian Medical School Admission Test (GAMSAT). “The one-on-one tutoring was really great to cement difficult concepts and gain a more in-depth understanding,” she said.

“I passed the science section of the GAMSAT and I know that without Corri’s help I’d still be struggling to navigate my chemistry textbook.”

Private tutoring: time well invested


A tutor can provide the help your child needs to progress, says Nick Morrison.

When you are paying upwards of £15,000 a year to have your child privately educated, the prospect of forking out for extra tuition may not sit well with you. But that is exactly what seems to be happening as an increasing number of parents look to “top-up” their child’s already expensive education with a private tutor.

According to managing director Nevil Chiles of Kensington & Chelsea Tutors, around 60-70 per cent of its students are from private schools, and numbers have been rising ever since the west London agency was established 10 years ago. The agency’s students tend to fall into two groups, says Chiles. There are those who are struggling with a particular subject and benefit from one-to-one tuition. This does not necessarily imply a problem with the school, as even with the smaller classes of an independent establishment, teachers cannot always give all their pupils the attention they need. Or it may be that a different approach can provide that “eureka” moment, when it starts to make sense.

The second group consists of students who are already excelling but whose parents want to ensure they go on to their preferred school or university. For both groups, extra tuition is particularly popular in the run-up to exams, with maths and sciences the most commonly chosen subjects, although foreign languages are also high on the priority list.

“Rather than trying to cover a wide range of subjects, it makes sense to focus on one or two — whether those are the students’ weakest or those in which they excel. You can only do so much,” says Chiles.

Parents may worry that a school will feel put-out if they opt for private tuition, assuming it is a sign of dissatisfaction, but this is often not the case, according to William Stadlen, director of Holland Park Tuition, also in west London. Independently educated children, he explains, make up “the core” of the agency’s students and many are referred by their school, often when the child is having difficulty with a particular subject. “We have seen a sea change and schools are now harnessing the idea of private tutoring for pupils. It is an extra service,” says Stadlen.

Many parents believe that getting their child into the right prep school is a pivotal moment in their education and, in the eight years since he founded the agency, Stadlen has seen the focus shift from GCSE-age pupils to 13-plus to 11-plus, and now to seven- and eight-year-olds.

Some schools, however, express reservations about private tutoring and believe parents should be able to rely entirely on the school. “If you’re sending a child to a good independent school and they need extra help, this should be provided in-house, through excellent teachers and support staff,” says Jane Grubb, head of Dunhurst, the preparatory school for Bedales in Hampshire. “The children are already under a lot of pressure, it’s a long day as it is and there’s a danger that children will lose the love of learning.”

But for struggling pupils, tutoring can boost confidence and give previously underperforming children a track record of success. This creates a momentum of its own, says Stadlen. For pupils who are already doing well, tutoring can offer scope for fine-tuning exam and revision technique.

David Boddy, head of St James Senior Boys’ School in Ashford, Surrey, recognises the danger of putting pressure on pupils but believes tutoring can be useful, particularly for A-level students wanting to ensure they get into their first choice of university. He estimates that around 10 per cent of sixth-form and Year 11 boys at St James have private tutors, and the school has a list of recommended tutors. “Securing top grades to meet your offers is now much more crucial than in the past as offers tend to be quite high,” says Boddy. “Tutoring is also useful for boys who need a bit of a confidence boost — for example, pupils with special needs — or for those who require help with work discipline.”

For some parents, peer pressure is a factor. With so many hiring a tutor, the concern that neglecting to do so could leave your child at a disadvantage can be a powerful motivator.

“It’s not always enough to have a private school education, students also need to keep up with the competition,” says Joanne Kashmina, academic registrar at Carfax Private Tutors, an agency based in Oxford and London. The bulk of its work is with children who are struggling, often where English is not their first language, while around 20 per cent is with students who are doing well but perhaps want extra help preparing for exams.

If you do hire a tutor, regular sessions maintain momentum. Once a week is typical, once a fortnight at a push but any less frequent and the benefits are likely to be lost in between meetings. At Kensington & Chelsea Tutors, Chiles recommends two hours as the optimum length of each session, with one hour for under-13s, although Holland Park Tuition advises one hour, and at Carfax Private Tutors the standard length is 90 minutes.

The cost? Holland Park Tuition charges £58 an hour, and the standard rate at Carfax Private Tutors is £55 an hour. Kensington & Chelsea Tutors charges £40 an hour, or £60 for two students, and has developed a package to provide secure online tutoring. Individually booked tutors usually cost upwards of £20 an hour.

Steps to choosing a suitable tutor

Often the best way to find a tutor is to go on the personal recommendation of someone you know. It may be worth approaching your child’s school to ask if they can suggest someone.

The most important factor is whether the tutor can develop a rapport with your child. Just because a tutor has worked wonders with a friend’s offspring doesn’t mean they will be able to do the same for yours.

Interview the tutor first. Ask for references and check that their qualifications are appropriate and that they’ve been screened by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB). Book an initial session before committing further.

Sharing a tutor between friends reduces the cost but also removes one of the main advantages of tutoring, namely one-to-one attention. The exception is foreign languages, where groups could help in conversation practice, provided pupils are at a similar level.

There should be no need to supervise sessions and your presence in the room may be off-putting, although for younger children you may want to be in an adjoining room.

Any time you feel it is not working out you should be able to cancel your sessions, or change tutor if you are with an agency.

Mica Bowman, 18

Michele Bowman first hired tutors to help her daughter get through her GCSEs. A student at Prior’s Field in Godalming, Surrey, she will be taking A-levels this summer, bolstered by weekend tutorials in history of art and psychology.

“We felt Mica needed help with exam technique and we also realised that she does much better one-on-one than in a classroom,” explains Bowman, who contacted Kensington & Chelsea Tutors on the advice of a friend who used them for her sons, including one who was attending Eton.

“Mica has established a good rapport with her tutors and has gained in confidence as a result of the tutoring,” adds Bowman.

This article first appeared in the Daily Telegraph ‘Independent Schools’ supplement on Saturday 16 March.

Lessons your child should be learning in preschool

Lessons your Child should be Learning in Preschool

Kindergarten is an important milestone in a child’s life. After all, it’s the first block in the foundation of education they will build over the next 12 years. But many children have their first school experience in preschool where they begin to develop essential skills. Here’s how a preschool should be helping your child to develop so that they can be on track for kindergarten.


Be sure that your preschool is asking kids to be responsible for their lunches, snacks and gear from home. “By the end of preschool, most kids can take on full responsibility for all of three items,” says Vicki Hoefle, a longtime professional parenting coach and educator. “When they do, it builds confidence, organizational skills and teaches responsibility.”


If your kid doesn’t like rules, you’re not alone. But Hoefle says it’s important for preschoolers to learn boundaries so when they get into the kindergarten setting, they understand structure. She suggests preschools invite the kids to help each other follow the rules, set up for activities and participate in cleanup. “If kids are invested in the space, supporting classroom rules and helping each other, they will be ready for more participation in kindergarten.”


Preschool is an important time for educators to work with children on developing their language skills, incorporating lessons that will help them with items such as answering questions in complete sentences, retelling the plot of a story and even answering hypothetical questions such as “What would you do if you were thirsty?” Dr. Adiaha Spinks-Franklin, a Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrician with Texas Children’s Hospital, says by the time a child enters kindergarten, she should be able to know her parents’ first and last names, address and phone number and understand instructions containing multiple steps, direction words and objects with descriptions.

Play skills

A child entering kindergarten should know how to play simple card and board games, and they should use imaginative and futuristic play when playing with friends, Spinks-Franklin says. “They should be able to take turns, share and negotiate,” she said. “A kindergartener understands rules in a game and how to follow them.”


Let your kids take the lead — and encourage preschools to as well, advises Brown University researcher and child development expert Richard Rende, who has conducted research with Elmer’s about the benefits of arts and crafts in education. “Creativity is promoted when kids take the lead,” Rende said. “The creative spark is lit when kids try to figure out how to make things work on their own.”

Confidence in academics

It’s important for preschool teachers and parents at your child’s age to help build confidence and self-esteem so they’re fully prepared to expand upon academic skills they should know at this age, says Frank Milner, president of Tutor Doctor. Some of these academic skills they should know by the end of preschool include looking at pictures and telling stories, counting to 10, talking in complete sentences, identifying rhyming words, identifying alphabet letters, sorting similar objects and bouncing a ball.

Independent living

Sure, no one expects a preschooler to live on his own. But learning independent living lessons in preschool can help set up a child for success in kindergarten. Spinks-Franklin says children entering kindergarten should be able to dress themselves, including buttons, zippers and tying shoes. He should also be able to make a simple meal, such as a bowl of cereal or sandwich and be able to brush his teeth on his own.

Fine motor skills

Preschool may seem like it’s all about fun, but at this age through lessons, children are learning important fine-motor skills. “Strong fine-motor skills strengthen finger muscles using play dough, clay, scissors, tweezers, scrunching paper, etc., to make fingers strong for cutting and writing,” says Lori Becker, professor of Early Childhood Education at Kaplan University.

Safety lessons

Preschool is a great time to reinforce what moms and dads teach at home about safety, Spinks-Franklin says. “A child entering kindergarten should understand basic rules of safety — do not run into the street, talk to strangers, walk away from parents in public places or take off her seatbelt while the car is moving.”

Happy memories

One of the most important items a preschooler should learn is how to create happy memories, and lessons at your child’s preschool present the perfect opportunity for this. “Smiles, laughs and some silliness keep kids engaged,” Rende said.

What important lessons does your child’s preschool teach that you think are important to a child’s development?

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