Posted in bullying, Key Stage 2 Support, Mental Health, Uncategorized

What to do if your child is being bullied

It is utterly gut-wrenching to discover that your child has been targeted by a bully. You can feel completely helpless – and incredibly angry. It’s pretty much the one thing that can make the mildest mannered parent turn in to a raging bull. It’s extremely tempting to storm into school all guns blazing and yelling blue murder.

I know, I’ve been there at times with both The Teen and The Tween!

But we all know that angry confrontation is unlikely to solve the problem – so here is my guide to dealing with bullying in (and out) of school.

Listen, Listen, Listen!

Let your child talk. However tempting it is to jump in with possible solutions, they may have been bottling this up for a while and getting it all out into the open can be a great relief. Ask them if they have any ideas of how you can help. Ask them if they are happy for you to help – sometimes children feel that getting you involved will make the situation worse. Stay calm!

Gather evidence

Keep a diary of any incidents. Write down everything that your child tells you about the incident. If your child is being bullied on social media – take screen shots (messages may be deleted by the sender in certain apps, and in others, like SnapChat, they disappear after a certain amount of time). Take down names of both the perpetrators and any witnesses.

Check your school’s anti-bullying policy

Every state school in the UK is legally obliged to have a policy regarding bullying – check what your school promises to do. You can always refer to this when doing the next step…

Talk to your child’s teacher

Keep as calm as possible, and present the evidence that you’ve collected. Ask if they are aware of the situation – if so, what actions have been taken so far? If not – what actions will be taken by the school to adress the issue?

Follow up the meeting by an email or message!

Many schools have a messaging app now, like ClassTing, Bloomz, ParentSquare etc to enable you to direct message your child’s teacher. If not, an email to the school’s email address for the attention of the teacher is also good. Message your child’s teacher summarising what has been discussed and what actions were agreed – it is helpful to have a record of all contact with the school in case the situation isn’t resolved, and needs to be escalated. Keep a printed copy if possible!

Head up the pay scale!

If things are not resolved and your child is still experiencing bullying, request a meeting with the Head Teacher and the DSL – Designated Safeguarding Lead. All schools MUST have a DSL as part of their Safeguarding policy. As before, take all the evidence you have gathered and any written communication that you have sent to or received from the class teacher. Remember that schools have what is called a Duty of Care to make sure your child has safe access to learning – and bullying makes this access to education UNSAFE.

Again, follow up any meetings with an email or message summarising the meeting and what actions have been agreed on.

If your child has been targeted because of their gender, race, sexual orientation, religion or disability, the Equality Act 2010 means that people cannot treat your child in a way that violates their dignity, or creates a hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment – this is considered discrimination under the act. This is extremely serious – bring this up in any meetings if any hate-speech with regards to these issues has been aimed at your child.

Still not sorted? Contact the Chair of Governers

At this point, it’s time to contact the Chair of Governers. The school will have the name and contact details of all the governers, and you can write to them (again, this is where your evidence and records of all meetings and contact with the school is useful) and insist on an investigation. Make sure you give a time frame as to when you wish to hear back from them.

If all else fails…

Contact your local education authority.

You can make a formal complaint about the school through your local education authority.

If your child is continuing to experience physical assaults and threats, contact the police and report it.

I hope that helps! If you have any advice you’d like to add, I’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below, or (as always!) you can find me on Facebook, Instagram, or join our lovely Supporting Superstar Students Facebook group for LOADS of hints, tips, resources and advice about navigating those Key Stage Two years!

Posted in reading, Uncategorized

Reading levels – Numbers and colours and bands, oh my!

We’re into the first term of the new school year and pretty soon your Superstar Student will come traipsing home with a new reading book, if they haven’t already!

You may find the book is colour-coded, or it might have a number on it, like 1.5 or 6.3. These relate to the book’s technical difficulty, length, and age-appropriate interest.

The trouble is, there are lots of different reading schemes in schools!

In lower years, you will probably come across the Oxford Reading Tree, and you can find a guide to the levels and their general reading age guides HERE. Prepare to spend lots of time with Biff, Chip and Kipper!

You might also see Collins Big Cat books – you can find a comprehensive guide to what each level involves HERE. Note that this doesn’t give a general reading age.

Another common reading scheme is Bug Club. This scheme has both printed books available for Reception to Year 6, but it also has online books, which have a little bug face within each book that a child has to click and answer a question on that part of the book. If your school uses Bug Club, your child might get sent home with a user name and password to read books online at home.

Many primary schools in the UK have now adopted the Accelerated Reader system, which is where it seems a little more complicated. Accelerated Reader doesn’t have a set of books, but is based on the analysis of many thousands of different books – from Harry Potter to Diary of a Wimpy Kid, chances are that your child can find one of their favourite books in there! Each book is analysed for sentence length, sentence structure and complexity, word count and word difficulty. The book is then given a level – anywhere between 0.1 to 13.5! This level does NOT equate to reading age, so don’t panic if your seven-year-old comes home with a book marked 2.8!

Accelerated Reader is based on two testing levels – an initial online comprehension test, which will give a number range (called the ZPD – Zone of Proximal Development, which gives a guide as to which books would be a suitable challenge for each child) that your child should be given. For example, your child might be given a ZPD of 2.9- 4.0. This enables your child to choose books within this range and be confident that they can read them without a struggle – and also without them being far too easy!

Secondly, each child completes a comprehension multiple choice test on EACH book they read. Scoring 85% or above shows that the text has been understood. These comprehension tests are also taken at school, like the initial online test to assess the ZPD levels (mainly to stop us, as parents, helping with the answers!)

The results of both of these test types are analysed and reports are generated for your child’s teacher to monitor.

Things to look for: If your child is consistently getting 100% in the end of book comprehension, they are finding the books easy and may need to look to a higher level book for a greater challenge. If they are consistently getting much lower than 85% – encourage them to try a lower level book in their ZPD range.

For us as parents, for our Superstars to get the most out of any reading scheme, it’s best to try and read little and often (of course, if you’ve got a bookworm who loves to read every spare minute, that’s great too!) Try and find a time that is suitable for YOUR child – it might be last thing at night, straight after school, after dinner, early in the morning – and get into a routine if possible!

For an added incentive, why not download these FREE reading record bookmarks? There are spaces for you to add stickers, stamps, the date, whatever you like to mark when your Superstars have read. You can find them HERE!

If you’ve got a question about reading levels, or anything else about school for your Key Stage Two child, feel free to drop in to my Instagram or Facebook page, or why not join our Supporting Superstar Students FREE Facebook Group? Of course, you can always add a comment below, or email me – thehomeworkfairygodmother@gmail.com – happy to help in any way I can!

Happy reading!

Posted in Uncategorized

When Growth Mindset = Utter Bollocks

Yes, I’ve gone all sweary. I’m not apologising.

Let’s get something out of the way. I’m a huge fan of having a growth mindset. It’s amazing. (I don’t actually have one, but I’m working on it.)

What it is: resilience. It’s picking yourself up, dusting yourself down, looking at what just happened and learning from it. It’s analysing what you’ve done to shape what you try next. It’s appreciating what you’ve achieved without comparing yourself to others. It’s building on that achievement, using that knowledge to go the next step.

What it isn’t: believing that you can do anything you set your mind to.

It doesn’t matter how hard I try, how focused and single-minded I am, I am never going to be an astronaut. I’m 50, I have menopausal brain-fog, I don’t have the qualifications and I get horribly travel sick unless I’m driving.

Yet I see our kids being told that if they only work harder, they can be THE BEST. They can be ANYTHING they WANT to be.

That ain’t necessarily so, to quote the song. And so we have lots of malleable minds that can react to this in a variety of ways:

  • Some become high achievers but fall apart the first time they don’t get top marks in a test.
  • Some don’t try at all because the focus is all about comparing their achievements to others.
  • Some blame themselves and develop rather nasty self-esteem issues if they don’t come top however hard they try.

What can we do to encourage our kids to try their best, without emphasising achievement?

  • Praise the effort. Think about saying “I’m proud of you for reading your book tonight/starting your homework/cleaning your plate/tidying your room.” Even when they’ve come top in a test – “I’m proud of you for working hard.”
  • Avoid talking about next time – so don’t say “Oh well, next time you’ll do better/read more/do your homework in one go/keep your room tidy.” Keep the focus on the effort that has happened THIS TIME.
  • Lead by example (this is the one I find difficult!) Instead of seeing (and saying) how much you haven’t done – “I’ve still got all this work/washing/decorating/gardening/cleaning to do, ” say “I’m really proud of myself – I’ve got this, this and this done today!”
  • Encourage their interests – whether it’s coding, like The Teen, drawing (The Tween), sports, music etc, they probably have far more of a growth mindset around things they love to do. Praise them for all the practice they do and their effort in JUST THE SAME WAY as you praise the effort for the things they might not be as keen on – homework, for example!
  • Aiming high is fantastic – but keeping lots of options open is even better. They might not end up being a Premier League footballer, but they might use their skills in teaching others their favourite sport.
  • Show them that failure isn’t the end – I burnt a batch of cookies this week and resisted getting cross – I just made sure I put the timer on for the next batch!

What do you think? I’d love to know! Pop a comment below, or you can always find me on Facebook and the ‘Gram!

Keep growing, lovelies!

Posted in holiday, Maths, reading, times tables, Uncategorized

Beating the Summer Slide!

Who doesn’t love a good slide? Even The Teen can be persuaded to let go of the grimace that often accompanies Forced Family Fun if there’s some messing around on slides to be found. But what the heck is the ‘summer slide’?

Unfortunately, the summer slide isn’t a whole heap of fun. It’s the term that refers to the loss of learned skills during the summer holidays. It’s been studied extensively in the USA, where children often have as much as twelve weeks of holidays during the summer months, where studies showed that ALL the children studied lost maths skills equating to 1.8 months of study and spelling skills were set back almost 4 months!

There has been much less research into this learning loss in the UK; however a study in 2016 tested children aged 5-10 in three schools in spelling and word-reading at the end of the summer term, the beginning of the autumn term and seven weeks into the autumn term. Whilst word-reading (individual words only) didn’t deteriorate, spelling did!

Maths skills weren’t tested in this study, but I do know that The Tween easily forgets some maths skills (if you don’t use it, you lose it!)

You don’t have to make the summer holidays school-like to combat the summer slide. I’m a firm believer that our kids NEED the down-time the holidays provide. Keeping our munchkins’ brains active doesn’t mean thrusting a pencil and paper at them and tying them to the kitchen table filling in worksheets!

Here’s a few ways to keep those brains ticking over during the summer holidays!

Reading

  • UK libraries run great reading challenges every summer, with posters, stickers, bookmarks and rewards to collect. And it’s free to join in and borrow the books! Pop into your local library or click HERE to find out more.
  • Reading isn’t just about books. Magazines, newspapers, graphic novels, maps, recipes, instruction manuals – that’s all reading. The Tween loves singing karaoke – she’s reading the lyrics!
  • Reading doesn’t even have to involve words on a page or screen – listening to audio books is fantastic as well (and something I recommend to my students with dyslexia – this often enables them to access texts that they find hard to read in book-form.) And if you have the time, reading TO your kids is just as fantastic for their learning when they are competent readers as when they are toddlers. Sharing books YOU love is a great way of inspiring a love of reading in them too.

Maths

  • Keep practicing or learning times tables! When I’m asked what’s the MOST important thing a child can work on in maths my answer is always times tables. And it doesn’t have to be incredibly tedious – check out my post HERE on different ways to learn times tables and click HERE to find free downloads of times tables fortune tellers, and HERE for the division facts fortune tellers!
  • Get cooking or baking – following a recipe is FABULOUS for maths skills. From working out whether you’ve got enough ingredients to measuring skills, it’s fabulous. And if you’re anything like The Teen, you can use your multiplying skills to make double the amount of Triple Chocolate Brownies!
  • Use comparison skills when shopping – for example, what’s the best teabag bargain? Supermarkets often put the cost per 100g on shelf labels, so your kids can compare different sizes or brands to find the best bargain.
  • Grab a tape measure and start measuring things – how tall are plants in the garden, how long is the dog’s tail, who can make the tallest pile out of bricks! Can they tell you the answer in centimetres? How about in millimetres? Or metres?

Here’s wishing you and your Superstar Students an AMAZING summer holidays!

Photo by Bruce Warrington on Unsplash

Posted in Transitions, Uncategorized

Six Things To Know About Transition Days in Key Stage 2!

What the chuff are transition days?

These are the days that your Superstar Student will spend with their new teacher and their new classmates in the coming half term to give them a taster of what their school life will be like as they move up a year.

Teacher, meet Superstar. Superstar, meet Teacher!

This is a chance for the new teacher to get to know your child! They will have seen the assessments and know what academic level your child has reached in maths and English. They’ve probably talked to your child’s previous teacher! But often they haven’t met your child before, or at the very least, not taught them. This is their chance to find out how confident they are, how they get on with other students, and begin to build a relationship with them.

It’s also a chance for your child to experience the expectations their new teacher has for them – all teachers have different personalities and teaching styles.

Superstars… meet each other!

If your child is moving from Year 2 to 3, or Year 3 to 6, there is a strong possibility that they are going to a bigger school and there will be children from their year from other schools. This is a chance for them to get to know each other before being thrown together in September. It’s a chance to make new friends, and – let’s be honest here – it’s a chance for them to find out the people that they don’t get on with as well.

If your child is going to a school away from their current friends, they are bound to be worried – schools are very aware of this, and often use transition days to put together a friendship group for them.

Get to know your way around!

New schools can be confusing places! During transition days, your child will learn where everything is – classrooms, libraries, where to eat lunch, and of course – where the toilets are!

Even moving within the same school to a different classroom can feel very unfamiliar. It’s a chance to settle in to a new classroom, which in Key Stage 2 will be their base for the next school year.

Learn the daily routine!

Moving to Year 3 from Year 2 will probably mean learning different daily routines. Learning where to line up, what to do during registration, when they can use the library, what time are breaks and lunchtimes – some or all of these may be different.

Many schools have staggered lunchtimes too – changing years may mean that your child goes to lunch earlier or later than the previous year. Changing lunchtimes from 12.00 to 12.30 was one of the most challenging things for me as an adult when I moved from working mainly with Year 3 and 4 to working with Years 5 and 6! I always made sure I had a snack at break time or my stomach would start to rumble – loudly – dead on 12.00!

Time to have some fun!

It might be art, it might be science – it might be introducing the first topic that they will cover in the coming first term. There will almost certainly some PE activities. There will definitely be some ‘getting to know you’ activities. All of these activities are designed to start building the relationships between your Superstar, their new teacher and their new classmates.

(And the most important reason…)

Fear of the unknown is a big thing for everyone, and our little people are no exception! Being able to meet teachers, classmates, spend time in new classrooms and new schools is a good way to ensure that they are as relaxed as possible about joining their new class or school in September – and then they can enjoy their summer holidays!

Remember – all schools should welcome additional contact with your child should he/she have ongoing worries about the new school year, so please don’t hesitate to ask to speak to the head teacher, your child’s new teacher, SENCo or welfare officers if you need to.

Here’s wishing you – and your Superstars – a fantastic last few weeks in their current class!

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Posted in Mental Health, Transitions, Uncategorized

5 Things Your Child Might Be Thinking About Their Next School Year…

… and how you can help!

It’s half term, summer is here, Year 6 SATs are over, surely our kids are breathing a sigh of relief and enjoying life, right?

There are many kids (mine are two of them!) who are looking towards the end of this school year with some trepidation. The end of the school year means change – change of class, change of teacher, change of classmates and for our Year 6 and Year 2 kids – change of school.

Here’s five things your kids might be worrying about – and how you can help!

I don’t know my new teacher…

Virtually all schools now run transitions days or weeks where children get to spend time with their new teacher in their new classroom. However, these days are often right at the end of the summer term – your child may be getting worried before then!

What you can do:

  • take a look at your school’s website or reception/office and look at the photographs of the staff. Chat to them about the different teachers they can see. How many do they know? What would they tell a new kid about the teacher they have had this year?
  • talk to your child’s teacher. They should be able to arrange for your child to meet teachers that they may have in the new school year.

The work will be too hard…

Schools are really good at sharing current work in displays around school, on their websites, and now even on social media! Our kids can look at this and think to themselves, “I’ll never be able to do THAT!”

This can lead to feelings of inadequacy and fear of failure.

What you can do:

  • Remind your child that this work is what has been produced AT THE END of the school year – those children have learned a lot since September and probably wouldn’t have been able to produce that work at the beginning
  • Reassure your child that their new teacher will KNOW your kid’s abilities, strengths and weaknesses BEFORE the new school year starts – their current teacher will pass on LOTS of information to the new one!

I won’t be with my friends…

This is a tricky one. While teachers DO make an effort to make sure that every child has friends in class, if your child is being placed into ability groups (as is usual moving to a large secondary school), your child may not be placed with their best friend if they are of differing abilities. And sometimes, certain friendships might not be conducive to effective learning… I remember being split up from my best friend in my third year at Junior School because we just wouldn’t stop talking and distracting each other!

What you can do:

  • Reassure your child that they will get to see their friend at breaks and lunch times. You might want to arrange for them to see each other after school or at weekends so they can spend more time together
  • Remind them that you know how hard it is to make new friends sometimes, but they will get to know other people in their class
  • Talk to their current teacher – they can take friendship groups into consideration when new classes are being organised

I won’t be able to find my way around…

This was a huge worry for The Teen when he was in Year 6 and getting ready to transition to High School. He has the directional ability of a drunk bluebottle, so I admit I was a tad concerned too!

What you can do:

  • make sure your child goes to transition days – the high school The Teen goes to now does a whole transition week, where the Year 6 kids spend five days in with their new form tutor. They learn their way around as a group, and by the end of the week feel much more confident.
  • most schools are happy for you and your child to visit the school after school hours so you can look round again – this is often REALLY useful if your child feels intimidated by the sheer size of some of the students! Most Year 10 and 11s tower over me, let alone The Tween!

I might get bullied…

This one is very, very common. Our lovely Year 6 kids going to high school or Year 2 kids going to Junior school are used to being THE BIGGEST KIDS in their school. They are the big fish in the little ponds, and going back to being the youngest again is daunting. ALL SCHOOLS should now have a policy on bullying, and should be proactive in making sure it doesn’t happen – but it still can.

What you can do:

  • Check out the new school’s policy on dealing with bullying – it should be on their website, and if not, contact the school office and ask for a copy.
  • Find out who you need to talk to if your child is bullied – I found The Teen’s Year 7 form tutor and the head of year both fantastic to talk to, and very effective at dealing with a particular issue The Teen had. Make sure your child knows who this person is!
  • Stay calm – sometimes our kids worry that we will go storming in, protecting our beloved babies roaring like a lion – and they feel we would make the situation worse. Even when you are spitting bullets, keeping calm is essential when both TALKING ABOUT and DEALING WITH bullying.
  • Reassure your child that IF bullying happens, you will work with them to deal with it.

Check out the blog post about SATs stress and anxiety to find other ways that may help your child if they are anxious about September HERE.

I’d love to know how your kids are feeling about the new school year in September! Hit me up on Facebook here or on Instagram here – or leave me a comment below!

Posted in SATs, Uncategorized, Year 6

Aargghh! SATs Stress!

SATs week is nearly upon us – Key Stage 2 SATs (that’s Year 6) will begin on Monday 13th May with the SPaG tests (Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar), with the reading test on Tuesday 14th May, Maths Papers 1 and 2 (Arithmetic and Reasoning 1) on Wednesday 15th May and the final Maths Reasoning paper on Thursday 16th May.  Key Stage 1 SATs (that’s Year 2) will also take place in May, but the exact week will be set by individual schools.  The phonics check test for Key Stage 1 will be on or after Monday 10th June.

This can be a highly emotionally charged time for our kids.  Even if you have a very calm child (The Teen wasn’t worried about the tests themselves as he liked working on his own in silence!) the anxiety other children may feel can also influence them (I once had to go in to school to calm down The Teen who was hyperventilating and shaking because so many of his friends and peers were upset and worried).

So how can we help them? Here’s a few ways!

Affirmations

Teaching our kids positive affirmations can help their self-esteem.  Keeping the affirmations short and snappy and getting them to repeat them after you say them, or write them down on a post it note or diary/journal may encourage resilience.  I’m sharing some affirmations every day over on Instagram this May!

Listen

We can listen without judgment, or without trying to solve the problem for them – being able to vocalise their worries can be incredibly valuable to a child.  It is really important to try to JUST listen – I know we all want to jump in with our views on what needs to be done to help because we just want to make it better but knowing that we will listen without interrupting can really help our kids to open up!

Praise

Give as much praise and encouragement as you can – about anything you can! 

“Thanks for emptying your lunchbox, that’s a big help!”

“I’m incredibly proud of you for …”

“I love being your mum/dad/family member…”

“I missed you while you were at school/while I was at work today…”

Sleep

Sleep is SOOOO important!  Having a lack of sleep not only contributes towards low mood and anxiety, it’s not going to help them concentrate during these last days of revision or during the exams!  Make sure that your child is getting enough sleep, and that they are getting some time away from the ever-present tablets and phones they are so often glued to.  Getting to bed a bit earlier but having time to read is a fantastic way to help them relax. 

Keeping it calm

Yes, they’ve left their dirty clothes in a pile on the floor again.  Give them a bit of slack – choose your battles wisely over the next couple of weeks and try not to react if they are more irritable than normal.

Roll with the differences

They might be more clingy than normal, or they might isolate themselves more than normal.  Check in with them regularly – a quick “Do you need anything?” will reassure them you’re there for them.

Have something to look forward to

You might want to do a countdown to a summer holiday, or get them involved in planning a day trip or meal out for after the exams.

Journaling

Some children may find that writing a diary or a journal can help with anxiety.  Being able to write down their worries or fears can be a way to vent their emotions safely. 

Outside interests and friends

If your child wants to keep up with their outside interests or their friends outside of school, this is a great way to take their minds off their current worries.

Eat healthily

Yes, I know that getting vitamins into some children is like trying to get a camel through the eye of a needle (how The Tween has managed to survive considering his idea of five a day is the number of chicken nuggets he wants to eat is beyond me) but eating well really helps with feeling good and using their brain!  Although they might not feel like eating before their exams, encourage them to eat breakfast! 

Try some relaxation techniques

Laughter, stretching, deep breathing, exercising, listening to music and meditating are all activities that increase the ‘feel-good’ chemicals in our brains.  You might like to try some of these together (The Teen has just read this over my shoulder and said, “Fat chance, mother!” but perhaps your child is less contrary than mine is!)I

Here’s hoping we all get through this SATs season as unscathed as possible!

Photo by Ben Mullins on Unsplash

Posted in Mental Health, Uncategorized

Mental Health in May!

May is Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States – and it’s seventy  years since it was first started in all the way back in 1949.  Here in the UK, we are coming up to Mental Health Awareness Week, which starts on Monday 13th May – ironically, this is also SATs week for our Key Stage Two kids, when they are likely to be more stressed than usual!

As parents, we feel confident in picking up our children when they fall – putting plasters on grazed knees, soothing away nightmares, giving Calpol for a fever, but dealing with their mental health can be frightening and make us feel helpless.

Throughout May I’ll be sharing hints, tips and resources to help YOU help your child if they are becoming anxious or worrying about school, friendships, bullying, loneliness, body image, exams, the new school year and new classes/schools. 

And remember – mild anxiety and worries are normal parts of life for all of us, adults and children alike.  But if you think your child is at risk of harming themselves, or are constantly struggling with anxiety, low mood or depression, please reach out for help: