The Best Start in Life – ITV1 Tonight Show Exposes Pressures On Children and Private Tuition in UK 2012

Tonight Show – ITV1 8th November 2012 – The Best Start in Life

I just watched the ITV1 Tonight’s programme about education, the booming tuition industry and whether too much pressure was put on young children to achieve academic success.

I have to say, as a mother of three children, a grandmother, an ex deputy school teacher and reponsible for Kip McGrath Education Centres in Scotland since 1999, I wasn’t exactly surprised at the content of the programme in general.  I introduced Kip McGrath Education Centres to Scotland in 1999 and we now have 26 centres throughout Scotland providing maths and English tuition to children from age 5 to 18 right up to Higher Secondary Level.  We also have over 200 centres throughout the UK in England, Ireland and Wales and I have been chatting to them this evening about the programme.

The programme was right in that the tuition industry is booming throughout the UK.  Scotland was not really focussed on in the programme but certainly here we are experiencing higher than ever demands for tuition from parents.  That includes children from Primary 1 to 6th Year Secondary.  .England, Ireland and Wales Kip McGrath Centres are also achieving unprecedented enquiries for assessments for children from year 1.

Kip McGrath Education Centres

I was slightly annoyed that a national tuition centre was featured in the programme who are not in the main qualified teachers.  Many of their centre owners are not qualified teachers and employ “instructors” to tutor children in English and maths with repetitive worksheets and computer exercises which some children who have turned to Kip have reported as being very repetitive.  Whilst this method can help some children, at Kip McGrath Education Centres, as qualified teachers, we teach children to re-learn areas of weakness or gaps in learning that may have occurred.

Kip McGrath Tuition Centres UK

I felt it important having watched this programme to emphasise the difference in Kip McGrath tuition as opposed to other national tuition centres and private tuition.  I felt personally that the Tonight Show, focussed on extreme cases and neglected the bigger picture.  A 2/3 year old has no need of tuition.  Some parents do wish to give their children a greater start in education and enrol their children at an early age.  Most children engage a tutor from year 2 onwards when certain difficulties are identified.  At Kip McGrath Education Centres, every one of our 200 centres in the UK is owned and run by a qualified teacher.  Every centre employs Maths and English tutors but they must be qualified and experienced teachers and be experienced in teaching.  THIS IS NOT THE CASE WITH OUR COMPETITORS!

Our Reaction to the ITV1 Best Start in Life Programme

Many of my fellow Kip McGrath Teachers throughout the UK have contacted me who have watched the show and this is some of the comments they would like to make:

Kip McGrath Lisburn Tuition Centre

One of the reasons that Kip McGrath  after school tuition franchise has become so successful with teachers (there are now over 200 centres open in the UK and Irleand) and what sets it apart from other companies offering similar services to parents is the fact that all Kip McGrath franchisees have to be qualified and experienced teachers. Martin Rimmer who runs the Lisburn centre along side his wife Clare explains. “The philosophy of the Kip McGrath founders, “any child can learn if they are taught properly” really resonated with us when we first starting looking into starting our own tuition business. All the centres are run and owned by local teachers and their teaching skills and years of experience prior to owning the business mean that the service parents can expect is tailored specifically to every child’s needs.  Excellent teaching is what the Kip McGrath method of tutoring is based upon and the Kip McGrath resources along side the support of having a franchisee network with a huge pool of experience mean  that the tuition provided is of the highest quality.

Kip McGrath Dumfries Tuition Centre

Only a few children were featured in the ITV1 programme – all being very intensively taught (I would say probably at the expense of their emotional and social welfare). Kip McGrath  tutors are trained to teach each child at their own level and certainly not to demand several hours of study at home each evening.

The program completely neglected the Scottish education system. There was also an absence of children who had slipped behind for any reason and needed the help for which Kip McGrath was originally designed.
“As any parent will tell you; their world is their child and their child means the world to them.  As such they deserve the best that they can give them.

If you haven’t already watched ‘Tonight’s ITV News’ then take a look.  They are featuring some of the extremes of tutoring.  I would say that some of the points raised are valid – we will have to be able to compete with China and the Far East in the not too distant future as this is where the huge economic growth is taking place. 

However, tutoring can be used very successfully, without the pressure, and used to develop skills and confidence for many aspects of a child’s life – not just their ability to pass a test.  I would argue that attending Kip makes them a more rounded and happy individual, learning skills that will allow them to overcome any obstacle put in their way, regardless of how big or small that obstacle is or becomes.

All too often kids who are quiet get left behind because teachers are too busy dealing with those students who don’t want to learn.  This is an all too frequent reality in most state schools up and down the country.”

Kip McGrath Bexleyheath Tuition centre

Tutoring can be used very successfully, without the pressure, and used to develop skills and confidence for many aspects of a child’s life- not just their ability to pass a test.

Contact Your Local UK Kip McGrath Centre to Arrange a Free Assement

With 26 Kip McGrath Centres and over 200 throughout the UK, if you are considering private tuition for your child, then contact us to arrange a FREE EDUCATIONAL ASSESSMENT and talk to a fully qualified teacher in confidence.  Visit our website at to find your local centre now.

SQA English Essay Example – Patience by Michael Ahari S4

2008  SQA English Credit Question 11

Michael Ahari is in S4 and attends Kip McGrath Balerno, Edinburgh South for extra tuition in English.  It is days until exam time and we are hoping for excellent results from Michael.  This essay question took only one hour to complete and has not been edited.  Based on his work so far we have a future writer in our midst!


Patience. For some it comes naturally. They can fiddle around for hours on end attempting to piece together an intricately designed car model. Or, they can soak up all of the juicy information thrown at them when reading through a massive book in order to find a specific minute piece of knowledge. However, for others, like me, it does not. The model car would be dropped halfway through in anger and the thick book brimming with facts would not manage to squeeze even a drop of information into my head, having discarded it within five minutes of picking it up. I was quick minded, keen and simply could not find the time to wait. What can you expect from an eleven year old boy? But, as I had come to realise, it was something I would need to get a firm grasp of. Patience is the most valuable lesson I have ever been taught.

I stared at my computer monitor. An error message: “The file has not printed” popped up in the bottom right corner of the screen. The red alert on the printer flashed on an off, on and off, as it briefly lit up the room before disappearing again. This was the third attempt to print my project. And unsurprisingly, the third occasion I had been told that it hadn’t printed. The printer was on, there was ink in the printer and there was paper in the tray. What more did it want? I grinded my teeth together, slammed my fist furiously on the desk, and sighed. A long, stressed sigh.

What was I going to do? Did the computer want me to fail here? I was growing more and more impatient – tapping my feet on the floor. I whispered “stupid”. And then I repeated it. Louder and louder each time until I was screeching at the top off my voice “stupid stupid stupid”. And now I was standing up, and I moved around the room – pacing up and down. My hands tugged heavily at clumps of hair to the point where my whole head itched and ached. Then I started flapping my arms around like a bird in distress, and groaning a deep aggressive bear like groan. I fell to the floor and slumped against the wall: defeat. The computer has won. I had given up. Forget the project. It was all just stupid anyway.

“Michael” my father called, a tone I was all to familiar with to know what was coming next, “What’s Wrong?” I immediately exclaimed that nothing was wrong, but I could see by the look on his face he knew this is not the case. I looked up at him to see him staring back. I switched back to look at the floor, but I sensed him still waiting for a reply. Maybe he could help. So I told him what was wrong. This was followed by a string of what, at the time, seemed like irrelevant questions that I had already answered before weren’t going to make the slightest difference. As I lay there on the carpet – my father sitting at the computer desk – I answered “Yes”, “No”, “Yes”, “Yes, I’ve already told you” so dismissively I wasn’t even listening to what he was saying. I just wanted the problem fixed. Instantly. As I now know, things cannot always be done straight away…

Fifteen minutes have passed. I am now starting to go over the various possibilities for why my project will not print. It’s tedious I thought at the time – I had already been over them and decided that they were not the reason. The computer fan made a light whizzing sound and the chair my dad was sitting in creaked as the metal moved together. Again, I thought about why. Why? Why? Going over and over and over. Then smack. It was like a slap in the face: my wake up call. I had realised the reason – finally! I sprung into an upright position and proclaimed cheerfully “Yes, I’ve got it”.

Patience. I now understand that although you may not be born with it, you most certainly develop it through experience – even experiences like the one I had when my project would not print. My anger and frustration got the better of me and my whole thought process became irrational. Although my dad told little to me about patience itself, his actions most certainly allowed me to realise that with any issue there is a resolution, you just need to take the time to find out what that may be. When I was calm I sat down, and thought through thoroughly and eventually the problem was able to be solved. It’s the reason I can tackle problems such as intricately designed car models or read through gigantic manuals to obtain information, among the many other that I have to face in daily life.


Scottish Students Failing in Basic Maths According to Scottish Government Survey

Scottish Government Numeracy Report March 2012

According to a survey conducted of S2 students released by the Scottish Government this week, one in three Scottish pupils are under performing in basis maths tasks such as time and money.  Four out of ten could not add numbers in their head and was even worse with subtraction and multiplication.

The survey also revealed that those students living in more affluent areas were twice as likely to do well in numeracy compared to those in poorer areas.  Read full survey results on Scottish Government’s website.

At Primary 4 level the results are much better with only 2% of children not performing at a satisfactory level.  Questions are being asked why there seems to be such a decline in results by S2.

Scottish Government Response

Mike Russell, Education Secretary has responded to harsh criticism by Tory Education Secretary Liz Smith and and Lib Dem Education Spokesman Liam McArthur.  He admitted that “more could be done to improve literacy and numeracy and raise attainment”.  He also defended Curriculum for Excellence stating that “given that we have deliberately raised the bar with CFE – with high standards expected at each level, the strong performance of primary pupils in maths and numeracy is hugely encouraging”.  He also stated that “this high performance must also be sustained and improved through to secondary. The performance results taken from S2 pupils, who were the last cohort of pupils not to benefit from Curriculum for Excellence, shows that more is needed and the link between deprivation and attainment remains too strong.  We knew that more could be done to improve literacy and numeracy .. this is why we introduced the Curriculum”.

Opinion of Kip McGrath Scotland

Having been a teacher for over 40 years, (the past 12 at Kip McGrath Education Centres), it has been apparent for quite some time that numeracy skills have dropped in the children I and my colleagues assess.  Please note that all Tutors at Kip McGrath are fully qualified teachers.

We have still to see how Curriculum for Excellence will make a difference  and with all new curricula, we have to be patient and hope that numeracy levels within our schools improve.

One major concern parents have is that their children are no longer being assessed annually in school and they no longer receive certificates advising which level their child is working at.  Children will be assessed at end of P4 and P7 but sometimes, this is just too late to identify potential problems before High School.

At Kip McGrath, we offer a Free educational assessment of every child by a qualified teacher.  This takes up to one hour.  We will discuss our findings and advise parents any areas of weakness.  Should you and your child feel comfortable and wish to attend, an individual programme of study will be created and the child will attend an 80 minute lesson every week and be regularly re-assessed. Read more about the Kip McGrath Expert Programme.

To find your local Kip McGrath Centre, click on a link on the Right Hand Side or alternatively use our Postcode Finder.

Margaret Carmichael

Michael Jackson Teaches Hilarious Maths Trick – How not to Learn Maths

How Does 28 Divided by 7 = 13?

I wanted to write a blog about maths tricks that we can all use and, during my research, came upon this hilarious video of a very young Michael Jackson teaching a bewildered Flip Wilson how 28 divided by 7 equals 13 and not 4.  Watch it!!

How does 25 Divided by 5 = 14?

I also found this video demonstrating how 25 divided by 5 = 14! Very funny and very convincing.

How Maths Should be Taught

These videos are very funny and very convincing but it makes me more aware that learning the basic foundations in maths is so important.

A colleague of mine, Suzanne Lanzon who is a teacher and runs a Kip McGrath Centre in Cambridge has created a video which explains how maths learning is like building a brick wall and if you don’t build the foundations in maths, then gaps can appear in learning maths which can lead to the wall crumbling and you never get there.

However, if you could go back and fill in those gaps and learn from and build upon those gaps and create a solid wall that you can be proud of and build upon, wouldn’t that be fantastic?

Maths Tuition at Kip McGrath Education Centres

Sometimes when children learn maths, they can miss some of the foundations and building blocks of maths so when they move on to the next level, they struggle to understand and keep up.  Our qualified teachers at Kip McGrath can assess your child in Maths and identify areas of weakness.  If there is a lack of understanding in a particular area, our teachers will be able to quickly identify this and ensure a programme of study is followed to enable the child to catch up and therefore understand what is being taught in class.

If you have concerns, please find your local KipMcGrath Education Centre and arrange a FREE educational assessment now.

Romeo and Juliet – A student’s review of the modernised Baz Luhrmann Film

This is a very good piece of creative written work by Tom Sichel (S4) who attends our Kip McGrath Education Centre in Balerno, Edinburgh South.  Tom has worked exceptionally hard this year and is creating excellent work in English. Pip Watt who runs the Centre has very high hopes for Tom’s exam results.

Romeo and Juliet

Baz Luhrmann is the director of the modernised film Romeo and Juliet- written by Shakespeare in the 1700s. Luhrmen uses cinematic techniques to help make Shakespearian dialogue understandable to a modern audience. He uses techniques such as camera work, appearance and props to convey the idea of a higher power creating an unchangeable destiny for Romeo and Juliet. The director also uses slow motion shots, low angle shots and close ups to help put across the meaning of Shakespeare dialogue. He also employs symbolism to convey the idea of Romeo and Juliet’s chaotic lives. By the end of this essay I will have shown how well Baz Luhrmann made this Shakespearian play understandable for a modern audience through his use of cinematic techniques.

From beginning to end Baz Luhrmann uses modern film techniques to create Shakespeare’s 17th century play into something visually captivating for a modern audience. Baz Luhrman wanted to exploit the crucial beginning of the film by using a montage to help them understand the prologue. One example of montage in use is whilst the narrator speaks of “the break to new mutiny” he uses violent images to convey its meaning.

The director uses images from newspaper headlines (Montagues vs Capulets) to suggest a tension between the two households. The use of special effects and a visually captivating montage help to bring a better understanding of what the prologue means.

The idea of Romeo falling in love with a young girl at first site and to be willing to die for his love would be difficult for a modern audience to relate to. Baz Luhrmann had to make sure of two things, to make sure that his audience could easily accept that Romeo is a desperate hope for love and Juliet being so naïve and innocent she could fall in love with Romeo so easily. The director illustrates these believable characteristics when we first see Romeo or Juliet in the film. When Romeo first emerges he is seen depressed. He smokes a cigarette whilst writing poetry wandering aimlessly on a grey clouded day. The cameras zoom on face of Romeo’s melancholic expressions. Baz Luhrmann uses these shots to bring impressions of a man who is lost and upset. Not long after this point in the film Juliet is introduced as being a young girl with an innocent personality. Her father’s face is zoomed into when he speaks of Juliet being still a stranger to the world- which implies that she is naive and could be easily seduced. This is done to emphasis the dialogue. In other scenes close-ups are done on her makeupless face an aspect that makes her more innocent. By using modern media techniques Baz Luhrmann could allow for his audience to believe that love at first site between these two people was possible.

At the point of meeting, Romeo and Juliet are separated by a large blue fish tank; it is calm and peaceful. Deep blue water, soft pastel colours of pink and blue all give the effect of romance. Both Romeo and Juliet’s faces are zoomed into to help the audience acquire an understanding of the deep love both characters have fallen into. Capulet and Montagues had been historically in anger and fear of each other- meaning Romeo and Juliet’s love almost impossible to last without being torn apart by their families. A crucial point that sparks this anger is finding out of the secret marriage. This is soon found out by Tybalt (Juliet’s brother) who in his rage looks for Romeo but is only met by a fight with Mercutio (a close friend of Romeo’s). 

He brings the audience’s attention through uses of cinematic techniques. He uses fast moving cameras, low angle shots, special effects, close-ups, slow motion camera shots, music and pathetic fallacy to make his audience feel a sense of suspense and thrill from the action scenes. Tybalt disliked Romeo and takes his rage out through violence. At the crucial point of engagement he is confronted by Mercutio. The director chooses to have the camera move quickly between the two foes to create almost a blurred vision effect. This gives the audience confusion amongst the scuffle to mimic the experience the characters feel. The camera closes up to show. Tybalt responds by stabbing Mercutio with a shard of glass. This critical moment is slowed down to dramatize the seriousness of Tybalt’s actions. Low angle shots are quickly met by Mercutio falling to the floor and shouting:” a plague on both your houses”

Baz Luhrmann uses low angle shots to underline the significance of Mercutio’s words.

At this point a thunder storm comes about, and the camera angles changed to high above the heads of the men below. The use of pathetic fallacy and the suggestion that these actions are being judged by a higher power, both combine to help the audience understand the Shakespearian language. By using the weather to mimic the characters emotions the significance of his words are amplified. Romeo is met with feeling of vengeance and anger which lead to Tybalt’s death soon to come.

Bazz Luhrmann opens this scene with a setting in dark streets with fast music to set the pace of the fight between Romeo and Tybalt. Focus is put on the faces of both Tybalt and Romeo to give more understanding of the rage being felt by both characters. Noises of car engines, loud bangs, shouting and thunder make the scene thrilling and exiting. Just before Tybalt is shot, the cameras zoom onto the gun to highlight its importance in the fight. A crescendo in the music is employed to build up to the climatic death of Tybalt. The gun fire is very loud and startling to underline the crucial moment when Tybalt dies. a close up on Romeo’s face of realization which adds even more unhappiness to the scene is used to emphasize his depressing thoughts. The camera slowing down and zooming on Romeo’s falling gun is the final cinematic technique used to imply the wrongness of Romeo’s actions. Every technique used by Baz Luhrmann used in both these fight scenes were all specific to helping his audience understand Shakespear’s sometimes confusing word. This made the director successful at keeping the audience’s attention and understanding.

The final crucial point that Baz uses many techniques to help understanding is the final scene. Baz Luhrmann intended to make destiny a believable reason for Romeo and Juliet’s death. He sets the scene at a church filled with lit candles and large crosses. To symbolise a higher power is in play. High angle shots are used to amplify this idea. As if to say that this was an evitable ending between Romeo and Juliet he uses those. The fact that the director brought religious aspects to his use of props and high angle shots creates a believable ending that could not be avoided for it was their destiny. Death seemed believable and inevitable at this point.

In conclusion Baz Luhrmann had clearly made his film approachable and understood by a modern audience. He clearly used a vast amount of cinematic techniques at points where the meaning of character dialogue was crucial to be understandable by his viewers. His ability to create two believable characters that could fall in love so easily was outstanding. Even though it would usually seem absurd to a modern audience Baz Luhrmann still manage to create the believability, by using techniques such as a use of props (Romeo smoking and writing poetry about love) or even a use of close up angle shots to emphasize the importance of dialogue speaking of Juliet being still a stranger to this world. In my opinion Baz Luhrmann did a perfect job of emphasizing important points, creating symbolic meanings, creating believable characters and enrolling a religious aspect to the film without losing audience acceptability.

Tom Sichel

What Age Should Children be Allowed to Walk To and From School?

Today’s guest blogger is Kirsty McHugh, PA to Margaret Carmichael.

I am mum to a nine year old daughter in P5 in East Renfrewshire and she is an only child. We live in a good area and about a mile away from her school  with two roads to cross (one on a quiet street) and one on a main road with a zebra crossing (although no lights or lollypop person).

My daughter has noticed that her friends are walking to and from school (although in groups) and she is at an age where she also wants more independence and to do the same.  She has no friends who live nearby so wants to walk home herself and is forever berating me that I am treating her like a 5 year old!

I am all for encouraging my daughter to become more independent but I just can’t seem to let her do this.  I tried this week to drive her across the road so that she had no roads to cross but then she had a 10 minute walk home and I couldn’t help myself but park up ahead and watch her in the mirror.  She says this is cheating and that I should just go home and let her make her own way home.

I know some in her class (especially the boys) walk home alone but I just can’t let her do this.  I don’t know whether this is because as a mum I am not ready to let go or whether I feel she is not quite ready.

As a child, I remember walking a mile to and from school myself everyday from Primary 3 but I had no roads to cross.  Apart from being beaten up in P5 by a girl who went to a different denominational school, I can’t remember any bad incidents.  When I was 13, a man tried to get me into his car on the way home from school and I ran all the way home.  At the same age, my younger brother’s best friend (7) was knocked down and killed getting of the school bus to enter our Estate.  Am I being too over protective?

My daughter was only one when the Soham Murderer kidnapped and killed Jessica and Holly but I was deeply affected by this and even although I know the odds of this happening are rare, all I want to do is protect my daughter and ensure that she is safe.  I have school friend mums who share my concerns but others who feel that our kids will be suffocated if we don’t give them some independence.

I have decided to stick to my guns for the time being and we will walk home together.  I will even let her walk ahead of me if she wishes but until Primary 7, I will not let her walk home along.

Am I wrong?  I can bear being the bad mummy who treats her like a 5 year old but should she be allowed more freedom at age 9?  I know I could have done it at age 9 but she seems so immature compared to me at that age.

I would welcome feedback from other parents.  What should I do?

Scottish National Exam Delays – Will Cash Injection Announcement stop Educational Crisis?

Dramatic U-turn from Mike Russell, Scottish Education Secretary

Today, Mike Russell, The Scottish Education Secretary announced that the Scottish Government would inject £3.5 million and create two extra in service days to help Scottish Secondary Schools prepare for the new National 4 & 5 exams due to be introduced in 2013-2014.  He also announced that the SQA and Education Scotland will be working together to prepare course material for all subjects which can be adapted to suit individual schools.

Education Scotland will also be undertaking an audit of Secondary Schools to establish whether they are in fact ready to introduce the National Exams on schedule.

Since East Renfrewshire Council announced they intended to delay the introduction of the National Exams by a year, there has been a huge response from Secondary teachers and The Herald Scotland reported that in a survey three quarters of teachers felt unprepared and unready.

This announcement today by the Scottish Government has been welcomed in many quarters and most are pleased that their concerns are being heard.  Mike Russell is keen for the National Exams to be launched on schedule and does not support blanket delays but admits schools will have the option to delay if they are not ready.

However, opposition to the SNP have been quick to Comment.

Labour education spokesman Hugh Henry said: “This announcement from the SNP Government is a belated but welcome recognition that there are real problems with the readiness for Curriculum for Excellence in some schools and opens the door to delaying the new curriculum.  Mr Russell has been forced into finding £3.5m to fix a mess that has been of his own making”.

Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith said: “Two additional days of in-service training may well provide some extra classroom support for some teachers, but it comes very late in the day and it does not get to the root of the problem.”

What Does this Actually Mean?

  • £3.5million equates to approximately £10,000 per school.  Is this enough to make an impact?
  • One of the biggest issues was that teachers were having to find the time to prepare new materials for the curriculum from scratch and obviously duplication in material would be an issue.  Having nationally prepared course materials will significantly ease the burden on teachers.
  • Two more  in service days for teacher training – Great for the teachers but a headache for parents (2 more holidays?)
  • The Option to delay if an audit reveals that a school is not ready – Whilst Mike Russell insists that most schools are on track and he does not sanction a blanket delay, I wonder how many schools will actually opt to delay?  This could become very confusing for employers and Colleges. 
  • Personally, in light of the concerns that my own tutors (who teach in mainstream schools) have, I would have thought a blanket delay of a year would be the most practical solution.

My Opinion

Many of our students at Kip McGrath are S1 and S2 students and I am finding more and more parents are asking my advice and very concerned that their children will be the guinea pigs for these new exams.  Now that the concerns of teachers are out in the open and actually the Scottish Government are listening and taking action, I am more hopeful.  We have a wonderful history of great education in Scotland and I hope we maintain that with Curriculum For Excellence.

Hopefully the Scottish Government will continue to listen to Teachers and take action where appropriate to ensure our children receive the best possible education and ensure they do not suffer as a result of these changes being rushed through too quickly.  Only time will tell.

How to Study for and Pass Secondary School Exams – Top Five tips for Students and Parents

Exams in 5 Weeks – is it too late?

The countdown has begun to the 2012 Scottish Secondary Exams which commence on Wednesday 25th April.  This is a time when students and parents alike start to worry and panic can set in if the child does not feel they are fully prepared.  If this is the case, then now is the time to take action.  The student probably knows more about the curriculum than they think but perhaps the actual exam process itself is causing worry.  Students may be re-reading subject notes but their study technique is not effective.  Do they feel they have too many subjects and not enough time to prepare?  Are they stressed, anxious or distracted?

Although teenagers often do not want interference from their parents, if there are concerns perhaps it is time to sit down and ask if you can help but only in a way that does not cause additional pressure.  Offer practical advice and support.  Perhaps you can offer to mark past papers under exam situations?  If you have a busy, loud household try to ensure that study time is quiet and without distraction.  Encourage your child and praise their efforts – a teenager will not learn any more if they are under pressure from parents and sulking.  Encourage them to do the best they possibly can and as long as they put in the effort, you will be proud of them.

5 Weeks to Go to Exams- The countdown has begun!

Time is tight and students should have already been preparing but here are our top tips to help students get on track and be as prepared as they can be:

1.    Find out the dates for each exam and note them in either a computerised or written diary

2.    Create a timetable for studying.  Work around extra curricular activities and choose a maximum of two hourly slots to dedicate to studying a particular subject when distractions are at a minimum

  • Do not study for more than 2-3 hours at a time and ensure you take regular snack breaks
  • Follow the timetable religiously and make sure your family also knows your timetable and you are not to be disturbed
  • Turn off mobile phones and other distractions like loud music

3.    Be organised – prepare proper notes.  In class, students will probably by now be revisiting the Curriculum. It is important to take proper notes in class:

  • Highlight any points when the teacher says “this is important”!
  • Highlight any areas you feel you have a weakness or don’t fully understand – When home make sure you read about this and fill in the blanks
  • If your notes are messy and incomplete, when you get home, rewrite them as bullet points in your own words (don’t just copy) and do some further research online or from books to gain as much information as possible.

4.     Past Papers

  • Obtain past exam papers for the last 5 years and sit one now but ensure you are uninterrupted and that timescale is adhered to.  Do not refer to notes and cheat.  Have someone mark your score realistically using the score guidelines
  • If there are questions that you do not perform well in, make sure you concentrate on these areas for next study practice and learn it.
  • Try another test paper and repeat the same
  • Practice makes perfect – Study the results and try to notice a pattern of what examiners are looking for.
  • Getting used to what examiners are looking for in each subject will help you

5.   The Week of Exams

  • Exams may take place over the course of a few weeks – Once you have sat an exam do not dwell upon it and move on to the next.  If you think you have failed or done badly, there is nothing you can now do but prepare for the next.  Most students think they have done badly but can sometimes be very pleasantly surprised
  • Ensure you eat well and get plenty of sleep – there’s no point in worrying now – you can only do your best
  • Do not listen to stories from fellow students.  It does not matter how they perform – only how you do.  They do not know how prepared you are and deep down they will be as uptight as you, even if they choose not to show it.

After the Exams

After the exams, take some time out for yourself and enjoy the summer.  Results will come and for now there is nothing you can do so relax.  When the big day comes, if you have received the results you wanted then a huge congratulations is deserved.  If your results are disappointing then it is not the end of the world.  You have time and options to get there.  Next year you should be more prepared.  My colleague has written a very good blog on this subject on how to deal with disappointing exam results. and we will follow up on this soon with our own tips.

Scottish Sayings – English Translation for the Sasenachs

Anyone who knows me knows that I have been a teacher for over 40 years.  English grammar and literature are high on my agenda. Some could say that I tend to sound a little posh.

Some say we are headed for Scottish Independence in 2014.  My opinions on that matter are my own.  However, regardless of the fact whether we may be part of the UK or an independent Scotland, I have always considered myself as Scottish first and British second.  I have always loved the lilt and phrases of the real Scots language.  Even although I may speak and teach proper English, when I hear the Scots word abroad, I always delight in hearing it and even become more Scots in talking to strangers just for the fun of it.

For a bit of fun, I wanted to post some Scottish sayings (traditional and modern) and their meanings for those who are not Scottish.  Firstly, please watch the Scottish expert on local sayings, Mr Stanley Baxter who is the expert.

Haud yer wheesht! Be quiet
Ah’m up to high doh! I’m worried
Y’er on tae plums No chance that is happening
Yer heid’s full o’ wee men You’re a bit scatter brained
Yer aff yer heid Are you crazy?
Awa an bile yer heid Don’t be daft
I’ll gie ye a skellpit lug! I’ll give you a slap on the ear
In the name o the wee man! For goodness Sake!
Yer bum’s oot the windae No chance
What’s fur you ‘ll no go by ye What’s meant to happen will
Skinny malinky long legs Tall skinny person
Skinny malinky long legs big banana feet Tall skinny person after Billy Connolly
Ah dinnae ken I don’t know
Gonnae nae dae that Please don’t do that
That’s pure dead brilliant by the way That’s good
Ah’m scunnered I’m fed up
Ah’m blootered I’m a bit drunk
See him – he’s burlin by the way He’s drunk
Get it up yae!  Ha ha!!

Yer talkin mince

 Your talking rubbish
I was sae hungert I coulda ate a scabby heided horse  I was very hungry
 Ah’m goin fir a swally  I fancy a wee drink
 Ah’m gonnae gie it laldy the nicht  I’m going to have a good night tonight
 Yer a bawbag!!  Made famous by “Hurricane Bawbag”
 Yer a numpty  You’re a no hope waste of space
 Ah don’t have a scooby  I don’t have a clue
 I’m Scotch! No no no!!! !Scotch is a drink (whisky).  If someone is from Scotland you call them Scottish or Scots – never Scotch.

Ones that We missed!!

Yer affy peely wally -You’re a bit pale

Kip McGrath English and Maths Tutors – Why Choose Kip McGrath Education Centres?

Is a Tutor Qualified & Regulated to teach children?

This may seem such a simple and logical question but you may be very surprised to know that the tuition business is unregulated and that anyone can advertise their services as a tutor.  Many tutors offering their services call themselves “instructors” and this applies to both private tutors as well as multi-national tutoring centres.  The majority of these “instructors” are not qualified teachers.  Many do not have the qualifications or skills to prepare lesson plans and actually teach your children.  If they are not a qualified teacher, how can they possibly assess your child properly and work with the teaching curriculum? Many international tutoring centres offer repetitive worksheets which parents mark.  This may be fine for some students who need help with their times tables but for most children who are falling behind, this just isn’t enough.

Is a tutor qualified?

In addition to being unqualified, private tutors can also set up a tutoring business without undergoing an enhanced disclosure check or declaring their income for tax purposes. You would not entrust your child with an unregulated childminder or without taking references out  so why should tutoring be any different?

How can you make the right choice when choosing a tutor for your child?

Here is a check list to help you make the right decision as originally posted by my Kip McGrath colleague in Lisburn.

  • Is the person a member of the General Teaching Council of Scotland?  Ask to see their certificate of registration as this is also proof that they have been properly police checked.
  • Can they conduct an assessment to allow them to gauge exactly where your child’s strengths and weaknesses lie?  This is essential to ensure that the tuition is targeted at the correct level to enable the tutor to bring your child up to a level that is appropriate in their class or for a test.  All children are different and come to tuition with different levels of ability and therefore the starting point is never the same.
  • What feedback will the tutor provide me?  One of the benefits of having your child tutored should be that unlike school you receive detailed feedback after each lesson.  This allows you to discuss their progress and any areas that your child is struggling in.
  • What resources will the tutor be providing?  Make sure the resources that are being used are up to date and appropriate for the curriculum that your child is following.  Will the tutor be able to cater for the specific learning needs of your child – a wide range of resources should be available including professionally designed worksheets, modern textbooks, computer software and multi sensory learning aids.  If you are having your child tutored for a test ask about the types of past papers being used and the other materials used to reinforce this.
  • Where will the tuition take place?  Will the tuition take place in your house/their house – in which case you will have to make sure that the area chosen is quiet and without distractions.  Or will the tuition be provided in a professionally equipped tuition centre?
  • Is the tutor paying their taxes?  Ask no questions and I’ll tell you no lies is not always the best policy!  It is easy to turn a blind eye and say this doesn’t matter, however please bear in mind that tax is paid by you and I so that money is available to spend on public services used by everyone and that this year the government is having a crack down on tutors that do not pay their taxes.

At our Kip McGrath Education Centres in Scotland we provide parents with peace of mind.  Our tutors are:

  • Fully qualified and registered with the General Teaching Council of Scotland.
  • We provide a FREE assessment that enables us to identify any strengths and weaknesses and develop a programme of study designed to target these areas and bring your child up to a level that allows them to be comfortable in their class or to achieve their academic goals.  Assessment is ongoing and embedded in every single lesson.
  • We provide detailed feedback after each lesson.
  • Our centre is professionally equipped with a wide range of resources including professionally designed worksheets, modern textbooks, computer software, multi sensory learning aids, a wide range of past papers and appropriate stationary.
  • Tuition is provided in a professionally equipped centre where every care has been taken to create an atmosphere conducive to learning.
  • We are professional tutors and that means that as well as being fully qualified, highly experienced and well equipped, we also pay our taxes.

Finding a Kip McGrath Centre in Scotland

To find a local Scottish Kip Centre, either click here, choose from the list of centres on the right or use our postcode finder.  To read more about the programmes in English and Maths we offer, please click here.

Scottish Children’s Book Awards – Children Choose the Best Scottish Books

The winners of the Scottish Children’s Book awards 2011 were announced yesterday in Edinburgh in a hall packed full of Scottish Children.   I watched the highlights on STV News (click to watch video) and how I wished I could have been there to see so many children take delight in their love of reading!

What is even more wonderful is that all of the books nominated were read and voted for by 23,000 children in Scotland,which is up by 42% on last year. Let’s hope that number will increase again for next year’s vote and inspire many children to develop a true love of reading!

The winners were:

Bookbug Readers (Category 0-7)

Dear Vampa by Ross Collins is a beautifully illustrated book about a family of vampires.  The little boy vampire writes to his Grandpa and is amazed at the strange new family who have moved next door.  They are very different! They even stay out all day in the sunshine.  Perhaps he shouldn’t have passed judgement too quickly because they may not actually be as different as he thinks.  Definitely a book for the older kids in this category.

Young Readers (Category 8-11)

Zac and the Dream Pirates by Ross Mackenzie -Everybody dreams. That’s the problem. Good dreams are sweet. Bad dreams are scary. But what happens when the worst sort of nightmares take over? Zac Wonder is about to find out. On the stroke of midnight, he follows his mysterious grandmother into the worst blizzard for fifty years, and winds up discovering an extraordinary world on the other side of sleep. Is he still dreaming? Has he gone nuts? Or is he really meant to save us all from the devious dream pirates who threaten to hijack our dreams…and turn our lives into a waking nightmare?

Older Reader Catgeory (12 – 16)

Jack worships luck and decides his actions by the flip of a coin. No risk is too great if the coin demands it. Luck brings him Jess, a beautiful singer who will change his life. But Jack’s luck is running out, and soon the stakes are high. As chance and choice unravel, the risks of Jack’s game become terrifyingly clear. An evening of heady recklessness, and suddenly a life hangs in the balance, decided by the toss of a coin. In the end, it is the reader who must choose whether to spin that coin and determine: life or death.

Congratulations to the winners.  To read the nominees and further details, please click on the main Scottish Book Trust Website.

My Opinion

As a teacher, parent and grandparent, I have always tried to encourage book reading from an early age.  It is so important for our children’s education and to develop good literacy skills.  I feel so disheartened when a child comes to Kip McGrath who is struggling at school with English, particularly in basic reading and writing and I discover that they do not read any books at home. There was an article recently which I blogged about that according to the National Literacy Trust  4 million children in the UK don’t own a book and I posted a few book ideas for reluctant readers.

Having said that, I am so encouraged by yesterday’s Scottish Book Awards announcement and love the fact that so many Scottish children read and were discussing characters in the books with each other.  What a great incentive and I hope this is rolled out to many more children in our schools this year.  Wouldn’t it be fabulous if instead of swapping Moshi Monster cards at play break, children could be swapping books!!

Tips for Parents of Reluctant Readers

No matter how clever a child is, parents and teachers must encourage children to read for the fun and love of it.  If your child is reluctant to pick up a book what can parents do?

  • Try focusing on what interests they have and not what you think they should be reading
  • Do they watch particular television shows or films?  Many shows also have a series of books or annuals.
  • Let children read what interests them.
  • Arrange a visit to the local library and let them pick a book that interests them on any subject at all.  Let them make the choice (as long as it is age appropriate)
  • Ask your child to write a very short book report or even to choose a time when your child can tell you about the story giving your undivided attention.
  • Ask questions and be positive! Give lots of praise and attention.
  • Why don’t you choose a child appropriate book to read also and do the same?  Make it a regular fun event.
  • Let your children see that you also love to read
  • Buy book tokens for gifts

Is your child struggling with reading?

If you think that your child is not just a reluctant reader but is falling behind at school and perhaps struggling with reading and English, then perhaps there is an underlying issue that needs to be addressed.  At Kip McGrath Education Centres, our qualified teachers will assess your child’s abilities in a free educational consultation and will advise you of any weaknesses.  This may just give you peace of mind but if there is a problem, we will create an individual learning programme that your child will follow in conjunction with the school curriculum to help them catch up.

To find a local Kip McGrath Tutoring Centre in Scotland, use our postcode finder tool to find your local centre.

Should Scottish Government Scrap Plans for Pay Cut for Supply Teachers?

I read an article today by Andrew Denholm of the Herald Scotland entitled “New demand to scrap pay cut for teachers” which read:

Teaching unions and political opponents made the plea yesterday after a survey by Scottish Labour found 84% of local authorities did not fill all requests for short-term cover in 2011/12.

In addition, some 52% of councils also experienced problems filling long-term supply requests over the past year.

The highest rate of non-fulfillment for long-term supply was in Edinburgh, while for short-term supply the greatest problems were in West Lothian.

Of the local authorities in Scotland holding accurate records, half revealed a reduction in the number of teachers held on their supply lists.

The biggest drop in the number of supply teachers available was in Aberdeenshire, which lost 275 teachers from the supply list in one year alone. Read More.

As an employer of Scottish teachers who tutor in our Kip McGrath Education Centres, there are a number of tutors who teach for us at Kip but are also supply teachers in the Scottish Education system.  I have listened to their plight and cannot believe how badly these bright new teachers are being treated.

We normally only employ highly experienced teachers at Kip McGrath but I sometimes employ an inexperienced teacher who I believe is a star and will motivate and teach our students.  I find it so hard to believe that these bright and eager teachers full of so many wonderful ideas cannot get a full time permanent job in Scotland.

When I started teaching the world was a different place.  We could pick and choose the schools we wanted to work for.  Now everything is different and as a teacher who has had a very fulfilled life as a teacher, I genuinely feel sorry for the bright new teachers in Scotland who are struggling to find a secure, decently paid position in our Scottish Schools.

I also have had contact with this Group of Supply Teachers who are trying to raise awareness and give support.

They are also on Facebook at

Please note, I do not know anyone associated with either of these sites personally and they have no connection to Kip McGrath Education Centres but if you are a supply teacher in Scotland there appears to be a lot of support and advice on offer.

East Renfrewshire Council postpone new Curriculum Exams

East Renfrewshire Council has announced that it needs more time to prepare for the new national four and five qualifications due to be introduced in Scotland in 2014 in line with the Curriculum for Excellence.  This means that pupils in East Renfrewshire could be sitting different exams to the rest of Scotland.

According to an article by BBC Scotland Education Correspondent, Seonag MacKinnon: “Confidence in the new curriculum for excellence has been dealt a blow by the decision of a flagship education authority to postpone implementation of new exams which are related to it.

East Renfrewshire Council, which records much higher numbers of exam passes than any other area in Scotland, says more time is needed to train teachers for the radically new courses.

The delay of a year is the latest set-back for the more open-ended curriculum which encourages staff to draw up most of their own lessons.

Supporters say it allows staff to teach modern material that is relevant to their pupils. But critics have suggested instructions to staff are so vague many are uncertain what they should be doing.

Under Scottish government plans, pupils now in the second year of secondary school are to be the first cohort to sit, in 2014, the national exams which replace Standard Grades and Intermediates.

But East Renfrewshire headteachers say they are uncertain of the detailed content of the exam courses due to start in August – which has yet to be unveiled by the Scottish government’s exam agency, the Scottish Qualifications Authority.

East Renfrewshire Council also plans to continue with the traditional exam timetable, putting pupils forward for eight exams in their fourth year of secondary school and five exams in fifth year. Preparation for the exams begins several years in advance”. Read rest of article.

As quoted in Gregor Hollerin’s article in The local Extra:

“A council spokesman denied the decision was a rejection of the Scottish government’s policy.

He said: “We must stress that we are not commenting on the quality of the new Nationals, but are using the distinctive characteristics of East Renfrewshire’s schools which offers our staff the opportunity of one further year.

“This will give our staff the opportunity to develop the new courses in a managed and measured way, ensuring that the experiences in the classroom will be as high a quality as they are at the moment.

“Our staff have engaged fully in the implementation of Curriculum for Excellence and the introduction of the new Nationals and will continue to do so”.

What Does this Announcement Mean?

With other councils admitting they will “reserve the right to delay”, obviously many schools are concerned they will not be able to implement the necessary changes in time. If East Renfrewshire Council who have some of the best schools in Scotland are concerned about this, then perhaps that would be an indication that a decision should be taken to delay the new Curriculum exams throughout Scotland.

Having Scottish pupils in neighbouring local authorities sitting different exams seems like a recipe for disaster.

What are your thoughts on this announcement?  We would welcome your comments.

Struggling Pupils don’t catch up according to Department of Education

In a report published by the Department of Education in England, just one in 15 (6.5%) pupils starting secondary school in England “behind” for their age goes on to get five good GCSEs including English and maths, official data shows.  Read more details of the report as reported on here.

Obviously this report applies to the English education system.  Scotland has a completely different curriculum.  However the statement that “struggling pupils don’t catch up” is not only true for England. It applies anywhere.

The number of children our qualified teachers at Kip McGrath assess who are struggling with basic literacy and numeracy skills is a concern, especially in those pupils making the transition from Primary seven to S1.

This is one of the main reasons students come to Kip McGrath (or any tutor for that matter).

At what level is your child really performing academically?

Early intervention with a structured consistent approach is necessary.  Reading problems must be tackled early since it affects maths and how the wider curriculum is embraced.

Parents must ask teachers specific questions to establish exactly how their child is performing within the class.  I hear many parents mentioning a common phrase used by teachers at parents’ night “your child is performing well at his/her level” without actually revealing which level the child is on compared to his/her classmates.  If your child is coping well but is in the bottom group for maths or English, is this acceptable to you? How can you help your child move to be “performing well” in the top group?

Is your Child Actually being Assessed?

Under the old 5-14 assessment guidelines, every student was assessed regularly and parents could see from certificates which level their child had reached and from the guidelines assess if their child was on target for their age group.  As part of Curriculum for Excellence in Scotland, this is no longer the case and I wonder if this is why we at Kip McGrath are receiving many more calls from concerned parents requesting an educational assessment by our qualified teachers.

Expectations and Aspiration

Another issue is expectation. If teachers set low expectations for children this will become a self fulfilling prophecy.  Some students have been discouraged to sit exams at certain levels as the teacher believed they would struggle.  Many parents refuse to accept this and enrol the services of a tutor.  At Kip McGrath we have heard many variations of this. This was a comment from a very happy father at our Kip Edinburgh South Centre in 2011.
OMG.  Graham got a credit 2 and Craig got an A! Thanks,thanks,thanks!  I can’t begin to tell you what you have done for my sons who both hated English.  Craig was told he was going to fail Higher English by the school and thanks to you he got an A!  Graham got a Credit 2 and now English is his favourite subject.  I have no qualms about recommending your services to the school.”
To read more examples of these testimonials please click here.

How can Parents Help Children?

Our children deserve the best education possible and in Scotland many of our schools and teachers are performing exceptionally well with excellent student exam results. Sadly, this is not always the case and many students are ‘slipping through the cracks’. Longer working hours for teachers and large class sizes contribute. Some teachers are exceptional and can motivate struggling students whilst others struggle. I would urge parents who have concerns that their child is under-performing to talk to the teacher and discuss options that you can put in place to help your child reach their full academic potential.  Don’t settle for “performing well at his/her level”. It is not too late to help your child get back on track and aspire to achieving the best education they can.

10 Questions to ask at Parents’ Evening

My colleague at Kip McGrath Luton has published a blog entitled “10 questions to ask at parents’ evening” and we would like to list the questions we feel parents should be asking of teachers:
  1. Is my child happy at school?  This means on an emotional and social basis.
  2. What is my child’s attitude to learning?
  3. Can he/she make friends easily?
  4. Does he/she contribute to class discussions?
  5. What does my child enjoy doing? Does my child prefer practical subjects (eg P.E, art, Design Tech), sciences (eg maths, science, geography) or humanities (history, English)?
  6. What are my child’s strengths and weaknesses?
  7. How can I help at home?
  8. Is he/she at the right/expected level for his/her age group? Don’t accept “performing at his/her level”.  Ask which group he/she is in and how you can help your child reach the top group.   If you are worried about your child having learning difficulties then bring this up as well.  If your child is getting extra support at school then ask for details so that you know exactly what is being done to help your child.
  9. For older children ask about any outstanding work and when school exams are.
  10.  How much homework should my child be getting?

What Next?

If after having talked to the school you remain unsatisfied, you may wish to consider extra tuition for your child.  At Kip McGrath, our fully qualified teachers will provide a full FREE educational assessment and will advise you exactly how your child is performing.  If you wish to enrol your child, an individual learning programme will be created to concentrate on specific areas of weakness. To read our full learning programmes and further information please visit our main website at

You may also wish to consider other tutoring agencies or a private tutor.  These options are discussed in our article “Does your child need an English or Maths Tutor?” and may help you make the right choice for your child.


Margaret Carmichael is a former Deputy Head Teacher of Paisley Grammar and Master Franchisee of Kip McGrath Education Centres Scotland since 1999 and has over 40 years teaching experience in Scotland.

Power of Practice – Is talent or hard work the answer to succeed in Education?

We previously posted a blog on “How to help your child reach their full potential in life” in 2011 which was written by Angela Mitchell, a teacher and Director of Kip McGrath Cambuslang.

In our blog, we referenced an article by Mathew Syed, former three-times Commonwealth table-tennis champion.  Mathew Syed has now a best selling book called Bounce based on his view that everyone can succeed if you put in the hours and work.  He refutes the myth of the “child prodigy” and “child genius” and is adamant that practice and hard work can make any child a success, whether that be academic or sports related.

I subscribe to an excellent education blog written by Bill Boyd whose blog is at and tonight he posted an article based on Mathew Syed’s new book called “Bounce -The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice“.  This has prompted me to re-post our earlier blog.

We would thoroughly recommend reading this book and truly believe that born talent is a myth – the key to success in all aspects of life is not ‘born talent’ but is down to hard work and practice.

However, when we are dealing with children, this advice is only good if a child is receiving support from parents at home and teachers at school.  Many children are slipping through the cracks in education and not being engaged or encouraged to reach their full academic potential.  I despair at the number of children coming to me in primary school who cannot read properly.  How can children progress to Secondary School and learn and progress if their reading and writing skills are at P3 level?  Teachers are doing their best but with class sizes so big there are always going to be children with potential who are not achieving. What do we do?

This is our original blog post from 2011. I would like to mention Carol Dweck’s input from her link

Praise Your Child’s Efforts

I read an interesting article the other day, written by Matthew Syed, a former table tennis champion, about how we can possibly hold our children back with the words we use and set them up for failure in the future both academically and personally.

We’ve all heard a phrase like”my daughter is not very good at maths or sports – she takes after her mother!”  People assume that talent is all about genetics and parents can unintentionally influence their childrens’ achievements by repeating this type of phrase to spare a child’s feelings if they struggle in a particular area and praise their children highly on achievements and results.

However, there has been lots of research into this subject (see link below) and it shows that every child has the potential to excel in all areas whether it be Maths, English, Science, Sports, Arts etc regardless of genetics.  The brain has the capacity to learn and excel at anything, as long as the effort is put in and encouragement given in the right way.

We need to remove the mindset in children that they have talent for certain things like sport but are not academically gifted.  This is not necessarily true – every child has the potential to be an academic given the correct teaching methods and putting in the effort.  It is very important that a child has the correct mindset and realises that effort will bring them to the top in any field, not ‘talent’.

My view as a Parent

As a parent I quickly became aware of the value of commenting on behaviour as this was something my children viewed as changeable.  They knew I was angry with the negative behaviour and I praised their effort for trying hard to change it.  Something as simple as teaching them to ride their bikes meant commenting on how hard they were trying and with practise/effort they could achieve their goal of no stabalisers. Shouting to remind my oldest about a previously learned skill, such as timing it right to put both feet down after breaking, saved her from smashing head first into a tree in the park, then praising her for working hard on this –  previously she fell off every timed she braked and nearly killed off a few cats in the process!

My view as a Teacher

As a teacher, you have to get to know the children you work with and build up a relationship with them.  However, the last thing you want is for them to perform a task just to receive praise from their teacher.  Praise can either be a bond or barrier.

Allan McLean, ‘The Motivated School’ (2010) talks about contaminated praise where a teacher gives praise with the add on of ‘but I wish you could do that all the time’ or ‘why can’t you always..’  McLean states that praise should be relevant, specific and immediate.  Praise for effort encourages children to concentrate on their learning as opposed to showing off their ability.  It teaches values and builds confidence and much research points to the fact that it is related to self-esteem.  It is important to be confident in your ability to deal with difficulties and to know you will progress if you work hard and use the correct approaches, especially when the going gets tough. Confidence in ability is only useful when pupils are doing well, therefore, praise for effort changes their mindset to cope when they come up against a challenge.

This links with Carol Dweck’s research where she states that praising effort and not talent encourages children to view challenges as learning opportunities rather than threats.  Hers and McLean’s research impacts on our beliefs about talent and influences the way we respond and think.  We need to promote the view that IQ is not fixed and the brain is like a muscle – the more we exercise it the more it grows and our skills expand with practise.

My experience at Kip McGrath Education Centres

The foregoing is at the heart of the Kip philosophy and the materials we use.  As tutors we have to remind ourselves the impact words have and can either hold back or encourage an individual.  The materials provide students with skills practise and as they move through the programmes they can experience first hand how their efforts reap rewards.

For example, I have a young student who is dyslexic.  The computer programmes use a multi sensory approach where he hears, sees, touches and responds.  The written materials provide practise and the tutor teaches the skills and approaches to use when meeting new challenges.  He told me he hated language work in school but after coming to Kip for a while he now likes to read books and enjoys sitting in the library corner at school.  He knows he finds reading challenging but now has the confidence to use his skills and knowledge about language to tackle words when reading.  His mindset has changed.  He views himself as a reader and believes if he works hard and keeps practising his skills will expand.  He no longer believes he can’t read because he is not as clever as the other children in his class but is something he can work hard on.  His mum told me today that his class teacher can’t believe the difference in his attitude.  He contributes in class, asks for help and is determined to succeed.  He still has many challenges to face but with the support of his tutor, the Kip materials and praise targeted to his effort he has the capacity to deal with the learning challenges he faces.

Getting it Right

As a person I am not saying I am perfect.  It has taken me years and lots of courses, assignments and analysing my behaviour to make sure the impact I have on children/students I teach is a positive one.  Sometimes I get it wrong and feel like kicking myself but self-reflection is a great tool to put you on the path to getting it right.

Angela Mitchell (right) runs the Kip McGrath Education Centres in Cambuslang together with Lesley McAteer (both fully qualified teachers).  To contact us, please click on the photo to take you to our main website or call us on 0141 646 2314.

Sources and useful links for this Blog

Building the Maths Brick Wall – How gaps can form when learning maths

This is an excellent video and article written by my colleague Suzanne Lanzon of Kip McGrath Cambridge South that explains how gaps in your child’s knowledge of maths can hold them back as they progress through school.  Every Kip McGrath teacher understands that these gaps need to be filled so that they have solid foundations in maths and allow them to reach their academic goals.  This is a very well explained article and we would like to thank Suzanne for allowing us to share with you.

I’m sure that most parents understand that the foundations in learning are vitally important to how well their children do at school. In most subjects, learners can begin at almost any level, then learn something else at a different level and there is no real impact on overall understanding. Science for example: I could learn about electricity, forget exactly how it works 3 months later but have no difficulty in then learning about waterproof materials. I did not need to understand the first concept to understand the second. In contrast maths is a subject that builds upon itself, this is what we mean by saying learning maths is like building a brick wall. When building a brick wall, we place brick upon brick and we are certain not to leave any bricks out. In maths, we need to place concept upon concept and we must also make sure we do not leave any concepts out.

We enter Year 1. We are bright eyed and bushy tailed and we love school. Everything at school is ‘playing’. Our teacher is great and we learn so quickly that we constantly surprise our parents with how much we know…but…let me ask you these questions:

  • Did you ever miss a day or more of school?
  • Did you daydream occasionally?
  • Were you ever distracted by your classmates? Were there one or two who seemed to demand more time and attention from the teacher?
  • Are you certain your teacher covered every concept and until you personally understood it fully?

Generally we can assume that we have not understood every single concept that should have been covered in our first year of learning. We would have missed one or two bricks out of the 100 that we needed to lay down that year. This is not the point where we really think twice about there being anything missing. Laying down 99 bricks has been a great effort. Our results show that we are achieving and we are keen for Year 2!

So along comes Year 2. We still enjoy learning although we’re beginning to see the difference between playing activities and learning activities. Playing is just a little bit more fun than learning. We have the next lot of 100 maths ‘bricks’ to place on top of what we learnt last year and mostly, we do that well. There is a slight glitch when we have to place learning ‘bricks’ on top of the one we missed last year. The concept is ever so slightly more difficult we just don’t seem to really ‘get it’. Our teacher has 24 other children in the class. She does well to make sure everyone is on task and everyone is learning but she doesn’t have enough time to cover what we were supposed to understand last year as well as teach this new concept. We’ve understood most of this year’s maths but we now have a wider gap forming on that weaker point of ours. Once again, we get a report card that shows that we are on track. There might be a mention that we need to develop in some areas.

You can see what is happening here. We enter Year 3 and of course, the work gets harder and it gets faster. There are always plenty of other children in our class and only one teacher. Once again, we have a wonderful teacher but she cannot teach me the concepts I missed in Year 1 and 2, Samuel the concepts he missed in Year 1 and 2, Kara, the concepts she missed – as well as make sure we are all learning this year’s work. Through no fault of our own we have a gap in our maths brick wall. By about now, it is starting to show. Every time we attempt to build more difficult concepts on top of the weaker part of our wall, they fall down. It’s frustrating and we begin to think that maybe we’re just not very good at maths. In Years 4 and 5 our gap widens and we lose that wonderful confidence and love of learning we once had. Most of the time we’re doing okay but whenever we try to build on that widening gap we are reminded of how we are failing, how we just can’t seem to keep up.

This is the point when most parents notice that something isn’t quite right. It can be quite painful to realise that our ‘little learner’ has lost some of that shine they used to have; that they are having some difficulties in learning maths. Parents will usually try to help by assisting with homework, buying maths books or asking for more work from the teacher. I am always heartened when I meet great parents such as these! The problem is however, that parents can have no way of knowing exactly where those missing bricks are…or how far back they were missed. This is where we can help. At Kip McGrath Education Cambridge South our tutors specialise in finding exactly where those pesky, missing bricks are and in helping children to understand them once and for all. The learner can then build on that area until they are at the level they need to take on the new work in the classroom. Once students have a solid brick wall up to the level of their class, they are confident enough to put the new information on top and continue the process of building their maths brick wall once again.