Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity – Video on

Ken Robinson makes the point that we are stifling creativity in our children.

Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity Video on

Creativity is something I very much admire in people. Those who can write beautiful poetry, create stunning works of art or even those who can go into the kitchen without a cookbook and emerge with a meal which is delightful to the eye as well as the tongue.

I consider myself to be very practical and to have very little creativity but I wonder if there is a creative person waiting inside to come out when I really need it. Am I the product of a pragmatic education system which is only looking for more people to fuel the economy? We need to look at our education system and radically review what we are doing to the potential of the thousands of children who are being let down and failed by our current system.

What a responsibility we have for the next generation.

Personalised Learning

Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution! Video on

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams

I loved the speech given by Ken Robinson so much, pity we had to wait four years for the follow up. He makes the case for personalised education as opposed to the industrial model of one size fits all which we have at the moment. I believe we should recognise the individual talents of the children in our care, as educators or as parents. For example children ask questions, as a parent you know that you will be bombarded with questions all day some (or maybe many) of which you will not know the answer to. Bu setting ourselves up as founts of knowledge we will surely be found out. Teachers are in a much worse position and are expected to know the answers to everything related to their subject. We cannot possibly know the answer to everything but we have a duty to our children to find out. So teaching becomes learning and we must not feel uncomfortable about that. As educators all we can do is guide the people in our charge to a better understanding of the world around them.

I hear this video is now used on training courses for teachers.


I am often asked to support children with the “chunking” method of division. There are times when my personal preferences are subordinated to the needs of the learner especially with long multiplication. I personally favour the Lattice of Napier’s Bones method but will teach other methods when it meets the personal learning style of the learner.

When it comes to chunking however I really have to grit my teeth. There are times when we have to go along with the student as it is the only method taught in their school and we will always do our best to make sure each child is supported to ensure success at their school. Whilst I understand where chunking is coming from (we need to teach why as well as how) I think it is not only confusing but also open to inaccuracies  committed by the learner in the multiple calculations required.

Division itself is in my mind the most difficult of the four operators and we should not over complicate things for students who are finding it tricky anyway. Give students different methods, by all means but don’t dismiss traditional methods for the reason that they are out of date. Some mathematical methods are over a thousand years old, does it make them wrong?

3.8 million children do not own a book

Almost four million children in the UK do not own a book, according to a report by the National Literacy Trust.

Seven years ago 1 child in 10 did not have a book of their own, while today that figures stands at 1 child in 3.

A shocking statistic and one which brings sadness to those who love books and see reading as a way to educate our children and give them access not only to the accumulation of knowledge, but to a higher level of understanding of  the world around them.

It begs the question, what can we do?

Schools and parents are of course in the frontline here but what can we do as a community? Libraries are under threat; computers have taken over the leisure time that children used to have for outdoor play and reading. Parents have to be good role models and be seen to be reading.

As a private English and Maths tutor with Step Up Learning, I have run over a 600 reading assessments in the past 7 years and there is always a correlation between the amount a child reads and whether their reading age is ahead or behind their actual age.

I would like to see a daily “quiet time” with no TV or computers (and phones off!).

Are some parents presenting the wrong role model for their children?  What can we do to reverse this shocking statistic?

I would love to know what you think.


What is the biggest concern of parents who ask Step UpLearning for help with private tuition for their children?

An easy question to answer:  it’s confidence.

I want my child to have more confidence”

“He lacks confidence”

“She needs a little more confidence

Some children seem to have buckets of confidence-sometimes it can be interpreted as cockiness- but usually in certain areas. A boy might be super-confident on the football pitch but feels so inadequate in the classroom he resorts to the age old male fall-back of playing class clown. In that way he is appreciated even hero-worshipped by his peers but he is covering up a multitude of failings.

So where do we start?

There is no magic wand to wave, it is a long term effort which starts by establishing what the child is good at and then building on this with small steps of success.

Confidence grows from the little successes which build up to that point when a question is asked by the teacher in the classroom and she puts her hand up and gets the right answer.

This week one of our students proudly told me how she was able to answer a question none of her classmates could answer.

A magic moment!

Maths Club for Parents

I am often asked about how maths is taught in school these days and how things have changed since parents went to school. I am offering free classes to parents so they can feel more confident in supporting their children. The first session will be about multiplication and division so we will discover all about bus shelters, chunking, grids and Napier’s Bones!

Come along, I promise an informal learning session, no exams and lots of fun. I will even provide refreshments and cakes.
What’s stopping you?
Sign up today by emailing me at Bury or Newmarket

Online versus Face to Face Tutoring

The growth of online tutoring raises a lot of questions about quality of teaching and safeguarding. When deciding which is best for your child consider the following:

  • Do you know anything about the quality of the teaching and in particular whether the teachers are qualified to deliver the content for the needs of your child?
  • Are you able to monitor the interaction between your child and the teacher?
  • Do you feel your child is safe with the tutor online, has the tutor a recent CRB check?
  • Do you want your child to remain even longer in front of a computer screen in their bedroom instead of interacting with people face-to-face?

The benefits of face-to-face tutoring.

  • The teacher can read the way children react to explanations in their facial expressions.
  • Help is immediate.
  • Lessons can be targeted to the child’s needs even when a last minute request is made to help with a particular topic.
  • Teachers can motivate their learners more easily.
  • In an educational centre the atmosphere is one of learning which does not have the distractions of the bedroom or the kitchen table.

National numeracy

It’s been the elephant in the room, we don’t want to talk about it but it is now coming into the open. We as a nation are not very good at maths.

We are not ashamed to openly admit that we are “no good at maths” but are also comfortable to do nothing about it. I meet many people who have had a bad experience of maths at school and now find the mention of the words “algebra, long division or geometry” sends chills down the spine and brings back painful memories of classes where they understood nothing.

So what can we do? We need a two-pronged approach by working with children to ensure we are not producing even more adults with low maths skills and a fear of numbers and also working with adults to make sure we engage them and help them with the practicalities of maths in everyday life.

For further info visit National Numeracy

So where do we start? To stop the tide of more and more adults with low numeracy skills we must start by helping children to succeed at maths in school. We have a lot of children who come to our centres in Bury St Edmunds and Newmarket who have been left behind as the National Curriculum rolls inexorably onwards. They have been taught methods which may be current thinking but do not take into account the needs and learning styles of the child. (See my post on “Chunking“)
Maths has become too abstract and not practical enough. We must not forget that maths is not just a way of helping you to understand why your credit card costs you a fortune to repay but it is in itself a way to enhance logical thought and problem solving.

There are too many teachers at primary level who are not confident in their own ability to teach maths and there are many at secondary level who have such a high level of maths they cannot relate to their students.

We need an approach which takes into account that we all learn maths in our own way. There is a difference between the way girls and boys view maths (which could be either cultural or in their make up). Only then can we stop the production of low numeracy attainment.