Preparing for Secondary School in Scotland – Top Tips

Moving up from Primary 7 to S1

March is generally the time for schools in Scotland to hold parents’ evenings and, especially for parents of children in primary 7, this is the ideal time to discuss with your child’s teacher exactly how your child is performing academically in class and how to help children make the transition from P7 to First year as smoothly as possible.

Developing? Consolidating? Secure?

Since Curriculum for Excellence was introduced in Scotland, parents will be familiar with the above terminology on report cards but do you understand exactly what these words mean and how your child is coping with school work in class?  Make sure you take this time to ask about results of assessments undertaken and how these compare with others in the school and region.  Are they in the top group for subjects?  If not, ask what can be done to help.

Kip McGrath Maths and English TuitionAcademically some children can be surprised when they move to First year and mix with students from other schools to find that they aren’t quite at the same level in English and Maths and this can lead to a lack of confidence and cause additional stress.  At our 27 Kip McGrath centres in Scotland, we tutor thousands of children and find that this is the time when most parents realise their children have fallen behind and call for help.

Having spoken to your child’s teacher, if you have any concerns please book an assessment with one of our qualified teachers at your local Kip McGrath centre.  This is FREE and we will be able to identify any areas of weakness or gaps in learning that may have developed and prepare an individual lesson plan focussed on your child’s needs.  Kip McGrath Tuition Centres only employ qualified teachers who have experience of teaching in Scottish schools giving parents peace of mind.  Our Primary and Secondary tutors teach children from age 5-18 up to Higher Grade English and Maths.

Free Kip McGrath Assessment

Tips for Parents to Help Children Cope with Move to Secondary School

Moving to a new school can be daunting for children emotionally and they will worry about fitting in, following timetables and will have much more reponsibility than ever before.  It is never too early for parents to start helping children prepare for this huge transition and we have listed below some suggestions.

Be organised – children should get into the habit early preparing for the next school day.  Ask them to look over their timetable and ensure that they are organised.  Do they need gym kit, musical instruments or anything for special projects?

Homework – What are their homework projects for the week?  Ask them to create a time plan to complete homework as early as possible and not have to rush at the last minute. Make sure they have a quiet place to work which is free of distractions.

Responsibility – Allowing your child now to take more responsibility will reap rewards in the future.  Teach them how to be more independent and to prepare for school by themselves.

Talk about Fears – In a big new school children have to follow a timetable and find classes and may worry about being late or get lost. Teachers may be a bit stricter.  Talk to your child about any fears they may have and discuss who can they go to in school if they are worried.

Making Friends – Your child may be in a class with none of their friends from primary school and may find it hard when their existing friends form new relationships.  Try to teach your child to smile, learn others’ names, show an interest, ask questions, be inclusive to all students and encourage them to form new class friendships.

Find your local Kip McGrath Tuition Centre in Scotland

Kip McGrath Tuition


Kip McGrath Scotland – How Learning is Changing with Technology

Insight – The Future has arrived at Kip McGrath

Thank you to Sally and Simon Fisher for the above blog article.  Insight is starting to be rolled out to our centres in Scotland and the students absolutely love it. Good teaching by qualified and motivated teachers is what Kip McGrath is all about but in this era, children expect state of the art technology too to make learning fun and this is what Insight promises to deliver. Thanks to years of planning and investment and dare I say ‘insight’, Kip McGrath centres have the technology to keep up with the fast paced changes that no doubt will keep coming without impacting on the existing teaching methods by qualified teachers we currently offer.


by Sally Fisher

If you remember when;

ATARI was a state of the art video game system.

Mark from Eastenders was Tucker Jenkins.

And Frank was saying ‘GGGGGGGO!!!!’ on Runaround

The kids on “Why Don’t You” looked old… and cool…

K-Tel was a major force in music.

Wham Bars, Spangles, Pacers and Banjos were playground currency

David Hasselhoff  wore clothes and talked to his car.

‘Charlie said’ don’t do it – and you didn’t

Then you’ll also remember this: the good old BBC Acorn computer from your school days. I still recall waiting patiently for my spreadsheet to be printed out by the dot matrix printer – remember that funny thin paper?  And don’t forget about the floppy disc!

The classroom of today looks dramatically different.  The classroom of 2012 is almost unrecognisable.  The blackboard/whiteboard has been firmly replaced with the interactive whiteboard which gives teachers the opportunity to cater…

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Death’s Sick Game – an Essay by Tom Sichel

The azure sky covered the dark, arid landscape. honour, courage, Pride: These were the things that kept him sane through war’s horrors and deaths. Staring deep into a blue eyed man’s eyes, it all seemed too easy. The rifle man sat next to his fellow companion – hidden from sight. Sweat sweltered like scolding water down their red freckled necks. Crows squawked incessantly.

Far away from the rifle man the blue eyed man sat under the large shading tree- the only living thing left after war’s ordeals. The blue eyed man’s gun lay far from reach and unloaded. He was eating a sandwich and starring deeply into the azure sky. He was young; he was naïve- naïve to the fact that the sands of life were running quickly down his hour glass.

Back in the trench, the rifleman took aim with his gun; the blue eyed man was its victim. The two dark barrels leered at its prey’s every movement, eager from the excitement to kill, quivering from the exhilaration and thrill. All the rifleman had to do was slide his strong finger down the trigger; but he was too late. The thundering sound of planes came over head. Angels of death loomed like stars in the sky. No longer could he hide. Death’s batter and ‘bang’ came with little time to respond. Hot like the sun- it became unbearable. Shrapnel fatally impaled his companions’ soft, tender jacket. The rifleman was blessed with only the blow of a stone to his head. Surroundings became blurred, speech became slurred. The rifleman staggered towards a deep abyss made from a detonated bomb. He laid his pounding head against the edges of his safe haven. Vision became a long narrow tunnel …

His heavy lead limbs began to gain normal feeling. His lungs inhaled a frantic breath and eyes quickly gapped in alert to his quiet surroundings. No blue eyed man was in sight. Death had begun to play its sick game. He sat still in the sticky swampy mud of his flooded trench. His hands clumsy from the cold, his feet left with little feeling. The wind penetrated his rough, thin jacket. Rain had made the mud take his shape like a relaxing bed, but the cold was unforgiving and brought stiffness and aches. His gun lowered despondent of no kill.

Slowly turning his head his gaze met with something so startling no war experience could prepare him for. He stared deeply into its dark hollow eyes, the lifeless corpse of his friend was not a sight he could come to terms with. His fist clenched like knives into the palms of his hands. Turning his head away in despair he looked outward to the vast landscape of no man’s land. His hands trembled as the thought of war came flooding through his mind. He daringly began to crawl through no man’s land in search for a safety.

Every manoeuvre came with hesitance. His gun courageously scoured the arid landscape. A set of broken spectacles lay stuck in the mud. He gazed at a reflection; a shattered reflection of his crooked nose and unshaven face – it reminded him of how shattered his spirit had become.

It was not long before death’s smell infested the air nearby. Only this time it was that of the enemy’s. A lifeless deformed figure lay still on the floor. Deep Inside of the rifle man a raging fire burned; His eyes became hot coals from the pit of a fire. He stared piercingly into the hollow eyes. His vision then met the glint of a silver shining necklace. The necklace lay clenched in the dead body’s hand. Bending down to pick up the necklace, the rifleman began to read the writing inscribed.

All of a sudden that deep fiery hatred turned into sickness- Sickness of death’s sick games, Sickness of war’s terrors and pains. Bullets shrieked as they are dispersed onto the watery ground. The necklace had read that of his dearest and closest friend

“Fredrick Smith” Was what it read.

An unbearable sadness tore deep into his soul. Trickles of water dripped of the end of his chin. In remorse he quickly left the hellish place.

Crawling frantically over the banking the sound of a humming man came to his attention. It was that of the blue eyed man. Sitting next to an old barn in a field- the blue eyed man looked naïve just as before. He was humming a lullaby whilst polishing his long shiny gun. The sun pierced the azure sky The Rifle man took aim and reloaded. His hands were trembling, his legs like jelly. All he had to do was slide his strong finger down the trigger; but he could not bring himself to playing deaths sick game. His head slumped and gun fell to the ground. For a moment the shinning sky became a gloom. ‘Bang’ his heart no longer could beat; the enemy’s bullet the victor of deaths sick game.

Written by Tom Sichel, an S4 student who attends Kip McGrath Education Centres Balerno, Edinburgh South and has given us permission to publish this very powerful piece of work.

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.

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

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.

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